September 22, 2010

The day my newspaper spoke to me!

 Yesterday, the town woke up to an innovative ad campaign run by Volkswagen India in leading dailies like The Times of India and The Hindu. The campaign was for its latest outbringing called the Volkswagen Vento and it ran across five metros, namely Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai. This is the first ever attempt of advertising through a 'talking newspaper'. It has set a trend in an industry that is devoid of healthy advertising revenus since the recession period. It has opened new doors and set the benchmark for creativity in print.

 The TOI edition consisted of a special ten page supplement which was filled by tidbits from the world but at the end there was a full page advert of Volkswagen's latest offering and near the boxes that highlited the sedan's features, was another black box that 'talked' about the same features that were visible in print. The main USP is that the paper would speak only when turned to the face of the back. Thus, one could start reading the paper normally and when on turned to the last page, the speaker would start. Imagine the comical situation as the paper fumbles in your hands and the message gets you curious. So what is the technology behind this? They have used a simple photodiode which is capable of converting light into voltage. The speaker is very light and seems to be made of recyclable material. It continously keeps on saying the following lines;
"Best in class German engineering is here. The new Volkswagen Vento. Built with great care and highly innovative features. Perhaps that’s why it breaks the hearts of our engineers to watch it drive away.
The new Volkswagen Vento. Crafted with so much passion, it’s hard to let it go.
Volkswagen. Das Auto."
The advert was carried in some 2.2 million copies and the small talking device consists of a chip, a speaker and a battery that can last for about two hours.To economise it further, these devices were made at VW's plant in China and about 2.5 million of such devices were distributed in India. Reports say that each device sosts around 5 rupees. We can add to that the cost of a full page ad in TOI which has an estimated readership of 3.5 lakhs (Considering each paper is generally read by two people, we are talking of a reach of 7 lakhs in a day!) The price per paper thus, comes around to 40 rupees, thereby bringing us to the magic figure of an investment of 6 crore rupees in one day across five metros! Combine the effect with The Hindu and multiply the numbers of an average readership across the five cities and we are talking about a reach of 25 lakh people. There is a high chance out of curiosity, the reader will here the message over and over till it sinks in. This cannot be achieved even with a 30 seconds TV spot which runs twice in an hour on ten different channels.This is not an overnight concept. It needed over six months of research to see it through. Volkswagen, Mediacom and TOI worked together to bring it off and ensure a healthy distribution of the paper.

“When we launched the brand, awareness was very low. Competition like Maruti, Tata, Hyundai outshouted us by far. In such a scenario, we had the option of following the norm and doing regular full-page/half-page ads or doing something completely radical. Our strategy to be innovative has worked,” says Divya Gururaj, MD of Mediacom. 

Well, this is not the first time VW has done this in India. Worldwide too, VW remains attains a top notch in innovative advertising. When it first started in India in November 2009, again it combined its campaign with TOI to bring out a successful roadblock that blocked out other ads and filled up the entire paper with its own ads by booking adverts, wholly or partly in thirteen of the twenty two pages of the newspaper. To watch the entire collection of the print ads in that particular edition of November 11, 2009, please click here.

In February 2010, VW introduced the Polo in the Indian market and again in TOI they ran cut ads in March, by cutting out a portion in the top of all16 pages of the special edition of the daily in the shape of the Polo.The design was well-crafted and of a different quality of paper with rich texture. This clearly sends out a message that VW is not ready to compromise when it comes to innovation, be it in its products or its advertising. This is one company which takes its work so seriously. Even its simple tagline evokes attention bringing both things to the front' one, that they are a superior German engineering company and two, they have full confidence in their product lines when they say it is THE car and not A car! No wonders, it is Volkswagen, THE CAR or should I say DAS AUTO!

With hugs and kisses to the Consumer,
The Young Marketer.

September 16, 2010

'Top' of the Pyramid

(Scene: Today's mega media seminar in the huge conference room of a leading 5 star hotel where a panel discussion is going on consisting of some of the biggest names in the industry)
Moderator: Yes, Mr. Kazi has a question!
Me: I have two things to say, comments, facts and questions, included! Yes, India is a heterogenous market with over 6,34,000 villages that speak across 19 languages and 900 dialects and yet it is easy to profile rural consumers with tags like low income and illiteracy. Even as I speak, marketers say this is growing and there is no limit to its growth but still companies are going with the theoretical framework in the hinterlands and in reality, it is something else. You're talking about a specific medium, i.e. print which has regional potential but there is growth in other media as well. As such, how important it is to integrate cross category media to increase brand exposure and strengthen brand encounters? Second thing, Mr. X spoke of local brands, however they also consist of indigenous spurious brands which are climbing upon the media investments of the original brands. From spell-alikes and look-alikes to ditto duplicates, these brands are eating into the pie of most big brands operating in the rural market and the rural consumer is swallowing them all, thus the bad quality perception rubs onto the original brand. Thus, it is a double edged sword. Dabur recently changed its packaging to counter such brands, so that it'd be harder to replicate their packaging. As such, keeping the product POV aside, what are the challenges for the creativity in the campaigns to counter spurious brands?
Moderator: That's a slightly complex question. I'll leave that to Mr.X to answer (turns towards the panel)
Mr.X: (Blah-blah...) The rural customer knows the brand and if he wants to purchase an unbranded product, he'll purchase an unbranded one which better connects to his lifestyle as opposed to the urban markets which are getting saturated. Ms. Y why is the urban market getting saturated today?
Ms.Y: (Blah-blah...) and that's why such a phenomenon is happening. Mr. Kazi, don't you think so?
Me: Huh?
What was the question that was asked, how was it analysed and passed on and what ultimately came back to me! Yes, that's the kind of talent we have at the top level and yet we blame the field staff for their callous attitude when the problem itself is not identified by the strategisers. A simple answer was yes, we should integrate other media where penetration is high, for example southern markets due to higher literacy but such a thing might not be as useful in a small village of Rajasthan where Dainik Jagran is perhaps, the only name for media. Integration is necessary to increase brand encounters, so customers can identify the brand image and this will also lead to increase in brand encounters and result in natural inquisitiveness for the brand. At the end of the day, that's what your advertising goal was! Secondly, with respect to spurious brands. Yes, not all companies can use Dabur's strategy. A easy and cost-effective way is to educate customers through interactive BTL activities to identify your brand. At the end of the day, loyal customers would themselves turn in the spurious brands and cause them to phase out. The approach is a simple application of the BoP theory. Yet, so much confusion!

-With hugs and kisses to the Consumer,
The Young Marketer.
Complexly Simple!

September 14, 2010

Advertising 'Strangulating' Council of India

Seven food and beverage majors have come together in a first of its kind agreement, pledging to self-monitor their products adhering to labeled standards. As per European nutritional standards, sugar content of more than 12.5 grams per 100 grams is considered to be detrimental for consumption. But when ASCI pulled up Kellog’s Chocos recently, it was found to contain 32.5 grams of sugar per 100 gram of the product. Indeed, they took their ‘poshan se bhara’ positioning too seriously or so it seems! Heinz’s Complan had to substantiate its claims of kids growing twice as much taller after consuming Complan, after GSK’s Horlicks logged in a ‘complaint’ with ASCI that Heinz was promoting fallacious claims.
ASCI, it seems is not just content with the nutrition factor of food products but also wants to pull up companies which are adopting ‘clutter breaking’ advertising. Recently Parle had to grudgingly pull out its LMN advert as ASCI associated racism and stereotyping with the brilliant ad that showed two African natives searching for water in the midst of a desert. Remember Amul Macho, the famous Kolkota based hosiery brand which was the leading advertiser amongst inner-wear brands in 2005. The famous cloth washing ad which showed a sari clad woman making suggestive expressions while washing her husband’s clothes became an overnight hit. It made tongues wag, some supported, some opposed but the talking helped the brand’s publicity. It created instant brand recall for the innerwear brand in a market which lacks complete brand loyalty. However, the ad had to be pulled off as it was in ‘bad taste’ as per ASCI standards but it had done its job (you still remember it, don’t you?). They did come up with another intelligent advert using orangutans which was again a little suggestive but thank god, no one cried ‘animal porn’ or ‘zoophilia’. There has been a spurt of deodorant brands trying to take on the market leader, Axe by adopting the sensual positioning in a sex deprived market. Set wet and Zatak were the first to take on the challenge and recently players like Wild Stone and Temptation are trying to use the same strategy against Axe (Lol, Axe has been doing that since decades before they were born in markets all across the world!) Some of the newer ads of such nascent brands are thrice as more suggestive as the Amul advert. One even shows steam blowing from a girl’s body parts as the guy walks past and another shows a girl’s piece of clothing falling off. Huh, it’s perfectly all right with me but why the blatant discrimination? This goes to show that competition plays a major role when it comes to igniting flames in successful brand campaigns. This cannot be the case with Axe as it is a multinational player, compared to the newer and smaller and predictably ‘more sensuous’ deodorants in the market. Wonder how long before Unilever submits a ‘complaint’!
Anyways, the seven major companies have also pledged to avoid promoting their products to children below the age of twelve years, a thing that could prove to be a kick in the jaw of channels like Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. But this surely has laid down the grounds for ethical advertising in an industry where ethics have usually gone for a toss. The recent news that has reached me also involved a similar incident where 10,000 mandals in Mumbai have agreed upon a pact to avoid tobacco sponsors for this year’s Ganesh Chathurthi. This is startling, going by the fact that sixty percent of the festival sponsors are from the tobacco industry; going by the way they have managed to find ‘innovative’ ways past the banned mass media. A similar incident is being observed in liquor shops which are removing posters of liquor brands from the exterior of their stores.
What works for such industries is their creative conceptualization and effective positioning. With little difference in products and the complete absence of mass advertising, Word of Mouth efforts and surrogate advertising measures, combined with a healthy demand has ensured industry growth. The efforts of Kingfisher, India’s most prolific liquor brand have to be noted in this case. The iconic Vijay Mallya has ensured that the complete lack of advertising doesn’t hamper his growth. Foraying into the airline industry, food guides, the packaged water industry and even a television channel, Kingfisher is one brand which has reinforced its classic tune into the minds of the consumer. ‘Ooola la la ae oooo…’ goes the whistle and we nicely tap our feet to it. Surrogate advertising has made the liquor brand piggyback on its extensions and the main brand, though sidelined has raked in most of the attention. The most brilliant concept was to start a luxury lifestyle channel ‘NDTV Good Times’, in collaboration with NDTV. Please note the channel name does not have any mention of ‘Kingfisher’ but Kingfisher’s iconic blue and red bird occupies twenty four hours on the screen! Please note this is in an era when television advertising costs a bomb and liquor advertising has been completely banned. Of course, the marketing efforts are limited to one particular channel and a niche segment but Kingfisher has always been a premium brand catering to specific lifestyle needs and the channel stays in line with that positioning. So, Kingfisher is actually marketing its liquor without showcasing any visuals. Similar is the case albeit on a small scale with companies like Bacardi (Bacardi Music CDs), McDowells (Soda and music CDs) and of course Godfrey Philips and Red and White (Bravery awards).
With time, ASCI might just find a way for this too if Kingfisher collapses (which I don’t see happening in the short run) A better solution is to impose a ‘sin tax’  and raise prices of such products to discourage consumption but again that might just increase the grey market demand. It never was a question of ethics when it came to advertising, we all know how ethical the industry is! Just wonder are advertisers smarter than the council that monitors them or is it the other way round? Advertising has changed with times. Otherwise will this old PIA to Twin towers print ad, be accepted now? I leave that to you...
With hugs and kisses to the Consumer, 
The Young Marketer.

September 10, 2010

Micro'MAX'ing Nokia's share

We can move on to greener pastures by the time Pepsi and Coke max it out as per the earlier post. Speaking of Max, there is actually another Max who is challenging another giant in another category. Welcome to the David-Goliath scenario where a local homegrown company which has grown by leaps and bounds in the past six months is taking on the might of a Finnish phone company. Micromax mobiles is suddenly threatening to overthrow Nokia’s marketing efforts. With a strong distribution network, sports sponsorships by the dozens, interactive campaigns and a wide array of low-cost products, Micromax is surely more than a local challenger to Nokia, the current market leader. It currently occupies the third position in the market after Samsung with a six percent market share and growing rapidly.
 Micromax, founded by Rajesh Agrawal started as a computer distributor for companies like Dell and HP in 1991. In 2008, they forayed into mobile phones. After the success of the X1i (30 days on a single charge and priced at two thousand rupees) in the rural market, Micromax eyed the more suave urban area. Micromax has two aces up its sleeve — a keen eye for what the customer needs, and the ability to swing their supply chain. With over 55 companies operating in the market and over 60 percent share controlled by Nokia alone, Micromax was still confident of tapping into unexplored niches and categories through their product offerings and marketing efforts. The recent product strengthening has been on the dual-sim and QWERTY keypad forefront at reasonable prices-offerings Indian consumers have lapped upto. The company also gives five percent commission to each of its distribution partners (450 distributors and 50000 retailers) but does not offer any credit. Obviously, it can't if it is offering three times as much commission as Nokia and yet offer credit! This has also helped them build a reliable and fast cash cycle.
Micromax introduced Akshay Kumar and partnered with Lowe to roll in their motion sensing game phone and signed Twinkle Khanna to endorse the Swarovski crystal studded Bling edition. Another of their innovative products has been a phone that doubles up as a master remote for your household appliances. Critics say that Micromax's rise has been fuelled by the Government's decision to ban Chinese mobiles that lacked an IMEI number. But then there were other low cost players too, so why only Micromax?When the telecom bubble started to grow, we saw companies like Lava, Karbonn, Lemon, Zen, Max, Onida and Videocon jump into the mobile boat. However, the consumer has always been selective and with so many options, it was but obvious that a few will survive. Micromax was lucky to be one of them and of course with its surprising products and campaigns it was bound to! Lava and Karbonn threatened to overshadow it once using the same marketing strategies but they are surely feeling the pinch now. After all, how many Lava and Karbonn adverts you come across these days? The two recent models by Micromax, promoted widely in the recent Cricket tri series in Sri Lanka, Q6 and Q7 are giving Nokia’s premium models a run for their money. Compare Micromax's 26 models with the wide array of Nokia's cell phones and you'll find why Nokia is hell bent on killing its own instruments even before they complete a technological cycle.
Mr. Wahid Nasirullah, who has a small mobile store near Sewri station amongst several stores in the surrounding says, “Earlier on, I used to stock only big names like Nokia and Samsung but since the Chinese handsets came in, we saw local manufacturers coming up with their own answer. As the public likes it, we have to stock them. Now my store has more Micromax mobiles than Nokia ones.” Small mobile handset players are going to take over the market. Mobile penetration is high and most of the untapped market is the lower segment of Sec C and Sec D consumers, for whom a QWERTY keypad phone at a throw away price is equal to owning an I-phone, well almost! Ask Mr. Nasirullah the reason for Micromax’s success and he answers, “The cost factor! Micromax is giving the same things as Nokia and more at half the price and people are intelligent, they don’t want the brand. As long as they’re getting good warranty and good service no one’s bothered.”
True! Mr. Nasirullah’s store is one amongst the thousands of such unorganized retail mobile outlets which account for more than sixty percent of mobile sales in the Indian market (thanks to their selling handsets lower than stores like Croma and The Mobile Store), and he might just have made a valid point. Due to the sheer competition, the mobile market is almost getting commoditized. Nokia is coming out with a new model almost every week. Even as I write this, Nokia’s engineers are working on a cost-effective phone for the Indian market. The 2600, 2610, 2300, 2310, 5310, et al and God knows what they have dumped here, to counter the effect of the Chinese mobiles and local manufacturers like Micromax. Today, Nokia launched two new models, C1 and C2 in the entry level segment with dual-sim option (earlier on, they did not have a dual-sim phone. See!) and Micromax too, is not taking it easy and coming out with handsets like pancakes. The battle field is more on the price front than the feature as the focus has been to tap the bottom of the pyramid segment and make mobiles more common than tissues in your bathroom. So will Goliath crush David or will David hurl the stone just in time to conquer Goliath? Whatever be the result, David might just have to change his brand name and reposition himself as he is surely not ‘micro’ anymore!
With hugs and kisses to the Consumer, 
The Young Marketer.

September 8, 2010

Pepsi to 'Max'?

 The Pepsi-Coke battle has seen a ‘strong’ new member being introduced in the former’s team. Pepsi recently launched the Pepsi Max cola in the Indian market, after its success in the western markets. India is primarily a market where both cola companies have increased the sweetness in their flavor Remember Coke’s early trial to change the drink’s taste in India and make it as strong as it was in the west and what it resulted into? Surprisingly, however the market leader of the soft drink market argues against this ‘sweet’ statement. 

Thums-up stands tall with a whooping seventeen percent market share (till 2003, it had twenty-four percent market share!) The strong taste of Thums-up has also being positioned strongly into the minds of the Indian consumer with the tagline ‘Taste the Thunder’. Pepsi rings in a close second with thirteen percent, followed by Coke with eight percent, if you observe only the cola market. As such, to battle the might of the thunderous Indian brand, Pepsi decide to introduce ‘Pepsi Max’ in the Indian market. What most people are dismissing as an illogical extension is actually a strategy in disguise to veer consumers away from Thums-up and towards the new brand. Indian consumers are however skeptical about such brands which try to take on the might of an already established brand. I see some innovators and early adopters trying the brand but if the product does not live upto the expectations then surely that will be it. Before growth, Pepsi Max would have to be minimized. Because most consumers, identify with Thums-up as it stands for the vintage Indian cola brand. It balanced its equity in a manner better than Campa Cola (by Pure Drinks Ltd. had a 30% market share then) did against Double Cola (US based) in the 70’s and that is why it is surviving today with a high percentage of loyal followers, of which some don’t even know that it’s a Coke brand. Coke brought the brand from Ramesh Chauhan of Parle--who declined Pepsi’s offer citing that Coke would be able to do better justice to their brand and don’t forget the allegations that Coke tried to kill the Thums up brand later to strengthen their hold on the market--as the latter wanted to concentrate on the yet to burgeon packaged water market and what was a three way battle between Pepsi (which reentered India in 1988), Coke (reentered in 1993 after being drive away due to FERA) and Thums-up, suddenly became a one on one war. Coke continued with the macho adventurous, carefree positioning of the brand that connected with the inner rebel in the Indian male (the main reason why Campa Cola failed with its happy and good image). Coke’s long term investment of $60 million in 1993 has surely rung in their present cash registers in the Indian market.
Even if you speak of campaigns, Thums-up has remained the same throughout with its strong positioning as an adventurous brand. Only three campaigns come to mind, ‘Toofani Thanda’, ‘Taste the Thunder’ and ‘Grow up to Thums up’. The latter more to appeal to a set of the audience whose earlier generation had witnessed the Thums up tale and not to forget, the positioning was so strong that Coke had to rub it off on Coca Cola with the campaign ‘Thanda matlab Coca Cola’. How many statements Coca Cola has changed after that? How many has Pepsi changed in answer? How many different celebrities, ranging from Tendulkar to SRK and from Aishwariya Rai to Amitabh Bachchan have been roped in between the two brands? Whereas, if you check Thums up it has only used three prominent celebs, Sunil Gavaskar (in 1977) Salman Khan (from 1996-2003) and Akshay Kumar (2003 onwards), who have a distinct carefree and rough image attached to them. This is truly iconic!
So coming back to the recent onslaught, what would be Coke’s reaction to Pepsi’s strategy? Don’t they know? Of course, they do if they are Coca Cola and especially, when the battle is with Pepsi for a market like India. Then what are they going to do about it? I doubt they will take any new product development decisions because the Thums-up brand is still the market leader. Coke can think of launching Coke zero in the Indian market which has traditionally being positioned similarly as Pepsi Max but I doubt they will do it as Thums-up has attained the status of a cult brand primarily because it did not give into the demands of seasonal temptations and maintained its positioning relevant with times. As long as Pepsi Max doesn’t challenge its hold too much, till then I see no reaction from Coke. But yes, Pepsi is not advertising the new brand too much currently except for outdoors and online. Pepsi has intelligently positioned it as a strong drink, free from sugar and for the health conscious consumer (targeting the 25-35 age group people who actually consume more Thums up. Good research by Pepsi, eh?).  Using  simplicity and creativity, Pepsi has put up a large OOH advert which shows a Pepsi Max bottle spilling the drink into an overflowing glass and the punch line says it all ‘Maximum kick, No sugar’. Are they trying to achieve converts from the liquor religion? Lol! Maybe you will see Coke retaliate to reinforce Thums up in our minds, by launching another of those high flying Akshay Kumar campaigns which always gets on my nerves. But one thing is for sure, Coke is not going to remain silent. In reality, you never know, especially when the battle is between these two giants. We’ll wait and watch how much Pepsi Max can actually ‘Max’ Pepsi’s share.

With hugs and kisses to the Consumer, 
The Young Marketer.

September 7, 2010

May I have your permission please (2)

Let's continue with the four conventions of permission marketing:

1. Prospects have to give you permission to approach them. If not, you should not approach them as it can reduce your goodwill.

2. Permission is definitely selfish, realize that! Your prospect will mostly give you permit to approach them only if they are able to identify a reward or benefit in your offering.

3. Permission should be unsubscribed anytime the prospect wishes. You should provide them with the unsubscribe option but, if you have done your homework correctly there can be no going wrong.

4. Permission should not be transferred. You cannot exchange the permit with another person. It means that you only send an offer through e-mail to leads who really want you to send them though they have varying degrees of interest in your products. Maintaining the highest ethical standards in such a relation is very necessary.
Consider this I went to a book store’s annual sale last year and purchased some books worth a certain amount. The attendant, while preparing the invoice pushed a feedback form towards me and asked me to fill it with all my details intact. I did so and this year I got an invite for this year’s sale alongwith a discount voucher for certain category of books. Apart from this, their monthly newsletter also reaches my place without failure and I get to read reviews of the new best-sellers before deciding to buy them.
One of my friends, who is a shopaholic, is a frequent denizen of a leading retail chain. The first time she went there to shop for clothes and accessories, she was told about their program to become a lifetime member for free. This ensured she would not only accumulate points for her purchases and redeem them later but also be informed about discount sales, bargain deals and partner events well in advance than non-members. Well there’s nothing such as a free lunch as the popular saying goes and she does get an e-mail every week about the new fashion products in store and the special prices put up for members.
Getting the attention of the people is the challenge and permission marketing doesn’t quite do away with it. Converting that one brief moment of attention that you generate form an individual into a mutually beneficial relationship is what permission marketing looks at. Mostly people have to know what is in it for them to invest their most important resource in, i.e. time. Money, ofcourse is not so important so long as the segmentation is wise. Signing up for lottery online means you part away  with your personal details, the chances of winning the lottery are rare but the chances of getting your inbox flooded are huge. The reward at the end is enticement enough for an individual to participate in the lottery and expose himself to the marketers.
From the marketer’s perspective, the main advantage is both on the cost and time aspect. The cost for approaching the prospect online and even gaining his feedback is almost nil, thanks to e-mail. Even if you approach thirty individuals of which only five become your consumers, the cost of knowing why the other twenty-five did not is the same as approaching them, i.e. zero. E-mail being the quickest mode of communication also saves a lot of time meaning that the marketer can follow up with the prospect continuously. And that’s the important lesson, to change the prospect’s behavior; you have to talk to them over and over again. In time, another batch of five prospects would be converted into your consumers.
If you are interested in a hobby like writing and you have signed up on various forums, become a member of popular websites for writers, downloaded a comprehensive editing software online and signed up on portals offering your services as a writer, there is no doubt in my mind that half the mails that hit your inbox or the newsletters that reach your address are of products that are some way or the other associated with your hobby. This is because you have ‘volunteered’ to make yourself available for such products and services by expressing your interest in writing. So automatically, the observation network of similar companies takes you into consideration as a prospect and the very next day you are hit by a flurry of mails from another writing software that promises better results at a lesser price.
The evaluation of the marketing efforts also changes as companies don’t just evaluate on rating scales and TRPs but also on the number of people who have ‘volunteered’ themselves for their marketing efforts. Permission marketing is both entertaining and educating, giving companies a chance to learn more about their prospects and the individuals a chance to know more about the products and companies that they would be interested in.
In the words of Seth Godin permission marketing’s main focus is on, "turning strangers into friends, and friends into customers."Permission marketing might not be a foolproof solution towards faulty marketing practices but it surely is a way around that looks at getting the best for the parties involved. The appeal surrounding permission marketing might not be as great as the attention given to interruption marketing but when it comes to relationship handling in this era of CRM practices, permission marketing is definitely the order of the day!

With hugs and kisses to the Consumer,
The Young Marketer.