Category Archives: Marketing

Cricket ads

With the World Cup around the corner, it’s time for some very interesting cricket centric ads. Marketers will try every trick in the book to associate their brands with India’s inexplicable obsession with cricket, and hope for a reciprocal Pavlovian passion for the product to develop. This one is the new Nike ad. Excellent stuff. Notice how Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan have the most insignificant role in the whole story. I have a feeling the ad is trying to tell us that the Indian cricket fan is much bigger than the Indian cricket star. I love the way the ad has this “order in the midst of chaos” feel to it, that only Mumbai can create.

And here’s an old Adidas ad featuring Sachin, that still gives me goosebumps. Notice how the phone rings throughout the ad, as the world comes to a standstill waiting for Sachin to face the delivery. This is probably the best Sachin ad of all time, because it just lets him do what he is good at (playing cricket) without having to mouth any inane lines like ‘Visa power, go get it’.


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Kawasaki on market adoption

The top ten stupid ways to hinder market adoption

Guy includes one of my pet peeves – enforced immediate registration – as one of the barriers. Couldn’t agree with him more. I don’t understand what the additional value ‘registration’ brings in in an Internet scenario, where identities can easily be faked. I’d rather have a million anonymous users than 100 users about whom I know everything, and whom I can later target for promotional offers.

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On Jan 21st, I wrote this on an alumni group of XLRI

“I doubt if the i-Phone will succeed – the main reason being that for once Apple is entering into a field that already has a lot of path breaking innovation happening (in a few years phones went from being just phones to cameras to music players to e-mail clients etc).

The I-pod, on the other hand, was launched in an environment where there was hardly any innovation happening on the portable music player front. The Macintosh, and its GUI was also launched in a similar technological environment. Both these products turned into icons because of the disruptive innovation they brought in. Iconic products tend to tap into the customer’s need to identify with something that is path breakingly unique unique, and not possessed by many (atleast to start off with).

My guess is that the i-Phone does not have enough disruptive innovation built into it.”

On Jan 24th, Peter Fader, in an interview featured at Knowledge@Wharton said:

Fader: Apple is facing a very different market. It’s a market that’s far more mature than the MP3 Player market was at the time. It’s a far more sophisticated customer base. Apple had the opportunity to go into the MP3 market and basically reshape that market and create the standard for customers’ tastes and preferences.

Those things have already been done by the myriad players in the cell phone market. Apple can do a very limited amount of reshaping. I think that when this phone actually hits the market, some of the grand visions that Steve Jobs has as well as some of the Apple zealots are going to be rather disappointed.

Interesting to note the high degree of similarity. Talk about synchronicity!

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Fantastic branding

A great example of how brands and get associated with causes.

Also visit, Blog Red.

“(RED) was created by Bono and Bobby Shriver, Chairman of DATA, to raise awareness and money for The Global Fund by teaming up with the world’s most iconic brands to produce (PRODUCT) RED-branded products. A percentage of each (PRODUCT) RED product sold is given to The Global Fund. The money helps women and children with HIV/AIDS in Africa.”

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Worldspace, are you listening?

I have been watching Worldspace’s brand building initiatives over the last few months with some interest. First was the tie up with A.R. Rahman as brand ambassador. That was a fantastic move. Clearly Worldspace and A.R. Rahman are two brands that have a number of common characteristics – music, innovation, generation next, international etc. The tag line – ‘There’s so much to hear.’ – also hit a home run. I expect that things should be finally looking up for Worldspace as a brand. It has probably finally made a move from the ‘Awareness’ stage to the ‘Consideration Set’ stage. However, there are some sore points that remain.

Product Placement in Lage Raho Munnabhai
This was a great move. Good product placements are inevitably those that are tied in closely to the film’s script, unlike those that are in your face for no reason (Eg. Elf in Viruddh). The Worldspace guys got that much right. However, they showed actors in the movie listening to Worldspace ‘on the move’, in taxis, using receivers worn around the neck(!) etc. Of course, all this is not possible with a real Worldspace receiver, which needs to be stationary and aligned in a certain direction at all times. In my view this is a serious mistake. One of the biggest negative points about the product is that it is not portable. Now, covering up this exact point is not going to help. You don’t want customers landing up at the retail shop, armed with their credit cards and then discovering this critical piece of information.

Subscription Fees
The second problem with Worldspace is the fact that it charges a subscription fees. I expect this to be the biggest roadblock in the way for success. When all other competing music offerings in the market – FM radio, AM radio, MP3 music(!), MTV – are free, why would a customer want to pay an annual fee to listen to music on a Worldspace. MP3 music is of a comparable quality as Worldspace, and happens to be portable too, in addition to being free. If ICICI bank suddenly comes up with a paid credit card in this era of free cards, I would consider it only if it had a USP that no other alternative provides. Worldspace has no such USP (digital quality music? that’s a commodity. 40 channels? Maybe. Niche channels? Yes, but I can get the same music on mp3, I-tunes, Yahoo Launch Cast… ). With this being the case there is no choice but to be free. There are other ways to bring in revenue, such as advertising, up-selling receivers to existing customers etc.

The Iridium Story
Many years back, Motorola launched Iridium, which was supposed to be this satellite phone that you could use anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the cellular phone wave killed it (of course there were other factors too). I suspect that Worldspace too may be the wrong technology coming into the market at the wrong time. Gone are the days when customers would be in awe of ‘digital cd-quality music’.

The music devotee
So, could it be that Worldspace does not care about common customers like you and me? Are they going for a very niche target group that has specialized tastes in music, and would be willing to pay for it? If that were the case, why are they going for mass market promotions like the Lage Raho Munnabhai example? Niche brands are successful when they stand for only one thing to one group of customers, not when they stand for everything under the sun. If you want to stand for everything, be a mass market brand.

What I would do
If I were the marketing manager at Worldspace, I would firstly scrap the subscription fees. It is a major nuisance factor, and a mental roadblock for any customer to seriously consider the product. Secondly, I would storm the market with receivers (probably priced a little more than what they are priced right now, so that the subcription fee can be recovered) and ensure that there is a big base of users in the first place. Once a critical mass of users is in place, I would then considering selling ‘add-on’ niche channels at a price. Alternatively, I would launch a plain vanilla free suite of channels, and let users add on a bouquet of other channels. It is important that the customer experience the product in the basic form first, before you do an up-sell. Worldspace seems to be entering the market directly with an up-sell (offering all channels to all people at fixed, and exorbitant subscription fee).

Yes, there’s so much to hear. Worldspace, are you listening?


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The networked marketplace [featured in The Hindu Business Line]

Today’s Hindu Business Line carries the following article written by me. Link to the article on the Business Line website: The networked marketplace

Full text of the article follows:

“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter — and getting smarter faster than most companies.” — The Cluetrain Manifesto

The implications are clear. Modern organisations need to be more nimble, more clued into what is happening in the external world — in the real world. They need to `talk’ to their customers, not `talk down’ to their customers through flashy corporate ads. They need to project a voice that is authentic and not sugar coated in marketing spiel. Companies need to start appearing genuine, human, humane and vulnerable if need be. This is the message of The Cluetrain Manifesto, a pathbreaking book, which in the true spirit of the Internet is available freely on the Web.

Very few companies, if any, have woken up to the reality of the networked world. So, one sees companies that do the market research, decide the product and brand attributes, launch the product and wonder what went wrong. What is likely to have gone wrong is that your customers have been talking to each other and spreading the `word’ faster than your `advertisements’. Be it film reviews, music reviews, product and gadget reviews, people are talking, and talking like never before. Products get trashed before the first ad comes out.

Here is an insight that organisations need to pay attention to: Customers trust human voices. This explains why nothing beats word-of-mouth publicity, and today the biggest word of mouth movement is happening on the Internet.

Building Relationships

After all, every purchase made by a customer is a new relationship created with the company whose product the customer has bought. When I receive my monthly phone bill, I notice that it bears a `relationship code’. Yet companies do little to nurture a customer relationship the way a human relationship is nurtured. Strong brands like Google actively engage their customer in the `conversation’. The Google Blog for instance, is a place where customers can see what the guys at Google are up to . It’s about time brick-and-mortar companies too embrace this new form of conversation. And as the manifesto says, “Because they are networked, smart markets are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.”

Employees of organisations are also part of this new form of conversation. People are actively and virtually networking with each other to find out more about each other’s organisations. Employer brands are being created and destroyed in this brand new market place as fast as thought and the strokes of a keyboard. Secondly, markets too want to talk to employees. They want the inside track on what really goes into their products. Companies need to let go and let this conversation happen freely. Robert Scoble (Microsoft’ erstwhile star blogger) did more to humanise Microsoft than any ad campaign ever would have.

The way forward

As I see it, the way forward would be for companies to view `advertising’ as one of the ways of talking to customers, and not the only way. All kinds of organisations need to embrace the power of the Internet as the new global market place where brands will be created and destroyed — where your multi-crore ad spend will be thrown into the bin when your customers rant about your call centre service on their blogs. The future is a world where mere brand logos and taglines wont suffice. It will be a place where brand voice (how your brand talks to your customers) will assume more significance. Brands would need to be `humble’ and not mighty; brands will have to understand, rather than be understood; brands will have to listen and not talk.

It’s a brand new era that is unfolding (and, indeed has been unfolding over the last few years). Blogs, social networking, Web 2.0 and so on are all going to fundamentally realign the way society is structured, and people will be netizens of the marketplace first and then citizens. The future looks exciting, and archaic institutions will need to embrace this change for their own good.


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