Monday, June 30, 2008

Marketing in the Days ahead..............

The Future of the Future: Two Pointers….

By Harish Bijoor

The future is not for you to see.

Well almost. The future of marketing lies in the future of branding. Two pointers then to the future of the future……..

1. The Amoeba and I

Human beings are not static state entities. We change. Our minds change. The thoughts in our minds change. We are change animals. We actually morph all the while. Our bodies change. Our minds change as well. Our bodies change with time. Right upto the age of 18 we are on the growth path. From then on we are on the death path. Our cells grow all the while and then start dying all the while. The body is therefore all about change.

The mind similarly is all about change. Change that is even more dynamic. While the body and its changes are all about a relationship with time, the mind and its change is not about time at all. It is about the diverse sets of experiences we go through. It is all about experience and exposure.

When our minds (where thoughts live) are forever on a morph mode, how dare brands remain static and expect to thrive?

Brands need to reinvent themselves on the format of an amoeba that is forever changing. Amoebic Branding is it! Change with dominant sets of consumers. A brand can’t be static anymore. Brands need to have avatars that change all the while. And for this, for a start, brands need to know the minds of their consumers the way they are and the way they will be next month. Brands need to Scenario plan all the way ahead.

Brand appeal needs to be inconsistent. Consistency is old hat. Consistency is the old paradigm of the branding process. One needs to break through the walls of this very rigid edifice brand folks have built over the last several decades. A brand needs to be inconsistent. Inconsistent in sync with the consumer.

Consumers are changing faster than brands. And that possibly is one of the reasons brands are being left behind and consumers are sprinting ahead. Running away from brands! Amoebic branding is all about keeping pace with the mind and mood of the consumer and morphing brand offerings both in terms of imagery and more radically so, in terms of product as well! The product can’t be static anymore as well! Wake up to new branding! Wake up to the new DNA of a brand!

2. Watch out! Inclusive branding ahead!

The very base paradigm of branding is exclusivity. In the beginning, there was the commodity. The commodity was pretty much unrecognizable one from the other. Brand folk caused for distinction. The commodity morphed to a quasi-brand status of some recognition. Brand folk kept getting exclusive in their approach. The quasi-brand moved on to become a brand. The brand was exclusive space. And then came the super-brand! Very exclusive space!

If the brand is exclusive space, it excludes a whole lot of society from it.

As society evolves, the language of the day will move on to get more and more inclusive. Do brands today include the masses or do they exclude them? Do brands in India include the needs, wants, aspirations, desires and affordability parameters of the have-nots?

If they don’t, and if all they cause is a hunger for higher end products that just can’t be satisfied, time then to get going and get onto the bandwagon of what I call Inclusive Branding. Branding that involves every segment of the masses there is to please, feed, clothe and shelter!

Inclusive branding is therefore all about an offering that embraces all. In some way or the other. In an extreme manner of speaking, brands will aspire not to alienate but embrace. Brands will cause hunger amongst only the relevant groups of people they aspire to satisfy. Mass advertising will therefore need to get very sensitive. If you are a Skoda Auto, you will get very sensitive and stop using mass media altogether that reaches the recesses of the dispossessed in your country. You will remember that even people below the poverty line in your country watch television, and you will not want to create unnecessary hunger and saliva appeal amongst those who can’t afford what you peddle.

And this is not about being benign. It is all about avoiding social discontent. All about avoiding those negative cues and strokes your brand gives to a whole set of people who can’t afford to be within its consumption set.

One step further then. Brands just might have other offers for those who can’t afford what you advertise to the masses. A branded tea that retails at Rs.300 a Kilogram just might have a variant that retails at Rs.2 per 5 grams! The quality of the offering will of course be different, but the brand name might be the same!

Can a brand with the same name swim upstream and downstream in an economy at the same time? The paradigm might just have to be broken!

Inclusive branding will be about embracing all whom you advertise to. The strategies of Inclusive branding are many, but the goal is the same. Newer and newer routes will be discovered! Inclusive branding is the new DNA of a truly successful brand ahead!

The author is a Brand domain specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, a private-label consulting outfit with a presence in the markets of Hong Kong, London, Dubai and the Indian sub-continent


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Marketing Models for India

Earthworm, Snail, Porcupine and Co.

By Harish Bijoor

Competition is a reality. None of us can ignore competition. There is competition in the home, in the school, in college, in office and most certainly in the great Indian market-place as a whole.

If there is life, there is competition. The baby in the house competes for your attention, just as that brand new hair gel on the shelf is seeking out your attention amidst a clutter of competition weighing down the super-market shelf.

How does one really compete? Let me paint four models.

If I am to look around the nations of the world and correlate competitive models in current use, there are four distinct patterns that emerge. Four clusters that have whole sets of nations congregating in models those seem to work for each of them differently and with different levels of efficacy. Needless to say, the peculiarities of each nation in question dictate the distinct choice they have made for themselves. Let’s visit the clusters. And let’s call them all kinds of animal names.

1. The Earthworm Model:

The passive model of competitive reaction. The invitation theory that is best practiced by the earthworm. A rich worm really. It knows the basics best. It is in constant touch with the earth that it seeks nourishment from and nourishes back simultaneously. A fundamentally strong being.

Several problems in this model though. It is passive for one. Non-reactionary. A model in the self-fulfilling prophecy mode. The best example of the fatalistic theory of the East in practice. When faced with danger, all it can do is continue its humble journey in the earth. Competition kills this model with ease. There is no reaction. The fatalistic model of competition at its best!

Is the Indian marketer here? I

2.The Snail model:

The common competitive model in practice by a whole host of nations. This model is reactively proactive. A clear cocoon orientation. When faced with competition and danger, there is a regression into the shell. The withdrawn marketer at play. The philosopher marketer even! The marketer who revels in the safety-static nexus. Waiting for the competition to just go away, so that normal life may resume again!

Is India here?

3. The Porcupine Model:

This model tells the competitor clearly of the array of weapons that are available for retributive action. There is a clear emphasis on the display of the arsenal. It believes in the overt display. A clear d├ętente model of competition. Avoids a lot of speculative action and is ready for the real battle

Many marketers seem here.

4. The Everyone Else Model:

This is the model of the real-time player in competitive markets of the present and certainly the future. This is the real-time marketer. Reactive when necessary. Proactive when necessary. Guerilla in tactics when necessary as well!

This is a constant-change oriented model that believes in watching the scenario carefully and reacting accordingly. Making forays into proactive territory on a speculative basis. Never mind if even only one of those sixteen forays actually click! Life in the fast track of competitive marketing is pretty un-predictable and speculative. Change here is absolutely discontinuous. Making a decision on a point of competitive strategy based on happenings of the past and the present could be disastrous. The future never ever happens the way the past decided.

Change here is so discontinuous that it is aptly illustrated by the example of the baby-arrival process in the house. The first child in this baby-boomers house is born out of a Caesarian section, gone in for by an over-zealous gynecologist. The second baby of the house is therefore predictably to be one out of a similar process. Caesarian section! No! It isn’t. Change is discontinuous. The second baby is a natural birth! The third child is due to happen then. This time round, its Caesarian section as well! Oops!

The fourth child of this baby-happy home is due. Change is indeed discontinuous. There is no predictability here. Guess what! This time round, the baby is actually conceived, carried and delivered by the father of the baby! Oops! Again! Change is indeed that discontinuous!

Shouldn’t India be here?

The author is a brand-strategy specialist & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Indian Consumer of the Future

Networking Working

By Harish Bijoor

The FMCG industry is back on the growth path in India. With a bang! After a big series of lulls seen in the industry with slackening rates of consumer interest, the FY 2008 promises a record growth rate of 17 % for the best FMCG brands in the country.

As one peels the Marketing Onion that is India, one finds successes that are bigger still in FMCG space. Bigger than the recorded growth rate of 17% even, as will be seen by majors in the space such as HUL, Marico and a P&G.

To get a hint of the real heroes of FMCG space in the last several years, peek keenly at the top-line numbers recorded by MLM (Multi-level marketing) companies. In the lead is just one company: Amway.

Top-line growth numbers of the company far out-strip the achievements of the oldest FMCG majors that have dominated the marketing environment that is India.

I theorize on this now. A theory I have built and evangelize across corporate organizations in the space of FMCG in India.

My theory then.

I do believe there are three dominant types of consumers in any marketing economy.

Indian Consumer Ver.1.1: The first is what I call a Pure consumer. This consumer buys for himself and his family. This consumer lives in the big cities of India. This consumer is a fourth or fifth generation branded FMCG buyer even. Marketers have traditionally focused on selling to such a consumer in India thus far.

Indian Consumer Ver.1.2: The second consumer is the one who is part consumer and part re-seller. He buys products and at times services not for himself alone. Whatever he buys, he will use a part for himself and his family, and the rest he will re-sell, often at a profit. Marketers in MLM companies typically sell to such folk. The success of the FY 2008 has been this Indian consumer Ver. 1.2. Amway reaped the wind here.

Indian Consumer Ver. 1.3: The third consumer is the one, who in the future, will actually buy only to re-sell. This consumer will emerge in the smaller towns of India. In the 6, 42,700 villages of India. This consumer will challenge the might of the distributor who was the re-seller in the old days. True blue democratization of the selling process, where the consumer is really not a consumer at all. He is only a Pure re-seller. There are marketers exploring this space. Taking baby steps here.

Harish Bijoor is a brand-specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

IPL Cricket and Indian Sports Marketing Dynamics

Geography is History

By Harish Bijoor

Geography is history!

The IPL team brand is a reality today. Even as the bidding for the City Teams is done with and just as the top 80 cricketers are picked up in an open auction with open and overt commercial intent by a Preity Zinta or a Dr. Vijay Mallya, it is time to sit up and shake the paradigm of geography and its old value. At least in cricketing terms.

Cricket history is an old and valued one. If Hinduism has its Bhagvad Gita, Christianity its Bible and Islam its Koran, Cricket has its own as well with an ever-growing Wisden. But then, that’s old hat now!

A trace of the history of evolution of cricket then?

Kerry Packer saw it first. The audience for 5-day cricket with its men in whites was getting to be tiresome. Cricket refused to change its avatar. Packer came in with his revolutionary one-day format. In came cricket with colored uniforms and just 50-overs each. This was instant cricket. A game that wrapped up its results in just one day of each team playing fifty-overs.

The game prospered. The game grew. Sponsorship grew. Brands that sought quicker eye-ball impact picked the game with vigor. Now there was Cricket Classic (the five day version played by men in whites) and Instant Cricket (the 50-over variety with its adrenaline rush for the younger man). In many ways, if you were older and if you had a heart problem, you better watch 5-day cricket. If you were younger, there was One-day cricket around for you. And then of course there were cusp cricket fans who watched both the variants. There was just more cricket to eat than before, and no one complained. Except for parents of kids with exams to write, who just kept complaining that this was just not cricket.

In came the years of the 2000 series. Cricket administrators and those concerned with Cricket –commerce (many interested only in terms of audience reach and the ability to monetize this value in terms of advertising) were thinking fast and quick. The contemporary audience was tiring of one-day cricket as well. Lives were getting fast-paced. People just did not have enough time to sit and watch a One-day game that somehow seemed slower than the life-styles of most of the audience that was watching it.

The game changed. In came Twenty-20. A shorter game. A sexier version. A version that promised to compete with the 90-minute joy of the world’s biggest viewed game of them all, Soccer.

With history wrapped up, time to talk the paradigm of Geography.

In sheer brand terms, cricket is a game that has traditionally depended on the jingoism of nations at the International level. In some cases the jingoism of States and Regions even, just as the Ranjhi Trophy matches sought so desperately to build in the country. In vain of course!

The IPL is different. This nascent brand of wannabe cricket wants to develop a whole new paradigm of consumer acceptance altogether. The key proposition: build Team-brand loyalty rather than just plain old National-brand or State-brand loyalty.

How is this done? How long will it take? And what are the key hurdles to cross? And importantly, can it be done at all?

Last question first. Can it be done at all?

Most certainly yes. Peek keenly at soccer and the emergence of the mega-buck teams that represent a passion of their own. Are you an Arsenal fan? Or a Man-U maniac? And is the Manchester United much more of a movement than national football altogether? And what about the eye-balls that track the game? Do they follow Team-sport more than National Soccer? And which one is a weekly passion? And which one attracts the biggest bucks?

The answer is blowing in the winds my dear friends. Team soccer is bigger than it all. Team sport is more profitable than it all. More eye-balls, more frequent eye-balls, and indeed more eye-balls to monetize literally every week. More eye-balls and indeed every other body part of the fan to monetize, not only in playing season, but in slack time as well. Every ball, every T-shirt and every wrist band is an opportunity that packs money.

My definition of a brand: The brand is a thought. A thought that lives in people’s minds. The Team Bangalore of Vijay Mallya is a thought. A thought that will live in every mind. This thought is not only about soccer. It is about more. It is about a city. It is about the passion that Bangalore evokes in every heart, body and soul that lives in Bangalore. Add to it the heart, body, soul and every other sundry body part that thinks positively of Bangalore but does not live there. To that extent, this Team-branding of cricket provides the opportunity to harvest the passion of every cricket enthusiast who lives in Bangalore

The brand is today essentially consumed not by geographic clusters. Not even by consumers who live in common and identified Demographic clusters. The brand is today a Psychographic reality. Never mind where you live, you will consume Team Bengaluru. The moment you consume the brand and enjoy a passion-link into it, you are saying it out loud that you live out there with your mind rather than your body. Team cricket provides for this key insight to be harvested.

Building this new paradigm of Team Cricket will take time. It will not happen overnight. But then cricket and its administrators have all the time on their hands. It is the early entrants to the game who will singe their hands and minds and pockets. They will then wait and build. Build with every season. Build with every marketing tool of viral connect there is to use.

In sum, let’s lump it if not like it. Team Brand cricket is here to stay. The moneys in it are just too big to ignore. Marketers and owners of teams will harvest passion for the game, passion for the city and indeed passion for the individual cricket star over a period of time. Give it six years time, and you will watch nothing else but a Big Sunday game of Bengaluru versus Jaipuru! Maybe even a Jaipuru versus a Mysooru game in the future! What say?

The author is a brand-domain specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.