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Showing posts from April, 2008

The Business Man

If there is any thing on earth I hate, it is a genius. Your geniuses are all arrant asses -- the greater the genius the greater the ass -- and to this rule there is no exception whatever. Especially, you cannot make a man of business out of a genius, any more than money out of a Jew, or the best nutmegs out of pineknots. The creatures are always going off at a tangent into some fantastic employment, or ridiculous speculation, entirely at variance with the "fitness of things," and having no business whatever to be considered as a business at all. Thus you may tell these characters immediately by the nature of their occupations. If you ever perceive a man setting up as a merchant or a manufacturer; or going into the cotton or tobacco trade, or any of those eccentric pursuits; or getting to be a dry-goods dealer, or soap-boiler, or something of that kind; or pretending to be a lawyer, or a blacksmith, or a physician -- anything out of the usual way -- you may set him down at on…

Err...Fan Loyalty, did you say?

...Sure, it's early days but one stark fact has already emerged: the IPL's first week has revealed a flaw that could prove fatal, an identity crisis that looks like it will need the last million dollars of the marketing men to be resolved. There is so much money to be lost if the whole gamble fails that it's become a war to keep the fans hooked—India's own Opium War...

And what of the cult of celebrity? People will come in to watch Tendulkar or Dhoni, irrespective of whether they're playing for or against their team. So even the minuscule paying public cannot be assumed to be die-hard followers of one team. These initial trends underline the problems of building loyalties around city teams, each of which will spend around Rs 10 crore on marketing and entertainment. But identity is not a function of economics; loyalty can't be thrust on people who don't even know all the players they're supposedly rooting for...

- RohitMahajan; 'Flipper on a Flat Track…

Intelligent Design

The case for 'Intelligent Design'; Watch it here & here.

Pic : Ray Titus

Ethnic power equations in India

Anuratti's research work titled, 'Incidence of Illegitimate Power and its impact on effectiveness of OD initiatives', looked at the incidence of illegitimate power from a 'diversity' perspective; diversity qualified on gender and ethnicity lines.

The conclusions drawn strongly pointed to 'ethnic diversity' playing a major role in the incidence and practice of 'illegitimate power' which then contributed to dilution of OD initiate effectiveness. Having worked with Anuratti on the same paper, I saw conclusive evidence that proved 'ethnic groups' colluding in organisations to exert power that could be deemed 'illegitimate'.

Ethnicity is an important variable in caste based reservation programs. Though the recent Supreme Court ruling did not raise the kind of emotions we saw in the past, it still remains an emotive issue. Though there can be debates on how to resolve the caste issue, one thing is certain; Caste based discrimination is alive…

Indian Eve's goin' up in smoke

HT Mint reports that according to a World Health Organization study, First Report on Global Tobacco Use, released earlier this year, one in every 10 women in India smokes or chews tobacco. In a nationally representative study of smoking in India, conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine in February, more than 62% of women smokers in India will die in their productive years, compared with 38% of non-smokers.
Other Survey also suggest that since the 1990s, more women than men started smoking in the crucial adolescent years. A study done by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in 2006, on 6,000 students across 32 schools in Delhi and Chennai, showed that 20% of the girls in class VI are lighting up.

Buying the Luxury experience

...Buying an experience originates from two needs. The first is a need to indulge and pamper self with the experiences that makes an individual feel good about self. Buying a expensive Louis Vuitton bag, a Corneliani suit, a special edition Lacoste polo shirt or driving around in a Lamborghini or getting a $1,000 spa treatment at Ananda’s is about pampering self with finer things in life. It’s about reassurance of having arrived and being able to indulge in fine tastes that are nurtured/acquired through constant refinement over time.

Ironically, the second need is a psychological need to project an image. It is a need for a statement to associate with certain brands, certain groups and a certain class. To some dining at a certain place, travelling in a certain car or holidaying at a certain location is all about making that statement of belonging to a group.

Coming to the second category, luxury is about being comfortable with what one is and what one has. It is about freedom to do wh…

Qualifying consumer segments for apt communiques

It seems the IPL is 'busting' another advertising norm. FMCG companies that traditionally stayed away from running their commercials during cricket matches are having a change of heart. Now that's because the TAM Peoplemeter ratings of the first five days of the IPL has thrown up the finding that 35-37% of the Twenty20 event’s viewers are women. On the first two days, 8.2 million women across six metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore tuned in to watch the matches, TAM data adds. Now, is that reason for FMCG companies to join the IPL bandwagon? Not yet or at least these IPL spots are not suitable for all. That's because the viewership has been qualified with a single gender variable. That's not a good enough characterisation. What about age? Are housewives tuned in or are these the giggle twenty-somethings that have latched on, more for Shah Rukh than anything else.The FMCG companies currently using spots seem the right ones, as they haw…

Obama & Duration effect on perceptions

As BarackObama scrambles to distance himself from Rev. Jeremiah Wright's bluster, he faces the problem that time poses to perceptions.I have religiously followed the U.S. presidential election campaign and am not surprised by the following Obama has, especially among the youth in America. Having perfected his oratory skills at the Harvard Law School, I assume, his goofy talks (the way I see it) have had an electrifying effect on the young who are prone to judgements based on perceptions ( me being judgemental :) ). Perceptions are good for Obama as they work in his favour, unlike Hilary, who is 'known' and therefore reviled. But Obama's biggest problem is going to be 'time'. With the passage of time, the 'real' Obama is bound to emerge (he will slip up, again), or at least his rivals will spare no effort to expose him for what he truly is; an amateur with worn-out economic ideas and oratory skills. For now, the perceptions are holding, though the cracks…

Dynamic Pricing and Consumer fairness perceptions

Deep's comment brings into focus the issue of dynamic pricing. Is such a mode of pricing by, say retailers, advantageous to the consumer?

I believe, yes, though consumer perceptions vary.

Dynamic pricing can be defined as the dynamic adjustment of prices to consumers depending upon the value these customers attribute to a product or service. Most of the application of dynamic pricing has been in the arena of e-commerce. Many a e-tailers have used dynamic pricing to their advantage. Remember as much as prices can go way up, they may come down too. Either way, the retailer benefits. The payoffs from a higher price charged in terms of increased profitability are obvious; the lower price on the hand may hit margins, but stimulate demand. Remember, lower prices don't necessarily mean losses. Dynamic pricing helps in managing inventory better; thus helping in minimising unsold stock.

Now for dynamic pricing from the consumer's perspective. The conclusions drawn by a research paper…

Rip-Off Country

We live in a 'rip-off' country.

Enter any unfamiliar territory and rip-offs are certain. Why unfamiliar, drop your guard on familiar ground and you are in trouble. Rip offs follow the same pattern as do products and services. When you get overcharged a few bucks on your bottle of Pepsi at a kirana store, that's a 'low cost rip-off'. When the Auto driver takes you on a trip around the country side to get you to your destination and then pockets the extra charge, that's called a mid-segment rip-off.

Wanna know about the premium rip-off? Vir Sanghvi puts it quite eloquently. 'So, why do hotels still charge you for a bottle of Bisleri or a can of Coke when you are already paying Rs20,000 for a room? My guess is that they do it out of habit. The motto of the global hotel trade (unlike the airlines, which take value-added more seriously) has always been: Screw the guest.

Consider the other rip-offs. All of us who stay in hotels are reconciled to paying mark-ups of …

The 'Middle of the Road' consumer strategy

The 'middle of the road' strategic pursuit has conventionally found no takers. The 'neither-nor' position is something most strategists frown upon, as it results in a fluid identity with a strong possibility that the consumer ends up not getting who you are as a business concern. The 'positioning' goes horribly wrong.

While at Delhi, Sonali suggested 'The Big Chill' at East of Kailash for dinner. I was pleasantly surprised at the 'quaint' (read Hollywood movie theme) ambiance and even more surprised at the quality of food, especially the main courses. My grilled chicken with peri peri sauce turned out to be pretty good. And I know this taste well, 'cause years ago, I travelled to Jo'burgh to negotiate a deal to buy the franchisee rights of 'Nandos chicken' for the Middle East. I then had my first experience of Nandos' Flame grilled chicken with Peri Peri sauce. The Big Chill grilled chicken came quite close.

Anyway my account i…

The lesson of 'finishing strong' at the billing counter

For once I had a pleasant shopping experience at a supermarket; the Spencer store on MG Road in Bangalore. The in-store personnel responded to my queries in a competent manner. They even helped me find stuff I was looking for.

But then all good things have to come to an end. My exasperation began at the check out counter. The billing lady did not know prices of vegetables (the billing program did not have those prices listed), had to refer to her colleagues to get them; forgot to enter discounts featured on certain items that I had bought; did not have a pen for me sign my credit card charge slip; did not know how to get the customer copy of the charge slip on the swiping machine.
The resultant? A quarter of my time ( at least it felt so) at the store was spent at the check out counter. And you can guess how exasperating that can be!
Service providers must know how to FINISH STRONG.
R. Chase and S. Dasu in their article titled, 'Want to perfect your company's service? Use Behavi…

The face of 'Truthiness'

'Bogus travel writing has a long and inglorious history, but in another way Kohnstamm is representative of a wider and more modern malaise: writers reviewing books they have not read, politicians claiming to have braved dangers they never faced, novelists depicting places they have not seen, memoirists describing a past that never happened, journalists making up stories about people that never existed, and, most pernicious of all, writers simply cutting and pasting words they have not written.

In most cases this is not active deception, but rather a strange cultural blurring of truth and fiction, the confusion of first-hand knowledge with second-hand electronic cuttings, the elision of personal experience with a reality borrowed or imagined from elsewhere.

This is the victory of information over experience. In Wiki-world, where so much semi-reliable information is available at the push of a button, there is no need to see something first-hand in order to be able to describe it with…

The fatigue in online networking

Social Networking has it uses. But then go overboard with it and the downsides are pretty annoying. Like having people take the liberty to drop in on you unannounced, having to receive calls and listen to pesky chatter. In the real world it requires quite a bit of physical work to network. But online, networking requires you to, at the most 'move your fingers' over a keyboard. Go overboard with that movement and you are the mercy of your network. On the social networking site, Facebook, the resultant is 'Facebook fatigue'.'David Diggs, a junior at Michigan State University who has some 300 Facebook friends, complains, "It's annoying to get about 70 invitations a day about taking some kind of quiz or adding an application." Diggs is one of more than a million people who have joined a Facebook group that is petitioning to ban the inviting of friends on applications. (Ironically, the group encourages members to invite their friends to join the cause.)In …

Bangalore Royal Challengers...'Risin up'..Did I miss something?

The other day I commented on how inappropriate a soundtrack was for a Strategy presentation made by my students.But this one beats it. The classic Rocky movie 'Eye of Tiger' (Survivor) soundtrack featured on the Bangalore Royal Challengers website. Wonder if the agency behind the site knows what the song is about?'Risin' up, back on the street; Did my time, took my chances; Went the distance, now I'm back on my feet; Just a man and his will to survive So many times, it happens too fast; You change your passion for glory; Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past; You must fight just to keep them alive'For a team that's not even played a match, 'Risin' up, back on the street' is a long way off. What say you?

Katrina Kaif and the laws of positioning

Maybe I am out of touch with how well receivedBollywood is, in the state of Karnataka. Its obvious, 'cos I don't watch Hindi movies. In spite of that, I wonder what's the wisdom behind having Katrina Kaif as the face of VijayMallya'sBangalore IPL cricket team. As Saurabh points out, taking the generic route (read Katrina Kaifappealing to everyone, hey, me not included) isn't a smart idea. In fact let me add the marketing funda to it. Its the classic 'everything to everyone' mistake. As Ries & Trout say, 'It most likely is a mistake to build a brand by trying to appeal to everyone. A product that seeks to be everything to everyone will end up being nothing to everyone.'I wonder who Katrina Kaif appeals to? The most likely supporters to the Bangalore IPL team are in the state of Karnataka. VijayMallya may as well pray that these probable supporters are besotted by Katrina. I am not.

Price rise and its effect on premium & mass consumer goods

With input prices soaring, ET reports that car prices are likely to increase 2-3% in the next few days. Premium cars will cost Rs 14,000-16,000 more and entry-level cars will be dearer by Rs 4,000-6,000. Maruti Suzuki India is currently working on the price strategy so that the burden on the customer is minimum. Ditto is the case with mobile phones. Inflation is taking a toll on sales of mobile phones. ET reports that, retailers say that the demand for cell phones has dropped dramatically in the past one month. Retailers point out that though a substantial part of the total consumer spending consists of electronic products, especially cell phones, the rise in prices of other products has negatively affected this category. From the consumer's perspective, purchases will be put off, till prices ease. The burden of increased prices are going to affect mass consumers more than those consumers who can afford premium products. Therefore it would be interesting to the see the impact of a…

Regional play scores over generic play

Saurabh's take on why IPL teams would be better off with regional play rather than a generic name that appeals to everyone.Most of the people that see the matches would be from a particular region (Mumbai junta at Mumbai venues) and they would have psychological incentives to see their team winning over others.Merchandise - I don't think I will spot anyone wearing Chennai shirt in Delhi and so on and so forth.Examples from County Cricket - Sporting rivalries can be created only when people have strong associations with teams.And finally that classic Us vs Them debate. We need to give people an anchoring point. They need to feel "us vs them" to be able to support something. Us vs Govt. Us vs Management, Us vs Professors etc.

Will the real 'techie' please stand up?

'Since so much is spoken about tonnes and tonnes of money that software professionals earn, the man-money relationship also gets an extreme spin. It is presumed that all software professionals and BPO employees change their cellphone every month. That they blow up all their money in pubs and bars. That they keep the shopping malls going, that they are the 'spendarati', and so on. The subtext is that the software professionals seem to be putting money on par with happiness and living.

It is needless to counter these stereotypes, because they spring from a hyperbolic angst of a society that is trying to make sense of the enormous speed of change taking place around it. It is trying to grapple with a new work ethic that is getting established. We should be aware that the cases that often lead to such stereotyping are more exceptions than the rule...'

- SugataSrinivasaraju, 'Most Peculiar Men'.

What's in a name?

How is it that all the IPL teams pick names that couldn't get any more amateurish? 'Kolkata Knight Riders', 'Delhi Daredevils', 'Rajasthan Royals' are among those with an anglicized twang that supposedly is meant to catch the fancy of the young and restless. 'Mumbai Indians' takes the generic route to garner a pan Indian appeal.

The dilemma here? Should the names be too region specific with the risk of alienating a pan Indian audience? Or should the names therefore be generic and anglicized to appeal to a wider audience, but in the end appealing to none?

Yeah, quite the dilemma.

The Indian rural consumer; Different or not so different?

'The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same'.

It gets my goat listening to people characterise the Indian rural consumer as the thoughtful, careful, analytical kind of person. Its almost as if his urban counterpart is the dunce, thoughtless, careless and stupid!

AnishaMotwani joins the list of people advocating a different approach while dealing with the Indian rural consumer. She states, 'Till recently, a large part of marketing was done targeting the urban consumer, and with most marketers having no prior exposure to the rural audience, they are applying the same rules to connect with this completely different segment. The mistake that most companies make while chalking their rural strategies is to treat the rural consumer as an extension of their urban counterpart.'

So, is the rural consumer radically different, the way they make him out to be?

Yes & No!

Yes, different to the same extent that I am different from my colleague sitting in his office adjacent to…

The dilemma of targeting mass and premium consumers

When VijayMallya says, “It doesn’t matter whether the brand is called Simplifly Deccan or something else”, he is absolutely right. To the LCC passenger what's important, is low fares and high levels of reliability ( read, arrival, departure timings and a safe airplane).

Unlike what ET says, the issue is not one of branding. Its more of operations administration. Does Kingfisher and Deccan operate in a centralised or decentralised manner? Both have their pros and cons. Sharing competencies is more efficient but raises bureaucratic costs. Operating separately raises costs that could have been shared.

What's to be noted, is the feasible consumer space available to both formats. Especially the LCC one, despite rise in fuel costs raising costs of operation. Both Kingfisher and Deccan deserve to stay. From a branding perspective, the term 'Deccan' must be retained. 'Deccan' almost occupies the generic LCC space in the minds of flyers. Too bad if its forced to go.

My tak…

Consumption aspirations and their political implications

The complete sweep by Maoists in the Nepalese elections has left everyone around the world stunned. Prachanda, leader of the Maoists, inspired by China's Cultural Revolution and the theories of Mao Zedong aspires to be Nepal's first president. Its interesting to note that Prachanda is inspired by Mao, who is described by his detractors as a butcher responsible for death of millions in his country. Prachanda on his part, of late, has tempered both his ideology and rhetoric.

The larger question is, how can a country vote into power a party whose ideology is steeped in violence and intimidation? The may answer to that may not be a simple one. Yet, one thing is for sure. People through the power of their vote are trying to usher in change. They expect the ones voted into power to change their lives for the better. In fact, I am willing to bet that the ideology doesn't matter. Ask voters around the world, what the ideology of the party they voted for is, my guess is, not many kn…

The rule book and its misuse

Though legally valid, throwing the contractual obligation line (with just 3 days of the contract period left) at HarshitaSaxena is no attempt at safeguarding the sanctity of contracts. Instead its an attempt at assuaging a frizzled ego, and garnering some undeserved publicity for a drowning Gladrags.Isn't this what you come to expect from the powers that be? Use of the rule book when it suits them?You decide.

Vehicle sales in India run out of gas

Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) reports that vehicle sales India dropped by 4.7 per cent in 2007-08. The drop in sales was mainly on account of the two-wheeler industry, particularly motorcycles, which declined by 7.92 per cent and 11.9 per cent respectively despite the passenger cars registering 12.2 per cent growth.

The total domestic vehicle sales in 2007-08 was down at 96,48,105 units, compared with 10,123,988 units in the previous financial year. Domestic passenger car sales rose by 11.79 per cent in 2007-08 to 12,03,531 units from 10,765,82 units in the April to March period of the earlier financial year.

Motorcycle sales in the country were down by 11.9 per cent at 57,683,41 units in financial year 2008, against 65,47,195 units in 2006-07. Total two-wheeler sales in 2007-08 also slipped 7.92 per cent at 72,486,00 units, compared to 78,723,34 units in the year-ago period. The sales of commercial vehicle during the last fiscal increased by 4.07 per cent to 4,86,81…

Retail Consumption: Small town Consumers & Metro city consumers, what's common, what's not

Dissatisfaction with life stage and style, seeking variety in life, emotions, adjusting and living within norms, wanting the best at the least price, wanting to earn more, and the importance of reference groups are common among the two consumer sets.Small town people are more patient than metro denizensBrand Loyalty (particularly for older brands) is much higher in small towns.Small town people consider their diet to be healthy, while metro populace is calorie conscious.Small town people sport the 'Hum kisiesekumnahin' attitude, thereby moving into the zone of power from the zone of conformity. Movies like 'BuntyaurBabli' stand proof to this thirst.Content that strikes a chord transcends boundaries. So, news such as RakhiSawant slapping someone will be watched by everyone.Quality is not restricted to the four metros. People in small towns are very brand conscious too.The top 16 cities (12.3 million households) of India have 2.9 million Post Graduates (PG) as compared t…

Consumption in Small Town India

The Dhoni effect - The youth in small town India want everything and want it 'now'.Consumption spend in metros constitutes about 30 percent of the country's total consumption market. This implies that rest-of-urban-India and rural India together garner almost 70 percent of the marketThe subscriber growth in the four metros, in the Telecom sector stood at 58 percent (the emphasis being on value added services such as ring tones, wallpapers or news clippings) as compared to rest of India, where the growth rate stood higher than 93 percent - the focus being entirely on consumer acquisitions.-'Dhoni Effect - The rise of small town India'; Paper released by AshokRajgopal, Ernst & Young / Source : Brand Reporter

The travails of unregulated Customer acquisition

Customers acquisition sans any regulations is a surefire guarantee of future problems. That's exactly what's happened to SBI cards in India.HT Mint reports that 'an aggressive customer acquisition drive has taken its toll on India’s second largest credit card issuer, SBI Cards and Payment Services Ltd (SBI Cards), with defaults rising to possibly the highest in the industry.SBI Cards, which has so far issued about 3.5 million credit cards, has posted a net loss of Rs186.61 crore in the quarter ended December 2007, its first since 2003, wiping out a substantial portion of its net worth (equity and reserves). SBI and GE Money pumped in Rs200 crore of capital into the company in the quarter.What should worry the credit card firm more, however, is its rising non-performing assets (NPAs). As on 31 December 2007, its NPAs stood at 16.28%, possibly the highest among all credit card issuers in India. This means 16.28% of the total outstandings of customers could not be collected b…

Our Hypocrisy

'Hypocrisy is a big issue in most societies, but it’s a particularly problematic one in India.

We believe that “mamatha”—a mother’s affection—is a sacred emotion, and yet unflinchingly inflict horrors upon our women. We take bribes, and then hope to wash away our sins by thrusting thousands down the slit-eyed hundis of our temples. We speak of compassion, but show little for the household help who toil away in our homes. We study “moral science” in our schools (whoever coined that phrase?) and are tested to see if we got the spelling right when we have the essence wrong.

We learn about civics and citizenship, and yet are often asked—and ask ourselves—why we have such a strong sense of family, but such a poor sense of a larger community: How can our homes be so clean, and our streets so littered with garbage?

Clearly, I am generalizing here— there are thousands of Indians who would justifiably take offence at being called hypocrites, and for good reason. But they are a minority in tod…

The tactic of reducing weight to beat consumer attention

Marketer's who follow Weber's Law know that its important to keep any value deletions (from a product or a service) within the the just noticeable difference limit. This ensures that reductions in value are not readily discernible to consumers.

Increase in prices is easily spotted by the consumer, unlike drops in quantities. And dropping weights is a tactic being used by Indian companies to beat the rise in commodity prices. Sure consumers didn't notice; except that the media is now running stories on the same.

Result? The consumer is not amused. Dr Sri Ram Khanna of Delhi University's Department of Commerce, an expert on consumer affairs, has this to say, “This is clear deception. Earlier, companies were not allowed to do this. But recent rules allow them to get away. No buyer usually checks the net weight of familiar packs. Companies are using that to their advantage. Ideally there must be a public declaration on this."

How are the companies in question reacting? C…

Influence of Environmental cues on Product evaluation & choice

The consumer's senses have been tuned to block out most marketing stimuli. In fact whether the senses respond and interpret marketing stimuli, depends primarily on three factors. One, the nature of the stimuli itself can cause its selection. Two, Consumers' previous experience as it affects their expectations (what they are prepared, or 'set' to see) and three; their motives at the time (their needs, desires, interests and so on). Each of these factors can serve to increase or decrease the probability that a stimulus will be perceived.
If this is what faces marketers armed with stimuli that would in most probability be ignored (its time to dump those Admen!), what can they do?
the answer lies in Jonah A. Berger and GrainneFitsimons' research work titled, 'How Environmental Cues Influence Product Evaluation and Choice'. The recommendation of their work is to urge marketers to ensure that their products are more in consonance with the environment within which t…

Neuromarketing - Unravelling 'why we buy'

The original 'Why we Buy' was authored by Paco Underhill and its describes retail buyer behaviour within the confines of a store. A 'must read', the book describes more of the 'outcomes' (read, purchase behaviour), rather the reasons behind those outcomes.

Neuromarketing attempts to change that by unravelling what's truly 'behind' the purchase, revealing what goes on inside consumer minds when they shop. The Neuron article, 'Neural predictors of Purchases', described how brain imaging was used to monitor the mental activity of shoppers as they evaluated products and prices on computer screens. By watching how different neural circuits light up or go dark during the buying process, researchers found they could predict whether a person would end up purchasing a product or passing it up. They concluded, after further analysis of the results, that "the ability of brain activation to predict purchasing would generalise to other purchasing sce…

Capitalism's protean prowess

'Obviously, being ahead or having gotten a head start counts for not a lot within America's little corner of the Capitalist world. But the parallel fact that everywhere the capitalist corporations, as a group are widening their lead over their lagging imitators in the non capitalist world is extraordinarily significant. It means that being capitalistic gives them a genetic edge. Capitalism simply works better, and anybody who argues the opposite does just that. He argues. He simply doesn't have the facts.One of the most interesting of these facts is that those who seek to catch up with the more advanced and achieving institution of our times invariably seek to do it by some sort of selective imitation of the modern capitalist corporations. ("We'll take your best and ignore the rest") Traffic in the opposite direction is negligible or non existent. Nothing could be more unmistakeably powerful. Nothing is more flattering to Capitalism's protean prowess.'…

Che Guevara - Communist Firebrand to Capitalist Brand

'Che Guevara, who did so much (or was it so little?) to destroy capitalism, is now a quintessential capitalist brand. His likeness adorns mugs, hoodies, lighters, key chains, wallets, baseball caps, toques, bandannas, tank tops, club shirts, couture bags, denim jeans, herbal tea, and of course those omnipresent T-shirts with the photograph, taken by Alberto Korda, of the socialist heartthrob in his beret during the early years of the revolution, as Che happened to walk into the photographer’s viewfinder—and into the image that, thirty-eight years after his death, is still the logo of revolutionary (or is it capitalist?) chic. Sean O’Hagan claimed in The Observer that there is even a soap powder with the slogan “Che washes whiter.”

Che products are marketed by big corporations and small businesses, such as the Burlington Coat Factory, which put out a television commercial depicting a youth in fatigue pants wearing a Che T-shirt, or Flamingo’s Boutique in Union City, New Jersey, whos…

The pipe dream of Socialism

When Sutanu Guru, in theBusiness & Economy titles his article, 'Modern Capitalism sucks', I'm not surprised. There are many a academics around the world who look at it the same way. Never mind, its the same capitalist system that allows them to publish their dissenting views. Were it those countries that practice forced socialism (read, communism) where they had expressed any dissenting views, I wonder what their fate would have been?Capitalism has always been a target of those who enjoy the fruits of it the most. Consider what Sutanu writes. 'And this ( the BearnStearns, James Cayne saga) made me think about the deepest flaw in modern day capitalism as an economic system that straddles virtually the whole world. In Capitalism, a David versus Goliath contest almost never throws up a surprise. Goliath always wins and David is always crushed...Since America started emerging as an economic powerhouse in the late 19th century there have been similar cases of the little…

The event & timing of Publicity - Olympic torch lesson

Publicity is a potent tool of Marketing Communication. As the carrier of the message happens to be a neutral entity, consumers tend to listen to the message and even react to the same. Were the same message have emanated from the marketer the very same consumer would tend to ignore the communique'.

Has the Tibetan plight ever been as visible as it is now? The Chinese communist regime with its high handed tactics has always managed to quell any dissenting information from reaching global public. But the tables have turned.

The Olympic torch is now making its way across neutral, even sympathetic (to the Tibetan cause) locations. What better time to disrupt its journey and attract the attention of world media, thus the world!

The Tibetan cause now regularly features on the front pages of almost every newspaper across the world. Ditto for news channels. And everyone's beginning to take notice. Sarkozy has threatened a opening ceremony boycott. Hilary Clinton has recommended the same.

Ray's weekend pick

Mariah Carey; 'Touch My Body'.
Yeah...go on...

( NB. - “Touch My Body” now surpasses Elvis as Mariah’s 18th #1 hit, and positions her as the only active recording artist with the potential to surpass the Beatles’ all-time high of 20 #1 hits.)

The dilemma of 'customisation' in global markets

Jaguar in the Tata stables is surely something we can collectively be proud of. It is in a way the coming of age of Indian corporations. But I do not agree with SantoshDesaiwhen he uses this one event to paint a picture of 'India having entered a new phase in its engagement with globalisation'. Two swallows don't a summer make. India Inc. still has along way to go. Most Indian corporations still operate in amateurish modes, driven not by world class systems but by individuals; their mindsets dictating the order of the day and the order for the future. Miraculously such corporations survive and thrive, at least for the moment. Incompetent, sycophantic attitudes still prevail. I admit, there are a few, at least the corporations at the top, who have processes in place that result in world class outcomes. But remember, they are few and far in between.The Tata Group is one such corporation. If any one's ready to operate within the globalised world, they are. Having started …

The challenge in managing Global Brands

'But the real challenge lies elsewhere. Important as it is to grasp the range of meanings that lie embedded in these brands, the real need is to find new connections between these brands and the consumers of today. This requires a deep almost visceral grasp of what are the new configurations of articulated expectations and unarticulated needs of today. And from this understanding to evolve a possible trajectory of change wherein the old set of meanings are recast or reframed in order to create something that is both familiar and new.

If this seems like a complex task, that is because it is. Managing global brands requires us to have a point of view about the world and the people who populate it. It is about creating meaning, for that is what brands do, of a kind that is believable and valuable. At a more functional level, It is about making calls that involve judgement about soft issues — what will work and what will not, where extra investment is warranted and where it is not and…

The Great Indian Train Journey

'...We always travelled second-class and, not possessing the stomach to fight our way into a general compartment, made reservations in 3-tier coaches. The berths were narrow and hard—another source of discomfort that Laloo will remove by providing cushions—and you had to be young and vigorous to pull yourself up to the upper berth. You would do that, of course, only if you could claim your berth against three challengers, who pronounced themselves equally deserving of the privilege...

After years of 'adjusting', you get accustomed to the insecurity, delays and accidents, but the most degrading aspect of train travel is the toilet-hole which, as befits a democracy, requires the rich and the poor to defecate equitably on the tracks, depositing, according to one estimate, 50,000 tonnes of faeces in one year. Many strategies exist against this assault on human sensibility—hold it in, eat or drink very little, pretend there is no need to go at all—but you must eventually face th…

Blinded to sights and sounds or is it sensory adaptation?

"Quite so," he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself down into an armchair. "You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room."

"How often?"
"Well, some hundreds of times."
"Then how many are there?"
"How many? I don't know."
"Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.
- Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson; 'A Scandal in Bohemia'
Sugata Srinivasaraju's lament in the piece, 'My City, Their Eyes', where he states that 'Bangaloreans are often blind to their backyards, but visitors carry a sight that sifts the city with far greater precision', could have been avoided had he understood what Sherlock Holmes tried to tell Watson.
In Marketing lingo, the p…

'Free Spirit' - Brand names evoke feelings

Sabeer Bhatia's Arzoo was doomed right from the time he named the venture 'Arzoo'. You see, the right names make a lot of difference.

Axis Bank sounds and feels much better than UTI. Names instantly result in associations in the listener's mind. Those associations must reinforce what the brand stands for.

Yukti walked into my office, her nails painted 'red'. She doesn't call the colour, red, she uses the term Lakme' gave the nail paint. Lakme christened the nail paint, 'Free Spirit'. Yukti refers to her painted nail colour as 'free spirit'. She likes 'free spirit' better than 'red', and she feels great wearing them.

Now, there's a lesson there.


The nightmare that is Hindi cinema

Correction, its not 'all' of Hindi cinema, its 'most' of Hindi cinema. I mean, the nightmare.

Consider the movie 'Cash' for example. Movie critic, NamrataJoshi writes, 'Race is schlock cinema at its best or worst whichever way you choose to describe it and it doesn’t pretend to be anything more. It’s pure junk so stay away if you’re into healthy, wholesome entertainers...

Race is also not about well-constructed plot and plausible situations. It’s just a smart, racy narrative with only one purpose—to titillate and please voyeuristic eyes of the audience. So there are good-looking bodies in ubercool glares and nifty dresses walking slo-mo, low-angle shots of women grooving in minis with miles of bronzed, toned legs, sexy cars, eye-popping stunts and glam locales. Race may well be the flavour of the season like raunchy comedies the last couple of years. But how long will this genre sustain its appeal?'

Java City's flawed non franchise building sales promo

Sales Promotion activities that communicate distinctive brand attributes and contribute to the development and reinforcement of brand identity are termed consumer franchise building promotions. On the other hand, Non franchise building promotions are designed to accelerate the purchase decision process and generate an immediate increase in sales. These activities do not communicate information about a brand's unique features or the benefits of using it, so they do not contribute to the building of brand identity and image.
Its imperative for a marketer to understand when and which promo format to use. Just yesterday, I passed by a Java City Cafe' that had a board in front that stated, '50% off'. Now I am thinking, '50% off on what'? The pastries, or the coffee, or the non food merchandise? Either way, every customer who sees that promo offer, will associate it with coffee & food (that's the core merchandise) and he is going to wonder whether its because …