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.

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 |

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.
Repeatedly.
Profitably.

What makes Radhakrishnan Pillai a bestselling author?

Radhakrishnan Pillai’s latest book Chanakya’s 7 Secrets of Leadership, has sold 10,000 copies in a month since its release in late January 2014, making it a bestseller. What makes him a bestselling author?

I have known and observed him since last few years. Here are my views on his well-deserved success.

He is authentic
Radha is intelligent and genuine along with being articulate. Amongst the current breed of Business Gurus where many fake and irritatingly dumb copy-pasters are masquerading as Business Gurus, Radha comes as a refreshingly fresh air.

He is focused
He has consistently focused on his studies of Chanakya and his teachings. He is not talking of anything else. Clear, unwavering focus.

He interprets and not simply translates
Radha has made it a mission to spread the learnings from Chanakya. He does not simply translate the verses, he simplifies them with his own insights, making the learning relevant to the contemporary times.

He writes to express, not impress
He uses facts and thoughts to express and does not resort to well rhyming words to impress his audience.

He is not out to build a personal brand
Many business writers write to add the word ‘Author’ on their visiting card. Radha is not driven by such purely commercial interests. He is not trying to lure some unsuspecting businessmen to get some consulting or executive coaching assignment through his writing work.

He is trying to propagate wisdom not encash it
Radha is a student of leadership wisdom of the ancient India. He is living a mission. He is driven by something larger than money can buy or valuers can evaluate.

He is not trying to sell anything
Radha does not write to sell his seminars or workshops. Neither is he bent on building a tribe where he will be worshipped as a demigod.

Radha, This is my tribute to your passion and mission. Keep doing the great work…

Bad execution can undo great strategic steps

A close look at why international pen brands fail in India shows how poor quality affects the famous brands adversely.

In a very bold strategic step, a well known Indian pen manufacturer brand bought the rights to manufacture and market a famous international pen brand in India. They also hired India’s biggest superstar as the brand ambassador. A very aggressive advertising campaign was unleashed to popularize the brand in India.

But, the venture failed miserably. The sales did not grow as expected. The world famous brand could not do well in India.
Why?

Assuming that the brand will sell on its reputation only, regardless of the quality, the license holders neglected the quality of the pen. It was very very inferior compared to the imported product. The buyers who knew the brand expected that same quality from India manufactured product, but it was way down the standards.

Gradually, the hype created by the brand died down. The same is happening with many other famous international pen brands.

All these European brands are realizing that if they sell their rights to the greedy, commercial minded organizations in India, it costs very dearly to the brand’s equity.

If you compromise on quality, even the biggest superstar can’t save it.

The product must match the promise of the packaging

Nandish had started a product manufacturing firm. He was very particular about the design of his office interiors. His visiting card, envelope, letterhead etc were perfect. He took a lot of pain to finalize on the logo and the signboard. His product catalog was shown as an excellent example of creativity and class.

Nandish gave the same instructions when his web site was being designed. He ensured to make it immaculate. It was truly world-class. He gave the same attention to the design of his advertisements or any communication. He also ensured that the packaging of his product was at par with the best in the world of their category of products.

“The images of our organization and our product must be immaculate,” he always said. Anybody who would see these collaterals, would build a grand image in their mind about the organization they represented.

But, all this perfection in communication and presentation did not result into the acceptance of his products in the marketplace.

All his brands looked good, but did not sell good.

The excellence in designs did not result into an enthusiastic response from the customers.

His business was bleeding. Finally, he sought advise to find out what was going wrong.

It turned out that all the visual and verbal communication that the brand was making raised the expectation from the product. The packaging was world-class, so it was expected to deliver all that the world-class products in its category did. The perfection of the web site was not reflected in the perfect quality of the product. The advertisement promised excellence, but the behavior and service of his employees was sloppy, far from excellent. Customers did not like the experience of working with them.

All this needed modification. The product has to match with the promise the packaging makes. The verbal excellence of the advertisement must reflect in the enthusiasm of the employees. The class of the web site must be experienced by the customers.

This discrepancy resembles the contradiction we see between the quote we see on a T-shirt and its mismatch with the one who wears it.

T-shirt quotes come in all types. Some cute, some weird, some funny, some arrogant. Most of the times, the quote does not match with the body (or brain  above) it covers. In rare cases, when it does, the quote speaks for the body and brain. And, vice versa. That is a superb combination.

All can easily find this conformity or the lack of it.

Anybody can buy a T-shirt with any grand slogan written on it. Anybody can get a world-class catalog, web site or packaging designed.

But, just as the emptiness of the head can’t be covered by a great quote on a T-shirt, the weakness in the brand can’t be concealed by a great design of packaging or communication.

A mismatched quote on a T-shirt can be ignored and smiled away, but similar mismatch between the product and its promise is generally not forgiven by the market.

Stink finds its way out. No matter how beautifully disguised.

Why films fail? Marketing lessons from Bollywood failures…

This is very basic observation. But it needs mention, because it has slipped the attention of many in the Bollywood.

A film, is an Audio-Visual story, an entertainment product. Now the basic function of a film as a product must be to tell a story through the effective use of Audio and Visual. On any one or all of these media, sometimes even the most aniticipated and hyped films fall short.

Inaudible Audio :

I recently saw Jab Tak Hai Jaan on SET MAX. A very good film, acted by my favorite, a veteran, Shah Rukh Khan and directed by the legend Yash Chopra. But, while watching the film, I came across 8-10 instances where the dialogs are either :

a) Delivered too fast OR

b) Spoken in very low volume voice (whispers), which are hardly audible

Invisible Video :

Some films, even though directed by great directors, have some scenes where there is a stark darkness on the screen, coupled with strange, inaudible audio, where audience has to struggle hard to make sense of what is going on. Ravan (2010) by Mani Ratnam is one such example which comes to my mind.

Ineffective Storytelling :

Many films, fail to tell the story in a coherent manner. I remember going to watch Khatta Meetha (Akshay Kumar) with a lot of hope to see something as good as the funny original Khatta Meetha. But here, the story was moving so erratically, with many illogical cuts and joints, that one felt it was complete waste of time.

The end result of such audio which is not audible, the video which is not visible and the story which does not hold our attention, the average person (and there are a lot of such people like me), feels disconnected from the film. Many such instances in the same film, and the disconnection results in irritation. This results in bad word of mouth. And the films don’t live up to the expectations or hype. Regardless of SRK, Akshay Kumar, Yash Chopra, Mani Ratnam or whatever or whoever.

One reason for such shortcomings could be that they as actors, directors or editors watch the film or scenes too many times. So, they don’t realize the problems which the person watching it for the first time may face. Technically perfect, marketed with a lot of style and noise, the Bollywood products fail because such simple ideas are missed even by veterans.

Marketing lesson : A product must deliver on the basic promises it makes. An audio visual story should have three basic elements delivered clearly : Audio, Visuals and Story. The Bollywood must remember that a lot of ordinary people like me go to watch their films. If they make their films understandable only by highly intelligent and smart people, they will get very few of them, because they are in only a small fraction and also sometimes Bollywood is beyond their taste… Typical Bollywood fans come to watch films for entertainment, not to tax their ears, eyes or brains.

 

Focus on your Halwa not the hype

While on a visit to Lonavala one cannot miss the multitude of shops announcing their brand of Chikki – a local sweet delicacy. One specific brand of Chikki’s name (let’s call it Famous Chikki) is visible across the tourist place. It is visible almost everywhere there, with more than 50 outlets selling Famous Chikki. On many signboards of Famous Chikki, it is mentioned as “World famous”. So, one may think that Famous Chikki must be the most selling Chikki in Lonavala.

A little investigation revealed that the top selling Chikki in Lonavala is the one which has a nondescript shop, tucked away in the interior of the town, away from the market place where a majority of tourists stay and hang out. This is the Original Chikki. Daily, this shop does a roaring business, selling many times more than the cumulative sales of those 50+ outlets of the ‘Famous’ brand.

Curious, I asked the owner of this bestselling Original Chikki. “Why you are not advertising your Chikki the way that other one does? You can do even better.” His answer was revealing : “Every town and village has a Halwai which is famous for his Halwa, Peda , Laddoo, Barfi or any such local delicacy. He becomes successful because of his product quality. Seeing his success, other wannabe look-alike Halwais spring up and make a lot of noise, touting to be The best in the world. Instead of focusing on the product, the Halwa, they focus on the hollow messages. In the end, the product fails to live up to the the promise created by the message and the hype. They lose steam on the way.  Still, the original, completely focused on his Halwa, remains the best and the bestselling, without making any unnecessary noise. To answer your question, I focus on my Chikki, not on the noise…. I don’t have to worry about sales.”

If our product is not good, any type of ideas or strategy or tactic or ‘BIG’ thinking or hype or ‘Branding’ (!!!) will not cut the ice. If you wish to be the best Halwai, focus on the Halwa, not on the hollow hype.

Marketing lesson from Salman Khan movies

Wanted, Dabangg, Ready and then Bodyguard. Salman Khan is THE star of Bollywood. Invincible.  Giving hits after hits. Why is nobody else able to match his winning streak?

As I understand, producers who are making films starring Salman Khan have identified a huge target customer segment unattended by many others. Other huge stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan are being cast into films which are ‘meaningful’ i.e. they have either some message or issue to talk about, or are based on some historical figure or event. These films make sense to only a part of the film-viewing audience – the people who are intelligent, are aware of or are concerned about  such issues. These intelligent people also have access to other modes of entertainment and films are not the only thing they spend their time or money on.

In contrast, Salman Khan movies can be watched keeping your brain aside. In fact, you may get a headache if you ‘think’ while watching them. Here, the traditional Indian hero comes alive, who can do anything. Nothing is impossible for him. And such fantasies are still in high demand in a very large audience base, who go to movies purely for entertainment, to run away from dark and unpleasant realities of life. They do not go to movies to think over some issue. They don’t wish to waste their scarce intelligence on a film. Also, they don’t have access to a wider range of entertainment options as others may have. So, they throng to cinemas, watch with awe and admiration Salman doing silliest things and clap and whistle on every cheesy line that he may speak. Everything that he does may be predictable and repetition from all his past films, but these people don’t mind all that. In fact, they relish it. Where the ‘meaningful’ cinema watcher will not be able to sit through the film for those 2.5-3 hours even if he gets a free ticket, these fans go to watch it multiple number of times buying their tickets.

Salman Khan gives aspirations to a huge number of Indians, who were earlier entertained by heroes like Mithun Chakraborty or Govinda. After them, this place was vacant. Salman Khan has occupied that slot just in time.

In the volume game where only numbers matter, target the customers who are large in numbers and are aspiring to move up in life. Make a product which suits their taste. It need not be a quality product. But remember, not all want quality. They will come and pay for watching somebody doing all things they dream to do but can’t do in life themselves.

Nobody may understand why, but it will sell like a hot cake. Just like Salman Khan films, not much brain is to be used in understanding this.