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Showing posts from December, 2008

Snob value abandoned, Luxury brands suffer

During times of economic downturns its better to be a 'value for money' mass consumer brand than to be a premium, 'snob-value' one. 'Cos the Richie-riches in all certainty are gonna abandon their snob value brands, never mind for the next few months, they gotta lay low sans their uppity outings. The mass may still eat that burger at McDonald's and buy their groceries at Wal-Mart. In fact they do, as both these retail brands have posted increased sales.

Chanel is now the latest premium retailer to cut back. Chanel, one of the grandest French fashion names, is to lay off 200 Paris staff in an unmistakable sign that even the world's top luxury brands are feeling the pinch in the global recession.
Until recently, France's marques de grand luxe were claiming immunity from the slump. Demand for the high end was holding up, driven by the luxury appetites of the nouveaux riches of Russia, China and other emerging powers, they said. The denial has faded over the …

The Internet as the new conflict zone

As a TV news viewer there are times when I just wanna be told what's happening minus the hysterics. Like the time after the terrorist strike in Mumbai. Wearied by the distressing scenes on TV, the last thing I wanted, was Barkha Dutt screeching about broken glass beside the Taj Hotel restaurants. Silently I prayed for a miracle. Nothing big, just that she shut up. That wasn't to be.

Externally paced media don't give viewers a chance to control what they see and hear. Not so when it comes to Self paced media. The Internet is an example. I choose to see what I want to, how much of it, at what pace and so on. Viewers increasingly are taking to the Internet when it comes to news. And for the propagators, its imperative they are there with the material and then leaving it up to the viewer to decide to watch or listen in.

The Israeli Defence force has now taken to the Internet to propagate what it wants the world to see. That's sans the influence of BBC, CNN or the other liber…

Misplaced Bouquets n' Brickbats

You know that there's somethin' wrong with the world when Kim Jong II gets cheered, the murderous thug Stalin gets voted 'third greatest Russian', and President Bush gets a shoe thrown at him.

Or maybe everything's right with the world. Its only normal, 'cos that's the price of Democracy. It never does breed gratitude. I mean the shoe.

And Dictatorship. I mean the cheer and the vote. Talk about a gun to your head or forgetfulness about an awaiting Gulag.

Worst Predictions, circa 2008

1. "A very powerful and durable rally is in the works. But it may need another couple of days to lift off. Hold the fort and keep the faith!" -- Richard Band, editor, Profitable Investing Letter, Mar. 27, 2008.
At the time of the prediction, the Dow Jones industrial average was at 12,300. By late December it was at 8,500.

2. AIG "could have huge gains in the second quarter." -- Bijan Moazami, analyst, Friedman, Billings, Ramsey, May 9, 2008.
AIG wound up losing $5 billion in that quarter and $25 billion in the next. It was taken over in September by the U.S. government, which will spend or lend $150 billion to keep it afloat.

3. "I think this is a case where Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are fundamentally sound. They're not in danger of going under I think they are in good shape going forward." -- Barney Frank (D-Mass.), House Financial Services Committee chairman, July 14, 2008.
Two months later, the government forced the mortgage giants into conservatorship…

What will Chinese consumers do?

Young middle-class couples like Gong and Wang are key to China's economic future — just as China's future may determine how long the global recession lasts. They are part of the population cohort the government hopes will boost domestic consumption, which takes up a mere 35% of the country's GDP right now, and thereby wean the country off export-dependent growth. China has long been concerned about its sluggish domestic consumer demand and recently vowed to expand it by injecting $586 billion into nationwide infrastructure.

But a dwindling confidence in the economy seems to be getting in the way of the government's agenda. Here in the industrial town of Dagang, just south of Tianjin, instead of spending more to spur the country's GDP, the Gongs are actually tightening up their wallets for a rainy day. The Chinese have been hardy savers even in the best of times, scoring the highest saving rate among all major countries. Now, more than ever, their money is sitting i…

Thank You, appreciate it!

Thank you for visitin' 'Buyer Behaviour'. You may/may not agree with my views, but you takin' the time to read what I write and at times respond, is deeply appreciated. Hope you had fun readin' the posts as much as I had, writin' 'em.Suggestions, most welcome.

Cheers :)

God's own Tippler

First they tell us that 'God's own people' are quittin' the bottle, recession n' all. But now it seems they are hell bent on gettin' tipsier.

The Hindu reports that Beverages Corporation (BEVCO), one of the few profit-making public sector companies in the State and a monopoly in liquor trade, sold Rs.41.38 crore worth of liquor for the Christmas festival on December 23 and 24. This was one-third more than the liquor sales of the same days last year, reflecting a high rate of growth of alcohol consumption in the State. On the two days prior to Christmas last year, Keralites purchased Rs.30.60 crore worth of liquor. The hike also fits well with the double-digit percentage increase in liquor sales registered over the past several years.

Timing's crucial in PR disasters

The timing in a brand's reaction to a PR disaster is more than crucial. React quickly and hopefully sensibly, or not react at all, is better than to react late.

Take the Satyam fiasco. The resignations of Mendu Rammohan Rao, Vinod Dham and Krishna G Palepu from the nine-member Board come a tad too late in the day. Their resignations come in the wake of the whole episode turning murkier by the day and have been attributed to their dismay at the turn of events. Rather than quell the questions being raised, the chorus of disapproval now turn shriller.

Of course, we have the wisdom of hindsight, but take a look at most PR disasters and you know that they are caused by how brands in the limelight react. The typical response is either a denial or to procrastinate. Instead if its a 'quick move' towards 'correction' the chances the brand emerges unscathed is greater.

Let’s Put the ‘Reality’ Back in Reality TV

'In the years since reality TV became the dominant force on the airwaves, flipping through the channels has been an exercise in trying to avoid celebutantes searching for their new bling, Bentleys, and BFFs.

The pervasiveness of shows that celebrate the lifestyles of the rich and useless has left me avoiding the Zoom-whitened smiles of the over-privileged in much the same way I race to press “1” for English before I have to hear “para espanol” on voice menus. But with the Dow going up and down, then down some more 00 the bad news on the stock market could spell relief for me and anyone exhausted by “excess” TV. I predict more shows about former moguls who will have to adjust to life as regular people. It could be as heart wrenching as the video diary entry Sean P. “Diddy” Combs posted during the gas crisis, begging his Arab “brothers” to lower the cost of oil so he could once again use his private jet. I was so touched. In fact, I thought about suggesting an “Adopt-a-Diddy” program…

News kills Advertising, that's good and bad

News kills advertising. And that's good news for Marketing communiques that bomb on TV and bad news for the ones that are good. Good news 'cos, thank god, consumers didn't pay attention to the duds and bad news, 'cos consumers again didn't pay attention to ones that would've clicked with them.

Its a been a year of 'news' in India as much as it was all around the world. Spare a thought then for Marketers trying to get the consumer to listen in to what they have to say. As Stuart Elliot states, 'That (news) cut both ways for marketers: overshadowing the best ads, but also drawing attention away from the worst. So half the industry is ending the year cursing its poor timing while the other half is breathing a loud sigh of relief.'

Here's Stuart's recap of some high and low points of 2008, in the US.

Jammu and Kashmir - Beyond issues of subsistence

The National Conference and Congress seem to be on their way in forming a government in Jammu and Kashmir. The results show that as much as economic prosperity is important to voters, so is the question of identity.

The results in Jammu, vis-a-vis, Kashmir seem to point to a deepening divide. And that's worrisome. The silver lining is the fact that democracy is alive and kicking in J&K.

Indian Consumer trends @ 2009

Consumers will move beyond basic needs to discretionary spending.They will seek value in products that serve basic needs such as food and grocery. The definition of value will be different for different products. For instance, they will seek the lowest price for products that serve basic needs, whereas in others the determinants will range from aspiration to convenience to brand name.There will be more visible consumption for products having bling value and consumers will continue to pay a premium for them.We will see rise in indulgence with more desire for enjoyment and experience.Consumers will seek more instant gratification.Now, this is according to Arvind Singhal. Read more of what he says, here.

Car Sales in India ain't goin' anywhere

Are car sales in India up this month? Yes, according to leading auto financiers. But Auto analysts don't seem to see it that way.

Manas Chakravarty and Mobis Philipose writing in HT Mint say that in fact Auto analysts are anything but sanguine about the prospects of the domestic passenger car segment. An analyst with a foreign brokerage, who didn’t want to be identified, dismisses the automakers’ optimistic assessment saying that it doesn’t make any sense to compare sales with those of the preceding month because it represented a low base. On a year-on-year basis, he expects sales to drop by 15-16%. This may be lower than the decline of about 24% last month, but nothing to get excited about.

Not many consumers are in the mood to make big-ticket purchases, given the precarious economic situation. With layoffs and salary cuts on the rise, the number of consumers willing to commit to large EMIs (equated monthly instalments) is dwindling.

Generation gap?

Perhaps parents should take comfort from one of the largest studies of the sociology behind hooking up. In her book Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus (New York University Press, 2008), Professor Kathleen A. Bogel explains that even after years of hooking up on campus, college students ultimately follow the same traditional paths their parents did, even if they continue to find it a bit confusing.

When students leave college, there is a discernable shift to more formal dating. It was amazing to interview young alumni who were very much a part of the hookup culture in college who now say that they almost exclusively go on dates (except when they are “down the shore,” i.e., at beach resorts during the summer in a very college-like atmosphere). But the transition to the post-college dating scene was not necessarily an easy one. Many of the 20-something-year-old men and women I spoke with were confused over how to act in certain scenarios after college, not knowing if the…

Global Warming Hoax

'The first, on May 21, headed "Climate change threat to Alpine ski resorts" , reported that the entire Alpine "winter sports industry" could soon "grind to a halt for lack of snow". The second, on December 19, headed "The Alps have best snow conditions in a generation" , reported that this winter's Alpine snowfalls "look set to beat all records by New Year's Day".

Easily one of the most important stories of 2008 has been all the evidence suggesting that this may be looked back on as the year when there was a turning point in the great worldwide panic over man-made global warming. Just when politicians in Europe and America have been adopting the most costly and damaging measures politicians have ever proposed, to combat this supposed menace, the tide has turned in three significant respects.'

Read the complete article here.

Bollywood deciphered

'Most Indian movies are fairy tales, and fairy tales in popular culture are for two things: to highlight a moral value and escape the burdens of reality. Both of these have been the driving forces in majority of our larger than life Hindi movies.

Our movies have every unreal thing which we believe! People dancing on the street? Yes. The hero taking in a dozen bullets and driving to the next city in time for his wife's delivery? Yes. A beautiful woman lying on alpine snows wearing nothing but a silk saree? Oh, yeah. A thirty-five-year-old actor playing a college student? Check. Bad actors with big biceps becoming huge stars? Yes. It's like we have been in the 80s for the last 40 years. We don't mind if our stories or dialogues are corny. Subtlety in Bollywood is like modesty in corporate America.'
Courtesy: Divya

Nosediving Retail prices & Stampedes

Will retail outfits go under, come new year? Yes. At least that what most western retailers feel and that's what's led them to cut prices, even up to 90% on the original price. The result has been near stampedes outside retail store in the UK.

Thousands of bargain hunters formed queues outside stores from the early hours of the morning and many shopping centres reported higher footfall rates than during last year’s sales. Selfridges, the Oxford Street department store, turned over almost £1 million between 12pm and 1pm — the most successful hour in the store’s 100-year history. But despite the huge customer turnout, experts warned of grim times ahead and said that more than ten retail chains risked going under next month.

Laissez-Faire Punditry

'Celebrated progressive doyenne Arianna Huffington recently penned a brilliantly absurd piece, titled "Laissez-Faire Capitalism Should Be as Dead as Soviet Communism." Huffington argues, in effect, that communism and "laissez-faire" (minimal-intervention) capitalism are equivalent ideological extremes.

Sure, one of these philosophies spurred the murder and misery of hundreds of millions worldwide; the other promotes liberty, innovation and welcomes foreigners to lounge around in expansive mansions paid for by their former oil baron husbands.

So we can agree; there is no such thing as a flawless ideology.'

- David Harsanyi, 'Laissez-Faire Punditry'.

The 'real' W

'The worthies at the New York Times are worried, like George W. himself, about his legacy. They all should know better; legacies are not plucked from the pantry shelf, but develop over the years without help or hindrance from either critic or legacee. George W.'s critics are spooked by what happened to Harry S. Truman, who straggled back to Missouri with the contempt of nearly everyone ringing in his ears ("to err is Truman") and within two decades became one of our most popular ex-presidents. Now is the time to blame the president for everything bad, and give him credit for nothing good. It's mere coincidence that America has been safe from Islamist terror every day since 9/11.

Gratitude always comes easier for the least among us. George W.'s compassionate conservatism has saved millions of lives in Africa, those who but for the billions of dollars this president spent there would have died of AIDS or malaria. His approval rating, in the low 20s at home (and …

'Tis a busy season at Amazon

This is good news amidst the retail gloom. And I can tell you, its because consumers see Amazon as the best bet for lower prices. AP reports that online retailer Inc. called this holiday season its "best ever," saying Friday that it saw a 17 percent increase in orders on its busiest day, a rare piece of good news in a season that has been far from merry for most retailers, including online businesses.Amazon customers ordered more than 6.3 million items on Dec. 15, compared with roughly 5.4 million on its peak day last year, the company said. It shipped more than 5.6 million products on its best day, a 44 percent rise over 2007, when it shipped about 3.9 million on its busiest day.

Doggie's day out

Family and kids fare rule the roost at the American Box office. Deadlinehollywooddaily reports that Family fare is what post-holiday moviegoers want today. But overall attendance is down after an enormous Christmas Day at the box office.
Midday numbers show Fox's Marley & Me easily holding onto No. 1. Not surprisingly, Disney's Bedtime Stories moves up into 2nd place thanks to kiddie matinees kicking in. Paramount's The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button slides down to #3, and MGM/UA'sValkyrie sticks at #4. Children keep seeing Universal'sThe Tale Of Despereaux for No. 5. Sony's Seven Pounds holds onto 6th. And Warner Bros' Yes Man clings to #7.

Thinkin' ain't necessarily acting

Even the threat of death by a thousand cuts can't drag me to a Bollywood movie. But when I hear that Ghajini looks set to clinch the title of biggest cinematic opening of Bollywood, I am pleased. After all, is there a better actor than Aamir in Bollywood? Never mind, there ain't no 'acting' in Bollywood.

The little I've heard of Aamir (on TV), he comes across as a 'thinker'. Guess, that's a good thing and guess that gets translated into his movies. And again, guess viewers take to it. The original Ghajini stars Surya, and though I haven't seen either, something tells me Surya's the better actor. That's 'cos Aamir's too much the thinker.
Contrast the Aamirian style with what Director Priyadarshan has to say about Kerala superstar Mohanlal's acting style, "He never prepares for any role or scene. He is not bothered how he looks or what he does. Once the camera is on, he is a transformed person. As he does only one film at a tim…

TV Anchor & the Ad guys, its a riot :)

I gotta confess. As much as I deride the guy, I wonder where else would I get my nighttime fix of laughs? I am talkin' ArnabGoswami and the discussions he conjures up on TV almost every night.

Tonight he had the likes of Suhel Seth, PrasoonJoshi and few others lined up for a discussion on terror. He started the show wailin' about 'some people out there' attacking the likes of him. It was pretty easy to guess who he was talkin' about. Arundhati Roy of course, and he has good reason to wail.

This is what she wrote while mentioning him, 'while the Sanghparivar does not seem to have come to a final decision over whether or not it is anti-national and suicidal to question the police, ArnabGoswami, anchorperson of Times Now television channel, has stepped up to the plate. He has taken to naming, demonising and openly heckling people who have dared to question the integrity of the police and armed forces. My name and the name of the well-known lawyer PrashantBhushan hav…

When I want 'real news', I go online

I bought into the promo offer by DNA a few months back, and now that DNA is in Bangalore, I receive my dose of morning news from the TOI and DNA. Its fun readin' both these newspapers as they provide me with my requisite dose of dumbed down news that I find pretty humorous. And then, when I need a fix of 'real news', I turn to the Net. My fix includes Drudge, WSJ, Realclearpolitics, American Thinker, Townhall, Pajamas Media, Politico, Human Events and a few others.

Now I ain't cancellin' my newspaper subscriptions as yet, but I think the fact that I depend on online news media for my 'real news' should worry the likes of TOI and DNA. According to a survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, the Internet has surpassed newspapers as the main source for national and international news for Americans. Television, however, remains the preferred medium for Americans. Seventy percent of the 1,489 people surveyed by Pew said te…

Chocolate prices may turn you bitter!

Cocoa prices are pricier than ever. That's 'cos you ain't cuttin' back on the chocolate urge, never mind the recession.
Plus, what's happened is that cocoa prices on Tuesday surged to a 23-year high as speculative investors poured into the market amid concerns about dwindling supplies from Ivory Coast, by far the world’s largest producer. Prices for cocoa have risen 70 per cent in the past year, bucking the weakness in overall commodities prices. Add to this, the drop in sterling has helped push London-based, sterling-denominated cocoa futures higher, but analysts maintain that the main factor for climbing prices was low supplies.

You the moron, if you ain't askin' a discount

This is the best time there ever was for shoppers. The best time to haggle for that bargain. Doesn't matter if the brand is supposedly 'premium'. Everyone brand out there is desperately seeking that sale. Brands almost beggin'!

Take the US for example. With holiday sales shaping up to be the lowest in years, possibly the worst since the industry began annual comparisons in 1969, retailers say they're taking consumers' demands for good deals seriously. Some are extending return policies, while others are matching competitors' prices. Many are volunteering on-the-spot discounts and even letting customers haggle prices well down from what's marked in a desperate bid to make the cash register ring.

In fact this what Stephen Hoch, a retailing expert at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, has to say, "You'd have to be a moron not to ask for a discount."

Hey, what about you? Plannin' to be the moron?

Christmas Time

Merry Christmas!
Our prayers are with the brethren at relief camps in Kandhmal where they have managed to celebrate Christmas, despite the looming spectre of violence. מאי אלוהים להיות איתנו

Notebooks overtake Desktops

Its interesting to note that Notebook sales have now overtaken Desktop sales. The shift is due to therequirement that consumers have in terms of portable computing. With a lot of time being spent away from home, at work, business travel and the like, portability becomes critical.According to data from research firm iSupply, preliminary figures for the quarter show notebook PC shipments shot up about 40 per cent from the same period a year ago to 38.6 million. Meanwhile desktop shipments fell about 1.3 per cent to 38.5 million.

Why salvaging a corporate brand is impossible

Its been a double whammy on the Satyam corporate brand. Their image stands sullied, tarnished. First the Maytas fiasco, now the ban imposed by World Bank.

In terms of Equity erosion, Satyam stands to lose more, as its a corporate brand that's been affected. This is unlike if it were a product brand that took a fall. Recovery can be plotted in the case of the latter by crafting a new identity for the brand or even by letting it have its death wish. Not so when its a corporate brand. What can it do? Where can it hide?
Satyam now risks being remembered as a firm that didn't do the 'right' stuff. That's a stigma it can't get away from. Not for a long time.

Business Practitioners & Business Professors

'Nothing in business is so remarkable as the conflicting variety of success formulas offered by its numerous practitioners and professors. And if, in the case of practitioners, they're not exactly "formulas", they are explanations of "how we did it," implying with firm control over any fleeting tendencies toward modesty that "that's how you ought to do it." Practitioners, filled with pride and money, turn themselves into prescriptive philosophers, filled mostly with hot air.

Professors, on the other hand, know better than to deal merely in explanations. We traffic instead in higher goods, like "analysis", "concepts" and "theories'. In short, "truth". Filled with self-importance, we turn ourselves hopefully into wanted advisers, consultants filled with woolly congestion.

I do not wish to disparage either, but only to suggest that these two legitimately different and respectable professions usually diminish …

Ten Marketing trends India 2009

Better Value offeringsFocus on Mrs. Kulkarni, the quintessential momGreater focus on activationResurrecting old assetsBrand makeoversCo-marketing effortsTechnology productsLooking good and feeling greatThe ‘what-won’t-change’ adsThe unexpectedRead more on Anand Halve's predictions here.

Why not being No.1 is at times better

How do you explain this?

When late Californian singer Jeff Buckley's fans found that the gospel-chorus version of “Hallelujah” sung by a 20-year- old Londoner Alexandra Burke, took the top slot on the UK holiday season charts, they put up a Facebook page to promote his purist cover of the song. In what appeared to be a protest at the manufactured music industry, fans of Jeff Buckley kicked off an Internet campaign to get his classic version to number one instead, through downloads.
Jeff Buckley's version now stands No. 2 on the charts with 81,000 downloads.
Consumers are at times motivated as much by factors negative, as positive. Negative motivation prompted the desire to bring down an artist (read, the creation of manufactured music industry) from the No.1 slot. This works in tandem with positive inclination to take someone else (read, the purist) up the charts. The interesting point to note is that the former drive is more potent than the latter. This is what works for the No…

Sell like you care, in fact, Care!

Two deft Sales 'touches' that impressed me;

I walk into a Titan Store yesterday and buy a Fastrack watch. I wait at the billing counter for my packed timepiece to arrive and it starts to take time. I am on my way to getting irritated when the Store person walks up to me and tells me its taking time as they are packing a 'fresh piece' for me. Now who wouldn't want to wait for a 'fresh piece'?

Jaden's two, and so gets his Christmas present, a first for him, and its a li'l bicycle. On waiting for it to be packed, the owner of the store walks up to me and tells me that he has put in an extra bugle horn for the cycle as the already fitted one seems a li'l afar for my son to reach it while he cycles. He also tells me the new one's at no charge at all. Now I think the horn would've cost the retailer not more than a dime. But with that li'l nothing he shows me he's givin' me somethin' extra at no cost, and more than that, he cares …

Buying the car we can't have

'We have over 135 million jobs in the US. Anyone claiming 10% of American jobs is related to the auto industry would have to show almost 14 million people working directly or indirectly for the auto industry in general. The auto industry as a whole in the US affects a seventh of that, and GM, Ford, and Chrysler would only affect a portion of those 2.1 million jobs.

Well, now the auto industry affects all of our jobs. We’re all coughing up enough money for a down payment on a new car from every family in America, only without actually getting the car. And even if we’d used that money to buy a new GM, Ford, or Chrysler instead of it being a loan, none of the three would have shown a profit from the sales anyway. They’re losing money on every car they sell, and neither management nor labor shows much interest in changing those calculations. They just want a Governmentus ex machina to rescue them from their own folly without having to sacrifice anything … and George Bush just gave it t…

Nude Publicity @ Euros 40,000

Something tells me clothing company Pardon doesn't mind the Euros. 40,000 it has to pay in damages to Carla Bruni. After all, it got them onto the pages of almost all newspapers around the world. That's not much, for that kind of publicity.
Would consumers be put off? Doubt it. In fact if Pardon doesn't burn the rest of the Bruni bags in an 'ecological way', and they found their way into the market, they'd be bestsellers!Pic:

The Rick Warren lesson in brand Obama

Marketers know it ain't smart to try and appeal to the sensibilities of diverse consumer groups using the same brand. That's why the brand mix. But what if one doesn't have a choice and has just one brand at his disposal? How does one broaden the brand's appeal to include as many consumer groups as possible? The answer is, 'Discount the outliers, go for the mass middle'.Take Barack Obama for example. As the president elect he has to try an appeal to the mass out there. In doing so, he may alienate the far rights and the lefts. In fact, he must, to win the 'middle of the road' masses. And that's exactly what he's done by calling on Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor of the southern California megachurch Saddleback, to give the invocation when he takes his oath of office. Will Rick as the choice alienate Barack from the radical gays? Sure. But then its about time he did that. Its wise to alienate the outlying populace that's a minority. That&…

Why category grows yet market share doesn't

ET: According to AC Nielsen figures for the January-October period, the Rs 3,976-crore oral care category (toothpaste and toothpowder together) in India grew 14.5%, with Dabur’s oral care brands recording a combined on-year value growth of 19.2%, while Colgate rose 14.5% and Hindustan Lever 13.8%. Within the toothpaste segment, Dabur brands—Dabur Red and Babool —have shown 19.1% and 19% value growth, respectively. By market share, however, Colgate remains the clear leader with a share of about 33.1%, followed closely by Hindustan Lever at 29.8%. Dabur’s market share is 9.4%.

According to analysts, HUL’s oral care offerings didn't do as well, because while Dabur and Colgate have a mixed portfolio, HUL has only premium offerings. The recommendation is that HUL introduce more oral care brands at low-entry price points for a better market share.

Why do we buy all that stuff?

'But let's look, not at the numbers, but the atmospherics. Appliances, toys, clothes, gadgets. Junk. There's the sad truth. Wall Street executives may have made investments that lost their value, but, in a much smaller way, so did the rest of us. "I looked into my closet the other day and thought, why did I buy all this stuff?" one friend said recently. A person in the United States replaces a cell phone every 16 months, not because the cell phone is old, but because it is oldish. My mother used to complain that the Christmas toys were grubby and forgotten by Easter. (I didn't even really like dolls, especially dolls who introduced themselves to you over and over again when you pulled the ring in their necks.) Now much of the country is made up of people with the acquisition habits of a 7-year-old, desire untethered from need, or the ability to pay. The result is a booming business in those free-standing storage facilities, where junk goes to linger in a pers…

Cost of Living on its way down

Bloomberg: The cost of living in the U.S. fell in November by the most on record as gasoline and other energy prices plunged. Consumer prices dropped 1.7 percent last month, more than economists had forecast, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. Excluding food and energy, so-called core prices were unchanged from a month earlier.

Costs of oil and other raw materials plummeted last month as a credit crisis intensified, forcing consumers to slash spending and prompting U.S. automakers to ask for a federal rescue package. Tumbling sales have retailers cutting prices, bolstering economists’ expectations the Federal Reserve later today will cut its target rate to the lowest level ever.

When's TV n' when's bedtime?

'I seriously doubt Jay Leno intended to be deceitful even if it was good PR for being on at 10pm. I’m sure Mr. Leno believes what he said is true. But it isn’t. Leno is wrong when he says that people are going to bed earlier and that 10pm is the new 11:30pm, at least according to the Nielsen data. Of course it is absolutely true that more people are watching TV at 10pm than 11:30pm. But that’s not anything new. People actually do go to sleep. But are they going to sleep earlier? Not according to the data.

The Nielsen data when it comes to television viewing doesn’t indicate that people are going to bed earlier. In fact, it indicates that people are generally going to bed at the same time they always did, and if anything are staying up a little bit later now!

What it does show is a decreasing trend of viewership between 10pm-11pm (not great news for Leno’s new timeslot), and increasing viewership between 11:30pm-12:30am. That holds true both as a one year trend and a five year trend.…

Just 'cos it sells, Pop ain't profound!

Taking up on the comments to my post on 'Roadies', its important to gauge the implications of what it is, that sells. This may not be an apples to apples comparison, but it surely demonstrates a thread that's common.

The other day on NDTV, I heard the actor John Abraham saying how he felt good when he heard that a friend of his had beaten up a politician. To my chagrin, the audience in the studio seemed to like that. Violence being appreciated, isn't that disturbing, never mind that it was a politician they were talking about? Again, quite a substantial populace out there appreciated the shoe being thrown at the President. Never mind the fact that the reporter could throw that shoe, because there was no more Saddam around. Imagine otherwise. The point is, the ludicrous does find acceptance. Its the 'unwisdom of crowds'.
Must marketers capitalise on such opportunities and make a killing? I am no one to judge and so if they must, they must. Note that no laws of the…

Family fortunes & Teenage employment

NYT: A recent study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University showed that teenage employment from 2005 to 2007 rose with household incomes that go up to $150,000 a year: 14 percent of teenagers from families earning less than $20,000 a year work, as do 26 percent of those whose families make $60,000, 32 percent of those earning $80,000 and 33 percent of those between $120,000 and $150,000.

Over $150,000, it drops to 28 percent. “Research shows that the bigger allowance you get from Mom and Dad,” explained Andrew M. Sum, director of Northeastern’s center, “the less likely you are to work.”

The customer with the shoe

My unabashed admiration for the man grows sky high. When he gets a pair of shoes thrown at him, he reacts and how! First he sways out of the way, he then waves off his lead Secret Service agent, who was prepared to extract him from the room, and finally he quips, "All I can report is it is a size 10".

Sure, customers may not get around to throwing shoes, but at times they come pretty close! Customer engagements can get downright dangerous. At such times its important for service personnel to get their response sequence right. Duck, laugh it away and get your wit flowing. Helps get back into shape pretty quick to face the next customer in line. :)

The Bailout. Coming this January.

(Click on pic. to enlarge)

Via: Carpe Diem

Googled Sarah & the White House

For a brand to be finally purchased, it has to traverse the buyer readiness stages starting from awareness about the brand right up till the time the consumer reaches a stage of 'conviction' about the brand. Conviction that's in favour, of course.

One of problems in this journey for brands is inability in creating awareness. Broadcast and Print media are mostly relied on for awareness. But again, consumers are adept at ignoring marketer messages on both print and broadcast media. Contrast this with when consumers seek information about brands through a media that's self-paced. Like say using a search engine. Now that's the zenith of 'awareness', sought out by the consumer himself!
That's what's happened to the Sarah Palin brand. In a list of Google's "fastest-rising" searches, the brand that came out tops has been Sarah Palin. Second was "Beijing Olympics 2008", followed by "Facebook login" and "Tuenti", a S…

You the Latte' lappin' loser?

McD's has got the timing dead right!

By erecting a billboard in sight of Starbucks headquarters declaring, "four bucks is dumb", McDonald's has gone for Starbucks' jugular. The objective of the campaign is to change Consumer attitudes towards the Starbucks brand. And I think its gonna work. Lemme explain why.

Consumer attitudes comprise of three components, the cognitive which dictates brand beliefs, the affective that drives what the consumer feels about the brand, and the conative which in turn decides his attitude towards purchase. Starbucks' consumer segment surely 'feels' great about their beloved cafe and coffee. But the 'cognitive part' is where McD's intends to sow the seeds of doubt. Sure, I feel great about the Latte' at Starbucks, but when I start to think, is it value for money? Especially when I may lose that job of mine? When I know that the economy is hurtling into a downward spiral? When McCafes offer the same damn snobbi…

The 'obscene reality' that Roadies is!

The eighth season of American Idol is round the corner. And this time too, I think we're gonna see talent. My last 'Weekend pick' featured David Archuleta, the baby faced kid who has a hit on his hands. Others too, from Idol, have had great careers in the music business.

Why I bring American Idol up, is 'cos last week, flipping through my TV channels, I came across MTV India which had this program called 'Roadies' on. The few minutes I stayed on the channel had me listening to this bald guy with a goatee mouthing obscenities at contestants who I guess were dying to be on the show. The 'bleeped out' profanities shocked me. Three things struck me right away. One, Why would anyone put themselves (incredibly low self esteem, perhaps?) through a session of this kinda bashing? To be on a pathetic show? Two, this acute show of 'abuse' was actually being enjoyed by a substantial viewer segment out there. Imagine that! Three, the baldie needed to be locke…

The battle on Minimum Pricing

'Manufacturers have been racing to enforce minimum-pricing policies since last year, when the Supreme Court ruled them to be legal, and not a violation of antitrust law. EBay and a group of other retailers and antitrust advocates are meeting Thursday in Washington to craft a strategy to overturn that ruling.

Manufacturers say minimum-pricing requirements are good because they protect a brand's image from being tarnished by discounting, while helping retailers make enough profit to pay for customer service. Consumer advocates argue that minimum-pricing deals hurt shoppers by keeping prices high and diminishing consumer choice.'
Read the complete story here.

Grin that's turned a grimace

Amidst the gloom of Mumbai tragedy, the only comic relief is listening (on TV) to the 'vacant up there' Bollywood celebrities mouthing off solutions they have conjured up. Listening to Shah Rukh this afternoon has taken a toll. The grin's turned into a grimace. :(

Nandan on the cover, Imagining India?

T N Ninan thinks Nandan Nilekani's book, 'contains many arguments but no central narrative'.
I haven't read the book but being the Marketing professor I must (must I?) have a take on the way it looks. I mean judging by the cover. Titled, 'Imagining India, Ideas for the new century', it has Nandan on the cover, piercing look and all. What may have been behind the picture? A surefire way to sell the book, 'cos Nandan's well known? Isn't such a title supposed to be propped up with a more metaphorical picture that gives greater credence to the title? But then, if that were done, would we then welcome a dud? 'Cos the pic on the cover makes that critical difference in terms of browsers in a book store evincing interest in a book. Whatever, I would have preferred a Non-Nandan pic. as the cover. OK, I get it. Would that get me to buy? Can't tell. :)

Buyer Greed

'This tragedy points to the selfishness of the human heart and demonstrates that greed is not confined to the scions of Wall Street. Quite the contrary, these Main Street shoppers pursued their own materialistic impulses at the expense of the needs of those around them. They were focused on themselves, intent on getting to the deals first. Their trampling of Mr. Damour, each other, and the employees who were trying to help him, exhibits hearts that care more about saving $50 on an HDTV than about the health and safety of their fellow man...

The trampling of Jdimytai Damour should be a wake-up call to each one of us. It should cause us to pause and consider whether we place too high a value on our own convenience and our own possessions. We should examine our hearts and ask ourselves whether we any longer have the capacity to sacrifice our own desires for the good of another. We are missing the big picture if events like these capture our attentions just long enough for us all…

So much for 'Community Service'!

'The most fundamental problem, however, is not which particular activities students are required to engage in under the title of "community service."

The most fundamental question is: What in the world qualifies teachers and members of college admissions committees to define what is good for society as a whole, or even for the students on whom they impose their arbitrary notions?

What expertise do they have that justifies overriding other people's freedom? What do their arbitrary impositions show, except that fools rush in where angels fear to tread? What lessons do students get from this, except submission to arbitrary power?

Supposedly students are to get a sense of compassion or noblesse oblige from serving others. But this all depends on who defines compassion. In practice, it means forcing students to undergo a propaganda experience to make them receptive to the left's vision of the world.'

- Thomas Sowell, 'Freedom and the Left'.

Congruency in Communiques

Its important to recognize that, what's symbolic communicates as well as what's real. There may even be times when the 'symbolic' turns out be the louder of the two.

Take the case of the heads of America's largest automakers and their travel to D.C. to meet Congress and 'beg' for a bailout. The first trip they made to D.C. had them flying on private jets to queue in for the bailout. The 'real' was the 'pitch' for the bailout. The 'symbolic' was the 'mode' of their travel. What spoke louder was their 'mode of travel'. The result? A nation outraged.

This time around, the Auto heads have chosen a different mode of travel. They took the road. Now, that makes good sense.

Its important for Marketers to ensure that the 'real' and the 'symbolic' speak in a congruent manner. One must prop the other. They mustn't speak with two different tongues. Its like the case of a premium product in a lousy package. Or a h…

Car & Bike sales crash in November

The reasons behind the 'crash' include consumers tightening their purses, waiting for theyear end to pass and not looking to loans as lending norms tighten.

Almost all car and bike manufacturers have been affected. The one most hit, amongst car brands, is Mahindra Logan which had sales of 300 units in November compared to 1500 units in November, 2007. Wonder if its partly got to do with households shying away from the brand, as its now perceived more as a 'cab'? Me thinks so.

Spurious loyalty & Communique receptivity

Service brands at times face a hard time communicating to customers, especially those who have had a taste of the 'service'. Take me, for example, and my attempts at withdrawing money from an HDFC bank ATM. The first day, the ATM center was shut, the second day, the machine was 'under repair', the third day, again, the place was closed. Thank god, I had borrowed some money for the weekend, knowing very well what lay in store for me at the ATM. Coming to HDFC Bank's communiques (read, commercial), do you know how the 'TV drama' ends? The 'grand close' is the line, 'We understand your world'!

Well; Do you?

Now my 'experience' may not turn me away from the bank, but it surely makes me take their 'claims' with a pinch o' salt.

Its important for brands to know that having customers doesn't mean they are doing everything right. Customer stay many a times 'cause they are 'locked in'. These customers may not abandon …