Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from August, 2008

The good & bad of a cheaper iPhone in India

The good news is, the iPhone may drop prices by 15%. That's bad news for the ones who queued up and bought it after the iPhone launch last week, at the original price. The good news is there's not too many who queued up. And so there won't be the kind of outcry we saw in the US from hordes of first-buyers. The bad news is, if consumers were to now suspect the drop in prices in India, sales at current prices will come to a stand still. The good news is hopefully that would just be a brief lull, before queues start getting longer as the iPhone will peddle at a lower price.

Lets wait and watch.

Clothes maketh the (wo)man

'In corporate India, however, few wear Indian clothes. Just as English has become the linguafranca of global business, I think Western attire will soon be its sartorial equivalent. Most of the young executives I meet, both men and women, wear a shirt and pants. This is sad, for many reasons. Homogeneity in clothing is not just boring but also doesn’t reflect our rich culture and textile traditions. If we Indians start wearing Western clothes all the time, how are we different from the faceless Chinese businesswoman who wears dark suits and changes her name from Su-yan to Susan?'

- ShobaNarayan,'Save Indian clothing, wear a kurta to office'.

Ship out or Shut down!

When Barack Obama says 'Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America', he is unveiling his plan for business disaster in America.

As corporations around the world seek greater efficiencies through location economies, Barack spells out his plans to increase their costs of operation.

Sure don't ship jobs overseas, keep 'em. Soon you won't be shippin' anything. 'Cos you would be shutting down!

Building Bangalore

'For these men who have come to build Bangalore from faraway Orissa, Bihar, Rajasthan or UP, the green does not exist and leisure is unheard of. They have blinkered paths, and they are well conditioned to take them each morning and tread back in the twilight hour. Nobody in this herd strays. There are also old men in this herd. Clearly past 60, frail-looking, I see the young men humouring them and they too build sturdy structures to house rich businesses. This image has no concrete associations in my mind, but sometimes when I am feeling low, my mind goes blank with yellow and I know what it is.'

- Sugata Srinivasaraju, 'Three Moving Images'.

Sarah Palin and a lesson in Marketing Communication

When Yves Behar says, 'Advertising is the price companies pay for being un-original..' he has a point. Its the same, when Seth Godin says that your product must be 'remarkable', i.e., worth making a remark about.

At the moment the one the remarks are all about is Sarah Palin. And the noise is so loud (from cheers to the liberal wails) that its silenced the 'Rockstar' convention at Denver. Sarah Palin may be an unknown. But give it a few days. With absolutely zero marketing communication she will be the talk of the town. All carried by media vehicles around the world, more so in the United States. Every major media house, print or broadcast is today talking more about Sarah than anything else. Obama has had his 'empty thunder' stolen from under his very nose.
No brand's ever shocked as much as Sarah in recent times. McCain's bold gamble is a perfect lesson for marketers wanting to take the Publicity route rather than the advertising one. The recipe…

The Lab recipe in conjuring creativity

Creativeland Asia's foray into Kochi sees them setting up India's first creative laboratory for communication, brand and marketing ideas. I guess, its India's first 'Idea shop'. The CLA Lab is something akin to what Nike calls 'Innovation Kitchen'. Nike Inc.'s Innovation Kitchen is a throwback to the company's earliest days. Located on the ground floor of the Mia Hamm building on Nike's 175-acre headquarters campus in Beaverton, Ore., the Kitchen is where Nike cooked up the shoes that made it the star of the $35 billion athletic footwear industry. In this think tank for sneakers, designers find inspiration in everything from Irish architecture to the curving lines of a Stradivarius violin. One wall displays models of every Air Jordan ever made, while low-rise cubicles are littered with sketches of new shoes. The Kitchen is off limits to most visitors and even to most Nike employees. The sign on the door says, only half in jest: "Nobody gets…

Rhetoric

'Obama's rhetorical extravagances are inversely proportional to his details, as when he promises "nothing less than a complete transformation of our economy" in order to "end the age of oil." The diminished enthusiasm of some voters hitherto receptive to his appeals might have something to do with the seepage of reality from his rhetoric. Voters understand that neither the "transformation" nor the "end" will or should occur. His dreamy certitude that "alternative" fuels will quickly become real alternatives is an energy policy akin to an old vaudeville joke: "If we had some eggs, we could have ham and eggs, if we had some ham." '

- George Will; 'The Devil in His Details'.

Why are all Indian boxers from Bhiwani?

When Economist Alfred Marshall talked about why certain occupations and industries tend to cluster in a particular town it helped us understand how certain places over a period of time turn into 'competency belts' for certain sorts of work. This applies to sports too. Now we know that almost everyone in Bhiwani is into boxing (yeah, that's close to an exaggeration). After all, didn't Akhil Kumar, Vijender Kumar and Jitendra Kumar all come from Bhiwani? Extend that to the Olympics. HT Mint reports that if we were to 'look at how the top teams collected their Olympic medals, one would have thought that sporting superpowers such as the US, China and Russia would have had their medals evenly spread around all types of sports. That is not so. The US picked up a total of 110 medals in Beijing. Sixty of them came from athletics and swimming (the latter no doubt helped by a man called Michael Phelps). Thirty-five of Russia’s 72 medals came from athletics, weightlifting and…

The reality check of 'Necessities'

This is so much a 'reality check'.

As we ponder over brands and their relevance to consumers, in another part of our very own world riots erupt over 'necessities'. The world of brands doesn't even exist in such places.

FE reports that 'food riots erupted on Wednesday in eastern India, where more than two million people have been forced from their homes and about 250,000 houses destroyed in what officials say are the worst floods in 50 years. One person was killed in Madhepura district when angry villagers fought among themselves over limited supplies of food and medicines at overcrowded relief centres.'

As metropolitan India considers brand choices, it is well to remember, for many others, its a stark choice that faces them. A choice between life and death.

Sure, I'll 'Be mOre', but where's the discount?

When PiyushPandey attributes the Titan commercial campaign theme of 'Be More' to the brand being 'confident' about urging consumers to live their dreams, I have to chuckle. What he means is, if a brand weren't as confident as lets say, Titan, it would harp on features and other benefits (read, focus on product) and not take on a 'focus on insight' route.But then, what Titan does is what any brand that positions itself as not being a 'functional' product, must do. Every time a lifestyle brand tries to differentiate based on features, it does itself a disservice, as that in itself is never good enough as a 'differential'. Plus it takes no time for a competitor to imitate that very same features. Life style products must pitch themselves as unique, on emotional factors rather than rational ones. Plus every time a brand communicates to its audience on the Idiot Box it must know that all consumer learning would be passive and therefore a lecture …

Is Durable Consumption up or down?

As government numbers claim that Indian consumers are spending more on consumer durables, the industry isn't too pleased. They claim that the first three months of fiscal 2008-09, the period ended June, have been “sluggish” as inflation and interest rates rose.

HT Mint reports that this 'seeming disconnect between the numbers and the logic behind them, on the one side, and the actual performance of the industry, on the other, could mean one of three things: that the data is flawed; that the volume of consumer durables in trade channels has increased significantly without translating into any rise in sales, with manufacturers probably preparing for a coming spike in demand; or that consumer durable makers are facing the same kind of problems other producers are—higher raw material costs, tighter consumer credit—and are equating these with “sluggishness” in the market while, in reality, demand and sales haverisen.'

Read the complete story here.

Politics of Control

'When we hear about rent control or gun control, we may think about rent or guns but the word that really matters is "control." That is what the political left is all about, as you can see by the incessant creation of new restrictions in places where they are strongly entrenched in power, such as San Francisco or New York...

G.K Chesterton said: "I defy anybody to say what are the rights of a citizen, if they do not include the control of his own diet in relation to his own health." But California citizens and citizens of New York City have tamely accepted their politicians' decisions to forbid restaurants to serve certain foods, even when citizens want thosefoods.'

- Thomas Sowell, 'Random Thoughts'.

Winning is Marketing

I said this before. Then it was hockey ('How Zero Marketing can revive Indian hockey'). That the only way to get the businesses to park their money in hockey is by getting viewers to stay glued to hockey matches on TV. And the only way to get viewers to do that is by getting India to win at hockey.

That was then. This is now.

ET reports that, 'thanks to India’s best-ever showing at Olympics, the closing ceremony of Beijing 2008 was a blockbuster hit with Indian TV audiences. According to data from TV viewership measurement agency Audience Map (aMap), the extravaganza unfolding at Beijing’s national stadium was watched by about 30-million viewers on TV all over India (Cable & Satellite, 4+ years audience), much more than the 24-million viewers who watched the Indian Premier League final and the 26-million viewers who watched the T20 World Cup Final 2007.'

Among others (I wonder what?), one of the reasons why Indians take to a boring sport like cricket is 'cos that&…

Movie viewing in times of misery

Economic slowdowns see consumers cutting back on non-essential expenditures. But in India, and around the world such cut-backs have not affected silver screen fortunes. That is, consumers have not cut back on their movie outings. In fact collections at the box office have seen record highs during periods of slowdown. Take now for example. Talking box-office figures, already four films in India, Jodha Akbar, Race, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Naa and Singh is Kinng, have done a business of over Rs 100 crore this year and this weekend saw two more films, Mumbai Meri Jaan and Phoonk, emerging as potential hits with an impressive opening. How strange. Does it have anything to do with us trying the silver screen fantasy as an escapist route? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe its just that great movies release at such times. Blame it on coincidences.Whatever; I am glad that at times even Bollywood has its takers. Else it would be such a pity.

Olympics help shrug off 'Country of Origin' effects

For the 'country of origin' effect to work in a country's favour, after years of negative association, the country will have to pull off, at a macro level, something that gets the rest of the world to sit up and take notice and for all the right reasons.

And that's exactly what China has managed to pull off. Even though the Olympics has had negligible direct impact on China's economy, analysts say, the near flawless organisation of the Games was a priceless 17-day advertisement for the "Made in China" brand. AFP reports that billions of television viewers saw athletes performing in gleaming high-tech stadiums in a city rebuilt by some of the world's most renowned architects, projecting the image of a modern and cutting edge economy.

For a country traditionally seen as a low-cost manufacturing hub which had been damaged by scandals over shoddily made toys sent to the United States and spoiled food shipped to Japan, the Olympics was a timely re-branding e…

The 'perfect flaw' in China's Olympics

Advertisers while crafting communiques for their intended consumer segments can either make it a 'one-sided' or a 'two-sided' message. A one-sided message presents only positive attributes or benefits of the brand in question. This sorta message works when the audience already holds a favourable opinion about the brand.
A two-sided message on other hand presents both good and bad points. This works with audiences that consist of highly educated consumers or ones hold opposing opinions. Two sided messages at times enhance the credibility of the source and will therefore seem more believable.As the world fawns over China's perfect conduct of the Olympics, I remain as skeptical as ever. That's cause its a two sided message that works for me. Anything that's perfect doesn't catch my fancy. And the Olympics have been 'perfectly one-sided'. The perfection displayed is almost eerie, a sure testimony to how iron-fistedly-controlled the whole sham must ha…

Janmashtami at Alliance

The Janmashtami celebrations at Alliance are a reflection of what's unique to the school. Extremely talented and creative students who can whip up fun and fervour at the shortest of notices, and the incredible diversity of the student body. Students from different parts of the country come together to study and to celebrate. Cheers to 'em.Janmashtami Wishes. :)

Apple iPhone scores on 'Attitude toward Object', fails on 'Attitude toward Behaviour'

Studying consumer attitudes toward brands is of paramount important because that's what comes closest to revealing if a consumer intends to buy the brand in question. But even within the study of attributes, its important to ascertain the implications of 'attitude towards object' vis-a-vis 'attitudes towards behavior'.

the Attitude toward object model is suitable for measuring attitude towards a product category or specific brands. According to this model, the consumer's attitude toward a product/brand is a function of the presence (or absence) and evaluation of certain product-specific beliefs and/or attributes.

Now this where the Apple iPhone scores. The attitude toward the object (read, Apple iPhone) is pretty positive. That explains the number that turned up at various launches of the phone across the country. But then the dampener. Not many buyers. And that's explained by the 'Attitude toward behaviour' model.

This model is designed to capture th…

Who decides prices?

'How can it be that people with postgraduate degrees, people backed by the power of government and drawing on experts of all sorts, failed to do as well as masses of people of the sort routinely disdained by intellectuals?

What could be the reason? And does that reason apply in other contexts besides the economy?

One easy to understand reason is that central planners in the days of the Soviet Union had to set over 24 million prices. Nobody is capable of setting and changing 24 million prices in a way that will direct resources and output in an efficient manner.

For that, each of the 24 million prices would have to be weighed and set against each of the other 24 million prices. in order to provide incentives for resources to go where they were most in demand by producers and output to go where it was most in demand by consumers.
In a market economy, however, nobody has to take on such an impossible task. Each producer and each consumer need only be concerned with the relatively few p…

Will iPhone cross the 'chasm' in India?

If the iPhone does not change its current 'act' in India, it faces what Geoffrey Moore termed as the 'Chasm', and in all probability may even fall into it.
For an Innovation to be adopted by the mass, the product has to successfully negotiate the chasm and get beyond. Mass consumers aren't the ones to tolerate what Innovators and Early adapters don't mind. Take the iPhone in India for example.Its launch has had Swati waiting at the Sahara Mall in Guragaon since 7 pm yesterday evening, so that she could be amongst the first ones to get it. And she did; she was the first in line. But then the lines weren't as long as the ones we saw elsewhere in the world. Me for one, was safely tucked in bed, when the phone released late last night in Bangalore. I guess, there were many like me who preferred sleep. And our reason's pretty simple. At Rs. 31,000, its a non-buy. Apple, to get the likes of me (read, the mass consumer), has to lower prices.Activating the iPhon…

The difference between what consumers say & what they want

There's a world of a difference between what I want to know and what YOU want to tell me. Plus you need to know, that at times, what I tell you is not necessarily what I want.

The issue here?
Calorie counts. The state Assembly in California is considering a bill, already approved by the state Senate, that would make California the first state to impose a menu mandate that forces restaurant chains to display calorie numbers on their menus and menu boards. Why this mandate? Because in a 2007 survey of California voters, 84 percent said they thought the government should force restaurant chains to display calorie numbers on their menus and menu boards.
Now comes the interesting part. Even though voters said they wanted this menu mandate, the reality is that when researchers asked about 7,300 customers at fast food restaurants in the city of New York whether they had seen and made use of nutritional information, which is typically displayed on posters, brochures, tray liners or counter …

The flaw in Dual Pricing

Surely, those rooting for dual pricing can learn something from the market differentiation that was tried for kerosene — one price for that supplied through ration shops, and another for the open market. When there were leakages from the first to the second (as a school student would have forecast), the subsidised kerosene was given a special colouring but that seemed to make little difference. Even in the case of cooking gas, it is well known that many subsidised gas cylinders meant for the home market end up in the commercial market.

The obvious question is why the government thinks that dual pricing and segmented markets will work in the case of diesel. Bear in mind that a substantial part of the diesel sold in the country is already adulterated with kerosene, and that a great deal of the petrol too is adulterated (remember the ad campaign by an oil marketing company, guaranteeing pure fuel at select petrol pumps). In a market prone to such rackets, dual pricing is something that sh…

Ford Flex and the 'consideration' problem

The worst that can happen to a brand is when it isn't part of a consumer's consideration set. Its even more problematic for the brand should it fall into the high involvement category. Most low involvementpurchases have consumers 'considering' the brand as and when they come face to face with it on a store shelf, even though they may not have 'considered' it outside of the store.

The 'consideration' problem is what American Auto companies face in the United States. Though Ford, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC have improved the quality, look and feel of their vehicles, many Americans have simply written them off and won't consider buying anything they make, especially in urban, coastal markets where Detroit auto makers long ago lost their allure.

Now Ford Motor Corp. intends to be firmly back into 'consideration', through the launch of Flex, its newest model, a boxy, seven-passenger wagon. The unusual design of the Flex, which has just st…

Can DNA get its Bangalore code right?

DNA, a start-up from Diligent Media Corp., (a 50:50 joint venture between the Essel Group, the company behind Zee group, one of the largest broadcast networks, and the Bhaskar Group, the publisher of India’s second most-read Hindi daily, DainikBhaskar) is planning to hit Bangalore with its English Daily by the end of the year.

I say, its about time.

DNA's target; a circulation 300,000. That's ambitious considering its 650,000 copies of English newspapers currently sold each day by all other papers combined, in Bangalore. The IT city ranks third behind Mumbai and Delhi in circulation figures and the Ad spend in Print Advertising is pegged around Rs. 500 crores.

For the moment, TOIis the undisputed leader, but in a climate of high fatigue with the TOI amongst readers, the time's ripe for a competitor to step in. If DNA gets its content and distribution right, it will pose a serious challenge to the leader, TOI. Maybe we will even see a drop in prices.

About time, I repeat.

Prime time News of Prime time buffoonery?

Its rare that one gets to hear about the happenings in an asinine reality show, on Prime Time News broadcast (Or am I mistaken?). But then, yesterday, I did.

Jane Goody, part of Bigg Boss 2 (who watches this stuff?), has had to leave as she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. According to the news report she had to leave (for treatment) as early as in the second episode of the show and now I know that she has left after creating a good impression among her mates.

Well, what can I say? I guess I am better informed now that I know what I know. Just that I feel a little more stupider than usual. Wonder why?

Will Net telephony change the way Indians communicate?

The implications of Net Telephony on the way users communicate in India will be felt and understood in the coming days. There may not be a sudden dip in use of mobile communication at least for the moment as using Net telephony would require the necessary hardware (PC penetration presently at a meagre 3.6% in India), a connection and of course, it implies that you can't be mobile (oh, yes, there's a way around that too).

In spite of these limitations, Net telephony will have a surge of takers as soon as it comes through. What may save the Telecom companies form being hit hard is the fact almost all of them, in India are ISPs too.

The cost benefits that Indian consumers will derive through Net Telephony is stupendous. They will soon be able to make STD calls as cheap as 10-40 paise and possibly make free local calls from their computers.

The Systems Dilemma

Our weekly Sunday grocery shopping at the Spar Hypermarket saw a change yesterday. As we needed to browse stores at MG Road (Bangalore), we decided to shop at the Spencer's store. Our shopping at Spencer's went a long way in reaffirming our steadfast admiration for Spar, as our Spencer's experience was terrible, to say the least.

From store personnel stacking shelves to littered aisles with 'to be stacked products' to wilted vegetables, the list of what retail stores must never be, seemed endless. I wonder how a store that does so badly on a Retail experience can even hope to survive.

But then I mustn't be shocked. I must count Spar among the few blessings that I can enjoy while going shopping and be content. Messing up on Customer experiences is not limited to the likes of Spencer's. It even afflicts the likes of the iconic Starbucks.

Consider Joel Spolsky's experience at a Starbucks store. In his article, titled, 'How Hard Could It Be?: Good System, …

Dude, Where's my car?

One trait that most consumers share is the 'need for uniqueness'. In whatever ways possible most consumers try and be different from the crowd. Its just that, at times when it requires deep pockets for that unique identity, the 'desire' is abandoned. Not so for the ones with the moolah.

Take for example, the desire to possess automobiles that have a unique look of their own. This 'desire' has now driven up the 'car customisation industry' in India to nearly Rs 300 crore. The entire new vibrant hot rod, street rod and muscle car culture has seen a gradual upswing in the country.

For the uninitiated, hot rods and street rods are chromed-up cars with bigger and more powerful engines, which follow styles that were popular from the 1940s through the 1960s. On the other hand, muscle cars sport powerful engines, which were produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s for both street use and racing.

ET reports that Car customisation studios across India have already…

Focus, your worth depends on it!

As much as this is about K Prasanna, a 22-year-old final-year student of a rural college in Tamil Nadu, its also about why students who aren't in top rung institutions and who think that's the end of world must now have a change in mindset.

K Prasanna, student of Kongu Engineering College, Perundurai, has been offered a package of $92,000 per year, by none other than the iconic auto giant Rolls-Royce . This pay package tops even that of IIT Madras, where the highest offer of $90,000 was made by German oilfield services provider Schlumberger last December.

Two interesting points to note.

One, Prasanna had failed to get through any of the campus interviews conducted by software companies this year. Not surprising as writing code is not his cup of tea. “Research and development is my interest area and some day I would like to take up teaching,” he says; adding, this Rolls-Royce offer is an opportunity to improve his knowledge in the field of engines, fuels and combustion.

Two, Prasan…

Night

'And I who believe that God is love, what answer could I give my young questioner, whose dark eyes still held the reflection of that angelic sadness which had appeared one day upon the face of the hanged child? What did I say to him? Did I speak of that other Jew, his brother who may have resembled him - the Crucified, whose Cross had conquered the world? Did I affirm that the stumbling block to his faith was the cornerstone of mine, and that the conformity between the Cross and the suffering of men was in my eyes the key to that impenetrable mystery whereon the faith of his childhood had perished? Zion, however, has risen from the crematories and the charnel houses. The Jewish nation has been resurrected from among its thousands of dead. It is through them that it lives again. We do not know the worth of one single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Eternal is the Eternal, the last word of each one of us belongs to him. This is what I should have told this Jewis…

Usain Bolts to World record

Usain Bolt won the Beijing Olympics 100 meters gold medal in a world-record 9.69 seconds, gesturing to the crowd and slapping his chest before crossing the line.

Bolt, a 200-meter specialist nicknamed ``Lightning,'' finished 0.2 second ahead of Trinidad's Richard Thompson at the Bird's Nest stadium. Walter Dix of the U.S. took bronze in 9.91. Fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell was fifth, while Tyson Gay of the U.S. failed to qualify for the final of track's premier event.

Akshay is King!

Rarely does a single brand appeal across consumer segments. In fact it is even advocated that a brand not try and be everything to everyone.

Now here's a brand that's managed to do that, and do that extremely well. Hail AkshayKumar, the new 'king' of Bollywood. With net earnings of Rs 29 crore in the first weekend (source: boxofficeindia.com), his film, 'Singh is King' looks set to become the biggest blockbuster of recent times, having already wiped out the first weekend record of Rs 26 crore set by Om Shanti Om last year.

What makes Akshay unique is his appeal across the movie going public. 'Singh is King' is a hit across the spectrum—from mofussil towns to urban multiplexes, all the way to NRI settlements abroad. Last heard, it was smashing all records in Pakistan too. As if this were not enough, the annoyingly catchy songs, especially Jeekarda, are constantly playing on a radio or mobile near you.

Well, its time Akshay got his due.

Hail the King!

Facebook is crowned No. 1

Facebook has now been crowned the No. 1 Social networking site. The social network site has vaulted over rival MySpace in worldwide audience growth, thanks to tools that translate content into many languages.

Read the complete storyhere.

Packaging can't change perceptions, it can build one

Unlike what ET proclaims, 'Good packaging can change consumer perception', packaging can only help, one, get the positive perceptions to be formed and two, as a stimuli arrest consumer attention,. which is the first step to forming perceptions.

I can't think of brands where consumers have changed already formed perceptions about it, just because there was a change in packaging. Perceptions are changed only if the brand as a whole can work on a new identity. That includes change in packaging in addition to changes to the other identifiable characteristics of the brand.

ET reports that, 'smaller manufacturing companies, that include private labels, have taken to innovative packaging to hit their target consumers. Dadima’s Magic mango pickle, ITS fruit tomato ketchup, MehekDehradoonBasmati, 24 Letter Mantra and Bread & More are some of the products available in shops with good packaging motifs.' The efforts that these companies are putting in to get their packaging …

What's it worth?

'In a market, prices are determined by demand and supply and not by intrinsic worth of commodities. So air, which is vital for life, without which we will perish in minutes, is free, but gold is precious. A teacher commands a price of few thousand, whose role in character and nation building is immense, but an actor a few crores. Price assigns an artificial sense of ‘worth’ or ‘value’ to a commodity that confuses our discriminatory faculty and obfuscates the truth. In the words of Mexican poet Octavio Paz, “Market reduces ideas, feelings, art, love, friendship and people themselves to consumer products. Everything becomes a thing to be bought, used and then thrown in the rubbish dump.” '

- ShashiRanjanKumar; 'That invisible hand of God'.

Celebrating Freedom

Happy Independence Day; August 15

How much is too much, or too little?

As much as 'in-sight' is advocated (out of sight, out of mind); out of sight is sometimes a necessity, if you need to keep the cult-like adulation going. That's Obama's dilemma for the moment. He has only a finite time to make maximum impact, and in making the best out of what's available, his persona has experienced what can only be termed overexposure. And that's take the sheen off his image. As Thomas Sowell remarks, 'Despite an impressive political machine and a huge image makeover this year to turn a decades-long, divisive grievance-promoting activist into someone who is supposed to unite us all and lead us into the promised land of "change," little glimpses of the truth keep coming out.

The elitist sneers at people who believe in religion and who own guns, the Americans who don't speak foreign languages and the views of the "typical white person," are all like rays of light that show through the cracks in Obama's carefully c…

Pssstt......

I agree. Negative Ads work; but there's more to read into it.Sure, equating Barack Obama with Paris Hilton has hit home. And sure, people on the face will tell you that they are not swayed, though they actually are. But look more carefully and you will see that in most cases Negative Ads are devastating when its about a real, living person. Associate the negative message with an inanimate object, a product or service brand, the effect though debilitating, may not be as destructive. That's because we are swayed more by what we know about people. Guess why gossip's almost always about someone? Our morbid fascination for the frailties of others may even at times get us to gloat within, though on the outside we'd be excelling at commiserations.In the case of Barack Obama-Paris Hilton association, the Ad crystallized voters’ opinions without presenting any new information. Its worked.

Hold that endorsement horse

The 'world of business opportunity' that has opened up with Abhinav Bindra winning India's first individual Olympic Gold medal, needs to be tread carefully, more so by Marketers.

Abhinav has only been associated with two Business groups, namely, Samsung and the Sahara group. Samsung India Joint Managing Director Ravinder Zutshi, now tells us that Abhinav was part of the Samsung's six Olympic Ratnas. I'd be a little more careful about branding Abhinav as a Samsung Ratna, 'cos, as Milkha Singh proposes, its now more about a Bharat Ratna. Note, that's a country's adoration coming through. Brands in such scenarios need to be careful sneaking in.

Plus, amidst all the endorsement din, as Latika Khaneja of Collage Sports Management, Bindra’s manager since 2003 states, its finally up to him to decide.

What Indian consumers want

When ET reports of 'bargain hunters flocking to modern ‘value retail’ formats like Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar, Subhiksha and More, which in turn have intensified their bargains and discount offers to encourage consumption', it brings into focus the issue of what is value to Indian consumers.

Its important to note that value perceptions vary across consumer segments. Take grocery shopping for example. As Saurabh notes, there are consumers out there who are ready to put up with the chaotic form of retail shopping. 'From haats to fairs to weekly markets to kirana stores, all of them are far from clean and offer far from satisfactory customer experience.' Yet they are as popular as ever.

What is termed as 'far from satisfactory' by Saurabh, is so seen through the eyes of the urban shopper. For the rural buyer, the experience may be quite satisfactory and therefore delivers on value. This is in a way somewhat similar to the Big Bazaar shopping scenario. For many, the cha…

Management does matter

'So, management does matter. In fact, it matters a lot — more than many people realize, even with all those business school graduates in the workforce. But the studies also indicate that managers tend to overestimate how good their practices are (Indian and Chinese managers are the most overoptimistic). So, even when people realize that management matters, they don’t have a good feel for whether they are doing it well or not. That lack of self-awareness may be due to a gap in management education, or the absence of benchmarks, or just the lack of the right measurement tool up to now. In any case, the data show that, as in many other areas, India has tremendous opportunities not only to catch up in management practices, but to leapfrog advanced countries, and improve its economic performance as it does so.'

- Nirvikar Singh; 'Does Management Matter?'.

The 'Kindle' story

'What do stories do? They create a connection between human beings, remind us that we are not alone and provide a path along which we can move forward. Whether the stories are told in paintings, pantomimes, written words or electronic words does not matter - only the story matters.

To prove this to me, my daughter is turned sideways in the chair on her second hour of reading a story, from my kindle.
My transition from a non-believer to a believer of electronic readers reminds me of the song written by Neil Diamond and sung by the ‘60s bubble-gum pop band, the Monkees: “I’m a Believer”, I couldn't leave her if I tried.”
Kindle - I couldn’t leave you if I tried - my daughter would come and get you.'
- Burt Prelutsky; 'A Few Words of Wisdom'

Retail calm over chaos, never mind the extra penny

That organised retail store shopping in India is an experience akin to a nightmare is no secret. From dirty stores to poorly merchandised goods to indifferent retail personnel, the list is endless. Yet most retail stores seem to draw consumers as the other choice available is a bigger nightmare called kirana stores.

A survey by the apparel design and merchandising department of the National Institute of Design (NID), shows that when it comes to being consumer-friendly, Indian retail stores still have a long way to go. Even some of the leading retail stores fail to take into account customers’ preferences, as they are yet to get down to the concept of ‘retail designing’. On parameters ranging from accessibility, location, window display, facade, staff, packaging, decorative & props, ambiance, and interiors, retail stores do not consider the likes and dislikes of their target consumers.
Now I had earlier commented on the 'organised chaos' concept adopted by Big Bazaar stores, …

Abhinav fires for Gold

Abhinav Bindra won India's first ever individual Olympic gold medal when he claimed the men's 10m Air Rifle shooting title. In one of the most thrilling shooting finals in Olympic history, Bindra overcame a two-point deficit against Hakkinen and one point against Zhu after the qualification rounds to annexe the title.

Abhinav's feat has done India proud. In addition it will do something else that no other can. For once, its shut up, cricket!
Three cheers to that!
Pic: http://www.rte.ie

The wishes of the religious

'I also don't see why seekers of wish-fulfillment would come up with Christian morality. Who needs the Ten Commandments or other such rules which make our lives more difficult by asserting a series of "Thou Shall Nots"? Even Christians recoil from the severe demands of their ethical code. Recall the church father Augustine, who kept putting off his conversion to Christianity, praying to God, “Make me chaste, O Lord, but not yet.” In other words, a project of wish-fulfillment would seem to dictate a much more libertine social morality than the one we find in the Old and New Testaments.

Bottom line: Judaism and Christianity, not to mention the other great religions, hardly look like they are the product of mere wishful thinking. In fact, they posit a God and a moral universe that makes some fairly stern demands on humans. It's almost wishful to think that God does not exist, so that we can escape those demands. This is a point that does not seem to have occurred to…

The Gun & the Games

Sure, it was one of the most dazzling opening ceremonies ever. But Boria 'verbal diarrhoea' Majumdar's fawning over the display got my goat. Especially when he talked about the passion that drove people to showcase China's cultural splendor.
It would be good for the likes of Boria 'VD' Majumdar to remember that communism and passion are at times forced bedfellows; else there's gun to your head!

The rationale of disinvestment

'Attractive numbers apart, there are very good fundamental reasons to begin what should eventually be a complete disinvestment of BSNL. The government should not be spending time and money running telecom companies when the private sector has shown itself perfectly competent to do so. The government already looks after consumer interest through the regulator, TRAI. Also, in a rapidly advancing, technology-intensive sector, being a government enterprise, with all its concomitant constraints, handicaps BSNL while facing private sector competition. Controversies like those surrounding the early roll out of 3G spectrum to BSNL and MTNL can also be avoided once they are privately owned and managed. The current IPO is just the first step in a process of reform of the PSU giant. Any stalling of it would seriously hamper its commercial future. The employees should realise that their interests align with the best commercial interests of BSNL.'

-'BSNL engaged', FE Editorial.

What's new, about you?

One of the biggest problems that brands face is consumer fatigue. Boredom with a brand can kill the it unless it can change into a new avatar. But at times, its smart to retain classic brands and talk about them in a manner that is unique, thus rekindling consumer interest.

Take Dr. Pepper for instance. Consumer Research found that people who drink Dr Pepper at a slow pace, enjoy the taste more than people who drink it at regular speed. It may not sound like scientific evidence that would pass academic muster. But it is enough for an estimated $35 million ad campaign launching Monday, with the message that people should drink the soda slowly. Says Dr. J (basketball great Julius Erving playing the part) in one TV spot, "Scientific tests have proven that when you drink Dr Pepper slowly, the 23 flavors taste even better. I get it 'cause half my life has been in slow motion." Dr. J is seen in slow motion making an amazing shot: landing an ice cube in a glass.

How does drinking…

More Promos, less Ads; 'tis the future

I am surprised that it took a bout of depressed consumer spending for marketers to allocate a larger chunk of their communication spends to promos. Note, this comes at the cost of advertising. Promos deliver greater value to the consumer for the same buck.

Therefore are consumers now supposed to feel cheated about what they got for the price they paid in the past. In fact are they in the first place supposed to have contributed their money to the ludicrous payments that went out to Dhoni and company? Now that the consumers has cut back on spending, brands are willing to cut Dhoni and Co. out of the brand building act?

With the festive season round the corner, below-the-line (BTL) activities seem to be the buzzword in every marketer’s lexicon. Around 32-33% of the total promotional budget is slated to go towards BTL promotions this year, say analysts. In future, this, according to experts will reach a ratio of 70:30, where 70% of the marketing spend will be geared to promos.

The only good…

Whither Middle Class values?

'Despite demagogic and alarmist claims that a relentless “War on the Middle Class” has left ordinary Americans pummeled and powerless, middle income people still manage to find enough money to secure most of life’s true necessities – like the grotesquely violent and anti-authoritarian video game Grand Theft Auto IV, which shattered all sales records in its first week of release.

Despite a price tag of sixty dollars (more than ninety dollars in the special edition), and despite its release on April 29, 2008, at the very height of national concern over a potential recession, the game sold an astonishing 6 million units in its first week. By the end of 2008, at least 11 million Americans will have purchased GTA IV, placing the game in nearly one out of ten households in the land of the free.

The stunning success of a game that glorifies guerrilla warfare, murder, irresponsible driving, prostitution, cop-killing, international conspiracies and, of course, car theft highlights the real…

The Learning boom in India

A CLSA report on education in India states that the next wave of great entrepreneurial activity in India is going to be centered around education. India’s 75,000 private schools account for just 7 per cent of total institutions and enrol 90 million students. Of course, there’s a slightly larger universe of children, about 129 million, who go to public schools. Still, that leaves 142 million students who are not in the system yet.

The country has nearly 370 universities and 18,000 colleges, 500,000 teachers and the third-largest system in terms of enrolment with more than 10 million students. Whereas, Japan with its nearly 128 million people, has 684 universities, USA with 300 million people has 2,364 universities, and Germany with 82 million people has 330 universities.

Read the complete Business Today report on the boom in Education, here.

The Times are with the times

The Times of India proudly proclaims on its front page that they have now crossed 4 lakh in circulation in the city of Bangalore alone. Kudos to them. The TOI has proven what a brand must do to turn into a truly mass brand.

Part of TOI's strategy stems from dumbing down content so as to attract the masses who don't just want news, they want to be shocked, numbed, titillated and even at times humoured by what they read. The TOI in fact provides it on a platter to them, every day without fail. Contrast this with the Hindu. A paper, sought after by the intellectuals. A good example of what can be termed as the Hindu's conservative approach is seen when you search for its online site. The words that greet you are, 'republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu'. That's a surefire guarantee of never turning a mass brand. Because the last thing you would want as a mass brand is to stop…

Welcome, Class of 2010

Welcome to Alliance; Class 2008-10.
Carpe Diem!

Your friend's who You are

The concept of the 'ideal social self' is behind what ShobaNarayan terms as our inclination to pick friends who are almost are clones. She states, 'after much deliberation, I have come to accept the sorry truth about friendships, and it is this: After a certain age, pretty much after college, most of our friendships are class-based. Most of us end up hanging around people who are “like us” '.
Let me explain why this happens. Each individual has an image of himself or herself as a certain kind of person, with certain traits, skills, habits, possessions, relationships, and ways of behaving. As with other types of images and personality, the individual's self-image is unique, the outgrowth of that person's background and experience. Most individuals in evaluating their own images come to conclude that its not necessarily the best one around. And so they move on to conjuring ideal self images. Within the context of a social environment, these images turn into ideal …

Why to drill?

'When President George W. Bush eliminated the executive moratorium on offshore drilling a month ago, effectively launching the drill, drill, drill offensive, oil was close to $150 a barrel. Since then, the barrel price has dropped to nearly $120 as futures-market traders anticipate a major shift in federal drilling policy.

Over at the Intrade pay-to-play prediction market, the probability of an offshore drilling bill passing in 2008 is now handicapped at 50 percent, up from 25 percent only a few days ago. Clearly, investors know market prices will move well before we see actual new energy supplies from offshore drilling. The likelihood of greater energy supply will incentivize those much-vilified traders to slash barrel prices much more, bringing relief at the pump and earning the gratitude of a whole nation.'


- Lawrence Kudlow; 'Drill, Drill, Drill Is Working'.

What's common to Rajni fans, Obama believers & Environmental loonies?

Simple.

All of 'em are die-hard believers who have taken their loyalty to a level where it ensures cult status to their object of worship. The cult status enjoyed ensures that both Obama and Rajni, and the environmental movement, are able to repel any attacks whatsoever on their equity. To someone on the outside, the whole thing may seem ridiculous. Both for the believers anything that contradicts what their 'idol' stands for, is heresy.

The obvious question is why. What's behind this mass hysteria? What is it marketers can do to take brands to this level, where a cult is created?

The answers are not easily available. For starters, it requires consumers to shed their ability to be objective. For that to happen they have to be taken to a level where all rational thought is abandoned. Emotions must ride high. Marketers must ensure that every communique emanating from the brand is managed carefully. Spin doctors need to work overtime. All communiques must reinforce the image…

A 'climate' of Hysteria

'Real science rests on a solid bedrock of scepticism, a scepticism not only about certain religious or cultural assumptions, for example about race, but also about itself.

It constantly re-examines what it regards as evidence, and the connections it draws between cause and effect. It never rushes to judgment, as race science did in Germany in the 1930s and as the high priests of climate change are doing today.

Politicians everywhere should be forced to take an oath similar to the Hippocratic oath taken by doctors: above all else, do no harm. The debate in Australia on this issue is rapidly building to a climax.

Before they make decisions that could trim Australia's gross domestic product by several percentage points a year and impose heavy penalties on Australians' lifestyle, Labour and Liberal alike need to re-examine the superstition of global warming.

Otherwise, the only thing it will melt away is everyone's civil liberty.'

- Arthur Herman; 'Climate hysteric…

Seen her?

...she believes that life is made up of all that you're used to,
and the clock on the wall has been stuck at 3 for days, and days,
she thinks that happiness is the mat that sits on her doorway;
but outside its stopped raining;

and she says baby,
it's 3am I must be lonely,
when she says baby;
well I can't help but be scared of it all sometimes,
she says the rain's gonna wash away I believe it...

Hear it here.

Brand Rajni takes a hit

First they say he apologised. And so Kuselan is given the go-ahead to be screened in Karnataka.

Then the Tamil film industry reacts sharply on the regrets expressed by Tamil superstar Rajnikanth. R Saratkumar, President, South Indian Artistes Association, an association of actors, terms it as 'a selfish act aimed at ensuring release of Rajnikant's latest movie Kuselan in Karnataka'.

In the midst of this rigmarole, what's taken a hit is brand Rajni. Not the one on screens, but the one on the political stage. Although Rajni has not overtly expressed any political ambitions, this episode will sure take the sheen off brand Rajni, especially in political circles.

Is consumer engagement enough?

Its quite ironical.

We have marketers using interactive methods to get consumers engaged with a brand. The idea is to get the consumer to participate in the building of a brand. And the assumption here is, the engaged consumer would at the time of purchase, consider the brand with which he is engaged, as the one high on his purchase list.

Take Titan, for instance. The company tied up with Radio One for a week, renaming the station Fast Track 94.3 FM, for their brand's 'Move on' campaign. Listeners were asked to come up with different ways to use the tagline, generating over 5,000 SMSes and 3,000 calls.

Or Frito Lay. Its 'Fight For Your Flavour' campaign for its snack brand, allowed consumers to choose which flavour stays in the market. As a result Frito-Lay saw double-digit growth and an increase in brand relevance on the back of the market-energising innovations this year.

The irony?

I acutely remember the time I walked into the Titan store at the Forum Mall. On quizzi…