Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Marketing Trends 2007

Brand Trends 2007

By Harish Bijoor

Study the advertising and branding trends of a country, and you know what the country is all about. In a jiffy you know its peoples.

Branding and the core conception of the science of branding, the execution of the brand plan at the ground level through the tools of marketing and selling, and indeed the visual execution of the brand proposition through the means of advertising is a complete give-away of a culture. Brand culture.

Let me do just that for the year that has passed by. 2007 is just about buried as a year gone by. Let me peek into the gut and gore of the year, its many highs and a few lows from a complete brand perspective. A recap of the calendar year 2007.

Some slug-points then of the many trends that defined the year 2007.

What’s in a name?

Nothing at all.

UTI Bank decided to become an Axis by compulsion. Nothing changed at all. The visual depiction of twins, from cherubic babies to equally cherubic babes morphed on to show the fact that nothing had changed except the name. The colour coded execution worked very well. Consumers however kept wondering why change a name if nothing else had.

Hutch did the same due to change of ownership. The pug shifted kennels. Mega-spends ensured that the message was dinned into the heads of an audience that had come to love the three pink samosas of Hutch. The Vodafone red was everywhere in a campaign that was orchestrated well through every media there was to use. Ubiquity was the name of the game.

HLL became an HUL. The Hindustan story won here. Hindustan was bigger than Unilever in this case. Air Deccan morphed from being the common man’s carrier to a confused bird just about deciding what it wanted to be. At the moment it is a Simplifly Deccan.

Aviation space saw a lot of brand confusion. Air Sahara became a JetLite, just as Jet Airways itself underwent a change of colour and in-air identity. Indian of course was the most confused of them all. The airline which had gone on to change its name from an age-old Indian Airlines to Indian, changed its identity once again. The year saw the Public Sector aviation space with just one brand all across: Air India. Here again, nothing else has sadly changed. Except the name.

What’s in a name Shakespeare-ji?

There’s a little bit of Retail in my hair

Every Tom, Dick and Harish wanted a little bit of retail in their business plans this year. The year was the beacon year of organized retail. Kishore Biyani got crowned the ‘Corporate Dukaandar’ of the year and wrote his best-selling book as well!

The model of Indian retail is on the morph phase. The business model of yore fought battles that were completely “David versus David”. Small retail versus small. Today, the fight has just about begun. This is a “David versus Goliath” battle. The future will of course be all about a “Goliath versus Goliath” battle as Macro formats fight for survival.

Retail Darwinism will prevail in this market. Even as the “David versus Goliath” battle has begun, a whole army of small shop-keepers and of course a larger army of middle-men have gotten together to stall it in many a state. Reliance Fresh has taken the brunt of the attack this year. More will come.

Modern trade formats are re-defining their business plans and no plan can afford to be static in a market that is completely dynamic in its sweep. Time for modern retail to get inclusive in its sweep. Time to put together that format I touted four years ago.

A Reliance Retail must get into the market and get together the existing 3000 small retailers in Hyderabad. Sign an MOU with each one of them. Co-brand their outlet. Let there be a Reliance-Adarsh retail and a Reliance-Kavita Retail. Pool the back-end work and source jointly. Brand the front-end and professionalize levels of service. Let the small retailer have an option to survive. A co-opetition model?

The ‘Corporate Kaka’ is here? Not yet.

Madvertising was here

The creative pony-tailed guy with breeches holding up his pants in advertising agencies went berserk. Advertising morphed. Madvertising is here.

Cows chewed gum instead of cud and smiled happily ever-after. Vets touted brands and marriages for the cows they treated. Never mind that consumers felt quite like cows watching all of this. Creative license was a fun license to have and use.

Happy teeth lit up streets, tennis courts and of course the cars and dining tables of royalty. Bingo went on a spree making fun of accents and peoples and a new genre of madvertising was born. Excellent on the score of generating awareness and possibly interest in the brand, but I don’t really know how it fared in creating that one purpose of most businesses: the end sale and the repeat, sale after sale.

Bollywood defined marketing

Movies, music and ‘masti’ surrounding it all, made for a memorable marketing year. The two big touted blockbusters of the year used every marketing gimmick there was to push themselves down the throat and into the psyche of the movie-goer at large. Om Shanti Om and Saawariya. Marketing spend on both was big. One won. Another lost. Proving that content is king.

OSO has become a buzz-word of the last quarter of 2007. Everyone who was a teenager and more in the seventies has wanted to see this movie. Shahrukh Khan was the big draw, as was his six-pack.

The six-pack itself has become a brand in its own right. Every ageing Madonna who is a 40 plus, including the one tapping this onto the laptop for print, wants a six-pack now. The 40-plus man has a reason to live. And his wife has a reason to nag. “If Shahrukh can do it, why can’t you!”

OSO has led to two big music releases and a spate of OSO parties where everyone wants to wear an OSO shirt of the seventies. Retail outlets across the country have stocked up the big polka dot shirts and the short 'kurtis' with sequins and tight ‘churidaars’ well in time to meet the rush.

Watch out for the new look all around. The seventies look in your life. In everything. In cars, in advertising, in husbands and in wives as well.

Movies create a market. And how!

Vicarious Lives of Consumers and Marketers

Empowered consumers in the big cities of our country lived dual lives. Vicarious lives. One life was real in the midst of their families and in the midst of marketers who were all around them. Another was lived in the virtual world.

An on-line identity was rich in what it offered the vicarious-craving consumer. A whole host of websites such as a Facebook, Myspace, Vox, SecondLife, LinkedIn, Orkut, Minglebox, Yaari, Flickr and tens of others offered a dual life.

Your friendly dentist is possibly a Pole-dancer in SecondLife, just as your Barman at the neighboring watering hole might as well be a Temple Priest on the same site. People are living dual lives now.

Marketers have discovered this and a whole host of marketers such as Sun Microsystems, Reuters and Wells Fargo have set up shop on SecondLife to create a turnover for themselves in Linden Dollars, the currency of this vicarious space. What’s more, there is an Indian recruitment portal as well waiting to recruit the trespasser!

More and more marketers will jump in.

Internal branding grows

Corporates are progressively understanding the need to get an image for themselves that is benign, positive and internal-customer friendly.

Corporate organizations in the space of technology, end-to-end services, ITES, FMCG and Durables alike are understanding the need to adopt Internal branding as a practice.

People are seen to be the most difficult resources to gain and keep. India has morphed form being a market short of products and services to being a market that is short of people altogether. The talent crunch is hitting every sector, be it aviation with its shortage of pilots, manufacturing with its shortage of engineers and marketing with its shortage of sales and brand people of merit.

Internal branding gains, just as salivating consulting organizations that specialize in the practice flourish. Ouch! It hurts!

Womarketing is here

As society levels out its gender bias as issues of yore, the woman in India is getting pampered. This is the money-empowered woman.

With more and more women comprising the work-force, and with women spending more and more of an outdoor oriented life, the marketer is geared with his product and service appeal.

Every sun-screen and hair-colour is out with a range for women only. Every cosmetic has two avatars today. One for the man and another for the woman. Every Fair & Lovely has therefore a Fair & Handsome as well in reaction. The gender equation is getting evened out into being a non-equation even.

There are hotels that offer women’s only floors. Gyms that offer facilities only for women all day long. Malls that ostensibly promote themselves as Malls for women alone. Men are welcome to tag along though.

As a Volvo internationally develops a concept car for women, developed by women themselves, and just as women in Holland and Belgium have developed for themselves a Rose beer for women alone, India takes baby steps to woo the empowered woman at large.

As this movement gets more and more ridiculous, expect to walk into a specialty restaurant and find a “Male Biriyani” and a “Feminine Biriyani” on the menu even. Bah!

Social issues are in

As the year races to a close, and as product categories, jaded by use of the old USP of functional and emotional dimension alike tire out, newer and newer experiments are being made.

Tata Tea takes a different route. A route taken once by Surf a year ago with its “Do bucket paani bachana hai” campaign, and a route taken by Lifebuoy as well with its urban locality clean-up campaign with kids in its visuals.

Tata Tea now wants you not to “Utho” (get up) but to “Jaago” (wake up)! The politician who comes seeking a vote is being grilled. Even asked his qualification….thankfully along with a cup of tea at hand to hold brand relevance!

Idea Cellular is aiming at removing the caste tag and replacing it with a mobile number and Coke on its own is hoping to harvest the general consumer sentiment with its Little drops of joy campaign.

Many of these look premature for a market just about waking up. However, these are baby steps. Let them be.

And a mish-mash of things altogether

For a trend-spotter, which is a hat I wear once every quarter, the year gone by has been an exciting one. A mish-mash year with a whole chunk of mish-mash trends. Let me run through some as I close this piece and welcome Marketing Year 2008.

Packaging got interactive. Frito Lay’s Kurkure led the way by inviting consumer faces on its pack-front along with winning recipes. Everything offered itself to be branded. New media emerged. The full railway station, tunnels, an aerobridge at airports and much more.

The instant movement was appreciated widely. The 5-day game version of cricket found few takers. One-day cricket was quick and fun. In came T20 and the 20-over variant of instant cricket was a big hit. Watch out. In the future parents may stop their young ones from watching the T20 variant which has the skimpily clad cheer-leaders. 5-day cricket will be family cricket and T20 for the rest of them all. Ouch again!

Brand-endorsement trends morphed as well. Cricket remained the big sourcing ground, apart from Bollywood and Tollywood and Sandalwood and all our other woods. Foreign stars found relevance. What MRF pioneered with Lara and maybe what Cinthol pioneered even earlier with Imran Khan gained credence as a movement. In came a Ricky Ponting, a Bret lee and of course Shoaib Akthar. We looked across the border.

India remained restrictive in its marketing mood and mind. Particularly when it came to the issue of sex, conception and misconception. Sex education in schools remained a point of vehement debate. Cipla’s morning-after I-Pill took flak and more.

The Sensex got branded. A positive brand as of now. This is going to be a roller-coaster ride as usual. India arrived. Indian hotel chains changed from the dual tariff regime of Dollar and Rupee to a single tariff regime of the Rupee only. With the firm rupee, time for the IT industry in India to take a cue, I guess. Same goes for the export-oriented industry at large.

Tele-marketing lies on a stretcher with the Do not call register in place. And websites continue to rule with offers of every kind. While a FirstPhera promises to take care of all your wedding needs, the Madras Cemeteries Board website promises live online telecast of funerals for the benefit of friends and relatives all over the world who are unable to attend. Every niche is covered.


Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.