Saturday, November 04, 2017

Cranberrified in US - for True Elements

Traveling to the other side of the world is a rarity when you marry yourself into building an unknown dream, or what some people call, “startup”.
Till a few months back, getting noticed by research companies as a brand representing a category was a matter of pride (the one that makes you take a deep breath with a smile!). But when we were invited by the Cranberry Marketing Committee (CMC) of United States, to represent India for our leadership in cranberries in the country, it was a longer breath and a wider smile - a business trip to the United States to represent True Elements!
Wow, that was a first for us! Sreejith got this opportunity and like a true partner, he passed on the itinerary to me, pouring out his altruism to the core! Maybe he was worried he might end up doing a lot of shopping there!

Invited through Technopak, the trip entailed understanding cranberries. Much to my guilt of so much spending by the invitees, we had prepared a lot of ideas and plans around cranberries. Unfortunately, no one wanted to hear that! They just wanted us to get absorbed in the red deluge of the American native fruit!

First few days ensured the pinnacle of guilt trips by everyone along with me. It was mostly food and travel, followed by more food and travel (with intermittent attempts to sleep). One of my best take- aways was, apart from having an assertive approach to cranberries, a great mix of fellow Indians- each of whom had tonnes of experience and expertise I could learn from over the next few years.

Not to miss mentioning, we had a delegation from China also representing digital and offline platforms / potential touchpoints relevant to CMC. But with linguistic limitations, sign language and pleasant gestures were all we could manage with our neighbors back home.

With the trip ranging from few presentations, a farm visit to cranberry museum to factory visit of Ocean's spray, it did help us get a good perspective of what the fruit is all about; an experience of Minnesota and Wisconsin, traveling around a strong food and agricultural belt - a strong dairy and cooperative hub of the country - and the biggest producer of cranberries around the world!

My day travel looped back to the starting of the day in India – with phone calls and discussions ensuring that I could not distinguish between an American night and an Indian day. But I did realize that the world is really not such a big place as such – and distances are not uncoverable. It is just couple of flights away! :)

With a short trip, I had limited stories to share with my fellow colleagues and family. But in a country where Jet lag is a fashion statement, I did have some soggy eyes and a couple of duty-free chocolates as a validator of overseas travel!

Not sure how tangible can I be in terms of the RoI of this trip for CMC or for True Elements. But at the end of the day, while our sales of cranberries have immediately not skyrocketed, my examples while talking to my colleagues has more cranberries in it - my sales pitches to some of our clients have a qualified discussion on cranberries, and I do enjoy them much more than before now! Maybe that’s what they wanted all of this to be like.
Thank you CMC and thank you Technopak - for helping us build more memories. True Elements is surely on its way to get cranberrified! #uscranberries #CMC

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Parachute - Thoda Love Jatao, Tel Lagao

According to popular language, an Indian Head Massage, as its called, helps release stress accumulating in the tissues, muscles and joints of the head, neck and shoulders. It is best done using Coconut Oil.
What is the first brand that comes to mind for Coconut Oil? Did you just imagine a blue bottle?

Now, What if you demand love through a head massage? And I am not alluding to the south-east asian nation which has been typecasted as the best combination of love and massage! This one is closer home and in a far cleaner context.

Relationships that are lost in our busy lives - a touch of a Head Massage takes it away.

Parachute's "Thoda Love Jatao" is being advertised heavily on YouTube. Unlikely that you would have missed it if you would have opened YouTube today!
Here is a summary of the context around the campaign as per its website, Parachute Advansed -

Your sister called but you were too busy & couldn’t talk. Dinner with family is more about which TV show to watch. It is easier to message birthday wishes to your friend than give them a call. Life is becoming busier & better, but isn’t it making our relationships drier?
Often the people we’re closest to are the ones we take for granted. Parachute Advansed believes, be it hair or relationships, regular love & investment is the only way to keep them beautiful. As they say, a little love, goes a long way.


Sab kuch nikhar jaata hai thoda love jataane se
Toh aaj ek kadam badhao, Thoda Love Jatao.

Leveraging relationships and reciprocating the care of those around us is a strong cue these days, leveraged by a lot of brands. But with some great execution and a recallable tagline, the campaign is commendable.

As a market leader, Parchute Advansed's market share has to come from other category entry points where it is not present currently. This is reinforced in its latest Investor Presentation (May 2017), where Marico has called out double digital volume growth in medium term in the Hair Oil category, through 4 key drivers - Creating more occasions of use, promote dual usage, expanding rural reach and packaging innovations.

Reaching out to our lost relationships is a potential occasion of use, given that there are frequent occurences of these cues in our lives. Its Magic of Warmth campaign enabled the category (VAHO as it is called - Value Added Hair Oil) growth that was encouraging for the company to drive the insight further. In a category largely dominated by Aayurveda and regional brands, this initiative could be disruptive.

Competition
Head Massage and Chumpi have been a strong imagery for Marico's competition as well. Navratna's "Thanda Thanda Cool Cool" has a strong association towards heat and stress, even though its recent campaigns focus more on functional elements (Navratna Ad). Similarly, Dabur leverages the typical mother-daughter relationship, though in reverse! (Dabur Ad)


Even though head massage is not uncommon to be used by hair oil brands, head massage in an emotional context is an opportunity. Marico's effort to drive more usage leveraging emotional associations is, therefore, surely a potential disruptor.

So if you have just fought with your spouse or parent, pick up a bottle of Parachute and go and Jatao some Love. But just be careful not to use only 'Love' and 'Massage' together - open Youtube and play any of these ads before they slap you off!

Image Sources - Indian Head Massage, Thoda Love Jatao, Screenshots of Ads on YouTube

Friday, August 25, 2017

(Digital) Wheels on the Bus(-iness) Go Round and Round..Round and Round

Almost every youngster I have met looking at the next big thing wants to work in Digital Marketing. Some of them, just by posting few Facebook posts, consider themselves to be the Digital doppelganger of Philip Kotler (or maybe Byron Sharp now!)

Digital is largely experimental and it is still not mainstream - every brand believes that Digital is the next big thing - the best way to connect with millennials is to catch them online.

However, in 2012, Ehrenburg-Bass Institute, based on a study of 200 brands on Facebook,  found that less than 0.5% of fans actually engaged with a brand (that is, undertook meaningful activity, including comment and share, rather than just ‘Like’).  It also found that Facebook fans were skewed towards heavy buyers, and that purchase frequency didn’t increase after someone became a fan.

Again, for the uninitiated, Digital is not the same as Social Media. Have hardly met 'neo-experts' who talk beyond Social Media and SEO while re-enforcing their 'expertise' in digital. Maybe a primer from this link would help.

What are the real companies saying and spending around Digital Marketing?

This month (August 2017), Procter & Gamble (P&G) became one of the first advertisers to admit to a significant reduction in digital ad spend. According to the CFO, it had cut between $100m and $140m from its digital ad budget last quarter because of brand safety concerns and “ineffective” ads. (4 August 2017)
Even after this cut, P&G still delivered over 2% organic sales growth on 2% volume growth, suggesting that what was cut “was largely ineffective”. So much so for the modern marketing methods!

Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard, has been critical of the archaic advertising practices followed by agencies for the digital space.
“I confess that P&G believed the myth that we could be a ‘first mover’ on all of the latest shiny objects, despite the lack of standards and measurements and verification. We accepted multiple viewability metrics, publisher self-reporting with no verification, outdated agency contracts, and fraud threats – with the somewhat delusional thought that digital is different and that we were getting ahead of the digital curve,” he explains. According to him, digital is “still a nascent business model” led to “experimentation and trying different things” but now is the time for marketers to ask more questions.

Marc Pritchard also claimed that the media supply chain is “murky at best, and fraudulent at worst” and that companies are finally starting to question the gleaming technological promises that were made about programmatic and digital media in general.

So what are the solutions?
The CBO has put together four key focus areas for P&G in terms of digital - Adopting one viewability standard (the Media Ratings Council (MRC)-validated viewability standard), implementing accredited third-party measurement verification, auditing the auditors, getting transparent agency contracts and preventing ad fraud. (March 2017)

A standard in viewability will enable marketers to see all channels / media through a common lens - and enable them to take more qualified decisions on channel choices. At the end of the day, digital and traditional marketing do not work in siloes and customer reach plans should put both be on the same platform. There is a need to have consistent viewability across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Pandora, YouTube and others.

In spite of this so called void, digital spends are growing overall. While both Facebook and Google are criticized for their lack of consistency, Facebook’s results for the three months ending June 30 show its advertising revenues up 47% year on year at $9.2bn despite it admitting to 10 measurement errors. Meanwhile, YouTube’s brand safety controversy has had little impact on Google’s ad business. Alphabet, Google’s holding company, saw revenues increase 22% year on year to $24.8bn (£19.2bn) in its most recent results.

Marketers should also beware of using digital too much for sales and not enough for brand building. This is an area that even P&G admits it has not got right, and that it needs to focus more building its brands online.

Based on various pieces of information around this, following are the evolving drivers for the Digital World - 
  1. Drive Brand Building through the digital framework
  2. Transparency in the measures. When you have transparency across all platforms you can evaluate more clearly how this medium in digital compares to this medium in other places in a much more transparent way. (Marc Pritchard)
  3. Standardize measures (through viewability) across platforms so that targeting can be more focused. "We want mass reach with precision, which seems like an oxymoron but it’s exactly right (July 2017)"
To summarize, while right brain advertisers cannot be undermined, you need more left brain tools and processes to integrate the art and science together.

For anyone who has toddlers inside or around his/her home, Chuchu TV would be a familiar name. When I hear the ever-famous classic, "Wheels on the Bus", somehow the lyrics resonate with how the unmeasurable gyaan around digital can confuse the clients as well as convince them of the perfect marketing plan!.

The Wheels on the bus go round and round round and round all through the town (Digital Marketing Plans)
People on the bus go up and down up and down (Clients trying to measure the outcome)
The money on the bus goes "Clink, clink, clink" (for obvious reasons)
The mommy on the bus says, "I love you, I love you, I love you" (the planners would always defend their plans)
Babies in the bus go wah Wah wah (those who don't understand it, end up mostly appreciating it)

Maybe the babies should be taught, people given clarity and wheels made to go in a specific direction - that's what maybe inspired Marc Pritchard - an apt way to reduce companies' ChuChu (pun intended)!

Photo credits- Baby doggie, Wheels on the bus, Social Media Girls

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Expand your (Social) Circle of Life - and Live Longer!

What if someone gave away the secret of living for more than 100 years to you? Would you share it with your friends? 

Released today at TED talks, Susan Pinker, a Developmental psychologist, reveals how in-person social interactions are not only necessary for human happiness but also could be a key to health and longevity. She gives reference of a Village in Italy (Sardinia) and shares the key reasons that drive longevity in men and women. According to her, two of the biggest reasons (emphasis on close personal relationships and face-to-face interactions) are summarized below -

First, your close relationships. These are the people that you can call on for a loan if you need money suddenly, who will call the doctor if you're not feeling well or who will take you to the hospital, or who will sit with you if you're having an existential crisis, if you're in despair. Those people, that little clutch of people are a strong predictor, if you have them, of how long you'll live. 

And then (there is) social integration. This means how much you interact with people as you move through your day. How many people do you talk to? And these mean both your weak and your strong bonds, so not just the people you're really close to, who mean a lot to you, but, like, do you talk to the guy who every day makes you your coffee? Do you talk to the postman? Do you talk to the woman who walks by your house every day with her dog? Do you play bridge or poker, have a book club? Those interactions are one of the strongest predictors of how long you'll live.

A simple, yet, thought provoking talk. You can listen to her here (~16 minutes).

While she does make a distinction between digital social interaction vs face-to-face, backed by scientific evidence, and that online interactions cannot replace personal ones, let me park that for a later perspective.

If you wore a marketer's hat, how can you leverage this insight?

Close relationships have been a strong cue for a lot of categories. Given that friendships help release oxytocins in our body, a lot of marketers want to leverage this emotional side of ours. A quick glance tells you that some of the biggest brands have leveraged this insight that "Friends are important and one should not undermine the relationship"

Google used this in its Breaking distances campaign when old friends meet after the partition. Titan wants you to build friendship memories across segments through gifting. Docomo tried the Friendship Express, but one of the longest association with Friendship was Airtel, with its 2016 campaign on sharing and close friends - Har ek Friend zaroori hota hai and jo tera hai wo mera hai. Have a look at some of these campaigns if you have some time to spare to recall these ads.

KFC modified this insight to include the diversity in friendship, by sharing how different people also come together as friends. KFC leveraged this in two formats -
In UK/Ireland, in 2014, it ran the Friendship Bucket Test - where you get rewarded with a KFC piece with every correct answer about your friend (Videos can be accessed here - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) Some of the questions asked included Whats the nicest thing they have done for you? or what's their dream woman/man?

Closer Home, in 2016, KFC leveraged the same insight further with the "Friendship Bucket" campaign.

However, in April 2017, McDonald's picked this insight and improvised on the cue with a catchy song and strong association with its happy combos (Friends are different but can still be together) - Hum hai different different but together - McDonald's Happy Price Combos - Excellent execution in terms of contextual messaging and distinctiveness.

These brands leveraged close relationships brilliantly (friendship was highlighted here, for the purpose of over simplification). But what about strangers? Social Integration also entails interacting with strangers.

Nescafe ran a social Experiment campaign- called the "hello experiment", where it was difficult to break the ice with complete strangers unless you offered coffee (of course!) to them or the Hello Bench #Nescafeconnection. Here is the campaign summary

In summary, close relationships, as well as interaction with strangers, are both critical for us to live longer (who doesn't want that).
Maybe Sir Elton John would have opined that the real circle of life, is actually, our social circle - expand your social circle to expand your (circle of) life!

There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found..
It's the circle of life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle
The (social) circle of life

What if someone gave away the secret of living for more than 100 years to you? Would you share it with your friends? ;-)

Reference - Susan Pinker, Lyrics

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Marketing India to Indians - Get Free from 'Freedom Sale'!

Playing the old classic patriotic songs with every flag hoisting, the emerging innovative combination of saffron, white and greens represented in our attire (and not necessarily with a flag), and the varying degrees of pride while looking at the national flag - all this along with celebrating a mid-week national holiday with high laziness quotient! - That is how 15th August passes with most of us every year! (I am excluding the NRIs from this lot, as the "NR but I" bit in them comes out very strongly today).

Advertisers try to be topical around independence day - either through s(t)ale discounts or through innovative emotive connects. Some of the key words I noticed in most of the ads include

  • Freedom - the quintessential term without which the ad is seemingly irrelevant,
  • Tri color representation
  • Offers - from 15% to 2017/- only
  • Independence day
  • Gandhi ji 

On the other hand, we talk about Freedom from the societal aspects of our country, where we take freedom for granted. There are parts of us that are not free yet - their rights are still not given. Freedom is circumspect and perceptive.
Freedom of expression, press freedom, online freedom, loss of right to information and personal freedoms continue to be a center of debate in India (The Wire). Unfortunately, as the news website The Hoot noted in its 2017 annual report, over the last 16 months there has been a sense of shrinking liberty in the subcontinent. Journalists in India are less free than 135 other countries due to threats from "Hindu nationalists", according to an index of press freedom by a global media watchdog. In its annual World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders has ranked India at 136 of 180 countries.

But this is purely reflective. Is this a marketing opportunity per se? Is there any association we have for the independence day anymore except the Indian flag? How much Indianness do Indians have that any association connected to the key cues strike a trigger for the customers? 

Google is doing a survey on our favorite part of Independence Day today - it is possibly the best surrogate to evaluate the association with the event.
While PM's speech is the biggest recall, there is no strong association with any specific part - Red Fort Celebration, Cultural programs, decorated monuments and PM's speech - each of them almost carry the same weightage. Clearly, the day does not stand for any one thing - and none of them seem to be 'freedom' or 'Gandhiji'!

Clearly, there is little emotional attachment associated with this day. Hence, connecting it to an event /sale might be inconsequential for most brands.

On the other hand, Front page ads of discounts and offers drive media revenues up this season. Freedom Sale is the Title almost everywhere. If everyone is using freedom,  where is your uniqueness?  They forget that they are not the only advertisers.

As highlighted at Yourstory, India is largely event-driven for purchases. In Marketing parlance, I have overused the term CEPs (Category Entry Points) for the same (inspired by Prof Byron Sharp). As Marketers then, you either leverage very strong events registered in your memory and attach your proposition with them (e.g. In US - Black Friday & Halloween, extendable till Christmas) or create events that become associations themselves!

The way Big Bazar transformed Indians to give the best deals during Independence and Republic Days or , Singles Day in Alibaba, Prime day by Amazon, Great Indian Sale by Amazon, Big Billion Day by Flipkart, Green Monday by eBay, or Cyber Monday or Super Saturday by big retailers in US - each of these stand for an event - while some of them are around existing festivals, the majority ones emerged to be festivals themselves!

At the end of the day, if Marketers do believe that the lazy customers can be enticed through discounts, they should not exploit the Independence Day or "Freedom" to drive it - as it won't really strike a chord with customers. Instead, they should either talk more about solutions for societal freedom or maybe just go ahead and create their own festivals. While Great Indian Sale just happened, all of them (including the physical retailers), might as well create a Saffron Sunday, a White Monday or maybe a Green Tuesday around this time every year! Till then, we can go back and listen to Vandey Mataram!

Image References - Face painting, Sad Child, Press Freedom

Monday, August 14, 2017

iChef Meal Kits Ads - Food for thought?

Spending money on a full-page print ad is definitely noticeable. You spend a lot of money and time to invest behind the creatives, the messaging and the back-end preparation. It would then be quite heart-breaking for a marketer when readers would ignore or not get your message and flip over! Worst, it is noticed more by marketing students (like me) who would rather intellectualize than buy!

When such a step is taken by one of your peer companies that you admire, the marketer in me cannot hold myself from opining! Case in point is iChef - In case you heard the name for the first time, let me not tell you what they do - just see this ad and see if you guessed it correctly.

This was the ad on 5th of August - front page of Bombay Times

So what did you guess?
The company is into ready-to-cook meal kits pre packed and served fresh to you - so that you don't have to get worked up on sourcing the ingredients and make a nice complete meal for your family.

The next one came couple of days back - 12th August - again front page of Bombay Times

Most people I asked to interpret the ads came out with more questions than seeking options -
"Is this like a Freshmenu?", "so can you can buy the raw products from them?", "how many people does this serve?", "So what all will be there in the kit?"

Before I put forward my perspective, let me attach a caveat to this - this assessment is purely for academic purpose and is not to criticize the brand or the agency. If it helps in sharpening any thought process, the purpose of putting it up here would have been achieved!

Some of the essential missing parts in this crafted story, according to me, are -

  • Lack of Relevant associations - While there is Consistency in the cues, the problem definition to get people to build memory associations is still weak. The first one had "Pressure", followed by "Freedom" as the cue word (the over abused word this week - I will be covering this in the next few days). The keywords that highlight the category or the customers who are relevant, are not in place.
  • The category is still not clear - either from the tagline, the key messaging or 'look and feel' still does not make me take out the right associations and move forward on the path to purchase. While the earlier Ad showed the product, in terms of the small bottles and the kits, there is little clarity for a category entrant to understand what solution is being offered. The rectangular packed kits cannot be inferred from the image easily. Given that this is not an existing category, there is far more hand holding that one would need to do for this product category for customers to bite the bullet.
  • Call to action was missing - While the prices to each of the menu items were added in the recent ad, there is still no reference of where to buy and what to buy - the product cannot be seen or understood clearly and there is call to action from where to purchase - in this week's ad, however, there is a note mentioning same day delivery - so I can infer that its a DTC business and ichef is the site.
  • The need/ problem is also not clearly defined - "easy cooking with meal kits by iChef". On the next page, there are "step-by-step instructions" and "exactly measured" but I think they might be lost in the messaging. Maybe the icons used to build attributes on their page should be consistent with the ones used in the ad. 

The meta description of the website says - iChef is a unique "meal kit" delivery concept, unique home recipes & fresh ingredients delivered at doorstep in Mumbai. This is a far clearer message that could have been replicated with imagery.

If you notice, there is feedback incorporated in the subsequent Ad, but few more areas could be explored or improvised in the subsequent communication (after all, not everyone will spend half an hour like me to understand what they are trying to communicate!) -

  • The placement and design are consistent with each other, but maybe Minority, the agency mandated for creatives (or the internal Times springboard team) should give a thought to the category entrants and call to action elements for the next one. 
  • When would I need to get the ingredients packed together and shipped to me? What are the CEPs for this category?
  • Trials are possibly a big driver for the brand. 
  • Product in use also seems to be an opportunity that could address the questions. 

Food for thought for BCCL. While there is no sure-shot recipe to a perfect ad, there are definite ingredients which will make the recipe worthwhile, if iChef wants to be truly simple!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Fashion Tastes of the Digital Generation - Has Tommy Hilfigered it out?

In the three decades since Tommy Hilfiger founded his eponymous label, the fashion landscape has changed beyond recognition. In the 1990s, Tommy Hilfiger was one of the most dominant fashion brands on the market.

It was the height of cool among young urban consumers, with stars including Kate Moss, Snoop Dogg and the members of Destiny’s Child buying into its preppy style of American sportswear. It tapped into pop culture in a way other brands failed to do, building relationships in a genuine and believable way. (Fast Company) Smart Associations - By getting connected to musicians and rappers, who were not focused on earlier, the brand got high reach early on.

Yet as the brand grew up, so too did its audience and Tommy Hilfiger struggled in recent years to attract subsequent generations. The founder had been grappling with keeping the fashion appealing to a new generation of consumers, yet without eroding its identity.

But all that has changed over the past 12 months. Taking cues from other more forward thinking industries with the launch of its ‘see now buy now’ model #TommyNow, and via a tie up with one of social media’s hottest properties Gigi Hadid, Tommy Hilfiger has once again become desirable, sought after label. Not just among its core, loyal followers but with a whole new army of younger fans.

Gigi Effect
With the level of influence and Fashion Association, Gigi Hadid is a key influencer for the new generation (Marketing Week)
With 34.9 million followers on Instagram and 5.2 million more on Twitter, the 22-year-old supermodel has serious reach. The fact she not only fronted the campaign and walked the catwalk but designed the capsule TommyXGigi collection for the brand helped build that credibility further.

#TommyNow for Impatient Customers
#TommyNow was a fashion show, which allowed consumers to immediately purchase items they viewed at the show. (Campaign India)
With the advent of technology, patience levels of customers has substantially reduced. Customers expect responses/deliveries in five minutes or less.

“The level of service that businesses like Uber and Airbnb offer means we have to [keep up]. People won’t suddenly switch their mindset and say ‘for fashion it’s OK that we wait six months’. If it’s happening everywhere else, inevitably people are going to have the same expectations of our industry.”

The brand revolutionised the way the fashion industry works by making items seen on the catwalk available immediately online and in Tommy Hilfiger stores across 70 countries the next day – a process that normally takes six months.
By embracing new technology Tommy Hilfiger has also attracted a younger audience – 35% of which are now under 35.

Engagement also improved significantly, with 2.5 billion impressions generated across its major channels and over 10 million likes and comments via #TommyNow. Searches for Tommy Hilfiger on Google were also up 60% year-on-year.

The job now is to take the #TommyNow concept to other markets. The brand has been the first to launch a specific collection for Muslim women as well as planned to launch its beachwear collection for India. The brand will also be looking at how it can adapt the concept for its menswear business.

Fashion and technology have one thing in common - no it is not 'shorter the better' - both of them need to be learnt and unlearnt EVERY DAY!
According to the brand experts, while Productivity, Product Relevance, increasing point of sales and visibility still drive the brand, one of the biggest principles of the brand is to drive consistent Online and offline customer experiences, avoiding discounts and ensuring supplies. (India Retailing - 1, 2)

Adopting a startup mentality
The brand practices iterative learning – launch, test, learn, adjust and go back to the drawing board and start again.
One such idea is the TMY.GRL chatbot, which has generated more than 46,000 messages since its inception. The chatbot lets consumers explore items from the brand’s new collection by asking questions that help identify a customer’s individual tastes and size. Any items suggested by the chatbot can then be bought from the Tommy Hilfiger website where their recommendations will be waiting in the basket.

Failure is the new Fad. 
In my previous post, it was the Coca Cola CEO who wanted his team to fail more often and be tolerant to more ideas. Now it is the Brand Manager of Tommy Hilfiger who wants her team to fail more often!

Failure is the new mantra to succeed. Must say, it's a world of Oxymorons!

According to Avery Baker, chief brand officer, "Becoming more relevant to the youth is difficult. Tommy is a USD 6.6 billion company, operating in 130 countries. So getting this big a company to change was difficult. We changed our creative DNA in less than six months."  

While today’s Tommy Hilfiger customers span a wide demographic–the brand has a children’s line and clothes designed for older customers who have stuck loyally to the brand for decades–it has always been associated with fresh-faced models channelling vigour and youth.

Whether Models / Celebrities work better or mascots is a topic parked for a subsequent post. For now, Is Gigi the (Victoria) Secret to a brand's Success? Maybe Tommy HilFigered it out!

Pic Sources - Summer Collection, Gigi Hadid, Gigi-Victoria and Gigi-3

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Thums Up Macho Man - Too Toofani for Coca Cola

The Cola Wars in 1990s were well known - with both multinationals (Pepsi and Coca Cola) pushing media to grab the largest pie of the market. However, while both Pepsi and Coke leveraged their global playbook, that strategy itself became an impediment to growth.
Thums Up's management was a lot smarter than the competition thought. They waged a clever guerrilla marketing war against Pepsi by carefully studying its global playbook, and pre-empting its moves. As a result, by the time the bubbles settled, Pepsi emerged as number two in the market, but Thums Up was number one, having positioned itself as 'the stronger cola, with a more adult taste', expressed by the slogan 'Taste the thunder'.

Today, India is a unique three-player cola market: Thums Up, with a 16.6% share; Pepsi with 13%; and Coke with perhaps less than 10%. According to Anwar Alikhan (JWT India),
It's a brand that's so successful that it's said to be a bit of an embarrassment for the company that makes it. No matter what the Coca-Cola Company has tried to do over the past quarter of a century, it hasn't been able to alter those market positions.

How has Thums up managed to retain its top spot even in such a competitive environment?

Home-grown Flavor, tastes good even when not chilled - It's a home-grown flavour that resonates with the Indian palate (and tastes good even when the drink isn't chilled – an obvious advantage).
Stronger, Powerful - Macho Image - The Thums Up brand has done a great job of leveraging its 'stronger, more powerful' taste story into the emotional dimension of a stronger, more driven personality – presented by a series of Bollywood action heroes, who are shown going the extra mile for their drink's unique taste.

The company has roped in several famous personalities to act as its brand ambassadors like Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty, Mahesh Babu, Chiranjeevi and Vishal. Thums up has entered in a tie-up with Being Human, Salman’s charitable organisation (Marketing 91).

Consistent Messaging - While the campaign has been freshened over the years, it has remained rooted in its 'Toofani' ('Stormy') positioning. Thus, the original product-centric message of 'Toofani thanda' ('A storm of refreshment') has been externalised through expressions that range from 'Chalo kuchh toofani karte hain' ('Come on, let's do something really stormy') through to its current slogan 'Main hoon toofani' ('I am the storm'). It's a classic case study in brand management.

Will the leadership continue? While the market itself is shrinking (apparently) with healthier versions rapidly taking a larger pie of the market, the powerful brand equity, as long as it is continually refreshed, would still enable the leadership.

From Inner Potential to Macho to Drive your Purpose
The Campaign "EkToofanKhatam to DoosraShuru" - ‘Toofan to sab ke ander hai, bas dhakkan hi to hatanahai’. The campaign builds the Thums Up philosophy of inspiring today’s youth to recognize their inner potential and unlock the Thunder within.

In October 2016, Coca Cola dropped Salman Khan after four years of association, for hosting Big Boss 10, which was sponsored by Appy Fizz, a brand under the aegis of Parle Agro, and a potential competitor to Coca Cola.

#MainHoonToofani - Purpose in Life
Subsequently, the company signed up Ranveer Singh with a modified message -
Ironically, running after a bottle probably signified "lack of distribution" for the company! “Our research stated that youngster felt that they can pick up a bottle of Thums Up from anywhere. Hence, our proposition Mai Hoon Toofani shouldn’t represent an individual who is running after a bottle. He/she must have a purpose in life. Therefore, we decided to give the brand a human face and purpose. Ranveer Singh fits in with the brand philosophy so well. He is an outsider who is not scared of failure and has achieved success after overcoming various challenges,” explained Sachin Das Burma, national creative director, Leo Burnett.

Will this 'purpose'ful change work for the company? Is this good enough to keep competition at bay?
According to a recent statement by Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey,
Coca-Cola needs to have “greater curiosity”, as there is a danger the business will rest on its laurels and fall behind.
“That is the danger of having 130+ years of success. We have the answer to some things but we need to have lots of curiosity to how things can be different and respond to how things are changing. We then need to have the courage to try new things,” he explained.

Redefining Macho - The Multidimensional Man
JWT's State of men Report published in 2013 highlights the Macho Nature and the driver behind it. Ironically, while Macho is the driver for Thums Up in India, Coca Cola in Latin America redefines this very imagery a little differently.

As gender conventions fall away, men are coming to a more nuanced idea of masculinity that’s less hard charging and career focused, more well-rounded and family focused—even in cultures where a macho or “bloke” ethos has prevailed.

Masculinity is no longer synonymous with womanizing or other uber-heterosexual traits. “Today, who is really a macho?” asks the dramatic voiceover for a humorous Coca‐Cola Light commercial from Latin America.

Relationship. Macho is a man who runs in tights, who can admit there are more attractive men than him, who knows how to do the laundry, who gets up at 4 a.m. to change diapers.” Ultimately, “macho” is a guy who brings Coca-Cola Light to a party “and couldn’t care less what others think of him.”

As the country gets more progressive, maybe that's something the agencies would pick up - Little risky though, given the scale at which the brand is currently. If Atom is a hint, it would definitely be a tall order to redefine what "Macho" stands for in India.

Maybe the marketing folks in the company will be macho enough to refresh the brand's equity, shouting in unison, "Aaj kuch Toofani Kartey hain!" ;-)

Get entertained with the masculine Ads - 1, 2, 3, 4
Pic Sources - Thums Up IndiaThums Up Bikini, Thunder, Ranveer Salman, Thums Up Macho

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Give Amazon a Break - Deliver the Love on your own!

Raksha Bandhan marks the commencement of the Festive Season in this part of the world. It is followed by a multitude of 'celebration points' for people, a formal excuse to party, celebrate or, in most cases, hog guilt-free!
It also marks the 'season' for ad agencies and a great time for any marketing student to sit back and admire the level of creativity around you!
While most of them are short-lived and are only limited to creative admiration, post the event (Raksha Bandhan), some of them rightly deserve a big aPPlause!

Here is a snapshot of the recent creatives around Raksha Bandhan - worth browsing and getting carried away! Exchange4Media and Afaqs

A specific set of ads caught my attention last night - How do you showcase what you have by articulating what you don't have? What is the best combination to drive a strong emotive appeal? Ask Ogilvy & Mather and they would surely send you these links - the recent ones they made for Amazon.

In 2016, O&M sent out this campaign for Raksha Bandhan

The film features an elderly man packing his travel bag while his son looks on, when his anxious son suggests that if he wants to gift his sister something, he should order it from Amazon. The older man explains why he's making the trip. His sister doesn't have teeth, he tells his son, and when she puts on her dentures, her smile is priceless. If he books a gift online, the gift will reach his sister but he won't be able to see that smile. Message - 'Is Raksha Bandhan, hum gift toh pahucha denge, but pyaar toh aap hi ko pahunchana padega' (We'll deliver the gift for Raksha Bandhan, but only you can deliver the love).

This year, the brand has an elderly woman explaining to her grandson the reason behind her brother gifting her jamuns every year. The boy pokes fun at the stinginess of the man and claims that with Amazon around, he need not even step out to get her a gift and can deviate from the jamuns. The lady explains the significance of the gift; her brother would steal jamuns for her from a nearby tree, and was even caught a couple of times in the process.  

So what is common? An explosive recipe of Oldies (Culture) + Memories + Emotional connect. Can anything be 'Love'-lier?
A persuasive ad, with the key associations, yet not a direct call-to-action, but an emotional connect. Probably this will reinforce the brand recall further. Not to undermine the consistency in the message as well.

Only you have what you have what your sister really wants! See the video here - #Deliverthelove

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Artificial Intelligence in Retail - A Swayamvar for Brands?

According to a new report by Accenture Strategy, Retailers and consumer goods companies could unlock $2.95 trillion in value for the industry and consumers over the next decade by accelerating digital transformation,  Investments in new, digitally-driven business models will give consumers greater choice around how they purchase goods and services and enable companies to deliver profitable, differentiated experiences. 

Part of this Digital transformation entails brands hovering around the key influencers that are rapidly emerging out of new technologies. Very soon you would notice the brands flirting around with these tech hulks flaunting their strength, seeking their attention!

A new innovative Go-to-market approach is imperative for any brand now! The one that involves mollycoddling AI experts like Amazon Echo - a swayamvar of sorts for brands!

If you Echo what I just mentioned (pun intended), maybe you would have heard about this new poster boy called Amazon Echo, and his sweet sounding assistant called Alexa next to him.

Amazon Echo is a smart speaker developed by Amazon.com. The device consists of a 9.25 inch (23.5 cm) tall cylinder speaker with a seven-piece microphone array. The device connects to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service Alexa, which responds to the name "Alexa". The device is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic and other real time information. It can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation hub.

Artificial intelligence has enabled every household to become a store shelf. Analysts expect sales to reach $20 billion by 2020 via the artificial intelligence talking assistant Alexa. The Echo speaker now operates in more than 11 million homes. Although this still represents less than 10% of U.S. households, at such a fast penetration rate—Echo was first widely released in June 2015—in less than a decade half of all households could have AI devices.

For years, brands focused on dominating the store environment, investing millions into eye-catching packaging experiments, and other in-store marketing efforts—an endless search for any edge during the final moment of purchase. The quest to dominate a category, from paper goods to snack foods, soft drinks or oral health, made sense. It was all about owning the aisle. But the aisle is effectively gone with Alexa. The primary format for this longstanding battle among brands becoming obsolete. To dominate a product category during this place-less moment of purchase, what must brands do?

Brand Agnostic - Artificial intelligence and the generation of smartphone shopping assistants, from Siri to chatbots, are upending the traditional path to purchase, but they are all brand agnostic. Those ephemeral intangibles long considered the essence of a brand doesn't matter. Price and delivery time are more likely to drive preference and selection in this new AI-driven store.

Roy White, Editor, RetailWire, articulates nicely - The whole concept of a “store” as currently envisaged, and how CPG brands interact with it, is under assault from several different directions and Alexa is just one of several disrupters. The growth of online selling; the emergence of a huge, powerful and effective online retailer; increasing consumer disinterest in shopping large stores; the development of new consumer behaviors and demands; and the fact that stores have not changed all that much over the past couple of decades are just some of the massive influences on brick-and-mortar retailing along with the likes of Alexa.

CPG brand strategies are going to have to encompass new types of retail outlets, many hybrid, and determine how to effectively get a brand message to a new type of consumer.

Sterling Hawkins, Co-founder, CART (Center for Advancing Retail & Technology) mentioned an interesting term - Conversational Commerce is shaking up traditional retail and it creates countless opportunities for brands. Many are open ecosystems (at the moment) and creating brand experiences bring participating CPGs closer to the consumer in a way never before seen. It does need to be treated as a new and distinct channel, not simply an extension of a brand’s existing mobile or digital strategy.

If you’re the brand manager of a CPG product, this is an interesting area to explore - the "existential threat" that can potentially shake your fundamentals of brand building - the in-store marketing model that has ruled the consumer products industry for more than a century is being replaced by a talking cylinder.

What Does a Brand do?
How, then, does a brand get factored in the algorithms? Harder still, if there is no longer an actual physical place where a brand might exist and come to life to consumers, how do brands connect with shoppers? When you cannot see a brand, how do you market it to the consumer? (RetailWire)

This is where mental availability would play a critical role. When cues get triggered, how do you get your brand recalled! The Category Entry Points (CEP) would play a far more pivotal role in driving brand recall. 
Mental Share would drive a larger weightage going forward. If customers don't remember you, they will ask for the product. What will let them ask for the brand? Brand Attributes would need to be sharper - You cannot stand for anything and everything. You surely need to stand for more of something!

Does it mean the brands that don't have defined CEPs would no longer be able to command market share? Isn't that the law already! ;-)

Commoditization is no longer a brand proposition. While Quinoa could be a great category to build a brand, Quinoa would be Quinoa, unless YOUR Brand becomes Quinoa - by verbalizing your brand (think of Xerox or Google version of Health Foods)

Also, some experts believe Direct-to-consumer playing a critical role, with the advent of partnerships that Amazon would get into. 

Bezosified! Surrounded by Amazon
Amazon is rapidly moving to surround the consumer with interface points getting a larger share of their mindspace as well as their wallets! Over the past few years, one of the biggest developments in the digital ecosystem has been how e-commerce has evolved. E-commerce, specifically Amazon, is becoming a dominant force in brand discovery, and not just a touchpoint for product purchase. According to experts, “How your product is perceived on Amazon and in the Amazon community in ratings and reviews has such a powerful impact on the future of you as a brand. Increasingly, if you win on Amazon, you win, period."

As more people live large portions of their lives in Amazon’s ecosystem, ad agencies are increasingly offering specialized services to help brands take full advantage of the company’s universe. That means adding flourishes like recipes and magazine-style images to product pages, coming up with creative ways to get customers to post reviews on Amazon and plotting how companies can best connect with people who are using devices like the voice-activated Echo.
Get ready for getting Bezosifed!

Seems like there are more moments of truth getting defined with more and more interface points, more conversational commerce and evolving consumer behavioural patterns! Just as Alexa and other voice UX platforms are becoming the digital equivalents of the last physical mile in logistics, CPG brands need to approach the new platforms as another influence opportunity in their broad engagement with consumers.

Eventually, any CPG brand would need to embrace these new demand-based moments of truth. While adopting them is not a sure shot path to growth, not adopting them is definitely a path to slow and eventual death! 

Conclusion
Alexa doesn't seem to threaten the retailers, maybe not even the CPG brands - it just makes brands get up and work little smarter. Embrace the evolution - participate and not just observe! 

Any brand that does not believe in driving technology seems to be setting itself for redundancy. May as well check out museums around you for distribution!

In India, Amazon is preparing to introduce its Alexa Voice Service (AVS) along with its Echo speakers towards the end of 2017. The speakers will initially be launched with an English interface and be updated later to respond to commands in regional Indian languages including Marathi, Tamil and Hindi, these people said, declining to be identified. Would be exciting to understand who encashes on this opportunity before others! You can check out the services compatible with echo here.

Driving a brand digitally is an exciting proposition, wherein the algorithms defy any Marketing 101 that one has studied in any books. The only way to partner with Artifical Intelligence for us as marketers is to leverage our own Natural Intelligence sometime!

Pic - EchoSwayamvar

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Return of...Marketing Investments (ROMI)

Marketing should have an ROI - or shouldn't it?
An article from the recent publication of Harvard Business Review  (July 25th) by Amy Gallo highlights the right manner of driving the ROI from Marketing Investments.

Though the article is largely generic, it does highlight the biggest challenge in calculating ROI from Marketing initiatives - what we should include in 'returns'!

As per Amy,
One of the downsides of marketing ROI is that it is easy to only recognize the incremental profits in short-term sales and underestimate the long-term benefits that marketing brings to brand value.

While Customer Lifetime Value can rationally explain some part of ROI, overall this is still a tricky area to touch.

On the other hand, Prof Byron Sharp does not believe in ROI for Marketing per se.
According to him, Do you want to lift your marketing ROI OR grow your brand (share/sales)?  Because ROI is seldom a recipe for growth.

or what he mentioned almost a year back
Why do people say ROI when they really mean $ sales or profit?  Which btw are vastly better metrics. ROI is for capital spends and not ad spends.
Those who believe in this are literally financially illiterate

Different schools of thought - however, as a student of marketing, I believe returns should be measured - Whatever investments/costs you incur, they should translate into sales - either short-term or long-term. You cannot spend without measures. "What gets measured, gets managed!" (Peter Drucker)

Given the outright rubbishing of heritage marketing principles by Prof Byron Sharp, am sure he would not be so likeable in the marketing circuits around, even though he is surely the blue eyed boy of Modern Marketing. As a Chacha Choudhary fan, if I was to recall the big fights between stalwarts, I can see a sequel on Marketing with him - Prof Byron Sharp and Marketing ki Wapsi. Time will tell who is Sabu and who is Raaka in the marketing world!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The mathematics of Indulgence

Most men would have cribbed about the shopping obsession of the women in their lives (not just wives!).
Men, who study consumers, (and not just their women) would describe this as 'retail therapy' - how you shop when you are stressed. Women shop when they are stressed.

A student of CAT preparation would apply deductive reasoning or syllogisms on these statements and conclude that Women are mostly stressed! (Wonder why is this not mentioned in any nuptial agreements!)

That could be true. However, there probably is more to it. What is the secret behind this? Why do women (as well as men) shop when they are stressed?

Shilpa Madan has an interesting logic to address part of this quiz - We earn moral credits by doing something interesting. 

Mathematically speaking, when you earn moral credits, you spend them on supposedly 'immoral' activities or indulgence as it is called! So every time you do something good, you want to spend that on something you would normally not do (because of your rationality, self-control, and discipline! ;-p)

Sadness / Stress is equivalent to earning moral credits, where you are the victim. So indulgence is the best way to spend those credits. Hence proven - the theorem of justified indulgence, I mean, retail therapy!

Some of the research presented is interesting. I remember studying similar behavioral patterns were articulated by Prof Dan Ariely and his studies around Behavioral Economics, but will park it for a subsequent post.

As a proponent of health foods then, does it mean that snacking on health foods would not happen in situations where people have earned moral credits? Unlikely they would want to spend on indulgent categories. When you celebrate or party, you would not want to do it with a pack of seeds!

So what is the solution?
Maths would suggest that let them earn more 'immoral credits', rather 'guilt credits' would be apter, and then let them spend that on something which reduces the guilt. Even a McKinsey study on Consumer behavior had quoted on how guilt was driving the healthy behavior of consumers!

Some experts believe that our brain is hard-wired to interpret the word 'snack' as free rein to eating something ridiculously naughty.

For the syllogistic stressbusters, however, Shilpa offers some tips - her solution to 'retail therapy' - "next time you get serenaded by the call of the mall...open your favorite store’s website and indulge in the mindless task of browsing, choosing, and most importantly, rejecting a few things. If you really like something, save it in your cart."

Seems to be worth exploring! Thanks, Doctor!
Image Sources - Burger, Snacks

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Weekend Home or Walking out Naked

Every year this time, some strong force of energy pushes me to introspect about my passion for writing - as if part of me is still incomplete and it is high time that I do something beyond brooding to get it moving.

Over the past few years, this introspection has entailed virtually one post reinforcing my commitment followed by few ramblings, followed by another resolve, and then few more ramblings, and so on, till the excitement tapers down.
Just a simple plotting of posts over the past 12 years reflects my diminishing enthusiasm towards writing and expressing myself. Ironically, if I was to plot the number of books and deep articles I have read over these many years, it would just be the reverse pattern.


As I wrote almost a year back...
Lets Restart. For I am not done. 
Not done to Let go of this passion of reading the world through my eyes 
Not done to stop learning as I keep sharing - not to increase readers, but for the joy of sharing 
Not done to stop reading - reading between the Ps around me...... 

Well, I have not held this blog tightly yet but I am not letting it go either. It just like those "weekend homes" that are advertised throughout the expressway - when you travel between Pune and Mumbai (Maharashtra) - you visit those places every summer, regret for not being regular there - then decide to nurture it, dream about settling there, making this a daily part of your wonderful life.....come back, spend few days in your regular stressful world and very soon, get back to your chaotic life.
The weekend home stays in your Wishlist, most likely till the next summer vacation!

My quest for perfection and social consciousness keeps me away from pushing the publish button. But why? What stops me? 
Maybe I should take a feather from what I learnt in my first year of engineering when we had just joined.

We used to be terribly scared of seniors and ragging and what all they will do to us. Word of mouth only translated into worsening nightmares initially! Every night we used to fret over the next few devils and when they would knock the door and barge in with their weirdest fetishes!

One day a senior gave us a piece of advice that worked wonders for us! He told us, "your fear is your biggest enemy. All you have to do is take away that from yourself. Worst case, be ready to walk out naked during daytime!" It was shocking for us - how could we? what would the world say? Wouldn't everyone laugh at us?
We started being open (pun intended) to everything. If someone asked us to take off our clothes, we did that without any emotions. If someone asked to make some weird positions, we showcased our inner talent without any guilt! After all, we were ready for the "worst case" - and then we saw it happen in front of us - seniors got bored of us quickly as we happily agreed to dance to their tunes, fear went away and we started enjoying those times. And in this entire fun, we made the best of friends as well. And all this happened without us ever needing to reach the worst case.

Maybe this learning needs to be refreshed and reapplied in a different avatar. Maybe it is time I take the fear out of myself to worry about what the world would think.
Maybe....I need to be ready to walk out naked!

[Pic Sources - Home, Lady]