Thursday, January 28, 2010

MarketingProfs Articles : Don't Let This One Get Away!

An interesting way to keep your price-conscious consumers stuck to you - Employing a pricing tactic like this one, which creates a unique sense of urgency, may encourage wary consumers to buy more immediately.

The concept, called "steadily decreasing discounting" or SDD, by researchaers, entails discounting in a manner to keep the consumers attracted to the offerings.

Either keep on reducing prices, adding promotions to your offerings, to keep the consumers engaged (leveraging the transactional utility) or once reduced significantly, raise prices with one/two intermittent break - to create a sense of urgency that prices are going to be raised shortly.

Net net, Higher future price expectations and greater anticipation of inaction-regret appear to be the underlying mechanisms that lead to the effectiveness of the SDD tactic. Read the article and the research to get more details.

Photo Ref: Tollipop

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In the Shame of God!

This Christmas, St Mattews Church (Auckland, New Zealand) decided to celebrate in a different way – it put up a controversial billboard on Joseph and Mary, challenging Christians the very foundation of their religion!
Result – Thousands of criticisms, hundreds of praises, and tones of vague logic. But most importantly, global publicity of the campaign, engaging half of the “clicker universe”!

The advert was designed by M&C Saatchi, Auckland, with the brief that it had to be sufficiently provocative to keep most other churches from allowing it. It was designed to challenge stereotypes about the way that Jesus was conceived, and get people talking about the Christmas story.

The initial intent behind the campaign was to invite people to think about the virgin birth and the nature of God, be open to more than one Christian way to think about God, to promote the Progressive view of Jesus having 2 human parents and God being the power of love in his life and to invite people outside of the church to see a type of Christianity here at St Matthew’s that they might be able to relate to.

What turned out was obviously far more provocative than they expected. The billboard, carrying the slogan, “Poor Joseph. God is a hard act to follow” received global attention..

According to the article, “Losing Your Message but Gaining Publicity”, "Most Protestants & others with no church affiliation thought the billboard was simply comparing Joseph’s ability in bed to God’s. Catholics were outraged as the billboard implied Mary wasn’t a virgin. Others thought it was a good joke and it was about time “the church” got a sense of humor.

It outraged many Christians throughout the country--so much so that it was defaced within a few hours. The church replaced it with another print. That, too, was ripped apart by a knife-wielding vandal. And the church replaced it with yet another print. The billboard was stolen again, and the church finally decided not to replace it. "
For more on the campaign, read A Tale of two billboards!

Bottomline….Did heads turn, and were links double clicked? Yes – A BIG Yes in fact – it did manage to break the clutter and get noticed – not only in its local community, but virtually around the world!! However, from a marketing standpoint, does this fall into the right “spirits”? (No pun intended!) Did it fall in line with the often misused term in business, “ethics”? Can this be generalized and reapplied across religious institutions the world over? Did people over react, and not allow any space and respect to others with a different point of view?

Specifically speaking, what is the bigger point of contention? Is it a question of crossing the line to grab publicity or is it a question of superimposing one’s beliefs and interpretations on others?

According to a research report on Marketing of God, the term ‘spirituality’, which encompasses beliefs, social changes as well as cultures, is often decontextualized, and is often co-opted, commodified, and misused for purposes that are anything but spiritual. It took me some time to get this piece, but with the examples below, I realized the true essence of this statement. Read on...

Back home, there have been numerous cases recently wherein certain desperate attention-seekers not only disrespect others’ beliefs, force their own unto them, but also are shrewd enough to manage good publicity behind these cowardly acts. Attention of local media, rebuke by mature citizens, thoughtful debates by over-intellectual political analysts and elaborate discussions by lazy bloggers (like me) follows them and their immature acts. What emerges out of such controversies are brands like “Bajrang Dal”, “DYFI” and “Sanskriti Bachaao Manch” – I wonder then, who actually is responsible for ‘marketing’ them?

Consider this - here is the local version of the ‘hard act to follow’ – does this look similar?

Well, this is a picture, not of another God, but one of God’s Own Country - a local politician (Former Kerala PCC General Secretary Rajmohan Unnithan) was arrested few days back for “allegedly indulging in immoral activities”. Well, simply put, a woman and a man were caught together at night in the man’s house (ya, and a small piece of info – she was not his wife)!

Though the rest is open to interpretation, and anything might have happened, but then, our value-valuing political valuables barged into his house, dragged both of them out disrespectfully, and called all of this as an exposure of a ‘sex scandal’ - Brand Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI)!
And this is the state with the highest literacy rate in the country! Maybe, they should not have skipped their Moral Science classes!

Moving forward, sometimes the crimes that you do might just be notional – like thinking of immoral activities such as sex! So then the chief ministers of the states, who have the highest standards of morals, and all the time in the world, come forward and save you from these crimes!

For instance, consider this - most men (including me) would get distracted by scantily-clad women, and that’s understandable. But, now if you start getting distracted by scantily-clad Mannequins…..God save you! Well, that’s Men who are Pervert or MP state for you……No wonder, the state has the highest number of rape cases in the country registered every year – MP accounts for a shocking 15.0% of total rape cases reported in the country (and these cases exclude mannequins, by the way)!

But, for now, if God cannot help them, the chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will – and save the citizens of MP on committing such heinous crimes, atleast on mannequins! So his followers, the saffron brigade, donning the role of moral police, asked shop owners to remove mannequins displaying women's lingerie.
Enter Brand Sanskriti Bachao Manch!

According to an article, "We have directed shop owners of Bhopal's posh New Market to remove dummies (mannequins) used for displaying women's lingerie in an obscene manner within five days failing which the Sanskriti Bachao Manch workers will forcibly remove them", Manch's State President Chandra Shekhar Tiwari told PTI.

And more so, they believe that Ads of condoms would again distract people (they think the men might just start using them!) - Maybe the Chief Minister realizes that if not the economy, one thing that is rising sharply and has made the state proud is (not GDP but) the number of AIDS Cases in the state – Why would someone want to put a check on that, with stupid devices called Condoms! They aren't for humans, anyways!!
(For a different perspective on the tabooed Condoms, you can refer to previous posts here)

Am sure you would are familiar with an existing brand Bajrang Dal. All this was nothing but another campaign of this brand - According to NDTV reports couple of days back,
"Members of the Sanskriti Bachao Manch, an offshoot of the BJP-affiliated Bajrang Dal, tore down condom ads saying they were against family values and ordered shopkeepers and traders dealing in lingerie to 'not hang lingerie in public.'

Marching down the New Market area, the activists raised slogans and issued an ultimatum to the shopkeepers, giving them five days to comply or watch their wares go up in flames in a bonfire. They warned that undergarments must be boxed and kept away.

The activists were apparently inspired by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who had ordered the removal of the poster of a local spa in front of a girls college that showed a semi-clad woman in a chocolate bowl

''Obscene ads will not be allowed in Madhya Pradesh. I have asked concerned officers to prepare new rules that will filter out obscene material in advertising,''

So Madhya Pradesh follows Goa, which recently banned ads with bikini-clad women to promote the state as a family holiday destination (Go here for more details)

So, all men who have families – beware! Don’t even dare look at bikini-clad women – it’s against family values (when you are without family, it is ok!) ;-) Interestingly, India's tourist state is fighting a media tag dubbing it a "destination for sex tourism" and local government has announced it will censor advertisements showing scantily-dressed women. The Chief Minister Digamber Kamat this time wants to move from a brand of “Sex Tourism” to “Clean Tourism” – Brand “Clean Tourism”!

Incidentally, both MP and Goa both figure in the top ten list of sex crimes in the country. Must say, the government there is quite focused on the core issues!

Coming back to the original question, which is the core issue here – privacy infringement or publicity stunts?
In a culture which terms itself as the 3rd world, and is conscious of still calling a “developing” nation, cultural calendars seem to be moving backwards. From clandestine talks on sex to sex education, we are now again moving to a time-zone where Sex is taboo – is this part of a progressive nation? Or are we a progressive nation with a regressive culture?

As for the publicity stunts, there is no harm in going the extra mile to grab attention, as long as you know where the boundary ends. There is always a reason for which those billboards are up there – it is precisely the reason for which such billboards are pulled down, that is why they are put up there – to remove the stigma associated with safe sex, and enable people to talk about it, and save themselves to stay ignorant! By removing the visuals, we are not only eviscerating the concept per se, but also diluting the very purpose of putting it up there!

Having said that, there IS merit to control expressions keeping in the mind the balance that needs to be maintained – if kids start associating feminism with sexuality, then you know that you are crossing the line – which is what happened in Melbourne recently, when a highly provocative billboard advertising the world's thinnest condom was decided to pull down after creating a community uproar.

Objections that termed such acts as “sexploitation” and “sexualizing" children were raised. Such campaigns were “teaching younger girls, especially teenagers, that their purpose in life is to be a sexual object” and "This sort of highly sexual imagery is harming the development of children and teenagers," – one can understand that this is beyond the set boundaries.

But here is a view of our objective shrewd Marketers…. “Marketing experts say although many ads are pushing the provocative boundaries, and some even go too far, they have been sexy for a while and are not necessarily getting worse. RMIT marketing senior lecturer Con Stavros said billboard ads needed to grab people's attention in a split second and sexual images did that.” – Sexcellent point!

Sexcuse mean excuse me, although billboards that deliberately provoke the audience to gain publicity have definitely overstepped the line. – where do you draw the line between grabbing the quick attention, and getting negatively influenced? Am sure, there can be an endless discussion over this, as no one in the marketing world would have a clear answer to this

But for now, Lets save our culture – in the Name (shame?) of God – at least that’s what we all say when it starts and when it is over!

Interestingly, there was a nice line in the media reports at NDTV,
Condoms are against family values and lingerie must be kept under wraps. The Saffron moral police is out in Bhopal tearing down posters, knocking down displays and decorously offering clothes to show-window mannequins that turned up in undergarments. They warned that undergarments must be boxed and kept away.

Maybe politics coaches these moral policemen to kick on people’s bums rather than enabling them to cover them!

And here is a nation, where the “culture saviors” will do everything possible to help men not get distracted, except of course, educating the men themselves! – Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala are in – who’s next? WHO do you think will truly redefine the “State of our country”? (pun intended!)

Jai Ho Indian Politics, or should I say, ….Jai “Haww” ?? ;-)
Photo Links: Church Billboard, Angry Man, Mannequins, Rainbow Condom Dog, Unnithan, Condom Billboard, Chocolate Spa

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Coca-Cola Happiness Machine - Vending out Happiness

While I spend my time in getting something interesting on Christ, I found this interesting ambient from Coca-Cola’s Shelf.

Had earlier talked about Coke’s “Happiness Factory” campaign almost 3 years back
– the best part is it is still one of most talked about global campaigns in the advertising world!

The new ambient “Happiness Machine” clearly calls out Coca-Cola as a source of happiness – its just that is the vending machine now which vends out happiness, in the form of foodie (mostly) surprises!

Put together by Definition 6 , an interactive marketing agency based out of Atlanta, this one is about putting a vending machine in a college canteen, that gives out surprises – much more than what you order for. So, students inserting a coin for a coke, not only get that coke, but also more cokes or flowers or even burgers/pizzas along with it. In fact, some of them are ‘vended’ out by hand as well!

An interesting campaign. It doesn’t matter if it is staged or actual or if the "venditions" are for free or not – what matters is the idea behind it, and the fact that the gestures do earn a smile from you! Kudos to the creative guys (Paul Iannacchino) sitting up there !

Nicely articulated at Ad Freak - the ambient “ties in seamlessly with the "Happiness Factory" TV work and overall brand theme, and proves once again that college kids will eat literally anything, no questions asked”

First there was Happiness Factory, then Happiness Hub and now, we have Happiness Machine – looks like we have a whole Happiness Plant being setup by Coke! So, Whats next? 'Happiness Candies'? ;) And what happens when we have 'Happiness Failures'? :)

By the way, a nice collection of Coca-Cola Advertising around the globe at its parent site.
And in case you want to read more on the “Happiness Factory” – glance through this link
[via You Tube, Creativity Online]

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My Dad - My Soldier!

One has to muster a lot of courage to write about pain. It is easy to express pain through your senses, but not through your hands. Changing the font, expressing it from your heart and then articulating it, does not seem to be an easy task.

But I think I need to do it, for this is the thing I want to – as I was told it helps to let out. You never know, it just might reduce the pain.

Time and effort, as they say, kept me away for a long time. 2 years away from myself, this reflection that I call my own, did not have me around. My effort to be ahead in the ‘rat race’ and struggle to be ‘out of it’ kept me confused. The fear of losing my most precious valuable kept me lost and ignorant.

The end was perilous, Darkness was imminent, but the little shades of gray is what you bank upon – and you rest your shoulders on the fragile layer of hope, ironically putting more and more weight on it, as it trembles. Does that happen every time just before a person gets completely shattered?

I always hated compromising – maybe, now I have to learn to live with the biggest compromise!
For I know what I have lost – no matter what I think, no matter howsoever hard I try, something I considered more important than my own life – of course, then, everything now seems secondary.

Dad expired on 26th June 2009, just a little later than 9pm. It is a loss that cannot be articulated - even an attempt towards it sounds like an inane effort.

I am still trying to collect the pieces, one by one, trying my best that they don’t hurt – I know if I try to get all the pieces together, something somewhere is going to hurt pretty badly. So, the best thing one can do is to pick the big pieces, lift the smaller ones, and then, brush away the smallest pieces.

“Anyways….” sounds so familiar. You always end up with a ‘but’ and ‘anyways’, trying to act more mature, more responsible and of course, more understanding. Least realizing that you just stopped expressing yourself for all reasons – Your vulnerability increased and your exposure minimized.

Dad always told me to follow my path – “always follow what you want to do, son!” – Nothing echoes more than his advice now. Just that the echoes is what I have to make do with.

You look at the loss as a failure and it shatters you. But I know he is giving me the strength to move ahead, even with greater assumed responsibilities. He has his hand over my shoulder that gives me much more confidence now to accelerate myself to pursue my dreams and for once, my dreams are now translating into goals.

He said one thing, “Son, don’t stop writing”. This one line is now my inspiration, motivation, and of course, ambition. Maybe, this can also be taken as a “dedication”. But all these big words collapse into one single assertion, “a promise”!

I promise to bring life into this place again – and not only get back to what the engine propelled, but put even more coal into it!

Luv you dad. This is for you.