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Showing posts from March, 2008

The Indian notion of dirt

This must be the rarest of paradoxes. How is it that Indians are so fastidiously clean, but India is so incredibly dirty?...

...It is then a question of how Hindus define dirt, or "matter out of place". Hindu conceptions of dirt draw their fundamental justifications from deeply ingrained notions of caste. According to the caste principle, all routine substances that come out of one's body, like perspiration, excreta, and menstrual blood are polluting even to oneself. By the same token, hair is also polluting which is why a ritually proper tonsure is a shaven head. The traditional roles of the barber, washerman and scavenger were precisely to absorb specific pollutants so that members of the upper castes could remain "clean"...
...It is not then that Hindus have no notion of dirt, except that it is different from the way it is viewed in the West and in medical books. Most of us do not realise that every civilisation has its own understanding of both dirt and hygie…

Kerala, Bacchus' own country !

Bacchus' own country -

What Morpheus says, (response to my post) must be listened to, 'cos, a) he speaks the truth about Kerala (added info. vis a vismy earlier post) & b) he speaks in a manner that makes it a fascinating read :)

Without any consent, let me reproduce what Morpheus says;

'This Easter week end (as is in any other weekend) I saw people braving the rains ( without umbrellas) to stand in an orderly fashion ( Order! in Gods own country!!!) just to meet their god for the day. Self inflicted pain or is it for that instant nirvana – Debatable Betterment of life – NAHH but its good news for Vijay Mallya and others. ( Mallya should create a team called Thripunitharaadipolis or KeralaOthenans for IPL as a gesture of Keralites support to his core business.

Needless to say the investment will be made back on sales every time the team plays) Thought I will pepper it with some statistics A Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC) spokesperson said 1.9 million cases of b…

The paradox of Kerala's Retail potential

Having been in Kerala for almost two weeks and having travelled the christian central Kerala belt, I got to see the paradox that is Kerala. Consumer spending is everywhere to see. That's ironical considering the fact that Kerala at the moment has a Communist government in place.

Imagine that. Do these consumers share the same business attitude that the Communist government loudly proclaims? After all they did vote them in. In fact the powerful church had exhorted its voters to usher in this government. Or does the church and its followers think now, they shot themselves in the foot having partly engineered a communist win?

Whatever the real story, one thing is for sure. Consumers in Kerala are similar to consumers everywhere. Self before everything else. Now that's true for consumers worldwide. We may all have been exhorted to put other entities before our own selves. But we haven't heeded as yet. Else Maslow's hierarchy would have been inverted with Self Actualisation a…

Rising Food prices - Doomsday ahead?

I am not a believer in doomsday prophecies. I believe the world would be better off tomorrow for everyone vis-a-vis today. Ditto for world consumers. Not that there won't be hiccups along the way.Consider food prices. I agree with Omkar Goswami when he says that there’s high probability of the world witnessing a fairly long cycle of food price inflation. Consider the statistics. Between August 2007 and February 2008, low and middle income countries have seen:28 per cent increase in the weighted price of all agricultural products
38 per cent increase in the price of food
49 per cent increase in the price of fats and oils
51 per cent increase in the price of grain. Over the same period, global price of coconut oil has risen by 54 per cent; groundnut oil by 42 per cent; soybean oil by 57 per cent; maize by 47 per cent; rice by 42 per cent; US wheat by 71 per cent; bananas by 55 per cent; and sugar by 38 per cent. As Omkar says prices will take some time to flatten and drop. Its not poss…

Are consumers swayed by celebrity endorsements ?

I've said it before. Am sayin' it gain.Most research results must be taken with a pinch of salt. Like the new survey conducted by research agency IMRB and public relations outfit IPAN. Their 'Celebrity Endorsement Survey' conducted over 2019 respondents across 12 metros and small towns in India , claims that 86% of the respondents say the most prominent ad that they remember has a celebrity in it, but only 3% feel that celebrity endorser of a brand affects their buying decision. Is this survey claim valid? Now I am no fan of celebrity endorsements. Yes, at times its a lot of money down the drain. I still remember Kabir Mulchandani and Akai ripping apart the use of Amitabh Bachchan as an endorser of Television brands, communicated to the consumer through their own advertisement, where they claimed their lower prices were due to them not using any celebrities as endorsers. How cheeky was that!The IMRB-IPAN survey results show that celebrity endorsements lead to brand rec…

Pitch a sale when the customer intiates an engagament

Back in Bangalore.

I lost an important government document the other day and so had to reapply for the same. That got me over to the office of a private Financial services provider who takes such reapplication requests. The response to my request for the reapplication form was entertained and they explained what documents I would need to furnish to reapply.

They were polite and efficient. But what struck me was that never during this engagement did they try and sell their financial services to me. Here was I seeking their help, in a frame of mind where their services were providing me with much relief regarding the lost document. Now that's a perfect frame of mind to try and see if I would respond to their sales pitch. But they never pitched.

I am sure this very same company must be spending quite some resources in employing tele callers to interrupt people with their sales pitches. Most of those pitches are sure to be met with irritation, at the interruption.

Its important for market…

The fulfillment that Marketing brings

Its raining cats and dogs in Kerala.Despite the rain, its fascinating to see people go to extreme lengths of self inflicted pain to pay obeisance to their gods. And this happens across all religions. I guess to the converted its their unique way of worship. And I respect that. But it also points to man's desire to seek fulfillment to issues that I guess remain unfulfilled for the moment. Its a desire to betterment in their lives.Now that in a way is good news for marketers. I mean the unfulfilled lives. 'Cos in the end products and services also promise to better lives. In fact they must promise, and deliver on that promise. That gets them to be bought by consumers. Also remember, the fulfillment men seek in all probability may never come to pass, as a fulfilled need is almost always replaced by a higher order unfulfilled one. That's what keeps marketers in business forever. Cheers to that!Will be back in Bangalore in a week. Will post regularly, then.

Colour combinations & aesthetic sensibilities

Yukti had a thought. While travelling she saw a painted house with a colour that was a stark contrast to the flower laden tree in front of it. You couldn't enjoy the flowers fully as the house colour which formed a backdrop didn't do anything to blend with the colour of the flowers.Yukti says that people should choose their housepaint colours with care. Its not the ones who live in, that enjoy the colours, as much as people on the outside.I agree.I am travelling outta Bangalore tonight. Vacationing. Will post, albeit intermittently.Cheers :)

Loss of a customer is a gain for the competitor

We had plans to eat out last night, but a strong downpour in Bangalore watered down those plans, and in the end we ordered takeaway. In fact I dropped into a nearby eatery, to order the takeaway. While waiting for the food I asked the owner of this small time eatery about business during the weekends and he said that downpours usually resulted in a lot of takeaway orders, just like ours.

What was interesting about his observation is that our cancelled night out is what fetched him his takeaway order. Now that's a business reality for you. One man's loss is another's gain. The Chinese restaurant that we intended to go to, lost out on our patronage due the rain, as a result, the small eatery gained.

A customer lost is not just limited to that loss. It also results in that customer's patronage elsewhere. That's a gain for your competitor. Therefore it becomes even more important for firms to retain their customers. It denies the competitor a chance to grow.

Uber Customisation; Old wine, new bottle?

If 'Uber-customisation' is, as reported, 'The consumer walks into a select store, states size, select from a collection of fabrics in the store as well as the design. The tailored shirt is then delivered at his doorstep in a couple of days', I have a slight problem.

When I was young, the term used to describe the business firm behind the act mentioned above was a 'tailoring shop'. I guess now nomenclatures have changed. I gotta be in touch with the times. And so I can call it 'uber-customisation' and firm behind the act this time around is Hyderabad-based Zerostock Retail.

Yes, I admit there is difference between 'uber-customization' and 'tailoring'. The former allows you to pick the fabric from the 'store' and the finished garment is delivered at your door step. I remember, in the past, the tailor required you to bring the dress material with you, and you had to go to him to collect the finished garment.

Is such 'uber-customisa…

The Place P differentiator, movie tickets via Net & Mobiles

The legendary Marketing scholar, Theodore Levitt in his classic article, 'Marketing success through Differentiation-of Anything', states, 'When the generic product is undifferentiated, the offered product makes the difference in getting customers and the delivered product in keeping them.

The usual presumption about so-called undifferentiated commodities is that they are exceedingly price sensitive. A fractionally lower price gets the business. This is seldom true except in the imagined world of economics textbooks. In the actual world of markets, nothing is exempt from other considerations, even when price competition rages.'

The premise that anything can be differentiated holds true in the world of Marketing. Among the marketing mix components, the one ignored most, as a driver of differentiation, is the 'place P'. With the advent of the Internet as a possible consumer interface, many firms have taken on a web presence to engage with the consumer and thus diff…

To ask or not to ask the consumer; 'tis the question

'Great innovations come from understanding the consumer's unmet needs and desires. Regardless of the market, innovation must be consumer-led. That is not the same thing as consumer-decided. As Henry Ford once put it, if he had listened to the marketplace, he would have built a faster, cheaper horse. He understood that what people really wanted was a better way to travel. Consumer insights lead to innovation opportunities. You must develop an appreciation for who your consumers are and how they live, to know their needs and also their aspirations. Only then can you figure out how to deliver a product that can improve their lives.'

- A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan; 'The consumer is boss'

Apple scoffs at the notion of a target market. It doesn't even conduct focus groups. "You can't ask people what they want if it's around the next corner," says Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO and cofounder. At Apple, new-product development starts in the gut and gets hatc…

Human Nature and the power of buzz

Every once in a while I get a mail that warns me of something terrible that could happen to me if I consumed that soft drink, or if I used those plastic bags in my freezer, if I held my mobile phone close to my ear...Now none of these have a grain of truth in them. They are hoaxes. Yet people never bother to check the veracity of what is being said, instead forward such mails to others on their mailing list. Ever wonder why?Well, its part of our nature to want to help. It makes us feel good about ourselves. Our good deed for the day is thus done. We like us a little better now. Now, that's exactly why buzz works. Its our inherent desire to want to inform others about our experiences, which we believe would be useful to them, that makes us spread the word. In effect, this is the genesis to 'word of mouth'. Marketers need to careful about word of mouth because of the 'credibility' it carries. A positive word of mouth can do wonders as much as a negative one can even …

The anatomy of a mass phenomenon

Saurabh talks about two very important variables that contribute to creating a mass phenomenon. The jury on what truly propels such a phenomenon is still out. Gladwell's tipping point explanation has its skeptics, as in the case of Brad Hunter and Stephen Dubner. Keeping in mind my post on the state of hockey and cricket in India, its now pertinent to look at the issue from a different perspective. Lets try and figure, why a movement DOES NOT acquire a mass phenomenon proportion.In this case, the subject being hockey in India. Why wasn't there 'the network effect coupled with a feedback loop'? Why did the first wave of people not talk about hockey? Why did the media not pick it up? Why did most people not want hear about it? Why wasn't the mass hysteria not generated?Take another sport as a comparable example, Football. Its one of the easiest of games to play if you wanted to. All you needed was a football and some space. I remember as a schoolboy the hassles of pl…

The Tipping Point

'These three characteristics - one, contagiousness; two, the fact that little causes can have big effects; and three, that change happens not gradually but at one dramatic moment - are the same principles that define how measles moves through a grade-school classroom or the flu attacks every winter.Of the three, the third trait - the idea that epidemics can rise or fall in one dramatic moment - is the most important, because it is the principle that makes sense of the first two and that permits the greatest insight into why modern change happens the way it does. The name given to that one dramatic moment in an epidemic where everything can change all at once is the Tipping Point.- Malcolm Gladwell, 'The Tipping Point'

How Zero marketing can revive Indian hockey

You don't need a marketing genius to plot how hockey can come up to cricket's stature in India. For that matter, pin no credit to anyone in the cricket administration team (read BCCI) for cricket's supremacy as a sport in India.

The only reason why cricket is what it is, despite being one of the most boring of sports, is 'cause that's one game at which we are 'world-beaters', never mind the 'world' being just a few countries.

Want a resurgence in hockey? Get India to win!

Sure, that's a tall order considering yesterday's Olympic qualifier debacle. But its not impossible. Can the guys who manage the sport. Get in foreign coaches. Revamp the admin. team. Build astro-turfs for players to play and practice on. Bring in something akin to Corporate governance.

Again, an initial investment is needed. Well, its worth it, if that can propel India to become world beaters. If that happens, watch the moolah roll in. No marketing whiz-kids needed.

Does evil exist; how potent is the 'fear appeal' ?

When Scott Peck in his book, 'People of the Lie' tells us about Bobby, whose parents made him a gift of the rifle with which his brother had committed suicide, he demonstrates to us that 'evil' exists and is manifested in acts all around us.

Peck's thesis is simple: There really is such a thing as human evil, and it has certain definable characteristics. Human evil is that which destroys human life. More telling, however, is what characterizes evil. According to Peck, it is the persistent and accumulative refusal of the evil person to face the truth about himself. He may admit publicly that, of course, he is a sinner just like everyone else. But deep down inside he does not believe it. So rather than face up to his own sin he is constantly scapegoating: laying it on other people, making his faults theirs. Evil people are masters of disguise, morally. They are constantly dodging their conscience. In other words, evil people are liars.

If evil does exist, can Arun Mair…

Innovation through living a consumer's life

Jagannath hits the nail on the head when he says that 'the crux of the matter is, it is essential to identify needs of customers...not just the articulated ones'.Now, that requires marketers to live the lives of their customers. Not just pay lip service their needs. But truly experience what kinda lives they lead as consumers.Someone who's legendary in those kinda circles is IDEO, the design company. The article 'Power of Design' states that 'by showing global corporations how to change their organizations to focus on the consumer, IDEO is becoming much more than a design company.' What's behind IDEO's legendary success? Perhaps it is the unusual techniques it uses to energize corporate clients -- "bodystorming," "behavioral mapping," "quick and dirty prototyping," "deep dives," "unfocus groups," "shadowing," and "be your customer." Or perhaps it is working with interesting polyma…

Countering 'Country of origin effects' with Cuckoo branding

Jane Simms writing in her article, 'Identity crisis: When brands fake their nationality', states that 'borrowing the brand attributes of another country to help sell your product and service carries considerable risks..Manchester kitchen manufacturer Moben discovered this to its cost seven years ago when the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ordered it to remove the umlaut from its name in ads. The ASA ruled that by adopting that spelling, it was misleading customers into thinking it was German, and falsely associating itself with that country’s strong reputation for craftsmanship'.

She goes on to quote, first, Rune Gustafson, chief executive of Interbrand UK, 'it is silly to pretend to be something you are not’. ‘Provenance and heritage are vital to a brand, but consumers are increasingly cynical and will see fakes for what they are. Strong brands need to build on their own brand heritage.'; and then nation branding expert Simon Anholt, 'The practice of…

Logan hots up Sedan Segment sales

ET reports that Utility vehicle major Mahindra & Mahindra’s (M&M) foray into the sedan segment is bearing fruit. It sold 2,753 units of Logan in February, claiming the second position in the segment, leaving behind its traditional mid-segment rival sedans like Honda City, Hyundai Verna and the Maruti Suzuki SX4. Sales of Mid size cars in February -Tata Indigo - 3,322Mahindra Renault Logan - 2,753Honda City - 2,310Hyundai Verna - 2,132Maruti Suzuki SX4 - 1,953Ford Fiesta - 1,600Hyundai Accent - 939Ford Ikon - 233

The Indian cricket fan

'Recently, one of the Indian fans had a placard at Sydney which read “Symonds, Hyderabad welcomes you” and our TV commentators, who are as rabidly nationalistic as you can hope to meet, said that here was evidence that Indians are a sporting race.

I nearly choked. I am sure they do not witness cricket matches from the stands here. There is a death-like silence when an Indian wicket falls and huge cheering for every edge the local batsman comes up with. I can’t imagine Ponting being supported in Mumbai and Symonds being cheered at Chandigarh. Involvement of the fan with the teams playing is crucial to success and that is not merely sporting the T-shirt of the local team and that will come with time, if at all. How the teams build links with the local community will be crucial. If you look at the English county system, people like Shane Warne have a tremendous following in Hampshire as he is loyal to the team, lives there during the season has captained the team and nurtured young t…

Why Barack Obama must now zip up

Listening to Barack Obama's 'change' rant, today, has me even more convinced that its time he zips up, talks less and talks policy. His 'simple folk needing to beat the odds' stories are surely on their way to sounding more hollower by the day.What he has fallen prey to, is the state of 'sensory adaptation'. A state where the recipient gets used to certain sensations; becoming accommodated to a certain level of stimulation. The earlier perceptions of 'statesmanship' generated by Obama's long winding talks are now being cracked open, partly by Hilary's direct attack on Obama's lack of substance.Sound bites are great stimuli to generate perceptions. So are visual stimuli too. On both these counts, the Obama express was chugging along fine, until now. He looked boyish and fresh and he sounded like a seasoned politician. But these very same stimuli are now deserting him. If not his looks, his sound bites are now jarring with the emptiness in…

How real is the consumption experience?

Why people binge is exactly why marketers have a chance at being successful with consumers. The fact is, 'the dynamics of bingeing may have more to do with personal and cultural expectations than with the number of upside-down margaritas consumed.'

When it comes to consumers, a smart marketer can build these 'expectations' beforehand for the consumer. That is, even before consumption actually happens. These predetermined expectations would then lead to successful 'realisations' on consumption. The consumer ends up experiencing what the marketer has told him he would.

Take the case of 'transformational ads'. A transformational ad is defined as 'one which associates the experience of using (consuming) the advertised brand with a unique set of psychological characteristics which would not typically be associated with the brand experience to the same degree without exposure to the advertisement'.

No wonder they say its all an illusion. They have a poin…

Why give up old habits for new?

'Unlike Pratury, I never kept the letters my father wrote to me, relegating them to the trash each time I had replied in my obsessive need to keep my life free of clutter. But my father was more prescient. Shortly after his death, I discovered a neat folder where every single letter I had ever written to him had been neatly filed. There was my first letter on reaching California, my letter to him about my first campus job on a sandwich line, my car troubles, my decision to return to India. Every word that I had written had been kept and filed and stored by him in this chronicle of memories that now moved beyond life and death to connect us together again.

There is something inherently honest about the old fashioned art of handwriting. Another genetic link—my daughters—would write me little notes when they were much younger. Amid crayon drawings of flowers and butterflies, they scribbled: “I love you, Mama”. Like my father did for me, I kept them in a plastic folder. Later, when I a…

Value propositions of Discount versus Exclusive stores

The shopper has a point when he says, “Why should I spend Rs3,800 for the same Reebok shoes that I can get for Rs2,400 here?” The shopper in this case is comparing prices of branded sneakers sold at an exclusive outlet with those at discounted stores.

Why are premium brands priced at a premium? The esteem appeal that a premium brand carries, built by both functional (product quality) and emotional (product appeal) factors, comes at higher costs, resulting in higher prices. Conversely, its important for the brand to be sold at higher prices to be perceived as a premium brand!

If the premium prices are justified thus, why is the shopper buying the premium brand at a discounted price at a discounted store? Isn't the answer obvious? If he were to continue paying those premium prices at exclusive stores when the same brand is available at a discounted price, he needs to have to his head examined. Or to give him credit, he does so, 'cos he has a specialised requirement; maybe a partic…