Sunday, January 07, 2007
A Louis Philippe on my sleeve…..
By Harish Bijoor
Q: Why are brands so powerful? What’s special about them?
Renee, brands are special. Brands are powerful.
The brand is omnipresent in our lives. The modern day consumer cannot do without it. Every waking moment is occupied by the use of some brand or the other. From the first thing you do in the morning to the last thing in the night, brands are a part of our lives. You could even dream brands, which makes it a 24 X 7 eventuality.
The brand is Omnipotent. Most brands make us feel powerful. Brands build confidence. A simple and sedate crown at the end of a sleeve is enough to distinguish you and your choice at a Board meeting. You are a Louis Philippe man, woman or child..
The brand is Omniscient as well. It is a part of modern day man’s psyche. Much of the time you think in terms of brands. The brand is an obvious part of our lives today. The future is even more so.
The last time we used these three words, it was all about God! Omnipresent. Omnipotent. Omniscient.
The brand has become a special and inalienable entity in the lives of most consumers. And that’s the reason why brands are powerful today. Brand-names mean a lot. They mean so much to the consumer that the original meaning of the word in question itself is long forgotten.
Do this exercise. Stop reading this for a while and give me a quick response. What is kingfisher?
Your quick response is always a beer! And then maybe an airline! Hit yourself on the head.
The real answer: kingfisher is a bird! But you have long since forgotten this. You have been made to forget this even. And that is the power of a brand!
Q: I work for an Ad-agency of repute. There is just too much of change here. Why?
-Ratna Menon, Mumbai
A: Ratna, the advertising agency business is one that is related to the business of the client at hand. The client-end business is a dynamic one today. The client-end business is related to the consumer in the marketplace. This consumer business is as dynamic and maverick as it comes. In result, the advertising agency business is on a dynamic morph mode.
The Ad-agency of today is facing issues that are different. The issues are many. For a start, client expectations from a full-service ad-agency is changing rapidly. The client is becoming more demanding. He wants the agency to service the account without loading onto it the cost of running an ad-agency with too many over-heads. The agency is being questioned by the client on the size of the team and its productivity standards. The client is seeking accountability in terms of delivery and measurement metrics are coming into vogue. This is demanding stuff.
The client is demanding a correlation between advertising spend and sales output. This is stuff that challenges the poorly but oft quoted 'Ogilvism': I know 50% works, but am not too sure which 50%.
Ad-agonies are also facing the threat of shrinking margins on their business. The 15% commission is under threat all the time. It is fashionable to question the 15% commission all the time. The question being asked all the time: Why should the 15% commission be related to media spends alone and why not to everything else that the agency does and is meant to do? The annual-fee basis of doing work is knocking on the door of the Ad-agency at large. All this is building up the bile and tension.
Clients are increasingly in-sourcing the strategic planning business as well, moving it out of the ad-agency. Agencies are therefore progressively being painted into the corner of a specialization as of today, Creative and media.
With the emergence of independent media outfits, the media portion is under threat as well. The specialized agencies in the market are weaning away precious business. The Ad-agency business is becoming more and more competitive. The client is enjoying all this action.
And all this action is creating the churn within the ad-agency at large. I believe this churn is for the positive. Enjoy it and learn from it.
Q; 2.Can negative things or images be a brand? For example the "great Indian politician”?
-Debasis Samanta, location un-disclosed.
Debasis, you are absolutely right. The brand need not be a positive entity at all. That is the misnomer that has percolated many a mind to date. The brand can be a negative entity for sure.
Veerappan the dacoit is a brand. Osama Bin Laden is a brand as well. Both these brands are largely categorized as negative brands. The point to however remember is that no brand is negative to all people, just as no brand is positive to all people. There are folks who think Veerappan the dacoit to be a positive person, just as Osama is worshipped in many parts of the world as a hero.
The brand, as per my definition, is a thought. This thought can be a positive thought or a negative one. What is important is the thought and not the value-judgement of it being a positive or negative one. A negative thought can be so powerful that it can evoke a positive emotion. Negative thoughts can create an equal amount of passion if not more, than positive thoughts even.
Q: Is Television viewership getting splintered and affected amongst those who work for the night-shift BPO sector? What’s new here?
Rohith, this is a tail of a new trend we are catching.
Harish Bijoor is a business-strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
The Great indian 'Panwallah'!
The Pan-wallah and Consumer Greed
-Ramnath Pebbula, Godavarikhani
Ramnath, why forget
I agree with ''Sheakespearu' on this count! What's in a name?
Name changes have not meant anything more than just mere semantic exercises that have catered to short-term needs of the political classes.
Each of these exercises have been exercises to act as an opiate for the
masses. If you can't give the people better roads, better habitation, a
better standard of living, better medicare facilities, better education,
never mind. Give them a name-change.....and they will keep talking about it
for a while.
Name change exercises are at best Marie-Antoinette-esque. If they can't eat
bread, let them eat cake!
Q: The luxury brands market in
-Sevanti Narayanan, Chennai
Sevanti, the luxury brands market is currently a niche sitting right atop the pyramid of consumption. This niche is largely resident in the 8 big megapolises of the country. These brands are however spread across categories and sit in the
category of ready-to-wear brands, accessories, auto, mobile phones,
crystals, leather accessories, food and beverage, and literally every realm
there is to occupy.
Today, one key issue to remember is that the luxury goods market is
essentially all about pedigree. It is about where the luxury good was made.
The imported brand therefore reigns in this realm, never mind the category.
The marketer at large is sitting at the right point of time in the evolution
of the Indian market for such goods and services. These are good times as
consumption and consumptive behavior is at a peak in the 8 megapolises in
The heightened consumption is actually fuelled on by the new prosperity seen
in the economy at large. This is about the boom in stock markets, good
monsoons all around, the surge of the e-word, with ITES and IT in the lead,
and most certainly from what we see happening to real estate prices.
In such a prosperous time, the marketer needs to feed the greed syndrome.
This is the time to build allure and appetite for brands. The eat more
premium brands and drink more premium brands ethos is the one at play.
Marketers fuel this on and benefit.
In this early entry stage of the market, building exclusivity and building
the aura of the brand-candy on hand is the need. The strategy at this point
of time is well nigh a short term appetite building tactic even!
Q: The pan-shop is one point of retail that has plenty of potential. What is the opportunity here for Indian retail?
Pradeep, the Pan-wallah is a very indigenous development. Few countries can boast of a network of such outlets in the world today. The point is simple. For every small grocery 'kirana' outlet that you have, there are at least 3 small
pan-wallahs running a micro-business in the same vicinity.
These businesses have emerged to cater to the specific wants and needs of
consumers who seem to seek out what I call the" immediate-consumption
product". In most cases, such immediate consumption products are not stocked
by the small 'kirana' grocery, as the customer profile that comes in for such
products is not desired to be entertained by the grocer who gets the bread
and butter of his business from the house-wife at large. Most of these
grocers don't want smokers and pan-chewing folk hanging around in their
stores, ogling at the women folk in their shop.
In reaction to this need, has emerged the pan-wallah. He stocks immediate
consumption products largely. Items such as the bidi, the cigarette,
'tambaku', pan, packed items of each of these, match-boxes, and such allied
These pan-wallahs offer an opportunity to marketers at large fundamentally
due to their ubiquity, their small size of space occupied, particularly in
high-real-estate-cost metros, and also due to the fact that they are at the
consumers' arms-length and desires-length reach.
Cigarette companies, manufacturers of match-boxes, bidis, tobacco products,
and such are the traditional marketers who have sought width of distribution
reach for their products through these outlets.
The newer product categories that are exploring these outlets for enhanced
reach is the telecom top-up-card selling business and certainly many an FMCG
company looking for penetration and width of volume for their small sachet
pack-sizes. The pan-wallah is today stacking the shampoo and 'Shikakai' alike
in small easy to dispense low-unit packs.
For marketers who have depended on the traditional chain of 'kiranas', this is
an additional reach-providing alternative.
>1. How are the non-conventional categories of products/services deploying the tools of
>marketing and branding?
-RT Jayakumar, Mumbai
Jay, branding is important to every category, traditional or non-traditional. Eventually, every category understands the need for branding.
All categories commence focusing on the aspect of production. Good production practices and good quality and hygiene parameters. Once that is achieved, everyone realizes that this is 'parri passu' business. This is when organizations commence to focus on selling what is produced. Here the focus is on developing selling skills that are distinct.
Even selling reaches a 'parri passu' status. It is at this point of time every manufacturer, traditional or non-traditional focuses on reducing the cost of the output. Cost management is in focus. When this reaches a 'parri passu' status as well, one focuses on branding, the skill and art that helps position one product different from another, and one output distinct from another.
All categories therefore discover the importance of branding. It is only a matter of time. FMCG as a category discovers it first, banking and finance is discovering it now, and technology will discover it in time. Point however rests, that branding is all important. You can't live without it. At least you can't thrive without it.
Non conventional categories such as banking, financial instruments, technology and indeed Medicare and every service there is, is using branding to advantage today. Two financial instruments may vary very little in their fundamentals, but the same very a lot in their brand imagery. This imagery brings in the mega bucks.
Why do you bank with an ICICI and not a Ramput Cooperative Bank?
Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
The Indian Retail Revolution and Rural Marketing
aviation sector, which got clouded with the emergence of hi-decibel
international airlines and the domestic airlines getting green signals for
few international routes. What, according to you, could be the competitive
strategy that can bail out Air
-Anil Gokhale, Mumbai
Anil, you sure do sound like an employee of Air
an airline ticket has well nigh nearly become today.
Aviation is one sector where in the beginning everything is a commodity and
then things morph into distinctive brands. Some of these brands become
super-brands and others have to contend with remaining just brands. And
finally, in sectors such as aviation, the brand becomes a commodity once
Telecom is another such category. In the
Parri passu'and where technology is rather parri passu as well in telecom,
you search for the cheapest cent rate for your call of destination. Does it
cost 17 cents a minute to
Telecom has become a commodity again.
therefore look for a distinctive appeal it will focus on. It cannot be a
part of the commodity game. Right now, it is time for it to attain a niche
status and grab seats with a brand appeal that will be distinctive. There is
plenty of scope in the name itself.
Alternate therapies are on a rampage. The
Indian music is hitting the world charts, just as Bollywood is making huge
inroads across the world. The Indian BPO and tech sector is equally creating
capitalize on all this
Q: What are your expectations for rural marketing for the next decade?
Dear Mr.Ramulu, a very dynamic and robust set of expectations. Nine for a start, for the next ten years ahead of us.
- I believe rural markets are going to progressively vanish with the creeping state of urbanization that is bound to get into a galloping state soon enough. If today we have only 24% of the market in urban areas, my prognosis is that all of
will be all of 47% Urban by 2017 AD. India
This is good and bad. Good for the modern day marketer salivating for markets, consumption and profits, but bad sociologically, as the very flavor of
2. Rural folk are getting habituated to brands in a big way. There will be a progressively heightened eating, drinking, wearing and franchising of more brands in the rural hinterland of this country.
3. Newer distribution systems will fall into place. Many of these will use the hitherto discarded and disused systems even. For example, the Indian Post Office has the ability to morph into a huge retail distribution point. Rural Health centers will morph into marketing centers for the health product and solution. Railway stations and railway property holds the potential of becoming booming centers that will tout the brand aspired for in rural markets.
4. The line blurring rural and urban will vanish in the decade ahead. Cultural practices will change rapidly and a more modern milieu will emerge, making the access of markets that much easier.
5. Media at large will also need to morph. More of the inclusive rural imagery will need to come into use. The visuals will pack that much more rural, if only to uproot the rural man from his moorings and fast track him onto the path of rapid, if not creeping urbanization
6. Products and services will start getting created exclusively for the tough and hardy rural market. Today, the demand for these is small, but tomorrow is another day. Nokia has already set up a facility to make mobile phones for
7. Within marketing companies, rural marketing will assume significance and importance. If at all marketing companies need to insulate themselves from urban slump and recession, they need to run to rural markets.
In the bargain, what was hitherto a politically correct thing to do will become the only correct thing to do for survival within companies. Rural marketing will become all important.
8. Advertising and communication itself will morph from the 1: Many format of today (through television and mass media) to 1:1 in a big way. Rural evangelists will emerge and fan out in to the villages to sell the product of desire. Re-invention of the 1:1 format will be seen in this decade.
9. Rural marketing in
The author is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Monday, January 01, 2007
The Brand Love Hate Pendulum and Tattoo Art
The Love-Hate Pendulum
By Harish Bijoor
Q: Do consumers switch off brands just as they switch onto brands? Is a brand forever?
The aspirational answer pouted to you by Brand Gurus of every ilk is that the brand is forever. I do not believe in this really. I believe the brand is like a human being.
First of all the brand is alive. It is born, it needs to be fed every living moment, and it thrives with care and nurturing. The brand becomes self-sustaining after a while. The brand thrives with attention and withers away with neglect. And just as a human being dies, brands die as well. Only their life-span can be longer than the life-span of a normal human being. If a human being lives all of 76 years, a brand may live all of 400! Death is however inevitable.
Does it mean that a Coca Cola will die some day and a Marlboro will need to be buried sometime in the future? The answer is a big yes. We may not see it in our life-time, but happen it will!
The birth of a brand and its flourishing occurs when consumers switch-on to brands. When brands excite consumers, the brand thrives. The death of a brand happens when consumers switch-off and move out of not only consumption, but even out of thinking of the brand at all.
I have put forth the theory of the “Love-Hate pendulum” on this subject of brand switch-ons and offs. Very briefly, I postulate brand-love and brand-hate as two ends of the extreme-swing of a pendulum in motion. Right in the beginning, the pendulum motion starts from the franchise and buy-in of a brand. At this point the pendulum is at one extreme of swing. This is brand-love 100. And then, the inevitable happens with the passing of time, the exposure to the brand, exposure to other brand options, fatigue, and the emergence of new wants, needs and aspirations of the consumer at hand.
The pendulum therefore swings back slowly at a pace that is distinct to different categories. From Love score of 100, the pendulum moves to a score of 90 and lesser and lesser till it reaches a neutral state of zero.
The pendulum then starts its reverse swing upwards in the other direction. The other extreme end of the pendulum swing is Hate 100. From a zero neutrality state, the pendulum now swings to a Hate score of 10, and then more and more till it reaches the extreme of 100 Hate.
Fortunately, this state is not sustainable as well. The pendulum begins its reverse move once again, and the process is a continuous one. The only reality of brands is the oscillation from a state of complete brand-love to complete brand-hate.
This process may take months, years or decades. Consumers may not pass fully through every stage before dying out of the market even. My Love-Hate pendulum theory explains brand switch-ons and offs and completely decimates the concept of the perennially-liked brand altogether.
As consumer society evolves, the pendulum swings faster and faster. Brand marketers need to keep this in mind.
Q: Tattoo art is in vogue among the young. Is this not basic and crass?
-Sudha Mangalam, Chennai
A; Sudha, I will not pass a value-judgement on this. I will however reply within the context of the theme of the query and the column at hand.
In many ways the tattoo is the ultimate form of branding. In fact the first form of branding there is to remember.
The very first reference to the term ‘branding’ in modern day memory is that about the ‘branding’ of a cow with a rustic and rudimentary tattoo done out of fire and wood. An insignia on a cow to distinguish its ownership.
The tattoo is rudimentary and crass in that manner of speaking. As a generation of young Indians adopts the tattoo as a fashion statement that requires quite a bit of courage and wee bit of pain to embrace, we are re-inventing the branding game on the body you own.
A Café chain in the
Q: What would you suggest to market a premium fitness product in
A: Saranjith, first of all I would suggest a stiff consulting fee!
On a more serious note, fitness is emerging as a great big opportunity for the marketer at large.
The reasoning is simple.
This is the consumer who has been there and done that. He has earned a life-style for himself and his family. Time to focus on personal health. This is a consumer who has climbed the rungs of prosperity. What he buys into as a fitness product will be oriented to his physical and psychological well-being. He is willing to pay a premium for it.
Products such as Foot-massage machines, full body massage chairs, obesity reducing vibrating belts and the kind hold a big market out here.
The key need to cater to in this market is the need for scientific information that is corroborated as fact. The consumer in this consuming rung will fork out the ‘moolah’ if only what he is buying is a thoroughly researched item.
Selling of the premium fitness product in
Never ever sell anything that does not add value to the buyer at large. If you stick to this dictum and use it to your advantage, the credibility you bring to the party is a USP in itself in this category.
Harish Bijoor is a business-strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Private Label Brands and the notion of Trust
Private Labels, Public Brands
Q: This is a cliché now: The ground realities of the Indian market have changed. The consumer is a different person altogether. Who is this new Indian consumer?
-Ramya Dasgupta, Mumbai
A: Ramya, the Indian market has changed very dramatically from what it was to what it is today. The earth has literally moved from under it. Marketing practitioners of yore who have not believed it relevant to re-define their skill-sets and efficiencies of understanding this new consumer are themselves getting redundant in this space of the dynamic Indian market.
The key change is all about the manner in which the Indian consumer has morphed over the years.
The new Indian consumer occupies a very different rung in the ladder of consumer development altogether today. This is so due to the huge economic resurgence seen in recent years. This is particularly so in the developed Urban and developed rural markets. Other markets, which I classify as "developing urban" and "developing rural" are however still the same.
Add to this complicity psychographic changes and the influence of media that is seamless in its dissemination of information and trends across the world. This is a complex dream we are living as marketers.
To an extent the new Indian consumer is pretty un-identifiable using the same old tools of consumer insight gathering we have used over the decades in Indian marketing.
Aspirationally this consumer lives in
The new consumer is tough to predict in behavior terms and the old tools of such assessment are antiquated. This is the marketing challenge at hand. We therefore use more exciting tools to unearth the potential of this new consumer.
Brands normally don't change as fast as their consumers do. This is something marketers are getting more and more conscious about today. The new consumer in the market-place is a consumer who is all about change. The cultural influences that shape her life are largely very dynamic. More dynamic than they were in the good old days of slow-paced change. Media itself is a very big catalyst of this change process.
In a scenario where the consumer is influenced by change factors in a big way, brands need to question themselves as to what they are meant to do and be. Should they remain static-state entities with strong brand propositions that never do change, or should they morph themselves to keep pace with the changing consumer?
I personally believe in a concept I have put forth in 2001. I call it 'Amoebic Branding'. I do believe that brands need to be amoebic in their orientations to meet the needs of the new consumer. Old branding believes in the dictum that brands must not change. The dictum believes that propositions, names, colors, symbols, and literally everything else about the brand needs to remain the same all the time. This is the concept of consistency of the brand at play as one of its biggest strengths.
I believe differently. I believe that brands must change and morph to remain contemporary, relevant, original and innovative for the new consumer at large. A brand needs to change....but change it must in tune with a complete and proper understanding of the consumer and not a knee-jerk reaction that lacks an in-depth feel of the consumer.
Brands must change names to stay relevant. An example I can give of this trend is the fact that Reebok is not a Reebok anymore. It is a trendy and 'sms' lingo 'RBK'!
Brands need to change compositions. The experiments of Coca Cola in its varianting strategy with Vanilla, Lime, Cherry and every other flavor worldwide is an example.
Brands must change colors of their product offers and not just the change of color on pack graphics. Heinz and its International launch of Purple Ketchup is possibly a good example. The concept is simple. Consumers are bored with the same stuff in the same color. Box shaped oranges and rectangular tomatoes grown in Japanese farms and aggressively branded organic produce are examples as well.
Taste must similarly change. And so must forms. Why must a Pepsi always be a liquid and why not a solid?
Q: The brand is a trust. How long can brands survive on the elusive notion of "trust" alone?
-Joseph Selvakumr, Chennai
A: Joe, long many years for sure. There comes a time in society when only the brands that are not advertised will be trusted the most. It happens this way. In the beginning, when competition emerges in a category, advertising emerges as
well. One advertises more than the other. This goes on till advertising
reaches ridiculous levels in society. Take for instance the tooth-paste with
Oxygen in it, the Healthy TV and lots more to boot!
And then society tires of it all. Society begins to trust brands that do not
advertise at all. This time will come. And that is the day and age of the
Trust is a big notion. It is a complete intangible. It is a big brand in
itself....as "Trust" is a thought as well! It is quite like Maya. It is
there...and yet it is not there. So is the brand.
“Trust” is a difficult concept, but an enduring one.
Q Do ‘private labels’ make money? Private labels such as the ones put forth by our local Super-market chains?
Sadhana, I can quote a blind example from a super-market chain in
A private label in the category of coffee or sugar or lentil does churn in
35% more in terms of margins....compared to the branded variants.
It is a difficult thing to sell as of now though. Consumers are still besotted by the big company brand on offer. The mass advertised brands are still preferred over these ‘private label’ brands or ‘dealers’ own brands’.
Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.Email your questions to: email@example.com