Jai Ho! Re-cycling Brand India


Recycling Brand IndiaThere’s something about nation and pride. You just need to light the spark and the forest fire will follow. There have been dozens of campaigns across the globe that have relied on stirring patriotism as an emotion. With no numbers to back me up at all I would venture out and say that Hollywood as an entity panders to it the most. I am pretty sure that I am not the only one who has wondered why a certain country is the choicest destination regardless of whether it’s an alien attack or a natural calamity. Just to set the context this is not a review of the Bollywood release either.

Coming back, this post is more to talk about two specific campaigns. 2014 is the year of general elections in India. Media, paid and earned has been flush for little over a year with a government sponsored campaign. Bold, considering the fact that a similar campaign in 2004 allegedly alienated the larger populace from a government that according to the poll pundits was all set to comeback.

The campaigns in question “Bharat Uday” or the India Shining campaign as it was called and the current “Bharat Nirman”. There were several films that were made for both campaigns I am showcasing two that will help make my point.

Have lessons been learnt from the past? Well the answer is yes if you think about whether communication pegs have been changed. The earlier 2004 campaign was considered “urban/middle class” in its approach, the current one attempts to be more inclusive (the politically correct word for populist).

Any brand communication should have its bearing right as far as its relevance to the consumer and the competitive context are concerned. An ill-timed or ill-directed communication can do more damage than good that could possibly come out of a campaign.

Either way, millions of dollars get spent in conceiving, producing and airing these campaigns. Many would argue that it is money that could well be spent for several deserving causes. This brings me to the question that I want to ask as a marketer.

“Does show-casing the effect by default communicate the cause?”

This is where I believe the communication has not really shifted or changed.  Both the campaigns tried to stake claim to the progress India was making as a nation. Both have tried to piggy ride Brand India.

Political brands need to be marketed akin to services and not as products. To put it at a very basic level, I could probably get away selling toothpaste showcasing shiny teeth but could I really sell a burger saying it shall rid you of hunger?

In a country where the have-nots outnumber the haves, wanting to use Brand India as a surrogate is always going to be a knife that cuts both ways.

It perhaps is not prudent to weave tales that showcase your neighbour’s prosperity. In this country it’s not my relative, it’s not my friend it’s about me.  If I have not “experienced” it then it is not true. The mood and sentiment is best communicated by a song from a recent release.

So as much as you want to be seen as the “do-gooder” with every communication that you put out, there is perhaps a larger set that attributes their lack of progress to you.

Problem is in a democracy, majority continues to count!

Happy Republic Day!!

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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.