Archive for the Advertising Category

Leaps of faith

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India with tags , , , , on August 11, 2008 by manuscrypts

The new Samsung TVC, starring Aamir Khan has been airing for sometime now, and I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it means. I’m okay with a brand aiming for the best, and looking out for cutting edge technology, but what’s with the tagline – ‘Next is what?’ Is that a question to me? Are you trying to keep me guessing?

When I see AK jump in the last scene of the TVC, it is, to me, a leap of faith, something which I might be willing to take when its Nokia we’re talking about. But, at this point in time, Samsung has yet to prove to me, its technical superiority, its aesthetic sense or any of the other parameters like value for money that I consider when I make a mobile purchase decision. What Samsung has successfully communicated to me, with this TVC, is that they themselves are not sure what’s going to happen next, and maybe I should wait sometime before I pick up a Samsung handset.

When a brand reaches the zenith in whatever category it is in, it is sometimes smart to ignore the #2 totally, and start positioning itself to be beyond all the mundane new feature/market share/pricing strategy/tactic that it might have resorted to in the past. But, how smart is it when you’re a distant #3 in the market? It  makes me wonder if brands also should follow a tweaked version of Maslow’s hierarchy, find out where they figure (in the consumer’s mind) and design communication accordingly. Yes, i agree that brand and people occupy multiple levels at the same time, but at least there would be some method in the communication madness.

When I saw a ‘Next is the spirit of the Olympics’ ad, I couldn’t help but remember this wonderful article. I quote from it “Modern branding has evolved. From its roots creating detailed guidelines for enforcing corporate logos it has become a sophisticated effort to define the compelling and differentiated value that an organization or product offers its customers. And it aspires to create experiences of that value across all interactions. It goes beyond design, messaging, websites and advertising. It touches product development, recruiting, customer service, sales, and it drives and emanates from the very core of every business: culture. That’s where these campaigns miss the mark. They tell me who they are, but not why I should care. They provide an introduction, but can’t sustain the conversation. And I don’t have much attention for brands without substance.”

I’d have been less acerbic, if I’d seen at least a semblance of involving users in this entire positioning exercise. A developer’s community which takes feedback from users on what they want to see in the next samsung mobile model, updating consumers on what they are working on, building some interest around it, and so on. To be fair, they have done something, though the community link took me here. 😐

Tell you what, here’s a free idea, go ahead and sponsor the second season of Bigg Boss. The last season, I always used to wonder, ‘next is what?’ !!!

Which takes me to another premise, I thought a slightly more interesting one. If brands were really gutsy, they would do some product placement in Bigg Boss. From paste, soaps and shampoo, washing soaps to Real Good chicken, tea and coffee brands, apparel brands, exercise equipment, Veneta Cucine kitchens,  every damn thing that we use in daily life could find its way there (of course keeping in mind the rules of the show, so no TV, mobile etc) Yes. MDH Masala too!! In fact, the contestants shouldn’t be told in advance what the brands are, so no rigging. Have competing brands also. Yummy!! What you get is a real chance of ‘celebrity’ endorsement. Imagine Rakhi Sawant saying ‘Tide makes washing so easy that I wish I’d more clothes’. Ok, cheesy, but you get the idea 🙂

But that requires absolute faith in the product, and having the maturity to accept criticism and ensure you never make the mistake again. We still have a long way to go before brands can handle reality television, or reality.

Meanwhile, next is WAT too, who’ve got an absolutely cool new design. Go check it out.

until next time, WordPress has a ‘next’ button too 😉

Copy Paste

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Internet with tags , , , , , on August 6, 2008 by manuscrypts

There was an interesting piece I read about the way Cuil, the new search engine I’d written about earlier. In that post, the author compared Cuil to toilet paper, no offence meant because it has nothing to do with the engine’s features. It has more to do with how Google as a search engine is so ingrained in your head that there is no thought process involved when you have to choose a search service, much like the toilet paper decision. So the lesson was that if you’re challenging the market leader, you need to have some really strong firepower.

And while that insight involved an online entity, which provided a free service, it also got me thinking on purchase decisions regarding low cost ‘real’ items, like say, matchboxes or sometimes, even toothpaste. To justify the latter, I don’t make a decision before I go shopping, we check out the stuff available at the retail outlet, but within a set of brands we normally use.

And coincidentally, I saw the latest online effort from Colgate, via their Facebook app. The Facebook app is based on a game they have on the site – Kayak. You can read a review of the effort here. I will not get into  checkbox marketing, I’ve been doing that for over a year now, the earliest rant being this. The site is connected via a contest with the TVC that’s being aired currently (which also advertises the site) and stars Bruna Abdullah. As for the contest, if you win, you have a chance to get fresh with Bruna. Woo!! (okay, i made that up because i couldn’t resist the maxfresh name connection, but yes, you do get a date with Bruna) 😉

Someone’s got the right intentions, because this is not Colgate’s only attempt to rally the internet. I chanced to see this sometime back. (via Medianama). I liked the dental expert touch, and am happy for the efforts, though I have a different perspective. For example, though MaxFresh is a youth brand, the primary benefit is dental care and a cool Facebook App could very well be built on that parameter. But yes, while the net is definitely useful, very few brands have learnt to use it to their advantage.

So, what’s the way forward for ‘commodity’ brands? One is to pretend that the internet doesn’t exist and continue trying to shout the loudest and get the customer’s attention. Two is to include digital in the marketing effort, but as an adaptation of the Print creative. Three is to devise a digital strategy, that’s in line with the overall brand strategy but not an adaptation. I would love to see brands that take the last route, because I see a great sync with the way social media is working.

What if brands go back to Step 1 and start looking at the product? Isn’t that where the differentiation can be brought in, rather than from a communication that will stay in the consumer mind only till a louder one from the competitor or anyone else looking for the same consumer’s mindshare, comes along? Use the internet to gather insights from people who are interested in your brand, create stories around the brand, utilise those insights to make the product better, to make variations and satisfy the niches that lie hidden in the long tail, to make your communication more appealing. That’s what the internet allows you to do. Obviously, each brand would have its own criteria of critical mass that even a niche should have for it to operate in that space, but the good news is that we operate in India, and sometimes 1% of this market would be the population of a country. And while on India and retail, would love some info on what exactly these guys are doing – Blinkmagic. Everyone who i chatted with, among those who attended the recent edition of Proto only had good things to say about them.

Meanwhile, what happens when the ‘commodity’ brand’s variations start hitting the market? Obviously, existing retail space cannot handle all of this. And if the tail wags the dog, it could have really bad results as Al Ries has observed here. But where I disagree with the article is that the rampant flavour proliferation is a bad thing, or is a reason to junk the ‘long tail’ way of thinking. I see it as a challenge that retail and brands need to address. I’m sure someone will find a way to tweak the traditional distributor-dealer network to address the needs of the tail. After all, technology is definitely making its way into retail, in a big way, in India. 🙂

I wonder how internet brands will handle ‘commoditisation’ when it happens to them, I can already see it happening in a few areas. Will they need another media to help them out?

We started with a search engine, so we’ll end with one. Check out a new search engine I came across – Viewzi

until next time, be refreshingly original

Any Ideas?

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

Reading this post today, on how Tata Sky and Dish TV have both partnered with matrimony portals -Bharat Matrimony and Shaadi.com respectively, in the space of a single day, I realised how fickle competitive advantages really are. It also reminded me of a much debated post on Scobleizer yesterday on tech blogging, and where it’s at. While the initial premise of that post was how focus was now more on the biz part of it than the mutual discovery of stuff, it then moved on to fleeting attention spans and the quest for the latest shiny object on the www. And how every tech blog out there is trying to beat each other in reaching the latest news first.

Which essentially makes news the commodity and ways to reach the audience first the competitive advantage. Pretty much the same game as what our TV channels are upto these days. When I look around, i see commodities happening all around, to all sorts of product categories, and brands ending up aping each other so that they don’t miss the bus. So whether its reality shows or strange four letter acronyms for shampoos or features in mobile phones, remove the brand name and you won’t notice the difference. And to me, thats a problem, because in a commodity led culture, quantity led factors like volume, reach etc take precedence, mediocrity tends to become the norm, and no one thinks that they should figure out a better way to reach the consumer than the bus.

And that led me to think of ways and means of how brands can fight it. While I’ve been thinking of clear positioning as an obvious starter, I also realised there were some brands that not only created the big idea and ended up making a verb out of it – xerox, google, to name a couple, they were so radical either in thought or execution that they never actually positioned themselves. And before I go further, I apologise for taking you on this stream of consciousness trip. Now, not all brands can be lucky enough to get a not-easily-copiable idea or a drastic new way of executing it.

And that brought me to the potential of a brand which has taken a great first step in leveraging its brand name very well in the absolutely commoditised market of telecom- Idea. I’m sure you must’ve seen the TVC by now. While the campaign is indeed good, what I’m more impressed with is that now that they can actually focus on the innovative uses of utilising a mobile for the betterment of the individual and the society he lives in, and do a lifetime’s supply of campaigns, built around different ‘Idea’s. It offers a way to create a positioning that’s beyond communication. I think that this approach has the potential to build a superbrand. From a new media perspective, and considering that the mobile is almost ubiquitous now, think of the conversations that this could create, obviously around ideas.

That said, any ideas on how brands can beat commoditisation?

until next time, an idea and change

Tata Shy?

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Social networking with tags , , , , , , , on July 16, 2008 by manuscrypts

I saw an ad for Tata Sky yesterday for one of their in house channels – Active Darshan. That, coupled with the announcement of Aamir Khan being made brand ambassador for the brand would have made for a nice plain brand rant post, but try as i might, I have not been able to get hold of that particular ad.We will come back to that. Meanwhile, Aamir is not the first person to star in Tata Sky ads. Kirron Kher, Paresh Rawal, and even Hrtithik Roshan have appeared earlier. They have also used regional actors.

This pits Aamir squarely against SRK, in addition to the competition in handset manufacturers (Nokia vs Samsung), watches (Tag Heuer vs Titan), car manufacturers (Hyundai vs Toyota) and even biscuits (Monaco vs Sunfeast). Dishum karo 🙂 Wonder when Reliance launches its DTH, Big B will be made the brand ambassador.

Now, back to the ad, I wonder why brands still don’t make the efforts to share their ads online. There is no one single source where you can be at least 75% sure to catch the ad. Afaqs relies on ibanklive, which I am yet to explore thoroughly. I have also tried the new entrant – Buzzar.tv, and the usually dependable YouTube, where at least a consumer usually loads the TVC within a couple of days of launch, but with no luck.

Why are brands so shy? Is it due to lack of knowledge or interest; or a deliberate policy of not sharing. Before you laugh off the last one, it ties in well with the lack of transparency i keep ranting about. I personally feel that ads are perhaps a very good Step 1 to encourage conversation about brands. The amount of facebook status messages I have seen of Sanjooo (of Max New York Insurance fame) and the kind of stories I have read (look at this one for example) means that there is an audience ready to even generate buzz. Of course, it may not always be positive. Is that what’s scaring away brands? But isn’t it better to experiment a little, learn the art and make some good use of it, before it gets relegated to a commodity status? The other point is that all this will happen with or without their assent anyway.

I’d  go on and say Tata Sky shouldn’t stop with just their brand. They can actually build entire communities around serials. Maybe it can even be a tool to lure housewives on to the net. Imagine the amount of gossiping that could be done online, complete with links to trivia and news on serials. It can even be in hindi. Hell, there is already a family tree website (via Indianweb2) in India, so why not an entire social network in Hindi? And its not just housewives, lets assume I am a fan of Doctor Who on BBC Entertainment, there’s a big chance ( i am basing it on some personal experiences) that I am also a fan of Battlestar Galactica. When audiences get connected, they help each other explore new worlds. The channels are happy, because they get new audiences, and they wouldn’t mind doing some advertising here. So, isn’t it a win win model for both the consumer and business audiences? Oh, okay, laugh, but one day when you have a K Kliq that’s stronger than all the ‘I hate Balaji’ groups on Orkut, you’ll know that i was right. :p

The other vertical social network I see that has great potential is an entity like agencyfaqs. It is practically begging for more conversation. I’m sure they understand that conversations cannot be simulated by just having a comments box, though they are much better than exchange4media. It would make a great hangout for planners, creative guys, art guys, brand managers, media owners etc to discuss brands, ads, strategy and so on. But i guess, when agencies and channels are trying to be better and bigger rats, i am doing too much of ‘wish karo’ 😉

until next time, don’t be santhusht!!!

Mass among the Niche

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Internet with tags , , , on July 15, 2008 by manuscrypts

An interesting post here sparked off an even more interesting discussion on twitter, which made me think about online entities’ relationship with mass media in general.

The above post talked specifically about the 2 gaming entities –  zapak and games2win and their contrasting styles. What interested me was the part about the surge that happened (in number of users) when zapak started using mass media for brand visibility, and the fact that a few months later, G2W is catching up, without having used mas media.

So, the question I’d like to pose is how relevant is mass media to pure play online entities, say an Ibibo or Seventymm for example. It is increasingly becoming a trend for offline entities whether it be media companies or cola giants or watches to have an online presence. While social media and the search for conversations have played their part in recent times, this need to be online started way back from the time that plain vanilla banners and site takeovers became available. This could be mainly due to the understanding that a filtered and discerning audience exists on the net, and this audience is quite likely to be an early adopter and an influencer in his peer group. But does it also work the other way around?

At this juncture, we have an internet penetration figure of 4.5%, but in absolute numbers it is about 49 million net users. ( Juxt Consult 2008 ) Thats quite a good number.  But yes, compared to the total population, it is fair to think that we miles to go. Perhaps that makes online brands look for offline brand visibility, to get the scale that they seek. But will it work the way it did for zapak?  A surge during advertising and then a drop, which clearly means that they got the ‘wrong’ kind of users, which necessarily means spillage.

Going forward, the net will become increasingly fragmented. Services and products would start catering to the niche and the long tail would really be exploited to the hilt, online. It would also become easier for new users to figure out how to get what they need on the net. In such a scenario, how relevant would a presence in mass media (in the form of advertising or content or any other association) be for a pure play online entity? As an awareness creator? But once the guy is online, wouldn’t he come to you anyway if you’ve done your work online well?

Having said that, it makes sense for say, a Holiday IQ or even a makemytrip to be present in say, an NDTV Good Times or a Discovery Travel & Living. There are great ways to work in sync. The other scenario is where you have a direct competitor and the service/product that is being offered is for mass consumption, so mass media gives you the additional advantage. The third and last option I can think of is when the service/product being offered has so much of potential that a no internet user is dragged online.

But in general, if the net is going to be conversation based with WOM and specific user communities playing a major role, then the efforts and money would be better spent online than offline. Would love to have your view on this, as always. 🙂

until next time, organic offline and inorganic online?

Train of Thought

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Social networking with tags , , on July 14, 2008 by manuscrypts

Social media enthusiasts are often quizzed on the ROI that it delivers, and in many cases,  ‘conversation with customers’ is met with a lot of skepticism. which led me to wonder about the kind of ROI this activity would generate.

“Max New York Life Insurance has signed a Public Private Partnership (PPP) pact with the Indian Railways. From July 8, Chennai, Bangalore and Trivandrum Rajdhanis will sport Max New York Life advertising on its exterior.” It would provide upgraded services like high quality flooring, soap dispensers, tissue paper dispensers…. and so on. Great, I have always wanted that in those Harappan age railway compartments, though I always had a feeling Max was into insurance.

I can understand SBI having a co-branded card with IRCTC, Citi having a card for Delhi Metro etc, but the revenue/communication model that this venture of Max falls in, I fail to understand. Unless of course, Max will send an insurance advisor in the compartment. The ‘potential customer’ is trapped with him for the entire journey, and might buy a policy just to get rid of him.

Meanwhile, a couple of thoughts came to me when I read this post on Mumbai’s local trains. Every now and then, there is a horror story of how a gruesome accident occured in one of these trains. Doesn’t it make a lot of sense for an insurance company to do some contextual communication here? How about tapping this entire community which is so prone to such occurences?

The other thought that came to me was from a conversation on twitter on how religion is one massive social network. Unlike schools and colleges, which have a real life basis for networking, religion is spread across geographies with most users unaware of each other, and even has user generated versions springing up every now and then. Even the local trains in Mumbai offer a platform for a social network (no pun intended). I guess there are vertical networks like that all around, the only trick is to satisfy a set of needs and then be able to monetise it.

until next time, maximising social media

More to watch

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India with tags , , , , on July 8, 2008 by manuscrypts

I’m quite an Aamir hater these days, after his unpalatable sense of humour, and that has prompted me in the past to be a savage critic of most ads that he does. Of course, I really feel that he has not been used correctly, but I have always wondered if I was being objective enough.

So when I read that Titan has brought out a new TVC as part of its rebranding exercise, I thought it would be an interesting exercise. Do have a look at the TVC here. While the line – Be More is definitely new (though it reminds me of a Nokia commercial) I’d have to differ with the afaqs PR release if it means to say this is a brand new positioning. It is only carrying forward the old ‘Whats your style’ positioning. In fact I dare say that this path starts about here (it might be before, but at least this) and is well on its way towards the latest TVC by this.

Having said that, the ad has been executed very well. It exhorts you to rise above your daily mundane existence and experiment with life – get down at an unknown station, take tickets to a random town, learn from your own mistakes.. And thankfully even the humour looks good on Aamir- not to resemble your passport photo for more than three months, checking out a girl while meditating and saying ‘Explore’. The ad ends with a reminder of how, during childhood we had so many dreams, and asks you to ‘be born, everyday’

And so, while the ad theme does remind me of the Tata Safari ad – Reclaim Your Life ad, the usage of Aamir, for once, is great. For a while now Aamir has been reinventing himself regularly, whether it is in terms of the variety of characters he plays, or the style statement of each – Dil Chahta Hai, The Rising, Fanaa, Taare Zameen Par and the latest Ghajini,  each character is unique, and most often, radically different from the earlier avatar. This quality of Aamir fits this ad perfectly, only I feel that some brands have already thought of this before. Remember the Coke series of ads, this Toyota ad featuring Aamir and this one too, which says ‘What role are you playing today?’?

So what? So nothing, just saying that Titan really hasn’t done anything radical, and if repositioning is the idea, maybe its important to position the brand ambassador differently.

until next time, tighten