Saturday, 1 November 2014

The "TIME" variable in data analytics and personalization

Ritu and I are now serious online shoppers. Last month we started buying vegetables and fruits online and with this, almost 90% of our monthly needs are shopped online. Very thrilling.

And with our own “desi” portals giving world class online shopping experience, we should be thrilled. Right?

Well, almost.

6 months ago, we re-started to play tennis. Ritu and I. And we used to buy a set of 3 balls every month. The recommendation engine on FLipkart and Amazon were identical. Suggesting other brands of balls. And telling me that people who had bought tennis balls, also bought racquets etc etc. Ok. Thank you.

But its been 6 months now and Ritu and I now buy a set of 3 balls every 10 days.

What should Amazon have figured from this? That we play frequently, and we are getting better at the game. And possibly play longer. So the recommendation engine should have started to give me energy drinks/ hand towels/ shoes/ maybe some books on tennis……Nope. Nothing like that. It still gives me the same other brands of balls etc.

This is not “personlisation” that big data analytics was supposed to do. This is the same small data analytics extrapolated to big data. And this happens on every category. Kids diapers….my kids gradualed from diapers to kids underwear. BAM! That should have told FLipkart something. Start suggesting books- other interesting stuff for 3 year olds. The change in product signals a big shift – it’s a counter that allows Amazon or FLipkart to estimate when my kids will be 5/6/7/15 or 30. And plan to seed me and my kids. Dont recommend basis what 1 million other dad bought when their kids moved from diapers to underwear. Mine did it in 3 years, some one else's may do it in 4. The kids are different.

Netflix i believe does a lot of reasearch on consumers and is very kicked about its recommendation engines. I was curious and looked at the analytics they do. Lots of cross tabs...etc.

But lets look at this case: Ritu Venkatesh (my wife’s name) has lived in 3 cities in the last 5 years. She was watching movies like “Marley and me” till 4 years ago when she switched to Snowhite and the dwarfs. Then last year, she also added “Frozen” and “Toy Story” for my eldest who turned 4…

So Net flix should know that this is a female customer, North Indian (Ritu), married to a South Indian (Venkatesh) on a transferable job; watching kids movies of different genres (have multiple kids)… while they have a lot of recommendations..i realised they were losing marketing or cross promotional opportunities basis what more they can put together on the customer.

They could be cross selling Ritu massage treatments/ nanny recommendations / governesses/ early development kids games etc…

Really excited as I write this. Recommendation engines use millions of data points to predict what I should need. But forgetting the rate at which I migrate from one category to another. This we believe would be different from user to user and adds a layer to the modeling exercise that today we dont see at some large retailers. Will keep busy think of the applications of this approach in consumer marketing.

The TIME variable in data analytics and personalization.

Ritu and Venkat

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Amul's new take on life

Amul, one of the leading dairy product companies in India, gets a larger share of the media in the summers with its ice cream and milk shake ranges trying to force their way into the consumers choice set. A newspaper advertisement today for ice creams is particularly interesting. 'bonding is not a button on the social network' it says. And continues.... "What tweet can match those whistles calling us to the playground. There is not a smiley that represents all the good times we have had. We follow each other instead of walking together. We visit each others timelines instead of each other." And the lines end with "let's stay friends and not become subscribers. Lets share something real." This is an advert for ice creams. On the face of it, inviting us to come together, enjoy our physical presence, and share ice cream from amul while we are at it. It's an impulsive purchase, jostling for space in the cola wars....why not have an ice cream when you are together, rather than a cola? "Coffee day" started something similar with " a lot can happen over a cup of coffee" and FCB ULKA, the advertisement agency for amul seems to have been inspired from that it appears. It's actually difficult to find 5 friends that enjoy ice cream. It's easier to find five friends and sit at a joint that serves cola, coffee, ice cream or juices......mix and match. The intent of the advertisement and the text is definitely thought provoking. But the application of this thought to the mass ice cream business , in our view, suggests a lack of thought from the brand manager. And of course the creative guy at Ulka got paid, he doesn't care. ps: the visuals that come for the amul advt are among the most pathetic. Consistently throughout this summer .Space utilisation is poor, with vast blank spaces. The ice creams look cheap, the sprinklings on them, very artificial and unappetising. S do we think Ulka is really giving amul a bang for the buck? Nope.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Gilette and Apple.....and mousetraps

Gilette- the best a man can has five vibating blades on its razor and a trimmer too....Will i be excited about their next launch? Nope. I know it will have a 6th blade and maybe a small module to add colorback to my greying moustache. Great brands Engage, educate and entertain. They brng to you the "next" lifestyle ehancing product. are simply waiting for a Smsung to happen to yu. Which brngs me to Apple. Apple 5; ipad 3..... thinner/ lighter/ sharper lens....somewhere i am lost in what the point of a "better mousetrap" experience is. The good news is you keep the pricing in the same range, so it just feels like an upgrade each time i buy an iphone 4 after a 3. But that was not the point of an Apple. You upgrade a Nokia.... or a Samsung. An Apple you buy for the "next big thing". Maybe the next big thing dos not happn every year in this business. Sure, but then 5 years after the iphone, Apple has not given us abetter user experience or interface. Samsung has become a serious contender only for that reason. Sansung offers me better incrementality than Apple. Apple will continue to grow on the back of the brand it has built. Across the globe more and more people, as incomes ride, will get into the "aspirational brand purchase" mode and buy Apple.....for a while. Because soon Apple will get commoditised and Sansumg will offer better value for money. Nokia will catch up eventually. Apple perhaps did not have any choice. Its iphone 4 was losing all comparisons with Samsungs new range. So a better mouse trap was needed. But i certainly hope the iphone 6 is around the corner and will redefine what a mobile phone means. Again. Venkat

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Apple versus Blackberry in the world's cheapest market

So Apple manages 2.5% of the Indian smartphone market, BB does 15%, Nokia 45% (data picked up from the ET of 4 Oct, 11).

Should Apple be worried?

Nope. But Apple should not get greedy. Its a very expensive phone and it relies on high speed networks to show its prowess. Both money and high speed networks are hard to come by in India. In fact, Apple should not allow more than a few hundred units to be sold each month as the netowrk in the country builds up. Or, play at the lower price point with a phone that can dazzle on 2g (like the BB).

BB has reinvented itself like no other recent brand in the Indian market. From a corporate device, it has positioned itself as the device to have in the youth market.Its messenger is a cool application and the new touch and type is an innovation which is just right in the market.

At a sub 10k price point, its well positioned on price. While the local manufacturers (Micromax, Lava etc) are more aggressive on price and features where i have found them lacking is durability of device.

But BB in India has gained my respect - in understanding the youth and offering them a great product. Whether BB will continue its domination on the corporate front- i cant say. In the long run will it become the brand of choice for the youth? I cant say.

The youngest markets in the world are in Africa and India and BB has not yet got a design centre in these places. The day it does, i will buy some BB stock. BB has doen in India what it has not in most markets of the world. That should give it some confidence to go much further.

Nokia- the good was'nt as good....the bad certainly not as bad..

I know Nokia got a lot of things wrong in the Indian market recently: they were late on the dual sim phone, qwerty 'smart phones'.

But when i saw a recent brand survey done by the economic times and saw Nokia slipping down 15 ranks in the SEC C segment (low income and education bracket), i was indeed surprised. Additionally, Nokia retains top spot among the SEC A (high income, education segment)- the segment which has coveted the smartphones- a segment where Nokia has also struggled in a big way globally.

So what explains this? The low end consumer who needs durable and rugged kicks Nokia for a dual sim (Nokia phones are without doubt better in robustness than any local brand) and the high end consumer embraces the brand that does not serve him well.

I must speak to friends at Nokia to understand their perception of the results.

My own assessment is that on quality the phone is tops. In terms of range, wide.
With its dual sim phones, the brand will capture the loyalty of its customers down the income strata. But unless its top end phones regain their mojo, loyalty at the top end will be lost shortly.

Lets wait and watch.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Go on Pond’s … try being a parent....

We are on youtube often entertaining our baby boy with nursery rhyme videos. We see a lot of advertising from Pond’s face was for women now precedes any video for the child.

It appears that some media manager and the brand manager (at Pond’s) has hit upon the insight that mothers accompany kids as they browse the internet for nursery rhymes and hence hitting the mothers with an advt upfront is a good idea to catch relevant eyeballs.

Bad idea Pond’s.

We are searching for these videos because our baby has a 30 minute window in which to get fed and these videos keep him engrossed and in one place. He gets on his seat eagerly awaiting Noddy and not a pretty model for Pond’s. When one video ends, he wants it replaced by another…again seeing a pretty face makes him very uncomfortable- he stops eating and that makes us uncomfortable. Remember that our baby has a 30 minute window tops after which he will not sit on his seat/ nor eat.

We spoke to a couple of mothers, and our experience on this matter seems to stand.

It’s a good suggestion that marketers target their advertisements to get maximum eyeballs. But ask the question- is the eyeball there really interesting in seeing my brand at that point of time.

Ritu and Venkat

Thursday, 1 September 2011

success and failure

Would you feel fortunate if you had neither of either or too many of both?(just a point to mull over, we dont have a point of view on it)

Ritu and I were speaking of Steve Jobs...the discussion went into a comparison with Bill Gates...Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail)...and a few other names popped up including Edison.

Bill Gates hit gold on his first try- the result Microsoft and world domination.
The problem? No second wind- no more innovations.

Jobs- failed with the Mac; failed with Newton; failed with Next....and then came back to be daddy of all tech companies.

Sabeer Bhatia- hit with hotmail...and then?

Try a few more...

Small sample size, but what the heck- go ahead and fail a bit. Build a strong gut and then keep trusting it.

Ritu and Venkat

Sunday, 29 May 2011


i quote thought gadgets
"What else do you think dropping the word "coffee" from its logo means?"

a simple one phrase analysis of a very powerful move.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

men, women, advertising

A brilliant campaign from Heineken. Click on title to goto the THoughtGadgets note on same.

Men, women.....advertising....does not need to always mean sex, sexy, naughty.

Axe deodorant pulls it off time and time again, others fall flat on their faces for their attempts at connecting to their audience through vulgarity.

Heineken - this particular campaign must inspire marketers to try and connect with their audience through decent and real human emotions.

Marketers have a role to influence society and the way we think and express ourselves. Sex sells...sure....but understanding consumers offers you more opportunities for connect.

i am a fan!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

advertiting television technology

We've been seeing some interesting advertisements on selling new Direct to home technology and new TV technology.

The problem with advertising new resolution levels i sthat the viewer still sees the images on his current TV. Hence any claims about clarity are difficult to experience. 2 companies have come with interesting approaches:

Sony- Sony is using DHoni making some cricket plays as the base story. However, they are closing in to the images, running them in slow motion in order to emphasise the dew, the sweat runing down his face, the seam position on the ball etc. TO demonstrate that the level of detail that is visible on their new TVs are truly amazing. Point made. Hope the TVs are really that good.

Airtel - airtel is emphasising its internet TV as providing very cear images. The way they do this is to have two stories running concurrently on the screen- and its difficult to distinguish whats real and whats being played on TV, till the end of the ad. Again trying to show that so clear is their picture technology that reality and screen can get confused. Point made.

Well done.

Ritu and Venkat

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Sep 2010, SEN-SEXY

The BSE Sensex (Bombay Stock Exchange Index) hit 19000 yesterday.

Is this a bull run/ irrational exuberance? Foreign investor play??

Here is our take on it.

We looked at the evolution of the sensex since 2003, the time when the Indian economy really took off and in the period 2003-2011 has been growing at about 8% per year. (please use attached link to see how the sensex has evolved)^BSESN#chart3:symbol=^bsesn;range=20021216,20100913;indicator=volume;charttype=line;crosshair=on;ohlcvalues=0;logscale=off

Given that agriculture grew between 2-3 % in this period, it is safe to assume that the industrial sector grew in excess of 12% on average.

The companies listed on the SENSEX which are BLUE CHIP, therefore had to grow 20% in this period for the sensex to reach 19000 by the end (almost of 2010). Not so unrealistic after all.

We think that if we as Indians held on to our balls and stopped looking for external excuses (FIIs) to explain the rise of the sensex, we should simply congratulate a growing economy and its star companies for the stellar performance of the SENSEX.

We continue to invest in the stock market. India must grow at least 8% for the next 30 years to avoid a social revolution. We are betting on it.

And looking at the sensex reach 40-45000 levels by 2015.

Ritu and Venkat.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Mr. Nokia- Your enemy is my enemy, so we must be friends!

There will be a lot written about the appointment of the new Nokia CEO. Here are our thoughts.

It appears MS and Nokia will now have a very strong alliance to develop an OS for Nokia phones that will stand up to the Android menace. We guess this would be a pretty important reason this recruitment happened from Microsoft.

MS will dedicate thousands of engineers to this, Nokia will offer its mind blowing market share of phones for this noble purpose.

Question- Nokia still has a hardware design problem, and its devices dont really have the wow factor. How will Nokia address this?

Question- Why does MS need Nokia for its engineers to get inspired and make the next level of portable OS?

Question- How will this counter the Chinese threat?

Sure, it appears Stephen Elop is more eloquent, understands the US market and technology.

Question- the US market is not the growth engine for the world. India and China are.

Question- Sure the Finns are reserved, but cant believe they dont understand technology.

Sure, Nokia it appears had become slow and bureaucratic- so a shake up of the culture is in order? Who better than a North American to get this happening fast.

Nokia is a great company and its mission of 'connecting people' has put phones in the hands of billions. And it is time for a change. A time to move from product to services. A time to give away killer apps 'free'- a time to make the Apple model of application stores, irrelevant. The focus has to be all phones, not just smart phones. Or a clear statement from Nokia saying, we will not shed tears if the Chinese reduce our market share at the bottom end to single digits.

Nokia, with its huge market share, has the potential to bring application based 'life changing experiences' across all price points. That, in our view is the real game. Will they play it? Or stay focused on the competition- Apple.

Will Nokia recreate the business landscape?

If Mr Elop is able to address this challenges effectively, it will be the most incredible business transformation. Good luck.

Else we will close with this quote from research firm Garter:

In spite of his experience, some focus Elop’s background at Microsoft and worry. Research firm Garter is in “two minds” about his appointment, with vice president Nick Jones pointing out that Microsoft “has many of the same problems as Nokia in terms of innovation, especially in the smart phone business.”

Ritu and Venkat.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

fake IPL blogger- SICKO !!

Hello Mr Anupam Mukerji, the fake IPL blogger. I think you are a sicko. Get help.
And while you are at it, please invite the people at the Times of India who gave you front page cover for revealing your identity. Not one apologetic word from you- you idiot. Just what are you??

I laughed hysterically at your coverage of the IPL2. Hysterically. I thought you were the funniest dude around. But you were anonymous. A fictitious character- making fun of other people, calling them names, abusing their families- mothers and sisters....and making a serious spectacle of cricket. It was never real. But i laughed (maybe i need help too?)

Now you come out into the open- you become a real person. One claiming public accolade for your abusive language. And you dont even apologise to those you have abused. What kind of people brought you up?

You are out of your mind.

But you do hold up a mirror on our society today- do we accept people that heap abuse on others? are we able to separate fact and fiction? is it really cool to make money laughing at others, instead of at ourselves? Does the Times of India not debate this at all before speaking to their readers?

F@$%, you make Chetan Bhagat appear a rock star.

I hope 'appam' sues you. And wins.


Monday, 26 July 2010

the 'abcd' keyboard- simplifying life for your consumers.

Lava, a mobile phone brand in India recently launched 'the world's first 'adcb' phone'. The 'abcd' phone as opposed to the 'Qwerty' key-board has the alphabet arranged linearly....a,b,c,d....

Its the first of its kind in the world.

Why did they do it? Well, in our view, its simple to an interesting feature and for most Indians who buy a cellphone before they learn to type, its just logical to search for alphabets serially. And there is no pain of learning to type in a new way.

Our doubt is on why the keyboard was launched on a smart-phone and not an entry level phone. The smartphone is still likely to be bought by more affluent people ( and hence with exposure to and with a habit for qwerty typing)....although this hypothesis could be challenged.

The bigger question is 'why did nokia or samsung or LG not do this?' For all the consumer insight, if you are aware that the mobile is the earlier buy (compared to a PC) .....why would you not simplify the phone experience for these 'new comers'.

Wow. We learnt a heck of a lot from this product launch.

Ritu and Venkat

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Nike Shoes and Services

Click the title above to read this interesting note by Elie Ofek in the site that we frequent. What was particularly awesome was this passage:

For the current World Cup, Nike launched its Mercurial Vapor SuperFly II. But someone that buys a pair gets more than the enhanced acceleration the new shoes are designed to provide. The shoes come with a unique user code that, once entered online, unlocks a full training program. Its Nike Football+ program was developed in conjunction with the world's leading coaches and players, and offers a myriad of video training sessions, tips, and methods for improving one's play. Programs can also be downloaded through an app to an iPhone or to other mobile web-enabled handsets to take to the field. No longer are athletes being asked to pay upwards of $300 just to have a better physical shoe; they're also getting a service that helps them become better players.

I mean, this is it. We all know the great margins are in services - ask IBM and HP and all those companies that make money on product check ups and the sort.

Now Nike goes and applies this to shoes?? Wow! What a winner of an idea.

OK Adidas, so maybe you can make a shoe of similar style. But how about the fitness program that we have packaged with the shoe?

We only hope Nike is collecting data from its new shoe that allows it to see what kind of training the users are undergoing and then build more specific packages for them.

This is a classic marketing initiative. Well done Nike! We have always advocated that consumer products should build 'services' targeted at their consumers...this is a fabulous example.

By the way,!/nikefootball?v=wall
is also one heck of an online campaign. We dont enjoy the game, but we thoroughly enjoyed this site and what Nike is trying to do. Connectivity and Empowerment. Consumers want to belong to a network, but be able to express their individuality.....beautifully captured here.
Ritu and Venkat

Thursday, 8 July 2010


"I want to work someplace less bureaucratic" i said.

"Bureaucracy is not a bad thing", said my friend, "it ensures people follow standard operating procedures. That's not bad."

"Well", i reflected. "I measure bureaucracy not by how fast messages go down the organisation chart. I measure it by how fast messages go up the organisation chart".

We both agreed on that.


Friday, 2 July 2010

EMIs- How and when to you use a monthly payment plan

We are very sure about this so any views to the contrary will be appreciated.

A leading mobile phone company launched a campaign today allowing consumers to purchase its phones in 3 equal monthly installments.

This is a leading company under attack in India from low cost phones in the mass market as well as the 'smart phone' segments.

This campaign surprised Ritu and me immensely.

Installments plans , particularly in an emerging economy, should only be used to develop a product category. And when they are used, the installments should be such that they at least equal the current alternative.

We explain:

Eg: House-ownership: It is expensive and house ownership in urban India is very low. So an EMI from banks (over 10 or 20 years) allows people to enter this category and the size of the (monthly payment) EMI usually is equal to the monthly rent paid out anyway. So the offer of home ownership is very attractive.

For mobile phones, this does not work. India has 600 mn mobile phones (estimated). So the category exists.

For a premium brand to use 3 monthly installments to bring the cost (per month) to that of the full cost of a low price competitor - this is not logical. A premium player approaching its target audience on price is a sure sign of panic.

If i cannot afford a premium product in a single payment, very very unlikely i will be able to afford it in 3 payment plans....or very unlikely i will still not be distracted by a competitor model at one third the price- with mostly all comparable features.

The campaign needs to be re-looked asap.

Ritu and Venkat

Friday, 25 June 2010

Sab Miller- Haywards beer ad in India


Sab Miller has been a late entrant into the Indian beer market. The market leader Kingfisher has positioned itself as 'the king of good times' with its ads focusing on the young generation having a great time at parties and enjoying KF beer.

Now SabMiller has launched a TV ad for its Haywards beer. And i find it remarkable. Its about a typical day for a sales rep in India who earns little, depends on the very poor public transport network and often has to travel miles and miles to make his quota. The protagonist in this ad talks about his challenges, and his enthusiasm to rise again the next day, before the sun shines- and then to outshine the sun.

A remarkable way to capture the spirit of new India.

And as he returns weary after the day's work, he looks forward to his Haywards!

What a fabulous position for a beer- as an end of day way to relax! Really beats the pants off the party positioning of KF. Really classical marketing- STP- segment the market, target a segment and position yourself uniquely.

Brilliant. Really connects with me. ( I did the sales man grind!)

On another note, here is a link to a new campaign for Pepsodent toothpaste from Unilever in India. My only thought was, 'how the mighty have fallen'. Unimaginative- boring....and as appears to be the trend for Unilever in India, relying heavily and solely on the crutches of Bollywood superstar Shah Ruck Khan. The link is below.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Segmenting the coffee market

Beyond Coffee is the maiden attempt by Hyderabad-based entrepreneurs who have created a boutique facility that blends the best of coffee seed brews and art in a tastefully done-up setting in the upmarket Jubilee Hills.

Its catchment area is the bustling IT hub of Hyderabad - the Hitec City and the neighbourhood.
(Please click title to read more on this).

So what do you want? Premium pricing- or volume market share. I am really happy to see a new player segmenting the coffee drinking market and creating an outlet that caters to clearly a 'high end consumer'. Bravo.

Cafe Coffee Day/ Costa Coffee/ Barista- all started selling coffee in India on the Starbucks model- and now are all at each others throats- serving horrible coffee in joints that see no face-lifts for months on end....No wonder same outlets sales at these joints show little or no growth at all.

On a side note, we visited Caffe Pascucci in Bangalore and found the coffee truly exceptional ( well to our CCD and Barista destroyed taste buds!)

Its a critical but very basic step in marketing. STP- Segment the market, identify your target and position your brand. The brand that wants to be everything to everyone, ends up being nothing to anyone!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

what brands would i buy into today?

I enjoy reading. I enjoy learning about our world and about business- other companies and the way they do business. My fav magazines are BusinessWeek- Time- Fortune- Newsweek- Nat Geo- Forbes. (these were what my father read and brought home regularly).

The earliest brands that i was attracted towards were American ones or those trying to win in the American market- since i read about them in Time/ Newsweek and Nat Geo- magazines i read since i was 14 years old. Coke- Chevy- Buick- Honda.....even though these brands never sold in India, through the print ads built a lot of credibility for me.

I bought BATA shoes because my parents always bought that. I use only Colgate since my parents only used Colgate.

My first car was Maruti (an Indian brand) since choices were few in 1999. Since then I have bought 3 other cars- none of Indian make.

So most of my brand choices were governed:
1. By what advertisements appeared in well known magazines.
2. By my parents' choices
3. By what was available.

However over time, these preferred brands have reduced significantly.

In the last 10 years, the only brands I have gotten loyal to are:
1. MamiNova ( a very yum French brand)
2. Tropicana
3. Kelloggs

Brands educate their consumers. To me, this education should be centered around health and/or the environment. Clearly i have found very few brands building credibility by educating me.

Otherwise, my choices are determined from within a group of brands (usually 5-7 per category) depending upon my state of mind at the time of purchase.

I am intrigued by this. What role does habit/ choice and true credibility play in your brands market share?

Friday, 4 June 2010

HTC- and YOU

These links take you to two ads released by HTC (, the smart phone design company. The ads were released in 2009, but we took a while to find them. HTC is not yet a big company in India.

We think the ads are brilliant and put so succintly the consumer at the centre of the smartphone. Not a monologue about the technically brilliant product, but a fast past set of images, where most consumers would be able to find themselves.

Nothing more re-assuring than this for a consumer. A company that understands how i use the product.

Does your company create ads that state clearly their interest in understanding their consumers?

The 'quietly brilliant' position of HTC is pretty mind numbing in our view. Cant get our heads around it.

ritu and venkat

PS: We dont own any HTC products or shares :-)

Sunday, 16 May 2010

marketing as the core of all strategy

Met a classmate from university at the airport. Exchanged notes and began to discuss marketing in the tech industry- Infosys/ Wipro/ TCS/ Satyam...

Here is what i think:

1. Indian companies do not do any marketing. No matter what industry- we simply do not do marketing. What we are very good at is setting up sales and distribution systems, and creating a lot of advertising (not necessarily good ones). We love market share and confuse our capitalistic ideas with pseudo socialistic desires.

2. Marketing begins with the consumer. Segmenting the market, identifying segments and choosing among the segments to target resources on those segments that promise growth and profits.

3. Indian companies love to target volumes.... make lots of product and sell them cheap so that lots of Indians buy them and even if we make 10cents per product, with volumes we hit god profits.

Very good. But this is the end of marketing.

The Indian IT industry has for the past 2 decades promised cheap and accurate offshore delivery. No matter which customer, the promise remains the same. Price is the key parameter. And all competitors race to the bottom of the pyramid. Unfortunately, CK Prahalad, this is not a very good idea unless well understood. Now being associated with 'low cost', they are all struggling in an industry downturn, with no 'value added' products with which to entice customers to pay more.

IBM, on the other hand, with its new focus on 'analytical' software is entering a new business area in a very aggressive way. I believe it will be successful....

Another example is the Indian mobile phone industry. Call rates are 1 paise per second or 15 cents per minute. New players offer rates of 7.5 cents per minute. Unheard of. All to gain quick market share.

And offer no differentiation to a consumer who bills USD 100 per month or one that bills USD 5 per month.

It is important that the corporate strategy is built by a team that includes a marketing professional. In contact with customers/ consumers and the market place, marketing can help align business ambitions with customer needs, provide options and direct a business to a 'life cycle' of opportunities:
a- where and when to enter a market (and for what objectives)
b- where and when to exit a market )and for what objectives)
c- Where to invest in the next 5-10 years and transition through steps a, b. How to create a unique identity and how to continue preserving this identity.

Innovation is the key for 'super normal' profits. New processes/ products/ services/ consumer segments.....but the challenge is to continue the innovation process. Only the paranoid do this with any degree of consistency. (Apple?)

Brands take decades to build- because their true test is the test of time, of changing consumers and emerging competitors.


Monday, 19 April 2010

the mobile phone innovations in India

The cricket season in India (Nov- April) also coincides with the biggest splurge in TV advertising. Since cricket is watched on TV in almost all households, it is a good way to reach out very quickly to millions of households.

This year, the advertising is being dominated by two categories:
- white goods (refrigerators/ air conditioners/ TVs)
- mobile phones.

The first category has all the usual suspetcs advertising- Videocon/ LG/ Samsung.

Its the second category that is very very interesting.

The usual suspects are all absent. Nokia- Sony Ericsson- LG- Samsung.

Instead we have a whole load of local players- Maxx, Karbonn, Spice that are shouting from the rooftops about their phones. And why not:

- they are launching models that have 2 SIMs ( a very useful feature in India where business is conducted 24/7 , 365 days a year and the phone is always on)

- a phone that serves as a remote control- again a very cool feature

What is interesting is that these phones boast all the features of a Nokia or a Samsung, and then go ahead by a few steps.

How have local manufacturers taken a step over global leaders like Nokia- LG and Samsung? Is it an issue of weak marketing, or of head-office in Finland not supporting these market needs?

Can't wait to see Karbonn and Maxx following up their current innovations with some new tricks! Well done!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

open and closed social networks - where should a brand manager focus?

Social networks mirror the real world. The real world is large an indifferent place with people running a race to better their lives and given the opportunity will 'free load'- i.e attempt to gain goods and services without having to pay for them.

The real world is mostly leisure and pleasure seeking.

Its true, for every 1 hard working 'i want to change the planet and am ready to lose my last dollar for this', you have a 1000 that want to save the planet but not really switch off the bathroom lights when they are finished.

We like gossip. Social networks mirror this.
We like to be part of the 'cool crowd'. Social networks mirror this.

The one reason marketers have been trying to embrace social networks is that they believe (as do we) that social networks are a good way of engaging consumers. Is this really true?

Yes and No.

'Engagement' is a two way street. It requires action, reaction, action.

Most consumers really just want to read, hear and be informed. Only 1 in a 1000 will react. So why try to reach the other 999? you're really trying to reach the 1 that writes what the other 999 read.

Why advertise on Youtube? Why have your brand twitter? Why create a facebook page for your brand?

Rather than reach out to networks, we advocate that companies and brands create networks and invite selectively 'engag-able' consumers. Then allow these consumers to inform their own networks. But these are the 'brand or category advocates' that interact with the brand.

These advocates must be allowed to touch, feel and influence the brand. What's tricky is how do we filter the engaged user versus the non engaged (who will invariably come to the community if it becomes cool to be part of it).

But the bigger question is, does the brand manager have the maturity to distinguish between these two groups and focus on the quality of the engagement rather than the quantity.

That's what should decide online advertising budgets. The possibility of creating interactive and engaged communities. It takes time and effort. Like a 'frequent flier program' that over time separates the truly loyal from the others. A brand website that tracks user participation will eventually pick out the true loyalists.

Ritu and Venkat.

The REAL 'So What' of functional advertising what's functional advertising....advertising that sells a product based on a functional benefit for its users. Unlike a Louis Vuitton bag that offers to satisfy mostly psychological needs. These products usually sell themselves on performance. Nike shoes. Sony. (When you lose your 'mojo' you drop from satisfying psychological needs to functional needs...its true, Sony.)

Now whats the REAL 'so what'?

The story of advertising usually ends with, buy me because i can do something better than the competition...or buy me because i can save you money or time.

This works when competition is weak. Once competition strengthens, and everyone offers a way to save money or time, whats the distinction?

And here is where the REAL 'So what?' becomes relevant. This is based on the core consumer need that saving money or time satisfies.

Brands need to understand this core need for its core segment. For example, a mother may like to save time so she spends more of it with her family...or on herself. Does your advertising capture this for the kind of mother you are targeting?

Or that a father would like to save money to buy a golf set or to put his children through a better college. Does your consumer understanding capture this about your target?

Nike does a fabulous job of understanding the 'so what'....we make great shoes, buts that not the reason you buy us. You buy us because we understand you want to compete and win...and mostly you are competing against yourself. We can help you raise the bar. That is what they help the consumers with.

Thats the real brand benefit that needs to be answered. The REAL 'so what'.

Ritu and Venkat