Thursday, May 31, 2007

Time-management technique for Workaholics: Podcasts and Vodcasts

The latest edition of Harvard Business Review (June 2007) has a small note on how employees can leverage technology to learn and revisit their company details and how companies, in turn, can leverage the same technology for internal branding. The article, Employees get an Earful, by Anders Gronstedt, talks about how employees, particularly salesmen, can either listen to podcasts or watch vodcasts (video podcasts) to get latest updates on their company, just before their meetings and calls.

"At companies that use internal podcasting or vodcasting, employees don’t have to stop working to learn, and they can make productive use of their downtime. People can listen while driving to client meetings or watch while waiting in airports. For those who don’t mind blurring the line between free time and work, podcasts enable constructive intrusions into commuting, walking the dog, or running on the treadmill"

According to the article, “Portable media players, including video-enabled phones, have rapidly become mainstream tools for internal business communications”. Now that initial investments are controllable (as mentioned in the sidebar “Getting started in internal podcasting”), companies have started exploring this channel with keen interest.

With companies like IBM, Xerox, National Semiconductor,etc. incorporating this in their internal systems and processes, it is only a matter of time that others would follow, too.

Looking ahead, podcasts and vodcasts would act as critical tools in internal communications, in cases where employees have an established comfort level with the technology. It is quite relevant for salesmen/field reps, since they need to be connected to the system real-time and need to process information under time constraints. There are cases where employees are more comfortable with this technology, and prefer it over white papers and training sessions.

Subsequently, this could be incorporated into other internal functions of the organization – be it in terms of training modules, or PR or internal branding.
As companies create data/media tools on a regular basis ensuring regular usage by employees, this can be considered as yet another element in the emerging Social media: Encouraging C2C interaction by way of developing communities and storing podcasts on social platforms like blogs & forums, employees are encouraged to get more engaged with the company – a perfect way for reinforcing internal branding.

…worth keeping a watch on..

For now, something to cheer for the workaholics – NO time is FREE time now! ;-)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fond of collecting Shells? - Think about the snails first!

A powerful & provocative ad that reflects upon the condition of the refugees, who are forced out of their homes.


According to Spluch,

The United Nations refugee agency is running a provocative international advertising campaign that employs shock tactics to raise awareness about its work and drum up public support for those who have been forced to flee their homes.

The pro bono TV campaign, launched in Canada earlier this month and also running in about a dozen countries in Europe, South America and Africa, was created by the Toronto office of the BBDO advertising agency, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which hopes the drive will help raise $1.8 million for the agency this year.

Using shock tactics, this seemingly animated piece draws an analogy to the process of pulling a snail out its shell - the pain and the cruelty associated with it, and the disturbing site that ensues.

Something to reflect upon. Commendable execution of the creative, a fine piece of Social Marketing

[Sources: Google Video, Spluch]

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Long-term Marketing - Not a Quick Fix..

Found an interesting perspective on what should marketers looking for a long-term marketing career invest in, to ensure that their businesses are sustainable and successful.

John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing, recommends 3 imperatives for Long-term marketing - the 3 essential marketing practices required for producing results - the 3 Cs: Content, Connection and Community.

  • Content - self-growth and increasing self-worth and market credibility. This could be done through blogs, white papers, workshops, articles, etc.
  • Connection - personal relationships need to be reinforced to be leveraged subsequently - through co-creating experiences with them, by way of stories, training and other brand elements
  • Community - a social network, that moves beyond personal relationships and penetrates into the local communities, and social circles. This can be done by way of investing time & money in social projects, get-togethers planned with clients, initiating and maintaining forums, creating opportunities for continuous engagement with the communities, referral networks, etc.
To summarize, one needs to invest into enhancing self-worth, building personal relationships and get involved with the community, to ensure payoffs in the long run. Quick fixes tend to work for self-claimed marketers holding on to a short-term orientation.

Thanks to John Caddell's post on Strategic Marketing, who also gives an insight into his own experiences and learning from this perspective.

Geo TV (Pakistan): Innocence under fire!

Found this creative at Brand Synario - a Pakistan-based advertising website. I have rarely come across ads produced in that region, and this one gives a fine sample of the level of creativity presented there.

A nice piece for Geo TV, "Innocence under fire!" or "Jeeyo or jeene do" campaign that summarizes the kind of news being produced in the region these days. Through this campaign, it attempts to send out a social message to people to reduce the tensions amongst themselves - using the emotion-drivers...the kids!

A nice way to position itself as a channel that does not show violence all the time, and a channel endorsed by kids. A key influencer for parents in recommending channels is the influence of those channels to their children - this ad leverages this pattern and gets the same kids to endorse the channel.

Nice piece. Have a look.

brandsynario.com is a project of Synergy; the fastest growing Integrated Marketing & Communications Group in Pakistan. Starting off as a single source advertising concern in 1999, the Group has now become a trusted Integrated Marketing & Communications Solution partner for some of the key local and multinational players in the industry.

In-store Marketing Tactics – Simulation for Consumers, Stimulation for Marketers..

With the changing behavior of the consumers, and newer channels evolving, companies are fighting for consumer mindspace. More than that, and a step before, in fact, is the battle for catching attention and a portion of the eye span of the consumers – of getting attention towards your products, out of the clutter of consumer goods shelved along with you! This is the reason most companies use tactical measures at the final touch point – the retail outlets, to drive sales.

They attempt to plant “traffic stoppers” in a bid to make the consumers stand up and take notice of their offerings. What would you suggest to introduce such “traffic stoppers” at the POP?

Follow the “P”s and you would recommend innovative packaging, advanced product technologies, sales promotions, etc etc. But what if these methods have been tried and tested, and failed, too! What next?

A recent research at Mckinsey Quarterly discussed an innovative application of technology in in-store marketing. The article, “Using technology to improve in-store marketing” by Jim Brennan and Scott Liles, summarizes a recent case study taken up by Mckinsey for a consumer goods manufacturer.

With insights required from in-store shopping experience, and key customer profiling and preferences to be mapped to in-store investments, the company had limited resources and options with itself, to experiment and test inside the retail outlets. With constraints like multi-site management, long waiting period and high investments per customer, the company had to look for alternatives to identify its areas for improvements.

To add to that, sales driven retailers have increasingly become reluctant in adopting newer products, and as they grow, the filtering process tends to become much stronger for new product introductions (NPIs).

Solution? As what every new world marketer would think, for every marketing problem, there is… the online space – so was the case here too. A virtual shopping simulation was conducted online, with real participants, and based on the behavioral patterns and customer preferences the results were applied in the real environment subsequently.

As the article mentions

"The manufacturer developed an online interactive-shopping simulation to analyze the individual and collective impact of various in-store marketing tactics. Real-life participants browsed through a virtual store aisle, examined products, and “spent” a set amount of money."

Eventually, opportunities that were indicated as high potential included “redesigned shelf sets that highlighted the manufacturer’s charitable efforts, more sophisticated end caps (the displays at the end of shopping aisles), and in-store and on-shelf advertising”.

Traditionally, in-store marketing tactics that have been adopted by companies, as mentioned in an old article by Mike Kirkwood, include counter Displays near checkout, Display Racks, Banners, Posters, Streamers and shelf talkers – with messages that would make the consumer stop and read or take notice. The Point-of-Purchase is also termed as the “in-store silent Salesperson”, wherein the product communication itself acts as a driver for sales. This simulation reinforced the key options that would be the ‘most beneficial’ to the company.

There are companies that are developing this kind of Simulation applications as well. Vision Critical’s Fusion seems to be in line with the tools used above. According to the company’s product portfolio, Fusion is a complementary suite of rich media applications that include interactive visuals, streaming video and 3D virtual environments.

It mentions that respondents have a greater preference and higher participation rates toward visual testing and therefore, the results are less biased and more insightful. Some of the tests conducted through this product include Package testing, Product testing, Feature testing, Price point testing and Label testing.

This might be a familiar concept for the Second Life citizens, where NPI and brand launches are already happening and have attracted constructive consumer feedback as well.

But can this simulation be generalized for all product categories? More so, can it be applied to any retail environment? How much of these insights can be translated from an online simulation environment to an offline real-time in-store experience?

Reiterating what has also been touched upon, in the article, it is difficult to get insights in case of high involvement products, or specifically, where either the price points are high, risks perceived are high or product knowledge is limited.

A key pointer mentioned is that it removes biases to generate results. However, where I disagree a bit is that this is precisely the environment in which consumers would shop, and any impact of these biases should figure in the tactics designed. Consumers need to be engaged with the shopping process, and their involvement levels are influenced with the ambience as well. Any pilots, if they do not factor these biases, would obviously give unrealistic results/patterns – a conventional flaw in some of the theoretical marketing models!

All said and done, it definitely resolves the issues mentioned above – the costs incurred, multi site issues, long waiting time – all this has been addressed by the new media; but it still needs to factor impact of local ambience, store formats as well as people skills –something that would definitely be pertinent to getting the “consumer’s attention” – whether positively or negatively!

Companies familiar with “In-store advertising” understand the ways/media being used currently. I had earlier talked about how in-store advertising was evolving into newer forms of indoor media. As I had mentioned that time, seems like the factor of DSCA or Desperately Seeking Consumers Attention is advancing into marketing tactics, too...

So, you can either say that "companies should ensure that the right level of subjectivity should be factored while translating research results into practical on-the-ground strategies, to ensure that they not only communicate but also connect to the consumers, to give them a pleasant and valuable experience"

or simply,
"Just make them pick up my bloody product, will ya!"

[References: Mckinsey Quarterly Web exclusive, April 2007, In-Store Sales Techniques – July/August 2003; Image source: P&G Annual Report, Buy my Stuff, Sleeping child]

Incidentally, while browsing through in-store marketing tactics, there was this interesting insight I managed to get hold on to. Mentioned in the recently held
In-Store Marketing Summit, on the April 19-20, 2007, at Oak Brook, IL, that on an average, consumers cover & shop at only about 25% of the store. The perimeter of the store remains the most trafficked, most highly merchandised and most “glamorized” section.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Remember – You’re in charge..

Found a nice piece of Ad on this week’s Best Ads for Remember Credit Card.

A nice creative, that connects to a unique subtle thought pattern of each one of us – the impulses within us that are beyond the zone of “Acceptability” and stay within our heads only!


Picture this – (read it slowly)…
Its not just you – we all have the most bizarre thoughts and impulses constantly flowing through our heads that might have dramatic consequences, if they actually went through with them…

This is what the Ad is about – how our attitudes are NOT governed by our impulses, but by a sensible controlled thought process – in most of the occasions. A basic apprehension attached to credit cards is that it entails profligacy, and one does not have control of his/her expenses. A nice way to counter this apprehension and invoke a change in behavior….Have a look

A nice phrase to summarize the entire creative…
"Remember - Just because you can do something, that doesn’t mean you will…
Remember – you’re in charge.."


Incidentally, the website of the credit card, though in Swedish, has some interesting features, worth exploring. If you want to find out about the application process and the procedure, the home page directs you to an interactive panel, where your host is waiting for you to explain things around. Though all the text and explanation is in Swedish, thankfully he talks English!

With a well targeted choice of language, the set of 4 videos covers, in a nutshell, the need of a credit card, the need of “re:membercredit card, and a product comparison with other credit cards. It elaborates on the consumption habits and usage patterns vis-à-vis a credit card, and enunciates the solutions to all the problems it cites during the interactive!

From the misconceptions we carry about a credit card to inflexibilities attached to the “usual” credit cards, the interactive suggests you to move beyond the "Conventional thinking of monthly consumption, where most of us have a financial horizon of a month, and we plan our life around the lunar calendar".

And what is the solution?
You decide how to run your life and then, better ways to finance it.; How to pay for what you buy, by borrowing money from your future self – a credit card that evolves with you – a credit card where you are in charge".

Specifically, the card helps you plan (your own payment plan), and planning gives you a greater command of your life – “Remember! When you have a plan, you're in charge!”

Moreover, it helps you deal with the unexpected. When unexpected things happen, you should be able to move on, and not get bothered by them – “key is to be in charge of the unexpected

Finally, it even congratulates you, when you decide to apply for a credit card….a perfect online companion and friend for you…

Thus, it reinforces the central theme of being in control of your expenses by planning things around you, and a tool that facilitates this planning is your remember credit card, that helps you….in a way so that you're in charge!
Commendable execution – worth a look

Wonder what all the recovery agents would have to say to this…;-)

Still despise the credit cards?

Agency: DDB Stockholm, Country: Sweden
Source:
Best Ads

Monday, May 14, 2007

Epica 2006 Gold: The Coke Side of Life

Last year, the agency won the Grand Prix at Cannes for their "Honda Grr" Commercial. This year, they have won the 2006 film Epica d'or Award, for their Coca-Cola "Happiness Factory" commercial. Wieden & Kennedy has sort of commanded the advertising through their innovative concepts, and creative animation. Though the diesel engines have been replaced with the Coke bottle this year, the entire advertisement has been conceptualized quite well, and engages the viewer in the entire process presented therein.

The same ad won the Gold in the Foods & Drink category for Non-Alcoholic Drinks, too.

The entire commercial can be viewed at this link. Incidentally, the piece here seems to be an abridged version. The Ad is also available at the agency's website and has a few more "constructs" in it. Have a look once...


I have talked a lot about EPICA (Europe's Premier Creative Awards). This year marked the 20th Anniversary of the awards, and in all there were around 5,461 entries by 703 companies from 45 countries this year.

Epica entries are judged on the basis of 2 criteria only: the originality of the creative idea and the quality of its execution - In both the cases, the idea was excellent and the execution - should I say, worth an EPICA gold? ;-)

[Source]
[Image Source:
Coke 1, Coke 2, Coke 3, Coke 4, Coke 5, Coke 6]

The Economist: A mind expanding substance?

I had earlier posted a collated list of the Economist Ads that appeared around 18 months back. To add to that, found this interesting ambient piece (below) sometime back. Another Ad (right) won the Epica Silver last year in the print category.


Wonderful concepts....takes a bit of thinking to understand, though :)
[via Ads of the World and Epica Awards]

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Procter & Gamble – From Conventional Media to “Targeted Scale”

A recent article in Adage, P&G Primes Its Pinpoint Marketing discusses how the world’s largest consumer goods marketer has plans to re-orient its marketing investments, and wants to move closer to the consumers through Relationship Marketing.

In this article, Elva Lewis, Associate Director, P&G North America Corporate Marketing, provided some key insights into the marketing efforts planned by the world’s biggest advertiser next fiscal year. P&G attempts to move from traditional media to direct marketing, and plans to integrate the marketing efforts across its 86 brands in North America, thereby focusing on one-to-one marketing.

That idea is targeted scale, a nearly oxymoronic term for the way P&G, so expert at using its enormous clout to buy vast amounts of TV time efficiently, is trying to leverage its heft in relationship marketing, whether through direct mail, online communities, or even content plays

This concept of targeted scale entails reinforcing a relationship with its customers. Traditionally, Relationship Marketing has been the forte of service companies, specically in the banking & airlines industry. Consumer goods companies, conventionally, are not considered to be efficient in this form, primarily due to two reasons cited in the article: the scalability of the effort and the low involvement product lines. More so, mass-marketing implies small margins on the SKUs that obviate investments for individual consumers. That's why, most of them typically prefer the mass-marketing way.

Even within the company, there has always been heavy reliance on TV advertising, and it is difficult to justify the returns one should expect by investing into targeted marketing. However, the fallacy in the argument lies in the nature of the customers which is continuously evolving, and can no longer be homogenized into demographic clusters.

The company, therefore, intends to break this clutter, by attempting to strengthen its current base. "There are roughly 107 million households in the U.S., and P&G is attempting to forge relationships with more than half of them." Still, keeping in mind the apprehensions of the investors, the costs of this transfer would be spread initially....
Justifies Ms Lewis:

"We can use targeted scale and let the fixed costs of direct marketing -- list buys, acquisition, response modeling, mail and fulfillment -- be spread across 10 brands. It doesn't work for P&G otherwise"

The First & Second Moments of Truth are the key words that P&G works on, for its customers. From what one can infer from the article, the effort is directed towards offering a much more targeted offering at the first moment of truth itself, so that the second moment of truth is much more effective. This implies a concerted effort in clustering customers based on usage patterns and shopping behavior at the POP.

As mentioned in last year’s Annual Report:
"We learn who influences & makes purchase decisions; who shops, and when, where and how they shop; who uses our products, and how they use our products. These insights tell us where we have opportunities to innovate and how we can better communicate the benefits of P&G brands. Winning at the first moment of truth gives us the chance to win at the second. Winning at both moments of truth—time & time again—is how P&G grows"
Keeping this in mind, Segmentation has been modified to service customers using an integrated approach, and not specific to each of its brands per se. Based on usage patterns and psychographics, “cohorts” have been identified, which in turn can be used for all the brand managers. So, when a communication goes to a customer, it would go from the corporate brand, and not individual brands of P&G. Thus, there is attempt towards an inter-brand cooperation to share customer profiles, with the marketing efforts being combined and coordinated.
As mentioned by Ms Lewis,
Cohort segmentation covers 90% of the top prospects for P&G's biggest 50 brands
Another Article in Adage published this month, P&G Will Boost Marketing Spending for Fiscal '08, reiterates the focus areas for P&G in the next fiscal. With top line growth being given a priority, (even if it is at the cost of bottom line improvements) marketing would be given much more emphasis this year (starting July 1). Also, with rising raw material costs and decreasing returns, the margins for the FMCG giant are bound to shrink. Thus, marketing would shift towards non-measured media as well. Therefore, an aggressive effort would be made towards online space, in-store promotions, induce trials for customers, so as to trade-up consumers.

P&G spends close to a tenth of its total sales on advertising, which is higher than the industry average (but what matters to the company is the effectiveness and brand equity than ad-spending-to-sales ratios, as said by Mr Lafley in investor presentations). Out of this portion, roughly 70% is spent on TV advertisements and hardly 2% on Internet. But what triggered a relook at this strategy is that though TV Ad spends continue to command the largest pie of the investments, the RoI from the TV seems to be declining.

Overall, with the need of behavioral targeting, coupled with the declining returns from conventional media, P&G would move towards putting more dollar-eggs in the direct-marketing’s basket this year. What remains to be seen, however, is the returns on these investments, and to what level can the effort be scaled up, to suit its customers as well as their investors.

From a financial viewpoint, it is imperative to satisfy the investors as well. Incidentally, last year, though the goals went up, the share prices went down. With such a proposition of investing more per customer, it is bound to face some apprehensions from the investors. Therefore, the company has stated specifically the “critical success factors” in its quarterly reports. The projections made for the fiscal year and other plans, are forward looking statements, and depend on a lot of factors, for them to materialize. Though the Q3 reports mention around 13 such factors, the ones pertinent to this discussion are –
  • the ability to manage and maintain key customer relationships
  • the ability to stay close to consumers in an era of increased media fragmentation; and
  • the ability to stay on the leading edge of innovation
  • Therefore, to translate projections into results, the company is moving to re-orient its marketing efforts.

    From an Indian perspective, though it is still a small market for P&G, it is a high potential one – the article doesn’t mention much, though one part mentions that RoI on TV Ads is much greater in developing countries, and therefore, this media would continue to command a major share of advertising spends. This makes complete sense for China, where it is the biggest advertiser and covers a majority share of all the CCTV Ad space, but not really sure if this IS valid for India too, since most of the companies, from what I have read, are moving towards budgeting BTL campaigns in their marketing planners, too.

    I am sure as the market matures, the effort would be re-oriented accordingly, if it isn’t already… ;)

    Saturday, May 12, 2007

    Air Pollution – the invisible Killer!

    Thanks to Adcritic’s latest print issue, found a unique competition aimed at creating something for the environment – One Show College Competition, organized for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), announced its winners for 2007.

    The theme was “Another way to save the world" and asked the entrants to focus on global warming and clean energy; toxic chemicals and human health; and protection of the oceans.

    The Gold Pencil winner in the Innovative Marketing category was this smoking gun. The brief reads “Air Pollution kills 60,000 people a year” and has been excellently executed.(With all credits to Jeseok Yi and Francisco Hui of New York's School of Visual Arts). Deservingly the best!

    The concept of the Silver winner is also commendable – making water out of Hope….check the campaign to know more. Entries of other winners of the competition can be browsed here

    The effort of NRDC is focused on residents of the United States, the global leader of global warming and air pollution (according to global warming website)

    Hubba Bubba (Australia) – For Blowers

    Found these nice creative pieces at Ads of the world, for another offering from Wrigley's - “Hubba Bubba


    The tagline reads “For Blowers, Hubba Bubba
    Made by Wrigley Jr. Company in 1979 in the US, Hubba Bubba has been positioned primarily as a bubble blowing gum. Since the gum was less sticky, these bubbles were easier to peel from the skin after they burst…a scientific explanation to the pranks intended indirectly hinted at..

    As is evident, the company has built localized portals for each region, and most of the advergames to engage children are built around bubble blowing and bursting them. The UK website of Hubba Bubba has built a virtual city with various events and stalls. From the time I spent inside it, it is definitely an interesting tour…

    The product – not only does the gum come in various flavors, it also comes in various forms…..initially, it was distributed as chunks / pieces, but recently, it has been produced as shredded pieces of baseball, rolls of bubble gum tape, plastic jugs of crystals, boxes of tiny gumballs and stuffed with candy.

    The creatives have been made by DDB, Sydney, Australia, so am assuming that it would be made for the Australian markets. According to the website of Wrigley Australia, the gum is available there in 2 forms - either as pieces or bubble tape.

    Incidentally, the Hubba Bubba brand was discontinued in the U.S. in the early 1990s according to Wikipedia, but was re-started in 2004, under the name of Hubba Bubba Max – this explains the logic of the Hubba Bubba max website, specific to the US market.

    What really is appealing is the simplicity of the ads and their single focussimply blow bubbles! Definitely something to lure and excite the adventurous pranksters in Australia..

    Incidentally, though the website has been made for young kids, this campaign is specifically targeted at the teenage segment, and not kids – hence, it is positioned as less of fun and more of adventure. Products like bubble gums are difficult to market to kids above 12-13 age-group, but this campaign has picked up the right elements to add another segment to their customer profile. Kudos to the repositioning..

    [Sources: Bubble Tummy Bubble Head Bubble Cheeks]

    Friday, May 11, 2007

    Emerging Media Trends – New World for the NewGen Consumers..

    Greg Verdino predicts six trends in media that would dominate the media mix of companies in the near future…



    Greg recommends an understanding of these trends for all marketers, and believes that these opportunities would determine the manner in which “people consume media”..

    These trends include
    • lifeblogging and a much more integrated social network system, with the Gen X getting highly involved with the online space, and sharing perspectives,
    • mobile marketing and moving content advertising/marketing from web to telecom technology
    • 3D internet, with similar versions of second life emerging
    • virtual classrooms and training programs, with modern methods of teaching kids, through games and online courses
    • digital portable customer generated videos
    • Free content distribution to the consumers, and looking for blanket sponsors for this distribution.
    Am sure, each of these would evolve into a specific tool in itself, and they would become focus areas soon, for marketers around the world. But, whichever medium is used and leveraged, it is almost certain that the New world comprising the new gen consumers and new gen marketers isn't too satisfied with the existing media. With the pace at which it is changing, the trends predicted above might just be reality in no time...Will come back with more details on this on this space itself….

    Really an insightful presentation. Something worth spending some time on….
    [Click here for the slideshow]

    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Go-to-market ....with everyone and not just the top performers..

    A recent article from Bain, published in Live mint, discusses the evolution of sales strategies and Sales force Management. The article, Bain Brains: How to enable your sales force to deliver more, reiterates the importance of instituting processes in the sales systems, and illustrates how companies have improved productivity by doing that..

    …(companies) are reinventing their go-to- market approaches by using data, analysis and systematic selling tools to increase the productivity of reps across the board and help boost the performance of fair-to-middling performers up closer to the top quartile.

    Thus, the effort is to be made in raising the bar for the average performers, making them much more productive and not relying on the top performers to get more business for them.

    Though most of the strategies and trends discussed in the article – of deciding sales targets through an iterative process, a bottom-up decision-making, redefining sales territories and sales channels and precision selling, have been covered in the theory books on Sales Management, and are presribed in a lot of Sales Force trainings, a particular input is pertinent to those working on improving productivity – Sales mentoring programme - a program where the best people train the better ones and the not-so better ones, in an attempt to make them better, and more than better...

    According to the article,

    “.. pharmaceutical services company has developed a multi-stage sales mentoring programme that pays a small commission to the mentor for the productivity of the sales during the programme. The overall goal: to narrow the gap between the stars and the rest of the sales force. Those companies that do it well have seen the sales of lower- performing reps increase anywhere from 40% to 200%...”

    Quite interesting. With peer pressure being one of the biggest hurdle in establishing processes and sharing information, a mentorship programme, where the mentor gets some returns and does not perceive mentorship as “building & nurturing competition” is an idea worth experimenting..

    Apart from this, what companies could look at is a much more integrated approach, vis-à-vis the four major go-to-market participantsAdvertising and Promotion, Call centers, Internet and the Sales Forces. They need to be looked at as an integrated entity, and not separate tools to achieve sales targets. Though each participant is evaluated in terms of its effectiveness and efficiency, it is imperative to leverage key strengths of one participant for the other. An online database/portal setup by CISCO maintaining client records is one such example mentioned in the article.

    As mentioned in The Complete Guide to Accelerating Sales Force Performance : How to Get More Sales from Your Sales Force by Andris A. Zoltners and Prabhakant Sinha, various go-to-market strategies that are worked on in the market today include Account teams, Industry teams, geographic sales forces, telesales (inbound and outbound), internet, advertising and parternships/collaborations.

    A combination of some/all of these need to be looked into to formulate strategies for the direct/indirect sales forces.

    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    Mobile Marketing: Any pointers in the B2B Space?

    Mobile Marketing is no longer an emerging concept. It is a buzz word being talked about with a bit of apprehension but a lot of enthusiasm. Every marketer would want to introduce the concept in his peer group, but from what I have read, it has still not been fitted into the marketing planner of companies. A recent article at Marketing Profs “Marketing Challenge: Is It Time to Move Into Mobile Marketing?by Meryl K. Evans and Hank Stroll explores this apprehension and enunciates both sides of the story… those who are doing something about it, and those who are waiting for those who are doing something about it!

    Those who want to go for the kill believe that even though there are grey areas, it is a path worth exploring and holds a high potential. Customer behavioral data is an iterative process, and trends & patterns would evolve with usage. On the other hand, some want to wait for a consistent data pattern to emerge and then jump into the water!

    Though this is something that happens in almost every industry and with every new trend, in this case, what is worth noticing is the difference in the way it is being handled in the B2C and B2B markets. Mobile marketing is primarily catering to the B2C segment currently, and the various campaigns we see around us reinforces this. Be it telemarketing, missed call marketing, SMS campaigns, or mobile gaming, the trends seem to be working for this segment quite well.

    However, how much do we understand of the application of Mobile Marketing in the B2B space? What are the opportunities that lie ahead for companies that would like to explore this opportunity?

    Incidentally, I had discussed one particular application – Financial services being catered by banks in China – routed not only to customers but also SMEs and small companies looking for some hard infrastructure for their transactions in the hinterlands of China.
    I am sure there would be many other companies/industries hoping to leverage this maturing industry - probably one of the most effective communication media to directly interface with customers. As pointed out in the article also,

    "Most of us have our mobile devices with us all the time, but not our notebooks and computers. With an attentive audience like this, marketers would be remiss to ignore mobile marketing"

    How exactly should they look at this channel for the B2B space? Some options could be, as I mentioned above, the financial infrastructure – with it come your extensions in the form of Insurance, micro-credit and other instruments. Apart from this, online promotions at websites, incentives for frequent updates, loyalty programs and social networking – are areas that could be explored for business customers. Recently, I read about Tuanguo – or Team Buying, being explored in China. This could also be explored in the B2B space. All in all, whatever companies are doing with the web world, currently, could be routed through the mobile space also.

    However, it is imperative to draw a line between a marketing campaign and spam messaging – with so many companies targeting the same media eventually, some are bound to fall out and others flourish. But it is important to remember that a little overdose of the campaign might just dilute the entire brand itself…something to ponder over..

    With permission-based marketing taking some shape in the markets, opt-ins has become the norm of the day, and opt-outs seem to be slightly risky. Nonetheless, some marketers still believe in cold calls to unknown numbers and find mobile marketing synonymous to selling credit cards!! Maybe, they prefer to learn the hard way…..

    Still looking for phone directories and local phone numbers? ;-)

    [Photo source: retroset phone, monkey]

    Tuesday, May 08, 2007

    Viral Marketing is passé ….its time for Big-Seed Marketing!

    First, the 4Ps were proved ineffective, and the 4As emerged. Then, ATL activities were replaced with BTL focused media houses. Brand elements changed and Experiential Marketing was the new way to market; Sensory branding became far more significant than before. Then, AIDA was proved ineffective and Engagement Marketing Emerged….now it is the turn of Viral Marketing….and Big Seed Marketing has emerged. Are the New world marketers reinventing the wheel, or is time to change the whole vehicle itself……

    Viral marketing, stated simply, is marketing done the viral way – message that spreads like a virus, and need not be provided a channel or a direction – it takes it own direction/course. No planning, no media exercise, no creatives and no briefs… minimal budget, maximum reach…well that’s every marketers dream, and fantasy, so to say!

    But how exactly does one measure the effectiveness of the campaign? If final conversion is a parameter, who does one attribute it to? Is it the influencers who act as the transmission nodes or is it the media that acts as the transmission vehicles? And how influential are the influencers for the influenced exactly?

    This perspective is based on an insight from a pointer published in the February edition of Harvard Business Review – “Accidental Influentials” by Duncan J. Watts, part of one of the best ideas for 2007 - The HBR Breakthrough ideas for 2007 – copresented by HBR and the World Economic Forum

    Previous theories state the significance of “influencers” who influence their local communities, who in turn influence others and the communication channel that ensues, influences the purchase decisions of the consumers. Thus, the effort of the marketers is focused on locating and invoking these so called nodes through which communication is transmitted, and then passed through. However, Duncan Watts argued this theory stating that influencers are not that significant, and it has more to do with how receptive the influenced are, and the degree of correlation between impact of the influencer and the impact on the purchase decision.

    Incidentally, this is quite similar to the theory on Word-of-mouth by Andrea Wojnicki that I had discussed in January last year, where Experience of the person and Satisfaction Level in terms of congruence between expectations and deliverables are the two parameters responsible for an effective WOM. This works along with the Self-concept.. [Please refer to the entry “C2C Communication – Why Consumers get into Word-of-Mouth Marketing” for more details]


    Thus, the whole concept is accidental and one cannot generalize the condition of cascade effects due to influencers. It ends with the recommendation that investments should be made in people and social networks rather than influencers. A nice concept ideated by Duncan Watts and Peter Dodds!

    Taking this forward is the latest commentary in the May Edition of Harvard Business Review, in the article “Viral Marketing for the Real World” by Duncan J. Watts and Jonah Peretti. According to this piece, a new concept is suggested….big seed marketing, which is, a combination of viral and planned marketing and promises to be a far more effective manner of communicating desired messages than simply viral marketing.

    The logic is simple: If I pass my message to 1 – he would pass to 2 – those 2 to others – the reaction would spread like a U-235 process (those who remember their chemistry -nuclear reaction) – however, it is a quite risky assumption, since if it is blocked at one channel – the whole communication collapses.

    Alternatively, plant a big seed, so that even if the number of messages passed are less than 1 – following a Geometric progression of infinite series – the sum would be [a/(1-r)], where a is your initial seed, and r is the fraction of people you pass the message to. So, even if r is 0.5 (2 people pass the message to 1), you still end up with double the initial seed!

    Simple yet effective logic – point to be made – Plant a big seed, and then don’t worry about the reproduction rate or the burnout – the final number is bound to be huge!

    Incidentally, this is the very basis of how movie marketing is done – planting a huge seed by creating a buzz around. Others setup a social network (with regular injections of communication) or support system in the online space, which is the biggest and the most effective platform to initiate a seed – reaching the critical mass at the fastest speed possible!

    As Duncan mentions in his article -
    Although our notion of big-seed marketing lacks the mystique of truly viral marketing, it is straightforward to implement and can reliably improve advertising yields at low cost. Equally important, because big-seed marketing harnesses the power of large numbers of ordinary people, its success does not depend on influentials or on any other special individuals…

    Read the article for key insights and great illustrations to reinforce this assertion. Definitely, something to look forward to in how companies plan their viral campaigns from now on …. Would they plant a small seed and watch it grow on its own…or put some effort by planting a big seed and give some water to it?

    …Hopefully, the New World marketers would show the direction and provide practical applicability in their marketing programs…..

    So, coming back to where we started from…..Are the New world marketers reinventing the wheel, or is time to change the whole vehicle itself……
    Well, for now, may as well keep holding on to the wheel till the next concept arrives….. ;-)


    [Photo Source: Fashion Whisper, Excited Whisper, Crowd]

    Monday, May 07, 2007

    Book on Gaming Industry: Article on Advergaming...

    Almost a year back, my article on Advergaming was published in the Advertising Express (June'06 Cover Story). The same article features in a new book on the Gaming Industry, published by ICFAI Press.

    The book covers the various aspects of the gaming industry and its emergence as a separate entity. It explores, through a compilation of articles, the external and internal factors towards the development of the industry.

    The overview on my article goes as...
    ..."Emerging Role of Advergaming: A Global and Indian Perspective" by Puru Gupta discusses advergaming, a rising niche segment in promotion, and its two main forms, advergaming and in-game advertising. After presenting an overview of global and Indian markets, it discusses consumer behaviour towards gaming in terms of various parameters like length of exposure, pertinence to lifestyle, involvement levels of customers and their receptivity to advertisements. This article also sets out the challenges facing this nascent industry in India and offers some recommendations. It also looks at what the future has in store for advergaming in India. It concludes by saying that advergaming can be a great aid to innovative companies that wish to reinforce their leadership in their respective industries."

    Market the facts....rather than state them!

    Sometime back I had talked about the signifance of Annual Reports and their emerging role in Branding for companies. A recent article by Rajeshwari Sharma, "Making a Statement" gives an insight into the policy framework and the specifics of Annual Report Designing.

    Design and Development of these tools has emerged as a separate function for some companies, and with the growing economy, it is imperative to have a tool which articulates this growth as well.

    A nice article to understand the norms of the industry, and trends visible in the market. A good bunch of illustrations substantiate the arguments mentioned therein. As I had mentioned earlier, this is an initiative to establish credibility among the stakeholders and promote the umbrella brand or reiterate the corporate brand image, and the article reinforces this perspective.

    Another trend predicted in this space - Online Reporting..Rightly so, with the changing face of corporate branding - lesser Annual Reports, Awards for Designing Annual Reports, endorsements and branding the images of top management - the potential of the online space is unlimited and is bound to be leveraged.

    As I had said earlier,branding does permeate into the staid world of Financial Reporting, and for those whos still hold on to their screens sidelining this fact, well, just keep watching this space.. ;)

    [Reference: Making a Statement]

    Sunday, May 06, 2007

    Kleenex ain't "clean" after all...says Greenpeace

    Social Campaigns and protests might not give a comfortable feeling around, considering that in India, it is reserved for people who dont have much work. More so, the effectiveness of such initiatives is always a question. Therefore, the protests or NGOs instigating such reactions are termed as inconsequential and not really appreciated around, by the common people.

    However, have a look at a recent campaign successfully closed by Greenpeace activists at Times Square, where Kleenex PR campaign were being shot. An excellent way to spread the message, and undoubtedly, a contrast to typical stereotypes of protests seen around here!



    The campaign by Kleenex invited people walking around to participate and talk about their stories and experiences. The effort was to make them get emotional and then, demand a tissue (bang - Kleenex!). If their experiences were to used for the new online video of Kleenex, then they would be paid $200 for that!

    The Greenpeace activists interrupted this, since the tissues are made of virgin fibre and forests are being destroyed for making this. A nice way of protesting the effort - by articulating the harm caused through these tissues and counter brand ambassadors spreading the messages - using their own campaign effort, and video shooting. Great work, Greenpeace!

    Incidentally, through this campaign, I hit upon a great find - Max Lenderman's weblog - Experience the message. A great place to spend some time online for marketing enthusiasts...added him in my "new discoveries" links..

    Saturday, May 05, 2007

    PI Worldwide – Are Head counts and High Potential Enough?

    Found a nice piece of ad in the latest edition of Harvard Business Review. Following the lead, these 2 ads are featured as posters at the website of PI Worldwide.




    A nice analogy to present and market the need of a behavioral Assessment tool – tools that are required to improve performance and productivity of human assets. Human resources cannot be taken as commodities, and there is a concerted subjective assessment required to make the most of these resources – this is the basic purpose of this tool by PI Worldwide - to hire, develop and retain talented people. A nice way to put across the point in the B2B space for corporates.. As the title of its brochure reads "Uncover the hidden value in your most valuable resource"

    PI Worldwide is a HR management consulting firm, with its famous tool “Predictive Index” process

    The Predictive Index process improves effectiveness and productivity across all levels of an organization. As a practical, reliable indicator of workplace behavior, it helps you make sound, people-smart decisions with the best results for the company and for the people themselves. The Predictive Index process is a combination of assessment, education and consulting

    [Source]

    A detailed brochure of PI Worldwide can be downloaded from here

    Friday, May 04, 2007

    Rural China: An innovative mechanism to increase consumer spending

    China is there in almost every 2nd line of news pieces when it comes to global businesses. Rightly so, with a growing middle class, rising income levels, low costs of production and more than 10% annual growth – the package would lure any investor today. Lately, this attention is being focused on the emerging China, where more than three-quarters of a billion people reside.

    A recent article published at Mckinsey Quarterly recommends an innovative way of leveraging the hard infrastructure of China’s booming telecom market.

    The article, titled “Developing a new rural payments system in China”, by Jan Bellens, Chris Ip, and Anna Yip, highlights the importance of accessible payment system for the rural regions of China, where more than 750 million Chinese reside currently. Lack of payment gateways, high costs involved in setting up additional ATMs and lack of awareness of cashless payment systems limit the current spending patterns of the consumers, and the entire value chain following that.

    By leveraging existing technology and infrastructure, the costs incurred would be far lesser, and cash transactions would reduce. Tagging it a cheaper alternative as compared to models being deployed by other nations like Korea and Japan, where mobile phones are used as credit cards and other utilities, the article suggests a far more simplistic solution of messaging services.

    "An SMS-based payment system, aside from its lower cost, is versatile and ubiquitous. Users simply send an SMS message specifying the mobile-phone number of the payee and the amount to transfer, along with a personal identification number. Within seconds, the payee receives both a confirmation message by SMS and the money in the designated account. The payer receives a confirmation message."
    [Source]

    Cashless transfers and transactions are much safer, convenient and an ideal mode for the millions of migrants who send money back home regularly. Consumer base would also be enhanced for the banks, who could then rope in their loyalty network around this base.

    High penetration is being predicted by Mckinsey through this innovative system. Looking ahead, a lot of marketing programs could be initiated through this integrated network.

    However, on the flip side, the sensitivity of the data through SMS and at the same time, getting marketing messages/calls on the same network, might not go well with all the consumers. More so, though the SOEs are well respected and known in the rural circles, an initial apprehension and distrust would definitely be the biggest impediment for the providers to overcome.

    Nonetheless, an innovative step indeed towards reducing the wealth gap and encouraging rural spending. As the article says, “By teaming up, banks, mobile-phone operators, merchants, and regulators could go a long way toward unlocking more spending by Chinese consumers

    More details can be taken from the article. A version of this article was originally published in the South China Morning Post on March 31, 2007.

    A waste of a brilliant effort...Samsung Electronics

    Found this brilliant piece of work from Martina's Blog



    This is one from Samsung, rather for Samsung, and emphasizes the compactness and sleakness of their models. The video, shot through microscopic lenses, and titled "Millimetres matter", does put the point across quite effectively. However, the sad part is, it is not integrated with an online presence, to follow up or leverage the awe created by the ad.

    Martina has put across the points quite well - the effort of such a brilliant execution gets diluted due to lack of a corresponding comprehensive website, which carries on the high involvement earned through the ad. All it has is a justification of the use of insects, developed out of the fear of social resistance, probably!

    Having said that, the website of Samsung Electronics Ulta II is no less - it is a wonderful piece and engages the visitors for some time - especially those looking to play some nice online games....those interested can check them out here!

    Thursday, May 03, 2007

    Social marketing for Gen Y: Aids awareness at “Condom Bar”

    Talk about India in today’s global economy, and almost every conversation would begin with “India is doing well”….well, it is definitely booming, and with an economy growing at more than 9.2%, it isn’t much of a surprise to hear this…in a number of sectors, India is ahead of other countries.

    However, there are certain other areas as well where India is ahead of other nations, but this lead is not something to really boast about … – the nation with most HIV infected people!

    According to an article, more than 5.7 million Indians are living with the potentially fatal HIV virus (end of 2005 figures), making India the nation with the greatest number of HIV carriers. More so, the epidemic is unevenly distributed across India, with just six states accounting for 80 per cent of the estimated cases. The epidemic is no longer restricted to sex workers but has also spread over to the masses. Lack of sex education and reluctance to promote contraception continue to be the biggest impediments for our community.

    There is a bigger problem still. A report mentioned that surveys in 2005 revealed that 42% of sex workers thought they could tell whether a client had HIV on the basis of his physical appearance.

    At the same time, another study in Mysore revealed that only 14% of sex workers used condoms consistently with clients and that 91% of them never used condoms during sex with their regular partners!

    However, in cases where safe sex is practiced, HIV infection has reduced to minimal levels, kolkata’s Sonagachi red-light area being one of them (condom use rose to 85% reducing HIV prevalence from 11% to less than 4%)

    Thus, there is a real problem of awareness – about Safe sex and precautions to be taken. What are we doing about it? India is known to be a “religious” and sacred country, where condoms are not supposed to be talked about (or used), where talking about sex is taboo, where pre-marital sex is nothing more than an oxymoron! Well, not so much for the younger generation. They seem to be talking sex all day long (caution: I mentioned only “talking”)!

    There seems to be a global push for increasing awareness of Aids and HIV. In some cases, low-cost treatment and government initiatives are being pushed for. In others, medicines for cure are experimented with.

    At the same time, there have been some campaigns on the "preventive" side of awareness too. Some of these initiatives included billboards educating on sex, or promoting use of condoms in a humorous manner.


    One such billboard talked about how simple it was to use a condom… “The theme is ‘two fingers’ – you need just two fingers to twirl your moustache, two fingers to drink a cup of chai [tea] and two fingers to properly apply and remove a condom” [Source]

    In some cases, the government initiated a system of distributing Free condoms with the daily newspaper (morning and evening) in Hyderabad last year, where the authorities planned to distribute 10,000 condoms a day with the newspapers – the target groups being people living in poorer localities and migrant workers.

    However, the basic attitude of Indians is what is critical for any effort to be effective. In India, various innovative efforts have been taken to educate people about aids and safe sex, and campaigns have attempted to motivate people to use condoms (while having sex, of course!). How effective they have been, reflects in the reduction in aids cases, but an integrated effort is still missing.

    More so, most of the effort is being directed towards the lower classes and the sex workers, least realizing that the epidemic is equally prevalent in the middle and higher class as well.

    In fact, They are the ones who have rooms, houses and hotels – and all the luxury to do what they want, where they want, when they want – without anything they don’t want! (read “condoms”)

    If one has to target the youth of today, and promote them towards safe sex, what does one need to do? Educate them through course books or posters? Through street plays and pamphlets? Certainly not the best way to get this target group involved.

    One way could be what, according to me, is a brilliant example of social marketing – talk to the youth in their language – if they like parties, arrange parties, if they like dancing, offer them a discotheque, if they like drinking, give them drinks, if they like to have sex – give them condoms!

    This is what chandigarh-based “Condom Bar” attempts to do. Opened a couple of days back in the clean city, the initiative is that of a young married woman who suffers from HIV infection, Pooja Thakur, in collaboration with Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corporation (CITCO).
    Working along with NGOs working for HIV and AIDS, CITCO’s partnership is a rare collaboration, where social objectives are translated through modern ideas. Though “condom” based bar is sure to raise objections by the local traditional and orthodox community, support from the government adds a lot of credibility to the concept.

    The objective is not only to route traffic to the bar, but also generate word-of-mouth to get people talking about the concept and the ideation per se, in a way, to spread awareness through the objectives behind opening the bar.

    One of the reasons of this new mode is the change in the attitude – According to Pooja, the attitude of people regarding patients suffering from AIDS has changed and are more receptive to social messages like these. However, inhibitions and apprehensions still remain in the youth, for which this initiative is taken.

    So what is so special about this bar, except that it talks about condoms?
    A BBC article 'First India condom disco' opens and a news item from IBN describe certain key elements of the bar…

    Circular placemats on the bar tables giving advice for the youth (An interesting one I read was “Don't just get on. Get it on! Protect yourself, protect others"),

    Real condoms dotting the wall that stacks liquor bottles. Besides having souvenirs like cups, T-shirts and caps highlighting the use of condoms and safe sex, the bar even has a counter that offers free condoms. Even female condoms are being offered freely at the bar.

    Instead of small change while paying their bills, customers are offered packs of condoms; and all drinks are served in tumblers with a specially designed condom logo that also finds a place on almost everything else, including the waiters' uniforms

    The bar would be run as a non-profit operation, with low-priced drinks and wholesome vegetarian food at cost prices. It also plans to hold regular pageants open only to women and men living with HIV or Aids.

    An excellent article published around 4 months back clearly articulates the issues of the closed society and its thought patterns. In some cases, sex is not talked to “ladies” openly, and in others, parents don’t talk about it with their children, and girls don’t even want to talk about it!

    Hopefully, all such apprehensions and limitations of the orthodox communities would be resolved through the communication program, coupled with the launch of the condom bar.

    Pooja lost her husband who suffered from AIDS, and has two small sons, one of whom is also HIV positive. Since then, she works for an NGO promoting AIDs and HIV awareness programs.

    Kudos Pooja! Brilliant connect and marketing program indeed!

    A final word….. On one hand, we talk about the usage of condoms, on the other there are surveys conducted on the incorrect usage size of those condoms.

    According to a BBC report around 6 months back, a survey of more than 1,000 men in India concluded that condoms made according to international sizes are too large for a majority of Indian men. Eh? Little difficult to digest, but maybe its true! Thus, there was an obvious need in India for custom-made condoms (read: smaller ones!), as most of those currently on sale are too large. The issue is serious because about one in every five times a condom is used in India it either falls off or tears, an extremely high failure rate.
    Nonetheless, a nice quote by Sunil Mehra (Maxim) reiterates the objective It's not size, it's what you do with it that matters".

    Well said Sunil …..hopefully, Condom Bar would promote the “what to do with it” part successfully to the younger generation ….!

    [Photo Sources:
    Condom Guy, Kolkata – Condom Billboard, Hindi Awareness, Sex worker, Youth today, Young Indian couple, Cannon Gun, Chandigarh party]