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 |

“Ullu Banaving” – Manipulative Pricing gets punished

Some organizations are notorious for misleading pricing claims. Publisher of India’s leading English daily The Times Of India frequently comes out with misleading pricing claims. I received a call from Times group’s magazine distribution company saying “On one year subscription, we offer 50% discount. The newsstand price is 1440. But we charge only 840.” I asked “But then it is not 50% discount. 50% of 1440 is 720.” “Yes sir. We add Rs.120 as delivery charge. Rs 10 per issue.” They may be right in claiming that delivery charge, but to the customer whatever she pays is the final price. So, 840 instead of 1440 is 41.67%. It is not 50%.

Then why should they claim it and try to mislead the customer? It is bad customer experience.

No wonder Times’ magazine portfolio sucks. Customer does not forgive Ullu Banaving manipulative pricing.

हमारा मार्केटींग विश्व कितना बड़ा है?

अरनब गोस्वामी अपनी इंग्लीश न्यूझ चैनल Times Now पर दिखाये जाने वाले इन्टरव्यू या पेनल डीस्कशन में उपस्थित महानुभावों से चिल्ला-चिल्लाकर पूछता है “The whole India wants to know…पूरा देश जानना चाहता है. आपने ऐसा क्यों किया?”

जब की देश के ९५ प्रतिशत लोग कोई इंग्लीश न्यूझ चैनल देखते ही नहीं हैं, उनको भनक मात्र नहीं है कि अरनब किस “पूरे देश” की बात कर रहा है ?

दबंग फिल्म में एक घटिया किस्म के घटिया आइटम सोंग “फेविकोल से” (मेरे मत अनुसार इससे ज्यादा गंदा आइटम सोंग अभी तक आया नहीं है |) में घटिया एक्ट्रेस को सलमान खान कहता है “पूरे इन्डीया को तुने गुलाम किया है |” भारत के ६० करोड से ज्यादा मर्दों में से कितने लोगों का टेस्ट सैफ अली खान से बेहतर होगा जिन्हें ऐसे बेहुदा कपडोंवाली हीरोइन की गुलामी पसंद नहीं होगी? फिर किस पूरे इन्डीया की गुलामी की बात कर रहा है सलमान खान?

२-३ प्रतिशत इंग्लीश स्पीकींग लोगों को “पूरा इन्डीया” बताने वाला अरनब या करिना की गंदी हरकतों पर फीदा हो कर अपने साथ पूरे देश को गुलाम घोषित करने वाला सलमान दोनों अपने छोटे मार्केटींग विश्व की साइझ के अलावा और कुछ नहीं प्रदर्शित करते है |

मार्केटींग में ऐसी बडी बडी बातें बोलने का रिवाज़ है | अपने टार्गेट कस्टमर बेझ को ही पूरी मार्केट मान कर कंपनियां अपने दावे करतीं है | इस लिए ऐसे पूरे इन्डीया के दावों को मार्केटींग की भाषा में समझना जरुरी है |

हमारा कस्टमर बेझ जितना बड़ा, उतना हमारा मार्केटींग का विश्व बड़ा… अपने मार्केटींग के विश्व को असली भौगोलिक विश्व की सीमाओं तक फैलाने का ध्येय हर दूरदर्शी बिझनेसमेन का होना चाहिए…|

हमारे मार्केटींग विश्व की साइझ बढ़ाएं, ताकि हमारा “पूरा इन्डीया” सही अर्थ में पूरा ही हो़…

सिर्फ चीज़ें या वस्तुएं ही नहीं बिकती, उनको बेचने का तरीका भी उतना ही अहमियत रखता है|

किसी विख्यात ब्रान्ड की फ्रेन्चाइझी लेनेवाले के मन में यह आश रहती है की पैसा डाल दिया, फ्रेन्चाइझी ले ली अब तो बस चांदी ही चांदी है| अब तो ब्रान्ड के चाहक ग्राहक ढूंढते-भागते हमारे पास आयेंगे…|

लेकिन ऐसा हमेशा होता नहीं है|
मुंबइ के जुहु में एक ख्यातनाम आईस्क्रीम पार्लर है| उस की सफलता से प्रेरित कंपनीने बहोत सारे फ्रेन्चाइझी पार्लरों के द्वारा अपना विकास करना चाहा| जुहु की आईस्क्रीम का टेस्ट जीस को अच्छा लगा होगा वह कस्टमर को वही क्वोलिटी, वही फ्लेवर्स, वही कोन-कप उन्हीं दामों पर अपने घर के करिब मिलेंगे तो वह खुशी-खुशी वहां जाएगा ऐसा कंपनी के मार्केटींग डीपार्टमेन्ट ने सोचा और मालिकों को भी यह सही लगा होगा | लेकिन उन में से काफी सारे पार्लर ठीक नहीं चल रहे हैं|
१) कुछ पार्लर गलत लोकेशन्स पर हैं, जहां कस्टमरों के लिए आना मुश्किल है|
२) पार्लर के कुछ फ्रेन्चाइझी अपनी लालच के वश में पैसा बचाने के चक्कर में कस्टमर को अच्छी सेवा-सुविधा देने से कतराते हैं| इन के मलाड-वेस्ट सब-वे के पास स्थित पार्लर में आप जायेंगे तो आप को ऐसा नकारात्मक अनुभव होगा|

लोगों को प्रोडक्ट या ब्रान्ड तो वही मिल रही है, लेकिन अनुभव वही नहीं हो रहा है|

सिर्फ चीज़ें या वस्तुएं ही नहीं बिकती, उनको बेचने का तरीका और कस्टमर का अनुभव भी उतना ही अहमियत रखता है|

अगर कोई ब्रान्ड सिर्फ पैसे देखकर किसी को भी अपना फ्रेन्चाइझी बना देगी और उस के नैतिक मूल्य ब्रान्ड की ईमेज से विपरीत होंगे, कस्टमर को अच्छा अनुभव नहीं होगा, तो अंत में वह फ्रेन्चाइझी भी निष्फलता प्राप्त करेगा और उस ब्रान्ड को भी उस फ्रेन्चाइझी की लालच की वजह से नुकसान ही होगा़…

It is not only the product or brand that sells

Only a strong brand is not enough to succeed. Along with “what” we are selling, “how” and “where” we are selling that also matters.

It is not only the product or brand that pulls the customers. Customer Experience counts.

If along with the product and its brand name the selling process is not transferred with the brand’s true spirit, all the franchisees of a product don’t get the same response because the customer experience is not duplicated everywhere. Here is an example.

Even though Juhu’s famous Ice Cream brand has its franchisee parlors at many places in Mumbai and elsewhere, only the flagship one at Juhu is always very crowded. Others are not so successful. Some are complete failures. Reasons?
1. Location plays a very important role. Some parlors are in very inconvenient locations, which people don’t like to frequent.
2. Service and Customer Experience are most important than the brand or the product itself. At their franchisee store in Malad-West, for example, customers don’t feel welcome. The franchisee owners are very greedy and the staff completely unprofessional, making a customer’s experience unsavory in contrast to the brand’s tasteful reputation.

It is not only the product or brand that sells. The process of selling and customer experience also affects sales equally.

Along with financial strength of a franchisee, their value system also must be examined. Otherwise their association will damage the brand’s image.

Marketing is telling believable stories

Some films succeed. Many others fail. Films are well-crafted stories. The films with stories which connect with a large number of people, succeed. The ones which tell a bad story or tell a story badly, fail.

Stories help us live a different life, even though temporarily. Seth Godin says marketing is creating and selling stories. Successful marketing means building successful stories.

Stories that connect with people.
Stories that let them live a different life, even though temporarily.
Stories that help people to lie to themselves.

In the absence of some other productive occupation, we love telling lies to ourselves. It is a distraction.  But a motivating one.

When a cream brand tells a girl that 4 out of 5 girls get softer skin after applying our cream, the girl dreams of being one of those 4. She goes and buys that cream.

Finally, after weeks of religious application of the cream with no significant improvements, the truth emerges and she lands among those 5th girls who did NOT get softer skin. This happens with 80% of the girls who buy that story of softer skin and get disappointed. By the time the futility of the promises and claims made by the company dawns upon a now-wiser girl, she gets hooked to another “New Improved” cream of yet another brand and buys another dream, believing and telling to herself the lie the brand’s advertisement said.

Thankfully for the older brand,  younger sister or cousin of this now-wiser girl grows up with dreams in her eyes and goes and buys that same cream with the dreams of softer skin.

This continues. Just like we sometimes watch the same movie or read the same book again and again even though we know everything about it, we keep buying the things we don’t need because of the lure of the story.

This is the success of marketing. Creating “New & Improved” stories and selling them.