Category Archives: Marketing

From Bollywood stars to us, everyone wants to belong someplace else

I saw Aishwarya Rai speaking about her comeback films in completely fake accent with convoluted pronunciations on CNBC TV18. Her desperate attempts to “prove” her class through her “polished” language was obvious. A lot of Bollywood divas and hunks indulge into faking this contrived personality facade.

Here the channel was English, but I have always found it amusing watching Bollywood actors speaking English on Hindi TV interactions or in award functions. They somehow manage to fake accent, but their shallow vocabulary gets exposed when they have to explain their thoughts with “You know” and “I mean” after every few words, obviously because of loss of words.

I don’t understand why can’t they speak in Hindi on Hindi channels when they have to struggle hard to get it right in English? Is it their desire to belong to some higher class?

When a newcomer is trying to enter filmdom, he/she wants to anyhow belong to the Bollywood fraternity, which is a motley group of all types of artists. By hook or by crook, they want to belong to Bollywood, at any level.

And then, once they are in, they wish to upgrade their class, they seek distinction and aspire to belong to the “higher” class of actors who are fluent in English. They want to rise above the ordinary and want to belong to a higher class. They wish to appear “different” from those Desi actors who can’t even speak English.

Junior actors or veterans, stars or wannabes, all want to belong somewhere.

So do we all.

We all crave to belong somewhere. There where we are not.
This is one proof of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And that is where a huge untapped market lies.

“I mean. You know?”

Why all eCommerce ventures are not successful?

I have heard people saying that they bought something from eBay.in, flipkart.com, infibeam.com, snapdeal.com, amazon.in or jabong.com. But, I have not yet come across anybody talking about buying or selling something on OLX or QUIKR.

The only place where I have seen their names is in advertisements, which try to tell me that I can sell my junk through them. Somehow, I am not convinced that selling my assorted used items (which even the Kabadiwala refuses to look at) will be as easy as it is made out to be and people will be waiting to lap up my useless stuff.

I think there are many people like me who are not convinced.

This reminds me of a mother who grooms her young daughter and takes her to all parties and social functions to get her noticed by mothers of prospective grooms. The only objective is to get her daughter married to some boy from a prosperous family.

The rise of some eCommerce ventures and their phenomenal valuations coupled with the easy availability of VC or PE funding has given rise to some silly and greedy start-up mindsets, whose only motive is to create a company which gets picked up or taken over by some bigger giant. They are not interested in developing a business. They are just interested in creating a hype, making a lot of noise and waiting for some idiot to come and buy their junk at ridiculous prices.

And they think that even if they sell junk, there will be hordes of PEs and VCs with loads of money eager to buy their company.

They don’t realize that if they could not convince a customer to come and buy/sell their stuff on their platform, only idiots will come and invest into such junk traders who themselves are soon going to be junk.

They must remember that in every Tech boom, everybody and their cousins want to ride that wave. Today, everybody wants to be an Amazon or a Flipkart. But most of them result into a mother desperate to showcase her daughter.

They should realize that it is not easy to “Bech De” their company so Quikrrrrr….

Making noise on advertisements (on easy VC/PE money) is easy. Making sense is not so easy.

ब्रान्ड पर से कस्टमर का भरोसा कब उठ जाता है?

जब कोई ब्रान्ड अपने Logo या Tagline के विरुद्ध काम करती है, तो कस्टमर का भरोसा उस पर से उठ जाता है |

ब्रान्ड जो प्रोमिस करती है, वहीं करनी चाहिए, और वही सच्चाई Logo या Tagline या किसी भी प्रकार के मेसेज में अभिव्यक्त होनी चाहिए |

अपने पेकेजिंग पर “बेस्ट क्वालिटी” लिख देने से अंदर की प्रोडक्ट बेस्ट नहीं बन जाती | और अगर वह प्रोडक्ट निम्नस्तर की होगी, तो कोइ कस्टमर उस “बेस्ट क्वालिटी” वाली बात पर भरोसा नहीं करेगा |

कुछ ऐसा ही मुंबइ म्युनिसिपल कोर्पोरेशन के सफाई विभाग का है | मुंबइ में आपने देखा होगा की सफाई की ट्रक, सडकों पर रखे गार्बेज-बीन या सफाई कर्मचारियों के युनिफोर्म पर लिखा है  “Clean-up चकाचक मुंबइ” | लेकिन मुंबइ शहर की सफाइ का निम्न स्तर देखकर तुरंत पता चल जाता है कि इस “चकाचक मुंबइ” स्लोगन का कोइ मतलब नहीं है | शहर तो छोडो वह ट्रक, वह गार्बेज बीन या वह युनिफोर्म में से भी कुछ साफ सुथरा या चकाचक नहीं है | “चकाचक मुंबइ” सिर्फ लिखनेवाले की कल्पना से आगे कहीं भी नहीं है |

ब्रान्ड का स्लोगन या टेग-लाइन बिना सोचे समझे लिख डालेंगे, ब्रान्ड उस के अनुसार काम नहीं करेगी, तो ब्रान्ड की कथनी और करनी में अंतर रह जाएगा | ब्रान्ड की प्रोमिस और पर्फोर्मन्स सुसंगत नहीं होंगे, तो ब्रान्ड पर कोइ भरोसा नहीं करेगा | गलत स्लोगन से ब्रान्ड को फायदा कम और नुकसान ज्यादा होता है |

Club Mahindra – an example of a poorly executed marketing strategy

How do you feel when a time-share company
1) Invites you for a 45-minute presentation with a promise of a FREE gift.
2) Follows up enthusiastically to fix an appointment.
3) When you confirm an appointment, reminds you emphatically that “Please do come because the FREE gift vouchers once made in your name cannot be canceled.”
4) Sends an SMS with venue, time details and seeks SMS confirmation ftom you.
5) Just 15 minutes prior to the appointment time, calls you up and asks “Where are you? We are waiting for you.”
6) When you arrive 5 minutes before the appointment time, the receptionist tells you that ” We can’t accommodate you. Our presentation venue is full.
Either you come after an hour or some other day. ”
7) Wastes your precious time and does not even bother to express a simple “Sorry”.

Club Mahindra did just this last week with us.  It created a lot of hype around the presentation and the free gift and in the end, failed disappointingly. A telling example of an extremely poor execution of a marketing strategy.

A lot of characteristics of a company are reflected in the way it conducts its operations. It is natural to doubt the quality of services of a company that cannot coordinate its regular marketing activities properly.

Club Mahindra has a lot of work to do in its marketing activities coordination. Till then a lot of advertising and promotional expense will continue to go in drain creating a lot of avoidable bitterness among its prospects.

If you’re not paying for it, then you are the product

Many of us could not understand why Google and other companies give email, storage, audio, video and so many of their services FREE to us? For us, it was a welcome gift..!

But, think over. Why would any company give anything FREE? We must remember that there is no free lunch anywhere in the world.

So, in exchange of the FREE email facility and assorted other services, these companies are getting to know a lot about us. What do we like? What to we buy? Where do we buy from? How do we spend our time? Who our friends are? Which movies do we like? Which books do we read? Which mobile phone or Credit Card do we use? Where do we travel? Which restaurants we eat at?

And, this is very very valuable information. When they know all such things about us, they get a fair idea about us and our tastes and preferences. Then they themselves use this information for selling us many similar products and services and also to other companies who buy data from them. Also, bits and pieces of information accumulated from billions of people around the world finally result into a mammoth source of knowledge which marketers can use profitably by inferring trends from that data.

So, in exchange of giving something FREE to us, they sell our own data…! This is the price of connectivity that we are paying in the form of loss of privacy.

So, next time be aware and clear that if you are getting something for free, you (perhaps in the form of data about you) may be the product. Really, there is no FREE lunch, breakfast or dinner.

Real estate project naming – a case of meaningless brand extensions

The trend of naming new real estate projects throws up some examples of avoidable brand extension mistakes. We can find numerous instances of many smaller towns naming their residential and commercial complexes, streets, roads and areas by copying the names of famous names and localities of bigger cities.

In such an example of piggybacking on the image of some upmarket location, a prominent developer has named its upcoming project in a Mumbai suburb as “New Cuffe Parade”, drawing its name from down town Mumbai’s premium locality Cuffe Parade. The developer may have targeted the aspiring neo-rich who may wish to believe that they are getting a chance to be a part of a new posh locality of the future.

Such mindless brand extensions can be aimed at exploiting an existing, old locality’s posh brand image and recall. But, in my opinion, this exercise is wasteful and nothing less than “wannabe” naming. If at all, it only results into an added confusion for everybody.

For example, in a town, there is a very famous sweet shop called Khavda Sweets. After some years, inspired by the huge popularity of the original shop, an ex-employee or a separated partner or some unrelated stranger starts another similar type of sweet shop called “New Khavda Sweets”, with the word “New” written in very small letters in all signages and brand visuals. It tries to copy everything from the original shop – the products, packaging, pricing etc. But, in spite of all its efforts to be better or at least at par with the original, it never reaches the same level as the original, because it fails to copy the main USP of the original like quality, service, customer experience, employees etc.

At the best. it confuses people and in most cases, fails to get more than some limited, marginal success by luring some uninformed, gullible new customers who don’t know about the existence of the original shop. It only proves the New shop owner’s desire to be just like the original. In other words, he proves to be a “wannabe”.

Another such futile brand extension example is the Bollywood film Ramgarh Ke Sholay which imitated an iconically successful Bollywood blockbuster Sholay. The new film flopped miserably. All its producers’ assumptions fell flat, failing to create even a whimper.

We can find thousands of examples of such “wannabe” naming all across the country. Parents naming their children after famous celebrities is another common example of such “wannabe” naming.

Naming of a real estate locality should be done with a lot of practical considerations, because in future, that name becomes part of a large population’s daily lives. Avoiding confusion in people’s minds is one such consideration.

Branding requires very careful thinking and detailed planning. Mindless copying generally backfires. Only by declaring, NEW Cuffe Parade does not make that project a reincarnation of old Cuffe Parade. In fact, the contrasting reality of slum pockets amidst the upmarket highrisers of old Cuffe Parade, which make it unique can never be recreated by the manicured and professionally designed New Cuffe Parade. New Khavda Sweets can perhaps never be Khavda Sweets. It may perennially remain a wannabe.

And to be perceived as being a wannabe can be fatal for a premium brand. Originality is crucial to being premium.

3 Marketing lessons from Samsung’s vulnerability

Recently, news are coming in that Samsung has lost its market leader position in Smartphone markets in India and China, two of its biggest markets. What makes Samsung’s position in mobile handset market so vulnerable?

In India, MicroMax and in China, Xiaomi are said to have displaced the market leader. MicroMax and Xiaomi are claimed to be beating Samsung at its own game in which it decimated Nokia few years back.

In the utterly crowded and commoditized mobile handset market, such drastic changes are not surprising, unless you are an Apple. Samsung may dispute the claim or defend its territory for a while, but not for long. Sooner than later it will have to give in to some competition, which may emerge and ascend rapidly because it has built its brand on the foundation of vulnerability.

What are the marketing lessons one can learn from Samsung’s shaky brand position? Here are three :

1) No single target customer segment
You can own  Samsung phone for as low as Rs 1200 or as high as about Rs.50,000. That is a full spectrum of mobile phone users. So, who is a Samsung target customer? Almost everybody.

Because of this large base, Samsung can be attacked by any Tom, Dick, Harry and their cousins. And it will have to spend time, money and energy in defending each of these territories.

Marketing lesson-1 :
Have a clear target customer segment and protect it firmly. Sharper the target, the safer. Don’t spread yourself too thin so that you can be attacked by anyone.

2) No clear positioning in customer’s mind
If you own an iPhone, that says something about you. You understand or appreciate quality, innovation and uniqueness. Also, you can afford a high-end phone.
If you own a Samsung? It does not say anything about your taste. You could as well own any other similar ‘looking’ phone.

Marketing lesson-2 :
Have a distinct positioning for your brand. Stand for something. Own a distinct position in customer’s mind. Don’t focus on marketshare alone. Focus on mind share instead. And drive that home in the customer’s mind.

3) No uniqueness
Apple has its unique hardware and its unique software. This makes switching difficult for an iPhone user because he gets used to some unique features, services and Apps which other mobile Operating Systems can’t offer. An Android based Samsung can be seamlessly switched to another Android phone without any significant loss of data or user experience.

Marketing lesson-3:
Be unique. Give something that others can’t copy easily. Don’t become easily replaceable.

Only name does not make a brand

Kutch Mandvi Dabeliwala.
New Mewad Icecream.
Shankar Vilas Hindu Hotel.
Kanifnath Rasvanti Gruh.
Udupi Hotel.
All these are popular brands in Mumbai. Each one of them has multiple outlets, across the city.
But, you can’t be sure about what will be the product range, quality, price, taste or service at different outlets of the same name.

In fact, other than the name, there is nothing common among them.

That is because these brands are not owned by any one person or company. There is no thought behind these brands. There is no soul. No cosistent brand proposition or personality.

These names are a classic example of brands which have no identity of their own. Because of the absence of the self-concept.these brands don’t have any definite image. Nobody knows what these brands stand for.

It is like naming a girl Aishwarya does not make a girl as beautiful as the Miss World or similarly, a boy named Sachin does not become a Cricket legend.

Names fail to create an image if they are not supported by an appropriate identity.

With the right combination of talent and identity, a Priyanka can come and eclipse any existing beauty queens, by creating her own image.

Or. a Sachin can do a better job at batting without calling himself Sunil.

Rather than copying names, the brand should focus on creating and nurturing a unique identity.

Business management lessons from AAP’s failure

The sudden rise and equally sudden fall of Aam Aadmi Party has some important learning lessons for businesses which are currently in the growth mode.

Many businesses which start with a rapid growth in the beginning, start faltering after growing to a specific size. Maintaining growth momentum after attaining some size becomes a real challenge which few companies can overcome. Others either stagnate at that level or go back downhill.

AAP faced some management challenges which it could not overcome. Growing companies also face similar challenges. The debacle of AAP in 2014 elections has some management lessons for growing businesses.

Arvind Kejriwal’s
AAP rose to popularity really too fast. It promised a hope of a corruption free India. It is a success story of a brand getting hugely popular too fast. But, the brand AAP did not live up to the hype it generated. Why? Here are some reasons.

Management Bandwidth
One reason for AAP’s failure is the lack of Management Bandwidth. Just like many suddenly grown companies, AAP, too , faced lack of quality, talented and experienced manpower who could manage the party’s affairs and could provide leadership at various levels of the organization.

Only Branding Focus,
No marketing
AAP and Arvind Kejriwal are good at grabbing media attention and thereby keeping their brand afresh in popular mind. Somehow or the other AAP and its leader kept themselves in the news. Huge advertising budget and a lot of noise in the media may ensure brand awareness and visibility, it may not necessarily ensure marketplace success of the product. The product has to deliver on the brand promise. Here is where AAP failed. Media hype was good, but the party failed to deliver what it was expected to. Particularly, after the Delhi government fiasco, it became clear that AAP was good at agitations and not in execution. Along with focusing on popular attention, AAP should also have developed its own governance and administration arms.

Lack Of Structure
In any family managed business, there is no structure and the family members monopolize control over all decisions and resources. AAP functioned just like such a  business where all decision making rested with a select group of people. This lack of democracy disillusioned many big names in the party who deserted it recently.

Even though it is not the end of the road for AAP and it can definitely recover from the recent setback, it will have to make greater efforts to bounce back due to its own mistakes.

The business which wishes to cash in on its initial success must learn from these mistakes and avoid them.

हमारे मार्केटींग में क्या गलत हो सकता है?

कभी कभी हम गलत कस्टमर को अपना माल बेचने की कोशिश करते हैं | हमारा कस्टमर कौन है, यह नहीं समज पाना यही हमारी सब से बड़ी मार्केटींग गलती हो सकती है |

हर एक प्रोडक्ट या सर्विस का एक कस्टमर होता है | उस कस्टमर को उस प्रोडक्ट में कुछ value, कुछ मूल्य दिखता है, जो प्रोडक्ट की कीमत के सिवाय कुछ और, कुछ दूसरा होता है |

२ लाख की Tata Nano का भी एक ग्राहक वर्ग होता है | और ४०-५० लाख की मर्सिडीज़ का भी कस्टमर ग्रुप होता है, और यह दोनों अलग लोग होते हैं, दोनों की पसंद, उनकी Lifestyle, उनकी सोच, तरिके सब कुछ अलग होता है |

उन दोनों कस्टमरों को अपनी अपनी Nano या Mercedez में कुछ value, कुछ मूल्य दिखता है, जो कार की कीमत के सिवाय कुछ और, कुछ दूसरा होता है |

मार्केटींग में हमारी कोशिश सही कस्टमरों को पहचानके, उनकी ज़रुरतों को समजके उन्हें हमारी प्रोडक्ट-सर्विस के बारे में बता के बेचना यहीं होनी चाहिए | गलत कस्टमर को अपनी प्रोडक्ट के बारे में चाहे कितना भी बताओ, उस के फायदे दिखलाओ, वह हमारी प्रोडक्ट नहीं खरीदेगा क्यों कि उसे हमारी प्रोडक्ट में कुछ Value नहीं दिखती | उन के पीछे मेहनत-समय-पैसा बरबाद मत करो |