No, we’re not missing Sirji… We’re happy Honey Bunny…

What an idea Sirji…. An idea can change your life.

That is what the campaign for Idea Cellular shouted for few years. Even though the concept of social awareness and the creativity of the campaign was excellent, the choice of Abhishek Bachchan as brand Idea’s ambassador was a blooper. Generally, the intention of brand associations and endorsements is to leverage a product/service brand based on the popularity of the celebrity or the associating brand. But, in case of Idea Cellular, it was the other way round…! For small B, who never really got any worthwhile success on his own, being the brand ambassador of Idea was the only bright spot on his lacklustre resume… So, it looked like Idea was endorsing a struggling actor, who had nothing much to his credit and who had a listless work-bio.

The recent spurt of new commercials from Idea (Hunny Bunny, Telephone Exchange and Aiyo Holi…) have won more visibility to the brand than the years of wisecracks mouthed by the Bollywood disaster, who never came out of his immature attempts to imitate his legendary father’s baritone. This failed attempts to imitate lends his voice an inauthenticity, because of the obvious lack of originality.

It has been proved much more convincingly, with ordinary people, that the message has more power than the messenger, and if the messenger is weak, it affects the credibility of the message. The departure of Bachchan from Idea campaign has lent a breeze of freshness to the stale, predictable, irritating communication.

I read in ET  (Brand Equity, dated 10 Apr 2013) that the persons in charge of brand positioning of Idea are still vouching for Abhishek Bachchan to come back. They say that it is the X-factor and will help to recharge the brand after a break. The question is which brand? Brand Idea or brand Abhishek Bachchan?

A brand loses if it associates itself with a loser. But, some sycophants in the media business, who act as gullible disciples of some Guru, really can’t see the obvious what anybody with ordinary commonsense can see. These people may be good at ideating, but they really miss out when it comes to understanding the process of communication and execution. The honchos are blind to the fact that succumbing to the over allegiance of some of your decision makers to the Bachchans  is costing heavily to the brand. A chacha fails to see that the bhatija has failed to come out of his father’s shadow, and it’s futile to waste money on failures.

Why should any self-respecting brand manager indulge into such wasteful exercise of associating a strong brand with a loser? There does not seem to be any rational or commercial reason behind this foolishness.

My suggestion to the team in charge of brand Idea Cellular: please wake up. An idea to get rid of AB Jr has helped your brand while at the same time saving you some money.The only weak part of the Idea campaign was the brand ambassador. Let an idea change your own mind forever now.

Meanwhile, I congratulate the creative souls behind Honey Bunny and Telephone Exchange. You are bigger than the small, artificial, irritatingly unconvincing Sirji and his stupid wisecracks….

Circus of Bollywood branding or mutual back-scratching?

Brands exist in the minds of people.

They are not found only in logos, advertisements,  promotion materials, displays, goods etc. These are just the reminders serving as a recall to the brand. So, sometimes, even if there is no tangible or credible product, service or person, a brand can be created, by carefully planting stories around it, in the minds of the attentive audience. As I had learnt in my brand management classs, James Bond is one such brand. So is a Spiderman or a Superman. For a brand called James Bond, there need not be a real James Bond. But, still, it can influence a lot of people and their aspirations.

Bollywood, in collusion with media, is excellent at creating such imaginary brands from nobody and from thin air. If you observe carefully, no movie, regardless of who the hero or heroine is, succeeds if the storyline sucks. So, other than the story, everything and everyone else is just incidental. Still, media creates superstars out of the actors. Now, any superstar, with all efforts at wooing the audience doesn’t succeed, if the target audience is not happy with the product, the story, the film. That is why we see a lot box-office failures of almost all superstars periodically.

But, media treats them as Gods. Why?

Because media needs beautiful people to fill its colorful pages. Images of ordinary people on Page 3 and reports about their birthday parties doesn’t attract readers. Instead, even the reports of a star’s dog’s birthday party attracts attention, if it has stars’ and superstars’ images.

Another reason the media needs the stars is to hold and grace its various awards function. Every TV channel or newspaper has some awards as part of its marketing gimmicks. Who will anchor and dance at these functions, you and me? And if we dare to do, who would watch it?

Third use of Bollywood brands is for product endorsements. If a star is visible, then only s(he) can be summoned to sell Clothes, Phones, Shoes, Jewellery, Soft drinks, Maggie, Coffee, Tea, Water, Water-purifier, Shampoo, Soap and Hair-oil,   Suits and Suitcases etc. etc.  Advertisements and commercials are bread, butter, cheese of the media. So, you have to create stars to fill up your advertising space and to star in TV commercials.

Welcome to the mutual back-scratchers’s club.

Bollowood branding is nothing but serving the mutual needs of the actors, media and advertising world. It is the fine art of creating brand icons out of NObodies. The longevity of these brands is as temporary as the artificial film-sets created for shooting. Hence, we see a lot of Bollywood brands fading away as rapidly as they emerged on the horizons. The stars are nothing but the imagination of the creative media.

The whole circus of Bollywood brands is the best example of media creativity.

Just like James Bond. It exists only in the minds.

Airtel, if your front-end is good, the back-end will be much better

The people in our company who interact with the customers can make or break a lot of things concerning our brand and organizational image. Whatever could be our strategy, planning and projections, if the people at the front desk mismanage customer experience, it all crumbles.

So, the way your receptionist treats your visitors, the tone with which the telephone operator greets a caller on phone, the manner in which your watchman behaves when a visitor comes in, the treatment that your counter sales person gives to a customer, the manner in which the waiter handles a guest at a restaurant – these are all the critical points where a lot of problems, disappointments, grievances and heart-burns to the customers occur. Most of the customers’ problems arise when they are treated badly by the front desk or the customer service people or call centre. If this starting point of trouble is taken care of, a lot of back-end work can be avoided.

This is more crucial for a service organization. I had a recent experience where a timely, sensible action could have saved a lot of headache and hardwork from back-end team at Airtel.

As is the case with many irresponsible and tired front-end people sitting on the customer-facing desks of many powerful service brands,  the employees at Airtel Relationship Centre (ARC) at Malad-West once more mishandled one name-transfer request from us. Their carelessness cost us 10 days of a disconnected phone, which could have been done in 48-hours, as promised by them.

Finally, Mahesh Narkar, a senior at Andheri office of Airtel handling transfers and customer verifications, took charge of the case and moved the things swiftly. If Airtel is a good brand, (which, as a customer I firmly believe it is), it is because of the people with strong initiative and customer focus like Mahesh Narkar.

But, Airtel can be much better, if the callousness at ARCs is reined in. A lot of unnecessary work for people like Mahesh will be saved only if the front-desk people take care of handling customers well.  A stitch in time can save a lot many in future…!