Archive for Positioning

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 😉


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 –, 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 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

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


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?


Posted in Advertising, Brand, India with tags , on June 16, 2008 by manuscrypts

Its been a while since 1983. 25 years, and as the car maker which transformed the Indian automobile scene with their very first car in that year, its reason enough to celebrate. And the new TVC does justice to that. From the now almost extinct original Maruti 800, which was a bestseller till 2004, to the Swift, the car with the highest sales figures in 2006, its been a long road, with Omni, Maruti 1000, Zen, Baleno, Alto, Esteem, Gypsiy, SX4, Versa, Vitara and a divestment all packed in between.

While i partially agree with this – the ‘local’ all encompassing big brand concept that has been used by many other brands succesfully has been used here too, I think the timing could not have been better. With Chevrolet, Ford, Skoda, Toyota, Honda, Renault etc and the other desi Tata, coming out with models and talking about everything from fuel efficiency to attitude, it was time to hit India with something that rarely fails – an emotion packed family drama which would trigger bouts of nostalgia.

And it does well, with some excellent camerawork that takes you from the modern jet setting India, to a typical, traditional Kerala temple procession scene, complete with elephants, to the timeless ‘papa impatiently waiting at the gate for the daughter who’s late’ and an armed forces mountain terrain scenario, from the usage as the proxy school van to a hitchhiker asking for a lift to reach home in time for Diwali, all with the different brands that have got it a 6.5 million customer base; a really hummable theme music, that I hope they will retain for some time, and a powerful line ‘India comes home in a Maruti Suzuki’.

In essence, a stance that befits a market leader of ethnic origin with the best distribution and service chain in the country, which has consistently worked on its products and has decided to use a communication that took me back to some wonderful times and trips in a Maruti 800, one that I’m sure would have the same effect on millions of Indians, and who in their next car purchase decision, are sure to remember an old companion.

until next time, a Capital idea

The long tales of brands

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

A few days back, I read a post by Seth Godin. To summarise, it was about how people in general, and especially marketeers, put on a show, on purpose. That might be simplifying it, and while he does say that “if you’re transparent about your motivations, putting on a show is productive and highly leveraged”, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the last line in the post is an advice to think about the above, when you’re putting up a booth, answering the phone etc.

It was a bit disconcerting, because it wasn’t exactly what my notions about social media and Brands 2.0 in general were. After all, how could sharing and collaborating be based on something that’s fundamentally a show? While the audience could accept this in say, an entertainment show, would the same happen when they were dealing with brands and people? Isn’t the ‘brand’ supposed to be a promise to the customer?

I do agree that it would be naive to believe in an utopian way of functioning, but social platforms and the new ways of communicating could take us quite close to it. Thankfully, i was quite buoyed by another superb post from Chris Brogan. While the post gives more personality examples than brands, it stresses the need to be really ‘you’, and I think, that should apply to brands as well, because in a highly connected world, it doesn’t take too long for the roleplay to be seen as exactly what it is, and the true brand DNA to come out.

Rather than trying to build a story about a fictional character, wouldn’t it be much better to make the brand’s story interesting with its core characteristics? It is a perspective that would affect the way brands behave, even in a relatively less connected country like ours- the brand endorsements, the blind ‘branding’ without any idea of context, the fine print in communication, the sales guy’s promises, customer service and every thing that creates a brand experience would have to be done keeping the story in mind, and doing it in such a way that the customers believe in that story and communicate it themselves, by choice.

Meanwhile, less connected we may be, but that doesn’t stop us from having our own brand tags. Do take, part, the results would be fun.

until next time, what you say can and will be used against you 😉

Brand recycles

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

The concept of product lifecycles is a pretty old one. I’ve read a few articles on brand lifecycles too, like this one. But something I’ve been thinking about recently is the customer lifecycle. I’ve been googling a bit and found a few notes like this and this, but that doesn’t quite say what i had in mind.

The thought came to me when i picked up the latest edition of Outlook Money. This magazine has, for the last year so, exhibited an uncanny ability to give me exactly the kind of stuff I’d been thinking or discussing about say, a week before, and everytime i pick up the magazine, I have this ‘Truman Show’ feeling. 🙂 It means that somehow they’ve been able to understand the needs of the reader completely, and build an extremely good mass customised product. Notice that they have been doing it for at least a couple of years now.

My needs have changed in those years, as have my financial planning, consumption patterns etc. But OM has kept in touch with them correctly. Is it following my life? Okay, lets stop getting personal, is it following the life of the demographic that i fit into, which is also their target audience? If it is, then that’s what i mean by a customer lifecycle, which means that the brand by itself does not have a dna, but follows the needs of the consumer through his life, in the space that the brand operates in – in this case, personal finance.

One advantage I can immediately think of is that the customer’s bonding with the brand will definitely be very high because it never loses relevance. The brand can then decide to either start another version of itself targeting the next generation (Outlook starts a sub brand for the younger set after say, 5 years, when the needs of the original and the new set can be clearly defined and are distinct) or if you’re say a Beverages brand or Apparel brand then you create sub categories (like you already have Coke Lite). So in a sense, the brand gets recycled all the time in an avtar thats always relevant.

Do you have any more examples like Outlook? Do you feel there’s potential for some brands to work this way?

Meanwhile, there’s this excellent brand tag experiment being done. I thought I’ll replicate it here at first, but since people answering me here are too less, it really didn’t make sense. But do try it out here.

until next time, recycle anyway