Saturday, April 11, 2009

Politics and Marketing

This is the season for it...ain't it? I came back home to be greeted by the campaigns. Nothing new? Right...this is nothing new. Every time we are supposed to make an educated decision on who should be our representatives, the decibel levels just shoot up. I guess the PR managers and the marketing managers of the candidates would be at their best in this season.

Look at Advani. The way he has brought up his own site and tried to endear him to the youth of the country isn't a decision taken in a jiffy or an idea out of the blue. A well-thought and a well planned initiative that is being well served by an MBA (oh yeah! there we go again...the Management grads!!!) behind the scenes is nothing short of a sensation this season.

Then there are various candidates who are utilizing the blogs, websites, placement advertisements etc etc. The bottom line is simple - Do anything to market you! Then there's this candidate in a constituency in Visakhapatnam who has endeared himself to the voters with a laptop. He went around toed with his laptop and goes door-to-door trying to engage the voters explaining them the need to vote and the status of their voter-id cards. In case of any help, he engages activists of his party to help them. At the end of it all, he asks them to look at his candidature. He knows that his election is a distant dream but he at least understood the essence of marketing in high-tech age!!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Brand manager

It's often a well-placed misconception that brand manager means someone who takes care of the brands that you buy in the market place, the ones that make up your life style space etc. With the changing times and the eras, brand has extended its portfolio (Can I call it brand extension? I wonder!) and boasts of people too, under its umbrella. Brand Sachin, Brand Aamir, Brand SR, Brand Bachchan(How can I not write about him!) and on and on and on... The curious link up between a brand and an ambassador has moved up a notch and has now taken the proportions of branding at personal level.

Most of the so-called branded people have PR firms taking care of their activities. I do not specifically know how many of these actually take care of their branding activities but one such person is Aamir Khan. The self-styled, the marketing-savvy and the ever-changing unique actor of Indian cinema is for all reasons known THE potential brand of the Indian celebrities. With all due regards to every other celebrity, Aamir holds his own in this space.

How does he do that? Simple; he makes sure that he walks the talk. Aamir sports a Titan watch, drinks a Diet Coke, drives an Innova, watches a Tata Sky and of course sports a new hair style every day. It's not about driving the brand but driving the message. In an era of message clutter and brand-ambassador incongruence Aamir comes as a refreshing change. Samsung, another brand endorsed by him leaped from number 4 in the GSM handsets to number 2 after he started endorsing them.

Doesn't it send a subtle message to all the marketers around? Yeah it does. Choose your endorser who knows and appeals to the people. And by appeal, it's not just the visual appeal. The connect between the brand and the endorser has gone beyond the commercial; it's time marketers take notice!

Interviewer: Ruk Shan Khar ji you endorse Tepsi but why are you drinking Poke?
RSK: HHHHHey, in that case I need to bathe with a Sux, have a NairTel connection...I'm beyond all this...

Friday, March 6, 2009


Why did I name it in a way immortalised by a famous sitcom (The irresistable Jennifer Aniston is an off-the-cuff reason, but not for public revelation)? Simply because I believe a brand is a conglomerate of so many things immortalised by the letters.

B - Basic
R - Realistic
A - Appealing
N - Needy
D - Duly serving

People say different things about why they need brands - it reduces the time of search of a customer, increases the affiliation...blah blah blah. But, at the end of the day, it boils down to the basic stuff. Unless the product immortalises the basic thing what a customer is looking for, you cannot, absolutely cannot, hit the psychological levels with your product. And make no mistake, a product remains a product until it gets an attachment with the customer.

Try designing a funky product which is very basic but is far away from the expectations of the customer. No matter how well you stick to your basics, it is almost as much pertinent to cling on to the realistic expectations of the customer. The GOD of marketing (customer boss, customer...he is our GOD!!!) doesn't take any bull shit. (S)He just expects a real version of his needs.

There is already so much clutter out there. Even for a pen, I've so much to choose from based on various factors. And of course, there is the celebrity factor. Amidst all this chaos, if your product needs to hold its own and go on to become a brand it has to be appealing to its customer. Unless I find something very appealing, I won't change my usual buying decision (Of course, it's another matter that I rarely think while buying). In an era where it is very difficult to find and hold your customers, the best thing your brand can do (and may be the least, as well) is to appeal (to all senses, if possible) to the consumer.

Is that all? Am afraid is almost next to impossible to make a brand in an area where there is no need! You can survive on fast-track sales for a day, a week and may be a little more if you pick on some clever tactic. But unless there is need on the consumer side your product can not think of the next step. Make sure that your product picks up all these attributes and duly serve the consumers; because the life of a product doesn't end with being a B.R.A.N.D, it starts with it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Celebrity Endorsements

It's still fresh in my mind...AB used to rule the world of television not long ago. It's not just with his amazing life-saving show Kaun bachayega Bacchan ko err...sorry...Kaun banega Crorepati but also with his innumerable ads. Any commercial break would be incomplete without the bearded face showcased more than twice. Every over of the cricket match would be quickly followed by a chocolate munching or painting or writing AB. I won't blame the person himself if he lost count of all the products he endorsed!

So, how good is this celebrity endorsement? As a customer, we look for a show of trust...either from the company or from someone we know. This lookout for someone we know almost always ends up with a celebrity. Why? because we give preference to an AB or a Sachin or a Tiger Woods than your neighbour who actually used the product. (Okay...I'm an exception. I always look for my neighbour's endorsement; after all she's of my age and still single...)

Does this mean any one can go on endorsing any thing? Hmm...may wll not be the case. You don't want Atal Bihari Vajpayee to be your brand ambassador of Nike Shoes. Poor chap! I pity the search for a body double who actually would look like Atalji and still can run...You don't want Ramalinga Raju to endorse your LIC policy (err...Raju and trust...that would be another heck of an endorsement). Your customer out there is a smart chap who looks for reliance and salience more than anything else.

The advantage that products get is the spill over of the celebrity aura onto your product itself. You want people to associate the product and believe that it's as good as your celebrity. Wish the world is as perfect! More often than not, you tend to over-estimate the presence of your celebrity and the effect (s)he is gonna get you. Classic example that comes to my mind is the Nerolac ad endorsed by AB (oh my God!!! not again :P) which ended up with greater recall of the Big B and his presence but no added value for the product. Again...people liked the ad, liked the celebrity(we can never get enough of AB! trust me...) but somehow the product was left in the vacuum. Another example was when Andy Roddick was endorsed in the US open by a company promoting him in a huge manner only to see him dumped in the first round...they had to retreat their ads

I know that we all still look and feel for celebrity endorsements. It's just that the adorable AB has been replaced by the (ir)replaceable King Khan who's gone a step ahead and started endorsing anything and every thing under the Sun. A day would come when someone would endorse every thing you and your girl friend are wearing. That would be kick ass na..

Guy: Look at my purple socks. Ain't it beautiful? It's endorsed by the hottest pair in the bollywood
Girl: Jaran Kohar and Rukh Shah Naak?
Guy: Exactly!!! The same pair who endorsed your peppy nail polish and the girlie handbag apart from the body lotion and hair spray that you are using.
Girl: Yeah!!! They are the talk of the town! 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Where's the limit...

Marketing always fascinates; to the extent that it makes you wonder if you really are buying something because you needed it or because you were marketed to. Take my example...I get into a retail store having a set list in my hand ably supported by the limited cash in my wallet (thanks to my dad and my bank!). Then I see this wonderful red color wrapped choclate which has been doing rounds in the tv ads for a week now. Next's in my basket. may try looking at this from the angle of impulse and non-impulse purchases but seriously saying, I never would have bought it had I not seen that ad. I still don't buy that 4-PM crunchy snack (Sorry Sir, I don't remember the name) because I didn't think it was well sold. The very fact that the general store near my hostel puts a discount on this snack and not on the red-color one tells me that the latter has been marketed.

But, can you sell anything and everything to any one and everyone? May be not. As famously protrayed in an advertisement in the past, you can't make women shave every day. Come on, if a bright marketer can do that, imagine the amount of opportunities for shaving companies. Pealitte can come up with a razor that is dual purpose (the reverse side for the gals). You may argue that there are razors being sold even now but they are for different 'location'. I wish to see the day when a bright marketer can make women shave their (non-existent)beard every day.

People say that marketing is the art of selling a comb to a DevaGowda. Yeah, you can go ahead and sell it to a Kirmani as well but there always is a limit to what marketing can do. It can't make you wear a watch on each of your wrists. Or can it?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The mad world of ads

Tav...washing powder Nirma....washing powder Nirma

Probably the most enduring image of my childhood. The little girl in a frock twirling to the tune of the name which was penned to be a household name for the next decade or so. I was so fascinated that everytime there was a commercial break I waited with bated breath for the little girl. And everytime, the tune started there was a smirk on my lips.

It's not the product that sells, it's the marketing that does. Ignorant, as I was at that time, I thought this was played by the television studio to give a break to the performing actors. After all, it takes time to come all the way from Switzerland (where they just went for a duet) to the shanties of Hyderabad (My initial pick was Mumbai but I was afraid of the legal tangles I would get into if I portray the Mumbai slums)

So, what's there in an ad? Almost everything in close to nothing! You get 20 sec to claim your pie of the fortune. Bet to better that! I remember my dad asking me to explain the importance of a HSBC ad where the kid gets a sprawling caterpillar and puts in a bowl much to the dismay of his mom. Only later did I realise the jargons of the ad customer, message, top-of-the-mind.

Ads are the best thing to happen to the world of television. In addition to saving us from the tears of the saases and bahus, it also brings the diversity of the world within minutes. How else can you explain a frentic 5 minute ad break with ads that range from Fair-and-handsome to Pepsi to Whisper to Nike. It's very rare to find two successive ads of the same segment (err..I don't remember viewing a Nike right after Adidas or a Dil maanging more right after Tasting the thunder)

I long thought that I need to grow my hair and beard and buy a test-cricket hat to be an ad-man. Little did I realise that you need a brain for that hat that thinks sharp! The colors that we see on the screen are the result of some creativity behind for some unmistakabaly longer period. And yeah, last but not the least, thanks to all those models who made the ads what they are...entertaining and informative (Yes boss, the very reason why gals in long skirts come to explain the features of your refrigerator before inducing you to buy)....

Teacher shows an underwear advertisement where a guy runs in his undies when his girl's father turns up.
Teacher: What do you infer from the ad?
Guy: You need to be smart and keep your bike parked in an adjacent lane
Girl: You need to hide the gun before you embark on the exotic mission
Teacher(muttering to himself): And I thought that the father should have come an hour before!!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

What's in a name?

I used to hate my 10th class Hindi teacher. Not just because she never answered my queries (What is the meaning of Kacche Dhaage, Parinda, Purani Haweli - all movie names) but also because she never remembered my name. The very first class started with her re-hinduening (I fear the Dal members and so no Christening word in my blog) me as Ganesh. 

Me: Ganesh!!!! but that's not me
Teacher: Oh! But you look very much like Ganesh, your senior.

I tried to forget it as a one-off day. But, little did I know that it's just a pre-cursor to my plight. Ganesh made it to the rolls everyday and Sridhar was always absent. I wonder if the principal ever peeped into the class; he would definitely have put up a missing notice on the school board. I protested vehmently at every taken opportunity - every time.

(Roll call) Teacher: Ganesh
Me: Absent
Teacher looks up and says seriously I wouldn't tolerate any mischief
I looked down and muttered Neither would I! Wait till I pass out...

Days rolled by and I started hating Shake-sphere (the guy who wrote What's in a name! Did he not write his own name after the quote?) and my teacher too. One lucky day she got her memory back (probably returning from a long pilgrimage) and I got my name back. Though I do not remember, my friends say that they never saw an impromptu dance (and prayed that they never had to!) before.

Days rolled by and it became a memory until it got dusted after a session on branding. Why do people go for a name? Isn't it actually the product that sells? More often than not, people get associated to more than the offering on board. You give them a soap and they get addicted not just to the smile but also to the lady who showers in the ad; they get attuned to your company name so much so that a day would come when naam hi kaafi hain

What's in a name? There is so much...can you think of Colgate deciding overnight that it wants to be Hinduened (remember, no Christening word in my blog, never!) Tollgate just for a change. Or Lakme renamed Lakus? Well, at least not in the near future because I don't see my Hindi teacher joining these companies...

Teacher: Ganesh
Me: He's absent, teacher Anamika
Teacher: But, am not Anamika!
Me: Neither am I Ganesh!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

GOD of the market

Way back in my 4th class

My dad took me to an electronics shop to buy me a watch. I was fascinated by one piece; so much so, that I insisted on its presence in my room the very same day. Dad had to oblige. But as with all flashy things, this one showed its class for just an hour refusing to function beyond that. We went back to the shop. Dad insisted on my watch being replaced to which the owner grudgingly acceeded.

Circa 2009....things have pretty much changed and I'm no longer attracted to those little items that glow on your wrist, but one thing didn't change. My dad still knows how to get the best for the money he spends. He puts it simply - I pay for my products and I need my pay back for every penny. He knows that he rules...

And yeah I changed too. I was worried about the shop owner cursing me for coming back to him demanding a replacement. I always thought that I owed him something by buying. Hold on...I was ignorant; it's the other way round - he owes me service for buying it from him. Customer is always the GOD!!!

It's an interesting phenomena to observe - the customers' feedback. The more the repeat sales the more is the satisfaction levels. And the more the number of agitators (read, angry customers) the better your chances of getting back to home to replace your maid! Long live the customer...he defines the product, he demands the product, he gets the product and he gets the service. Agreed that there are shrewd marketers who manipulate the customers' perspectives and play around but more often than not the GOD rules...and customer is the GOD!!!

P.S. 1: If ever I used a 'he' anywhere, I meant 'she' in an equal, if not more, proportions. Same applies to any occurence of 'she' (which is as remote as Sehwag scoring a 50 of 80 balls)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The sweeteners that do the trick

I was reading an article on marketing which reminded me of my professional-laze days (days when I was paid to laze around...hmm...I was a software engineer). A regional relationship manager from a big bank (not in size, but in revenues; though I do not know whether to put that in a sheet or balance it out) used to pester me. 

Take this card sir, it will be with you free for the rest of your life. 
Free!!! I would give my life for anything that comes free of cost. Just show me where to sign!

Sure sir! I will come with the papers tomorrow. 
Least did I know that I'm about to be a value addition to the bank!

The next day he gifted me a life-time free credit card...and some add-on cards which were almost free(At just 200 per year, Sir, it's almost free) and some other stuff which did not see the light of the day (I don't even remember using my petrol pump card; I forgot that I didn't have a bike or a car or anything remote that requires petrol, when I took that). It's pretty evident...I was smoothly mainpulated into buying all these!

I didn't know that all this had a name to go by - cross-selling. You can sell ice-cream for a customer coming for a coffee; you sell bank loan to a guy who comes to buy a car and who with his money can buy you off the shop.  It's an interesting phenomena. The sweetener that makes the transaction possible puts you in a tricky position. You do not realise the aftermaths until you are lured into it.

Cross-selling is a wonderful phenomena which probably is the undercurrent in all the Coffee days and the like. And even the best of minds fall prey for this small trick. Why? Think of it next time you make an unwarranted purchase.

Sir, would you like to try our new special item called rib-ticklers? Eat one and you get 20% discount on the next purchase on the shelf. And Sir, it's completely oil-free, cholesterol-free and...

Get sold and enjoy it!!!

Monday, February 16, 2009


But why???

This is one question that's haunting me since I-don't-remember-when. 

Why do you hate Maths - because it is....forget it

Why do you like Bipasha - because she is...she is...she is...ahhh leave her

Then comes the big question why marketing

Flashback 2006:

Those were days when I thought that selling is marketing. When someone in the family used to say that he is in marketing, I used to pity him - He must be selling encyclopaedias in public parks or socks near public urinals. Little did I know then that I would one day get interested in this selling job and would wait patiently for attention.

Circa 2009:

Life has come a full circle. Kareena has lost her weight and gone from size 'I-don't-even-remember' to size-0. Bipasha has gone into wilderness and a bit conservative too (yeah, her dresses have lengthened by a huge 0.1 mm). And with them all, I have changed too. I learnt my lessons in marketing (thanks to Kotler, again) and with a bit of common sense understood that it just doesn't mean selling only.

Would you daze at a blue arch for hours together? If you do, then you need to visit Agra (not for the Taj Mahal, of course). But, you would certainly daze at colors arching together, going by the name Rainbow. The amalgamation of colours makes a rainbow beautiful and eye-catching. None of the seven colours (let me count and be sure; V..I..B..G..Y..O..R..yippee, 7) make the rainbow dazzling. It's the combo-pack.

The beauty of marketing, for me, is the same. The raibow of activities with challenges and attractions at every stage makes it interesting for me. A rainbow has only 7 colors (will I have to count again? No, my 15-minute Ghazini alarm hasn't struck yet) but marketing has many. Celebrate your holi with the colors of life called marketing 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What is marketing? not taking your interview. But think of it, isn't this the first question that's put to any one remotely associated to marketing? Thanks to the American associations and the Kotlers and Kellers of the world, we have umpteen definitions of marketing. With all due regards to them, I have a problem with all those definitions. I do not conform to any of them.

Before you get all set to sue me or abandon me, spare a thought. Did you not feel that marketing is such a huge thing to be fit into a small definition? Well, I for one, felt so. It's definitely the process that starts from conceptualizing your product to working on the attributes to developing your channels to getting it to the customer....(phew). The beauty of marketing is much more than that.

Marketing for me is everywhere. You wake up in the morning and decide to cajole your mom to get a cup of coffee though it's half past 11. You need to sell your point why you wake up late. You then realise that it's getting late for that lunch date with your loyal girl friend. You need to increase the customer satisfaction (okk...that's a very rude word to be substituted for a girl, but by no means am an MCP - male chauvinistic pig) by promoting the loyality benefits - trip to Imax with a dinner at Taj thrown in the mix.

You prepare for a meeting with your manager deciding on how to sell your points and market your thoughts. You come out of the meeting extremely pissed off with the attitude of some of the channel members (read, project mates etc)  and decide to strategise your plan. You work on an alternative channel strategy to tackle the monster at hand. You get a call from your marriage bureau and you realise that it's time to update your product portofolio.

Marketing is ubiquitous...we don the hat of a marketer every minute and we master most of the tasks. And still we look into books to understand what marketing is...