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Marketing through Yakety-Yak on mobile phones

The mobile phone yakety-yak is reaching feverish proportions (or maybe that's a tad exaggerated). Numbers now prove that mobile phone subscriptions in the world will reach four billion by the end of the year driven by growth in developing economies, according to the International Telecommunications Union.

Earlier this year ITU said that the number of mobile phone subscriptions topped 3.3 billion by the end of 2007. Continued progress in 2008 is chiefly due to the growth in major developing markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Marketers, take note. It ain't totally about using the mobile phone network as a marketing medium or a tool. Remember most of the time these are interruptions that users don't take too kindly to. Its about giving consumers segments within the subscriber base a reason to yakety-yak about your products and services. The buzz this time, may in all possibility be transmitted through telecommunication networks.

And hopefully that buzz on the mobil…

'Zindagi mein Life'; We're talking biscuits, aren't we?

Britannia has unveiled its new corporate campaign. The new campaign is supposed to focus on how Britannia is much more than a biscuit maker. Called 'Zindagi mein Life', the campaign intends to reflect the ethos of the company. According to Britannia’s vice-president for sales, marketing and innovation, Mr Neeraj Chandra, the campaign will 'strengthen Britannia's positioning and take forward their ‘eating healthy, thinking better’ campaign'.

'Zindagi mein Life'? I wonder what's that supposed to mean? I am already giddy with a heady feeling which I guess is the philosophical aftertaste that the campaign line's left behind.

Just so that I get this straight. We're talking biscuits, aren't we? I know I may have a foot in the grave, but I'm eating a biscuit today. And from its package cover I know, its called ANZAC Oatmeal cookies. Why am I biting into one of these? The taste is absolutely mind blowing. Don't trust me? Try one. I had my firs…

No Service is great service

'While he agrees that better and more intense training is needed, maybe the answer lies with the consumer also understanding his role in the new formula. Empowerment of workers is great, he continued, but the best part of the retail boom is the chance for the consumer to be empowered. “For the Indian customers, they are still shifting from general to modern trade, from service stores to self-service,” he said, adding that the transition will take some time.

He used the example of a woman buying sanitary napkins from mostly male shopkeepers, possibly even someone known to her and her family. Isn’t it better now that she can go pick up her own pack? Once upon a time, Mall reminded, Indians couldn’t sit or lie on mattresses or beds for purchase. The advent of the department store and home furnishings showrooms has changed all that. He added, “Maybe the biggest service we can provide is to keep the customer service person out of the transaction.”

Perhaps the entrance of Westerners’ bran…

Brand claims; Is Yahoo really quicker?

Yahoo India claims through a Radio spot that they turn in the quickest results as a search engine. I checked. Google's faster. Google took 0.36 secs to turn in results for a search on Ayurveda+Kerala. Yahoo clocked 0.50 secs.
Now, does that bother me? No. It isn't about the time taken. Its about the claim. Consumers are lured by brands that make claims. At times the claims are something that can be checked on. That is, if the claim involves measurable parameters. Like the Yahoo one. At other times, the claims can't be checked, as they ain't measurable. Or even if they are, consumers in no way can do it on their own. Take Pond's Age miracle's 7 day challenge. The 'power ingredient' that Ponds claims is behind Pond's age miracle is CLA- Conjugated Linoleic Acid - a natural, non-irritant first discovered by Pond's in 1996. But then, how does one know really know if the wrinkles are off? Maybe the creases just dull for a period of time. Maybe its our…

Where's Ray?

Am in God's own country. Holidaying. Lotsa travellin' ahead. Don't think I would be able to post as much. Itchin' to get back and comment on consumer issues. I guess mum's the word for now, which is at times perfect; for me. :)

Will post once am back in Bangalore. That's a li'l over a week away. Thank you for all your comments. Appreciate it.

Cheers, from Kerala. :)

BMTC Volvo ride at Re.1, but what's it cost?

Franchise building promos don't eat into a brand's equity, unlike the non-franchise building ones. Its important brands find a balance between the two, as a part of their promo campaign.
Take BMTC's Re. 1 Volvo bus fare. Sure its got the hordes to pile in, into the Volvo buses, but what's it achieved? Has it gotten the car and bike users to shift? Of course not. It ain't the prices for the car/bike users. Its the convenience and the flexibility. What about the regular users of Volvos at the original premium price? Something tells me, for the promo period, they took their cars and bikes to work.Any positives? Sure. The mass got a ride of their lives. And its time they did.

Its not the words, Its the way they sound

Was singing the Keith Urban song that was my weekend pick. Played the original for Alphy. She said the way I sang, it sounded 'angry'. Urban sounded as though he didn't mind, though he sings of a break-up.

I know why it sounded different. It was the pace and the tone. I sounded 'gruffer' (honest!), slower. Goes to show its never always the words, its the way they sound.

Customer service is never as much about the words, its the way they sound to the customer. The 'right' sounds hit home. It may defuse a volatile customer, encourage a reluctant customer to buy...

The Joseph Biden lesson in Sales pitces

Marketers need to be careful about their Communiques to consumers. More so, when the channel used is a personal one. 'Cos what the marketer says can either make or break a sale. Take Direct selling for example. The salesman's pitch will decide whether consumers commit to or reject a purchase. The salesman therefore need to be very careful in crafting a pitch that the consumer connects with. In fact, personal communiques (personal selling) are the ones that elicit behavioural response from consumers, in other words, an actual purchase.

But this ain't the case when the channel is an impersonal one. Take for example, advertising on Mass Media. Unless its a case of direct response advertising, Ad. communiques rarely result in sales. Its awareness, knowledge and attitudes that they build among consumers.

Personal communiques if mismanaged can have drastic consequences. Consumers may not just reject a brand, they may be even be convinced never to try it again. I am talking about f…

Why 'Experience' matters

'It is hardly surprising that young people prefer the political left. The only reason for rejecting the left's vision is that the real world in which we live is very different from the world that the left perceives today or envisions for tomorrow.

Most of us learn that from experience-- but experience is precisely what the young are lacking. "Experience" is often just a fancy word for the mistakes that we belatedly realized we were making, only after the realities of the world made us pay a painful price for being wrong. Those who are insulated from that pain-- whether by being born into affluence or wealth, or shielded by the welfare state, or insulated by tenure in academia or in the federal judiciary-- can remain in a state of perpetual immaturity.

Individuals can refuse to grow up, especially when surrounded in their work and in their social life by similarly situated and like-mindedpeople.'

Thomas Sowell, 'The Vision of the Left'.

Why 'New' Coke failed but 'New' Facebook won't

The funny aspect of 'change' is that, more often than not it ain't welcome, though its for the good. Resistance in such cases is more psychological than real. New Coke may have tasted better, but that taste ain't welcome. Its the nostalgia for the original that overrides the newer better formula.Facebook's move to unveil a 'changed' redesigned website risks facing the same kind of backlash 'changed' brands in the past have. The good news for them is that, about 40 million users already have checked out the new design and about 30 million embraced it without reverting to the old look which facebook had provided through a link of the new site.Is Facebook's dilemma in all manners similar to the one Coke faced? I don't think so. In the case of Facebook there are enough cues and features out there on the site than can in the end convince users that the new design is better than the old one. From a functional perspective, its possible to get users…

Transition Blues

Alliance Business School now operates out of its mammoth world class campus at Anekal. The scale brings in multiple issues that need to be managed simultaneously, again a herculean task.

Was engaged in the transition to our new campus, and so could not post. Will try and make up and carry on.

Cheers :)

India joins Nuclear Club

Finally its through.

CNN-IBN reports that the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has approved a US plan to engage in nuclear trade with India. Following the green signal by the NSG that will cement the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Deal, India has finally come out of the 34-year old nuclear apartheid. India had been forced into nuclear isolation following the 1974 Pokharan atomic tests. The approval came after almost three days of meeting in Vienna on Saturday. The NSG meet was called to minimise any damage to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which India has not joined.

Perception-wise the delay in the waiver couldn't be better. As the harder it is to get something, the more the appreciation when its achieved. Never mind what the average Indian knew about the deal, the fact that that it took time, with a lot of cloak and dagger stuff, revelations at the last moment, objections from Pakistan and China; that was good enough for everyone to believe the deal had to be good for I…

Broadband limps on in India

Its easy to see why data reveals that the success of India’s telecom revolution is restricted to mobile voice with very little to showcase in fixed line and Internet access, or high-speed broadband.

Note that forecasts show that Internet broadband penetration will limp along to eventually reach a measly 3.9 connections for every 100 citizens by 2012. Even though Internet users may be multiple times higher, actual broadband penetration will not exceed 18.1 million at the beginning of the next decade. In contrast, mobile telephony will add as many as 350 million subscribers during this five-year period to end at roughly 615 million by mid 2012.

The reasons for this measly picture lie in inadequate fixed line infrastructure, barely profitable ISP (Internet service provider) business and from the consumer's perspective, the fixed hardware and usage costs involved.

Who's switched to Chrome & Why?

After only 2 days the new browser from Google has already reached a market share of 1 percent according to data reports from Market Share. What's interesting to note is that Chrome's users came not from its biggest rival Internet Explorer, but from Safari and Mozilla Firefox. According to reports from Statcounter the usage of Safari dropped with 0.21 % and Mozilla Firefox lost 0.82 % to the new power driven Chrome browser.

This is, I believe normal, at least in the beginning as the 'Innovator/Early Adopter population' had to exist within the Safari/Firefox fold, as they at some point in time should have been either IE or Navigator users. They shifted then. They are doing it now. These 'innovators' are the first ones to experiment. It now remains to be seen how they react to Chrome. If their buzz favours Chrome, we will see more 'switches' in the future.

Lets wait and watch.

Balancing Expertise & Arrogance

Is it possible to be an expert without becoming insufferably arrogant? Is it possible to be a master of your subject and retain some semblance of humility? I wanted to find out. So I asked a bunch of people. I first wrote to the Dalai Lama, Abhinav Bindra and Jagdish Bhagwati and never heard back. So I had to resort to others. I chose my targets carefully.

College professors, for instance, have to be experts at what they teach. If they are good, students look up to them; pepper them with questions. It would be very easy for them to feel smug and superior...

Rajeev Gowda is a professor at IIM Bangalore. He is also a genial self-effacing sort of bloke. So I asked him, “Rajeev, how do you retain some humility while maintaining this God-like aura of the all-knowing guru?”

In the social sciences, there are no absolutes, said Gowda. There are explanations that work some of the time and in some contexts. “Understanding this is fundamentally humbling.” He then went on to talk about being open-m…

Palin Persona

'So here's why she matters.

First of all she offers an opportunity for an ailing Republican party to reconnect with ordinary Americans. She's conservative, but her conservatism is not that of the intolerant, uncomprehending white male sort that has so hurt the party in recent years. She is much closer to a model of the lives of ordinary Americans - working mother, plainspoken everywoman juggling home and office - than any Republican leader in memory.

The contrast with Mr Obama is especially powerful. The very fact that Mrs Palin didn't go to elite schools but succeeded nonetheless - the very ordinariness with which she so piquantly jabbed Mr Obama on Wednesday - is what will make her so appealing to Americans. And as a pro-life conservative she debunks in one swoop the enduring myth that all women subscribe to the obligatory nostrums of radical feminism.'

- Gerard Baker, 'Sarah Palin: it's go west, towards the future of conservatism'

Big Bazaar rolls on

Even as we discuss the worrying implications of Big Bazaar closure in Ahmedabad, the chain rolls on, elsewhere.

HT Mint reports that 'Retail chain Big Bazaar plans to open 15 more stores by November end, some of them in new markets, at an investment of Rs 1,500-1,600 crore. With this, Big Bazaar, a subsidiary of the Kishore Biyani-spearheaded Pantaloon Group, will have 112 stores pan-India by November, a top company official said. Big Bazaar is targeting a network of 145 stores by June 2009. The stores would be set up in places such as Mysore, Pune, Cuttack, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Agra, Faridabad, Surat, Nashik, Mumbai, Delhi and Solapur.'

Encouraging 'switch' amidst fierce Brand Loyalty

Getting a pub goer to give up his favourite pint of lager for another tipple is part of a larger problem. That is, how does a marketer vanquish Brand Loyalty? Such fierce loyalty is generally seen in Lifestyle product categories, where the brand transcends its physical entity to turn into a symbolic expression.

How did cider brands such as Magners and Bulmers have huge impact in pubs and bars, where brown bottles take pride of place in fridge displays? The success of these brands can be attributed to successful word-of-mouth and field marketing with brand ambassadors, whose work involves speaking to landlords and drinkers, handing out samples and encouraging trial.

The lesson here?

In categories where brands command fierce loyalty, 'switch-encouragement' must emanate from non-conventional media sources. The one who can prod the trial of a new drink has to be a good friend. And that friend in turn could have only tried the new drink the first time around if he were to have been ha…

What to & What not to change - Lessons in Retail

Charles Correa has the touch of genius in his architectural creations. I know so, 'cos I used to live in Kovalam at some time and every time I passed by the beach, and that was often, I would gaze at the Kovalam Beach Resort hotel and marvel at the way it blended into the sea facing Rock face, a picture of perfect harmony between what God made and what man did.
Charles Correa is at it again. His designs take care not to intrude and change the way we live our lives. Take the Salt Lake City center Mall in Kolkatta. Its design intends to recreate an Indian street in a manner that turns a shopping experience similar to ones we have on 'real open' Indian streets. Gone is the familiar suffocation that we feel in 'boxy' malls we go to.That brings me to my question. Should shopping experiences necessarily recreate what we otherwise experience in our normal lives. If they did, are we happier? The answer is Yes and No. It does work when its a mall, when its Charles Correa and…

Is the Retail Graveyard ever a possibility?

Did I read right? Retail graveyard?

Sure Gujarati consumers may be shying away from a few organised retail stores. A few may be shutting down. Sure the ones that have shut down should surprise us. And sure, the Gujarati consumer may have a consumption pattern a tad different from the rest of us. But is that reason enough to write organised retail's obituary in India?

Far from that, organised retail will only grow and what you now witness is the 'pangs' of that growth. Stores that can't be efficient in their operations and therefore have to pass those inefficiencies to consumers as higher prices will shut down. In fact they must.

Ever heard of 'Survival of the fittest'? In Industry lingo, that's called consolidation.

Ensure walk-ins turn buyers

Bangaloreans woke up to a wet Wednesday morning. It had rained through the night. We had planned on shopping for Furniture and some Home linen. We almost cancelled due to the rains. But then the skies turned bright and we did go.

Which brings to me my point. There's only so many things that are in the hands of the marketer. There are others he can't control like the weather. So when his efforts outside the store pay off, translating into customers walking into stores, it becomes imperative that the personnel on the floor do everything to ensure a sale. If they don't, and the next time around they think they are ready to turn the customer into a buyer, he may just not materialise.

You see, its raining.

The li'l clinchers in Customer Service

There's this interesting story that Joel narrates about the time he had a problem with a locksmith. After being frustrated with the locksmith's work he was at the point of exploding, when the locksmith disarms him completely with three li'l words, 'Its my fault'. Joel says, that was the point his emotions did a somersault, resulting in a complete change of attitude.

Sometimes its the li'l things that are the 'clinchers'.

Take my experience at the Spar Hypermarket. I now realise that the clincher at Spar was not so much the comfortable shopping experience as it was the encounter with a Manager at the store. While waiting for my turn at the billing counter, I had this Spar Manager walk up to me and tell me that there was another billing counter that was free, which I had not noticed. He proceeded to take my cart from me, wheel it to the vacant counter, and he even started stacking my purchases on to the conveyor belt on the counter. Now this is completely u…

Cricket bowled over

The India-Sri Lanka One day series that India won 3-2, did not garner the kind of eyeballs that are generally expected from cricket matches. According to data from television audience measurement agency Audience Map (aMap), the five matches played had TRPs of 0.56, 1.05, 2.04, 1.65 and 0.94, respectively.
The reasons ascribed are, poor coverage, viewer fatigue with cricket and weak marketing. Add to that the Olympic fever, with India in the medals tally overshadowing every other sport being played.What's worse for this series is that India lost the last game, and too to a huge margin. And so the recency effect ensures that the dismal loss will be remembered, clouding the series triumph.

Searching for Google Chrome

Google believes Chrome, its open source browser, can 'add value for users and, at the same time, help drive innovation on the web'.

Due to zero switching costs, users would give Chrome a try. If it comes up good on what it promises it has a chance, taking on Internet Explorer and Firefox.

More about Google Chrome launchhere.
First images of Google Chrome here.

Car Sales brake on rising costs

Car sales in India drop for the month of August. Its the 'functional' buys that have taken the hit more than other categories. The major hit for Maruti on sales came from its large hatchback portfolio—comprising Alto, Zen Estilo, Swift and WagonR—which dipped 9.75% to 37,667 in August as against 41,736 last year. Its entry-car M800 sales dropped sharply by 32.17% to 3,717 as against 5,480 last year. Maruti’s sedan series— SX4, Swift DZire and Esteem—grew 12% to 5,427 as against 4,839 last year. Hyundai has been able to stem the tide by riding on its popular i10 hatchback. Its exports clocked a much higher 89% growth to 23,100 units in August from 12,256 last year, taking the final monthly tally to well beyond 50% overall growth.

Customer is King

Anita passed by this li'l shop with a sign;

'The Customer is King, And King does not bargain.'
Ha Ha.

The Woes of Indian consumers

I agree outsourced customer service compounds the problem of lousy customer service, but then it isn't any better even if the people in question are full-time employees.
But MitraKalita does hit home when she says that its about 'empowerment'. 'In my findings so far, the undercurrent of good service is an empowered work force — those who interface with customers have been given the tools, confidence and information from the higher-ups that they can appropriately defuse the situation at hand. Simple but effective. And sadly, very rare. A lack of empowerment is why a waiter cannot give you a free drink or dessert, even as he mixed up your order. Or why the bank declines the signature on your cheque, even though you have proof showing you are who you say you are and verify the amount. Or why a customer service representative directs you to Airtel’s website, which will require you to hope she really text messages your password, instead of sending you a duplicate bill from M…