Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: The Marketing Year it was........

The Year Munni Got ‘Badnaam’ and Shiela Got ‘Jawaan’

By Harish Bijoor

A Marketing wrap-up of year 2010 then. This has indeed been the year of Twitter. A year in which large hordes of young people believed in brevity. Brevity as defined by a 140-character Tweet. In keeping, let me get to the point right away.

What was this Marketing year 2010 all about? My take…..

The 5-Screens in our lives: The Indian remained a screen-potato. Five of them dominated our lives this year.
Television remained the big one for all of us, rural or urban. 148 million television sets decorated our homes with an average viewing time of 4.5 hours per day in rural and 23 minutes a day in Urban.
The second screen in urban lives was the desktop at office and in some cases in homes as well. The third screen was the laptop computer, fast losing its appeal among the wannabes who want a tablet in their hands.
The fourth screen that edged its way into Indian hands this year was the tablet. In came Samsung Galaxy, the I-Pad (brought in from the markets where it has been launched) and more.
The Fifth screen, though small in size, remained the biggest and most ubiquitous of them all: the Mobile phone. More and more applications went mobile and the death of the laptop became a hot topic to discuss.
When I look at branded players in the space across all 5-screens, I see just one. Samsung. Good thinking and good planning guys!

Brand-lines trusted less and less: The year saw stories of tumult rolling in from the US and UK and Europe alike. Stories of recession-hit markets. Stories of bank re-possessions of credit cards. Stories of re-possession of homes and more. The very same banks that had touted all those friendly lines that took the “us” line in their advertising of yore were now talking tough “you” lines 1:1. Credibility of advertising sunk in Western markets. As this did happen, the rub-off is seen here as well. Advertising lines are being trusted less and less. Marketers seem to have taken note. In come the more real lines now in our advertising as well. Vox-pop lines that bring more reality than fantasy to the process at large.

The I-Gen. is here: The Impatient-Gen. As attrition levels rise once again in industry, and as India emerges a most-ruthlessly young market ahead, loyalty lines are receding into the memory of past advertising. The new story in town is the range story. The story of variety on hand. I offer you the most number of options. You might as well stay with me. Flit like a butterfly from this variant to the other. But stay with me. Companies are vying with one another to build promiscuity-palate offers within their own mother brand to keep custom back. The automotive category is the best example here. Remember, we now have 621 variants of cars in the Indian market.
I-Gen products include On-the-go products in beverages and food, quick take-away meals from even traditional outlets which believed in sit-down dinners, and Gymnasiums that offer quick-work-outs that last a slim 20-minutes a day.

The Social Networking Funnel is here: Social networking grew leaps and bounds. The internet got accessed by 62 million people in India this year. 70per cent of them got on with devices that were not broadband led. Nevertheless, the killer application in use was the social networking site. Face book, Twitter and Orkut and thirty-one more.

A very important marketing funnel got created. Most top-end consumers of products and services alike got talking to one another socially first. This virtual interaction is creating a marketing funnel of significance. Ignore it only at your peril. Remember, a very important thing is happening here. Consumers are chatting with one another not only about their dating needs, but they are exchanging valuable information about products and services and brands. Consumers are chatting with one another about brands before getting to the market, particularly for more expensive and more long-lasting products.

The shift is clear: from Brand-networking to User-networking.

The world already has 1.3 Billion users of the Worldwide Web. 200 million websites cater to their needs. And the new trend is really the micro-site. Add a multiple on the 200 million and that is the brand opportunity here. Brands will go the micro-site way in the future. And the future is really already here.

The Reality show buzz is here: The consumer is a voyeur. And brands love that. If not for this one facet of the consumer, brands would never get the inquisitiveness they get. Marketers took this a step further. Marketing money fed the reality show this year. More and more brand moneys flowed in. Makers of Television reality shows plagued marketing companies with ideas. Many found takers.

In came Rakhi Sawant with her “Rakhi Ka Insaaf”. Men cried. One committed suicide as well, as alleged. Rakhi stripped them all. Of deeds of omission and commission. ”Kangaroo justice” was delivered. The nation enjoyed it. A voyeuristic nation that loved peeking into others bedrooms.

Talk of bedrooms, in came “Big Boss” that got you to peek into every room there was to peek into, in a home. Save the actual toilet and bathroom. Names such as Seema Parihar, Ashmit Patel and Veena Mallick got to be household names. If you put up a tantrum at home, you were told not to behave like a Dolly. If you ate too much, you were reminded of the Great Khali. Rural India lapped up the antics of Urban India, believing everything that happened in a Big Boss home to be exactly what happened in our booming urban homes.
Brands used the eye-balls opportunity well. Vodafone and Spice and more.
I am told more are coming. While “Sach Ka Saamna” got a lot of flak, bolder ones are planning a Husband-swap program on national television as well, I am told. Ouch!

A concern for the future: Small but seminal trends were spotted this year. The marketer woke up to global concerns. Green became big. As did Inclusive. Saving the future became a theme. Marketers plonked their moneys, as Aircel did on "Save the Tiger”. It made the number1411 memorable. PepsiCo spoke the conservation story, as did ITC. PepsiCo went one step further as well, declaring its work and intent on its packaging. The theme was clearly being tested. The theme ahead for the savvy marketer then: Conservation. Re-use. Replenishment. Conservation of all the re-sources you as brand-marketer strip the earth of.

The “Save” campaigns will cover the tiger, paper, water, energy and more.

“Munni getting Badnaam and Shiela getting Jawaan”: Block-buster movies. The biggest ones happened this year. While Sholay did it in the yester-years of Rs.3 and Rs. 5 ticket prices, ‘3 Idiots’ did it at multi-plex rates of today to become a big grosser. One outdid the other. In came ‘Dabangg’ and did it all over again. Out-did it as well and one kept wondering what was so great with it.

Movies marketed themselves with savvy. Movie marketers taught the traditional FMCG guy many a valuable marketing lesson. Emami first hit out at Dabangg and then got its Zandu Balm to piggyback the trend. If James Bond had an Aston Martin, Dabangg had a Zandu Balm.

The item number remained as the biggest hit of them all. The ‘Paisa vasool’ numbers made two big generic Quasi brands happen, much to the chagrin of women with these names: Munni was one and Shiela the other. Small-town India is abuzz I am told, with women of every age with these names being targeted with songs to boot!
Question asked at a pub in Delhi recently of the DJ who was refusing to get these numbers going: “DJ-ji, when is Munni getting Badnaam and Shiela getting Jawaan?”

Incredible India lived up to its name: In many ways it did. The India Tourism campaign has a brilliant line. Incredible India hit the news time and again this year with scams of every kind. The CWG corruption fiasco. Corruption fiascos everywhere, from Maharashtra to Karnataka to every nook and cranny of Indian politics. Corporate lobbying controversies to boot. Party lines and corporate lines were not important. Corruption remained the lowest common denominator soft-under-belly of Indian politics.

India remained incredible to an exocentric audience outside, waiting with a whipping stick in any case, to whip the poster-boy country of the world today.

Three Dark Horses:

Three dark horses took gallant little strides this year in Indian marketing. These three are really the big opportunities out there in the great Indian market as it is due to emerge in the future. As India boomed to become a Rs.1300 Billion Market in 2010 , the under-leveraged parts of the distribution economy is being tapped into by these three dark horses. The story is under-played as of now, but wait for the big strides these will take in the decade ahead.

Ok, let’s cut the chase:
1. Cash&Carry Wholesale retail: Bharti Wal-mart has made rapid strides in Punjab this year. Expect this to cascade into a ramp-up. I do believe this is the best solution to open up the largely under-served markets of Tier 3 and rural India at large. There is a big untapped demand from the hospitality sector, intermediary traders, villagers and farmers alike. The next new success is from there. Metro waits as well. As will more. In the queue.
2. Tele-shopping and Home-Shopping: This again is the next big opportunity ahead as more than 148 million household’s wait in anticipation. Direct selling offers the ability of under-served markets being able to tap into products and services that more-served markets in metros take for granted. The intermediary is cut out as well. Prices are competitive as well. Wait and watch as Guthy Renker, and literally every media house spots this opportunity and goes behind it.
3. Private labels: As organized retail booms, every super-market chain will want its piece of the action. More and more private label opportunities will emerge across the low-end, mid-market and premium tags. The apparel players are doing well on this count already. Expect more categories to open up. The private label will be private no more.
That’s it for 2010 then. A Tweet-year gone by.
Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

CSR and Brand-building

There is a little bit of CSR…… my hair!

By Harish Bijoor

If I am to simplify all of life with a perspective that is distinctly marketing oriented, there are just two types of people in the world. A small set of marketing people on one side, and a whole large set of people being marketed-to at the other end!

Peek keenly at any person you know. Either she is a marketing person marketing a product, a service, a dream or even a desire to someone else, or is a person who is being marketed to all the time by the marketer at large!

Marketing is therefore a people-centric process. And just as long as it remains that, and just as long as man loves living in a society of his making, CSR is going to remain a big buzz-word for the future ahead! CSR remains a very relevant strategic marketing tool for the amorphous future ahead of us!

In these long years of being around in the great Indian marketplace, I have seen marketing morph in its ideals. In the beginning, there was the product and the service. Both had to be reached out to the customer in the marketplace. This was also a day and age when everything was in short supply. The demand was big. The marketer performed his role as a mere transporter of the goods to the arms length convenience of the hungry consumer. These were the days when you had to wait 6 years on a waiting list to buy a 'Vespa' scooter and in a longer still queue to possess that sturdy black telephone instrument in your drawing room!

Marketers in this day and age had a simple goal. Distribute. Distribute with equity where possible. Be fair. Appear to be fair as well!

Life changed dramatically. In enters the era of plenty. Plenty of products and services! Enough to come out of your ears and everywhere else! Competition is sharp! The marketer morphs from his old attitude in such an environment. He becomes consumer savvy. He offers not only the product, but a superior degree of service to go with it. He offers customer experience and delight that becomes the brand in itself!

We live in such a competitive marketing era. There are just too many marketing people around. Just too many with all the boring ideas around. Everyone has been to the same marketing school (if not the same type) and comes out with the same set of ideas to go to market! And everyone fails! Parri passu marketing does not work!

In such an environment of parri passu marketing, time to think different. Time to think of a new tool to use! CSR is a great one! If used sensibly and with the sensitivity it deserves!

Three Marketing Formats:

Let me offer a theory I propound extensively.

There are simply three marketing formats to follow in a society as it morphs. In the early stage, society is all about “I, me, myself”! At this stage in consumer societal evolution, the marketer gets away using the language of hedonism and pleasure. The “I, me, myself” kind of product and service works well. The ‘Axe’ effect works here!

And then there is the stage when the consumer has gone beyond that basic stage. He is now concerned about the people around him. His loved ones. His family of four. His extended family of four more, mother, father, father-in-law and mother-in-law, last to be included!

This kind of man likes brands to be inclusive in their language, tone and tenor. This kind of man wants products that are good for the entire family! Never mind the rest of society, just as long his close-knitted family is taken care of, he is fine! The 'Annapurna' atta story works here!

And then there is man who is more conscious of more people around him. This is the kind of guy who is bothered about the good of his immediate neighborhood and society! He wants his entire neighborhood to be happy! The ‘Lifebuoy’ “clean the neighborhood” story works here!

There is macro-man then. This is the kind of person who wants the good of his immediate society and his entire planet. This is the kind of guy who wants to use bio-based detergents that don’t hurt the eco-system! The ‘Surf Excel’ “Do bucket paani bachana hai” theme works here!

And finally there is Cosmos man! Concerned about the cosmos, much of which he does not know even! We are yet to get there!

CSR works at every level. CSR is an inclusive process! A process that embraces the good of society in a very inclusive manner. This inclusiveness could start at the level of the immediate family and morph on to embrace the entire Cosmos.

CSR plays a vital role in taking commercial brands out into the commercial marketplace with a theme that is appealing to the sense and sensibility of the modern consumer. CSR is therefore a valuable tool that marketers can use to market their brand of soap, detergent, sugar and tea with equal panache and commercial effectiveness.

CSR is not at all about running public hospitals and schools alone. CSR is not about sending Tsunami relief material to the trouble spots of the world. That is old hat! It is much more! The modern consumer understands CSR that much more intimately when you touch his life, with a wee bit of CSR in your soap. A wee bit in your shampoo! In your kids diapers and feminine hygiene products as well!

The future of marketing is full of CSR! Of a different kind!

The author is a brand-domain specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., a private-label consulting firm with a presence in the markets of India, the UK and SE Asia.

Integrity Branding and Integrity Everything......

Three Chickens and an Egg!

By Harish Bijoor

In the several marketing summers I have lived, fought, sweated and thrived, there is one insight that has held me in good stead. This is the insight of Integrity branding.

Integrity branding is all about saying the simple truths in your brand communication process. Stick to the tone and tenor of integrity and you can’t do no wrong!

Let me look at it in a manner of detailing the concept at hand. The point is simple. All consumers are essentially truth seeking animals. Yes, all of us lie in some small manner or the other. These are really the small lies that make the fabric of our modern day lives. Small lies that ward off the inconvenience of a lie-less society.

Despite all these small lies, we are essentially truth seeking as consumers. When you buy a toothpaste, you expect honesty out of the entire exercise. The consumer-brand interaction process is a relationship. A relationship quite like the many relationships we go through in our social lives.

When you get into a relationship with a member of the opposite sex, or let me be politically correct and say member of the same sex even, you expect just one primary thing out of the relationship. The truth. There is no relationship you get into expecting dishonesty and the lack of integrity.

Very simply put, consumers get into brand relationships based on the expectation of the truth. But does she get it? And how much of it? And how frequently so?

My belief is that the brand that offers the most of the truth most of the time in this continuous relationship is the one that succeeds. The brand that fails on this count is an utter failure right away, or on the path of a self-fulfilling prophesy of doom round the corner.

Let me illustrate this with an example. Let me choose my favorite gourmet table bird for this example, the chicken! Let me take three of them.

There are really three chickens in our marketing lives. And remember, all of us are marketing people, since there are only two kinds of people in the world. The “marketing person”, who markets to others. And the “marketed-to person” at the other end!

Imagine three chickens out there. Each of the chickens is a manufacturer and a marketer. Each of the chickens has done something they are very good at. Each has laid an egg. And each of the eggs looks alike.

Each of the marketer chickens takes a different path to market their respective eggs.

There is the first chicken, which I call the “Shy chicken”. This chicken looks at the egg it has laid and finds the product quality to be all of 100. It then stands up, looks at the target audience of potential consumers and whispers with a decibel of shout that is at best 2 on a scale of 100.

This chicken’s whisper is heard by very few of those in the target audience. Even those who hear of it, hear it as a faint whisper. The promise offered by the whisper is just 2 on a scale of 100. Those few who hear the whisper actually come to see the egg, lured often by the under-shout that creates quite a bit of mystery in the consumer at hand.

When the few consumers actually arrive to see the product, there is great joy. The consumer expectation of 2 is rewarded with a delivery of 100. The positive strokes offered in this purchase is +98. The negative of this approach of course is the fact that it scores very low on consumer awareness scores.

Look at the second chicken then. This is what I call the “honest chicken”. This chicken looks at the target audience and shouts out the product offer with a shout level of decibel 100. The shout quality is equal to that of product quality.

The pros of this approach is apparent. Awareness scores are good. Everyone has heard that the chicken has an egg to offer. But there is a problem here. Consumers do not necessarily respect honest chickens. When the consumer has heard the full story, he does not want to see the egg at all. There is just no mystery. Only a few arrive to see the egg, and these are the only ones who actually need an egg. And when they arrive, they expect 100 and get 100. No positive strokes and no negative. The potential of a buy is low as well.

The third chicken is waiting. This chicken finds the competition hot. This chicken gets onto the rooftop and shouts with a decibel value 400. The darned chicken has laid an egg but shouts as if it has laid an asteroid! The awareness scores are terrific. The entire town lands up to look at the phenomena. The expectation is 400. The delivery is 100. There is a negative stroke quotient of -300. And nobody buys!

All these three chickens and their respective approaches are out there for the marketer to choose from. Each of us makes this choice every living day.There are variations available in the gamut of 0-400 in terms of shout levels. Different marketers choose differently.

But guess what, the chicken that shouts with a decibel of 80 is the one that succeeds the most. Also, after 400 what? Back to a decibel of 2. In a market where everyone is shouting at 400, the one chicken which whispers the least is the one that is heard and trusted the most.

Think about it. Which chicken are you as a marketer? And which chicken are you as a working person? And which chicken are you as a person living in a family of your own?

The author is a brand-domain specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., a consulting practice with presence in the markets of Hong Kong, Dubai, UK and India.

Marketing the Small Business......

Marketing the Entrepreneurship

By Harish Bijoor

Most entrepreneurships that aim to be big, aim to be different. Entrepreneurships start small. Think big but start small. And that is the fact of an entrepreneurship at large.

This is the niche. The niche is always small. The niche is different. The niche is unique. The niche is boutique. The niche is all about that one salmon that swims against the tide. It is about that one offering in the market that is so unique that people will pay a good price for the offering, but there won’t be too many people partaking of the offer.

The niche is therefore that narrow wedge of marketing space that brands aspire to occupy not for the sake of volume, but for the sake of image and continued brand sustenance basis just that.

How does one market the niche then? What are the primary challenges? And what’s so different in approach from marketing a mass soap, a mass focused travel agency and a mass focused consulting practice for that matter like what the Big Four(or is the Big Two and a half now?) do.

Marketing the niche brand is firstly a labor of love. Niche brands emanate from small little gaps in the market. At times they are non-gaps even. These are small little gaps and non-gaps seen by evangelists. Evangelists who are reasonably tired of mass market offerings. Evangelists, who at times have themselves experienced lack of service, frustration and a complete lack of fulfillment. The consultancy practice that looks at a zero-solicit model of business, where there is no advertising, no touting of business formats, no participation in market pitches for accounts and no brochure and no detailed website is one such example.

The challenges then are three mainly.

1. There is no money to advertise. Might as well make a virtue of that. A non-advertised brand must be good, na?

2. Niche brands slip between the slats of public recognition. At times too much recognition can be the bane of a brand in public space. Niche is boutique.

3. Niche brands forever look maverick and small. And that’s an advantage in today’s world where everything big is considered that much less optimal in its service and delight delivery standards.

Two do’s and two don’ts:

1. Spruce up your brand image and be totally cutting-edge in what you offer. You need to be one step ahead of big competition. Remember, bigger organisaitons take much longer to change with their clients. Clients change faster than those who service them do!
2. Don’t open up those offices all over. Follow a policy of the small office home office in every location till you have a minimum 5 clients in the kitty. It is better not to open a new office at all than close all of them one by one!

1. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver. Clients and consumers are tired of this.
2. Don’t be glib and slick at all. Don’t follow the big guys in this game. Be real. Be genuine. Be sincere. You will stand out like a loved sore thumb!

Wait! Even as I tap this onto my laptop, it strikes me that I operate in a niche myself.

Here is some niche-'gyaan' then from what I painted for my business practice eight years ago as a private label consulting firm with no MNC-consulting tag to it. Best way to talk the language of the niche. Best way to explore the challenge of the niche. My personal one.

Consulting! Possibly the world’s oldest profession. Rivals the other one for sure! A name that used to bring a smile on my face before I actually jumped into it. I had dealt with the big names in the Consulting business for a while now during my previous stints with Levers, Tata Coffee and finally Zip Telecom. I knew many an Anderson, a McKinsey and an E&Y! I knew many of the smaller names as well. Many a salivating consultant who would network at the parties I attended wearing the corporate hat.

The term Consulting has both a positive and a negative feel about it. The positive is that which talks of stellar strategy that creates many an alliance, many a turnaround and a domain that has been responsible for creating a wealth of wealth!

The negative connotation is best typified in the joke doing the cocktail rounds of a consultant being an entity that gets into your organization, wants to meet the folks who work there, asks for your watch, looks at it keenly and tells you the time!

I have never wanted to be one of that kind. And blissfully I am not! The first thing I did as the bug to get into bed with consultancy got to me was that I did a thorough analysis of the turf at hand. Being a Market Research enthusiast all my life, I could do nothing better. I looked keenly at the inadequacies in the profession, and said I would never trample on the terrain in the same manner as many others have.

I defined for myself a USP. Two actually.

One: My consultancy will never solicit business. No presentations to clients, no networking at parties, no presentations, no pitches and no brochures and direct mailers at all! I have had enough of that staring back at me from the other side of the fence when I was a Corporate for 18 long years!

Two: My practice would focus on walking the talk. Talking the talk is just not enough. The consultant must tread the path of his strategy and see it to fruition. I therefore adopted the Build-Operate-Transfer basis of business many a super-highway contractor adopts in his trade. I will build strategy; I will operate it for the client as if I am his own resource for a year. At point of satisfaction, I will transfer the business to the client CEO! Gives the profession a great deal of credibility!

This seems to work. It has kept me busy. My four offices are busy as well.

As big consultancies break up with corporates suspecting value-propositions, niche boutique consultancies that focus on individual specialty domains will become the order of the day! Private-label consultancy is here! The terrain is ripe for many a new entrant. More the merrier.

Being a niche player is really an advantage today. If this is a David versus Goliath play, the consumer of the future is poised to look keenly at David. David is small. David is nifty. David is value-for money (most of the time). David is like me. Small, real and vulnerable. The consumer emotes with small. B2B, B2C or to B2M (Business to machine) marketing, small is still beautiful. Schumacher was right!

The author is a brand and business-strategy specialist & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., a private label-consulting practice with a presence in the markets of Hong Kong, UK, Dubai and the Indian sub-continent. Email:
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Marketing to the Bottom-of-the Pyramid: 3 key issues


The Art, Science and Philosophy of Marketing to the BOP

By Harish Bijoor

The late Dr. C K Prahalad, in more ways than one, gave us the Pyramid once again. A Pyramid that is India. A pyramid that has small self-actualizing niches of the population at the top of the pyramid, large masses at the middle of the Pyramid and even larger impoverished, under-nourished and totally ignored populations at the Bottom of the pyramid in discussion.
The other thinker who gave us a pyramid all his own, Abraham Maslow was totally right in hindsight. Those at the top of the pyramid are really self-actualizing folk. Folk who think a lot more about the others than about themselves. In many ways this thinking class right atop the pyramid is the class that represents the thought leader paving the way for the India that is to be in 2020. This niche is however is not to be confused to the real India.
I read Dr. Prahalad’s picture of the pyramid that is India in tandem with the very notion of the “Next 2 Billion”(IFC). While the top 4 Billion population of the world are really the haves, the next 2 billion are the ones that don’t really have. The have-nots. The market is therefore right here with the have-nots. With the ones who sit at the bottom of the pyramid of every country there is. In the parts of the world still being defined as the “developing world”, the size of these have-nots at the bottom is really, really big, and in the case of the developed nations, the real worry is that the size of the niche at the bottom is really growing. Growing thanks due to the recession that hit the developed economies of the world not so long ago.

Sitting under my own Peepul tree, I come up with not one but two pyramids for India. When asked to describe India, I do not use Dr. Prahalad’s One Pyramid. I draw out two on my I-Pad. As an aside, India sure has moved in its symbolism of technology for the people: from the sanitary pad of the 1950’s to the I-Pad of 2010!
I draw two pyramids. One is a small. Another big. The bigger pyramid is three times the size of the smaller one. The big is RURAL and the small is URBAN. On each of these I draw three wedges as segments. The top of the pyramid, the middle and bottom. At the end of the exercise, when I put numbers in the tiers of people, the shocker really is that the size of the Top of the Pyramid in Rural is really 2.6 times the size of the Urban. And the size of the middle of the pyramid is just some 6 times that of the urban, just as the Bottom of the pyramid is just about 2.3 times that of urban.

The point then: BOP is a reality of both urban and rural markets. It really is a myth to look only at rural for the BOP manna that most marketers have rushed to address. There’s more to the concept of BOP than rural alone.

Having said and established that for a start, I do believe that the story of India Inclusive is really all about knitting the BOP into the mainstream that is India and Indian. Marketing to the BOP is both an art and a science. Along with that, and most importantly, its a philosophy. A philosophy that corporate organizations need to ingrain into their DNA.
The most important fact that needs to be bought into is the fact that marketing in the future is all about inclusive approaches and not the old exclusive approaches. In many ways, the concept of the brand and the very definition of brands swim against this new need. The brand in many ways is a premium. A premium that is extracted from the exclusive masses of its consumers. This notion needs to be re-jiggged now. The brand cannot be exclusive to its exclusive masses or niches. The brand needs to belong to all. And belong in an inclusive and all-encompassing manner for sure.

The key question then is whether marketing can change the world. And can marketing change India for a start?

I do believe it can. It can, provided we re-jig the way we look at markets and consumers at large. From the 47 and odd theories I have built in this realm over the last two decades, let me pick three key thoughts then, one each from the realm of the Art, the Science and the Philosophy that is marketing. Key thoughts that will help re-jig marketing at large, and help re-orient the way we want to open the can that is BOP and the can that is India Inclusive in its orientation.

1. The Art of Marketing to the BOP: Gandhian Marketing versus marketing the “Honest Shirt” and the “Toothpaste with Oxygen” in it!
Brand India has seen two kinds of brands emerge over the decades that marketing has touched the nation and its produce. At one end is the brand that is today that of the Mahatma. The father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi is the biggest and most recognized brand that represents India internally and overseas. Mahatma Gandhi has emerged to be the most durable brand of them all.

Gandhi-ji never needed to take a full-page ad in the papers saying “Gandhi Shining”. Brand Gandhi happened as a function of the hard and dedicated work he did at the grass-root that is really India. Every action of his that focused on upliftment of the under-privileged, and every icon he gave to India became a durable representation of this ethos. Whether it was Khadi, the Dandi Salt Yatra or non-violence as a means of protest, Gandhi-ji reigns as a thought, even today. Across the world. This was true-blue bottom-up branding. Branding basis hard work at the BOP.

The second and more common marketing format in India today is the format of Top-down marketing. This format is all about taking a shirt and making it honest and taking a television and making it healthy and of course taking the humble tooth-paste and adding Oxygen to it. And around all these offerings, advertising has added further allure. Top-down branding is a format that has touched every segment of the pyramid and still attempts to touch the BOP. Sadly, it does not work here. The BOP is the most intelligent and most untouched-by-hyperbole segment of the Indian economy. This cannot be taken for granted and played with.

If you need to succeed here, simply adopt the Bottom-up-branding ethos. Do a Gandhi on the market, and stop putting Oxygen in the toothpaste instead. The BOP disbelieves advertising fluff and fare more than the de-sensitized marketing-anaesthesiatiszed top of the pyramid market.

When brands finally get to think of the BOP markets in both urban and rural, it is time to put together programs of what I call and practice as “Conscious De-branding”. A process where you sit and peel off the slick and the glib from your brand and advertising offering. Making the brand offering real. As real as the consumer.

2. The Science of Marketing to the BOP: Democratic Distribution systems versus the autocratic Top-down ones at play!
Distribution is a demon in India. Reaching masses of people who live across different terrain and at distances that are difficult to reach with consistency seems a big challenge even today.

The three tenets of a good distribution system are indeed the width of reach, the depth of reach in terms of product and service offerings and the consistency of reach, week after week, if not more frequently.

I do believe there are three types of consumers emerging in India today. The first is a consumer who buys products and services for self-use. For use by the self and family of 4.

The second type of consumer is the one who buys partly for self and partly to distribute. This consumer is 70 per cent consumer and 30 per-cent re-distributor. You find these mostly in the Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns of India, even today. They make a margin on what they sell and partly defray the costs of what they buy for themselves. These are savvy consumers and savvy business people as well in their own right.

The marketer needs to recognize this consumer and make offerings that are relevant, original and innovative.

The third type of consumer is the one that buys possibly 5% for himself and 95% acting as a re-distributor. I find these in the smallest of villages in India. The most efficient system of reaching out to the land that is India is really this. Millions of entrepreneur-distributors who make a living doing just this. This is a win-win for the marketer and consumer alike. A win-win combination that is totally under-leveraged as of today.

The future of cracking in to the pie that is BOP in both urban and rural is this. This is it!

3. The Philosophy of Marketing to the BOP: Creeping Urbanization versus Creeping Ruralization!
Ever since independence, India has witnessed a creeping and crawling phase where masses of people have morphed from mindsets and consumption sets that were rural to mindsets, which are more aggressively urban. The marketer at large has been responsible for this. The movement that was a crawl became a literal gallop in the early and mid-eighties when Television knitted the nation as one, pumping urban imageries of the modern marketing man in India to rural audiences. Television and all the advertising it carried threw up and pushed down rural throats and stomachs and bladders the urban way of life. In more ways than one, India became an Instant urban society.

This I do believe is an un-doing. An un-doing that needs to be corrected. In many ways marketing is a hegemony in India. The urban-educated and privileged marketer markets to the rural person. Never mind that rural is three times bigger than urban. The imagery that consumers emote with in India today is the urban imagery.

Turn turtle this and emote with real India. Emote with the imagery that is rural. Put a program that is rural in your marketing mix. Go one step further and show your archetypical brand hero in your TV commercials to be the rural person. See what it does. I do believe India is ready to turn-turtle its marketing imagery. The BOP market will admire this. And will certainly reward this effort. With market share. And money. And more than that, consumer affection.

The road ahead for the Inclusive India agenda is an exciting one. Tread it with strategy.

The author is a brand-strategy specialist & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., a strategy consulting firm with a presence in the markets of India, SE Asia, UK and Dubai.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What's Wrong With Marketing Today?

What’s wrong with marketing today?

By Harish Bijoor

Ouch! A lot of marketing folk will not even want to hear this question around. A lot of the oldies in the game tend to believe everything is hunky dory and right, as well.
This question is going to be junked the moment it is seen. Junked as a piece of rhetoric used just to get the attention it got.
What could be wrong with marketing after all? Are we not witnessing double-digit growth in many categories? Is there not plenty of excitement around with our mega-buck campaigns making it onto the Power jackets of newspapers? Are we not innovative as well? Are we not bending-backwards to get marketing noticed at large? And are we not winning all those awards at Cannes and everywhere else?

What then could be wrong with marketing?

If marketing people just got off the roller coaster, and if only we got off the 9 to 9 regimen of being a marketing man, woman or child, we would notice. The problem is one of people. The biggest P of them all!
The big is issue is out there and the worried lot are really the younger ones in marketing. In many ways the older ones have made their cocoons, padded them well and are quite happy with what they have. The fire though is burning elsewhere on this question. In the bellies of the young who have opted for marketing as a profession, and most certainly in the bellies of those who are just on the verge of choosing a career-track to follow.

The issues are out there staring at many. Let’s list some.

1. Young talent that is entering marketing is really not as committed to marketing as it should be. There are too many people who are here who just should not be here.
2. Marketing is not the best paymaster anymore. Finance is where the action is. Even HR is an exciting place to be in terms of money. There are just too many average marketing people around.
3. Where are the mentors? There just are not enough people around with time to coach the young entrant into Marketing. Youngsters are forever on a delivery-oriented mode. And on a limb. The accent for the young is execution and implementation. The planning role in Marketing is somehow appropriated by the ones at the top.

4. Marketing means just about everything today. 99% everything else and 1% branding is just not the right combination for the youngster seeking to make a mark in marketing. The youngster is getting painted into the corner of being “all legs and all hand” and no mind. Ouch!
The list can go on, depending which youngster in marketing you speak to, but let me stop.

When I look back at the issues that abound, I know what went wrong. It happened all but subliminally. Slowly but surely, one step at a time with actions that decimated what marketing meant to India and the Indian marketing professional in the days of yore. And 'days of yore' is just about 20 years ago.

It began in many ways with the bifurcation of sales and marketing as two separate streams altogether. Let me be politically in-correct. Sales for the less-conceptually oriented, and marketing for the more. Sales in many ways for the non-MBA entrant into corporate organization and marketing for the guy with the MBA-tag.

The moment this happened, the silo approach to marketing began. Sales became an acute specialization, which no marketing man wanted to touch, and marketing became an acute specialization that every sales person wanted to get into, but seldom could.
Proverbial nail number two hit into the proverbial cold coffin , when every sales organization that did its own direct selling into the market decided to out-source it all. Outsource it to distributors. The biggest companies in the tumult of marketing bid good bye to their own salespersons and offered distributorships that had the emergence of whole big tribes of distributors who are today a critical link between the company and its B2B consumers, the retailers.
As this happened, in the beginning the good practice of market working by sales, and in some measure by the marketing executives continued. What used to be considered standard good practice that meant visiting the distributor, working markets with the distributors’ salesperson, and visting retail outlets was slowly given up. Not altogether, but largely.
From a coverage span of 25 outlets per day of market visit; today the average executive in sales and marketing is doing all of 6. If not less. And the number of days in the market is quite another issue. From a healthy practice number of 10 days a month in market to the current possible 2 days in market.
Marketing people are therefore working markets less, and are in contact with their retailers that much less. Marketing people are visiting lesser number of consumer homes, and are therefore that much more divorced from their consumers. Marketers do not travel in the buses that their consumers travel in. Marketers do not watch “ Kunku” or “Bhagyalakshmi” which their consumers are umblically linked to. The sweat of the consumer is an alien sweat.

Marketers have over the last decade distanced themselves from their consumers. There is a certain overt reliance on aggregated approaches to a consumer who in reality is not aggregated at all. Reliance on consumer insight is totally basis dipstick studies that touch nano-segments of the consumer profile at large. Studying the consumer as a constituency of one is not done anymore. Everything is an aggregate. Everything is a cluster. And marketing is today itself a cluster-approach that does not seem to work as well as it should.
A pain-point with a lot of young marketing people I meet is the angst around the thought that marketing people do not grow into top management positions as fast as they used to in the past. It sure is true.

Marketing people will need to re-invent hard work as part of the regimen of being a marketing person. Hard work that is about spending a lot more time in the market, and with the consumer at large, rather than in Corporate Board-rooms with intermediaries who are into research, advertising or distribution alike. Intermediaries who bring a lot to the table, but just not enough. And not in the way it must.

Re-inventing marketing into a 1:1 process from the 1: All process it has become, will gain back lost respect, lost competencies, lost edges, and everything else that got lost in the process. Including lost promotions. Touche!

The author is a Brand-strategy specialist & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Rin Versus Tide

Rin in-the-face

By Harish Bijoor

Is all of Indian advertising getting progressively more and more simple? Are brands getting back to the good old basics?

Colgate is talking the language of white teeth once again. Discarding everything else and very directly, re-discovering the tabletop model of the teeth as well and talking endlessly on the subject of germs hidden in-between teeth, which only Colgate reaches out to.

Nirma is talking dirt-busting capability with its eminently well-created Nirma jingle TV commercial that has dirt freezing in its tracks, quite afraid of the stentorian jingle of Nirma done with pizzazz and pomp. Nirma reinvents for itself its USP and the jingle. Both together.

And now Rin has gone back to a creative piece that re-discovers the joy, the pain and the trauma of comparative advertising.

Good formats and the good old ways seem to never tire in their efficiency scores.

The competitor’s brand to many is a four-letter word. In the case of Rin, it really is a four letter word as well: Tide. The current piece of Rin advertising, which has the brand name Tide repeated many times over, is certainly new, refreshing, in-the-eye and very-very straight.

There are many ways of looking at this creative. Here are just two quick Jekyll and Hyde set of thoughts of mine.

1. This is a very confident piece of advertising. It takes the time-tested route of direct product delivery and capability comparisons. Just as long as your data is independent and reliable, go ahead and do this sort of thing. If Rin had pixilated the brand name and done this, it would seem a trifle under-confident. What works with the consumer is confidence. Go out there and say it confidently if you have your facts right. Regain confidence for your brand and shake the competitors brand confidence index. Make people sit up and question with their eyes. Name the brand outright! Be bold! Take the battle out into the bastion of the competitor’s brand.

2. Hey! This is old hat. This kind of comparative advertising used to work in the good old days when consumers sat up and made purchase decisions basis product attributes and product delivery norms in terms of solutions. Good scent and whiteness are rather both generic to the category. How much ever anyone shouts in messaging such as this, consumers are going to be yawning and saying what next. Consumers hate this kind of relapse into age-old advertising formats that have the same old message of the sixties with the creative ability and excellence of production standards of the 2000’s staring back at them. Wake up and smell the change.

What do I believe in?

I do believe this is a confident piece of advertising. It’s a good one that will have consumers sitting up and take note of a very boring category that has been around since the days of Sunlight and Det. Consumers are voyeuristic in their habits. They will sit up and will want to enjoy the fight. In the boring detergents category, they will surely expect a Tide re-buff ad hitting the airwaves. Later than sooner.

In this summer of detergent-discontent, consumers will watch the fun as it unfolds and will do just what they want. They will take their favorite brand back home for more reasons than product attribute and product delivery reasons alone. They will pick the brand basis the scent of the brand. Basis the language of the brand. Tide Naturals has much to sell in its brand name itself on this count. And the bulk of consumers will buy basis the price of the brand as well. Price, sadly to the chagrin of the marketer and advertiser alike, remains the biggest lowest common denominator nudge point for brand purchase in 'parri passu' categories such as detergents today in India.
The Rin ad is good for the category at large as consumers sit up and watch the fight unfold on their television sets, in the courts, and indeed in the marketplace and homes of the millions of consumers who use these brands.

The current piece of Rin advertising is very clear in its visual language of comparison. There are shots of the competitive brands in the shopping baskets of both the women waiting for their kids. There is the all give-away shot of the boys emerging from the bus, one with the whitest of whites and the other with the creamiest of the creams. And finally there is the comparative half screen of both the brands with Rin winning over Tide. Rin understands the importance of price in this category and brings that in as well, as the round-figure of Rs.25 shouts vocally and visually.

What’s ahead then?

The Rin ad will be pulled off the screens. The fight will move off-screen. Rin would have got its bang for the buck already in terms of brand awareness scores in the initial burst of advertising before pullout. Many will criticize the genre of advertising as being nasty and a bit too nifty. Rebuff ads will follow. And much else will happen. The fun has just begun.
The author is a brand-strategy specialist & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Rin Versus Tide