Archive for June, 2008

Social Ambassadors

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Internet with tags , , , , on June 30, 2008 by manuscrypts

Yes, it is the age of conversation, but in India it is also the age of brand ambassadors. And not just the average Joe Ambassador, but ones who blog. I, for one, subscribe to Big B’s blog, because, from his posts, i think he is a natural. And even if this is true, he’s doing justice to the job.

Anyway, after blogging for a while, it was quite understandable that with his hectic schedule, Big Adda should make his life easier by giving him a mo blog. And now he’s having a blast with microblogging @160 characters. Updating multiple times a day and speaking his mind.

The entire activity set me thinking. So, what happens when the transparency of social media meets brand ambassadors?  How would, for example, the Big B (as brand ambassador) react, if God forbid, a pesticide (Pepsi) or a worm (Cadburys) issue erupted again? What role would he play? Blogger or Brand Ambassador or a boring diplomat? Assuming that he uses the products he endorses (okay, stop laughing!!) would he sometimes play the dissatisfied customer?

I got a glimpse of perhaps what lies in store, thanks to this entry of his. A tale that most bloggers would be familiar with. Sit and write an entire blog post and the server conks out without saving!! In this case, he was blogging on Big Adda. Bad publicity, I would think. Thankfully, someone there was smart enough, and pretty soon we had another entry, this time thanking a Big Adda official. Wonder if they’d do that for mere mortals though 😉

But back to the point, in an era of instant communication and celebrity bloggers, would brand ambassadors  now have revised contractual obligations that draw a clear line on transparency? One that would bring brands back to the familiar comfortable opaque territory that they have been operating in? Or will the celebrity be true to the spirit of blogging? (read the poetry – header on Big B’s blog) 🙂

until next time, brand bloggers 🙂

The Stage of Conversation

Posted in Brand, Social networking with tags , , , , , , , on June 26, 2008 by manuscrypts

Branded networks, that’s what the new property from Nautanki.tv (read the comments section) YouTopia is going to be. (via agencyfaqs). Update –  This is going to be called spaces, and is still under development.

The rationale is that since brands, especially in a nascent market like India,  may not want to invest in the infrastructure thats required for social networks, YouTopia would provide the same for individuals and brands to create their own networks with “necessary tools or applications like instant messenger, forum and facility to upload and share videos or photos while configuring their social network”, in return for an annual subscription fee (in the case of brands).

Reminds me of Ning, though in this case, they have said that the brand can choose an independent url (so is that unlike Ning where it has to be say, nautanki.ning.com). Also, there will be an ad network, which will operate on a revenue sharing basis between Nautanki and the owners.(?) (I don’t know whether Ning has a revenue sharing mechanism) And, does the last but one paragraph in the afaqs article mean an API? Hmm

Now the question I’d like to ask is, while (apparently) every brand manager wants a Gang of Girls, is creating a social network the way to go about it, or is it more important to maintain a conversation with the consumers? The argument I have is the same as the one i had for the online communities vs groups -on -social networks post. If the conversation is already happening at a social network, isn’t it better to be a part of the conversation there and be a facilitator? Would a brand have enough meat to pull the audience to a place where it will be the only ‘attraction’, and will they be able to maintain the interest for long. A Facebook group/ page, for example, already offers most of the stuff mentioned above, and I’m sure more features will be added. People have a certain comfort level with twitter conversations, would a brand specific network be able to recreate that? Multi Brand Outlet or Exclusive Showroom?

I understand that its debatable, but meanwhile, there are efforts on to sew the conversations happening on various platforms into one interface. So we have, in addition to Friendfeed, a browser – Flock, an add on to a browser – Minggl, and the last i heard a new entity – Combo (via Startup Meme), which attempts to do this through a web based dashboard and widgets. I hope they send me that invite soon, so i can do some test drives. 🙂

Meanwhile, have you noticed a comment option in Facebook’s news feeds, quite like Friendfeed, i thought. And here’s something for you to go ogle. That was Aditi Govitrikar, now where’s that I’m feeling lucky button?

until next time, scatter or gather?

Opacity

Posted in Advertising, Brand with tags , , , , on June 25, 2008 by manuscrypts

Read two interesting posts, seemingly not very connected, but actually so. The first one was here, (don’t miss the article it has linked to either) and it talks about brands including an RTI clause in their charter, and anyone from a stakeholder (thats including consumers) to competition being able to demand answers from the company/brand and more importantly, being able to get it. I wonder though, how an RTI clause could co-exist with competitive advantage (brand strategies).

The second post talks about Friendfeed being a great tool for brands since it aggregates the contents from blogs, microblogging platforms, photo sharing services, social bookmarking sites and most possible social media. The snag though is that a Facebook or an Orkut are not accommodated there, yet, and the crowds frequenting the two kinds of sites are not exactly duplicated.

But yes, the connection between the two posts is transparency, and i feel that in india, we have a long way to go before we reach that state. That’s because more than a certain set of processes, we are talking about a philosophy here. In the first digital (mini) wave and its aftermath, when blogs became a corporate mantra, how many companies/brands took it seriously and how many have persisted? For a transparent system to get established and flourish, it needs to start with a strategy thats consumer centric, a strong rationale for why x strategy was chosen over y to achieve a certain strategic objective, the wisdom to understand that we are human, and plans can go wrong, inspite of having backup plans running from b to z, and most importantly the maturity to listen to feedback, accept responsibility and take criticism, but learn from it, fix it and get better.

When i hear people ask for changes in communication strategy based on very subjective likes and dislikes (sorry, its not always purely subjective, i have also heard ‘my wife likes pink’ for a campaign theme color), and when i get this response from them when asked about consumer preferences, and when, on hearing that I blog, I am asked to write good about the brands I work with, irrespective of reality, and when FYI (F*** You Instead – courtesy ‘One Night at the Call centre) responsibility strategies are given more importance than the brand’s performance, and many many more such occurrences, it gives me enough reason to believe that transparency is a long way off.

On an aside, I read here that apparently the blogosphere was abuzz today with the Vodafone ad for iPhone. Interestingly, I saw three tweets today basically asking why the Vodafone customer service couldn’t be manned by people who knew about iPhone. 🙂

until next time, mind set

The Middle Path

Posted in India, Internet with tags , , on June 24, 2008 by manuscrypts

Lamenting about the state of the internet in india is second and sometimes even first nature for this blog. This was the last major rant. It usually surprises me that even with India’s growth story and the obvious uses of the internet, our internet penetration is languishing in single digits. Yes, we have infrastructural issues, and relatively high broadband costs, but is that the only reason? I had started this thread in the post linked above, and I have a little more now to say on it.

There are a large set of users who are still happy with the basic uses of the net (mail, a bit of chat, news etc), a subset who use it for jobs and other classifieds. There’s another bunch who are constantly experimenting with blogging, microblogging, and keeping up with a Flock or FF3 browser. There’s a third set that is above the first, but their interests end with orkut and Facebook. I think there is a huge divide between sets 1 and 2. Does that mean that the number of people who are working on the next set of useful products/services for India might be a minority, or worse still, not exist at all? Dangerous!

So it was refreshing to come across two websites yesterday – the first through a mail inviting me to the premiere of Meri Dhun.  The second one, from here, to a site called Yo Macha. Completely unrelated, because Meri Dhun allows you to personalise songs by changing the lyrics. Their studio will then compose, record it and send it to you in a ringtone/MP3 format. And Yo Macha which claims to be, rather pretentiously, India’s top destination, allows users to rate photos, blogs, and an assortment of things from colleges to social networking sites and anything and everything in between. As an aside, while their revenue model is now restricted to SMS revenue sharing, banner ads and generating traffic for CPC?CPM ads, maybe, when they get enough registered users, they could provide corporate services like dipsticks for brand communication within the desired TG?

I digress!! While they are completely unrelated, but for one small connection – they are not based out of the uber cool Tier 1 cities. The first is from Indore, the second from Jaipur, and both are based on little everyday things that people do in India. I am not even getting into evaluating business models, scope etc, but a thought crossed my mind. Perhaps there is no big killer application that’ll kickstart the net revolution in India, perhaps there are only these smaller drops which will make a bigger drop and perhaps something even bigger in the large indian media ocean. Maybe thats the way the Internet is going to take off here.

The in between space in india, bridging the gap between the web 1.0 users and the people who are moving beyond web2.0, by building stuff that interests and/or provides value to the great Indian internet middle class.

until next time, net gains, thats all that matters

Mo Brand Ambassadors

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India with tags , , , , , , on June 23, 2008 by manuscrypts

I just realised that I totally forgot about Abhi B (or Shaky B, depending on your levels of dislike. Oh ok, I’ll stop. Can’t even be a bit nasty on my own blog 😐 ) in this post, where i talked about brand ambassadors for mobile handsets, among other things. But we’re not going to continue on the same lines of discussion here.

I happened to see the new TVC for MotoRokr E8. The ad is a continuation of the earlier Moto ad (watch the complete one here, I have only seen the edit, this is super cool) Any ad that starts off with a spoof of ‘Rendezvous with Simi’ has to be an attention grabber, and going forward this one doesn’t disappoint. The sudden blaring of ‘Appidi podu’ from the Tamil movie ‘Gilli’ was shocking, the first time, and funny, every time I watched. The film briefing with the ‘heroin’ and ‘desh ka jhanda’, followed by the regular awards ceremony, all are a spoof of life. The icing on the cake is ‘Come on Ab, shake a lil’, followed by the abso Tamil dance steps.

The other I have been seeing is the Aamir Khan ad for Monaco – Life Namkeen Banaiye, the one where he plays a prank on the serious team coach, by putting a sticker with scratches on a brand new vehicle. The humour wasn’t really good, in the same vein as this one earlier, but more importantly something else was lacking, and that brings us to the point of the post.

Usage of brand ambassadors. The first one worked for me primarily because the humour was good. More importantly, a lot of it was Abhishek laughing at his own expense, as well as the fraternity he is part of. And because its Abhishek, (and I’m a huge non fan), you end up having a good laugh, because while he’s always trying to be goofy, this time he succeeds. Great usage of a brand ambassador.

On the other hand, Aamir Khan. There was a time when this ad would have worked, exactly saat saal pehle, when ‘Dil Chahta Hain’ released. Aamir’s character was a riot, complete with exactly the Monaco kind of pranks, actually better. Maybe even later, after the release of RDB. But post the SRK-dog fiasco, and the constant baiting of co-stars including Salman, and the yet to be launched Harman Baweja, let’s just say the Aamir brand of humour (in case it exists) isn’t exactly popular.

I doubt if stars are taken only for the visibility. Usually there is also a dna fit with the brand or at least a characteristic of the star that the brand would like to exploit. If that is indeed true, then Monaco’s choice is a bit too salty.

Incidentally, what did you think of the new Reynolds ad, the one where they use Sachin’s one day and test avtaar colors to show the different pen characteristics? A bit labored, but a smart idea nevertheless, i thought.

until next time, mo rockr, mo na ko

Ad-vanced Processing

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India with tags , , on June 20, 2008 by manuscrypts

No, don’t go away, this is not a tech post.  And stop sniggering, one day I will write a tech post.  Hell, if Laloo can blog…There’s been a spate of celebrity blogs recently – started perhaps with Aamir Khan, then Big B, Salman Khan and a couple of days back, Karan Johar. The fad, I think will soon run out of steam.

But there’s a very interesting twist I saw to the celebrity-in-the-internet space today, and felt it was very well weaved into a brand’s strategy. The brand is a processor – AMD, and it has chosen Viswananthan Anand as its brand ambassador. On a broad level, the processor-chess-intelligence connection is itself a good one. The TVC idea is a neat analogy, showing Anand try his hand at cricket, failing, and then saying that in a cricket crazy nation, he chose to pursue chess because he was good at it. From an analogy point, cricket is Intel, and the message is that one should choose a processor according to one’s requirements, and not because everyone else follows a trend.

Coming back, a site has been launched – askvishy.com. As the name suggests, the site gets Anand to clear perceptions about computers, and also offers help in choosing computers according to requirements.There’s also some kind of contest there, but didn’t participate because they asked for the address in stage 1 itself.

In essence, a well thought out campaign, that uses the brand ambassador well, but only a first step towards what should be a prolonged strike at the far-and-ahead market leader. Intel can’t afford to stay inside anymore.

until next time, AMD is no more wishy washy

Trust they’re connecting people

Posted in Brand, India with tags , , , on June 19, 2008 by manuscrypts

I just realised that I totally missed this one – The Brand Equity Most Trusted Brands Survey, at least writing about it. Unforgivable, but let me try to redeem myself by attempting a post now. Bottomline, Colgate has been dislodged from the numero uno position by Nokia, no mean task, that, and it is a testament to the inevitability of this medium (not the brand)  reaching the top of the media chain in a future that’s closer than it appears now.

Since I have been lax on the topic and enough has been debated on it, I did some epaper reading and have focused on a few things I thought would make an interesting read. For those who missed the entire top 100 list, here it is

I think Nokia’s climb to the top has been mainly because unlike the poor toothpaste, its not a single product or even single service/utility (oh come on, it easily transcends  a pure play communication device, its also a camera, a music player and so on). This not only heps it give different USPs to different kinds of people, but also helps them in communication (to appeal to different kinds of audiences across SEC categories).

Speaking of SECs, here are the results based on income, SEC and respondent type, and by metros

Other than trivia like the fact that Fevicol doesnt have a mazboot jod with SEC A and the ones mentioned in the image itself, the lists in the SEC split seem to be just a reworking of the top 100 order. As far as the income split goes, quite understandingly the income class below Rs.2500 are in a lot of pain. What else explains Crocin’s jump from #81 in the top 100 list to #10 (okay, bad one 🙂 ) You know, these lists would make one think that this is one of the most hygienic and healthy countries in the world, look at the number of personal care and cleaning products and health+ food brands out there. Sigh, now if only trust would lead to usage 😉 In the ‘respondent type’ list, its amusing to see ‘Fair and Lovely’ at #17 in the young adult male list. 🙂

Its interesting to see education occupying two spots in the Delhi list, the top three brands in Kolkata having something to do with the skin, Mumbai having a cleanliness fetish, and Chennai not having it (must be the water problems). Yes, I am glossing over, but a detailed look will take time 🙂

Meanwhile, Brand Equity has also given the methodology in selecting brands. A couple of thoughts on this. Considering that we’re hunting for the most trusted brands, shouldn’t we also have a media category (all media, or is it a problem because of possible bias allegations?) When do things like retail chains (CCD, Big Bazaar, FoodWorld), familiar brands like say, Levis and gang, India Post, Indian Railways, IRCTC etc make an entry? And i know this won’t happen any time now, but will computer (hardware manufacturers as well as things like Windows/Linux and entities like rediff) make it into the top 100 list in at least 5 years?

Meanwhile, I really don’t see anyone being able to challenge Nokia, unless simultaneously, a telecom brand (service) really becomes a pan india player (is already there) with excellent service and other mobile manufacturers give Nokia some really tough competition. The other possibility is when public utilities like power, water supply etc start having private players (not in an infrastructure capacity, but as a branded utility). Whatcha think?

until next time, in brands we trust

All images are courtesy Brand Equity, the Economic Times dated 11th June 08

Update: Guess who makes it to the top in the US.