Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mass Market? What Mass Market?

McDonald’s, perhaps what we would call the ultimate [popular] mass brand, used to spend two-thirds of its U.S. advertising budget on television. Last year, it cut television spends down to one-third of its budget.

In 2003, Coke President Steven J Heyer announced that it was moving away from television as the ‘main anchor medium’ to more ‘experience based, access driven marketing’.

Even P & G is globally becoming very picky when it comes to mass channel advertising, and is targeting its consumers more finely.

India is different… Or is it?

What do the changing global consumer habits mean for us in India? Well with due apologies to Rudyard Kipling – east is no longer east, and west is no longer west, because technology is fast making the twain meet. And even in India ‘buying big’ has to make way for ‘buying smart’.

Media buyers who spend big bucks on mass channels are more often than not wasting money. And that’s also because most result-pressured marketers demand reach and efficiencies which look good on paper.

The fact is you don’t need a sledgehammer to swat a fly. And the sooner we operate keeping that in mind, the better off will we all be.

The fact is consumers are no longer predictable, reading the morning newspaper at work, and sitting in front of their television sets at prime time, waiting to consume your ‘bloodily negotiated deals’, and bonus spots. Today, they consume information and entertainment in more ways than the average media planner can imagine.

Catching them young

If we are becoming a predominantly youth filled country, our forty plus media bosses definitely need to think young.

The internet itself – an obsession with this youthful India - has various diversions and media opportunities – from your browser, to instant messenger windows, download accelerators, to search engines… the list is exhaustive.

Then there is the latent potential of hidden persuaders like web-logs and chat rooms. And of course events and ideas like the traditional web-casts and fresh-off-the-left-brain podcasts which make web content portable and consumer focused like never before.

Advertising savvy, or sloppy?

Not surprisingly, traditional advertising agencies are feeling the heat from clients. Few have the ability to spot new age trends, until they have passed them by! Because quite simply many advertising agencies are still using tools and techniques devised by their grandfathers, and research methodology that tracks what is, not what will be or what can be.

I remember, when trying to get the budget of a TVC approved by a client, he got hassled and said “don’t try to sell me an ad. I have a series of problems here – pricing, distribution, negative word of mouth, you name it. And all you can think of is a TVC!?? - I wish you people came up with 360 degree solutions, instead of using up all my money to shoot abroad!”

We cribbed and went back, only to return with some POS items, a DM and an event theme as “solutions to his over-whelming problems!” The project needless to say, never got off the ground!

Commissioning Change

The fact is, most advertising agencies in India are not easily adapting to the new India. And this has nothing to do with technology - but everything to do with ‘mindsets’, and something to do with budgets!

Advertising agencies have accept that the new consumer is not easy as a ‘two or three media components budget’. They have to be willing to take the risk of trying something new and untested in our country. They have to be willing to take a lesser commission or no commission to help Clients adopt these new ideas.

Because if you don’t take the lead, someone else surely will. And in the long run, they’ll be reaping a mass of profits.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The 1st "B" of Marketing

The 4 Ps of Marketing now have a companion - B for Blogs - the next big thing for Marketers worldwide.

Blogs [Web Logs] as per their original definition and intent are simply rants and raves of regular people, published online at the click of a button.

For Bloggers there are no censors, no major payments, and no hassles to deal with. All you need is access to the internet!

Blogs are flooding the internet at the rate of approximately 80,000 new Blogs being added every day, with about 1.3 million new posts being published in the same period worldwide.

Estimates suggest that US workforce alone will spend the equivalent of 551,000 man years readiBlogsogs in the year 2005 [hours a day multiplied by number of readers].

In the sub continent, conservative estimates put the number of Indian Bloggers to be approximately 100,000 with students and under 30s contributing a large part to this number.

For Marketers worldwide, Blogs are a great place to absorb consumer mood and opinion, a great medium to advertise, and are also a great way to make public your own [brand or company] opinion in a very informal, interactive manner.

The key thing to remember here is that the popularity or power of Bloggers depends on the reputation of Blogger or the credibility and likeability the man or woman who publishes BlogBlog.

Good Bloggers become mini celebrities in their own right, with loyal readers or other Bloggers who form a virtual group of their own - complimenting or cursing everything from products, services, schools of thought, systems, societies, governments, people, celebrities - you name it, they have an opinion on it.

The public opinion generated by Bloggers has influenced companies to recall products, governments to change laws, even get top executives to quit their jobs!

So if you are a marketer always saying consumer is king, log into the Blogosphere. You'll be surprised what consumers think of you, your product category, and life in general. Also get professional help, and if you like publish your own Blog! You will be amazed with what it can do for you!

Some Blogs I like [To find out why they're great marketing opportunities, write to me]:

Cre8ive Ignition
Small Agency Diary

Saturday, December 03, 2005

So, How you doin' ?!

It's perhaps one of the most redundant question we're asked every day... wherein the person who asks will perhaps get surprised, if you answer the question - truthfully, that is!

My question is, how many of us actually ask ourselves this question? And how many of us can actually answer ourselves truthfully?

Highs, Lows, Delights, Frustrations, Loves, Lusts, Hates, Truths, Untruths... they all add up to, or subtract from your balance sheet of life, defining your current state of mind and the way you approach the future.

The above also defines the way you will interact with people you come across in your life every day. And it will define their perception of you - at work and at play.

The fact is, who you are and what you do - in other words, "your reality" is entirely in your hands to nourish, nurture and project.

The first step of course is an unbiased self assessment - and if that's tough, talk to people who you trust - to be honest.

Does this sound strange to you, doing a 'personality' or 'life' audit? Why?? Don't we do it all the time at work? Don't we ask questions about our Company and our Brands? Don't we use this knowledge to our advantage - building on the positives, and working on the negatives?

We're no different. We are Brands ourselves. And if we look at ourselves objectively, life ahead will be much simpler. We'll not only be able to add value to our own existence by exploiting our positives, and filling in our need gaps, we'll also find great joy and satisfaction in adding value to the lives of those around us.

To tell you how seriously I take this, check out an audit of my own life. Courtesy of the internet of course!!

This Is My Life, Rated
Take the Rate My Life Quiz

Friday, December 02, 2005

Hare Today, Turtle Tomorrow?

No you haven't read this story of the Hare and the Tortoise before. No it's not the 'new management school' version you've also read. This is my take on Mr. Hare & Mr. Tortoise [no male chauvinism intended, I assure you!].

But before I begin let me point out that we all know about the original author Aesop. But who is the author of the 'new' version? When I first saw it, it was attributed to a Professor in some American sounding University. When the dazzle of the first read died down, I did a
Google search of both the Prof and the University - and surprise, surprise, neither showed up!!

Then as I searched afresh with keywords of the story, dozens of results turned up with the story published on many sites - from schools, colleges, HR consultants, including a variation of the story from Kerala!. Read some examples here or here.

Now, times as they are, unless someone points me to the original authors, I will think the original story was outsourced from India, and the author or authors will remain anonymous!

Now for my story:

The Hare and The Tortoise - The Reality Series!

We are all awestruck by the simplicity of “Fast and Consistent versus Slow and Steady” and the way two little animals can show us how to run large corporations!

But is it all so simple? Let's stargaze a bit...
Having practised all the variations and versions of the race, The Hare and the Tortoise decided to turn it into a profession, and make money out of it!

They set up “The Great Hare & Tortoise Company”

On the first day in their new company, both Directors landed up at the starting line eager as beavers to race.

“Now relax and watch me fly at my Fast and Consistent best” said one.

“Hey! I am Fast and Consistent, I go first!” corrected the other “You are Slow and Steady…”

Cries of “No I am!” and “No I am!!” filled the morning as the two argued about who was whom. And the race was abandoned.

New Learning One: Speed, Consistency, and other such values are subjective. One man’s Hare, is another man’s Tortoise – and vice versa.
New Learning Two: Being in power, often makes you forget who you are, and what you are actually capable of doing!
New Learning Three: Two or more people cannot be expected to do the same job. Focus is lost, and chaos is found.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Now, being good corporate citizens, the two decided to do market research to find out "who they really were."
These are the reactions they got from consumers:

Consumer One: "You are neither Hare nor Tortoise. You are a Hyena – Others do the running and killing after which you stand around and pretend that you were “Fast and Consistent”.
Consumer Two: "You are a Lazy Cow – You lie around all day chewing the cud, while your mental shell leaves you unmoved to the happenings around you. Therefore others think you are “Slow and Steady"
Consumer Three: "You are a Mountain Goat – You keep banging your head into others, until they agree with whatever you say you are."

New Learning Four: Not everyone or everything is what it seems.
New Learning Five: Scratch below the surface of labels, and look for results – irrespective of whether done fast or slow. Results are remembered, not styles.
But that is not the end of the story.

Hearing all the commotion in the Jungle, a Lion landed up at the meeting.
The noise had disturbed the Lion, and the debate sounded very silly to him.

So with a mighty roar, the Lion ate up the Hare, the Tortoise, all those present. And he took over the Company.

Moral of the Story:

Winning is not about speed, consistency or a combination of the two – it’s about Leadership with vision, ability and passion.
Every race will have its Hares and Tortoises. A good leader recognises them and uses them to his and the company’s benefit.

Youth v/s Experience - What gets the creative juices flowing?

There was an interesting debate in the Times of India sometime back, about whether creativity flourishes best during youth, or with experience?

The Times View was that genius thrives at an advanced age, with examples of how Isaac Newton, Da Vinci, Beethoven and Archimedes were all over forty years old when their ‘Eureka moment’ happened.

But in a counter view by Himani Dalmia, she put forth the fact that Einstein, Picasso and Mozart were toddlers in comparison when hitting the ‘Big E’ moment. She supported the theory with facts like kids use 80% of their creative potential at age 5, but this drops to 2% [which is also the average usage of an adult brain] by age 12!

You want to know what I think? And how this debate relates to advertising agencies in India? Read about it here >>

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Twisted Cue

Another book review? Yep! Prompted by a literary discussion I attended yesterday at India Habitat Centre where Roshan Seth, Sabina Mehta Jaitly, Partha Chatterjee and Dr. Vijay Sharma discussed A Twisted Cue by Rohit Handa [Published by Ravi Dayal].

Unlike most fiction novels which I finish in about 4-5 days, I took over a month to finish this book. I had what you call in automotive language "starting trouble" and I was tempted to leave the book unfinished, when it suddenly occured to me this is no ordinary fiction novel to cruise through.

It was rather a docu-philosophy-biography of the lives and times before I was born [1968]. It was literature as Roshan Seth put it aptly "thick like condensed milk".

While most of the people at this discussion empathised with the narrative, for me it was an eye opener to the people and days of my father's times - including the much misunderstood Anglos in particular!

It gave me an interesting perspective to the thinking of all the parties involved in the Indo-Pak conflict way back then - from the Indian political parties, to the Americans, the British and the soldiers facing each other in the bunkers on both sides of the LoC.

Plus if you scratch below the surface, you will come up with an analysis of the reasons behind the apathy that envelopes Indians in general, putting into perspective a lot of what's happening in our society today.

I liked the book. Check it out... but be prepared to spend a lot of "open mind" time on it!

Dive into something new!

People ask me what I'm doing nowadays... since I left my job as country head of creative, in an advertising agency. Well the answer is "I'm swimming in a Blue Ocean"! I am creating communication products and services no one else offers today.

A major influence in this career shift has been this amazing book "Blue Ocean Strategy" by W Chan Kim and Renee' Mauborgne, published by Harvard Business School Press.

In a fascinating read, Kim and Mauborgne encourage us to go beyond bloody red oceans of existing markets, to create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant.

While the authors agree the thinking is not new, they stake claim to the evocative new marketing term "Blue Ocean Strategy".

The book doesn't just hypothesize, but illustrates examples that have worked across categories - from watches, computers, and even a circus! And it is a great DIY guide for those "madventurous" enough to explore Blue Oceans :)

Thought I'd share info about this book with you.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Digital Road Rage

You think it, you write it. You like it, you announce it. You don’t like it, you trash it. And with the worldwide web on your side, the whole world can see it.

In times where world-wide audiences are available at the press of a computer button, are we putting our minds where our mouth is?

I’m speaking of off-the-cuff posts in blogs and even regular websites all over the world, where spontaneity holds sway over sensibility.

While conventional publishing puts the responsibility of putting presumably well thought out news and views in a few hands, publishing on the worldwide web is open source. Yours to do as you please.

Quite like driving on Delhi’s roads, where rules are damned, and decency is trashed. If you don’t like the way someone drives, you show him the finger. You don’t like his reaction to your finger, show him the hospital.

Many bloggers seem to be driving the same path – armed with what I call Digital Road Rage. Surf around you, and you’ll find more rants than raves and more angst than thanks.

Get personal, get unprofessional, and even hack away at your opponent in some cases. “All’s fair in blogs at war” seems to be the mantra. With no apologies due when my karma runs over your dogma.

My two bits of advice [three actually], learnt from navigating the streets of Delhi:

> Fight the rage, nurture the raves. Whether you’re a large organization or an individual, think before you upload. What you say, is going to drive the perception of you – positive or negative.

> The world is watching, and it has the same weapons as you do, maybe with more time and more friends.

> There’s nothing sillier, or uglier than two people battling it out in public – on the road, or on the internet.

Now I’d like to end by saying “thank you for reading my Blog all you nice people. Have a nice day!”

Friday, October 28, 2005

Rantin' n Raving All Night Long!

So what’s blogging all about?? Simply put, it’s all your rants and all your raves, published online for the world to see (or so you imagine!).

I remember a time when I crafted and re-crafted my thoughts and words a gazillion times, before sentencing them to hell at the hands of some publisher/editor/ogre.

But right now, these words are appearing as quickly as they’re appearing in my mind!

I can stimulate your mind by sharing profound thoughts and perceptive observations on everyday things and never heard of subjects (I think we should have 28 hour days)

I can entertain you by telling you how I feel (hungry, happy, ho***).

I can influence you to buy something, or not buy something (I love Pepsi advertising, but I love drinking Coke).

I can stir up a debate on any subject, and I can get governments to look at me (hey, you seen the nuclear submarine at ******** harbor using Google Earth!?)

I can tell you what I’m wearing (just jeans, but don’t worry I’m saving the sleaze for another blog).

And I can bore you to death with keyboard clatter worse than the lines you just read.

That’s the power of blogging! Keep watching this space folks, because this is just the beginning!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Doing it finally

You can read about it. You can talk about it. You can even recommend it to friends and family. But it all means nothing, if you haven't done it yourself.

I'm talking about blogging. And I'm talking about it on my very own blog - Cheers!

Now having put that initial excitement online, I've got to think about what I'm going to publish next, and hopefully not before long!

Thanks for dropping by, and see you later.