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Showing posts from May, 2009

The Dera divide & Brand communities

The Dera divide that's witnessed in the state of Punjab, and replicated elsewhere around the world amidst the Sikh community, points to the desire of people to form communities of their 'own kind'. These communities help people face and counter atrocities that their caste identities bring. On their own, the Dalits in India know they have no chance. And so they congregate.

The phenomenon of congregations is seen around the world. Built to protect, enhance and propagate identities, they give their followers the chance to be a part of something that's got a place in society.

The best of brands go beyond just a sale to build communities. Brand driven communities get built either by the marketer who's behind the brand or at the behest of consumers themselves. The latter, though not in control of the marketer, is the better and the more enduring community. Like biker communities. There's one in India, made of Enfield Bullet riders. In fact, now the brand itself has tak…

American capitalism gone with a whimper

'Those lessons were taken and used to properly prepare the American populace for the surrender of their freedoms and souls, to the whims of their elites and betters.

First, the population was dumbed down through a politicized and substandard education system based on pop culture, rather then the classics. Americans know more about their favorite TV dramas then the drama in DC that directly affects their lives. They care more for their "right" to choke down a McDonalds burger or a BurgerKing burger than for their constitutional rights. Then they turn around and lecture us about our rights and about our "democracy". Pride blind the foolish...

The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America's short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, …

Children walk to school, and run back home

Something I noticed. Every morning riding the bus to work I seem to be more concerned about the driving quality than on my way back, when I don't seem to be as concerned. Speeding in the morning, which is a concern, isn't, when I am on my way home. I guess the explanation's a simple one. My desire to be back home is greater than to get to work. Don't get me wrong, I love my work. But I guess I am eager to get back to my darlings at home, and so the speeding doesn't bother me as much. In fact its something I even wish for. Because I get back home quicker.

Difference in contexts dictate responses that are different. Consumers too, according to contexts, can either turn eager, looking forward to the act of consumption, or reluctant, with an eye on things other than the actual consumption act. Let me explain. Were I to be taking a holiday trip, the ride to the airport, even if its an exacting one wouldn't bother me as much as, if I were to be taking a trip to my den…

Should you consult the expert?

'The rejection of classical expertise assumes a second form on the internet. If everyone can have a say, but accreditations are banned, how will the digital wheat be distinguished from the chaff? For free software aficionados on the Slashdot community weblog, as for the users of commercial powerhouses Amazon and eBay, the solution is to calculate the average opinion of participants regarding the reputation of posters and commenters on Slashdot, and of reviewers and sellers on Amazon and eBay. The same goes for the popularity of shared information or links in “social media” such as Reddit and Digg, as well as for the PageRank algorithm which generates Google’s search results (1). The “wisdom of the crowd” – the automated aggregation of multiple individual choices – will quasi-magically produce an ideal result. That’s how things are supposed to happen, at any rate.'

Wikipedia, which runs on a premise that collaborative effort on any subject would cancel out falsifications, should…

Everyone's not DiCaprio

I know this for sure. Every time the Government decides what's to be made and in what quantity, the consumer's going to get a raw deal. In India, years ago that raw deal was called a Bajaj Chetak scooter or an Ambassador car. Lousy to say the least, the damn things were only affordable to a few. And even if you could afford the 'running disasters' you still, had to wait months to get a hand on one. All that changed when the Indian government decided that private citizens must be allowed to make whatever it is they wanted to. And if the consumer decided not to buy whatever was made, that was the private citizens' problem. If they did buy, the money was theirs.

In the US, it almost seems as if its going back to the days that we Indians endured two decades ago. The reason for doing that? Its the environment, they say.

Note Stephen Green quoting the anonymous "Mechanic"; 'If you think I’m exaggerating, think again. The anonymous “Mechanic,” writing for Edmu…

The talent for Politics & Catastrophe

'One of the most important talents for success in politics is the ability to make utter nonsense sound not only plausible but inspiring. Barack Obama has that talent. We will be lucky if we escape the catastrophes into which other countries have been led by leaders with that same charismatic talent.

When I think of the people with serious physical or mental handicaps who nevertheless work, I find it hard to sympathize with able-bodied men who stand on the streets and beg. Nor can I sympathize with those who give them money that subsidizes a parasitic lifestyle which allows such men to be a constant nuisance, or even a danger, to others.

How surprising is it that Barack Obama, who spent decades hanging out with people who spewed out their hatred of America, did not say anything in the presence of foreign rulers like Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega, when they spewed out their hatred of America?'

- Thomas Sowell, 'Random Thoughts'.

'Attribution' helps manage emotions

'Mostly, though, liberals know conclusions, which they erroneously identify as facts. For example, they know that huge numbers of Americans have no medical care; they know that Obama was a top student at every school he attended; and despite their support for the military, they know that most American troops are ill-educated, violent hicks. As it happens, each of these statements is factually wrong (see here, here and here) and, instead, reflects only an emotional conclusion.'

I have had my fair share of making such emotional conclusions, as much as facing such conclusions either in classrooms, at home, at my workplace, almost everywhere, by parties other than me. At such times, as Bookworm says, trying to factually correct whats been emotionally concluded is a bad idea. Unless its done with the right 'attribution'. Attribute what you say to a source that's acceptable. Someone who the other party identifies with. As Bookworm shows, the truth about Obama, for instanc…

The skeptic as the consumer

If there should someone who's termed a 'healthy' consumer, then he must be one who brings a fair amount of belief and skepticism when faced with a purchase. A steep inclination to either belief or skepticism can be termed 'unhealthy'. Its the balance that's critical to consumer purchases. Let me illustrate. When faced with an advertising claim, its healthy to be a bit skeptical. That provokes enquiry. Which helps in bettering purchase decision making. Extreme skepticism on the other hand is what spawns the likes of Naomi Klein and 'No Logo'. The converse illustration is the almost reverential submission by followers to con artists in the guise of god men. These are the 'extreme' believers who don't tolerate any contradiction to their blind beliefs.The believer is a marketer's delight. The skeptic poses a dilemma. In fact its the extreme skeptics I want to talk about. Immune to any belief, they question everything that requires faith. The…

Genders differ, so?

Sometimes I see research from supposedly the smartest of firms around, that form interpretations that are so simplistic, I feel they misguide more than help facilitate decisions. Take for example the recent study by eMarketer on differences across genders when it comes to online behaviour.The study tells companies that 'they should be aware that not all Internet tendencies mirror offline generalizations.' Now whats that supposed to mean? The study says that stereotypes that we have about genders in the offline world should not be transplanted online. Surely we didn't need a survey to figure that out.Anyway, lets look at the stereotypes that don't apply. 'For example, women are often dubbed the more verbally adept sex. However they are no more likely to use online communication tools like e-mail, blogging, or social networks than men are.'Now who in world thinks that verbal exchanges are similar to written ones? Of course they are different. You didn't a sur…

Who's objective, who biased?

Liberals think that Kris Allen is American Idol because the mass voted away from Adam Lambert and his sexuality, which they were not comfortable with. This despite the fact that they think Adam's a better singer. I must add that Clay Aiken doesn't think so. The liberals even think its the Christian vote that did Adam in.

One things for sure. The mass voted Kris. Its obvious, isn't it? That's why he won. Note that the margin of victory was supposed to have been pretty big. The mass voted Kris because they judged Kris as the better one. As to what parameters they used is up to them. Of course, its about the music. But then again, who says the liberals are the musically inclined ones and so are better at judging? In fact biases that creep into any one's judgement can creep into liberals too.

Consumers make judgements based on all the stimuli they are exposed to. Surely a few among those stimuli may have a greater impact. Like when it comes to judging a singer what one h…

The genius of Democracy

'The genius of democracy is that the rotation of power forces the opposition to come to its senses when it takes over. When the new guys, brought to power by popular will, then adopt the policies of the old guys, a national consensus is forged and a new legitimacy established.

That's happening before our eyes. The Bush policies in the war on terror won't have to await vindication by historians. Obama is doing it day by day. His denials mean nothing. Look at his deeds.'
- Charles Krauthammer,'Obama's Deeds Vindicate Bush'.

Why Self-Preservation's natural

I share the sense of outrage, if there's one, at the way DMK's haranguing the Congress party for Cabinet and ministerial berths in the to-be formed Indian government.But on closer analysis I can see why they're doing what they're doing. Its called 'self-preservation'. The DMK knows it can never be a national party with an appeal across the country. Its life lies down south in Tamil Nadu. That's where their existence is decided. So they do what comes natural to them. That is, try and get as many berths, and use that leverage to shower their own state with goodies. That would help them garner seats in the next election so they can rule their state and also have enough numbers in the Parliament to start another round of haggling.Of course, there's no condoning what they're doing, but I wonder who's out there doing a service to anybody, who's willing to sacrifice for a greater good? Even consumers are the 'selfishest' kind.Cynical? Me? J…

Why I am confused and that's bad

I stand even more confused. With the launch of the Ritz its become even more harder for me to know how's it any different from the A-Star or the i10. Again, its the same when I think of the Getz and the i20. Damn, all of them look and seem like they're the other.Wanna call me an ignoramus? Sure, be my guest, but call me a consumer too. And that's when I start to be a problem to you. For you see, if I don't see a difference, then all of them must turn candidates of probable purchase, should I consider it. That doesn't bode well for any of them. And again, remember when I engage in that purchase, I am going to drive a hard bargain, pitching one against the other, demanding for better payoffs to me (read, discounts, offers). How can that be good for any brand? Differentiating on enduring characteristics is a must for a brand. Helps it stand out of the pack. Its like Indian politics. The Congress Party differentiated itself as the non-communal, inclusive, pro-poor, goo…

How to turn a lie into a truth

Every time someone tells you they're doing it out of their concern for you, be concerned about their concern. In all probability they don't care.

Its a similar concern that I have about the concern that the Al Gore brigand has about the future of MY world. I am talking environment. The climate change canard is way the Gores of the world make money for themselves. Al Gore is a politician, a campaigner and the chair of a green private-equity firm invested in products that a climate-scared world would buy.

About running cost savings that's been promised if cars were to turn fuel efficient, under tough new national standards to cut emissions and increased gas mileage, look to the real costs behind the 'green' initiative. Spain has been proclaimed a global example in providing financial aid to renewable energy companies to create green jobs. But research shows that each new job cost Spain 571,138 euros, with subsidies of more than one million euros required to create each…

Products, Controllables; Consumers, Uncontrollables

Last evening on our way back home, the bus got stranded in a jam on Hosur road. The jam partly was the making of commuters scattered across bus stops, creating their own little 'islands' over a large stretch. Seeing them, buses tended to stop right where they were. The solitary traffic policeman stationed on the road tried in vain to herd all the commuters together to a place further away so buses wouldn't block the road up. In spite of the policeman's efforts commuters wouldn't budge.

I thought, the only way to get them to move was to have the buses move away, up front. That would automatically send the commuters scurrying ahead. If you wanted commuters to move to a place of your choice, the simple thing to do would be force buses to that place. Commuters go where buses go.
Commuters are the uncontrollables, buses, controllables. Focus on the buses.
In the business world too, consumers stay put. To change their behaviour you've got to manipulate the controllable…

What maketh a Manager?

The latest BW Business School survey reveals that the top 10 schools in India have 82 percent engineering graduates as students. That must of course therefore say something about the kind of evaluation methodology they have designed to admit students in. It must also point to the kind of managers they must send out there into the business world.
The question is, is this the kind of managerial talent that must be nurtured within business schools or should the mix be more eclectic with backgrounds in studies that straddle a wide spectrum?Note Sir Ken Robinson talking about the education system; 'But something strikes you when you move to America and when you travel round the world; every education system on earth has the same hierarchy of subjects, everyone. It doesn’t matter where you go. You think it would be otherwise, but it isn’t. At the top are Mathematics and Languages, then the Humanities, and at the bottom are the Arts, everywhere on earth. And in pretty much every system to…

Why the obsession?

It just blows me away to think that some people have been able to conjure up a cult like following. It happens across the world. These are but a few who can command a stupendous following. Count among them movie stars, spiritual gurus and even politicians.Every time I see people (mostly on TV) in trance, rocking back and forth to a guru's 'words of wisdom' backed up by music at a spiritual gathering, I wonder how's it possible. How's it possible to cast a spell over a multitude? And if the rules to casting such spells can be articulated, can it then be used in the branding arena?Someone who's had a multitude hanging on to his every word, in recent times has been Barack Obama. And according to Austin Hill, this is why he could craft such an obsession; I tend to think that it’s three very important elements which, having been combined together all at the same time, have produced this current obsession. For one, many Americans are genuinely frightened by present e…

Move over, Google?

Time Online: A revolutionary new search engine that computes answers rather than pointing to websites will be launched officially today amid heated talk that it could challenge the might of Google.WolframAlpha, named after Stephen Wolfram, the British-born computer scientist and inventor behind the project, takes a query and uses computational power to crunch through huge databases. The service can compute the distance between two cities, the population of a country at a specific date and the position of the Space Shuttle at a given moment. The user does not have to search through links provided by the engine; the answer comes immediately and, if appropriate, is accompanied by charts or graphs. What it does that Google, at the moment, cannot do is provide answers to questions that have not been answered already.

The 'positioning' lesson in Indian elections

I have written in the past about whether 'fear' can be used to appeal to the senses. The answer is, it can, but must be used wisely and within a relevant context.

The BJP's use of fear to lure the voter didn't work because of two critical reasons. One, as an appeal it didn't carry as much weight as a 'non-fear positive' lure that the Congress Party used. Two, the context wasn't right.

Before I get into explanations, note when 'fear' works. One approach to the curvilinear explanation of fear is the protection motivation model. According to this theory, four cognitive appraisal processes mediate the individual's response to the threat: appraising (1) the information available regarding the severity of the perceived threat, (2) the perceived probability that the threat will occur, (3) the perceived ability of a coping behaviour to remove the threat, (4) the individual's perceived ability to carry out the coping behaviour.

At a time when the av…

Good Morning, Mr. Prime Minister

Its a pleasure to wake to a morning knowing that the honourable Dr. Manmohan Singh will remain the Prime Minister of India.

Good Morning, Mr. Prime Minister.

The benefits that matter to consumers

If the BJP wisened up, they would dump Hindutva and the likes of Varun and Modi. Because that's not what the average man on the street wants. He craves a better life. And that's about 'Roti, Kapda and Makaan'.
Just like brands must wisen up and dump benefits consumers do not care for. A mass consumer brand trying to woo consumers with psychological benefits at the cost of lower prices is akin to the BJP trying to woo the voter with Hindutva at the cost of Roti, Kapda and Makaan.Either won't work! Aren't working!

Swedish Capitalism Ahoy!

If President Obama should look somewhere it should be towards Sweden. When Obama's busy turning America into a Socialist bastion, Sweden's shedding its incompetent Socialist system and adopting Capitalism with great speed.

CSR reportsthat last week, the country’s center-right government began selling off state-owned pharmacies, one of the country’s few remaining nationalized companies, as part of an ambitious program of liberal economic reforms started in 2006. In the same week, a study by the Swedish Unemployment Insurance Board revealed that almost half of the country’s jobless lacked full unemployment benefits. Many opted out of the state scheme when the cost of membership was raised last year; others were ineligible.

State pensions, schools, healthcare, public transport, and post offices have been fully or partly privatized over the last decade, making Sweden one of the most free market orientated economies in the world, analysts say.

Way to go, Sweden!

Reinventing the Magazine

WSJ: But today, at a particularly tough time for magazines, a number of publications are again looking beyond the standard glossy format, experimenting with different manifestations of what a magazine can be. In doing so, they are offering their readers special experiences that Web sites and other free-content digital distractions can't match.

These are publications that revel in their 3D-ness, special objects that demand deeper interaction from their readers than the average print magazine. Taking advantage of recent advances in printing technology, these publications are determinedly nonconformist in everything they do. But they are, in essence, magazines -- curated, regular compilations of content with clear selection criteria, consistent design and an individual voice.

What's behind the early numbers?

Dr. Manmohan Singh.

I know its early days. But if you want to point to one of the factors that's swinging the pendulum, the Congress way, its the honourable Dr. Manmohan Singh. His honesty and decency has made its mark with the polity.

Add to that the organisational and managerial capabilities of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. Add again, the Young turks in the party. Rahul Gandhi and his honesty has been welcomed.

Like I said, early days. Lets wait and watch.

Shuttle against the Sun

Pic/Story: Times Online

Brands must change as masses change

When I was younger and the only channel on TV was Doordarshan, Prannoy Roy and his show the 'World this Week' seemed manna from heaven.Listening to him now, on NDTV is torture. I mean, his long drawn drawls are no longer a treat to listen to. The change in me can be blamed on my having listened to anchors across various news channels, both Indian and American. One of my favourite anchors now is Sean Hannity on Fox News. He's crisp, insightful and conservative. And speaks quick. If Sean's on one end of a continuum, Prannoy's at the other.Brands once operated in the kind of isolation that presented Prannoy as the best thing on TV. Today the landscape pockmarked with various players that consumers can choose from. It makes sense therefore for brands to change and adapt to what's acceptable to the 'changed' masses. Else, they would present the kind of exasperation I have to endure everytime I tune into NDTV. Which is often (you see, its a choice between the…

Why the system and the brand must matter

The count will soon begin, in India.

Its interesting to note that as much as there were places where the voting turnout was low, there were others where the turnout was quite high. Where it was the low, it can be construed that the voter believed his life would go on, despite the system. It wouldn't matter who won. Where the voter came out and voted, the thought was the system could make a difference to his life.

Marketers on their part must make consumers believe that brands can make a difference to their lives. Apathy towards brands turn consumers switchers. Take retail shopping for example. The difference between the believing consumer and the apathetic one is, the former goes into the store with a list that has brand names put down on it, the latter goes in with no brands on the list, only products. The former tries to find a shelf that houses the brand he's looking for, the latter scans to shelf to locate the brand that's got the better offer.

Remember, for the politicia…

What to standardise, customise?

Almost all the Indian exit polls seem to point to a hung verdict. Shows how fractured the mandate is. Shows how region-centric issues are. Shows how there's no issue that's pan Indian. Shows something that marketers can learn from.Products and services must be localised. But then note, there is an issue out there that cuts across regions in India. Everyone, doesn't matter which region he belongs to, longs for a better life. There's a lesson in there too. Products and service must deliver solutions to consumer needs. That's a standard requirement. If you intend to customise your solutions, tweak it to appeal to a regional consumer and ensure your marketing communication is completely localised.By the way, the poll results will be out in 48 hours. Its going to be a riveting scene. Happy viewing.

Government Motor imports

Will GM import its Chinese made cars into the the US.? What about bailout funds and the canard of job creation?

Brands break caste driven class differences

The other day we went to this 'pricey' restaurant. After our meal, we stepped out and spent a few minutes chatting. The valet was kind enough to bring my Hyundai Santro to the restaurant's doorstep. What happened next was interesting to behold. Another valet walked up to me and asked me if it was okay to move my car to the side so they could bring up a Ford Endeavour and park it at the doorstep. I agreed. Soon my lowly Santro made way for a Ford with the valets bending over backwards to ensure they were at the beck and call of the Ford owner.

I was amused. Not surprised.

Certain classes in society get preferential treatment over others. In India, the caste that you are born into can dictate that treatment. The lower the class, the lousier the treatment. The more the chance of you being asked to make way. Just like my Santro. Even now. Caste based differential treatment is something I abhor. In fact I constantly mull over how this unfair equation can be neutralised.

The Santro…

To apologise or not to

Admitting to a mistake and being apologetic is a good thing. But when the apology is a needless one, the problem compounds. That is, the person in question now knows you messed up on something. The smarter thing would have been to shut up and let it by.

The London Evening Standard may have just apologised for no reason. The idea behind the 'Sorry London' campaign was to resurrect a damaged brand. As to whether it will give the desired result needs to be seen. There's even a possibility of the consumer now realising that Evening Standard's all along given them news that was of no consequence. Then the roll of the dice may go awry for them. The angered consumer who knows he's been cheated, can even turn away.
Apologies can restore trust, only if the wronged consumer who knows he's been wronged, is willing to forgive. Also note, a needless apology can create a bigger mess than the one it intends to solve.

I need my Coffee!

In spite of the recession going around, people still want their sweetened coffee fix. And soon that 'fix' will cost a lot of money.

FT reports that caffeine addicts face higher prices for their daily fix as the wholesale cost of both coffee and sugar rise sharply because of poor crops and robust demand. Until recently, it was widely assumed that the global economic crisis would damp consumption and prices for coffee. However, that forecast proved wrong, since demand for coffee has remained high, even while consumers have moved from caf├ęs to home drinking. International coffee prices last week hit a seven-month high, rising to $1.28 per pound, up 22 per cent from their December low, in New York trading.

Thoughtless anger aims to discredit brands

There's a difference between thoughtful anger and a thoughtless one. The former could be an expression against injustice, the latter intends to discredit, albeit in manner unfair. The latter is disgraceful.

The latter is a quite the weapon of liberals. Right now, Carrie Prejean's the one who's in the liberal firing line. MSNBC allowed a guest to call her vile names, and the far-left cast of characters on that cable network have delighted in mocking and demeaning Prejean almost nightly. The left-wing blogs have been especially vicious, and now, even her own pageant is turning against her.

I have seen the same happening to brands too. Disgruntled elements stoop to take potshots at brands just because they don't agree to the way some of them conduct business. For example, the dimwits who hate fast food (read McDonald's) tend to spread lies about how fast food can ruin health when the reality is that it's sometimes even a lifesaver.

Thoughtless anger can have fallouts…

The viral in a 'Did you know' question

The other day someone asked me if I knew that the Zoo Zoo characters in the Vodafone commercial were real people and not cartoon characters. I didn't. I asked Alphy today if she knew. She didn't too.

Something tells me such a question has been asked all around. And that's why the Zoo Zoos now have a facebook page with 65000 people joining up.

A viral message can do with a 'did you know' question. If you didn't, probably you will ask the same question to someone else. And then that someone else will take the question forward. The viral will soon infect consumers. Remember for the question to work, the answer must be a 'NO'. If its a yes, its dead question.

The viral goes kaput.

Obama and the 'universal' pipe dream

'But whatever else universal coverage might bring, there is no evidence that it will bring economic nirvana. If anything, contrary to what the president suggests, the correlation runs the other way for countries with universal coverage such as Canada, England, France, Germany, and Japan. On nearly every economic front, their performance has been worse than America's—even, surprisingly, in controlling health care costs.

Contrary to popular perception, even though America is at the epicenter of the financial crisis, it has suffered less than its industrialized peers in terms of economic growth. According to the latest International Monetary Fund figures two weeks ago, the U.S. economy actually grew 1.1 percent last year even as Japan's shrank by 0.6 percent. France and England's both grew 0.7 percent, and Canada's only 0.5 percent—or less than half of America's. Only Germany did slightly better at 1.3 percent.'

Shikha Dalmia goes on to show why the concept of …

Whatever, don't call me!

Let me say it right away. I think Axe's 'Call me' campaign's a smart one.

But when Axe's research lab says its conducted a study of 750 girls across six cities in India about phone conversations , and that they've had 92% of girls confessing that they are willing to exchange phone numbers with a guy if they like him in the first meeting, I gotta guffaw.

What do you expect the research to come up with?

With the 'Call me' campaign, HUL was targeting 10 lakh calls by June but within a month of the campaign breaking they received 27 lakh calls. Wow! That's a lot of guys out there who're either dying to have their hands on an iPod or they're never had a decent conversation with a lady in their lives.

Whatever, will all of this translate into sales needs to be seen. To Axe's credit, I bet, its recall as a deodorant must have touched stratospheric heights. That's great going for a brand that's also doing us a big favour. I mean, keeping the…

The lure of chicken you didn't have

That the damn coupons didn't get you the new grilled chicken at KFC may even have been a ploy. The urge to now get your hands on it is even greater. I know, it may put you off KFC. But I am willing to bet it won't.Sales promos that don't get you what they promise are irritating. But if managed well, it can engineer publicity that makes your newly launched brand even more sought after. That the new grilled chicken ran out at KFC counters is good for the chicken chain. Imagine what people must think. The damn chicken must have tasted like heaven and must be really good too. Almost everyone who's tuned into the grilled chicken story now knows that 'the new menu item is lower in fat, calories and sodium than the traditional deep-fried chicken for which KFC is known the world over. It even has it's own secret recipe, kept under lock and key near the original 11 herbs and spices recipe for fried chicken created by KFC founder Colonel Harland Sanders.'What baloney…

The communication story in Berlusconisation

Silivio Berlusconi is the master at communication. His two 'critical acts' have ensured the Berlusconisation of Italy. One, he's engaged in 'incidents' that have captured the public's imagination. Like his performance post the earthquake at L'Aquila. Overnight he turned darling of the masses.

Two, his control of Italian media. Berlusconi and his family control half the television output, one of four national newspapers, one of two news magazines and the biggest publishing house.

This is the best example anywhere, of engineering marketing communication. Owning media vehicles ensures the 'right' kind of communiques in the garb of appearing neutral, reach the voter. Plus making sure that he's in the news for issues that are impactful adds to the 'image'. Remember, voters don't remember everything (read, public memory is short). But they do tend to remember stories that have a 'human face' to it. Berlusconi ensures its his face ent…

Are conservative numbers depleting?

'It's true that a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that only 21 percent of Americans now identify themselves as Republicans, compared with 35 percent as Democrats and 38 percent as independents. But there's a huge difference between party identification and ideological identification.

The bipartisan Battleground Poll, as recently as Aug. 20, 2008, revealed that 60 percent of Americans identify themselves as conservative and only 36 percent as liberal.

So it's the Republican Party that's in trouble, not conservatism. The GOP's shrinkage can't be because it's too conservative. George W. Bush, our most recent Republican president, was hardly an extreme conservative. His most outspoken critics today include wide swaths of conservatives who decried his failure to rein in federal spending and control illegal immigration, among other things.'

- David Limbaugh, 'Obama's Propaganda Campaign to Mainstream Extreme Liberalism.'

The Republican problem is Marketing

Lincoln Mitchell states, 'In business, rebranding is also what you do when you haven't updated your advertising jingle for too many years, your mascot's clothes need to be updated, or your product's colors need to be brightened or muted because of changes in fashion. The problems the Republican Party faces, however, will not be solved by rebranding.'
I agree.
Then he says, 'The quandary in which the Republican Party now finds itself is not due to a public relations problem, but stems from being strongly identified, and not without good reason, with the Bush administration. The Bush administration is broadly viewed as a failure, not because it didn't present itself well, but because it mishandled both the economy and foreign policy to disastrouseffect. Additionally, some of the ideas which have been foundation of the Republican Party have, in the cases of radical social conservatism and unregulated financial sectors, become the views of an increasingly small …

Banning Savage talk actually helps

Clubbing Michael Savage with the likes of terrorists, Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klaners is unfair. Pushed into this club, Michael's now been denied entry into the United Kingdom. But the good it will do is get more radios in the UK tuned to his broadcast. That's if its available there. So much for a ban on his travel.

Michael Savage airing on the 'Savage Nation' is the No. 3-rated radio host in the U.S. You will soon have him zooming to No.2 or 1 both in the US. and UK.

Publicity rules!

Output grows in India & China

FT: India’s manufacturing sector grew in April for the first time in five months, spurring hopes of an end to falling growth estimates and contracting exports. Meanwhile, the purchasing managers’ index for Chinese manufacturing published by CLSA, the Hong Kong-based brokerage, rose to 50.1 in April from 44.8 a month earlier, signalling an expansion in factory output for the first time in nine months.

The Kindle & the consumer

'If Mohammad can't go to the mountain, let the mountain come to Mohammad.'

If the consumer won't go to Kindle, let Kindle come to the consumer. Amazon is now launching what is expected to be a larger version of its Kindle e-book reader that is more suited to academic publishers. WSJ reports that six universities including Case Western, Pace, and Princeton are partnering with Amazon and major publishers to supply students with the new device in the fall. Details of the name of the device, as well as specific features and price, have not been released. Amazon declined to comment on the report.

Why Zojirushi wants to be the only 1

Zojirushi has a smart consumer strategy in place. Its 'occasionally offbeat, high-margin products' ensures that it doesn't have to try and be No. 1, instead it can be 'the only 1'.
The way they try and do this by living the consumer life and noticing problems that could be turned into opportunities for solutions. Take the mini-bread making machine, for example. Zojirushi's study of Japanese homes, which are tiny, has led to innovation. A $190 minibread-making machine that produces loaves half the size of those made by standard bread machines has become a surprise hit in the U.S. Consumers say it helps avoid the problem of large loaves going stale.In doing what it does well, that is, innovate, Zojirushi has ensured that it remains the only player in certain categories. That means avoiding commodity battles with rivals like Panasonic and Braun. Zojirushi briefly made dual-mug coffeepots, but when engineers couldn't sufficiently differentiate its product from o…

Obama & the Bangalore rhetoric

Its almost nauseating to see the likes of Joe Klein fawning over President Obama. Listen to this, 'Perhaps Obama's most dramatic departure from the recent past is his public presence: cool where George W. Bush seemed hot, fluent where Bush seemed tongue-tied, palliative rather than hortative.'Yeah, Obama's got a glib tongue. When was that a hallmark of leadership? Note that its that very glib tongue that utters such irresponsible statements as the one he made on Bangalore, (quote on US' current taxation system), "It's a tax code that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York." What have been the reactions to the Obama rhetoric? Note Atulya Sarin, a professor of finance at Santa Clara University. "It's a bad idea from the word go," said Sarin, who has consulted with the Internal Revenue Service and with Fortune 100 companies on international tax issues. "Incre…

Why success can be fatal

We shop for groceries at Spar. We've been patronising Spar for quite some time now. Since we first shopped there, we've seen the shopping crowd grow. So much so, now it takes us at least a good ten minutes at the check out counter, as the queues have gotten longer. Its starting to become a problem.Hopefully we'll have the Spar people increase the number of operational billing counters, at least on a weekend. I know it'll be tough (increased labour costs), recession and all. Sometimes success brings with it a new set of problems. It opens the door for your competitor to sneak a leg in. Solving the newly propped up problem becomes the window of opportunity for a competitor who can then lure the customer in with a better shopping proposition. Star Bazaar at Koramangala is a place we are now willing to try, if we think the queues are shorter. That should be bad news to Spar. Note, as much as success is a reflection of great value delivery, it also is the genesis to a new s…

Political errors that mirror Business ones

In politics too the same mistakes can be made, as in Business. Especially when the landscape's India. The gravest error? Assuming that consumers behave alike. That voters behave alike.

What connects with a certain consumer in India falls flat when it comes to another. Especially across geographical regions. A note of caution (This may sound like a contradiction). Should you map a certain demographic, there could be a possibility of standardising products for that segment across geographies in India. For example the 'youth'. Cafes have worked for them across cities in India. In fact Cafe' Coffee Day has been pretty successful establishing a chain of Cafes across India. Note a paradox again. What gets served within them may change across geographies, though the Cafe' format remains standardised.

Back to my original point. India poses a heterogeneity that's sometimes baffling. This heterogeneity puts even the politicians in a quandary. And I believe it will put the

Why the voter stayed away

Despite 26/11 and Jaago Re, the Mumbai voter stayed away from the voting booth. Like I said before, the voter sees better payoffs elsewhere. To him voting booth outcomes hardly matter. After all when's life gotten better post elections? In addition, the immediate payoffs are with his decision to stay away. The payoffs from voting outcomes take time and seem distant.Still surprised why the turnout's low?

Yakety Yak can't be sustained

Marketing Communicators can learn something from the Obama yakety-yak. After a while it gets boring. And that's a loss of viewership.

Note that Audience interest in Barack Obama’s news conferences seems to be falling, with his latest press event drawing the president’s smallest prime time audience since his inauguration. The telecast to mark Obama’s 100th day in office was viewed by 28.8 million people, according to Nielsen. That's a 29% drop from the president's last press conference, on March 24, and a 42% fall since his first, on Feb. 9.

What must communicators do to bring back the listeners? Either shut up for a while and so the silence renews interest in what's coming. Or change the content so it turns interesting. For Obama, I'd recommend the former.