Wednesday, December 19, 2012

IDEA’s idea of customer engagement

India is one of the fastest, if not the fastest, growing countries for telecom companies with tele-density on an ever increasing curve. No wonder the last few years have seen outstandingly creative work coming for telecom brands. To name a few, the Vodafone pug and then the zoozoos, Airtel’s catchy tunes, Idea’s sirji, Tata Docomo’s series of ads.

Idea has consistently come up with diverse attempts to stand out from the clutter. Their new campaign ‘honey bunny’ tries to go the ‘ringtone’ or ‘caller tune’ way. A famous musical piece always gives a top-of-mind-recall. it’s very much a tried and tested formula. Thus goes away from the risk-taking creatives IDEA is known for. Having said that, the tried and tested works and this case is no different. We are seeing, or should I say hearing, a lot of these ring tones and caller tunes.

An example of the popularity can be found out from the following video done by a family. The entire family is the cast who enjoy the song to the fullest. IDEA brand managers would be smiling from ear to ear on seeing this creative rendition of their baby. It won’t be a surprise if this video goes the ‘Kolavari de’ or ‘Gangnam style' way. The success to viral videos is the simplicity and how it connects to the audience. This video is shot well, although post-production work has gone into it. It doesn’t look like a professional’s job done in a studio but a wonderful effort nonetheless.

This video might not result in increased sales for IDEA but it increases brand awareness. With technology available for shooting videos, companies must attempt to engage customers to join in fun. This could give some food-for-thought to brand managers to leverage technology to gain customer engagement. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Nice campaign by Gillette – shave or crave!

They say role models sway buying decisions or at least influence it heavily. Hrithik Roshan made the one-day stubble as a fashion-statement after his mega hit debut movie. It surely resulted in guys shaving less and keep a stubble. Shah Rukh Khan sported a beard in Chak De India. It might not have resulted in guys keeping beards but it did bring facial hair in vogue again. Gillette’s launched its “women against the lazy stubble” campaign in 2009 to make men shave and not keep a stubble.  2012 now has the ‘shave or crave’ movement by Gillette. It talks about women opposing the evening stubble. An attempt to increase sales through increased shaving times.

This strategy, with an objective to increase product usage, is the low-risk growth strategy as mentioned in the Igor Ansoff product-market matrix. Gillette authenticates their claim of women opposing facial hair by showing off the Nielsen survey. The findings may be true but it’s quite a personal choice. A good attempt by Gillette in a low-involvement category. Not only would it increase sales, though not substantially, but also help in top-of-the-mind-recall for the Gillette brand. With good looking ladies such as Malaika Arora Khan & Neha Dhupia endoring the product, it will also grab eye-balls.

Gillette Fusion Gamer priced at Rs. 299/- seems to be a tad high. Such a strategy should focus on absolute margins through volumes. A use-and-throw razor priced under Rs. 100 would have been more appropriate. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Renault Ensemble

This ad deserves to be on the front page of a leading daily newspaper or its centre-spread. Not because it has a great creative but because of the objective with which it is made.

Renault has had a very slow start in India. Their partnership with Mahindra & Mahindra resulted in Logan but it did not last long enough. Seems the synergies did not work out between the between the Tractor-behemoth and the French elegance. Renault rejuvenated itself and we see this awesome ensemble (Renault Koleos, Renault Pulse, Renault Fluence, Renault Scala & Renault  Duster) from the design houses in France. This ad showcases what Renault has to offer and thus had to have a bold visibility to take effect. Rather this ad was languishing on the last page of Hindustan Times and one of the middle pages in Mumbai Mirror eschewing the whole objective. And what's worse, it was just a half page ad.

Wonder if their agency Law & Kenneth had any say in the size and placement of the ad because they would have not agreed with what eventually happened. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

NO! YAMAHA for guys

Yamaha’s foray into the scooter market, for females, with the launch of Yamaha Ray hasn’t enthused me too much. Yamaha, as a brand in India, has a masculine feel about it. It is one of the earlier entrants in the Indian bike market in 1990s before the Hero Hondas, Bajajs, TVSs were even thinking about bikes. Yet it seemed they were never keen to market their products in India. Reasons could vary from an lack of understanding about market potential or focus on other high value developed markets or reluctance to introduce products in the price range available in India.

Past few years has seen them aggressively enter the Indian market with the launch of its various products such as FZ, FZ S, Fazer, R15 among a host of other 10+ products. They did well to have John Abraham as the brand ambassador. Although not a leader currently in the Indian two-wheeler market, Yamaha is making deep inroads with its offerings. Their Yes Yamaha campaign is well received and has a strong recall value.

Yamaha always was considered as a Male brand. With John Abraham as the brand ambassador and the kind of communication, the belief was further strengthened. The belief would be on shaky grounds now that Yamaha has come up with scooters for the fairer sex. Yamaha Ray has Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone as its brand ambassador. The target audience would relate to Deepika endorsing the product. But it surely is going to make the boys unhappy. Imagine tomorrow Harley Davidson coming up with a scooter for girls. Would it not affect the cult following the brand has. With this new offering, Yamaha might be able to expand their market and add to its bottom line through volumes but it loses on its core value of a masculine brand. Building this identity has taken years but breaking it isn’t go to take that long.

The least they could have done was bring it as a product, and promote it, with an individual brand identity separate from the family brand Yamaha. Probably that might have helped preserve its original character. And the guys would have kept on identifying with YES YAMAHA

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The politics and economics of FDI !

The INC  would feel a sense of déjà vu because in its first term, the CPM pulled out over the nuclear deal issue and in its second term, the TMC is pulling out over the FDI issue. Both parties from West Bengal, a state which has not grown as well as other states (with Metros).

The big-ticket reforms by UPA 2 have taken everyone by surprise. The corporate world has welcomed the move, the so-called rating agency S and P has stopped short of downgrading India’s credit rating and the stock markets are on an upward movement. All the news channels are going crazy over the positive news as if a magic wand has been taken out by the government to spur India on its growth trajectory.

Somehow we are made to believe that when the corporate world is happy, everything is fine. There is a perception the world over that when stock markets jump, it is good news. There is no thought given to how does it impact the common man. Now I m not being a socialist. We saw it during the 'occupy' Wall street movement in the US. The markets show just the 'sentiment' not reality. The volatility in markets is considered as a positive virtue whereas for me it shows the frail nature of thinking of those involved in influencing the markets. How do the fundamentals of a company change every day?

Is there a thought given to how would FDI in retail help the farmer. Would the farmer directly be able to sell to the manufacturer of food products or sell it directly to the retail megamart. What are the resources to enable him to do that? We indirectly assume that these multinationals such as Walmart, Carrefour or Tesco would take care of the back end of the supply chain. There have been umpteen examples of companies failing when a business model which works in one country is applied in other country. Yet we believe Walmart will be successful in India. Yes, we would get more products from abroad and there would be reduction in prices but it is beneficial only to the middle class and upper class. Not to the producer i.e. the farmer.

There are insinuations that the government acted because there were criticisms in the western media. It may or may not be true. For the western world, FDI or FII in developing countries decides whether the country is moving in the right direction or not. Should we not think ourselves about our people? I may sound as protectionist and anti-globalisation but it isn’t the case.

Yes, our fiscal deficit is increasing with diesel subsidy. Why can we not increase taxes for companies say, for example, over USD 10 billion. If a company makes USD 100 million in profits taking USD 10 million as taxes doesn’t change much in its coffers except for the promoters stake.  We have a leading airline about to go bankrupt although its promoters own a multi-million dollar racing team, million dollar cricket team, owns yachts and flies only corporate jets. They hold the country to ransom since there is systemic risk of losing jobs, PSU banks losing money indirectly affecting the investors.

Politics is affecting the economy adversely. Awaiting the time when we would start thinking in a balanced way and move over materialism. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Let the money printing press run overtime

Post-2008, 'stimulus' to the economy has been the most widely used word - by economists, analysts, bankers, businessmen and news readers. An unprecedented and coordinated action by central banks the world over saved the financial markets from brink of collapse and put the world economy back on a dilapidated growth track.

Quantitative easing was leading the stimulus package with fiscal inputs complementing it. Things became much better in 2009-10-11. Now there is again talk of quantitative easing number 3 in the US. In the Euro zone, developed nations are being saved from sovereign defaults. The survival of some nations in the Euro zone is in doubt. China has poured billions of dollars in its economy to stimulate its domestic consumption. Back home in India, there are calls to reduce interest rates. And a call to remove CRR to increase money flow. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme acts as the fiscal action following the Keynesian principle of government intervention.

The point of note here is that everyone wants money flow or rather volumes of money at their disposal to grow. An improvement in fundamentals is not asked for but an artificial resuscitation is looked as the solution. Short- term solution without its long-term implications. I don't remember it but someone did say that this is like a drug. There is no looking back from this vicious cycle.

Does it not convey the current psychological state of man where immediate material pursuits are sought at the expense of wellbeing. Everyone is under pressure to perform. Stock markets panic on a day where it opens in red. There is a thread-bare analysis of anything and everything even though it might not yield any concrete understanding.

Everything is like fast-food. Instant gratification is sought continuously.

The rich are getting richer. Middle class fights to be in this class. And the poor get poorer inspite of doing all the fieldwork. What is the world going towards? A downward spiral from where the only way is down because it is all artificial. Natural growth is nowhere close. No one wants to go up the hard way. Inflation is going to be a perennial affair and how much every banker says that it will be controlled, it isn't happening due to this huge paper money flow.

I shudder to think what would be the state of economy a decade from now. Artificial stimulation would be the new normal. And the printing press will continue to work overtime!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

God help BBDO from Blackberry !!

A blunder on the part of BBDO India as seen in the copy of the above ad - i.e. spelling mistake of 'transcend'. A systemic failure should we say? The creative must have went to so many checks at the copy stage, art stage and the client servicing stage as well. Yet it slipped through at all levels. Whats more, it is a front page ad. God help BBDO from the wrath of Blackberry brand team.

Source: Times of India - Mumbai edition - 09 August 2012. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mr. Jack Daniel – NO SAINT!!

After a very long time, I have seen a print ad which has a headline which made me sit up and take notice. The creative doesn't seem very out-of-the-world yet it grabs your attention. The icing on the cake, as I said, is the headline. And so true it is. I am a teetotaler but I know the kind of following and influence Jack Daniel’s has on my friends who are whisky connoisseurs.

I liked most about the creative that it draws an analogy with guitar player. The individual who plays guitar is in some sort of a trance when he plays it (this is what I have heard, I don’t know whether it is true or folklore). Even better is the end copy “Make Mr. Jack proud. Celebrate responsibly”. A direct reference to the target audience who are at a particular stature in the societal ladder, both in terms of affluence and respect. Hats off to the creative team. No key number is visible thus indicating that it is an ad showcased in the developed world and been directly released in India. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Siyaram’s- Casting Coup

Brand ambassadors, they say, should fit the brand in terms of its character and personality. When a brand needs to take that leap into the luxury and aspirational segment, the lineage & heritage is highlighted. But when you are Siyaram’s who has always been a mass-market brand with strengths in the semi-urban and rural areas and quite less aspirational value, trying to position one of its products as a luxurious is difficult. Siyaram’s has always been playing catch up with Raymond’s and Reid & Taylor

Siyaram’s though has come up with the ultimate casting coup. They have signed on Bollywood’s original stylist and fashion designer Manish Malhotra as the face of their luxury product Royale Linen. Considered by them as “the most luxurious linen to be introduced in the market” which is “100% pure”, Siyaram’s plan to ride on the fashion quotient of Manish Malhotra to make its presence felt in the luxury space.

Of its various brand ambassadors over the years, from sports stars and Bollywood actors Hrithik Roshan & Priyanka Chopra, this seems to be the perfect brand-fit which will add weightage to Siyaram’s as a luxury brand. It could also help in its distribution if Manish Malhotra lets them showcase their range of fabrics in his exclusive boutiques. They could use his influence in the world of fashion through his fashion shows.

The company plans to spend about Rs. 30 crore on promotional activities. The above print ad in the Bombay Times of Times of India (1st May 2012) could have been placed better. Probably the first page would have been a better option. The ad creative though, nothing out of the ordinary, is elegant. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

IPL 2012 B(r)andwagon – creatively boring

IPL is considered the hottest property for advertisers in India. Apart from the World cup that is. Last year’s IPL started within a week of India’s World Cup triumph and it was obvious that corporate India did not have the deep pockets to spend on IPL. Cricket fatigue was a concern this year along with India’s not too well a tour to Australia and the subsequent Asia Cup.

The aspect that has been disappointing though is the ads on display during this IPL. It seems the best ad was the IPL ad by Set Max created by Ogivly. The number of advertisers has not gone down but the quality of ads certainly has gone down. Most disappointing have been the Vodafone ads. Not a single ad has been entertaining. It certainly does not have any recall value. Idea ads with Abhishek Bachchan too have been really boring. Ranbir Kapoor’s act as an old-fashioned restaurateur too isn’t quite entertaining or worth remembering. The series of Reliance’s ads featuring Anushka Sharma & Rannvijay are not new.

Considering the onset of the summer, you find the cola ads everywhere but the thing of note is that there is no campaign by Coca Cola featuring their flagship product. Rather you see Sprite ads. On the other hand, the ‘change the game’ Pepsi ad featuring the football heavyweights Kaka, Messi & Drogba with IPL heavyweights MS Dhoni & lightweights Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina & Harbhajan Singh is really average to say the least. The Thumbs Up ad featuring Southern superstar Mahesh Babu is the only saving grace. ‘Aaj kuch toofani karte hai’ is a nice tagline. Katrina kaif’s Slice ad is decent but not wonderful. Similar is the case with Anushka Sharma’s Canon powershot ad.

All in all, a very dull season for advertising enthusiasts like me. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

LIC Single-Premium ad gaffe

Advertising space in newspapers come at a very high premium. Second only to the television. The premium increases with the placement of the ad in the newspaper. Top-right hand or a jacket ad or a double-spread ad. A gaffe is quite a rarity in newspapers since it is proof-read. However a gaffe such as the above is quite serious ( Single premium ad followed by a post to be careful about the product). Surely it was not intentional from the newspaper. Yet LIC marketing managers must be irate on seeing this piece. The damage may not be too much considering the clutter of ads and information on financial products. LIC managers and more importantly their advertising agency and media agency, should be doubly careful the next time around.

Source: Economic Times 28th March 2012 Page 13

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

An analogy between Sachin Tendulkar and your veteran Chief Executive

If there is one thing in India that can overshadow the budget session, which is followed with much interest, then that thing has to be cricket. Last week as the Indian Finance minister was busy reading out the script, an unwritten script was unfolding. Although this was expected a lot earlier, one would say “better late than never”.

I am of course talking about Sachin Tendulkar eclipsing the Mount Everest and making his own peak for others. A peak others won’t dare let alone think of. My mind though wanders on the diverse opinions made by the connoisseurs. Some want him to retire now, some wanted him to retire after the world cup, some want him to play till he feels he wants to play, some feel the selectors should adopt a touch stand and make him toe the line on his retirement plans so that the team can be built for the future and the opinions continue unabated.

I could draw an analogy to a corporate executive who has served his company for over 3 decades has risen from the rank of a trainee to the chief executive. When the trainee climbs up the ladder with his outstanding talent, he is given the room to experiment. This blossoms him further catapulting the company into high growth and making that employee the celebrity. Same is the case of Sachin Tendulkar. As a prodigy, he showed India how to be aggressive yet maintain its demeanor. The growth was phenomenal. Just like a novice to the highest echelons of power. He has everything at his mercy.

Law of nature though has to take its own course. With age, Sachin’s mastery started diminishing. Just as the Chief Executive’s decisions did not work as before. The market changed and so did the though process. Sachin’s age took toll and bowlers/ captains started getting a measure of him, albeit to a very less extent. Now the chief executive started becoming a liability. Fresh ideas needed to be included but who would ‘bell the cat’ and tell the CEO to hang up his boots. Who will tell Sachin Tendulkar to retire?

In a company, grapevine would probably used to tell the CEO that he is no longer the force to reckon with. In Sachin’s case, the media does that job. The CEO has achieved everything, topline-bottomline-profits-new products- innovations- acquisitions- you name it and that’s been achieved. Just like Sachin. Anything achieved more will not make much of a difference to the already burgeoned cabinet. A Cabinet with invisible accolades.

Borrowing from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, both have reached the self-actualization stage. Both live to contribute towards others. In Sachin’s case, it’s the country and for the CEO, its his company. Let them be where they are. They know when is the right time to call it quits. They would be the first one to accept it when they see the runs drying up or the strategies being not as effective as was construed.

Its very easy to criticize but very difficult to sustain excellence over a period of long time. Just like Sachin or the CEO, pointing about the lack of contribution after a spectacular career would amount to being called an opportunist or some one who uses people till their sell-by date and then removes them unceremoniously. As they say in cricket, “form is temporary, class is permanent”. Sachin should decide when he has to go. Similarly the CEO too would know his sell-by date. Hankering after them to quit would be gross injustice to their contribution.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Banking wars- Kotak vs Yes: uncomfortable!!

The deregulation of saving account interest rates by the Reserve Bank of India has suddenly livened up the banking sector. We are seeing aggressive advertising campaigns by Kotak Bank followed by even more aggression by Yes Bank. Kotak must have got the first mover advantage but it was short-lived since Yes Bank overtook them immediately in its offerings. 6% by Kotak vs 7% by Yes Bank.

The difference though has been the communication medium. Kotak has gone for the expensive television medium whereas Yes Bank has been content with the relatively less expensive newspaper. I may have missed Yes Bank’s TVC but I doubt if there is any TVC talking about 7% interest rates on saving accounts. Kotak’s “subbu sab jaanta hai” campaign has a smart insight which though obvious was a master stroke. Take 6% which is more than the existing 4%. I liked the “50% more” perspective. Isn’t it obvious yet none of must have thought about it. And it still seems true that in spite of all the information regarding financial products, people are convinced when an individual endorses it or rather propagates it i.e. Subbu in this case.

Anyway moving from the marketing standpoint, to the financial or economic view. I am no economist or no student of economics but having been through the crisis of 2008 and subsequent happenings in the various developed economies and financial markets, have worries about the direction banking sector is taking in India. Though tightly regulated by the RBI, hope it does keep an eye of this price war. My doubt stems from the fact that will the banks be able to sustain such a high interest rate when other banks have not followed suit. As they say “there are no free lunches”, there cannot be high returns without high risk. There is a chance that banks will or might take higher risks to be able to cater to its offerings and parallely maintain profit margins or even increase them. It might work in the short-run but there is a systemic risk like in 2008 and now in Europe.

It also should not result in the kind of price wars which are bleeding telecom companies. The customer gains at the cost of future stability of the company. It doesn’t seem likely as the larger private banks and PSUs have not entered the savings account war. It could put pressure on the mid-segment banks that would be forced to up the savings rate to keep abreast with immediate competition and increase their account holder base and spread its base wider.

The RBI as said earlier should keep itself on its toes to avoid any untoward incident happening which might result in necessity of a tax-payer funded bail out.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Volkswagen ad- hyper-exaggeration

Isn’t it a contradictory copy? The headline says that there are 1000 reasons why you should visit a Volkswagen store else you will regret it. The body copy says that “besides superior German Engineering, there’s now a great reason to head out to ….”. It means that there are only two reasons. The ad is simply exaggerating. Moreover, I really can’t see 1000 reasons to visit a Volkswagen store. A boring attempt at an ad.