Archive for March, 2008

Yeh Moqqa

Posted in Brand, India, Social networking with tags , on March 31, 2008 by manuscrypts

haath se nahi jaana chahiye is what a lot of guys seem to be thinking about social networking. During a movie interval, I happened to see an ad which asked me to go to Bangalore’s very own social networking site – While the communication still lost out to Bipasha Basu (i didn’t leave the movie halfway to have a look) it did make me curious to figure out if they actually made a site only for Bangalore. Nah, it was only a communication gimmick designed perhaps to elicit exactly that kind of reaction.

I haven’t actually registered because it seems to concentrate on areas in which my interest is minimal. From the cover it looks to me like an ‘activity based’ SNS, because immediately after the (yes we all know that by now) make friends, its ‘what you can do’ covers MotorBiking, Trekking, River Rafting, Jeep Safari, Beach Volleyball, Weekend Football, Skiing, Snowboarding, Shopping, Partying etc. It also plugs sharing of creative ideas eg. Ad Ideas for Products like Colas, Jeans, Mobile Phones etc, 2D-3D-Flash Animation, Bike & Car Designs, Biz Ideas, Fashion Design, Movie Scripts, Song Lyrics etc. While a Facebook or an Orkut does have groups which do all or at least most of the above, an entire SN platform based on adventure sports/creative designing etc is definitely intriguing. Before we go further, other features include a chat platform (Talky), info emails (which would let you know about fashion, cool gadgets, Discounts & Sales etc), a public chat platform called Zap, music, blogs, videos, photo sharing, and a displaying of people who visited your profile. Overall, it seems more like a niche version of Orkut.

While focusing on specific interests is an intriguing proposition, I am not sure if the mix of adventure sports+ shopping+ creative designing makes sense. Maybe the idea is to broaden the base. In any case, I feel, to make it work will require a lot of activity from the makers of the portal outside the web. These will have to be local efforts which can then be later scaled up. For example, tie ups with holiday service providers who give adventure sports packages, efforts to make this a one stop shop for knowing about discounts (there are enough niche players in this already), corporate tournaments in say, weekend football and so on…

The creative designing itself spans a lot of territories, each of which require customised efforts – design contests in association with local ad clubs, bike car, fashion designs to be integrated with auto/fashion expos, and bollywood (since they’ve anyway started an SN site, they could adopt the other cliche too – reality shows for movie scripts and movie song lyrics).

So while I’m still wondering about its physical geographical location, it’ll be interesting to see whether they manage to brand themselves as a unique SNS or will fall by the wayside as yet another wannabe.

until next time, is there some numerology in the name (qq being a succesful chinese SNS) 😉

Zen & the art of SNS monetising

Posted in Internet, Social networking with tags , , on March 28, 2008 by manuscrypts

The thought started from this article, which talked of how Google was losing top execs to Facebook. It apparently isnt just a phase because SNS (social networking sites) are increasingly grappling with the issue of revenue, or rather, the lack of it. These hires apparently fit the bill.

Remember the initial days of the net? I don’t because i was a pretty late starter myself (2000- a virtual space odyssey, thats what my book would be called 😀 ), but that was still the time when (at least in india) revenue was a puzzle for everybody in dotcom, which partly explained the bust that soon happened. They had a partial solution happening with banner ads, and slowly that became the norm. In most places, it still is 😐 . the problem was that to most users, it became a blindspot.

Then came Google, and the era of contextual ads, first in searches as sponsored links, and then in any site in the context it  had content in. It still works. But the net has moved on. So, users know exactly when its useful to them. This is of particular relevance in the case of social networking sites.

At a basic level, I go to SNS to have a conversation with friends –  that could be just plain catching up, bitching about work, life etc or (thanks to facebook) just sharing a common interest over a game of scrabble. Can contextual ads work here? It was a difficult question to answer until one takes a look at the Facebook revenue scene. I personally don’t think it does, for the simple reason that, well, the context is wrong. Unlike search, where my intent is clearly info/purchase, its not so in SNS. This video, while totally out of context, shows what i mean about intent.

So how does a free site (for users) like Facebook get revenue, and god forbid, if they don’t, will they shut down? No, dont call Mummy yet, this WATBlog article clearly shows the Chinese (damn them) have found a way to monetise their SNS, especially QQ. ( what a name. dont ask me kyun) And its not online ads, thats only 13% of the revenue. The rest is from virtual goods, services and mobile.

But i personally think there’s more that can be done. And that has a direct connection to brands. We’ll discuss that next week, after i hear from you.

until next time, remember you need to be social 😀

Brand or Ambassador?

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India with tags , , , , , on March 27, 2008 by manuscrypts

India’s success story and the rapid rise of consumerism has resulted in a feast for anybody who comes close to being a popular person. No, I didn’t mean your favourite office peon, what i had in mind was actors, cricketers etc, and the has-beens in those categories too. I even saw Shatrughan Sinha endorsing some TV the other day. Complete with Khamosh and Big B baiting!! So what’s more important – brand or ambassador?

I’ve always wondered about endorsements and the value they add to the brand. I think there are some categories where rival brands have been used as some sort of proxy battleground for rival stars. Look at the cola battles – SRK and the B family are in the Pepsi camp, while Coke has Hrithik and Aamir. Wonder where Ash is though. She’s been on both sides. There’s also car manufacturers – Aamir for Toyota, SRK for Santro, and the Big and small B for Maruti Versa. The other interesting arena is handset manufacturers. I don’t know if you’ve noticed,  but there’s a neat battle brewing there now that Aamir has been roped in by Samsung, because with SRK pitching for Nokia, and Hrithik dancing to Sony Ericsson tunes, we’re over company phase and into crowd phase.

Like I said, I’ve always wondered about endorsements. I can understand the endorsements for sports brands by sports people and even John Abraham (reebok did a decent job in Goal too).  I can understand clothing brands and accessories being endorsed by filmstars. I can even understand the cola wars because everything is about an edge over competition. Besides its a commodity. Similar for Abhi B for Idea and SRK for Airtel. Hey, Hutch ne to kutte ko use kiya, phir bhi bik raha tha. What does that say about those two? 😀 I’m on the borderline for Dhoni and Saif for Kurkure and Lays respectively. I thought ‘Whats the prograaam’ did the trick for me and Juhi did a decent job with ‘Kya family hain’.

But what i really can’t understand is how Hrithik, Saif or SRK can do the trick for Acer, Lenovo and HP respectively. Isn’t that a product which is bought after much research and analysis on features? Will it sell just because it features a movie star? Don’t logic and rationale play a lot of role in the purchase decision? Is that a quality that the filmstars are famous for? Most importantly, these are also increasingly customised purchases, would you really consider a laptop just because Saif features in it (maybe because it recognizes faces, yes, but that could’ve been anybody’s face in the ad).  And honestly, i dont believe in that ‘getting the attention of the consumer’ jazz. If the product is good, its reviews will say so, and will also say so if its not. Similarly for mobile handsets and even cars, though Toyota did a reasonably good job by matching Aamir’s traits with the car. Whatcha think?

until next time, mera wala paint or saif’s wall color?

Update: Todays’s (28/03) Times Business carries an article vindicating the post, at least more or less :)… the timing is not by design 😀


Posted in Advertising, Brand, India with tags , , , on March 26, 2008 by manuscrypts

Remember the fun we used to have with the Sprite vs Mountain Dew which used to be so entertaining –  the ‘I want to do’ version that Sprite did in response to ‘do the dew’, in addition to the various fwds it had spawned from ‘Mount and Do’ to ‘Brokeback Mountain – Do the Dude’? We also had the Cola wars with SRK taking shots at Hrithik. Guess what, we have more fun coming our way.

This blog has already written about Youngistan. Allow me to introduce to you the latest entrant in the Cola-Uncola TVC wars, the all clear Sprite. (thanks to the tip from Balu)

I think Sprite has gauged the public response to the Pepsi ad before taking such a step. I’ve not heard too many good comments about them, online or offline, and this must be a big factor in reviving the ad wars. I guess some agencies are in for sleepless nights trying to outwit each other. In fact these cola wars actually remind me of those UCB-Spring collection type stuff, this summer like the last couple of summers, we have the Pepsi/Coke – Summer 08 ad collection.

Long before i was made aware of dental problems and pesticides, i used to be a Pepsi guy more than a Coke guy. During the first round of cola wars, I always wondered why Pepsico chooses Mountain Dew to do battle with the Coke products. Pepsi has a perfect weapon in its hand, if only they knew how to use it. What am i talking about? Remember this cool pencil thin character we used to love, he lived ‘cool’ long before cool became cool. These days he’s wasted sitting on elephants or jamming with Mallika Sherawat or relegated to taglines. He’s called Fido Dido. Research apparently says his ads don’t make sense anymore (thats because of the ads silly, not him), and when he does battle against ‘Clear Hain’, I’d want front row seats.

until next time, youngistan main jashn mana le, clear hain?


Posted in Brand, India, Internet with tags , , , on March 25, 2008 by manuscrypts

..for everyone concerned, is what the new ‘Idea Rocks India’ campaign looked like to me. Idea is taking Shaan to some 20 towns across India, and the contest is giving you the chance to be part of the tour – there is a Voice of Idea contest that allows the winner to sing with Shaan, there’s also a regular IRI contest that alllows winners to get passes for the event.

Idea is trying to evangelise the online media through at least two efforts here. Firstly, VOI is supposedly India’s first online singing contest. Participants have to enter their recordings online in normal formats. Then the normal process of voting. Secondly, guys who recharge online get a chance to win passes. Meanwhile, there’s also an on ground regular IRI contest which is driven through the mobile platform. While Idea builds brand salience through ground concerts and ets revenues out of the SMS based contest, what is interesting is that except for Delhi, all the others are non metros and tier 2 towns, using the net as a primary medium in such places is quite a good experiment.

Meanwhile, the entire stuff seems to be hosted on msn (while i saw the ad on yahoo :D). For MSN it is building new traffic as well as content. And what’s more, to listen to the songs one has to download Microsoft Silverlight. That, i thought, deserves a ‘Sirji, what an idea sirji’ 🙂

And lastly, for Mirchi and Zee, there’s the content.  Additionally, for Zee, Shaan is a good draw and ‘Voice of Idea’ in particular is a good property to be part of, considering Star has ‘Voice of India’ which Shaan himself comperes. Whatte fun.

Interesting connection – Idea owns a property called Idea Star Singer on Asianet, which is now owned by Rajeev Chandrashekhar, who used to own BPL Mobile, whose only competitor in kerala initially used to be Escotel, which was picked up by Idea. 🙂

until next time, some ideologies do work

Miscellaneous 2.0

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India with tags , , on March 24, 2008 by manuscrypts

Since 2.0 has been liberally used to portray any improvement/new version, i thought it made a good post headline :). On a sidenote, i even saw ‘Family 2.0’ in a Yahoo study.

This post is about a few brands that were part of my youngistan days. Of course, unlike these days, none of these brand made any efforts to lure us or even consider us their core audience, the youth were just considered well, young then, and not of any significant value. Why these brands? Because they are attempting 2.0.

Melody – ‘Melody Khao Khud Jaan Jao’ rings a bell? Well, Melody is back with a new set of ads, using extreme situations to create a contrast with the line ‘Melody itni chocolaty kyun hai?’ One is set in an exam hall, with one student trying to get the attention of another, and finally asking this question in the end. The other had the cliched dark alley scene with a girl being followed, only to end up being asked…. With confectionary companies going way out of the product territory for the ads, Melody can’t be blamed for trying this stunt. It remains to be seen whether the old line still works.

Flying Machine – I used to love the brand until their relaunch. I would’ve continued to love it if they hadn’t chosen kAbhi B (ready for an endorsement)  as the brand ambassador. Its not just a personal dislike, he’s just so wrong from my percpetion of the brand. I personally think they don’t need an ambassador with a name like that, all they need is to communicate the right attitude, but if they had to, it could’ve been any John (oops) or maybe Hrithik, speaking of whom..

Cinthol – A long time, that green bar was the only option available, unless of course you wanted to try the sissy  Pears (no offence meant to them, but it was just a perception, and i’m guessing the kind they wanted) or washing soaps. So while half hearted attempts were made with C Fresh,Lime, Deo etc, this time they’ve got Hrithik as the brand ambassador, and a whole new look. He’s right when he calls it an apology for a site. The product also looks very ‘Close Up’ with those three colors, but hey there are only so many colors, i guess. I have only one recommendation, and thats in packaging/ditribution – please stop selling only that lousy four pack combo, and let the customer also have a ‘1/2/3 only option’. Even if you have to sell 4 packs, please have different ones so that i dont have to hate you for making me finish all 4 before i can buy another soap!!

until next time, me too or me 2.0

Knowing the Pulse

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Internet with tags , on March 19, 2008 by manuscrypts

Saw the new Bajaj Pulsar ad? I did too, and exept for the music, it didn’t do too much to me. So i asked a few guys who like bikes how they felt about the ad. And they all seemed to love it, and hence the post.

Pulsar will never get my attention, only because i am not interested in bikes, but for its target audience, I think it has done a remarkable job. I did a quick google for their website, and found it quite easily, the video is available for download. Good. But what’s great is that they have loaded the video on YouTube and has (the last time i checked) got almost a lakh views.

Why is it great? Because these are not people who are forced to see it on television because they couldn’t find the remote in time (or are too lazy to flip the channel), these are people who have actively searched for it and then, maybe even forwarded it to their friends. There will also be people like me who went to see where that neat soundtrack came from.

So, the cynic asks, will it actually sell more bikes, especially if the crowd is made up of people like me you who go there to get a soundtrack. Yeah, i still wouldn’t buy it, but I’d rave about the ad to a dozen friends, I will post about it here (even though this is hardly read 🙂 ), and the bikers who don’t know about this will know about it, and when they consider a bike change (maybe this will make them), they will remember the ad. The price, the mileage, the chips inside, all can be shared through the brochure, but not the soul and passion, and thats where I think, the ad scores. Because the rest have become a commodity, that creates a differentiation. Its a good lesson on how social media/web 2.0 can work for ‘even’ bike companies.

And they are right, this is how virals get made, sorry happen.

until next time, pulsating