Sunday, April 29, 2007

An advertiser's mind....

How does a human mind work when it looks at emotions? A normal human brain would, most likely, interpret the emotions based on previous information, and relate to causal conditions for the emotions - and sympathize with them. In some cases, we can empathize with those emotions as well.....

For instance, this photograph might look like a baby crying and tired, or the pic below might seem to be two cute twins posing for a photograph, with sheer innocence...
But an advertiser's mind doesnt stop there....he connects these emotions to his intended communication and gets a campaign out of it - and in a fantastic combinaton of emotions and brand values - he gets his point across.. Things which we, as normal individuals, would experience and interpret in isolation, but do not connect them - he forms that connection....

Thats called the art of creativity, something one epitomizes in the rarified Advertising Industry...must say, Commendable interpretations and designs!

Call it presence of mind or out-of-the box thinking, but have a look at the emotions expressed, or expressions in the photographs - most of them would seem to be familiar to us...but how many times would we relate or interpret them in the manner they have been expressed here....

Think about it...

[Sources: Twin Brothers Panadol, Colin Glass Cleaner]

Friday, April 13, 2007

Ogilvy's Steps for Interactive Success

A nice article in imedia extends the previous theory of consumer engagement, and the emerging power of the consumer. Its stand: Consumer decides the manner and level to which she interacts with your brand.

Fair enough. I had earlier discussed the new model of Consumer Engagement, and the 4 types of engagement that are part of the consumer decision making process. Thus, as part of evolving into a co-creative environment along with the consumer, a critical stage is the first one – media engagement, i.e. the relative preference of one media over the other sets a platform, and engages a consumer to a particular set of media [Consumer Engagement]

This is being witnessed strongly in today's more media-proactive environment, and through user-generated sites like YouTube and MySpace, consumers are loyal to these forms of interactive media in which they can create and express their identities, engage in community environments and tap into brands for information or entertainment, on their terms. [Source: imedia]

As discussed in the article, Maria Mandel, partner, executive director of digital innovation for Ogilvy, explored effective vehicles for brand building and touching/engaging the consumer…

Firstly, one needs to build a story, a story which integrates the communication that goes out to the consumer from various media – a single story that not only communicates the message effectively, but also sends a single story; Secondly, she recommends marketers to reach the forums or places where consumers are already engaged to the media, identify the potential consumers, and based on their understanding – offer products/services to them. For instance, Second Life is a platform that should be leveraged strongly by companies. Finally, C2C space is the strongest platform for engaging consumers. An example cited in the article is that of the Dove spot, Evolution, which was highly successful at You Tube. Have a look at the campaign, which sends out a strong signal by breaking the clutter of beauty campaigns. The campaign has also been debated over at imedia.

Thus, the manner in which one can get consumers to engage with your brand – get them what they want, through the media they are engaged with in a language which they like to listen to, and make them talk about your brand.

Pretty simple, huh? So, which are the media with which Indian consumers are engaged with? ;)

Updated on 28th April'07
Saw this piece in response to the Dove campaign, which reflects "slob evolution" ...campaign against Real Life!! Excellent piece of work as far as the details of replicating the campaign are concerned. Have a look..

So which side are you on? ;)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Annual Reports – now of interest to Marketers too…

Till some time back, Annual Reports were nothing more than a consolidated financial report intrinsic to a firm’s business, with little concern given to the presentation or the style. Maybe, Annual Reports were more of a prerogative of the number crunchers and were of little interest to the “Kotlers” of those firms…

However, the perception seems to have changed now, with more effort given not only to “what the annual reports present” but also to “how the annual reports are presented”. Annual Reports have emerged as a critical brand element for internal as well as external branding purposes. Though this is not a new phenomenon internationally, India is a relatively newer market for this trend.

According to an article in the Economic Times, “there’s an attempt to tell a story beyond what the numbers reveal.” Indeed a story is built, and the company takes the centre stage. “Corporates like Sasken, Polaris, 3i Infotech, Greenply and Shoppers’ Stop have revamped the way their respective annual reports look and feel — if one has used claymation as a unifying theme, another has employed self-portraits of staffers as a medium of expression, while yet another has chosen to present its annual report in the form of a novel.

"Sasken, for instance, used claymation pictures of historical figures like King Asoka, Emperor Shah Jahan and Mian Tansen to communicate values that the company is committed to and Sun Tsu to talk about its expansion in China.

Take a look at the attached pictures, which are snapshots of pages from the Annual Reports of companies!

What is the objective behind branding Annual Reports? Behind this new level of creativity, unique mode of presentation, giving life and personality to the Annual Report?

Some of it could be an effort to reflect a company’s orientation as being Modern and progressive, and thinking beyond the obvious and mundane. Since these reports act as a ready reference point for the shareholders, they would also ensure good recall for these shareholders, thereby ensuring more involvement with the Annual Reports, and in turn, the corporate brand or the organization. In some cases, they could serve as Collector’s items too.

Kolkata-based Trisys Communications is one of India's dedicated annual reports consultancies and one of the few agencies specializing in designing annual reports. Mudar Pathreya, chief positioning officer, Trisys, gave me some pertinent insights (through e-mail), regarding the trend of Annual Reports in India.

According to him, the pattern of the expectations of clients is “clearly led by presentation, followed by content and then followed by emotions”. However, the expectations are not homogenized so far – Though Annual Reports are used for Branding, there is still limited application of the same – Companies tend to segregate the corporate brand and the product brand, for the purpose of designing their marketing plans. Even the corporate brand is segregated from the immediate communication – the priority is given to tactical measures, which is reflected in the annual reports therein.

Mudar agreed that the awareness levels among Indian companies is abysmally low, but gradually, there is greater willingness to try out more concepts and experiment with the presentation and designing part of the annual reports, while keeping the “data” part consistent. [source: Email Inputs from Mudar, Trisys Communications Pvt Ltd, Kolkata, India]

An April 1999 Article in Fast Company mentioned that “companies that want to operate at their best -- companies that are redefining how to play the game -- are reinventing what annual reports say and how they look”.

According to a consultancy featured in that article, Cahan & Associates, “Annual reports need to evolve: They need to become more interesting and more entertaining. Otherwise, they won't be able to compete for people's attention."
Truly, the effort by companies is to communicate their key messages in a compelling manner to the stakeholders involved. "Annual reports aren't merely financial documents; they're branding vehicles and statements of strategy."

So how to agencies manage to get this attention? What is it that they do differently?

According to data collated from some of the agencies working on Annual Reports (Trisys, Cahan & Associates, Ramp Creative, SPD Dallas), most of it relates to first building a story based on the corporate culture and values of the organization; and then narrating that story in a manner that engages the stakeholders and investors. Cahan & Associates call the work as that of “archaeologists", where they find for a hidden idea or theme that reflects the company’s story.

Once a story is built, next comes the way in which the story needs to be told – needs to be presented – together with design professionals, communication experts and academicians, reports are presented in a manner that appeals to the companies.

Some of it revolves around a centralized theme or structuring the presentation with different themes for separate sections of the Annual report (such as those mentioned above), while some others prefer the designing way (like shareholders in the form of envelopes or single-page Reports)..

As Ramp Creative, a branding and design agency based in Los Angeles, wonderfully summarizes..

“Our favorite annual reports of all time are not just corporate business and financial stories, but rather well-told epics with dramatic settings, beautiful illuminations and suspensful sequels. We enjoy contributing our long-standing skills to the tradition of crafting....reports that not only strengthen relationships with the investor community, but also continue the company narrative into marketing, sales and recruiting efforts.”

Where do we go from here? Industry experts predict certain trends in this branding exercise – First the “Reports” in Annual Reports became irrelevant, and now the “Annual” would follow..

Cahan & Associates predicted that annual reports will become less "annual." Companies, in order to reiterate the core message articulated in their Annual Reports, would communicate more frequently with their stakeholders, “to help explain important developments throughout the year". This would help them leverage the identity and equity created by the Annual Reports.

Indian markets/consultancies also might follow their western counterparts in honoring highly creative annual reports - In the United States, there are special Awards for the best Annual Reports, namely AR100 and NIRI Annual report Competition.

The National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) of Orange County recognizes the best annual reports of publicly traded companies in Orange County, California, while the AR100 represents the 100 best annual reports from more than 500 entries and is selected on the basis excellence of design, functionality, innovation and brand awareness. The AR100 is recognized as a benchmark publication in annual report design, with circulation to more than 15,000 corporate communicators.

Another element to be attached to this are the images of the management, that have started getting attention recently, to be put in Annual reports and other corporate literature. Thus, an effort is being made to translate the staid perception of corporate imagery into celebrity status!

All and all, branding does permeate into the staid world of Financial Reporting, after all. No matter how significant is the data, and how consistent is the performance – Finally it would depend upon the creativity and innovation that will connect the presenter and the perceiver, to ensure an effective communication….

So, are you still stuck up with numbers? ;)

Report Sources:
Emami, Polaris, Sasken, Mittal Steel, Helpage India Ispat, Envelope, 7-Eleven

DC Mills – Taking Coir Across the World..

Most of the times, advertisements in the B2C or C2C space are discussed and stressed upon in the marketing circles. This time, however, I found a piece, which is supposedly* in the B2B space – Dennis Coir Mills.

This simple ad highlights the source, as well as the target markets in this print piece. As mentioned at Adland, Coir is made from coconuts and is used in the making of floor mats and doormats, brushes, mattresses, etc. Therefore, the copy “Taking Coir across the world” holds relevance to the products offered by the company.

In marketing terms, it is a smart application of Gestalt psychology, wherein the consumer would follow the "Closure" principle of perceptual organization, and take the coconut as the world, and perceive it to be closed like the globe. It is simply the stimulus created by the patterns of the continents drawn, which leads to filling the so-called gaps drawing analogy between the coconut and the earth..

Part of new campaigns list at Agencyfaqs this week, the Ad, designed by Mudra Communications for DC Mills, emphasizes on the use of coconut for the making of the products of the company.

Though the portfolio of the company also contains other products, like bamboo and jute, the agency has chosen to highlight a particular component for this space. Probably, other component-ads might follow, or the export market for coir mats and rugs might be the biggest for the company. Whatever may be the case, leveraging the unique and creative designs of the coir mats, Mudra, through this ad definitely reiterates the innovation quotient of the company, and scores on creativity once again.

* Why supposedly – because there is no mention of the channels offered by the company, and the possibility of bulk-breaking and direct customer orders. As of now, B2B is based on what has been commented at Adland and a simplistic assumption that the company is primarily operating in the export market.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Viral Marketing - The Webchutney way...

Sometime back, I had spoken about Guerilla Marketing and basics on Viral and Ambient Marketing. Recently, I came across Webchutney, that specializes in Virals and claims to have pioneered the concept in India.

Whether it has pioneered the concept or not, it has definitely created some wonderful pieces of virals for “Make my trip", a travel portal famous for deep discounts in travel fares. These virals for Make my trip include Chidiya Udi and Chalo Lanka. Simply amazing and funny. There are a few other campaigns also, but nothing compared to the creatives like these. As is evident, these virals were awarded the Gold and the Silver Awards at Abby 2006 for Digital Marketing Innovation! Click for the virals - Chidiya Udi and Chalo Lanka

According to one of the reports on the campaign, Marketers have migrated to the web for heightened exposure and targeted audiences.

Viral Marketing, as defined, is a short-term tactics to grab attention, which may or may not translate into sales. This, according to me, is a big question mark. What is the objective of a viral? – Heightened exposure or increased sales? Agreed that the former is imperative, but does it translate into the latter? How do you measure the effectiveness of a viral? From what I read, it is based on the click-throughs and the hits – but that’s about it. Sales/conversions do not come into the picture, unless the campaign is coupled with promotions and offers.

That does not mean that one should include promotions and offers and links within the advertisements. It is important that visibility is generated first. The webchutney report mentions the same thing “As the strategy involves exchange of value, the first step is to make it worthy for your audience. Only then you can count on cheap publicity and eventual acceptance of your offering”. But there HAS to be a tracking mechanism to take this exposure right till the sales conversion part, which unfortunately, is missing in this campaign (based on my limited understanding)

Virals are ineffective if there is no channel to spread them. What works in India’s favor is the emerging webophiles, who spend a lot of time with orkut, youtube, linkedin and gmail. This entails web-based advertising, especially targeted to the youth and the young couples. Of course, the IT sector is a big booster for this as well!

Marketing Profs, in the first edition of their modified Newsletter, “Get to the Point” have given “Three Keys to a Viral Campaign” – Pitch Nothing, Amuse your audience and Invite participation – keys essentials to either translate business into sales, or float an entertainment piece for your consumers…

Coming back to Indian scenario, Looking ahead, there would be certain bottlenecks for web-based advertising in India –
  • Slow speeds and connectivity
  • Internet penetration
  • Accessibility in work environment (in most of the cases, internet access is restricted during office hours – so someone might get the link forwarded, but might not be able to open it, thereby blocking and stalling the viral)
  • Stronger negative hangover than a positive hangover
  • Linking exposures to sales
  • Integrating offline setups with online presence

    Whether or not these bottlenecks would be addressed or not, companies continue to use this mode for their campaigns. Extending their virals, the latest TV Advertisement also seems to leverage the viral way, by circulating the link to its ad through mailers, before its aired across TV Channels (Downloadable Format)

    The more you give, the more comes back to you. Once a viral is released, its replication is guaranteed and will most likely spread itself without the marketer's constant backing. A viral can be text, animated, film or in any other form but as long as it is snappy, interesting and hooks attention, it is bound to go around.

    Taking this concept further, Webchutney has introduced a concept called as “69 Marketing” – yup, based on the common understanding of “69” position, the concept primarily talks about the importance of User-generated content in Marketing.

    If you give it to the consumer, the consumer will give it back to you!
    "Through a four-point approach, your brand message becomes a part of the consumer's online social communication, which he is actively involved in". In this manner, one involves the consumer herself in brand communication.

    More details on this concept would follow – interesting concept, though! ;) Worth exploring further. For more details, here is the link to 69 Marketing!

    Webchutney is the first Indian interactive agency to initiate a viral marketing campaign in the home turf. It has pioneered the use of this promotional tool in the digital arena. It conceptualized, created and spearheaded a viral campaign for, a first of sorts in the Indian interactive space.