Indian Pigheaded League: When Brands become Stubborn

IPigLAs I write this post, the IPL 7 auctions are underway. The PR machinery of the franchise is working overtime to get people enthused and excited. From conversations around which player in which franchise to new kids on the block the twitter universe is abuzz.

There is no denying the fact that IPL perhaps has been one of the most popular leagues anywhere in the world. Cricketers of all cricket playing nations with or without test status would give an arm and leg to feature in the league and earn themselves a contract. A lot has been written about how the younger lot of cricketers yearn a chance to play the IPL over donning the national cap!

Someone once said that any publicity is good publicity. Brand IPL seems to live, breathe and propagate this credo. Seldom has a brand been so synonymous with controversies. One might opine that controversy is a design element of the product that IPL is.

What is surprising is that even aspersions on the quality of the core product viz T20 cricket have not come in the way. From match fixing to betting, physical assaults to sexual assaults the IPL seasons have witnessed a range of controversies.

Good or bad, right or wrong.  Let’s face it IPL is a commercial enterprise.   A vehicle for other brands to be seen and heard. The designed for Television IPL has seen a declining trend over the past 6 seasons as far its TV ratings are concerned, they are none the less significant.  The season six had almost Rs.800Crs riding on it as advertising revenues. That seems to be brand IPL’s reason for chugging along as well. It is for all practical purposes the Super Bowl equivalent of India. Brands plan for their IPL related spends and campaigns much in advance.  Those who are not associated or cannot afford the IPL keep their plans ready for reaching consumers outside of the IPL juggernaut during the 45 day spectacle.

A recent report put IPLs brand value in excess of $3Bn with a combined brand valuation of the franchises at over $400Mn. With the depleting central pool and the allied sponsorship/merchandising revenues, the question mark over the franchisees making money however continues. The brand valuations of the individual franchises seems to be the redeeming factor for the investors at the moment.

IPL 6 despite the fixing controversy still beamed into a whopping 129Mn households in India. Might perhaps is right. The might of brand IPL seems to be in its popularity or the numbers. Maybe Indians are so used to the typical masala pot-boiler entertainment format that they have made an allowance for all the negatives in the IPL format.

The question that is begging to be asked is whether brands can truly benefit from an association with a “property” that is so mired in the long run? Is there such a thing as a negative rub-off? After all, media planners and agencies do sell the positive rub-off from an association with integrated properties. Does the end really justify the means?

I guess the Indian consumer is an innocent forgiving lot. More often than not, they judge you for who you are and not who you are seen or associated with. That’s our culture perhaps, our mythology treats a Karna and Vibhishana with respect despite their association with evil.

We are accepting of the multiple shades of grey.

Meanwhile, IPL the brand and the brands that ride on it march on stubbornly into Season 7.


A Lot Like Love: Branding Your Way to your Consumers Wallet

The best way to a Consumers through his heart! Image

As marketers creating products and communication our biggest challenge is to resist an overload of the rational. Facts and figures as tempting as they seem seldom cut through. Moreover,in todays information age facts are available at the click of a button. So do we really need to be giving more?

Ideally, a brand-consumer interaction should evoke a positive emotion that gets nurtured over time facilitating decisions made by the consumer in favour of the brand. Most agencies argue in favour of an emotional communication and the brand managers are invariably guilty of pushing more fact than necessary. After all, powerful emotions need a powerful loop back to reality. Wrong!

It is true that emotions are invariably in response to a stimulus and that the extent or depth of consumer reaction is a function of the relevance. Brands attempt closure by communicating why the product is relevant to the consumer.  We all know brands are built over several campaigns. While the consumer is not out there connecting the dots, there is a residual impact that is lasting which is where emotions come in. A rational journey almost always requires a brushing up on the other hand we can restart an emotional journey after a pause,no matter how long!

Often, the obvious is so close to us that it escapes notice. Having set an emotional context,I guess the mistake that we make is that instead of building on the relevance of the emotion to consumer we bring in the product features.

One may argue that there’s only that much that can be achieved within 30seconds or 45 or 60 whatever the edit length is. Well, yes and no. Yes, there is a limited timeframe to pack in everything. No, it is not just a TV spot that serves as our communication, we live our life in a continuum, there are other avenues available to build the bridge from the emotional to the rational and from thereon to purchase. I have talked about this in a previous post even outside the digital world money spent on a “build” is better than a “repeat”.

As a consumer, if the emotion that you evoked was powerful enough, I will try to find out more, I will find that bridge between the emotional and the rational.

Time and effort are better spent sharpening the emotional side of the communication leading upto why that emotion is relevant to the consumer.The greatest dis-service a brand can do itself is to evoke that emotion and leave it un-nurtured. You might as well spend money on your competitors campaign!

So as a brand or as a product communicating in the emotional plane, I should have answers to the following questions which are indicative not exhaustive:
1) The Promise: What am I going to make you feel? Joyous, triumphant, wanted etc.
2) The Method: How am I going to do it? I am a tool, pride of ownership etc.
3) The Reason: Why should you believe me? Endorsement, Trust etc.
4) The Provocation: Why now is the best time? Opportunity, urgency of need, etc
5) The Exclusivity: Why nobody else will do the way I do? Understanding you, knowing you etc

A lot like love isn’t it?

And as food for further thought here’s a recent communication that caught my eye, how many of the above boxes do you think it would tick?

Brand New Resolutions

As we bid 2013 good-bye some of us revisiting resolutions made at the beginning of this year, some are looking for the little slip on which they wrote them down yet others are smirking wondering what this resolution fuss is all about.

Effective execution or not, resolution making is a seasonal conversation topic that rears its head every new year eve.

So here’s a brand take to resolution making. Stuff that yours truly as a marketer and consumer would like to see brands do or in some cases, not do.


Consumer Chairs
Every brand worth its salt keeps talking about how much time is spent with and understanding consumers. We conduct home visits, focus groups etc but for most organisations owing to whatever constraints this is sporadic. Brands in 2014 should commit to institutionalizing “Consumer Chairs”. Dedicate a day every month where your consumers are chairing your meetings.

Whether its one or ten is up to you but its about time brands co-opted consumers into their core teams. Processes tend to benefit immensely if consumer perspective is blended in and who better to get it from.

Youthful vs Frivolous
Don’t know why but most brands that want to target their communication to the youth insist on coming across with “attitude”. Invariably, this gets translated into either or all of these; Irreverance, High on innuendo, Slap-stick/wise-crack plots.  Brands need to be cautious of the long term.

While such communication can be entertaining it is seldom enduring.  One common thing amongst great brands has been longevity.

New Improved -Zapping’em with Science
The oldest trick in the book,done to death.  Every time there is a price move to be made, a pack size change or sluggish sales this seems to be the most accepted move.  Get a new pack-if possible or put a sticker, a new TV spot or a tag, push R&D for a new colour and a whacky acronym and say abracadabra! Brand managers for generations have resorted to this.  Would like to see an end to it especially the “micro-shine crystal” variety.

Brand Forums & Passion Groups
With evolved and connected consumers of today brands need what I call brand vectors. Forums & passion groups as brands like Harley Davidson have realised are an extremely potent brand tool. Members are in it for the passion and commit to your brand by extension and spread your message becoming brand vectors much like the anopheles mosquito!

Hugely recommend brands that can identify strongly with consumer passions to come forward. Time for brand epidemics!

Facebook Contests
For God’s sake please stop asking us to post pictures of ourselves doing things and “tagging” you. I am sure all of us could do with less intrusion!

So here’s wishing all a fabulous New Year!

Somewhere over the Rainbow: Principles for Finding the Pot of Gold in a Digital world

In a world full of choices the consumer remains elusive and is turning into somewhat of a recluse. Regardless of age, gender, geography, occupation, social strata the consumer is exercising his right to choose and consume content of his choice at a time of his determination.The promise of the present is “On Demand”.  Now given this situation any other message or communication apart from the content  that we as marketers want to deliver is a serious challenge.

The changing spend patterns of brands as far as the marketing investments are concerned indicate increasing outlays on
Digital media.

Hitherto our investments have been based on Reach x Frequency objectives for our Target Group. Digital media supported by the
growth of e-commerce however, has brought in an immense amount of measurability and brought to fore the “response function”.

The question we as should ask ourselves is whether using digital media is indeed a requirement or are we enamoured by the

Here are a few thoughts on what to look out for before making the decision.

Visible in the right context and environment
In their hurry to ride the digital wave marketers have been guilty of placing their brands in places and contexts.Given the deep engagement of the consumer with the medium, brands should avoid being intrusive and being seen outside of context.

Involving and interactive
Interactivity is not a given. While there are no absolutes in terms of wrong or right a “Pick the Right Grain” mobile game on the lines of Candy Crush might not be an idea worth investing. Brand managers need to be wary of falling into this trap.

Build on communication or messages from other media
The digital natives are a smarter race. They are more aware and tend to be put off by messages that do not give credit to their intelligence. Communication on the digital media should not be a “repeat” it should be a “build”. Take off from what I already know or have seen about you. Makes sense especially if digital is not the only media that your communication is riding. In recent memory Nokia is a good example of how different assets were created to complement each other.

Generate interest
Brands should endeavour to create curiosity around or with the communication. Interest groups are an increasing trend. People
are comfortable interacting with and engaging with “Familiar strangers”.  Strangers who seem familiar because they share the
same passions. Meri Maggi campaign is a good example of well executed digital campaign

Youthful in approach
Youth is mainstream for many contemporary brands more so on the internet. Youth is a demographic but youthfulness is a state of mind and needs to be embedded in any communication. Here’s an example of IBMs recent 5in5 communication it put up through its facebook page “People for a Smarter Planet”

Optimised across Assets
We are aware that most internet journeys begin with a search.Very often brands do not ensure that all their assets are visibly pointing in the same direction. Whether it is owned media, social or bought they must all be singing from the same page.

This is applicable in the real world also but even more so in the digital world.  While we plan for Facebook likes, trending hash-tags and positively biased conversations, it is critical for brands to keep their ears close to the ground. In the digital world nothing spreads faster than bad news. Brands have to learn to take feedback positively, to respond quickly when someone writes in, create memorable moments from miserable ones. Consumers are likely to repeat a brand that made good over trying a new brand.

Brands will need to objectively evaluate their personality, product, the message and tick the boxes on what are really notes to self compiled over time. Hope you find them useful.