Thursday, October 26, 2006


Chocolate Lux! Viral Marketing! Brand change!

Ask Harish Bijoor

Q: What’s this all about? A chocolate Lux?

-Sunanda Ravi, Mumbai

A: Sunanda, I know where you come from. This looks ridiculous. A line extension that treads into unfamiliar territory. A chocolate Lux? What next? A whisky flavored Lux? A vodka Lux? How far will this go?

That’s one way of looking at it. Look at it another way then. The marketing way. The brand way.

Lux in many ways represents the iconic soap of a whole array of generations that have lived through its use. Every generation of users has been pretty besotted with the offer that Lux has maintained with a whole degree of brand integrity there is to respect. Lux has bathed every generation we remember in India. Every generation that has aspirationally wanted to bathe with the “beauty soap of the film stars” (“Filmi sitaaron ki soundarya saabun”). Read that as the beauty soap of the starlets till Sharukh came on the scene in a bathtub half dressed and half un-dressed.

Lux has held on to a range of variants for a while now. Every variant has had a floral note and possibly a wee bit of a twist with a scent here and there. Time then to think anew and offer the variety seeking customer some excitement.

When you have rummaged through a whole host of possible options that don’t seem to offer too much of a cutting edge, time to test the waters of the un-explored. Time to think Chocolate. After all this is a flavor next only to Vanilla in popularity! The smell of chocolate is something to explore for sure.

Consumers do get tired of options that don’t necessarily pack the excitement of the contemporary day. The consumer is changing all the time, but brands do not seem to keep pace. Brands have rather locked themselves into a time grid-lock that does not allow them to change as fast as their customers do. New variants such as these test the waters of consumer acceptance. These variants offer new excitement to a category that is as old as the hills! These variants offer a talking point option as well on the brand. Remember, toilet soaps are possibly one among the oldest marketed categories of them all in the FMCG arena.

Sunanda, watch out for more then. A ketchup that is no more Tomato red, but sriking yellow! A tooth-paste that will swim against the color paradigm of white and offer itself in a black variant? An instant coffee with pink colored granules? Blue chocolate? Orange colored milk with added Vitamin A, C and K?

Lots more to happen then.

Q: What’s viral marketing all about? How closely related is it to Word-of-mouth marketing? And does it work?

-Anoop Sequeira, Hyderabad

A: Anoop, viral is what viral does.

Viral marketing is all about word-of-mouth for sure. In addition it is about a lot more. It is about the use of every possible mode and means of spreading a message across a networked format of communication that is random, consumer oriented and completely un-governed by a marketing program of specific intent.

In the days gone by, when my hair was still a lot of pepper and very little salt, marketers believed they could control viral marketing programs. Those were the nascent days of folly. Marketers believed that a viral marketing program could be planned in the confines of a corporate office cubicle and unleashed quietly and monitored carefully.

Marketers tried this. And failed.

A viral marketing program can actually be planned carefully and unleashed as per a plan. Its spread and efficacy can however not be controlled, as the medium that perpetuates its success, lack of success or morphed success for that matter, is the consumer at large. A complete state of democracy and more often than not, a complete state of consumer anarchy prevails in the spread of viral marketing initiatives. The marketer has little control then.

Viral marketing today uses word-of-mouth 1:1 or broadcast through the medium of the telephone call, and more importantly the electronic tool of SMS. Today, word of mouth is therefore not restricted to geographies in which people live and meet, but can be spread across markets where people are connected by the electronic medium of a telephonic contact.

I see an advertisement for a Discovery Channel show on the future and what it holds in terms of scientific discovery. I get excited and SMS 16 of my friends. Some of them are part of my family and others are very good friends I want to partake of something new and interesting. This is not advertising. This is editorial led. This is content led stuff. This is credibility packed, as it is not an SMS from Discovery the channel, but a personalized SMS from a friend.

Anoop, viral marketing works. When Ganesh-ji started drinking milk some many years ago, viral marketing did the trick. When Avian Influenza hits our chickens, every one virally markets the boycott Chicken line, however irrational it is. Viral works.

Q: If everything in brands needs to change to keep pace with consumers, why mustn’t brand names change? What’s so sacrosanct about that?

-Anjali Gupte, Bangalore

A: Anjali! Anjali! Anjali!

You are right. There are two kinds of brand theorists. One is the purist. The other is the modern and the contemporary. I belong to the latter.

I do believe there is nothing sacrosanct in branding. Change the product if you want to. Even Coca-Cola will. Some day. Change the slogan. Most brands do. From “Just Do It” to “I Can” (Nike)? And change the brand name if you must.

Like Reebok just did. Reebok today is a snazzy and contemporary ‘RBK’.


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

Email your questions to:

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?