Brand New Resolutions MMXVII


brandnewresolutions2017

Yeah yeah someone hasn’t really lived up to his resolution of at least one post a month on ABVS. The lack of posts notwithstanding there has been a steady increase in the people following ABVS on Facebook and Twitter. So let me end the year on a thank you note and propose the customary Brand New Resolutions for 2017.

1 Start | Thinking about the environmental costs of your operations

Yes! And all aspects of impact not just the in vogue concepts such as effluents and carbon footprint. Brands as organisations need to lead the change. The long hours, the long drives it all adds up doesn’t it. How about mandatory Work from Home for 20% of the staff every day? That would take 20% traffic off the streets on a daily basis across modes of transport. How about having no fixed no long hours days in a week? At least a day in every office where things close down on time. No ACs running while for four individuals in an office of four hundred! Sure the feared loss of productivity shall be more than made up.

2Stop | Tele-calling: More importantly violating DND!

This one goes out especially for the financial product brands. I don’t know of anyone who actually has benefitted from the unsolicited advice or has actually gone ahead and bought something as a resultant of such a call. Acquaintances in the know of the business though tell me otherwise. With all due respect there at least needs to be far lesser invasion of privacy. A relook at the frequency, Do-not-disturb etc. is sure warranted.

 

3More of | Brand Extensions that are Relevant

Was heart-warming to see Paper Boat introduce Chikki.

paperboat

Not too sure how successful the exercise has been. Several factors such as pricing and distribution etc. shall determine the fate but presume its early days yet and wish the product the success it deserves.

4

 

More of | Incentivizing Cashless Transactions

I know the Wallet companies have mastered the art of cash-back and discounts for consumers. It’s time now for the brands to give fillip to the dream of a less-cash economy if not a cash-less one. There is room for improvement and even some savings in the last mile of distribution if cash-less transactions are implemented.

5Less of | Random Celeb Endorsement

The shocker of Pierce Brosnan holding up a tin of Pan Masala in a full page ad is the example that comes to mind. panbahar

To the brands credit the category has for forever been trying to connect the habit of chewing pan masala to being classy even regal. Perhaps the Ashok Kumars, the Shammi Kapoors and more recently the Manoj Bajpais of the world were palatable. Getting Pierce Brosnan to endorse perhaps pushed the envelope a bit too far.

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Brand New Resolutions MMXVI


Hello!

Thank you all those who kept your faith in A Brand View Story…I am conscious that this blog lost its steam post April this year! Guess this is what happens if you back RaGa as a brand. Well…the real reason was that I got busy with the launch of my debut novel Eighteen The End Of Innocence. Incidentally though I started the morning with a troll on RaGa..so I am gonna give him a break and come back to Brand New Resolutions for 2016. We are gonna stick to my by now familiar format so here goes…

BrandNewResolutions2016
START

No1Sustainable Packaging. Made a train journey recently and trust me the sight along the railway tracks was not a pleasant one. Tonnes of branded litter just lying around. From PET bottles to bags of wafers there they were strewn across boldly displaying their brands. If plastic is bad for the environment and use of paper leads to cutting of trees isn’t it about time we had more environmentally sustainable options? I would pay a rupee more if I had to. Hoping we all would.

STOPNo2

Overcharging! This one is a plea more as a consumer. A lot many restaurants organized and stand alone alike take their customers for a ride when they present the bill. This overcharging is mainly done under the garb of taxation. Larger populace is ignorant or unaware with regard to the taxes that are applicable when they are dining out and succumb to this con. It is not appropriate to take names or paint the industry with a broad brush but it is  reality that a sizable number indulge in this malpractice. It would bode well for chains if they ensured their billing practices are in accordance with the law. Fortunately for them India is not a land where class action suits are filed else quite a few brands could potentially be caught on the wrong side of law.

No3MORE OF

Wearables!  We have seen a flurry of watches in 2015 on Android and iOS platforms and they certainly have piqued curiosity in many of us. Would like to see this go beyond watches during 2016 and within the watches space itself; more utility apps would be nice to see.

No4Non-cricket leagues! It was heartening to see brands support sport other than cricket. The Football league, Kabbadi league, Tennis league all survived another season. The fact that TV ratings saw an increase for Kabbadi and also for the  Football league (except on days when there was cricket featuring India) augurs well for both the future of the sport and the potential that exists for brands.

No5LESS OF

Meaningless Brand Associations with Bollywood movies. Believe that brands tend to risk their credibility when they associate with motion pictures. These associations more often than not are led by stars rather than any synergies between the content/story-line of the film itself. Brands would do better than to just chase good money behind their brand ambassadors bad professional choices.

Brand #RaGa Break-out


BrandRagaNobody seems to be sparing a thought for a man once touted to be the future Prime Minister of India. The past year (slightly more) have possibly formed a part of a nightmare that Indian National Congress Vice-President – Rahul Gandhi (and many around him) would be hoping ends soon.
If one were to put it simply the ABC’s of this trauma are his recent ABSENCE from the political scene, what is widely seen as his strategic BLUNDERhis interview with Arnab Goswami in the lead up to the General elections last year and getting caught CATNAPPING on camera a debate in the parliament.
Ever since Mr. Rahul Gandhi has become butt of all ridicule with fresh jokes viralling on social media almost on a daily basis. Come to think of it, haven’t been passed on the good old Santa-Banta jokes for some time now!
On a serious note, who hasn’t made mistakes in life? At a time when most articles, reports and posts across media are taking the poor man to the cleaners – here’s a post that says “Give the man a break!”
A Brand View Story proposes the following 9P’s for Brand #RaGa

  • Presence
    If their previous Prime Minister was hounded for being silent then #RaGa has been hounded for being absent! It’s not just his recent sabbatical that is in question. The opposition has often used terms like “tourist” to imply his part-time interest in politics.
    Therefore PRESENCE is an imperative if Brand #RaGa has to make a comeback. By this we don’t just mean physical presence but we mean skin in the game! His personal commitment shouldn’t ever be a matter of discussion.
  • Purge
    The Indian National Congress has often been found guilty of inaction against deadwood. It’s high time the congress eliminates in one fair swoop a host of people who are known liabilities and loose cannons. Yes, it will not go down well for a short while but the Congress will be better for it. If #RaGa wants to be seen as the boss he needs to act like one!
  • Promote
    This one needs to be viewed in conjunction with the previous P. The organisation definitely does not lack talent. What it perhaps has been missing is an open acknowledgement! The extreme focus on one ‘family’ has been the signature of the congress. Even today the replacement for #RaGa is his sister Priyanka. This needs to change. #RaGa needs to build and openly announce a ‘guiding coalition’. Yes democracy is needed in the long run and the congress needs to put up a transparent system in place for talent to bubble up.
  • Professionals and Professionalism
    Why should politics be the last refuge for scoundrels? Why can it not be a career choice for professionals? Why not corporatize? These are questions that have often been asked but seldom answered. Shouldn’t potential law makers and administrators themselves be aware of the laws or adept at management?
    This is an opportunity for #RaGa. If he needs to appeal to the aspiring youth of the nation he needs to operate like a corporate and it cannot be just limited to hiring agencies anymore. #RaGa office needs to be work on the lines of that of Bollywood stars; teams of salaried professionals. Gone are the days of the zarda chewing, diary jotting secretary! It’s time to get the economists, the market researchers, the marketing and finance guys etc. to manage different aspects of your brand.
    Sycophants and people with entitlement need to make way for people with qualifications and performance.
  • Positivity
    This is a tough P given the circumstances and needs to flow from #RaGa himself. As they say in Sanskrit “Manasa, vaacha, karamana” i.e. in thought, word and deed. Brand #RaGa needs a copious dose of positivity. Quick wins need to identified and they coupled with some of the other P’s should get things moving.
  • Preparation
    Malcom Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hour rule in his book Outliers. #RaGa himself and his team need to prepare like mad if they are to be seen as true contenders. Yes he has been around in the political arena for over 10 years. He should by now have mastered the ropes of politicking but the perception is still that of someone who is a novice. He comes across as someone who is under prepared, superficial. #RaGa needs to be ready with the stats and sources and needs to be comfortable with the subject of his speech. His speech on return from his holiday helped neither the cause of the farmers he purportedly stood for nor his own cause.
  • Plank & Promise
    In his much ridiculed interview with Arnab #RaGa mentioned his priorities over and over and over again regardless of what the question was.
    i. Changing a system that is “unfair” to people everyday
    ii. Empowering women
    iii. Democratization and decentralization of power
    iv. Right to information
    All noble causes to espouse yet he failed to impress the millions that watched glued to their screens.
    Brand #RaGa doesn’t need a new plank or promise. What is required is a visible, tangible action and delivery on the above. The opportunity to start is available right at home. Puppet organisations like NSUI and Youth Congress do not count. The changes have to be in the Big Boys League!
  • Propagate – Paint the Picture
    Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither can brand #RaGa be. The brand values of “Change”, “Empowerment” and “Transparency” need to be codified. People at large need to understand these terms from the perspective of Brand #RaGa.
  • Participation
    This is a connected world. Brands are conceived behind closed doors by a small group of individuals and decision makers however they evolve and breathed life into by millions who interact with it. Brand #RaGa needs to involve the people (few as they maybe) who have faith in it. Give them a stake in the brand. A lot can be learnt from the success of participative politics in India. An old congress war cry of “Swaraj” is now appropriated by someone else. Brand #RaGa needs to allow itself to break free from its manicured, protected image.

Those are A Brand View Story’s two cents. We hope we see Brand #RaGa adopt some of these P’s and rise up to the challenge. Old wine new bottle or re-branding or re-launch call it what you may but this tale is far from over.

As they say, time only will tell!

Brand Supernovas


Brand SupernovasHow many times have brands or companies simply be-dazzled you with their products, communication, pace of innovation, service delivery etc and then suddenly dropped off the planet?

Not often, but I bet most of us would come up with an example or two.

Got thinking on similar lines and tried racking my brains to come up with a list my own. Funny thing with lists though is that you want the number of items on it to reach a nice round figure. What I figured was; whatever number that you can get to without stretching the core thought is probably the right number to have on the list. I am sure you nodded your head to that one.

Before I started writing this post I looked up the term “Supernova” in the dictionary

su·per·no·va (so͞o′pər-nō′və)

A rare celestial phenomenon involving the explosion of a star and resulting in an extremely bright, short-lived object that emits vast amounts of energy. Depending on the type of supernova, the explosion may completely destroy the star, or the stellar core may survive to become a neutron star.

I have for the purpose of this post highlighted what I believe are the operative parts.

Before I go on to cite examples let me establish the basic premise which is, a successful brand is the coming together of a great product or service and communication that resonates with the consumer leading to a distinctive identity, a marked preference and a position of leadership. Now, that’s an elevator pitch definition of brand success that covers most if not all bases.

Now brands fade for a variety of reasons and hundreds go into oblivion every day. Mostly because they didn’t deliver on the promise that they made. Reasons could be they stopped being relevant or they got complacent or they were poorly managed etc. The very opposite at one time or the other must have got them to the top. It is however important to make a distinction between brand supernovas and brand fads.

Brand supernovas are the ones that seemed to have got it right. Well atleast for a while.

Now for the examples. Here are brands that shot up high and lit up the horizon while they were at it. Almost all these brands had a great product/service idea that went down extremely well with consumers, customers and investors. Not all of them spent big bucks on advertising and communication but they sure captured more than a fair share of imagination – to the extent that nobody imagined them going bust.

Napster_LogoNapster: A pioneer in more ways than one. Based on a brilliant insight and a sound technology Napster shot to fame towards the end of the last millennium. It is said that Napster at its peak had over 80Mn registered users, a number to die for even in today’s socially hyper-connected world. Legal troubles signaled the beginning of the end. While the brand attempted a comeback, the magic didn’t simply happen. What Napster did was permanently alter how record labels perceived and carried out their business.

 IridiumEverywhereLogoIridium: You had seen this kind of stuff only in James Bond movies before and these folks made it happen for real. Well almost! This service and technology was not only introduced ahead of its time but also prematurely. The “Everywhere” promise the brand made could not be delivered effectively for the lack of satellite arrangements. An out of the world investment (pun intended) in putting all those satellites meant an extremely highly priced service to the end users but more than that the fact that it didn’t work as promised took the wind out of Iridiums sails. They had to close shop but not before they had captured the world’s attention and imagination.

Kingfisher_AirlinesKingfisher Airlines: An example from closer home. Their acquisition of Air Deccan established them as one of the leaders of the airlines industry in India. Their promise of a “good time” had people queuing up. The Branson’esque flamboyance of the owner helped the airline get more than its fair share of attention. They took a leaf out of PanAm by leading an explicit but unstated promise of stewardesses who were good enough to walk the ramp as models. The airline eventually was grounded as it ran up debts way beyond its ability to pay. The Kingfisher wasn’t flying anymore! It can be argued that the entire fiasco did not have a positive impact on the original brand of beer by the same name and on the holding company.

Coming back, the three brands did have a great product/service that gave them a distinct identity and a position of leadership. However, mismanagement in some form or the other led to the brands fading away but not before they had lit up the sky!

Branded Nation: Are We Unwittingly Walking Into A Brand-trap?


BrandedNation

In the aftermath of the 2014 elections, the Congress kept mentioning that it got blown away by BJP’s marketing blitzkrieg. It should not have come as a surprise to the Congress party though, since the direction of BJP’s strategic thinking was more or less set during A.B. Vajpayee’s tenure as the PM.

The failure of the India shining campaign made the Congress complacent and the BJP resilient. During the ten years they were away from power the BJP practiced and perfected the craft. Finally mounting the attack with its most potent weapon! The sustained digital presence that started with veteran leader L.K. Advani, the share of mind/conversation and something all marketers swear by – on-ground connect; all proved to be gold.

No doubt it has worked for BJP the political party and catapulted it into government. The think-tank reckons it might just work for the government as well.

A government publicizing its schemes and initiatives is nothing new. The Modi government in under an year has kicked off and launched several such schemes and initiatives with much fanfare.

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A marked change from earlier has been the ‘Go to Market’. Each one of the initiatives has been supported with a well thought communication plan and activations. Whether it is the Swatch Bharat Abhiyan, the Make in India or the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna every element that could have been branded has been. There has also been a flurry of war cries, rallying cries and punch lines such “Minimum Government and Maximum Governance”, “No Red Tape, Only Red Carpet” etc.

The government needs to tread carefully in order not to fall into its own ‘Brand-trap’.

India as a nation has traditionally been a reluctant marketer and this new aggressive approach has been and should be accorded a cautious welcome both from within and from outside the country. After all, if one of the world’s largest markets has to get its rightful share of the investment pie the helmsmen need to do whatever it takes to catch the world’s eye. Having said that, as with any other product or service the product experience has to back the claim.

All marketing has an element of hyperbole in it. It is for the marketers to ensure that the product lives up to the promises that are made. Regardless of who and where ‘dissonance’ is a concept that all marketers need to be wary of. Few would disagree that in the current context brands, though created by marketers are ‘co-managed’ by the consumers. Therefore, while it is good to see the slick marketing plans for initiatives, it is also important to ensure that the surrounding ‘buzz’ and the ‘conversations’ about need to be managed better and need to have a positive ‘slant’.

As someone once said “A hen lays an egg and cackles, the catfish lays a million without making a sound. We all know whose eggs we eat!”

The Importance of Being Earnest


EarnestAAP

A promise to my readers and to myself, this will be last of my posts that have a reference to AAP (Aam Aadmi Party). I shall be honest here, the poll results and AAPs performance in the Delhi Elections was certainly mind blowing.

The biggest message that I drew out of the results was “It is indeed OK to make a mistake” the Ryder being “You must have learnt from it”.

Not many of us, yours truly included forgive mistakes that easy. The school of thought being “You got your chance, you blew it too bad! Now get back at the end of the line!!” It means that chances are not supposed to come easy. Doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have the required capability or talent to do what was expected; it means you need to prove yourself again. The thought itself perhaps is something that is inherited as a legacy of growing up in an environment where the have nots far exceed the haves. While few are born into the haves, the others have to rise up through the heap of potential “havers”.

So what is it that AAP really did?

The pollsters will analyse the stats to death but here is the ABVS take. Yours truly believes what AAP really did is read the situation and understand their payoffs well. With the all-round decimation of the Congress, Delhi was slated to be a head on fight between AAP and the BJP. The background to the elections being the resounding win of the BJP in the national and state elections leading upto the Delhi elections and the AAPs poor showing in the National Elections.

AAPkaGraph

Now for the strategic choices each had and a normal understanding of the payoffs assuming that both parties were pursuing self-interest (err why assume they are a bunch of politicians aren’t they?) and were aware of the choices the other was making.

BJP-AAPkaPayOffThe mathematics of Delhi’s 2013 result had almost ensured there would be a re-election. The media houses and research agencies kept their game up with the opinion polls in the run up. Most giving the BJP the edge in a tough fight.

The AAP really had the choice of being unrepentant and continuing their sting and dharna brand of politics or be apologetic about the 49 day fiasco and underline their passion for bringing a different narrative to the political context.

The BJP had the choice of being belligerent following all the electoral success under M/S Modi & Shah or to stay with the development for all plank they had chosen during the national elections. They chose the former and said “What India Wants, Delhi Wants”.

If one were to summarise the various opinion polls the payoff’s going into the Delhi elections in 2015 were as in the payoff matrix above.

To be fair to BJP, given the payoffs they went for maximum. They started off with an advantage that they hoped to maximize on. However, contrary to their expectations as the BJP upped its belligerence the tide started turning the AAP way.  While BJP estimated and assessed their own and their key opponents strength, they underestimated how weak Congress had become. Strange given their vision of an India sans Congress or as the BJP says it “Congress mukt Bharat”.

The AAP on the other hand remained true to their we got it wrong the first time around but trust us we have a plan to get it right this time pitch as they neared the election. Eventually resulting in a landslide verdict in their favour, a whopping 67 seats in a 70 seat assembly. The reward for being earnest!

Brand of Humour


Brand of Humour

There has been a lot of talk in recent times about humour and the boundaries within which it needs to operate, assuming that we accept that boundaries need to exist. Wit, mockery, satire, slapstick, light hearted, playful, banter, provocative, insulting, shocking there is a host of sub genres that can be found if you start peeling the layers.
Brands have, for as long as advertising and communication have existed, relied on humour to get their message across. Of course, with varying degree of success. We have in a previous post discussed that communication with an emotional appeal tends to fare better. Humour in that sense is a more broad based emotion than love (of any kind). Hence, has been used for a broader set of products & brands.
So is success guaranteed if the communication has humour? Does success of communication necessarily translate into sales or business success?
With all due credit to the various studies that have been carried out don’t seem to provide any conclusive evidence. Therefore, No and Can’t Say, would be the most honest responses to the questions above. How then do we assess or plan for it? In some form or the other the answer would lie on a graph with relevance and recall as the axes.
While the above would give an indication of the effectiveness the aspect that relative control may be exercised is relevance. The down side. It is subjective. The extent of humour, the subject, the delivery all are but a judgement call made by a select few that run the brand. There are several different ways in which humour can be used:


Positioning the brand as one with a light hearted view of the world. Humour and playfulness therefore becomes a key element of the brand’s personality.

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Presentation: This may be a campaign specific choice where in a brand opts for humour as a means of delivering a message. Relevance would again be something to watch out for. Some brands are able to hit the nail on the consistently, some struggle, whilst others just do not get it!

Association: Depending upon who the brand’s audience is, a brand may choose to associate with properties that are humour based. Again, as with any other association relevance and fit with the overall brand is important.

Given the myriad media choices available and the fact that in this day and age consumers are a part of the brand definition humour is a tight rope to walk too. Brands that choose this path have to walk to a consistent rhythm and in a social 24×7 context live upto the personality especially brands interacting on a constant basis in the sociosphere.
The good part is the sociosphere offers feedback as a brand you can gauge whether you are flat or tickling rib or stirring intellect.
While new highs are being achieved with regard to what can be said or done in the name of humour there are new lows that are being set too, Charlie Hebdo and the AIB Knockout closer home are cases in point where humour did not go down well with some. It doesn’t need to either. Needless to say any freedom needs to be exercised responsibly.

Brand New Resolutions MMXV


BrandNewResolutionsMMXV

It’s that time of the year again and A Brand View Story is back after a break! A break meant some time to think and what better to think about than how the next year should be from the perspective of brands.

So here are 5 Resolutions for 2015….

Start using “Radio” more effectivelyNo1

First up a disclaimer, I hold no brief for the industry. What I write simply comes from the understanding; however little, gained by virtue of being a part of the industry.  I believe that brands have tended to overlook the benefits that radio as a medium affords them.

The reasons for the brand apathy perhaps are not as much related to the lack of understanding of the benefits but to the lack of measurability.  Apart from the commercial broadcast service of the AIR, there are over 200 FM stations across 89 cities and towns today.  The estimated listenership at or over 300Mn is certainly higher than newspapers as medium in terms of penetration. Sadly though, from a measurement perspective listenership data is tracked only in four cities by RAM.  The other source of listenership data the IRS is too little to go by.  Given this lack of measurability brands and agencies both are reluctant to plan better campaigns on Radio.

To justify spends and existence Radio stations are in today’s context de facto activation agencies.

With the Phase III of FM set to take FM radio to 300 towns the time is ripe for brands to relook their media strategies.  It also is high time the industry came together and invested in a better, more robust and representative measurement system. With the C&S explosion, the ad-spends on Radio moved towards the lesser/niche channels that were available for a bargain and lately Digital is the blue-eyed boy.

The Prime Minister of the country has already made the medium his own with his “Mann ki Baat”. Question is, are the brands alive to this low hanging fruit in the media-scape?

Stop “SELFIE” campaignsNo2

I for one have had enough of brands using the “selfie” phenomenon. I have in a previous post titled “SELFIE Obsession” aired views on this. Just like other fads it’s time to bid this one goodbye.

No3Stop confusing “INVOLVEMENT” with “ENGAGEMENT”

I don’t mean to split hair here. These are adjacent words and I am aware that context defines their use. It is a fine line and as marketing professionals we have got to understand the difference between consumer Involvement and consumer engagement.   I am sure we are in agreement that we have had enough euphoria around campaign activations and saying wow. The difference between the two terms essentially lies in the degree.

The basis of activations is for brands to have a “conversation” with the consumer affording them an opportunity to “engage” with the brand.  The passerby, the bystander and the participant are different entities.  The smart(er) brands are looking beyond the numbers, looking for patterns leading up to consumer participation.

Patterns do not emerge if you look at the data only when you need it; they only emerge if you are constantly looking at it.  In a manner of speaking, analysts need to be like alchemists.  They need to keep mixing stuff with the singular belief that they will produce gold!

More of “Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan”No4

Sincerely believe in this one.  If all the brands and corporate house pledged their CSR budgets towards this movement we can make a visible difference.  SBA is not a one-time thing it has to be a constant endeavor.

There was a very poignant scene in Sir Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi wherein the Salt Satyagrah is depicted.  The undeterred peaceful protestors keep coming at the British to face their assault.  That’s the kind of perseverance the Swatchh Bharat Abhiyaan requires.  We have to shame those who litter into mending their ways.

It’s not just the government alone who will need to keep at it.  Individuals and organisations need to adopt blocks, localities, towns etc and guard (read keep them clean) zealously.  The government should consider offering exclusive branding rights to corporates for zones that they maintain.

Charity as they say begins at home and this is as much a note to self.

Less of Cricket (T20) sponsorshipsNo5

Again this is one that has been done to death.  Especially the T20 variety.  Brands have put money on any cricket that has come their way.  From Celebrity Cricket Leagues to Gully Cricket Leagues all are attracting marketing spends with questionable returns.  Planners and bean counters would well be advised to look at options in 1 & 4 above.

Those were my two cents. Here is wishing all a very prosperous 2015!