Archive for the Brand Category

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?

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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

Better..Best..Bested

Posted in Brand, Internet with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2008 by manuscrypts

A long time ago, during those heady MBA days, a few of us had put together a theme for the batch – kaizen, a Japanese philosophy for constant improvement. I think it still holds a lot of relevance with regards to the way brands treat themselves. Google, while not the web’s knight in shining armor it used to be, still teaches a lot of lessons, and I remembered them when i read this article on how, perhaps the first killer app on the net – email is now being challenged by things like micro-blogging platforms.

Remembered them because, even though they were late entrants into the arena, the ‘invite’ marketing really worked for GMail, and though competitors matched or improved their storage space factor, GMail was so good, that I have never felt the need to consider an option. Thats also because while most other players stopped after they matched the space and minor additions, GMail kept improving, and still does – check this and this. And the counter on the GMail homepage continues to increase. Constant improvement.

Meanwhile, the proposed competitor to email, micro blogging, and more specifically Twitter also seems to be on a constant improvement mode. After being heavily criticised for their downtime, they seem to be getting that under control and now the rumour mills are abuzz with their proposed purchase of Summize.

On the flip side, I saw a video sharing site – Viddler.com, with some pretty cool features, like being able to add tags and comments right within the timeline. So when a scene appears, the comment appears right then. I haven’t seen too many innovations from YouTube recently. I also read a nice article recently, on how del.icio.us had perhaps lost the chance to become Friendfeed. Intriguing, right? Perhaps, Yahoo may be getting the message, and hence this radical move in the search space, where lots of new players like Yoozilla, Gloofi, Evri and possibly a dozen others are cropping up and doing amazing things that Google is perhaps missing out on. And while Google ups the ante in virtual worlds with the launch of Lively, there is Vivaty, which is ‘virtual world meets social networking’

So, is improvement a function of current size? When a player gets beyond a certain size (in terms of products, sales, manpower and so on) is it then tougher for them to improve constantly.? Does the growth curve plateau and newer, smallers start taking the shine off from the once nimble large player? If we stretch that and step back a bit, is that the reason why say, a traditional set of players like newspapers are having problems adjusting to the web (generalising here) while new entities like Instablogs or possibly soon, a Topix (a potentially cool site, you must take a look) increase in popularity and relevance?

In the future, will this constant improvement create a scenario where services will, in short time frames , change so rapidly, that they will bear only a slight resemblance to what they started out as, with only the brand name being a constant, a brand that stands for the cutting edge in that service category?

until next time, zen and the art of constant improvement

$ocial Media

Posted in Brand, Internet with tags , , on July 9, 2008 by manuscrypts

This is why I love the conversational web. It provides an excellent means to connect ideas, and er, write a post. I saw a tweet from @jowyang which was about a company looking for community managers. No, it wasn’t the job per se that interested me, but more the fact that companies are finally getting into conversations and hiring community managers. Before you harangue me about web companies having had community managers for ages, this one is a grocery review community. Well, at least happens in the US. 😐

And then, I also happened to read a post that spoke about a wiki for brands that is created and maintained by the users. Thats already happening a bit on the Facebook fan pages, but I’m guessing the brand would have to have its official spokesperson acting as a moderator at least in the initial stages, that’s like a community manager.

And lastly, i read a post by Chris Brogan that talked about social media not being a replacement for marketing strategy. (I wholeheartedly agree) The takeaways he has mentioned towards the end not only provide a direction on how social media can finally pull its weight in getting revenue (possibly a beginning to answering this, a thought on everyone’s mind), but also roughly defines what a community manager’s role would be. It would not only be the basic answering of community queries and using conversations with them to evolve the product/service, it would also include identifying evangelists, nurturing them, helping a sales team to categorise potential customers. I am sure there are a lot of add ons possible to these brand communities.

Meanwhile, it might also help social media tools like twitter to figure out revenue models. For at the very base of it all, a Twitter is perhaps like a Hotmail, the difference being in community and the speed of conversations, but in essence a tool for communication. And like email, there are usages to be figured out – for example, what role they play in the brand communities discussed above. These usages will drive revenue models. And hopefully, that’ll make one happy world… until the next revolution. 😉

until next time, tweet dreams

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

Social Evolution

Posted in Brand, Internet with tags , , , on July 3, 2008 by manuscrypts

The issue has been doing the rounds in my head for sometime now, it started with a question on LinkedIn about companies using CSR only for PR purposes, and I thought now was a good time to share my thoughts, at the risk of it sounding like an attempt at gyan. 😉

There was a very interesting topic tossed up last week here, on the role of social media, not in general, but in addressing the world’s problems. Whether all the coding gurus sitting down and making cool apps that generate thrills from a devouring audience are just doing it for its own sake rather than making a difference. While that question can be posed to just about anyone, and would elicit ‘no’ for an answer unless you were talking to an NGO or someone who works on CSR projects, it seems pertinent because well, its er, social media, and at its core, its about connecting people (sorry Nokia!). And it only seems fair that when the medium obviously has so much potential to change the world by the sheer amount of information it has, and the conversations it spawns, the humans that are so connected and the ones who are making the different levels and types of connections possible should also help out in bailing out those who are not privileged as themselves.

No, its not intended to be a moral debating session on career choices, although that’s welcome too. On the day i saw the (linked) post, by sheer coincidence I also came upon a few links which provided a start to answering the question. One was a presentation (via Chris Brogan) another, a site that holds immense potential. And yes, corporates can play roles that fit into their overall strategic objective and fulfill their business needs, check this by Motorola. (I’m beginning to have a healthy respect for this brand). Back home, this is worth a look, and I would like to see this Idea develop a bit more before I comment on it.

But while all these are definite concrete efforts towards making the world a better place, my belief is that the underlying philosophy of social media – sharing, collaborating, and most importantly transparency, is more fundamental and will itself cause quite a few groundbreaking things to happen in the way we develop as a society. With one single service like twitter, the flow of information is such that I am exposed to a multitude of new people, new websites, new thoughts, some of which make a profound impact on me, and on the way i think. As more and more people get hooked on to social media, think of the number of change agents it would create.

And it is vital for the change agents to absorb the inherent goodness that social media possesses. In an age when shortcuts to anything from file sharing to making money are eagerly lapped up, without a thought on its impact on others’ lives, and tech provides the means to do it and distribute it easily, it is important to ingrain a philosophy that would make developers and users think a little about common good when they engage themselves in social media, a thought that would at least discourage them from doing harm.

until next time, evolve

Carp

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India with tags , , on July 2, 2008 by manuscrypts

I usually don’t pay much attention to car and bike ads, primarily because I am not their target audience, at least for now, and from a brand pov because, they will either show me ads, attitude or stunts (though i liked the most recent Pulsar ad, the music mostly 😉 ) I really can’t blame them, they are dead if they do, and killed if they don’t.

But I recently caught the Mahindra Logan ad because I thought Kunal Kapoor wore the same clothes (in one shot) he did in the Indian Terrain print ads. :p So i watched to make sure, though I haven’t figured it out yet. And I wasn’t paying attention to the ad content, but I watched it again thanks to a very thought provoking comment on another ad from the same category (cars). That was the Tata Indigo CS ad. I had caught that earlier thanks to its manic frequency and some nice music. We’ll talk about the comment in a while.

Kunal Kapoor, in the Logan ad, wonders and questions the same rat race we are all participating in, our fear that keeps us from thinking differently, says how style can’t be achieved by showing off, and how one should think different from the herd. Mahindra Logan is more than ‘dikhava’ and apparently ‘the answer is here’. (Er, answer to what? the only question i heard was ‘why?’ ) :p  That would come under the attitude + style category, but quite a ‘straight’ take.

The Indigo ad was one that a lot of working pros could identify with. It shows an employess whose boss doesn’t miss a single chance to bully him – whether its opening his cabin’s shades just as the employee is about to take a break or showing off a better pen, or a tea set, or coming to his cubicle when he’s about to call his girlfriend/wife or any of the little things, that the ad uses to tell a real and believable story. The twist is in the parking lot, where the employee takes out his absolutely different car from among the regular cars around, while his boss is caught admiring the car, and then burning with envy while he drives off. The punch line- ‘at the end of the day, style does matter’. A ‘style’ ad that is treated with humour. The punch line for me came from the wife, who pointed out that while the employee can drive home in that cool car, the next morning after he drives to work, he’ll still have to work under the same boss, and take the same crap.

Now, i’m not sure if many people would think that way, but if they did, it would be very sorry for the brand, because would consumers want to be associated with the kind of servile attitude that the employee projects during most of the ad, and then relies on his car to go one up on his boss? Especially if the target audience is a no-nonsense generation that has confidence in its own abilities?

For me, the lesson was that no humour ad can be consumer-proof. There’ll always be a smart alec around who will twist your communication 😐

until next time, with consumers like these, who needs competitors?