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Showing posts from October, 2007

God's own country

Takin' a holiday break.....God's own country......will be back to active blogging, second week of November...till then.....

Pic : http://www.keralatourism.org/

Innovation Addiction

Brushing my teeth is a mechanical activity performed twice a day without too much of fuss, except when the phone rings. Then the 'nightmare' begins.

Oral B has come up with a toothbrush that's been designed supposedly to ensure that all my teeth are well cleaned. But this 'innovatively designed' toothbrush that's curved all over, even the bristles have not been spared, sadly does not have a flat base. So every time the phone rings, I can't rest the toothbrush on the side of my sink in a way where it remains steady and does not smear the sink with toothpaste. So much for an innovatively designed toothbrush.

'Innovation' being the buzzword, most companies are so addicted to wanting to innovate, they change a simple toothbrush into something I can't even recognise. All in the name of helping me 'brush better'. Innovations must carry value in the sense they have to make consumer's lives better and easier. If not, it just ends up getting a …

Online Diwali Shopping

From ET : This Diwali, over 30 lakh people are likely to go shopping online, according to industry body Assocham, and the total e-shopping business is expected to more than double to Rs 5,500 crore mark this year against Rs 2,200 crore in 2006-07. The two weeks leading to Diwali are likely to contribute almost 15% of this.

According to marketers, last week, among the top picks for gifting included products such as LCD TVs, washing machines, MP3 players, microwave ovens and mobile handsets. Online shopping portals are not just getting orders from large cities in India. Only 30% of orders come from the top eight cities and the rest come from small towns and cities. Close to 20% of the orders come from abroad.

Brand contradictions

Walking into a damp, mouldy 'clearance sale' hall in a shopping place, I encountered two of India's premium men's clothing brands on sale. The pitch? If I buy one, I get a 30% discount which goes up to 40% on a purchase of two, 50% for three. The brands, Arrow and Van Heusen were packed in crumpled plastic covers, obviously so, having been 'handled' many a times by browsing buyers.

What's ironic is that, the very same day's TOI supplement, Times Life carried Ads taken out by premium men's wear clothing brands that included one of the brand mentioned above, namely, Ven Heusen. The Ad copy got my goat. 'Adrenaline commute, pulse racing meetings, wowed clients, cowed rivals, celebratory jam-ups'. Whatever that means. It had the image of a cool dude staring back at me with a look that got me started on a hiccup.

Brands embody a promise. It makes sense for brands to embody a single promise and to consistently back that promise, both in terms of com…

The most effective Ads on Indian Television

JuxtConsult's Ad box office Survey results -

10 most effective Ads (based on the total effectiveness of the Ad in connecting the brand with consumers)
AirtelNokiaHutchSurf ExcelPepsiHDFC Standard LifeColgateTataIndicomBajaj PulsarFair & LovelyTop 10 Ad slogans with the most correct brand (based on how much top of the mind recalled ad slogan correctly attributing it to the right brand)Neighbour's Envy, Owners pride - OnidaJust do it - NikeFevicolkajodhai, tooteganahi - FevicolLife is goodZindegikesaathbhi, zindagikebaadbhi - LICImpossible is nothing - AdidasMirchisunnewale always khush - Radio MirchiYou and I, in this beautiful world - HutchHutch is now Vodafone - VodafoneEpangOpangJhapang - Horlicks

Frames of Reference

A frame of reference is a particular perspective from which the universe is observed. Every thinking human being develops his own unique frame with which he sees and interprets everything around him. Anything within the frame is approached with gusto and everything outside may be ignored, sometimes even met with hostility. To change 'frames of reference' is indeed very difficult. It is a process that requires expert guidance with the prime mover being the person himself.

Consumers too have their 'consumption frames' with which they interpret marketing messages. The one that fits the consumer's frame results in positive attitudes displayed toward the message and subsequently towards the brand. Consumers tend to greet messages outside the frame with suspicion and as mentioned before, even hostility.

Take the case of fortune cookies made by Wonton Food in New York. For a change some of the messages within these cookies veered away from the 'usual happy predictions&#…

ICICI Bank respects us and our money

Getting Shah Rukh (his picture takes up more than half a page of the Ad.) to vouch for ICICI bank's ethical practices will surely get the eyeballs. Especially since every other day, the Indian media brings out another horror story of a bank's 'indirectly hired' goons' 'recovery behaviour'. Also considering the fact that the rest of the banks in India have been muted in their response to this negative image having snowballed, ICICI has been smart to come out in the open and declare their 'good' intentions.

But what the bank needs to note is, sure the message is out and loudly heard, but actions must follow. Else the whole attempt of the communique including the cores paid to Shah Rukh would have no effect on the Indian consumer. The citizenry will go back to their original belief on unethical behaviour of Indian banks.

For ICICI's and the banking customers' sake, I hope the bank means what it says and backs it up with ethical behaviour.

Pic : ht…

N R Narayanamurthy on employees who leave

N R Narayanamurthy, businessman, human being extraordinaire on being asked (ET interview),

'When you left PCS (Patni Computer Systems) and took away the brightest minds, it must have rankled them. How would you react if Infosys faces that situation today?'

'It is the right of every individual to find betterment. We had 5-6 employees who left to form a company called Manhattan Associates. Even today they come to Infosys and we are good friends. If any group from Infosys wants to leave to start a company, I will try to convince them to the best of my ability to continue at Infosys, but if their arguments are better than mine, they have our best wishes. There are organisations which believe that anybody who leaves is an enemy. We are not like that....

Price sensitive brand aspirations

What’s paradoxical about the Indian consumer is his desire for brands coupled by his unwillingness to pay the premium price that brands command. In fact his disdain for a brands’ premium price is shown by a ‘switching’ attitude when a promo opportunity is posed by a competing brand. This is especially true for the Indian Middle class consumer. He in fact shows no qualms in switching from one brand to another, guided by 'increased value perception' that a discounted brand offers.

Most foreign players in the Indian market have now understood how important it is to be both an aspirational brand, and also to be able to satisfy the Indian consumer’s need for lower prices. Take for example, the latest entrant into the ‘Used Car’ bandwagon, Toyota. Priced at levels that have kept it out of the reach of the middle class, this move will make it accessible to the upper middle class at lower prices.

Smart idea.

Now, will this move dent the image of the brand and turn away the higher end cus…

Why Kirana stores will & won't survive

I agree to Prof. Nirmalya Kumar when he says that 'Indian Kirana shops could do well to learn a few things from their global counterparts'. He backs this up with an example of the Ace Hardware chain in the US. Sure, this is possible but the road to this kind of an 'amalgamation' would be very difficult keeping in mind the 'scattered, fractured and disjointed' nature of Indian Kirana stores.

He goes on to say that 'Indian kiranas will continue to survive because they have one of four attributes of a successful retailer — either to be the cheapest, the biggest, the best, or the nearest'. That's where I disagree. Indian kiranas are 'staying put' because they have just one of the four mentioned attributes working for them, and that is, they are the 'nearest'. For the Indian retail customer, accessing an organised retail store is not as easy as hopping into a kirana store close by, especially when he finds that he has run out of a househo…

Tata Tea's rebranding lure & why it won't work

Tata Tea's re-branding campaign to woo back youngsters into the 'tea fold' is misplaced. Simply because their premise is based on the belief that youngsters have abandoned tea for coffee.

Not so. Take a look at any Cafe Coffee Day outlet around you and you would find that the kids who frequent the outlet don't do so just for the coffee, in fact coffee is just incidental. They come in for the 'bonding' or in other words, 'to socialise'. And they find that drinking a cup of cappuccino with all the 'style' that goes with the act is quite appealing, while in the process of bonding.
Creating a social responsibility oriented website or using Sania Mirza will do nothing to get the 'tea lure' going. To get the kids back, make tea a 'fashion indulgence' for kids who wanna bond on a settee.
Pic : www.cosmosmagazine.com

Polite, dangerous customers

Watching the 'American Inventor' series the other day on television got me thinking about a retort that one of the participants made when his work was rejected by the judges. This guy's product was a walking stick that he insisted on calling a 'wand' that could keep dogs, bears and their like away while you took a walk outside your home. His retort to the judges' rejection was to say that most people he had shown the 'wand' to, said it was a great product. Then why were the judges rejecting his invention?

This very same scenario plays out in classrooms when students are awarded low marks especially when, according to them, the work they put in had been appreciated by people outside academia including industry folks.

Note what's interesting in both cases. External evaluators seem to rate something well that is then rejected by the 'purists'. Why? Is it because the purists are too judgemental? The answer is, no. The simple reason why people who …

The bankrupt Kerala Government

For a state government (including previous ones) that has done nothing right in managing finances, running the state on an overdraft, it now wants to run an airline to cash in the huge market potential that exists in the kerala-gulf travel sector.

Having led a vitriolic attack on organised retail in the state of kerala, it is mighty humorous to see the CPM-backed Achuthanandan government wanting to operate an airline in collaboration with an NRI and fly it to the Gulf.

What the government seriously needs to understand is that business is best left to private entrepreneurs with the state doing everything possible at a policy level, to provide level playing fields to business players. Wonder if the Kerala government is even going to do that?

Munaf Patel

Munaf Patel, enigma, in the making.










Pic : http://www.tribuneindia.com

The iconic Chicken tikka Masala

From HT : The 'phoney' Indian dish, Chicken tikkaMasala is celebrating its 60th anniversary in Britain this month.

This dish now accounts for a quarter of the total turnover of 2.5 billion pounds of all the 9000 odd 'curry houses' in Britain, and won the Best in Britain Award (BIBA) for best dish in 2002. The organisers of the National Curry Week have estimated that if all the portions of chicken tikkamasala consumed annually in the country were stacked on top of one another, they would form a tower 2770 times taller than the Greenwich Millennium Dome.

Dish Pic : http://www.mr-hudas.co.uk

Cloakrooms and price displays

The other day we visited a mall that's been around in Bangalore for a long time. My visit to the cloakroom at the mall had me in for a surprise. While in the act, I spied a little paper poster stuck at the top of the wall putting a cost to the act I was in. The price I had to pay for using the cloak room was Rs.2, not a big sum, by any figment of imagination. If the the money thus collected went into keeping the loo clean, hey, great by me. But what didn't cut too much of ice with me was having to know about the price for using the loo after I went in and while in the act.

Now that's not appreciated. I would rather know what I would have to pay to use a cloakroom, than go in, not even considering a price to the act, because the use of a cloakroom for free is always a 'taken' at least at a mall that looks to increasing footfalls.

Consumers in India move away from stores or showrooms because they associate premium price perceptions with stores that may actually have me…

The landless march to demand their livelihood

Every once in a while, amidst the story of India's magnificent growth comes another story that dents that image, just that bit. This time around its landless labour across twelve states marching to Delhi on October 29 to demand their right to livelihood.

Imagine that. They marched to demand their right to 'livelihood'!

Their charge?

"The public distribution system isn't working, government schools and hospitals aren't working and the system is corrupt and inefficient. Yet, there's so much enthusiasm for anti-poor laws, like SEZs and the Land Acquisition Act. Is development intended to help the poor? Or is it a profit-making business?"

Pic/Story : www.outlookindia.com

Millionaires & Superbikes

Will the Superbikes work in India?

Sure, they may, considering the fact that the critical factor that will dictate purchase of such a bike in addition to the 'power biking craze' is the ability to cough up money enough to cover the price of such bikes and that is definitely a possibility today more than ever before.

India has more millionaires today (India's High Networth Individuals population has touched the 1,00,000 mark at the end of 2006) than ever before.

The superbike companies can say amen to that!

Ducati 999 : http://www.totalmotorcycle.com

Where's the pulp, where's the taste?

Finally, the lure of a 'promo' got me to buy 'Orange Pulpy' for the first time. It was being sold at a price of Rs. 57 to a bottle (normal price, Rs. 60/1 litre bottle) with another 1 litre bottle of Orange pulpy thrown in, free.

The price was perfect value for for money. But the real problem turned out to be the taste. Sure the orange drink had a lot of pulp, but it fell flat as the orange liquid was too thin (dilute) for my comfort. Now I don't inted to predict the obituary of this drink, but something tells me that on a comparison in terms of taste, Orange pulpy is too weak to compete with the likes of Tropicana Orange or for that matter the other orange tetra pak drinks in the Indian market.
Someone needs to tell Coca Cola India that its not about the pulp, its about the taste and the pulp's doing it no good.

Word of Mouth Marketing

I had earlier posted on why 'grapevines' tend to be stronger than formal communiques. The credibility that grapevines or 'word-of-mouths' carry pose tremendous opportunities for marketers to leverage.

In, 'Grapevine - The new art of Word-of-Mouth Marketing', Dave Balter and John Butman have described how the 'power of grapevine' can be leveraged. In a nutshell their book is about -
why people talk about products and services, and all people really do.how WOM is fundamentally different from other alternative forms of marketinghow WOM proliferates in unpredictable wayswhy there are limited WOM windowsthe fact that WOM is product storytellingthe fact that WOM does not have to be positive to be good.why WOM is the basis for a new approach to marketing

Income Pyramid in India

Urban India Statistics -

Population - 280 Million

Rich - 10% (28 Million) :

1 Million Luxury Consumers
6-7 Million Very Affluent
9-10 Million Mid Affluent
11-12 Million Mass Affluent

Middle Class - 40% (112 Million) :

40 Million Upper Middle Class
72 Million Upgraders

Bottom of the Pyramid - 50% (140 Million) :

140 Million Bottom of the Pyramid

Gossip over truth, perceptions over reality

Sure, people tend to believe gossip over truth, even if they have evidence to the contrary. Just as perceptions tend to dictate our judgements over reality.

Most of this is applicable when decision making is effected within constraints of time. So the next time around when you come out of an interview room and know that you have not been selected, its not who you are that's done you in, its what they perceived you to be.

When it comes to information, the grapevine is trusted over formal channels, as the credibility of the grapevine is perceived to be greater, because the information supplier in the case of the grapevine is an entity, receivers are positively predisposed to.

Lesson for marketeers? Talk less about your products and services. Let users do the talking and do everything possible to ensure they are delighted with your product or service and so end up doing the 'right' talking.

Ensures sales.

American Movie Habits

Joe Queenan in the 'Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler';

The results are not pretty. Of the nine conventional American made films that I investigated, only 6.75 out of the 90 people knew the name of the director. That's 7.5 percent. Throw out the universally famous Steven Spielberg and the percentage drops to 1.75 out of 80, or 2.2 percent.

Pathetic.

And even in Spielberg's case (50 percent), the rate of recognition numbers were much smaller than for James Ivory (100 percent). Worse still, Spielberg's 50 percent rating put him in exactly the same class as an obscure, English female director of a drama about cross-dressing that is playing at only about six movie theatres on the entire planet.

The inescapable conclusion that must be drawn from the data is clear: Americans could give one (1) *#@! who directed Posse, and couldn't give even that many *#@!^ who directed Indecent Proposal, Dave, Sleepless in Seattle, Last Action Hero, Cliffhanger, Menace II Society, or Gui…

Rationalising Emotions

As human beings we are frequently 'victims' and 'creatures' of our own emotions. At times, emotional surges dictate our consumption patterns too. To try and limit our susceptibility to emotions is almost impossible. If we could and did keep our emotions in check forever, we would no longer be humans, instead turn into mere machines.

This is exactly the reason why 'advice' on managing our selves seldom work. Take for example what we are supposed to do when faced with situations that challenge our own worth or esteem. We are told to be calm, not take the insult personally, not to whine..... to consider the effects of any retorts we plan on would have... and so on.

If this were that easy, we would have had absolutely no conflicts around. The Utopian world that the liberals see would be so much of a reality. On a different note, we would never have had people letting their emotions run riot, going crazy/emotional/loony over their favourite movie stars.

But then, that&…

Inconvenient statistics

From TimesOnline : 'Al Gore’s inconvenient judgment'

— An Inconvenient Truth is the third-highest grossing documentary ever in the United States, making more than $23 million (£12 million)

— It has so far earned $49 million at the box office worldwide It was shown at the Sundance Film Festival and won an Oscar this year for Best Documentary, Features

— The film is based on a lavishly-illustrated public lecture that Mr Gore has given more than 1,000 times in the US and elsewhere It was directed by Davis Guggenheim, who has also directed episodes of the hit television shows Deadwood, The Shield and 24

— The companion book written by Gore has been on The New York Times bestseller list since June 11, 2006

— Mr Gore has been nominated jointly with Canadian Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his global warming campaign, including making the documentary

— President Bush, when asked whether he would watch the film, responded: Doubt it"

— The documenta…

Ad exposure & sensitivity to price changes

From Adage : A study by Apollo, which combines media-exposure data collected from consumers using Arbitron's Portable People Meters with purchase data culled from Nielsen Co.'s ACNielsen Homescan consumer panel, found exposure to TV ads decreases consumers' tendency to react to price changes.

The study, involving an unnamed "Brand X," broke consumers down into heavy, medium and light category purchasers, finding that heavy purchasers were most likely to have their price sensitivity reduced by exposure to TV ads. Exposure to the ads also had a cumulative effect, the study found. Even one or two exposures to TV ads for the brand produced some reduction in price sensitivity. Consumers exposed to the brand's ad four or more times showed even less sensitivity, "with behavior changes tapering off at between seven and eight exposures," according to a statement by the joint backers of Apollo, Arbitron and Nielsen.

It's the truth...think about it

'When a car company charges for roadside assistance, aren't they really just helping themselves?'

'Think about it.'

'Shouldn't a car have more airbags than cupholders?'

'Think about it.'

My bet, your response is, YES, you did think about it! More than that nod of agreement, these questions have provoked you to think and consider the truth in those statements. Its led you to give more than a thought to the lies most marketers tell us consumers to get us to buy their products. and about how none of 'em really care about us.

Well, in the midst of it all, here's someone who cares,... in telling the truth! That gets us to stop, notice and think. Ends up in us looking at Hyundai a little differently. That's 'cos Hyundai Automotive is behind this brilliant campaign, ThinkAboutIt.

Watch the commercials here.

The curse of 'systems'

After spending a harrowing few weeks in trying to get a leading card company in India to despatch an upgraded card to my new address, I've realised that existence of systems & databases are at times as terrible as their non-existence within organisations.

This is often the typical 'system response'. On the Customer care number, you end up talking to different personnel every time you call up with the same problem. The result? You have to repeat the story a zillion times right from scratch to each of the customer care center employee. You are e-mailed multiple times by different response personnel, leading to the same scenario as in a call center. The story has to repeat. My mobile is targeted by SMSs asking me to act on something that has already been solved. After having received my card, I still get SMSs asking me get in touch with the contact center for more details on the card despatch.
The system's a pain, literally. Lessons? Service personnel must have access to…

Brand Equity and the Sales Promo. connection

Brand Equity (Aaker) is a set of assets (liabilities) linked to a brand’s name and symbol that adds to (or subtracts from) the value provided by a product or service to a firm and/or that firm’s customers.

Brand Equities get strengthened or eroded over time. Which of these happens depends on how the brand maintains and builds on its 'positioning space' over time. With the festival season fast approaching in India, premium brands are faced with a dilemma, which, if not managed in the right manner may erode their brand's equity. That dilemma is whether or not to run consumer oriented sales promos.

How can a brand decide on whether to join the promotion bandwagon or not? Simple. All it has do is to reevaluate the way its positioned itself. If it has occupied the premium space in the market based on the belief that its customers have built relationships with it over time due to their high involvement with the product category, then the brand must shun promotions. The error to av…

Tattooed

'When it comes to regrets, my tattoo falls somewhere between a misguided hookup and the time I drove after one too many beers. For it and all my other mistakes, I’ve forgiven myself — and instead of contemplating laser removal, I choose to look at the tattoo as a reminder of who I was and who I am now. Sure, I’ll keep making mistakes, but I’m smart enough now to recognize and avoid those I may later come to regret. Why spend thousands of dollars erasing this bad decision when I could use the money to make good ones: traveling, helping a friend, buying more Marc Jacobs trousers? And as far as worrying about what people will think of me if they accidentally see my tattoo: If they don’t also see that I’m a fun and empathetic friend, a smart woman and a kind and responsible person, then f--- ’em ; the badass in me doesn’t care.'

Beth Janes on herself and her tattoo.

E-commerce boom

From domain-b: According to the first comprehensive consumer e-commerce survey conducted jointly by the Internet and Mobile Association of India [IAMAI] and IMRB, the consumer internet market would reach an estimated Rs9210 crore by the end of FY 2007-08.

At the end of FY 2006/07, the market size of this segment was estimated to be Rs7080 crore and the average rate of growth for the year 2007-08 was projected to be 30 per cent.
The unique feature of the study was that for the first time an attempt was made arrive at a consensual industry definition of consumer e-commerce.

The agreed definition of consumer e-commerce, according to the study, was: 'Buying and selling of products and services on the internet or on any other application that relies on the Internet. In other words, it comprises transactions for which Internet acts as a medium for contracting or making payment or for consuming the service/product by the end consumer, who is an individual.'

The Alto Lesson

The consistent strong showing of Alto in India holds valuable lessons for all marketerstargeting the middle income consumers in India. The lessons?
Don't shortchange the customer with a 'bare-bones product', justified by a trade-off between price and attributes of the product. Give the consumer all the critical attributes without raising prices. Raise prices only if you add on desirable attributes, like for eg., power windows. The added costs in giving all the critical attributes would be offset by higher volume take-offs.

Ensure low operating/running costs.

Back the product up with a string of service networks and quick response times.

Communicate the product on functional attributes in a believable manner, with no puffery.

Be in constant touch with the user, never taking him/her for granted with guaranteed responses to problems faced.

Deliver what is promised, and let the post purchase interactions be the cause of 'delight'.

Still drinks consumption in India

According to a brand new report from leading beverage industry analysts Canadean, Still drinks, Nectars and Water have all benefited greatly as consumption of Carbonates has declined.

In recent years Carbonates have borne the brunt of widespread negative publicity stemming from fears about alleged pesticide contamination; in some provinces carbonates have been boycotted or banned altogether. In the face of such pressure, Carbonates have actually been remarkably resilient, indicating that the decline has been allegation rather than product led. Nevertheless, this pressure on Carbonates has given Still drinks an opportunity, and with competitive pricing, Still drinks have taken full advantage. Demand has been further buoyed by the introduction of new larger 1.2 litre PET family/party pack formats providing another alternative option to Carbonates.

Beer Consumption

Canadean reports that in the rapidly developing BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), consumption of Beer is outpacing that for Alcoholic drinks overall.

According to a series of new reports from leading beverage industry analysts Canadean, the huge populations and thriving economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China have helped Beer to grow dynamically in recent years. Indeed, between 2002 and 2007, total consumption across the four countries increased by almost 50%!

India is believed to hold the potential to grow faster than any other BRIC country over the next thirty to fifty years. The sub-continent’s Beer market has been equally dynamic, growing by almost 90% since the turn of the Century. Exceptionally high growth was generated in the northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan which took full advantage of reduced taxes and improvements in the distribution policy.
Consumers in India are displaying a distinct preference for Strong Beer which has gained market shar…

Yoga with care

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, with more than 14 million people practicing yoga or tai chi nationwide, up 136% since 2000, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and chiropractors across the United States are dealing with the increasing fallout from yoga gone awry. Over the past three years, 13,000 Americans were treated in an emergency room or a doctor's office for yoga-related injuries.

The reason why people get hurt is because they assume that yoga is simple and that anybody can pretzel himself or herself on demand. Does Yoga help people get fit? The truth is, yoga, regardless of the form, doesn't offer a comprehensive way to get fit. According to a study by the American Council on Exercise, a national nonprofit organization that certifies fitness instructors and promotes physical fitness, dedicated yoga practitioners show no improvement in cardiovascular health. It's not the best way to lose weight either. A typical 50-min. class of hatha yoga, o…

Myanmar Myopia

As much as marketeers get it wrong, policy makers too err, when they turn myopic. Shekhar Gupta got it flat wrong in his views on what should shape Indian foreign policy, appearing on the 'NDTV Big Fight'.

The debate was on India's response to the Democracy movement in Myanmar. Shekhar is right in saying that 'national interest' reigns supreme while formulating foreign policy, but he errs when he approaches foreign policy formulations with a myopic view. India's muted response to the democracy movement is a myopic response as it looks only at immediate payoffs as considerations. In the long run, Burma will one day be free and then, as the lady on the show warned, they will not forget India having turned their backs on a true people's movement.

Also Shekhar comparing the scenario in Pakistan to the one in Myanmar saying India can't go meddling in other country's affairs even if there is an autocratic setup in these countries, again is over the top. Sim…

Freedom

...I strongly believe in the freedom movement. It's ingrained in my soul. It comes from my belief that freedom is universal. And I believe freedom is ingrained in everybody's soul and if just given a chance, they'll reach for it...

President George Bush, Interview of the President by Al Arabiya.
Read the complete interview transcript here.

Fall in global grain stocks

Mira Kamdar in YaleGlobal : Thanks to the booming biofuels market, wacky weather and increased world demand, global grain stocks have fallen to a scant 57 days of consumption, their lowest level in 34 years. Prices are up sharply. International-aid organizations warn they will not have enough emergency food on hand to meet anticipated need. Even consumers in rich countries will have to pay significantly more for their food into 2008.

This risks not only starvation and malnutrition among the world’s poor, but also social and political unrest. Governments with the means have nervously shored up national grain stocks. Panic buying by India, which floated tenders to import 50,000 tons of wheat with an option to buy an additional 50,000 tons earlier this year, was blamed for sending the price of wheat to almost double what it commanded just a year ago. The European Union is so concerned, it recently eliminated its 10 percent grain set-aside entirely, and the Organizaton for Economic Cooper…

The cost of a name; renaming Bangalore

BB blog had earlier asked 'what's in a name?'. The answer, an expenditure of few crores, at the least.

Outlook reports that, there's actually no official estimate available with the Karnataka state government or industry bodies like the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FKCCI), NASSCOM or CII. There is only a commonsensical admission that tonnes of stationery, documents, signboards, maps, nameplates, seals, milestones, official publications, rail tickets, bus tickets, air tickets etc, will have to be changed and this means money which may quietly gross up to several crores. Among the cities being renamed, 'Bengaluru' would be the most expensive, being the state capital which also houses many corporate HQs. Renaming other cities like Mysore, Hubli, Mangalore, Belgaum and Bellary won't come cheap either for they are booming tier-two towns with active national and international trading relationships. The money required, officials admi…

Top selling famous faces

Forbes.com list of top-selling famous faces:

1. Jennifer Aniston
2. Brad Pitt
3. Scarlett Johansson
4. Angelina Jolie
5. Reese Witherspoon
6. Katie Holmes
7. Carrie Underwood
8. Jennifer Hudson
9. Valerie Bertinelli
10. Kelly Ripa

Transfomational communiques & their moments of fantasy

Rakesh raises an important point about how far a transformational communique can go in presenting something totally unbelievable. The commercial in question is one that features death defying stunts to promote the soft drink, Mountain Dew.

Obviously most consumers know that, what the guys in the commercial did, ie., driving off a rocky cliff, ending up in a lake, escaping unhurt and going on in the end to win a rally that they were participating in, is a whole lot of hogwash.
But then, does that affect the feeling of exhilaration that the communique' conveys, in any way, in the minds of consumers? My bet, NO! A dose of reality is not what consumers expect from soft drink companies in terms of their communiques. Rather, its liberal doses of fantasies. A dose that at least for those few moments, transports them to unbelievable possibilities, far from their own drab lives.
Remember, most consumers have nothing exciting happening in their lives, though they would want to believe otherwis…

Airline Service Quality on the wane

The two important dimensions of Quality are 'Reliability' and 'Attributes'. The greater the reliability, the more the number of attributes, the better the quality.

But when it comes to 'no frills' products and services, the dimension that matters more is reliability and not attributes. Shelve the attributes, keeping it bare minimum, but the give the mass consumer reliability.
Take airline services for example. The 'mass passenger' does not need great food or service on board. What he wants is lower prices with a reliable flight service, ie., the flight is safe and maintains time schedules. At the moment, the 'reliable' part of airline services is under tremendous strain.
AP reports that, US' Transportation Department has said that 25.2 percent of domestic flights arrived late between January and August, easily the industry's worst performance since comparable data began being collected in 1995. In August, US' 20 largest carriers report…

Choking the Retail Sunrise

BS Opinion & Analysis : A sector that was to have created millions of new jobs in the country is reporting job losses before it even gets under way. Organised retail is still in its infancy — less than 4 per cent of the total shop space is accounted for by organised sector retailers. But what began as a protest against international chains coming into the country (the initial targets were Metro and Wal-Mart, though even Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets were subjected to attack), and which targeted the government’s policy on foreign investment, has metamorphosed now into opposition to organised retailing itself.

The result is a variant of the old argument that small-scale industry needs protection, and therefore that large industry should be kept out of dozens of industries. The “reservation” argument with respect to industry stands discredited and the government is eliminating such reservation in stages. It would be a pity if policy were now to create such artificial and indeed count…

Marital spats & Health

NY Times article : A study of nearly 4,000 men and women, asked whether they typically vented their feelings or kept quiet in arguments with their spouse. Notably, 32 percent of the men and 23 percent of the women said they typically bottled up their feelings during a marital spat.

In men, keeping quiet during a fight didn’t have any measurable effect on health. But women who didn’t speak their minds in those fights were four times as likely to die during the 10-year study period as women who always told their husbands how they felt, according to the July report in Psychosomatic Medicine. Whether the woman reported being in a happy marriage or an unhappy marriage didn’t change her risk.

The tendency to bottle up feelings during a fight is known as self-silencing. For men, it may simply be a calculated but harmless decision to keep the peace. But when women stay quiet, it takes a surprising physical toll.

Shopper Marketing

Shopper Marketing is differentiated in the sense that its aimed at shoppers engaged in the act of purchase, either online or offline. Offline, it would mean marketing aimed at consumers inside the store, moving along the aisles looking at displayed products. In such a case, the effort is an 'in-store' effort.

Why is 'Shopper Marketing' important, especially for FMCG marketers? In fact, now, according to a draft study by Deloitte from the Grocery Manufacturers Association, shopper marketing, is growing faster than Internet advertising, doubling since 2004 and on pace for a compound annual growth rate of 21% through 2010. Bill Gerba writes that 'Retailers and product marketers clearly seem to understand just how important shopper marketing opportunities are: about 70% of the 170 respondent marketers listed shopper marketing as either an "important" or "extremely important" as a part of their 2007 marketing strategy. But add in those who consider it…

Transformational power of Marketing Communiques

Marketing communiques have the power to enhance consumer experiences. Sometimes even mar them. This enhanced experience is only relevant if the consumer were to be exposed to the message before actual purchase and use of a product or service brand. In fact, a strong communique can even 'manufacture' feelings, consumers go through.

Take the soft drink brand, Thums Up, in India. Positioned as the drink with the 'Anything For Thunder' attitude, it intends to heighten the otherwise drab experience of drinking a soda. Does the communique' succeed? Maybe, maybe not.
Again, imagine drinking an energy drink named 'Battery'. Brand names too are communiques. The name 'battery' conjures up images of getting 'charged'. To some others, the very name builds up images of something corrosive and horrid in your mouth!
Communiques that are able to enhance consumer experiences are termed 'transformational'. A transformational Ad is one which associates t…

Remembering the 'Mahatma'

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Father of the Nation (1869-1948)
Pic : Wikipedia

The future of Air Travel

According to Robert Buckman, Director of airline distribution strategy for Amadeus, the 'Future of Air Travel' will see 'a big wave in automation, and travel technology overall, will focus less on "the process" and more on "the people." Moving forward, it would become more about how technology can enhance and improve the travel experience from booking to baggage.

Technology will deliver airline customers an engaging, more "humanized" interaction. This could mean personalized travel itineraries pushed into a traveller's cell phone or digital "identities" to speed security clearance or personal GPSs to ease navigation of airports and destinations. It would be ironic that technology will ultimately deliver a more "human" experience in travel. But it will also be critical, if airlines hope to continue to successfully meet the needs of future.

Travellers will see innovations in seating, comfort and amenities, especially in the…

Cellphone sans Frontieres

From NY Times : Early next month, a small company called Cubic Telecom will release what it’s calling the first global mobile phone. The appeal of Cubic’s cellphone is that it makes calls to or from any of 214 countries — for 50 to 90 percent off what the big telecom carriers would charge.

On this phone, a 20-minute call from the Bahamas costs $5.80 (that’s 90 percent off T-Mobile’s rate). The Cubic price from Russia is 49 cents a minute (90 percent lower than AT&T). And there’s no monthly fee and no commitment for any of this. It works like a prepaid phone, where you put some money in your account and use it up as you talk.

At this point, the appropriate world traveler’s response ought to be involuntary drooling, but there’s more to the story. Most of it is more good news, but also more complexity. For example, consider this: at the MaxRoam.com site from Cubic, you can request local phone numbers in up to 50 cities at no charge. Now you can have a Paris number, a London number and …