Posts filed under ‘Branding’


You suck !!

You need to make it cooler !!

Your service is the worst I have seen !!

Negative but authentic consumer reviews are way more effective than positive made up reviews. The sooner that companies realize this, the better it is for them for they should not fear the consumer to review their products or services but act on their feedback.

With social media playing a critical role in online product/service reviews, it is easy for a customer to distinguish and authenticate genuine reviews from fake ones. A negative product review on a website lends more credibility on the feedback mechanism than just having positive ones.

In my line of business i.e. telecom value added services (VAS),  there ought to be customer grievances and feedback on social media that inculcates learning from mistakes and rectification rather than having all good reviews from their own employees. A negative review that gets corrected gets more buzz than a positive one leading to more brand awareness.

The biggest mistake a brand can make is thinking they could control social media just like they could control an ad campaign; fact of the matter is that you just simply cannot take any of your ad campaigns and migrate it to a social media platform. Social media can’t be a simple problem solver. Like you can’t segregate the rotten tomatoes from the good ones at a Tomatino fest, brands cannot erase the feedback they receive on social media however online criticism and fear should definitely not hold them back.


September 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm 2 comments


What does it take to send across a powerful message to the consumer?

  • Sentiments
  • Desires
  • Message Placement
  • Aspirations
  • Guilt
  • Belonging

How about a cocktail of all the above mentioned elements?

Marketing efforts have to leave a positive impression on the consumer’s mind on the very first contact. It’s no surprise that the fate of most products or services are written on the very day, they are launched.

I wish to share one of the striking examples with our readers. Each day I use the Metro to commute to office. On my way, I pass by an alley with numerous automobile showrooms with cars from all passenger segments including basic to super luxury. As I pass by one showroom after another, the usual messages shout out at me to get my attention. These would include ’15 Kmpl’, ‘Easy instalments available’, ‘Drive in comfort’, ‘Pocket Friendly’ and so on. However, at the end of the alley, I see something different (See picture below).

With powerful messaging like the one above, a couple of striking features can be observed:

(1) Sentiments: Imagine yourself in the shoes of the person who is travelling the Metro train. He is cramped among a bunch of co-passengers and in a way jostling for space. What’s the only thing in the traveller’s mind? ‘I wish I could ride back home in comfort’

(2) Belonging: The moment a brand places itself alongside such a strong statement, it instantly associates itself with a particular value. The first thing that would rub into the consumer’s mind is that – ‘This product is going to take me into the elite few who can own it. I belong to the group of people who are envied upon by the rest of the world. I have arrived.’

(3) Placement: This message is being read by almost a million commuters who take the metro to work daily. Just by its sheer location – the impact of the advertisement gives an instant connection that turns it into a lead generating engine.

The new age marketer needs to put some thought into; not only how the product or service will be positioned but also where will it be placed and what emotion should it invoke. So ask yourself, ‘How am I going to plant a powerful message?’

June 23, 2011 at 1:38 pm 1 comment


What is common between the Superbowl and Doritos Chips?

What is common between the ICC Cricket World Cup and Pepsi?

Both answers are the same : Nothing.

On the contrary, eating Doritos and drinking Cola paints a picture more of an unhealthy eater than a lean sportsperson. So why is it that the consumer is bombarded with such irrelevant commercials during such events. Its is because these companies want to capture your balls. Eyeballs to be precise.

With such a large eyeball population available, marketers try to twist and turn their messaging to suit the event and what it stands for. They want you to eat and drink unhealthy while you watch physically fit athletes battle it out. This is feeding on the weakness of the consumer to give into their cravings.

On the other hand, there are events where the sponsors are inline with the core messaging of the event. Oktoberfest is a good example where you would have sponsors which add to the Bavarian experience by providing complementing products like beer to celebrate the worlds largest beer festival.

Another example is NASCAR, where Gatorade is among the few sponsors who have got their alignment right. After all that sweaty racing where temperature hit the roof inside the car, a refreshing Gatorade is exactly what the driver needs and so does the consumer.

The right product placement brings in a certain credibility to the brand and builds a strong relationship between the fan and the brand. It is important to understand that today the consumer has the power to turn off his brain whenever he sees irrelevant branding messages. It is recommended that marketers try capturing their fans hearts rather than their eyeballs.

March 1, 2011 at 12:00 am 2 comments


Marketing a country is far more difficult than any product or service. This is because there are many political, social and economical factors which shapes the image of a country. Countries get rare opportunities to market themselves on the world stage. China is one of the few nations which was successful in taking advantage of the opportunity while India lost the same.

The Beijing Olympics in 2008 showcased that China which was an emerging economic super power, could also mesmerize the world by hosting the best Olympics ever- measured by any yardstick. This was one of the major steps in rebranding itself as a major player in the world. Drawing parallels with any other marketing campaign which includes multiple events, it carefully planned its rebranding exercise. Events like Shangai World Expo in early 2010 and the Asian games in November have reinforced the overall exercise. There are other smaller events like Air show 2010 where it launched its first ever commercial aircraft C919 as a rival to the duopoly of Airbus and Boeing. China is a great example to learn how a country/product/service can market or rebrand itself with proper planning and long-term view.

At the same time we can see how India lost the opportunity in showcasing itself to the world. The Common Wealth Games 2010 was the only major international event India hosted after Asian games way back in 1982. India’s growth was one of the best in the world for the past decade and a lot has changed since the Asian games in ’82, but why did it fail to rebrand itself as a country of not just ‘Techno coolies’ but a nation which can organize international events compared to any other developed country. Unfortunately everything went wrong from the stadiums getting delayed to the various corruption scandals that hijacked India’s bid to showcase itself on the world stage. In the end, the bad press left a lasting impression of India’s corruption problem rather than the successful hosting of the games

There are many lessons to be learnt from this set back.Firstly, marketing a country is not an overnight exercise; it takes careful long-term planning. China did not achieve this overnight, it planned and executed its branding strategy for the past two decades with utmost commitment. Secondly, public relations plays a very important part in putting across any message on a global scale.

I feel that countries should be run like large corporations when it comes to branding where there is a proper marketing division which manages the countries brand image on a global level. This would help showcase the good while reducing the damage of the bad.

January 25, 2011 at 9:11 pm 1 comment


‘WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get’ is no longer the norm by which organizations are looking at attracting and retaining customers. The new age belongs to ‘WYWIWYG – What You Want Is What You Get’.

How many times have you wondered of having your favorite quote on your  t-shirt ? So what if you were the only one in the world who thought it was a cool quote.

How many times have you wanted to study the subject that interested you ? So what if history and geography in school never caught your imagination and that only the fine arts excited you.

The era today belongs to customization. Every individual today has one’s own creative cells yearning to be used. And why not ? We love ourselves and we want to pamper ourselves with what we love. Like for instance, I would like my name on my ‘Nike’ shoes with my favorite colors. Is this possible?

NIKEiD furnishes a great example of customized products that are subject to these weird yearnings. Nike offers customers an interesting, easy and fun experience. You select the shoe design which you would like to customize and upload your details like color, material, fitting and also your personal ID. Behold, you have a self named Nike shoe ready to your specifications.

While costing about the same or a fraction more than the athletic shoes purchased in a store, consumers are accustomed to paying premium prices for anything personalized. Note that Nike has been, and continues to be, in the business of offering standardized athletic footwear, but the company has now added this service that allows consumers to design shoes according to their own taste. The trend is moving towards giving customers what they want and this is an interesting step in that direction.

Why should companies consider setting up this model now or at least start moving towards it. Consumers are slowly, but surely, taking the reins in regard to fashioning their own experiences with brands. Since so many customers enjoy the process of consumption, it could be argued that they derive even greater pleasure and value from customizing their own products. Today’s youth are accustomed to personalizing their own experiences, from the Internet to their mobile phones. They are customizing their toys, games and even their clothing. By making the customer part of the finished product design process, great perception of added value can develop, especially if that process is seamless, well designed and well managed. Also, being closer to the customer, and getting a constantly updated pulse on marketplace trends, yield great rewards.

Dell has always been considered a prime example since the company’s business model has always been based on mass customization. Customers who stroll into Starbucks can order coffee drinks in myriad ways within uniquely designed environments. There are purported to be over 19,000 ways to order your coffee drink at Starbucks. It can even be argued that Starbucks devotees have transcended mere brand loyalty to become true brand advocates.

Design your own chocolate bar, even your own watch! 121 Time Swiss Watches presents a great example where customers can select very casual or business watch styles and then customize every component of the basic style they choose: movement, case, bezel, dial and hands, crown and strap.

A few years ago, Burger King ran a very successful campaign, ‘Have it Your Way’ which resonated with customers since the fast food giant enabled them to order customized sandwiches to their liking. For Burger King, this was a clear point of differentiation from its competitors; one that it could exploit to solidify its brand identity in the consumer’s mind.

What kinds of rewards can be reaped by companies that offer mass customization services ? For sure, these companies can gain a competitive edge and significant differentiation from their competitors. The companies that become leaders in connecting with the customer in this new ‘experience economy’ in such a profound manner can achieve deep customer loyalty as well as true sustainability. And that is the ultimate goal of every business.

October 4, 2010 at 2:48 pm Leave a comment


How far do you think innovative marketing would go to grab the attention of the masses ?

Recently Volkswagen created a buzz around their latest marketing campaign using a simple medium like the newspaper to create an innovative campaign. My usually mute and dumb (more intelligent than the idiot box though) newspaper had started to speak. Exaggeration? Maybe. For those who haven’t guessed it yet I am referring to the innovative Volkswagen integrated print and audio ad in the Times of India. Volkswagen had integrated a small circuit within the newspaper which would play a prerecorded message in support to the larger print ad.

As a reader, curiosity got the better of me as I repeatedly shut and opened the pages a few times over to hear the message which sounded quite similar to the Volkswagen Das Auto spiel in their TV commercials. On the way to work, I spotted another hoarding of Volkswagen Das Auto across the street. On any other day I would have looked through it but today it reminded me of the morning newspaper ad. As I updated my facebook status about how print just got audio visual, I wasn’t surprised to find that I was not the only one having this conversation.

Sitting on the brand chair of a marketing company I was no more a consumer. What followed were a few quick excel sheet calculations and a few calls to my media agency. My mind was already thinking about the marketers maths – ROMI (return on marketing investment). At an average price of a false jacket on the Times of India (which incidentally is the largest English circulation newspaper in the world), with the premium Volkswagen would have paid across 5 cities, the average CPP (cost per contact) of this piece of communication would be roughly 20 times that of reaching the same number through the television media. At this price Volkswagen’s Das Auto message could have probably reached the same number of potential customers through a direct contact campaign at offices or malls. They could have run a digital campaign across all major internet and social marketing portals for over 2 years. They could have sent a SMS to every single mobile handset in the country suggesting a test drive every day for the next 3 month.

We are all multi-media, multi-dimensional and multi-tasking consumers, never consuming a single source of communication at a given time. Between a morning cup of tea at home to looking out of my office window, I had already consumed on an average,  at least 3 media for the Das Auto campaign.

But then is the medium, the communication, the cost or the talking Times of India Ad, a good marketing strategy? What is really the price the new age marketer is ready to pay to get his consumer to listen to him? Does the consumer care? What is the customer segment for the car for which the company spent a few million rupees this morning? How many Indians would get the car in their consideration set? How many would associate with the brand personality of the car?

These are the few questions that a new age marketer would think about when analyzing this marketing campaign other than the buzz factor attached to an integrated audio print ad. So what does the marketer do to get my attention, something that hasn’t been done before, something the marketers call; a media innovation. So, will the talking newspaper work miracles for Volkswagen sales, only time will tell.

One moment, among all this buzz, innovation and excitement of the talking newspaper I almost forgot to see what car Volkswagen was talking about!!!!

Thank you for the buzz, Volkswagen Vento. Das ist New Age Marketing (German for: This is New Age Marketing).

September 28, 2010 at 10:26 am 2 comments


Why is the consumer’s brain more relevant to marketers today!

Picture this. You enter a wine shop. Soft French music is playing in the background with the scent of a freshly opened 1912 Franzia. No wonder you land up buying a bottle of wine. You entered the store with no intention of buying anything. But the soft music and relaxing aroma just didn’t let your feet turn towards the exit.

That is the power of the human senses. Brain power at its best. And some innovative marketers are capturing this aspect of human brain to sell their products. To give a brief scientific explanation, technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measure the changes in the activities in the parts of the human brain. Thus the answers to why the consumers behave in a certain way are answered. For eg. Sometimes if you are asked why you chose a product over the other, you have no answer. You say to yourself, I just felt like. But it is in the subconscious mind that the happy experiences related to that product exist. Like, the color, or the shape or the smell of that product somehow appeals to you. This science is fondly also called as “neuromarketing”.

Your senses: the sight, smell, sound, touch and taste are very important to marketers and this is how they capitalize on it. Let me illustrate to you a few communications that have brilliantly taken over this phenomenon.

A baby picture boosts altruistic behavior within people which is captured in this advertisement. This Michelin tire ad portrays the image of tire purchase for safety rather than economy or performance. And in particular, the safety of this adorable baby. Presumably, the shoppers’ might be willing to shell out a premium as they would be persuaded that these tires will be safer for their family.

A product scent is extremely effective for enhancing its memory and proves to distinguish amongst the surrounding context. Scent enhances a product’s distinctiveness and helps a consumer remember it down the line.

There was an experiment conducted where a few participants were asked to evaluate a few pencils (some scented – tea tree and some unscented). It was found that the scented pencils were much remembered and recognized than the unscented ones.

Imagine a billboard, a few feet away from a burger place that could emit the smell of fresh vegetables / grilling chicken for some parts of the day. For e.g. the smell could be something like that of “a blend of black pepper and grilled chicken”. The smell component of the signboard could operate during the peak commute times. Science explains that when coffee lovers smell the aroma of coffee, they crave for a cup of it. Ditto this sandwich. There could be many arguments that target consumers could be seated in a sealed, air conditioned car that would reduce the impact of the smell. But, this effort would create a lot of buzz and PR and social media use than rather having a billboard which no one would even notice in the absence of the smell.

A powerful and innovative medium of selling and branding products is definitely through the use of the tiny brain cells in the human mind. Imagine adding scent to talking/interactive billboards! Too powerful to even think of!

July 31, 2010 at 8:32 am 7 comments

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