The Sound of Music: KaChing!!

SoMKaChingRare would be the people who’d say they dislike music. That being said how many of this majority that loves music would be willing to make an “effort” either monetary or physical to acquire music.  We have been living in the age of digital music for almost a generation now.  The era of vinyl discs (gramophones), audio cassettes and compact discs is long gone. With that has also gone the tangible aspect of music.  Piracy has afflicted music industry for a while now. Somehow when it comes to copying, sharing and transferring music it is not a question of scruples.  There were days we’d get the music dubbed from one cassette to the other today we just transfer it from one memory stick to the other. One of the leading record labels in India started off distributing pirated content and illegal covers.  The readers of this post may belong to different generations but almost all would be guilty of acquiring music in, to mildly put it, not a legal way.  For most of us therefore music is “Free”.  Chris Anderson in his book by the same name goes on to define and describe various kinds of free. Piracy he says is an imposed form of free.

With this as a background, creating a music service and offering it to consumers is rather a brave effort especially in a country like India where ahem…scruples are a non-issue.  So have brands not made the effort to monetize music? Sure they have, snack sized music in terms of ringtones and CRBT (Call Ring Back Tunes) which has metamorphosed into a multi-crore industry. What about pure play music then? Yes there have been brands that have carried the torch for that as well. With that have emerged different business models for monetizing music as a service.  The Apple iTunes store did not launch in India perhaps for these very reasons.

Nokia altered its concept and delivery of music radically when it launched its music store and comes with music. There was an evolution in the way “free” music was delivered.  Initially, select devices that were positioned as music devices started coming pre-loaded generic content, then exclusive content etc. Eventually, the devices came with buffet style free unlimited music from the store.  The model was simple the brand paid and built it into the price of the tangible product i.e. the mobile phone.  The consumer was happy since they technically weren’t paying for the music and all you can eat was the smokescreen.  Of course charges for data were applicable, which meant data packs therefore a win-win for both the device manufacturers and the telecom service providers.

Then again there was the desi jugaad that had emerged with the proliferation of SD card enabled mobile phones.  Retail stores would sell memory cards and a service that was inbuilt was loading of content music, porn etc.  In this model though no one paid for the content, except perhaps the consumer when he desired to refresh the content.

Over the past seven to eight years though the landscape has changed as far as the devices and the telecom services are concerned. There are new players and new leaders today. Music however has continued to rule roost as far as showcased services are concerned.  Yes today in India music much like the west also has a visual connotation.  Bollywood has seized the opportunity that exists in mobile music rights are sold specifically and separately for mobile today. Airplays on radio and television are invariably accompanied by short-codes for ringtones and CRBT.

So if people are actually making money out of it and the consumer seems to think it’s free then some good has come out of it.

Truth is the concept of value is changing, money is not the single determinant of value anymore.  Record sales might not be the indicator of success today but YouTube views, ringtone downloads and store downloads sure are.

To close a modification on the law of conservation of energy but with a simple twist based on the TANSTAFL (There ain’t no such thing as free lunch) concept.  At the end of the day I am an Engineer with a Marketing degree!

“Value can be created but not destroyed, it can only be transformed from one form to another.”

D(h)oomsday Prediction: The ABC of Movie Franchises

I admit! I am a cinemaholic and just so that we are clear; no I am not about to turn this thing into a movie review blog.

The world of cinema is replete with lessons in marketing. God knows many a trainers have borrowed freely from cinema to add that zing to their otherwise tardy workshops.

Came across an interesting article recently that was talking about some of the most successful movie franchises and that set me thinking. What better to write about on the eve of one of the most awaited releases of the year Dhoom3.

The brand manager in me always has a tough time convincing the product manager in me about a lot many things in general but the hardest tussle invariably is with regard to making lead horses out of product “specifications” instead of a product features or more importantly a product benefit.

A very senior colleague who was the Sr.VP while I was just a wet behind the ears management trainee learning product management ropes always used to insist on receiving a “FAB (Feature-Advantage-Benefit) Chart” along with every New Product communication.

He drilled into me (and boy am I thankful for it!) that a good product communication should Attract Attention to the product features, Build Interest around the advantages over a competing product and most importantly Convey Benefits of the experience of using/consuming the product.

How is that relevant to this conversation? Well, thats a conversation that the marketers of the Dhoom “franchise” haven’t seem to have had.

The success of the first in the series Dhoom was credited to the slick production, a pacy cops and robbers caper with bikes, babes and attitude thrown in. The actors were incidental. The second time around it was a heist again, a new robber and more eye candy for both men and women. It’s here that the product specs (read Hrithik Roshan) drew A LOT of attention and have led us to the topic at hand.

To open my argument I shall contrast the movie franchise with the iPad evolution.

The Apple conversations have always been at the benefit level. The first iPad was a category creator and we have seen Steve Jobs explain passionately about how the Pad fit into this gap between the smartphone and the laptop! The iPad 2 got FaceTime into the equation and now the iPad Air. The specifications of the latest launch iPad Air…. A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor. 9.7inch display with 2048×1536 resolution at 264 pixels per inch 7.5mm thin, 469gms etc etc.
Ask any geek and they would say these are kick-ass. While the folks at Apple have never ever compromised on the tech specs they almost always use them as incidental to their communication.This has helped them keep the aspiration levels of the brand intact as the comparison if any, with competition or a predecessor product is never at this level.

All the buzz that has been created has been around Aamir Khan, the teasers concentrate on his look his part in the movie but fail to impress or generate any interest around the plot. Too much attention on the specifications. The followers of the series do not need to convinced about Aamir, what they need to be impressed about is how the plot has evolved and what they can expect when they walk into the cinema halls.

Sure there have been over 14.2Mn views on YouTube and theres a Dhoom 3 the game and that all the indicators are there for a rocking box office performance.The marketers at YRF have done their bit to get money in for Dhoom 3 but have they done a good job building Dhoom the brand and the franchise? I say no but then we’ll talk about that when and if there is a Dhoom 4.