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Showing posts from July, 2008

Consumer Advocacy

'In psychology, there are three distinct ways to influence people––coercion, persuasion and contagion. Coercion refers to the use of force––in marketing terms, a monopolistic situation. Persuasion is the use of logic––this is what most of the marketing and advertising community is used to. Most ads are some form of consumer logic––be it betterment of living style or betterment of life.

Contagion is about exposure. There has to be something in the brand (can be product, communication or the people behind the brand) that when people are exposed to it they become carriers of it. This is the most evolved form of marketing and if done well, it can the biggest asset a brand can ever have––consumer advocacy.

In good times, huge marketing campaign and distribution push can help selling brands and lot of the shortcomings of a brand never get exposed. But when the times are not so good and marketing budgets take a nosedive, those brands become the first victims. In a recession economy, cons…

Brand Loyalty; possible?

For a consumer to be loyal to a brand, the consumer must connect with it at an emotional level. If the response to a brand is driven purely by rational evaluations, loyalty if exhibited, is spurious. A switch is imminent, and will happen as and when a competing brand scores over the present one, on parameters important to the consumer.

An emotional connection is a result of a higher level of involvement on the part of the consumer with the category in question. The intensity of decision making involved could be as a result of a higher level of cognition employed. Once a brand is chosen post evaluations, ie., purchased, and should it 'connect', loyalty in all probability will follow.

Coming to Soft drinks, in India, there could be a set of consumers who connect with the brands available, at an emotional level. Maybe its the GenXers taking to what Pepsi projects itself as. Pepsi's youthful image may resonate well with the youth, which may then translate into purchases. As long…

Prognosis for Indian Consumer demand

'So, if the prognosis is that the middle class and above urban aam janata’s incomes will rise, and that agricultural incomes could rise too, but equally that the things to buy will be more expensive, then we will see very value-conscious spending behaviour happening.

There will be a return of category fights — health insurance because I am feeling vulnerable versus an upgraded laptop and expensive skin creams because they are cheaper than a facial at a beauty parlour, and in any case, my foreign holiday is not happening. Assets will do better than experiences, children’s education will continue to prevail, productivity tools like personal transport and telecom will continue to get used, though not upgraded as often. Some sectors will lose and some will gain, depending on which segment of Consumer India we look at.

The value conscious Indian consumer will be even more value conscious since he has to make choices; however the algorithm in his head of value = benefit minus cost, will…

The Trust vote Potluck

The Hindu reports that the recent political tussle, which ended with the incumbent government winning the Trust vote on July 22, has left the Union Government richer by Rs 86,600 crore, at least on paper.
With stock prices of listed PSUs rallying strongly over the past two weeks, the market value of the Government’s equity stakes in these companies has shot up sharply. Stocks of State-owned companies have been propelled by expectations that, with the Trust vote out of the way, the Government may push through with its divestment programme and put a portion of its stakes in these companies on the block.

Idiocy in Istaanbul

James Bond and Aston Martin together make an irresistible combination. Two of the finest bands together.

But what about when Savile Row Co, London announces to us that they have done the wardrobe job for the movie Mission Istaanbul?

Me? I wanna laugh out loud.

Savile Row's pick couldn't get any worse. Listen to what RajeevMasand has to sayabout the film; 'Mission Istaanbul, this week's new Bollywood release, is not only a bad film, it's also a highly offensive film. If it was merely a mindless action film, one might have been more forgiving, but in fact Mission Istaanbul disguises itself as a film that takes a serious look at international terrorism, as a film that questions the commercialization of news...

Look closely and perhaps you'll notice Mission Istaanbul is full of homoerotic undertones. Whether it's the manner in which the camera lingers over NikitanDheer's every muscle, every sinew; or that awkward scene in the Turkish bath where all characters d…

He Cometh......!

'And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for. And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might…

Chinese online swells

Overtaking the US, China's Internet-users population has reached 253 million by the end of June, reflecting the explosive growth in the web-user market in the country, data showed.

Latest government figures also showed that China also had the largest number of broadband subscribers at 214 million, more than 80 per cent of the total domestic Internet population.

The number of Internet users at 253 million marked a 56.2 per cent rise from 162 million reported in 2007, the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC), a semi-official organisation, said in a report.

The Bat & the Bush

'There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.
And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society -- in which people sometimes make the wrong choices -- and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.'
- Andrew Klavan, 'What Bush and Batman Have in Common'.

Bangalore spirit lives on

The Bangalore blasts are a pathetic attempt at disrupting our way of life. Living a stone's throw away from Madivala, it seems as if our idyllic peace has been disrupted.

But the machinations of the perpetrators won't succeed. As we grieve the loss of life, the Bangalore spirit lives on.

Why Trees don't concern me

I get my SBI Card statement mailed to me in a cover which asks me to choose an e-statement over a paper statement as that would help save trees. Though I am not the environmental loony, I am tempted. But then I stop. My past experiences with Credit Card statements tell me that in the future, you never know when I will be made to produce a physical statement to prove a point. Note that I will tend to delete my e-statements quicker than throwing away my paper statements. With the paper one, I can expect me to hold it at least for a few months. Who knows when the Credit Card Company is gonna pull something on me that would require me to have the statement to prove MY point. You see, I need to be prepared.Good bye trees, for the moment.This brings us to an interesting issue. Will people's concerns for society provoke them into say doing things like ask for e-statements? Take Household recycling as an issue. In a Research paper titled, 'Consumer Motivation to Recycle When Recycling…

Whats common to cash in Parliament & generic drugs?

Its the image they bring along.

The cash in Parliament drama has been a shameful episode that sullies the image of politicians as a whole, putting it in poor light, though the reality may be something completely different. There are of course politicians who are unblemished with spotless records. Well, you may ask who? The answer, how many members of the house do you know?

Though Ranbaxy insists that there have been no charges filed by the US Drugs regulator, FDA, on an alleged case of sub-standard drugs, the episode has cast aspersions on the generic drug manufacturers. Industry representatives say that the case will not only “embolden” the anti-generics lobby that has been campaigning against cheap drug versions but, it may also cause the entire Indian drug sector to be viewed with caution at best and suspicion at worst by medical professionals globally.

Its good to remember that sometimes its not about what you yourself may do, its about what your 'kind' does.

Solving the retail accessibilty problem with Push Carts

One of the reasons as to why unorganisedsmall time mom n pop retail stores in India will survive is their ease of accessibility. There are many a times when households engage in emergency grocery purchases, most of which is done at mom n' pop retail stores in their immediate neighbourhood. Also, the lack of real estate acts as barrier that stops retail biggies form entering such neighbourhoods.

To get around the the problem of not being able to penetrate neighbourhoods with their stores, Britannia has now launched pushcarts to deliver deliver fresh food products, especially breakfast items, at consumers' doorsteps. The push carts will ply inside a number of localities everyday and carry Britannia products right from bread to biscuits, rusks, cheese and cakes. The pushcarts would also benefit residents by carrying exclusive offers and announcements, displaying new product launches.

Pushcarts are going to get their act right only if they get their timing and their assortment right…

1 2 3....Singh is King!

The margin of victory in the Trust vote was wider than what most people had expected. It was therefore only fitting that most Television News channels play The Bollywood movie song, 'Singh is King' as a backdrop to Dr. Manmohan Singh & his government's victory celebrations. There are SMSes too doing the rounds.

Rahul Gandhi's first major speech in The Parliament couldn't have come at a better time and in a better manner. The more he got interrupted, the more he got noticed by the larger public glued to their television screens. He may even have won a lot of sympathy for having conducted himself with utmost dignity, both in manner and in talk. Surely, a star is on the ascendant.

The Celebrity Lifecycle

I guess celebrities too have life cycles that end in decline. Some are smart enough to beat the downward curve by reinventing themselves (whatever that means) or by hopping on to newer bandwagons. I am talking endorsements.

I guess Preity Zinta is on her way out. Rightly so, I should say. That 'cos I guess, her bubbly act of yesteryear if tried now, would only have viewers wish there was a power failure. So now we know she is making way for next giggly thing in the pipeline. They say she's Genelia. The South Indian star who made waves with her performance in Aamir Khan’s Jaane Tu...., is commanding an endorsement fee of at least Rs 1 crore. According to Globosport CEO Anirban Blah, 'With Genelia, she’s the new, spunky, fresh face, and we are targeting every brand that Preity Zinta endorses'.

Amidst closure, Starbucks is 'Alive & Kicking'

The only power in the world that can sound the death knell for a brand is the consumer. And the only way he can and must be able to do that is by not buying what the brand has to offer.
Most brands that fall by the wayside are not noticed. Sure there may be a few mourners lamenting, but the larger consumer population never even bothers. The mourners on their part lament, as they connect with the brand in question on an emotional plane. For them its no longer a trade that they engage in with the brand, they take it to level where they get psychologically involved. The need here transcends functional boundaries to move into an emotional zone.That's exactly what's happening with Starbucks at the moment. The 'Save our Starbucks' campaign has been initiated by consumers for whom Starbucks is more than just a cup of Frappuccino. Sample Kate Walker, a facilities manager for software company SunGard Financial Systems who recently learned of a store closing in New York City; &qu…

India's Media & Entertainment market

According to PwC, India continues to be one of the top three markets for global collaborations in entertainment and media, because of a 'relatively friendly foreign investment regime'.

India's media and entertainment market is expected to grow 18.5 percent a year to reach $36 billion by 2012, while the Asian industry will likely grow 8.8 percent a year over the next five years to $508 billion, PwC estimates. Other emerging markets set for rapid growth include Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Turkey and Pakistan.

To apologise or not to, 'tis the question

When Karthik advocates caution at apologizing when a marketer messes up, he has a pertinent point. Sure, apologies must be offered with caution. Let’s consider times that call for an apology.

Lets for moment consider the point that Karthik raises of ‘short memory on the public’s part’ as a reason why no ‘product issues’ should be escalated to the extent it becomes a point of discussion in the public space, doing the brand no good. Going by that logic, if the public has a short memory and tends to forget, that tendency should even be extended to the apology. Post apology too, they would forget, therefore why desist from offering it?

Now about the apology. If the issue that affects a brand rises out of an allegation that may not have received wide coverage, and which is not substantiated, ignoring it is the best way out. But what about the times, when it’s a genuine aggrieved consumer talking? Or a case of an ‘allegation’ that receives wide media attention? Then, the dynamics change drast…

The lesson in Pope Benedict XVI's apology

The Pope has apologised (I know there are no easy closures on such a horrific issue). But there's a lesson there for Jesse Jackson.

Just like there's one for marketers who, as I mentioned before, mess up. Apologise to the consumer. Not many actually do. Remember the 'flaming Fords'?


Does it matter if Sachin shifts brand endorsements?

When Soumya says, 'it would be stupid on part of Sachin to shift over (endorse) to a competitor's brand as it will only hamper his credibility', I wonder if it really would?

The two fallouts of such a move, if made by Sachin are, one, its impact on his own equity and two the impact on the two brands in questions, the earlier one and the one he has moved to. About his own credibility I wonder how it matters to the consumer, unless his move makes him look like a 'gold digger'. From whatever he has done in the past, he has conducted himself with utmost dignity endearing him to the masses, so it will take more than a 'shift' to have his image taking a beating.

About the two brands in question, if they are brands that have consumers being highly involved in their purchases, I doubt if Sachin would make any difference to their sale. On the other hand, if the brands are low involvement ones, Sachin may just make that little difference in terms of which brand is pref…

When Radio is an interruption and when its not

Radio is back with a bang and it must thank, I guess, the terrible traffic, because I bet most of the listening is done while in transit, which stretches pretty much to eternity, at least on Bangalore roads.

JayantBhokkare of Radio indigo has this to say about FM Radio's future in India, “Out-of-home radio consumption has huge potential. With cities getting de-clogged and the formation of new business districts and residential townships, people are bound to spend much more time out of home. We should definitely see listenership growing in ambient areas. Marketers have enormous potential. Given that high traffic density is a favourable factor, listeners today experience a lot of compulsive listening.”

He is right to the extent that listeners do experience 'compulsive listening'. Is that good enough to have marketers climbing on the FM radio bandwagon. For the moment, it seems they are. But then compulsive listening that people are exposed to, while on the move is at times wa…

Cut the fluff, apologise!

Have you heard something like this? Bet you have.

Jesse Jackson's apology for the 'nuts comment' is a worth a listen, especially for services marketers. Consumers many a times are just looking for an apology, not the yakety-yakety-yak aimed at justifying why the company had to do what it did.

Cut the damn fluff and apologise. Period!

Listen to Mark Levin's take on Jesse's 'apology' here.

The 'Free' aphrodisiac

'But there are smaller ways we deceive ourselves as well, ways we’re often not aware of. Professor Ariely has found that the word “free” acts like a drug for many people.

“It’s no secret that getting something free feels very good,” he wrote in his book “Predictably Irrational.” “Zero is an emotional hot button — a source of irrational excitement.”....

Free is not bad, but it can lead us to make unwise or at least useless choices. Who hasn’t loaded up on freebies at a convention that you later toss away? Or bought two DVDs to get the third free when you had planned to purchase only one? But it is more insidious when we are blinded by what in reality will be a higher price. Take, for example, a credit card that may appear to be a better deal because it charges no annual fees. But it’s not necessarily better because it charges a higher interest rate than one that does require yearly fees.

In this age of online shopping, the phrase “free shipping” acts like an aphrodisiac. David R. Bel…

The Bat poised to soar

Studio sources state that record-breaking advance ticket sales for Warner Bros' Batman: The Dark Knight "continue to grow at a pace unlike any other film in history".

Even the number of locations in North America where the comic book caper will be playing -- 4,366 -- is an Industry record. There are also approximately 3,000 theaters that will start screening the actioner at 12:01AM Friday. Meanwhile, every IMAX show in New York City this weekend is sold out. By all accounts this should be Hollywood's best-ever 3-day overall North American weekend at the box office: the number to beat is last year's $151+ million.

The Burger revolution

Burgers turning chic is not just about rewriting gourmet culture, its pure 'social revolution'. For long we have witnessed snobbish European ways, with the French leading the snob march. Cuisine was a definite participant in this way of life. But then came the burger.

Then came the Americans, breaking down everything that everyone else called 'cultural identity'. It was easy for the Yankee as he had no cultural baggage that he lugged along. So he rewrote culture with a language that tell then, didn't exist. What followed was an avalanche of products and services which the rest of world, tired from the stifling effects of their cultural identity, consumed, with a vigour and an appetite that still shows no signs of receding.

Look around, I mean India, denims, burgers, sneakers rule (Yes, I know its still metro-centric, but give it some time...). In fact they have 'liberated' the Indian consumer. 'Chic Burgers' in their true sense, represent rebellion. A…

Why grown-ups watch movies

There was a time when Malayalam cinema connected with its audience in Kerala. This was a time that squeezed itself in between an earlier time where movies were more or less sickly sob stories and a latter time where slapstick airhead fares ruled the roost. I am sorry to say that this the latter time.
I miss those movies. There were perfect in the sense they presented a story which was thought-provoking, heart warming and yet lightened with sensible comedy, so the depressing after-ache never materialised, never lingered. That movies that get it right are the ones that get this 'balance' right. Makes you think, yet not to death. Take for instance superhero movies from Hollywood. Vir Singhvi is right when he says, 'It can be no accident that Nolan’s 'Batman Begins' was less about the Caped Crusader’s adventures in the Batcave and more about Bruce Wayne’s attempts to reclaim the legacy of his murdered father. Studios have learnt that children will watch anything. But fo…

'Losing it' over Global Warming

'Closer to home, the dean of resource economists, Yale’s William Nordhaus, estimates the cost of projected climate change to be $22 trillion. This seems to overstate the bad and ignore much of the good that a slightly warmer, wetter world would bring, but let’s go with it. Al Gore wants us to spend $34 trillion on his lifestyle agenda in order to bring that cost of climate change down to $10 trillion, for a total tab of $44 trillion leaving us precisely twice as bad off as we purportedly would be. Again, this presumes the truth of everything he says and that somehow by reducing Man’s CO2 emissions -- which have risen dramatically in recent years while the planet cools just as dramatically -- would actually make things cooler still.

So one guy advocates burning down your -- our -- house out of precaution given that one day the air conditioning might not work, and wins an Oscar and Nobel; his teenaged groupie gets locked up.

No, he’s not the first one to lose it over “global warming”.…

Understanding Consumer Masquerades

'Are we really happy with
This lonely game we play
Looking for the right words to say
Searching but not finding
Understanding anyway
We’re lost in this masquerade'

- Carpenters; 'This Masquerade'.

When Ameen states, 'The desire to tell or hear lies is not new; it is as old as humanity itself. It would not be wrong to assume that perhaps we started using ‘make up, in its primitive form, around the same time we started checking ourselves out in the water a la Narcissus. Each era has had its own technologies enabling us to carry on a masquerade: in fact it can be argued that as technology progresses the lies keep getting better and more beautiful', he makes a pertinent point.

But then I feel he's just a tad harsh. What he terms as 'chasing the lies' and donning the 'masquerade' is in effect human race's race to realise what they have always had in their heads as better forms of themselves, their 'ideal selves'. Take it a tad further and con…

Its better to be No.1 or 'trip & fall'

By now most people know that Miss Venezuela has been crowned Miss Universe 2008. And that Miss USA tripped and fell, and that its happened now, two years in a row.

But will people remember which of the contestants made it to the final five? Just for the record, that included four from Latin America: Miss Mexico, Miss Dominican Republic, Miss Colombia and Miss Venezuela. Rounding out the final five was Miss Russia. I bet no one's gonna remember the 'final five'. That's one of the immutable laws of Marketing. Its better to be No. 1. No one remembers No.2.

Let me now tweak the law a little. Its better to be No. 1 or even better to trip and fall. 'Cos every one's gonna remember Miss USA just because of that fall. And the poise that continued on her part. She got up and walked on, dignity intact. Now that's something people will speak of. The fall and its aftermath.

If brands don't have a chance in the sun to be No. 1, its better for them to be in the news for …

Contrasting consumer shifts in India

Some consumer shifts that we are now witnessing in India are studies in contrast.

Consider automobiles. The inflationary-rising prices scenario has slowed down sales of mid-segment cars. Mid segment consumers, always watchful of prices are adopting a wait and watch policy. Not so premium consumers. Luxury cars in India are on a roll, unveiling new models and logging in even better sales as compared to the past. BMW, Porsche, Mercedes and Audi have lined up new models for the Indian market. While Audi is launching A4, Porsche will launch 911 Carrera (generation 2), BMW the new-look 5 series and Mercedes the new E class.

Contrast this with the Hospitality industry. Mid-segment hotels have never had it better. In a bid to curtail costs, most Business firms are asking their executives to abandon 5-star hotels and to check into budget/4 & 3 star hotels. Occupancies in the hospitality sector dipping by 8-11% in the quarter ended June. Demand has in fact shifted to mid-market and budget ho…

How to pick a Leader

'Virtue is a suite of values-soaked abilities that in active combination form a person's character and give shape to a life. Our choices and actions both reveal and reinforce our character. You cannot judge whether a person will be a good leader—a good President—without knowing and evaluating his or her character—how life has stamped or marked them...

Let's start with the virtue perhaps most universally acknowledged and admired: courage. In premodern times, the courage of a leader often had to be physical. In the last 500 years it is more often moral. Moral courage is the ability to do what's right even when it is deeply unpopular, even dangerous. Courage is only found where there is the genuine possibility of loss—loss of friends, reputation, status, power, possessions, or, at the extremes, freedom or life.'

- Daniel Taylor & Mark McCloskey, 'How to Pick a President'.

The Coca Cola Index

'AFRICANS buy 36 billion bottles of Coke a year. Because the price is set so low—around 20-30 American cents, less than the price of the average newspaper—and because sales are so minutely analysed by Coca-Cola, the Coke bottle may be one of the continent’s best trackers of stability and prosperity.

At a macro-level, when Coke fails, the country whose market it is trying to penetrate usually fails too. Coca-Cola’s bottling plant in Eritrea hardly works because the country’s totalitarian government makes it impossible to import the needed syrup. The factory in Somalia sputtered on heroically during years of fighting but finally gave out when its sugar was pinched by pirates and its workers were held up by gunmen.'

- Economist; 'Index of happiness?'

Me, fairness cream? Never. Liar!

The risks associated with consumer purchases are varied in their nature. For example, the risks associated could include ones that are financial, technological and even social in nature. The greater the risk in purchase, the higher the consumer involvement with the product.

Karthik Murali makes an interesting observation on Men not desiring fair skin. Ask a man if he seeks to be fair and he answers no. I disagree. And that demonstrates an interesting difference that social risks (the risk associated with the purchase of beauty products) carry vis-a-vis the other types of risks.

Many a times respondents would not be willing to articulate what they want when it comes to products that could otherwise make them socially acceptable. Is fair skin preferred by Indian society, in general? Oh yes! But do people wanna admit to desiring the same? Absolutely not. It almost makes them seem like wimps.

Market Researchers must be careful while probing the need for products that increase social acceptan…

Tata Nano is disruptive social innovation

'That’s disruptive innovation. But I believe it will also turn out to be a disruptive social innovation. At the bottom half of India’s socio-economic pyramid, the Nano flattens the market. Suddenly lower- and middle-class buyers can afford mobility. Shiny new Nanos will literally create opportunities for Indians who previously did not have access to safe, reliable transportation. Mobility will beget upward mobility. For the bottom of the market, the Nano is empowering.

This empowerment will in turn broaden the minds of India’s elite at the skewed top of that pyramid. Let me elaborate a bit.

In business terms, Nano doesn’t directly threaten Mercedes, Audi and Toyota Lexus that cater to the top-of-the-pyramid buyers. But it does affect them. I bet this powerful new product, is already creating insecurity among the users of those luxury cars. How come? Well, visualize this scenario: India’s business execs, politicians, and Bollywood stars, who all ride chauffeured Benzes and Lexuses, w…

Why 'sms' when you can call

Why write when you can talk? Why 'sms' when you can call?
Dropping telecom call tariffs have resulted in sms usage nose-diving. Latest figures released by sector regulator TRAI reveal that customers preference for texting in India has hit an all time low. From accounting for close to 8-9% of the operators’ revenues at one point, texting now provides GSM players with 4.3% of their total revenues, while for CDMA operators, it is a mere 1.8%. According to TRAI, the average number of SMSes that customers sent has fallen by 7% for GSM and 6% for CDMA operators during the last quarter. An average GSM user sent about 26 SMSes a month in the quarter ended March 08, compared to 28 SMSes a month in the previous quarter (Oct-Dec 07), 32 a month in the July-Sept quarter, 35 in the April-June quarter, 39 in the Jan-March quarter and 48 in Oct-Dec 06 quarter, TRAI said.

No place for Sachin in Youngistaan makes good financial sense

Don't be so shocked. Its always the cost-benefit analysis that makes supreme sense in business. Sachin at Rs. 4-5 crore vs. the impact on brand Pepsi, vis-a-vis cheaper alternatives like Rohit Sharma and Ishant Sharma and their impact, and you can fathom why the pendulum's swung the way it has.

Still surprised?

As to Dhoni complaining about being overworked, for crying out loud, this is a country of a billion people that also has extremely talented cricketers waiting in the wings to play for the country.

Create a second Indian team and send them out to play. Pronto!

'Ay, there's the rub'

The bigger tragedy of Indian Business education is not Private schools charging outrageous fees but government backed schools using tax payer money to build infrastructure in the name of accommodating additional students under the OBC quota. Take IIM B for example. 114 crores to accommodate 130 students; that's almost a crore to a student.In the case of the former, the consumer has the right to reject the offer price, for the latter, the taxpayer has no choice, at least not directly, on how funds are allocated and managed to such government backed business schools.

Wanna sell a toy? Talk to a child!

Most people don't get it. To get consumers to buy, either you need to know what is it that they want, or you need to pre-empt what they may want and then give it to them. Its about being either 'market driven' or about 'driving markets'. What some people 'don't get' is that consumers don't want to buy what these people want them to buy. I mean, its not about what I want to sell; its about what the consumer wants to buy. I can try and sell him whatever I want to, just that, he will not bite. He will, only if he NEEDS whatever I am selling.Now that's a lesson the IITs have to learn. It seems that as a part a tripartite agreement between the Toy Association of India (TAI), the IITs in Delhi and Mumbai and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), students at the IITs are conceptualising and designing a whole range of playthings, traditional and contemporary. Well, nothing wrong about that except, that, their 'toy ideas'…

To counter or not to, 'tis the question

That depends upon the number of fence sitters.

Let me explain. Obama has unveiled his first national ad. that features him as someone who worked his way through college, fights for American jobs, and battles for health care. The communique' also seeks to move him to the center by taking credit for welfare reform in Illinois which, the ad proclaims, reduced the rolls by 80%.

As Dick Morris and Eileen McGann explain, much of what is said in the Ad. is just not true, in fact they are gross exaggerations. The question that looms large for McCain is, should he seize this 'opening' and counter attack with communiques that 'expose' the exaggerations?

The answer, YES, simply because there are too many fence sitters in the US still undecided about who they will vote for. And they are eager recipients to information emanating from both campaigns. In the end they will weigh what they know and then decide who to vote for. McCain's counter communiques can sway them by exposin…

Discounting to hasten spending

With inflation climbing, consumer consumption has slackened. Curtailed consumption leads to product stocks piling within retail stores and factories. Inventory holding sends costs spiralling upwards. The only way out is to 'pull' consumers into spending. That almost seems impossible considering the times. The only lure they may succumb to is discounts.

In India, weak consumer sentiment has prompted retailers to declare ‘early sale’. Makers of branded clothes, shoes, kidswear, electronics, leather goods and toys are going on a sale frenzy, offering discounts ranging from 10-70% on their products. The forecast is, there will be more of the same in the coming days. Since marketers are aware how an average customer behaves during a slowdown, they are trying to make them enter their stores through high-decibel ads and promos. However, it’s only the mid- to premium brands that suffer during a slowdown. The super-premium and luxury brands are not impacted much as their target customer…

Rafa has Risen

The Federer era at wimbledon seems to be over.

Rafael Nadal held off an incredible fightback from Roger Federer to win his first Wimbledon title and end the Swiss star's reign at the All England Club.

Read more here.


The price of Freedom

'This Fourth of July, two nations will take a holiday: an intelligentsia that despises, mocks or pities the "losers" in uniform - and the other America, which didn't go to Harvard, but whose sons and daughters ensure that We, the People, continue to live in freedom.

I don't think Lt. Burks would want you to mourn him at your holiday barbecue. I'd bet he'd rather have you enjoy everything his sacrifice preserved.'

- Ralph Peters, 'Price of Freedom'.

Know him? Bet you do...

'How foolish we were. As soon as we had had our ‘continental’ dinner, this man proceeded to attire himself for a comfortable night of rest by first producing his pajamas from his suitcase (to do which he jammed the suitcase between the two of us), then waving these pajamas in our faces as he unfolded and aired them, and lastly wrapping a towel around his waist and artfully wriggling out of his trousers and donning the pajamas. His wife kept her head buried in a magazine through the entire operation and did not seem to mind at all our fascinated observation of this ritual.

The reason this behavior seems tame in retrospect is that its effect could not compare at all with our experience the next morning when the whole operation was performed in reverse. Having clean pajamas shaken out in one’s face is one thing. But being fanned by pajamas that have spent the night ensconcing their owner is an altogether different shock. No wonder the wife this time gave us a brief apologetic smile be…

The 'Left' is NOT 'right'!

So who's having the last laugh, Mr. Ajaz Ashraf?
When you state, 'Manmohan's sensitivity to image neatly dovetails with his newly imbibed zeal to have posterity remember him. Perhaps the people to blame for this are those who frequent India International Centre—the deracinated writers of the English language press, and spin doctors who masquerade as policy wonks. It's they who never tire of cautioning him against history's harsh judgement, and who keep egging him on to sacrifice the UPA for the "historic deal" so that he could surpass his ineffable role as finance minister more than a decade ago. They harp: is a year of governance worth more than the nuclear deal? And so, you have it again—forget the footsoldier, let the party face the mid-term poll'; you forget the cardinal rule of politics, that anything is possible.No mid-term polls looming, for the moment. In fact everything seems to point to governance preserved, plus the nuclear deal in the bag. …

Street Theatre: Brand on the street

Most marketing communiques are doomed from the start. In almost all my classes, when I've asked students to name commercials they remember from their favourite program on TV, most can't. And that's pretty much normal, for people, in general.

Why people can't remember is 'cos the communique' never caught their attention, leave alone get them interested. To try and reverse this worrying response on part of the consumer, marketers are looking at varied ways, to communicate; in a manner that can hold the recipient's attention and get him interested. One such way is the use of street theatre.
Street theatre is increasingly emerging as a cost-effective medium for brand promotions; it creates a buzz around brands by getting people to talk about them. To promote a new range of munchies, Pepsi Foods India Pvt. Ltd hired actors who would burst into flames in the middle of a crowded street when they ate the snack. The campaign won a Gold Lion at Cannes. Consumer product…


'The causes of this paralysis are clear. Action entails risks and consequences. Mere thinking doesn't. In our litigious society, as soon as someone finally does something, someone else can become wealthy by finding some fault in it. Meanwhile a less fussy, more confident world abroad drills, and builds nuclear plants, refineries, dams and canals to feed and fuel millions who want what we take for granted.

In our present comfort, Americans don't seem to understand nature. We believe that our climate-controlled homes, comfortable offices and easy air and car travel are just like grass or trees; apparently they should sprout up on their own for our benefit.

Americans also harp about the faults of prior generations. We would never make their blunders -- even as we don't seem to mind using the power plants, bridges and buildings that they handed down to us.

Finally, high technology and the good life have turned us into utopians, fussy perfectionists who demand heaven on earth.…

Are you getting paid enough?

John Stacey Adam's Equity theory on Job motivation helps us understand why an individual's assessment and perception of their relationship with their work, and thereby their employer extends beyond their individual self to incorporate influence and comparison of other people's situations - for example colleagues and friends, to theirs. This act of comparison prompts the individual to form perceptions of Equity, which commonly manifests as a sense of what is fair.
This means, what's fair is not just what I get vis-a-vis what I put in, as effort, but what my colleague gets, for what he/she put in, as his/her effort. The equity theory forms the back drop to's latest radio spot, which I first heard on Bangalore's English FM channel. Shine is the latest Job site on scene. The radio commercial goes on to urge employees not to compare salaries (of course, that can't ever happen), but to log on to Shine's site and use the salary tool to 'take a loo…

Kaun khayega Kellogg's?

The lesson to be learnt to tap Indian mass markets is the lesson of localisation. The exact opposite is what cuts ice when the target is the snobbishly rich niche. Localise at your peril. In fact localised products in all probability may even be shunned. The rich niche would have nothing of it.

Kellogg's is now playing the mass game to script in India, after its initial travails in the Indian urban mass market space. Kellogg India's experiments with localisation are now paying off, with localised variants such as mango and honey and the low-priced KPak bringing in volumes. The Indian subsidiary is now among the fastest growing markets for the $12-billion US-based Kellogg's though its contribution to the company’s global sales remains marginal.

Forthcoming expansion plans would include identifying gaps in healthy food consumption and segmenting the ready-to-eat cereal category, a recent example being that of Special K, a weight management cereal aimed at women and also Kellog…

'Slow and steady' for Premium services is the way to go

Any offer that has a premium positioning to it must take the growth curve carefully and maybe even at a lesser pace. Else there's a high risk of saturation, and what's worse is the risk of diluting the brand's premium appeal. What can go on to sound the death knell is a state of recession where consumers pull the plug on their premium purchases. The mass products thankfully survive as consumers can't do without them.

Take Starbucks for example, which now has had to take the extreme step of shutting down 600 of its stores in the US. Analysts point out that much of the pain Starbucks is suffering was self inflicted. The Cafe barnd is now recognising that the growth drive it embarked on was excessive and so has had to pay the price.

What's compounded Starbucks' problem is the US economy souring, job losses mounting, wages stagnating, house prices dropping sharply, stock portfolios taking a beating and gas prices surging. Add to that McDonald's Corp. entering the…

The pricing flaw in IIM-A PG program fee

Imagine charging a lower rate when the consumer is ready to buy it at more than twice the present price!

Forget the controversy. There was absolutely no pricing/marketing logic in having charged a fee of Rs. 4.5 lakh for the IIM-A PG program when a year later at Rs. 11.50 lakh the demand's not dipped a bit! Access to funds to pursue the program, even for students from financially challenged backgrounds has never been a problem.

What now needs to be contemplated is whether the present fee is the optimal one, at which both the seller and buyer agree to the trade. After all, isn't that what business is all about, at least at a Business School? Remember Friedman?

'The discussions of the "social responsibili­ties of business" are notable for their analytical looseness and lack of rigor. What does it mean to say that "business" has responsibilities? Only people can have responsibilities. A corporation is an artificial person and in this sense may have artificial…

Why ayurveda in Kerala should remain exclusivist

The practices and traditions of Ayurveda are steeped in Kerala's cultural history. Ayurveda hasn't been commercialised the way other 'wellness' movements have been. Partly because Ayurveda has had most of its Marketing Ps mismanaged, thus dictating the state it is in, at the moment.

The organised 'Ayurveda Industry' in Kerala, worth 600 crores, is now beginning to attract the likes of organised Retail giants in India. Joining the fray include Reliance Retail, through its Reliance Wellness unit, Hindustan Unilever Ltd’s (HUL’s) Ayush and Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd with its Tulsi brand of Ayurveda drugs and health centres. In response to newcomer threats, Kerala’s organized Ayurveda industry is embarking on an expansion and quality improvement drive as it braces to compete.

A group of 15 Ayurveda firms in Kerala are trying to reinforce the strength of their traditional knowledge of the “science of life” with the marketing muscle needed to take it to potential con…

The brand in a child's world

Children, and so as to not generalise may I say urban children, are more indoors today in India than outdoors. And so yes, as PVNarayanamoorthy states, avenues that give life to a child's curiosity, his desire for role play, his imagination, fantasy and his patterns of involvement have definitely changed. The child's exposure to the 'virtual world' is today more acute than his exposure to the 'real' one.
For marketers to engage with such children requires them to enter into this world of theirs. PVN is right when he states, 'A fundamental truth of targeting the kid market is the need to keep them engaged. Children have more intense, but shorter attention spans. To keep them involved with brands can be a challenging task. Many brands today use children as a hook. The principle is to hook the child first, then use the child to influence the parent.'The specific case that he quotes shows how this was done. The brand in question tapped into two emerging tren…