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Showing posts from September, 2010

Taking the path to the 'Middle'

The honourable Allahabad High court's ruling on the disputed land in Ayodhya is near perfect. For it neither leaves the two parties completely satisfied, nor completely dissatisfied. The glass if gazed at, is both half-full and half empty. Plus there seems to be an implied exhortation to try and settle differences and come to an amicable solution (read, mandir-mosque co-existence).

In all seriousness let me draw a parallel to business. The verdict and its aftermath is akin to what you feel if you buy a Maruti car in India. No sense of elation, no sense of sorrow. A confused sense of feeling okay. Because what you've got is a car that's satisfactory on many counts, dissatisfactory on a few others. And that's why Maruti-Suzuki is the perfect cost leader and top choice to middle-class consumers in India.

The 'path in the middle' is a good one to take when sentiments that threaten to flare up are at play. Because that path dictates restraint, though may still not pla…

The 'only' Hero

'Funnily, barring Salman, the others are looking less and less like stars today. They are beginning to look like businessmen. Shah Rukh has even hit the cover of a business magazine and is sounding, behaving more like a producer than a star. So is Aamir. What they don't realise is that popular fan bases are not built on the imagery of businessmen or producers. The common man does not admire a bania. The villain in most films of my growing up years was the village mahajan or the city slicker in a white shark skin suit sitting with his bottle of Vat 69. India may have changed. Money is no longer a bad word but the man on the street still admires a hero, not a wealthy man. The iconic hero of Bollywood was for over two decades the Angry Young Man who fought the entire might of the system and brought it tumbling down.

This brings me back to Chulbul Pandey. I am sure Dabangg will be whatever. But what the heck, I love movies where a cracked hero walks through an equally cracked scree…

The potency in user-talk

First things first, Vaclav Klaus is a personal hero.

And when he recommends the UN remain the way it is rather than grow in size and cost the taxpayer, my admiration only grows. Vaclav Klaus surely knows what it is to be socialist or communist. The former as you may know is a term for government using taxpayer money in the most inefficient manner possible. The latter refers to same being done, but with a gun to the taxpayer's head.

I am not at all surprised at President Obama steaming ahead with his socialist ideology, for he's never lived in a communist regime like Klaus. Its only the ones who've suffered who know the perils of what others who haven't, follow. That's just like with consumers too. Users are wiser from their product/service experience and therefore credible than non-users. Users carry knowledge that comes from experience. And so marketers need to heed to what users say. For their words can surely influence first time buyers.

I wish Obama listens to the…

Normal's nothing to write about

At times its disconcerting to see people behave differently from the way they are supposed to. Take for example my ride in the bus today. Normally, the 'front' seats in the bus fill up first as the ride's better on Indian roads if you sit up front. But to my surprise, the seats in the front were relatively empty when compared to the ones at the back. Of course, I wasn't complaining at my good fortune. In fact I can now report a journey that went super smooth.

Out-of-the-ordinary behaviour from a marketer means he's done something different from what was expected. Like when you step into a store, if you're greeted by name, you're surprised. How in the world did they know or remember, are questions that run through your mind. Now when it comes to customer service all we expect is 'indifferent' service. We know marketers really don't care. Like yesterday, I went into this Titan store at the Forum Mall. The glum stares and sour faces didn't bothe…

Can you see the 'other' picture?

Its interesting how one-sided most of what we hear is. A 'balanced' picture is almost always never available or presented. The fallout of such one-sided content exposure is its effect on decision-making. Take the case of incarcerating criminals. The cost to taxpayers is a reason quoted on why criminals shouldn't be punished as much.

That this is baloney is known when you look at the costs of setting a criminal loose. Note Thomas Sowell's take, 'The most obvious question that is being resolutely ignored in these scientific-sounding calculations is: What is the cost of turning criminals loose? Phrases like "intensive probation" may create the illusion that criminals at large are somehow under control of the authorities but illusions are especially dangerous when it comes to crime.

Another question that ought to be obvious is: Why are we counting only the cost to the government of putting a criminal behind bars, but not the cost to the public of turning him lo…

The Paradox in Consumption

Richa writes brilliantly about the paradox the Indian consumer is, and why businesses mustn't get carried away by the politically correct 'hypes' that consumers agree to because its apt.Here's Richa's take on the 'health hype', 'Firstly, while there is a fuzzy appreciation about the need to both exercise and modify food intake, physical activity ranks above controlling food intake — in the hierarchy of things which help one be healthy. It’s also important to recognise that there is such noise and hype around “health”, that people feel somewhat pressured to talk the talk. So rather than be seen as out of synch with today’s world, many people would tend to nod their heads vigorously to loaded questions on eating healthy. Hidden in the “I do, I do, I do” is a statement of intent rather than a statement of action...What is clear is that Indian consumers’ relationship with health is rife with seemingly paradoxical situations, all with their own “consumer log…

Mess up, but make up!

I am shocked! A couple staying at a Blackpool UK hotel were asked to leave because the manager accused them of writing an online hotel review on TripAdvisor. Its easy to guess what the review may have been.

Well, what about solving the problem that made them write such a review in the first place, and then put in a request to write about how the hotel helped them? The hotel in question, Golden Beach Hotel could learn a lesson from Cleartrip which messed up, but made up admirably earning praise from its customer.

Both of which were written about.

Pride's what ails the CWG

As the CWG lumbers from one disaster to another, that the games would happen seem distant. The problems are aplenty. The chaos but natural to most of what happens in our country. Yet the exhortation of why the games MUST happen always has takers. And pray why? Supposedly its our pride at stake!

Really? If one were step back and consider any endeavour on rational lines, one would see pride as being the worst reason why it must be done. Of course, pride's always quoted so it becomes a rallying point for the masses. And amidst the frenzy that follows there's someone always making money not necessarily by the book. Like I said, pride's bad idea.

The only reason why an endeavour must be pursued is so it can be act of commerce that benefits all associated. And this must be done in a manner transparent so everyone can see, money was spent and money was made. The money made must outstrip what was spent, at least on paper. Else the investment mustn't be sanctioned. Tell you what,…

The consumer trait a father can't have

As a marketer, self-centeredness presents an opportunity. For great positioning. The brand has to pander to the consumer's ego, and it hits home.

As a father, I know that's a consumer characteristic that will come in the way of unconditional love. A love that calls for sacrifices to be made. Most dads won't make it. I want to. Or at least get close. I of course have the Cross as a pointer to what I must do. And then I have Dick Hoyt.

Dick's is a story of unconditional love of a father for his son, Rick. Together they make Team Hoyt.

And heroes and a model dad, to me.

Who'll save the Planet?

'But now that I’m living like a normal American — driving to the mall in a car rather than walking to the store down the block — my personal relationship with Walmart is deeper, richer, more meaningful than ever. I don’t have to limit myself to what I can carry in a shopping bag; I can fill the trunk and the back seat of the car with my loot. As I pushed my enormous shopping cart through the grocery aisles last night, I felt like an immigrant from the Soviet Union: so many choices, such convenience, such friendly staff, such low prices! Milk that costs $2.50 in the glamorous borough of Queens costs $1.16 chez the Mart. Soup, bread, cereal: all are 40% to 50% cheaper out here.

As I drove my load of goodies home, I started to feel a surge of Green Guilt: the Great Wastrel staggers home in his gas-guzzling automobile stuffed with Big Box Retail productions — the enemy of everything sustainable. Shouldn’t I be riding a bio-degradable bicycle to the farmer’s market to pick up locally pr…

What a boy and his grandma can teach

So after a month Ma boarded a plane to Dubai. The one who was most upset at her going was Jaden, and I understand. After all he had grown extremely fond of her and was ecstatic to have her in his li'l boy life. Anyway we hope to see Ma soon in December.

When someone who you love leaves, its heartbreaking. Life at least for some time won't seem like the way it was. The reason's pretty simple. The relationship we form with people who we love sears into our being. The connect is emotional, deeply psychological. The result is a certain 'pattern' that we get so used to. Like having them be with us, do things with us, and so on. When that 'sweet' pattern is rustled, we balk. We protest. Sometimes even refuse to accept the changed scene. To put it simply, we miss those times that have now changed.

I've wondered if we ever 'miss' marketers. Has there been a time where a 'changed scene' has gotten you wistfully think about the store you had to move…

In the land of the Blind...

'Why then is President Barack Obama pursuing an international nuclear disarmament agreement? It cannot be because he thinks it will work. Even if he were foolish enough to believe that, virtually anybody in the Pentagon can tell him why it won't.

His political advisors, however, can tell him how great that can be for him personally-- if he doesn't already know that. It would be "historic" and an "achievement," just like ObamaCare.

His political base-- the young, the left and the thoughtless-- would be thrilled and energized. That can translate into money donated to his campaign coffers and people willing to walk the precincts to get out the vote for him in the 2012 elections.

It is by no means an irrational thing to do, from Obama's self-centered perspective.

But what does it say about those who take his words literally, who accept those words as, in Thomas Hobbes' words, the money of fools?

First of all, there may be more of such people today than i…

Gaga over Gaga

'Paglia's main criticism seemed to be that Gaga simply isn't sexy enough. "How would a figure so calculated and artificial, so clinical and strangely antiseptic, so stripped of genuine eroticism have become the icon of her generation?" she asked. But Lady Gaga has never presented herself as a sex object. She sells weirdness and eye-popping spectacle, not sex. She isn't posing in a meat bikini to woo Nuts' one-handed readers, and why should she? Though Paglia's tome Sexual Personae posits sex as the prime mover behind all culture, you'd still think that as a feminist she'd applaud the fact that there's a massive female pop star whose appeal doesn't depend on how many men she manages to arouse. Before Gaga, we had Britney – and look how that turned out.

Part of Gaga's brilliance is the way she plays with the darker currents in popular culture, which are hardly hidden away. She's as much Marilyn Manson as Madonna.'

- Alex Needha…

The Glory in Risk

'One vital concept here is that of risk. Regulators act on the implicit premise that our primary focus should be on avoiding risk. According to them, all we have to do to be successful is avoid tainted food, drugs with side effects, companies that could swindle us, imperfect aircraft, etc. Moreover, in their view, doing so is easy. Simply ban and forbid any risky product or idea from the marketplace.

What they fail to appreciate is that avoiding a negative is not the same as achieving a positive. Avoiding tainted food doesn’t ward off hunger any more than avoiding a side-effect will cure the primary disease. Instead, what life requires are positive values, from material goods like food, shelter and medicine; to emotional ones like a lover or a spouse; to spiritual ones like a lifelong purpose and career...

Most regulation is fundamentally flawed because it elevates risk avoidance above value creation. In so doing, it causes material and spiritual impoverishment, as well as stagnatio…

Gaga over Gaga?

Camille Paglia's take on Lady Gaga has in it illustrations that is superb learning material for marketers. Lady Gaga after all is, marketer creation. So were the icons that preceded her and the ones that will follow.

Never mind Camille's ire about what L' Gaga represents. Icons of an age merely reflect the aspirations of mortals of that age. Gaga is the glorified us of today. Madonna wasn't any better. She was yesteryear's vagrant child. In fact Gaga and Madge aren't in any way different because their fantasy appeal is essentially the same.

I recommend the 'icon concept' be seen in 'reverse'. People don't take to icons. Its the latter that engineer the fomer, via marketing. And so the icons and their following are mere creations of a marketing mind. Of course, there are exceptions, but they are few and far in between. Gaga with her crafted image has engineered for herself a 'natural' following aptly termed, the 'Gaga Generation'…

Learn Marketing from who?

Seth Godin's got great advice on how to learn Marketing. He recommends 'doing'. I couldn't agree more. But there's still a question unanswered. What if I wanted to 'learn' it before 'doing' it. That way I don't have to rely on 'trial and error' all the time. The question is, who should I learn it from?My answer, someone who's done, and doing it. That is, learn Marketing from marketers. Theoretical posturing and publishing is one thing. 'Doing' it is another. I would recommend to all who want to learn Marketing to go where people who have done and are doing Marketing, teach.Which means maybe conventionally ranked top B-Schools in India are out. After all, weren't they creations of a socialist era characterised by the license raj (read, regulated production) where marketing didn't mean much?

The road to Bankruptcy

After ensuring a debt burden that's gonna last generations, Obama's now calling for an added stimulus of $50,000,000,000 so jobs can be created. Never mind the earlier stimulus not working. The idea now is to pump long-term investments in the nation's roads, railways and runways.

What can I say? Bankrupting tax payer money, borrowing to accumulate a debt that generations of taxpayers will work at paying, all supposedly to help taxpayers!

The guy must be a genius! Or should I say a bankrupting socialist?!

Hawking Religion

'The kind of science done by Stephen Hawking, one of the leading theoretical physicists of modern times, has an almost religious ring to it. He and his colleagues are trying to find the patterns in the basic fabric of reality – the mathematical laws that govern the workings of nature at its finest level. There is plenty of evidence that these laws hold good all the way back to the beginning of time, which is how scientists have put together an extremely detailed and well-tested theory of the Big Bang, the first few minutes of the universe. The Large Hadron Collider will soon be reproducing, at will, the conditions in the universe within a billionth of a second of the beginning of time...

The science-religion relationship, in so far as there is one, continues to be a crowd-pleaser. It seems to be a fundamental law of PR that the God-science debate is a sure-fire source of publicity. Always welcome when one has a book to sell.'

- Graham Farmello, 'Has Stephen Hawking ended th…

When Interruptions work

When a brawl starts, people crane to catch it. Leaving for some time what they were focused on. In this case it was the Djokovic-Petzschner match at the US open. Tell you what, for those moments even the players looked up to see what was going on.

Its one of those rare cases where an interruption works in drawing away attention. Seth Godin's always talked about how interruption marketing doesn't work. My bet is, it does, and needs to, at certain times. When consumers come into a store and exhibit purchase choices made out of 'inertia', should you want to interrupt their 'focused' purchase pattern which is to go to 'familiar' brands, you need interruptions. The kind the 'brawl' provided. Of course, I ain't asking for a fight in the store, I am asking for merchandising material that interrupts consumer inertia. Maybe its a colourful kiosk proclaiming a superb promo for a new brand in the store. My bet is, there's a strong probability the co…

The tragedy in Parental Influence

Greater parental responsibilities, now there's Brooklyn, for us is both exciting and unnerving. Because we know if we aren't careful, we'll mess it up. Especially me. I've been a personal witness to too many examples of parent/s being the primary reason why children end up dysfunctional. In their personal, social, and consumer lives.

This is true especially for those households where parents don't have the ability or the courage to 'let go' of their children, at the right time. And what makes the scene even more dangerous is the subtlety of it all. The 'controlling' parent is snug in feeling of being a 'guide'. The adolescent initially is all to happy to go along because it brings in a sense of false security. After all, if its my dad or mom who says it, how can it be wrong? Also, what if I were to decide and it turns out wrong? Too often I see this go to an extent from where there's no turning back. By that time, the grown up-child's…

A Nation on an Idea

'Unlike Thomas Frank, I get it. I understand that American patriotism, far from being nothing more than the reactionary buzzword of small-minded bigots (as leftists believe), is based on a deep awareness that the United States of America is the first (and to date only) nation based on an idea, rather than on geography or ethnicity. And not just any idea, but the highest ideals which the human mind can formulate: freedom, responsibility, self-reliance, equality of opportunity, individualism. And that to be patriotic in America is a shorthand way to declare one’s allegiance to these philosophical ideals.

The left, in its blindness, equates patriotism with brute nationalism, in particular the ethnic and chauvinistic nationalism of Europe which has led to totalitarianism and countless wars. And so the leftists condemn American patriotism as equally fascistic, unaware that by doing so they are rejecting not just the ideals on which America is based but the very notion of a nation based …

The Right Value Proposition

In India, if you have the right value propostion, small-city and town folk will surely buy. McDonald's is an example.

WSJ reports; In towns and cities like Lucknow, Varanasi, Panipat, Ambala and Meerut, McDonald's branches are mobbed when they first open, with first-time fast-food buyers snapping up items off of the menu unique to India. These include the Chicken Maharaja Mac and the vegetarian McAloo Tikki burger. More than 10,000 customers a day have been flocking to one of McDonald's newest outlets in Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

Is he a Christian?

'In some ways, Obama exhibits a worldview that more closely resembles a secularist than it does either a Muslim or a Christian, especially in his views on social issues. Also, he seems to place a great deal of confidence in himself and in government to bring about transformational change. How many God-fearing people have you known who would say "we (meaning I) are the ones we've been waiting for" or "generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal"? The staggering conceit of these statements cannot be overstated.

Those who mocked George W. Bush for openly declaring his faith in God and sharing that he prays to God for strength squawked about the horrors in Bush's allowing his beliefs to influence his governance. Apart from the mockers' misunderstanding of the proper intersection of faith and governance, let me pose another question…

Trusted Brands?

I don't know if I trust my Colgate toothpaste. 'Cos when I go to a store and need toothpaste (listed on my purchase list), I walk to the shelf, do a comparison on promos running, and make my choice. And there's lots like me out there. The recent Eye on Asia retail study concluded (among others),

1. Two-thirds of final purchase choices are made in-store.
2. Asian shoppers take time to study products in-store.

Now if two-thirds of final purchase choices are made in store, bet my list that I took to the store doesn't say 'Colgate toothpaste', instead says, 'Toothpaste'. So where's the 'trust' then? And that's why the latest 'India's most trusted brands' survey from ET, I believe is bunkum. In the survey, Colgate comes in second, and Pepsodent's No. 10. I see no reason to trust a toothpaste because my buy is a 'low-involvement' one. That means my decision making is 'limited' and essayed inside the store. It isn&#…

How to hit home

Trying to talk to people who aren't tuned into your wavelength is like trying to blend oil and water. Sure, you can talk, and you can blend, but leave the mixture (in the case of the latter) on its own and you'll find the two go their ways. In the case of the former, the conversation can be frustratingly sustained, but it goes nowhere. You stay where you started at.Pity.Marketers often do just that. Because they either get their language all mixed up or get their audience (read, consumer segment) wrong. To get a conversation going, you've to get your language and the recipient right. For instance, if its teenager you want to sell to in India, make sure the copy or content is 'hinglish', 'cos that's the language they understand. Plus if its an SUV you want to communicate, make sure your target audience is one that has the moolah, and is the kind that's into 'outback' driving.People or consumers, it doesn't matter, speak to the 'right'…