October 29, 2010

The path to Generi-city!

 I wished to write about a single incident but decided all four won't do any harm (There are no editors to check on me here, huh?) Last week I was sitting in class when the director of our institute while addressing us on some vague topic claimed, "We could have gone for any Xerox machine but when it comes to xeroxing, Canon is the best and there was no choice there..."
Picture this. Two weeks back I was at the general store picking up a snack to soothen my stomach and laong walked this bald guy and said, "Bhaiyya, woh Colgate dena...germi-check waali."  
A similar incident was reported by one of my friends in some other town when he asked for a Manikchand Bisleri. 
And of course, how can I forget my own childhood when I always stopped by the store at the corner of my school to buy a Milkybar Cadbury! Imagine!
Generic brands by definition are unbranded indigenous alternatives for the famed biggies yet marketers call a perfectly famous branded product 'generic'. So how does a product become 'generic'? Yes, it's a long, long way for your brand to become generic and it is composed of four steps (Yes, you can call it the Faraaz Kazi model and award me the Nobel if you really take a fancy to it!)


1) Brand identification: In the growth stage of the PLC of your brand, this step shoots up suddenly. Why you ask? I hope you're counting the dollars being spent on the exercise of brand building. As such it is new in the market, some competitors are watching you, some innovators and early adopters are trying it out and because of that you are investing in the brand with the hope of keeping it in the first quadrant of the BCG. We try to give the brand a personality of its own, to differentiate it from similar products and to add that 'extra' in the customer's mind. The real reason for Hippo using a mascot and those really jazzy colours on their different variety of packs is to make the packets stand out from the huge stock hanging from the retailer's wall. With the $10.8 billion snack market to grow to nearly 80 billion by 2013, getting cluttered, this strategy should prove more than beneficial for them.

2) Brand familiarity: In essence, it would mean the same as above but no there's a slight difference, just marginal enough that the consumer himself own't notice. Familiarity here means that the consumer has started using the brand and is taking  a liking to it. Here, we're talking about the brand building a positive or negative connect with the customer based on the experiences the customer associates with the brand. This is the most tricky stage in the process. Imagine a thirst traveler walking in some unimaginable corner of north-east India. He has exhausted his stock of water and till far, he can see nothing but the treacherous roads surrounded with dust and mud and the harsh rays of the sun egging them on. Just as he's about to give up and collapse, he sees a small stall on the road and hurries to ask for water. Faced with such a situation, he is ready to give up his aversion to tap water and moves to the dripping tap behind the shop when he sees a small refrigerator containing bottles of packaged water. He drops to his feet and is willing to pay four times for that brand. That brand has just been his saviour. Okay, keeping the hypothetical example aside, let's just say this step involves optimising your marketing mix so as to achieve maximum penetration, not yet in the market but in the consumer's mind. In essence, you are trying to bring up the customer's perceived value of your brand by associating more positive experiences. Advertising campaigns play the most important role in this regards. This builds up the brand image and positions the brand in the customer's mind more in line with what you were trying to communicate, reducing information dissonance. Have you ever thought about the second side of the coin. In the buying process for a cellphone, you would have considered more than one mobile phone before finalising on one (yeah, I bet!). The finalised phone maybe useful for what we talk next but what about the eliminated alternatives? The fact of that matter is even if you arrive at a Nokia 5230, you were familiar enough with LG Cookie Pep and Samsung Corby Plus to give them a chance to compete in your brain.

3) Brand Loyalty: Gotcha! I did mention four steps and I end up putting this all the more, over hyped term on the third step itself. Ever imagined why? Hmmm...I guess you'll have to wait till we reach the fourth step then. For the time being, how do u define brand loyalty. Keeping the jargon away, in simple terms brand loyalty occurs when the customer comes back to you. See the change in circumstances. Till now, it was you who was approaching the customer. This is where the marketing shifts from 'Push' to 'Pull'. Of course the most optimal loyalty would be when even switchers turn hard-core loyalists but this is impractical in the real world. So we take the average loyalist for your brand. Of course, by now your brand has great product dimensions, is easily available at the customer's convenience, undertakes some great promotional activities through IMC and can even charge a premium as people are willing to pay for the 'differentiation' (positioning) you have created. Remember just by bringing down the customer's sensitivity to price, you cannot close the chapter. Brand loyalty stems form all organisational factors working in synchronisation to provide added value to their customer. In the end, brand loyalty is the prime constituent of your most important asset-brand equity. My neighbour goes to the bakery in the morning to get some buns for breakfast and often returns empty handed. "Why?" I ask him. He says,"Wibs got over!". I tell him he should have opted for the bakery buns, they are just as good and he shrugs avoiding a reply.

4) Brand integration: As the earlier two steps, the last two too are marginally different. Brand integration occurs when your brand crosses that level of saturation for a customer by 'killing' other brands. In simple terms, other brands cease to exist, the customer becomes immune to their charms, offers, deals and appeals. Bingo's take on Frito Lays for their American Onion flavour involved an indirect form of competitive advertising. In the Bingo ad, the villagers bite into the chip and exclaim "Ye to apne gaon mein bhi milta hai!", meaning that it's not imported as the lying prospective groom claims. The 'groom' in reality is a metaphor for competitor, Frito Lays. Both products are made using the same recipe so they taste almost similar. On top, Bingo is offering a fifty percent discount on its pack. Yet,a majority of the consumers are going for Lays and not Bingo, Parle, Balaji or Haldirams for that matter! On a more pragmatic take, complete brand integration is not possible as other competitors are not static but will be perhaps more dynamic than you if they have the resources and capabilities to compete. But a successful brand always has a strong sail, the wind is of course supplied by the consumer's mind.

Apart from this, there are external factors affecting the level of generi-city too. For example, dynamics of the packaged water and the snacks industry are different. Bisleri not only had the first mover advantage but also fewer competitors for almost 30 years. Compare the same for Frito-Lays after being taken over by Pepsi had just a couple of years to build its brand and then there was an overflow in the Indian snacks market. Presence of too many unbranded options and easily available subsitutes (ok, I'm making Porter proud!) are a deterrent to your efforts in reaching the next level of your consumer's mind. 
It is interesting to note that in the 1980s, Ramesh Chauhan changed the look of Bisleri. PET bottle packaging was introduced for the very first time as consumers were quite sceptical about glass bottles serving mineral water. From then on the real surge in sales had started and by 2000, Chauhan noticed the brand was becoming generic. He made an interesting move, again pulling out a similar trick from the past. He modified the packaging of the product to a complex hexagonal, flat-seeved bottle. The trump card was that he got the design patented (with competition from majors like Kinley and Aquafina and surrogate alcholics) Once this was done, how can any marketer forget the 'Play safe' campaign which was launched nationally with the sole goal of attacking the competiton and make Bisleri distinctive enough to stand on its own on the shelf. The first TV advert saw a girl and a guy who were out for camping, getting naughty, almost climbing atop each other and just when things seem to take off, the girl whispers something in the guy's ears. The poor guy rushes to the chemist where the attendant is snoring and wakes him up and asks him something. The attendant returns with a crate full of Bisleri and the guy and the girl are seen lapping up the mineral water. Apart from this, Bisleri also entered new segments, especially targeting the bulk B2B base and today 60-70% of its sales come from that segement. In 1995, it was available in around 50,000 outlets but today it is available in more than 2,00,000 outlets and that includes stationery stores and beediwaalas who'll stock no other brand. From 1995, its operations have multiplied 40 percent and today it holds a 60% share of the 40% per annum growing bottled water market. Yes, it has almost trebled its distribution, to make sure when a customer asks for a Bisleri, he gets a 'Bisleri'. And that's perhaps one of the reasons it is phasing out 'Bailey' gradually from the market. With companies like Tata introducing a natural mineral water 'Himalaya', Bisleri was quick to adopt and introduce some modifications in the product and now we have Bisleri-mountain mineral water ('Mountains'-'Himalaya', got that? These marketers, tricky breed, eh?).
So at the end of the day, does it really benefit a brand from becoming generic? Yes, it does. Does it really benefit its parent? Sadly, it doesn't! There can be a lot of arguements on the statement I've just made and I'm pretty much sure of all of them but the fact is the most major disadvantage of a company's brand going generic is bigger than all the advantages put together. The answer lies in the first four cases of the article itself, right at the introduction. Have you ever imagined how much a Bisleri or a Cadbury lose out on sales due to generi-city? The mistakes of Xerox in the past when Japanese competitiors began to enter the market are not only a case of marketing myopia for refusing to change but also a lesson for marketers on the ill-effects of generi-city.

With hugs and kisses to the Consumer,                                                   
     The Young Marketer

October 15, 2010

Don't 'exploit' me with your advertisements

Today, just as I logged in to check my Facebook account, I received a message from the moderator of a popular advertising page on Facebook to join a debate that was taking shape on exploitative advertising. With nothing else to do, I jumped into the fray. I checked out the topic.As a customer, the guy has a very valid point but let's take a look from the marketer's point of view. This is how it shaped.

Query: Ok.This is something I have been thinking about for a while......it is about what I call exploitative advertising.......Who says that a product sells only if it delivers ???...Take a look at Fair and Lovely...2 decades of sales past, I have not heard (much less seen) anyone's complexion moving over to the fairer side; ...not a friend or friend's friend's friend or even a distant relative or acquaintance. So, intuitively speaking, the product does not work. So, we can safely infer that either the ads lie or the ad-makers are ignorant. But the right choice is irrelevant. You see, the kind of adverts that Fair and Lovely releases, especially in India, seem to prey upon our insecurities. Every man wants to have a fair bride. Every father wants to have a fair daughter. And so, every girl wants to be fair. The ads seem to EXPLOIT all the semi-misogynistic loopholes in our psyche. Now, the phenomenon has moved over to men. The outcome of crucial interviews are decided by a man's confidence, which is inexplicably linked to his complexion ( OH MY GOD ! I AM NOT FAIR !..WILL I EVER BE PROMOTED ?! ).....So the conclusion ???....It is a question.....and also a parting shot at the fleeced customers....Are people really like sheep ??...If you dangle the proverbial carrot, will they really be taken for a ride???....And are ads meant to be that way in the corporate era ??The need of cosmetics is seen from very ancient days. People were using a variety of cosmetic products both for curative purpose as well as beauty ones. Kajal, or Surma, Bindi, Sindoor, Kumkum, Mehandi, Altas, Alaras are some traditional... cosmetics used on those days as certain social symbolic issues besides for preventing the parts of the body from many infections and maintaining the freshness and/ presentablity in different climatic conditions.

Faraaz Kazi: Of the Rs 3,000-crore cosmetics and toiletries market, the skincare segment accounts for Rs 1,200 crore. Fairness products account for a whopping Rs 700 crore of this segment.
Now as far as the company's claims are concerned, it is not a modern phenomenon but has gained momentum in the present. The cream does make you fair but it cannot do so if you're inherently dark, i.e. one can't become fairer than their actual skin colour (hence 75% of the customers claim to have been misled). A very narrow segment on whom the cream doesn't show their effects, can be classified as those who didn't try the product as specified by the company or under their ideal conditions.
Call it exploitative, misleading, false or deceptive, the truth of the matter is, it is here to stay! It's very difficult to allow your product to speak out aloud amidst the competition. As a marketer, what option have you left? Claims such as these are common tools to effectively get your proposition across. It is not that insecurities emerge from claims but the other way round because as a marketer one sees an unsatisfied need there. Yeah, the case of sanitisers as I said. I pointed it out on my blog too recently. It depends on your perspective totally, do you see it as unethical? But at the end of the day, won't you as a customer try it out (even once) if it's an epidemic. As they say better safe than sorry. Consider this in an extreme situation, as an advertiser if I claim if you don't try my product, apocalypse would strike or you would die within 24 hours, would you be willing to try it? Hmmm...that's precisely the reason.
Second, coming to Fair and Lovely (or Fairever or Fairglow or any other fairness product for that matter), claims or not, people will buy it (53% market share). Why? Because each one of us, rich or poor, Hindu or Muslim, has that underlying 'dream' to look and feel good. To carry the confidence that emerges from one's physical appearance. And hence people will buy it. Consider this, as a marketer what other positioning can you apply to a fairness product? There's very little room for negotiation! Yet HUL has done that or at least tried to by experimenting with variants, you have F&L anti-marks cream to ayurvedic and multi-vitamin and once they noticed 32% of males using the cream (not a TG they had specified), the male variant was introduced after Emami. Don't forget, a major factor of their success has been their distribution which reaches all tiers of their effective supply chain. At one point, F&L enjoyed a virtual monopoly with over 90 percent market share but look where it stands today thanks to competition (don't forget the milk-turmeric-kesar paste you apply on your face on weekends).
As a product, all fairness creams essentially use Niacin amide which is known for its skin lightening properties.
There were women groups which termed the adverts as regressive. Look at one brighter side of it, at least F&L doens't use celebs to endorse it (the claims could be more misleading then!). We see common faces (Genelia when she was not quite an actress was the most prominent advert on TV) so that people get the feel of reality. On the other side, they also have The Fair and Lovely foundation which promotes educating girls and seeks to empower them (are they nullifying the effects then?) Apart from this, 4 weeks or 7 days countdown to fairness sounds silly, done on improper research because one can easily claim that a complainant's skin isn't essentially the average facial skin, the company has tested it's product on. There's no law against it but lately ASCI has been pulling the noose on a lot of claims issued in ads. Lately, IRDA to passed an order to insurance companies to tighten the noose over agents who sold policies deceptively. For the details, may I request you to look here. At the end of the day, it is upto the consumer and his experiences, what he is ready to believe and what he is not. Ask yourself this: Did Rajnikant truly perform those sci-fi stunts in Robot? As they say (below)
Big enough?

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

October 13, 2010

Dynamics of pyschology in advertising

Advertising Psychology 
My sincerest thanks to Ms. Carmen Neghina, teaching assistant at Nijmegen School of Management for this wonderful presentation. Being a psychologist, I sure could relate to it. I hope you do too.
With hugs and kisses to the Consumer,
The Young Marketer.

October 5, 2010

History of Advertising

I'd like to thank Helen Klein Ross, a well known personality in the US ad agencies, for this wonderful presentation. There is no need for me to add anything, though I would surely try to prepare a similar thing for Indian advertising lovers.

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

October 2, 2010

Now dare you forget the concepts!

How to differentiate between Marketing, PR, Advertising and the like. All people around me say they're essentially the same with a little twist in their tales. Well, here's a tale...for all you 'adult' marketers!

You’re a man and you see a gorgeous woman at a party. You go up to her and say, “I’m fantastic in bed.” That’s Direct Marketing. Pretty much like Dell.
You’re at a party with a bunch of friends and see a gorgeous woman. One of your friends goes up to her and pointing at you says, “He’s fantastic in bed.” That’s Advertising. The Priyagold way, esp. when you know no one's going to buy your product.
You see a gorgeous woman at a party. You go up to her and get her telephone number. The next day you call and say, “Hi, I’m fantastic in bed.” That’s Telemarketing. Hmmm, yes like ICICI!
You’re at a party and see a gorgeous woman. You get up and straighten your tie. You walk up to her and pour her a drink and then say, “By the way, I’m also fantastic in bed.” That’s Public Relations. Remember Vijay Mallya and Kingfisher?
You’re at a party and see a gorgeous woman. She walks up to you and says, “I hear you’re fantastic in bed.” That’s Brand Recognition. Like the Apple logo.
You're at a party and see a gorgeous woman. You remember she is the same from last night but this time she walks upto your brother  and whispers in his ear, "I guess you're great in bed like your brother." That's Brand Equity. Yes, the Unilever way.
You’re at a party and see a gorgeous woman. You talk her into going home with your friend. That’s a Sales Representative. Has to be someone from the private insurance department.
You're at a party and see a gorgeous woman. You walk upto her and talk her into taking both you and your friend to her place. That's Sales promotion. Bundling like FMCG soaps. 
Your friend can’t satisfy her so he calls you. That’s Tech Support. From Microsoft.
You're at a party and see a gorgeous woman. You walk upto her, hand over your visiting card and shout loudly, so all can hear, "Isse sasta aur achcha kahin nahin." That's 'Shameless' promotion. Do I need to say like whom?
You’re on your way to a party when you realise that there could be gorgeous women in all these houses you’re passing. So you climb onto the roof of one situated toward the center and shout at the top of your lungs, “I’m fantastic in bed!” That’s Junk Mail. Yeah, the Chinese penis enlargement pills!

Now go spread the knowledge!
With hugs and kisses to the Consumer, 
The Young Marketer.