Saturday, March 10, 2018

All women need to strip off….

..the biases
..the stereotypes
..the perceptions
..the others in you

No this is not a note on pornographic innuendoes, neither is it a set of tips to succeed in an MCP world. This is a collection of a little reflection, inspired by the monotony of over empathizing celebrations of Women’s day!

Have you ever wondered - Why is Pink Panther a comedy and Black Panther an action hero film? Why is it that in spite of more movies in Bollywood now with lady protagonists, the Superhits – the highest grosers are still the ones that drive machismo? Why does our behavior towards women in our lives get determined by the lunar calendar? Is respect for women seasonal?

Right from childhood to whatever you might term as “later stage of life” – women go through stereotypes. Some use hashtags to summarize their #MeToos, while others lock themselves in a room, praying for a better afterlife or silently waiting for the Phoenix to get up and change the world! Some empathize with their co-sufferers, while others over-victimize themselves over their apparently really bad but-actually-not-so-bad-state-of-affairs!

A lot of men, including me, pledge exceptions, while still living those stereotypes subconsciously. Picture this - I still call one of my colleagues a janaani if he cries a lot. Or I chose to wear Pink for Women’s day today! Or even when my 3-year old thinks of what dress to wear, I feel she is just behaving “like a typical girl”. That’s what the hypocrites in us are – externally feministic but internally chauvinistically Stereotypical [I stand guilty, but am willing to improve (as if I have a choice, being in minority both at home as well as work!)]

The formula for Respect - So what if another women’s day comes up? Just calculate all the respect you ought to give to women for the next one year (till the next women’s day, of course), add your guilt of only “talking” about it – calculate the Net Present Value of it – and then give them a delicious cake, a card, a wish, maybe a gift, worth the value….. and there you go! Cut Loose!

Why do we have a world like this? Why all this drama and show-shaa for Women’s day? Do we need to stand out and shout that, “hey, we respect the girls around us?” or “hey, see – we have women working in our office and we respect them?

Yes – we celebrate womanhood for a day, just the way we celebrate other relationships – and we give that one special day of importance to them. It is also the one day women get to do what they want to do, officially – but seriously ladies, do you need a day for it?

Why not celebrate “being a woman”? Not because they are women, but because they are your colleague, your friend, your sister, your wife, your mother, your aunt, your daughter, your neighbor – your anyone – and celebrate them being around you – for how they have helped you progress in life, and not because they are from the “other half” of the world, or worst, the “oppressed-and-surprisingly-capable half”?

The Reflective in me triggered the Curious in me – and this is what I could gather – the pieces put together really makes you wonder – the various (stereo) types of women!

"The Child" Woman
Surprisingly, Biases against the daughters are there since a very early age. While parents might claim to be gender neutral, google reveals some other data. (According to Seth Stephens-Davidowitz in “Everybody Lies”)
Parents have an implicit prejudice against girls. Right from early age, parents attach stereotypes to their children -
  • A search of good traits are mostly for sons; 
  • anything related to Appearance is mostly for daughters, 
  • negative traits are mostly associated with daughters but less skewed than other search results
  • Overweight - mostly for girls, (while in reality, 28% girls are overweight vs 35% boys)
  • Ugly - more for girls; more positive words - for sons

Specific to India, Google trends highlight the most searched trends - Son is gifted or gay, daughter is overweight

"The Girl" Woman
Apparently, girls lose most of their confidence when they attain puberty – as they start their teens. They lose their confidence, and the world around them makes them believe they are the ‘weaker sex’. A brilliant campaign by Always, Like a Girl, highlights this, along with another campaign, Unstoppable

Nike ran a wonderful campaign to showcase this strength in Russia  - What are girls made of

And then another strong stereotype is associating crying with girls – a campaign of Boys don’t cry by Vogue - #Startwiththeboys, really makes you reflect (especially as a father)!

A fair representation of "the girl" woman is the Fearless Girl who has been fearless standing on the Wallstreet for almost a year one – it’s a different thing that its future is uncertain

"The Working" Woman 
When women start working, they go through multiple stereotypes. But then there are enablers – one that makes women confront issues more strongly, and the other that makes men reflect on their mentality (not sure how much the latter works, though!)

Few campaigns strongly work on the former
One in four woman directors in India Inc. belongs to the promoter family. Of the 1,667 NSE-listed companies that have achieved the mandate of at least one woman director on board,, as many as 425 have women with ties to the promoter group.

One of the key brands that drive this brilliantly and consistently is Titan Raga, with its campaigns #herlifeherchoices, khud se naya rishta, and #breakthebias

"The Wife & Bahu" Woman
One cannot fall short of the number of stereotypes our society has given to women – most of which have been amplified by the Bollywood systems. While the Saas-Bahu Serials continue to strengthen these notions, the brands shown during the breaks are attempting to break the very stereotypes they help fund!

These include Anouk - Bold is beautiful, breaking stereotypes, Biba - Change is beautiful through a series of Ads about Change the conversation, change the question or Change the convention or Change the perspective
In the continuity of this, there is the final “this is enough” Woman – the rebel woman
Like My Choice by Deepika Padukone or Elle India - Let the Girls be. Of course, The Gulabi Gang is inspiringly executing this change - and standing up for the "wives and bahus" women in the country!

Marriage is a strong institution that our Indian social structures still defines as the most “sacrosanct” relationship, and absolves all related parties of any “exceptional” behavior at any point in time.  While some of these Ads drive women standing up for themselves, and giving the choice to THEM, there is interesting data on even stereotypes related to Divorce!
Here are some more interesting facts on what people search for on Google Baba
  • We are a curious bunch of people. We are more keen on why 2 individuals filed for divorce, especially the celebrities. Search for the top searched items related to "divorce" and you will mostly get hritik roshan, arjun rampal in India, US - Kardashian in US  and Drew pritchard, brangelina or Mel B in the UK, 
  • Patriachal societies have lower divorce rates, whereas where the women workforce is higher, women are more independent and are more ready to separate.
  • State-wise divorce rates are different, with highest in Mizoram (4%+)! Top cities include trivandrum, Navi-Mumbai, Thane, Gurgaon, Noida, Bengaluru and other metro locations
Interestingly, following are the top search terms related to "will my son" and "will my daughter"
  • will my son be ok after divorce, is he gay or will he ever speak and 
  • will my daughter ever get married, tall or looking like me, curly hair and pretty.
So if you are a 6-year old girl or a divorced daughter, the concerns of parents still seem to be similar! Phew!

One of the most powerful women globally, Indra Nooyi, said a couple of years back that Women can’t get it all – though she has been criticized for it, maybe there are different connotations to it – one of them being that given the multitude of roles women play during their lives, it is a tough ask to outperform each and every one of them. She also opined that women do not support women in the workplace. On the other hand, this Sunday (4th March), Times featured ways in which women can help other women.

In 2016, Madeleine Albright, the first woman to hold the cabinet post of US secretary of state, said: “Just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.
True Indeed – if you go by what Musimbi Kanyoro, CEO of the Global Fund for Women, says, we all need to be human first, and then others. She introduces the Maragoli concept of "isirika" -- a pragmatic way of life that embraces the mutual responsibility to care for one another -- something she sees women practicing all over the world. And she calls for those who have more to give more to people working to improve their communities. (link to her TED Talk)

So what does all this lead to?
You don’t need a Fearless Girl to fight the child in the woman, you don’t need Gulaabi Gang to fight the Wife and Bahu Woman, you don’t need to “not have it all” to be a Working woman….and you don’t have to be someone else to be just have to be you!
Happy Women’s day to all the Women who believe they are who they are and have stripped off any other "type" they belong to!.

Few concluding rhyme-rantings…

Strip off the biases
The (stereo)types above make us realize why we do what we do
Men like us come in various shapes-n-sizes, from Effeminates, Feminists, Janaani to Gulaams of Joroo,
As for you, Ladies, there are better ways of being inclusive, of being another #MeToo,
Yes, those ways are far and few, maybe that’s why they have this day to give you your cue!
Why should the future be decided upon when, where or by whom you are born,
Why should Pink Panther ever, ever be an oxymoron!
So Girls - Be Useless, Be Careless, Be irresponsible, Be Faaltu,
Whatever you do in life – there will always be appreciators far and few
Do you bloody care – for whatever you are – you are awesome, 
Whoever makes you doubt that, give a kick on their b*m!
You don’t have to really do the maths to know if you are getting your due,
Strip off the biases, Just be True. Just be You!

Just be True, Just be you!
A Man! (Amen)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The day of Depression and Desperation – via Baba Valentine

It is that day of the year when you can only see one color – the color that symbolizes aggression as well as good luck at the same time! Not sure which one works for today, but given the sentiment, you would most likely be switching between being skeptical, judgemental, depressed and (supposedly, like me) indifferent!

This is a day when all your stereotypes come out and collaborate with your insecurities! A day – when the date is celebrated with implicit connotations of the so-called four-letter word, which few understand. A day when Love becomes a cryptocurrency – everyone talks about it, everyone wants a piece of it and hear stories about how everyone else apart from them has it but they don’t – but almost everyone is clueless about what exactly it is!

The word Love is confusing, as I believe, in most of my sociological intellectualization, that it is a packaged version of Lust when one moves from liking someone to needing something more! But then there is a nice explanation of the difference between Lust and Love – a TED talk by Terri Orbuch

I remember getting conscious about having conversations with girls on this day, lest they thought my intention was to drive them towards consummation, I mean, celebrating Valentine's day!

This is what an over-marketed day (now a festival of 12 days) does to you.
Couples end up overspending, singles end up over-depressed and pretentious couples end up....continuing to pretend!

A quick glance at your Facebook timeline leaves you overwhelmed with the deluge of couples sharing their pictures with their better halves, reinforcing their territories (almost shouting out loud that they do have someone to call their Valentine!). Maybe its the herd mentality or maybe it’s a FOMO at another level – they might be perceived as a depressed soul if they don’t put up their ‘young and happy’ couple pic!

Or maybe they realize the truth - When the ignorance through the year is supposedly compensated for in a single day, why take the trouble of spending time with your family and loved ones through the year when you can just put an image on FaceBook of the two of you!

Another interesting piece - echoing most items I dislike about the day was published in Indian Express last year by Jyotsna Basotia, some of which are highlighted in this text – a hyped day to either drive you broke or depressed!

So what are Indians searching for Valentines?
While surveys claim to tell what they want, Google is our new age mirror – you can’t hide much from it.
Inspired by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, I was curious to know what are Indians searching for.  Here is an interesting summary -

1. In India, Searches for Gifts for Girlfriend are more than Gifts for Boyfriend, where the reverse is valid for the world, especially US and UK. Clearly, we are different (gender bias?)

2. Top things searched for the day include Quotes, Gift, and few other items. But interestingly, have a look at the density of searches globally and then for India.

Globally, the order of search density is Quotes > Gifts > Love > Dinner > Sex
But in India, Quotes > Gifts > Love > Sex > Dinner  
We Indians surely have our priorities correct! (Just for records, as per research, while Married couples prefer dinner dates, youngsters prefer gifting!)

3. Which cities are the most excited about the day - Interestingly, in the past week, 8 out of 10 cities globally are from India - including (in decreasing order of search densities) Nagpur, Patna, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Pimpri-Chinchwad (Pune), Noida, Jaipur and Gurgaon.
Surely, the Eastern belt in our country is more romantic! While this is largely attributed to the younger population, including student cities, you cannot undermine the possible inhibitions that we have to go and admit love – today is the official day to propose.

And why not, globally, 9 million marriage proposals would be made today. More than a million FaceBook users change their relationship status around this time (Source)

Can Money Buy Love
Valentine's day might have some confusing and disconnected history (which has got no relevance to the spends done during Valentine's), but that does not stop approx Rs. 20000 Cr (~$3 billion) being spent by Indians through this extra-red festival!

The official Webster’s Dictionary defines Valentine as “A card sent anonymously to ones real or pretended lover!” apart from “One's sweetheart or best friend”. Clearly, this reflects in the spending pattern as well. According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year!

In other cases, most of us believe in the monetization of love with extravagant representations – the size of which represent the size of our love! Shockingly, 90% people in a relationship buy a gift, be it fancy dinners or cure-all mend-all jewelry, that are ‘just’ perfect for your soulmate.

In a recent survey by Casharo, more than three-fourths of those dating, engaged or married “celebrate” Valentine’s Day by buying gifts for their partners. They are likely to spend anywhere between Rs 1,500 and Rs 3,000 on flowers, cards, and other things. Finally, there is an insightful Infographic on Valentine's Spends to give you further details of our wallets that expand during this time.

Do gifts help you strengthen your love? 
Well, some say they do – Prof Dan Ariely highlights the kinds of gifts that can ‘buy’ love! Not flowers or card or something temporary – the best ones are the long-lasting gifts remind about our relationship. So all the buyers out there, be little more original! :)
However, the underlying happiness that we get is the joy of gifting - giving gifts makes us happier. 
If that is the case, do we really need someone to gift to celebrate Valentine’s?
Why not gift something special to yourself? That brings me to the final part of my ranting...

An interesting set of infographics highlights what this day means for Single.

I recall getting depressed looking at my Facebook timeline in my bachelor days and blaming my bad luck (or look, howsoever, you may want to pronounce it). Its apparently depressing for anyone who assumes it is a regular day for her/him, even if you are not single. They actually feel ‘singled out’ (pun intended)

For the singles out there, avoid Facebook! :-) On a serious note, there is nothing to feel bad – its our own notions that makes us want to skip this day or go outside!
As the longest-serving first lady of the United States of America, Eleanor Roosevelt, had once said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your own consent.”

Data shows that three in 10 adult consumers who reported they aren't celebrating Valentine's Day still plan to spend money to treat themselves for the holiday by either buying themselves a gift or going out with family and friends, particularly those in 18-24 year old range.

You don't need a day to feel good, feel loved and feel pampered - you don't need a partner either. And the best part, you don't even need money to celebrate. 

As for me, am fortunate to have lovely ladies around me. My better half continues to get better every day, and my young lady thankfully doesn’t wait for roses, yet! 
To all the lovely ladies in my life (wife, daughter, mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, office colleagues, sisters and sisterly brothers), Have fun today – courtesy Baba Valentine!

To conclude, couldn’t resist to extend the nursery rhyme on Valentine’s (they have one!) with a more pragmatic version - 

The rose is red, the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou'd be you."

Just to extend it further…..

All my money has gone am left with few
For all that went into some stupid gifts for you
I thought our relationship will turn a page new,
But all that is left is back to me and you
And for the single me, am tired of the coochi-coo
For me, I am the one and I am the two!
Sanefully, I know where to draw the line
Be it Baba Cupid or even Baba Valentine!
Let me just wear red and have some fun like a regular day
Cause frankly, I don’t care a Damn about Valentine’s Day

Image Sources – Baby MirrorHappy womanVirushka

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.

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