Monday, March 22, 2010
Brand Re-calls and Brand-endorsements
By Harish Bijoor
Q: With Music maestro AR Rahman winning many awards worldwide for his music, is it not time for brands to use him in their advertsing as a super-star?
-SK Raman, Chennai
A: Raman-sir, I agree with you. AR Rahman has arrived on the firmament of music excellence with a big bang. The recognitions are just pouring in, quarter after quarter.
There is really a state of under-use in the persona of AR Rahman as a brand endorser as of now. The most visible one has been the one in which the now-defunct Worldspace Radio used him to optimal benefit and visibility norms.
AR Rahman's Grammy is an acknowledgement of musical genius and hard work. I do believe it is all about the new fact that brilliance will find recognition, does not matter which geography it resides in. India is a happening story as of now. It is about IT, ITES, Bollywood, Music and more. And Rahman is the latest icon.
AR Rahman as a brand-endorser is something that is to be considered seriously now. Rahman is a brand in himself. It is important for this brand to associate with brands that actually add value to the Rahman brand rather than to run in the pursuit of money and wide-spectrum endorsements. To that extent, Rahman's work with the now defunct Worldspace was an excellent fit. It added value to brand Rahman, and in return Rahman gave a positive rub-off to brand Worldspace. Intelligent use of brand Rahman needs to be one of symbiotic use.
Categories reasonably umblical to the genius in terms of music, or with categories that are all about excellence, rigor and perfection. A bit like the fit we saw with Tiger Woods and what Accenture wanted to say, until the recent mishap of events that rolled out.
Keep one thing in mind though. Rahman is actually a difficult endorser. As a persona he comes through as one that shuns it all. Bringing such a persona into the forefront of advertising and branding glare, at times could prove counter-productive.
Whichever brand uses Rahman needs to build a completely organic story of involvement. Nothing must appear forced. And that is a tough one.
I do therefore believe that Rahman as a brand-endorser will have limited queues and limited appeal altogether And this in many ways is very good for Rahman. His image will remain intact, without being eaten into by the canker of brand-endorsement that on many an occasion hurts and eats into the persona of the endorser.
As far as price is concerned, I do believe he needs to demand a big price now. He needs to endorse very few brands, but he needs to milk the maximum value from those few brands.
Q: We are living in a year of brand recalls it seems. Auto-makers world-wide are recalling millions of vehicles. Nokia did it in India on a battery problem. Mattel did it in toys . And many more.
How does a recall affect the ‘brand’? And what are the steps one takes?
-Jyothi Saklecha, Mumbai
A: Jyothi, strangely and quite contrary to popular feeling and sentiment, a brand-recall works very well for the brand in the long run in image terms.
Brand re-call is a step that only bold and upright brands take. When it happens in categories which people do not ingest into their bodies, such as automotive, telecom, consumer durables and clothing, consumer reaction is very different than when it happens to brands that you ingest such as food and beverages. In the case of automotive, for instance, it helps build credibility and guarantee-value into the brand DNA.
In reverse sentiment, when such an issue occurs with food and beverages, it totally damages the brand in question forever. A brand recall therefore affects brands differently, depending upon which category they belong to, ingestibles or not.
Nokia is the first one that comes to mind here. The Nokia defective battery issue in India was handled very well. I do believe this issue actually catapulted Nokia's brand image in the Indian market into the stratosphere of good consumer-practice and reliable behaviour. A brand is a reputation. Nokia managed this brand reputation for itself very well.
A company really decides on a brand recall when it is very sure that its brand can actually harm a set of consumers. Never mind how small a set of consumers with the potential of damage, responsible companies decide to recall quickly.
The first step is one of creating widespread awareness of the issue and fault at hand. This is to ensure that the public is fore-warned to be careful. The second step is setting up a standard operating procedure for recall. Here, the entire mechanics of recall is laid out. The third step is PR. Managing the issue at hand responsibly and with the least damage to the reputation of the company and brand.
The fourth step is actual recall. The fifth step is more important than any: instilling credibility into the company, the brand concerned and the collective selling and using environment at large.
Q: With number-portability round the corner, how is the telecom market going to get affected?
Number-portability will work in many ways for different players. Here are some scenarios I paint:
1. Users of major networks who are sitting on the wall of dissatisfaction due to poor network coverage, poor customer service and poor much else, are going to use this opportunity to jump. This will bite the biggest players such as Airtel and Reliance the most. The biggest player loses the most. Though in percentage terms this could mean a small percentage altogether, in sheer number terms the loss could be substantial. This loss-kitty is something all small players will be salivating about to gain from.
2.Large players will have yet another effect biting into them. This is one of revenue loss due to schemes that will need to be unleashed to keep high ARPU users from jumping out. Every large player will therefore play the price game and drive prices down further. This will be particularly applicable to deep-ARPU customers.
3. Newer players will be looking for positive churn. There is a big kitty of Gen 1 user of the mobile, whose ARPU is deep. This customer is going to be up for grabs now. Newer players will offer seamless service and seamless customer service norms as differentiators to attract this custom. So expect a lot of action in this space.
The author is a brand-strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
What's ahead in Marketing 2010
By Harish Bijoor
Q: As 2010 emerges, I thought it pertinent to ask you to paint the way ahead. What are the various business routes to market that are going to make it big in the future?
-Jayanthi Arya, Mumbai
A: Jayanthi, the years ahead in this decade are going to be very different in the kind of business routes to market that are going to be appreciated. Routes to market that embrace the long-term good of the people at large will be a big hit. Inclusive practices instead of the exclusive ones business-folk have followed in the last 65 years will work better.
Here are a few routes to market that will find appreciation:
1. The Birla practice of schools that take care of both the rich and poor alike.
2. The green car movement and the green-vehicle movement at large that does not pollute, de-grade and destroy.
3. Practices that replace valuable resources all the time. Green paper for instance, that is made not out of trees, but something else altogether.
4. Practices that afford the good of life to all and democratize marketing allure. E.g. The Tata Nano.
5. Advertising practices that embrace common causes: Tata Tea's "Jaago Re" for instance
6. The health-food movement, which is a practice on its own. This discourages many a commercial category being used as much as it is being done today. Such as oils, sugars, etc.
7. The clean-air practice that envisages moves in the realm of anti-pollution across air, water, sound, etc.
8. Practices that reap and harvest labor such as the Govt. Of India's NREGA scheme.
9. Clean corporate governance practices that discourage company promoters from going berserk a la Satyam Computers.
10. The practice of integrity back in branding, advertising, marketing, and indeed in every realm of business. A seamless adoption of ‘Satyamave Jayate’ by businesses!
Q: Is there a scope to look at Brand Planning from the “zero-base” perspective
and let the customers "proactively" discover the brand by
initiating some questions about the brand?
-Neha Arya, Indore.
A: Neha, brand planning as an exercise that can look at many creative and innovative formats. The formats can get as exciting as the brand manger and brand planner is.
Zero-base brand planning is a good and positive approach for the future and the present in many brand contexts. Some categories are ripe for it and others are not.
Within the Indian context, brands, which are in the luxury category, are totally ripe for this approach. Designer garments, footwear, diamond-jewelry, premium cars, premium-leather goods and many such adjunct categories.
Here, consumers are reasonably tired of being told things top-down. It has gone on for far too long in their lives. These consumers also believe that they are advanced versions of the just-new consumer. They are Version 6.5 in a consumer market that is still in Version 2.1.
Zero-base is a good approach as it allows brand-consumers, potential and existing, to discover different facets of the brand in their own contexts and formats. It allows consumers to discover brand s in their own time as per their social, economic, cultural, religious and political up bringing as base context.
It is important to understand here that consumers are becoming more and more a-clonal in the luxury segment. There is a yen for differentiation and this is shown in the rebel statement of consumers in this category to avoid the famous brand names that everyone wears and franchises. Such consumers enjoy the power of zero-base branding as it provides a format for a self-discovery of a brand, basis some small bits of engineered but random-looking brand stimuli.
As the future unfolds, and as consumers climb from Version 2.1 to Version 6.5 in every category, zero-base branding will gain ground.
Q: In 1999 there was this craze about using the word millennium in every
ad that got released. And sure it was a very big hit with people too, especially in the run up to the world cup that year. But now we see the craze for the letter 'i'. Ipod, Iphone i10 and i20 etc etc. Is this a fad?
Is it necessary to ape something, which sells in order to sell?
-Arun Nair, Chennai.
A: Arun, you have got the trend right. Marketers typically look at the biggest hit all around their lives, and then ape the brand-format, sometimes in the brand name, sometimes in the choice of color and sometimes dangerously in the choice of core brand propositions even.
The I-fad is the current rage around for sure. ‘I” is really very me-centric. It is also about the digital world all around us, as typified by the Internet. In India, you could even obliquely claim that it is all about India.
The one brand that gains the most from this rather free-use of the buzz-letter is the brand that started it all. Therefore the brand does not complain at all. In many ways, every “I”-brand benefits the I-Pod.
What next then? I do believe it is about “You”! It is about brand co-creation. You doing it all. Yahoo! Has used it, as has Lays and as has Dell for a long, long time now.
Expect more of “u” brand ahead then.
The author is a brand-strategy specialist & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.