Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Advertising stupidity?

Organized Retail’s Organized Challenge

By Harish Bijoor

Q: How important is colour in the game of branding? Can brands really own colours in the minds of consumers?

-Rohit Hemmady, Bangalore

A: Rohit, first of all we are talking of a very serious game. Branding, if a game at all, is a very, very serious one. One which can actually make and break fortunes. No wonder then that there is so much of corporate investment in the process of branding at large.

Having cleared that sensitive semantic hurdle, let’s come to the issue of colour and its importance.

Colour is essentially a basic differentiator. And brands by themselves are differentiators that occupy higher hierarchical status in the differentiation stakes. Colour is one of the first things that helps set brands apart. Therefore, if you are a Cola and a red has been usurped by a Coke and a Blue by a Pepsi, go for a green or a yellow. Never mind that they would look corny on a brand of Cola for the moment. People will get used to it. But for heaven’s sake, don’t make the mistake of being another red or a blue. Or worse still being a mix of both. You would die on the count of differentiation ability.

Colours can be owned by brands. In fact these colours for specific brands are owned in consumer minds. A prominent brand cannot play about too much in this colour-coded consumer’s mind most of the time.

Colour can be used strategically too. Take the case of organized fruit and vegetable retail in India today. The sector is essentially one dominated by the small vegetable seller with his cart and the small vegetable shop alike. Organized retail in this segment till now meant the Co-operative society, the Horticultural department with its stores and the like.

Today is however different. In comes a Reliance Retail with an all-India format of fruit and vegetable retail. The colour chosen is a dominant red and bright green. Red is for the fruit and green is for the vegetable, I presume.

Look around at everyone else in this space. Heritage Foods is the same. Subhiksha is the same. Most new-comers will follow the same colour logic. This is the strategic use of colour. Maybe accidental in this case. The moment you think fruit and vegetable retail, you will think these two colours.

For the brands that swim in this segment of the market, things pan out differently. For a Reliance juggernaut, their colour use is not unique and will therefore become part of the commodity space of organized fruit and vegetable retail. At least in colour terms.

For the smaller players in this space, this is good. Reliance will do all the advertising for the category with the colour and all its appeal. In-store branding experience eiwll add to this. The spillover effect of colour sharing will surely come along the way of a Subhiksha and a Heritage. This is surely the positive fall out for the smaller brand, where sharing the same colour as the market leader can only give it more and more advantage as a point of consumer choice, and indeed consumer confusion even.

Q: What do you see to be organized retail’s biggest challenge in India today?

-Yogendra Pathak, Bhubaneswar

A: Dear Yogi, the biggest challenge being faced by organized retail in the country is that of people.

While largely, most players have bought the best of systems, the best of bench-marked practices, the best of real estate and indeed the best of everything else, the biggest challenge is retaining the best of people to work for them. While all other items inanimate can be managed with ease of consistence and surety, people are the biggest variable in this business.

If you are in this business, every quarter is a challenge in terms of people. If the best of your people have stayed on with you in the last quarter, stay happy. Celebrate.

The people challenge is across all levels. The most critical levels are right at the top and right at the bottom. The CXO of every description and the front-ended store hand who interacts with consumers are the two most valuable resources that face the crunch.

Everyone in retail wants the high-on-performance and high-on- image CEO. And equally everyone in modern retail wants the true-blue performers who manage consumers at the front end in their stores. These are the true-blue store warriors who ensure repeat custom at the store of choice.

Managing people is therefore today a science that demands multiple variables to interact with one another and multiple disciplines to interact to make it a model of success.

There is research evidence that 76% of people in retail, ITES and the media and entertainment industry in India leave their jobs because of one big reason. Their immediate boss. Rectifying this immediate-boss situation is the one to seize in hand now and create a positive cascade that helps keep people back.

Sadly Indian retail is a long, long way away from being automated. Till such a time then, people will rule. People will therefore continue to pose the biggest challenge for most retailers.

Q: Why is advertising getting more and more stupid? The advertiser is scraping the bottom of the drum as he brings appeals that don’t exist into the market.

-Sushma Selvaraj, Chennai

A: Sushma, Shhhhhhhhh! That’s called creative excellence. The advertiser’s goal is simple. Get the eye-balls to happen in a clutter-dominated market. If your piece of advertising can stand out of the clutter, never mind how, so be it. Awareness scores are important. One way of getting it is the inane appeal and the stupid appeal even!

More importantly, do remember, a society gets the advertising it deserves. Touche!

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



The Self-Obituary and Hindustan Unilver Limited!

The Self Obituary

By Harish Bijoor

Q: I attended an interview for a marketing role in London recently. I was asked to write a self-obituary. What the tarnation is this all about? An example please?

-B L Shafee, New Delhi

A: Shafee, first of all apologies for replacing the word you used with “tarnation”. I had to!

Now, I am sure that caught you by surprise. We humans are not too good at handling discussions about death; leave alone write self-obituaries. That must have been rattling.

Self obituary is but another tool to use in shaping and assessing the perception of
individuals. It is indeed a good tool to make a young man jump out of the
skin of his making, and sit outside and look at himself as the real person
he is perceived to be. Gives a good self-view picture as seen by the person you are about to recruit.

Let's remember, perception is important. And there are two sets of
perceptions at play in all our lives. One is the perception of what we feel
about ourselves, our lives, achievements and failures. And the second is
what the outside world thinks of us. Both are equally important in modern day
commercial society.

Man is no longer an island in commercial society. He needs to live and
thrive amidst people. What these people perceive of him or her is important
in moulding the person at hand. A self-obituary makes you sit up, think of
all that you have done and not done. Makes you look at yourself as someone
else would, when you are no more.

If done properly and with sincerity, stripping the exercise of human
pomposity at one end and extreme humility as well at the other, this can be
a useful tool that helps introspection. A management tool that can help you
re-write the script of your life. Remember, Obituaries are normally written
by people who survive you and who have survived with you as well in some way
or the other!

Self Obituaries as a tool must therefore focus on the real and strip the two
extreme tendencies to exaggerate and under-value as well. One must be real
with this tool to deliver real results. I would certainly use this tool to
evaluate a person if done with the sincerity it deserves. There are indeed
ratification tools available to check if the dose of sincerity required has
been used or not as well.

An example? If I were to write one for is a crisp one:

"He lived by his own terms. He did not believe in the rat race. In the
bargain, he created a race all his own. He believed in doing the right
thing. It did not matter whom he irritated. He believed that excellence in a
niche is better than mediocrity in ten realms. He remained focused all his

He believed in the power of NOW! He forgot achievements of the past as
quickly as they were done with. He fretted not of the future as well. He
believed in the value of NOW! The merit of NOW! Every day was a new
challenge and the day had to have 25 hours. So much had to be done!"


Q: Everyone seems to want to value their brands all of a sudden. Why? And what could it cost?

-Pinky Mathur, Mumbai

Pinky, you are right. Every Tom, Dick and Harish is onto this. There is a scramble for brand valuations. In my company, 4 years ago we used to handle 2 brands in a full 12-month period for valuation. 3 years ago, it was at 6, 2 years ago, it was all of 16, last year we valued a total of 21 brands. The trend-line is surely going one way!

Why this rush?

I think this is linked completely with the gung-ho India story. India is on
the fast-track and is emerging as a very big and robust consumer market of
interest. Growth rates have touched the double digit numbers in
manufacturing and services (11.2 and 11.3 per cent), and the market is being
viewed as one big market that offers the second largest numbers of bellies
and bladders in the world. With every belly, there is a market for food, and
with every bladder, a market for beverages! Not to speak of other body

Companies located overseas are witnessing a rather sluggish growth in their
home markets. Looking at a 2.4% growth is a big thing there. These
trans-national companies are therefore bent on entering markets such as
India. As they put their India plans together, there is a substantial degree
of interest in the possibility of picking up brands within the country for
quick access to markets and consumer hearts.

Indian brands in diverse categories such as FMCG, durables, education, media
and entertainment, pharmaceuticals, technology, end-to-end-services, ITES
and biotech equally want their brands valued. And I am not cribbing
about this trend!

Getting your brand valued costs money, particularly if you want to get it
done by a good name. And names charge monies. Companies are willing to spend
on this all of a sudden. Even companies with turnovers of INR 400 Crores are
willing to spend all of 30-40 lakhs on a detailed exercise of sorts at
times. They see potential value in the effort.

Another reason for the valuation rush is the fact that several companies
have started to put the value of their brands on the balance sheet.
Investors are keen to know this factoid. Market trading sentiment is boosted
at times by this piece of data quantified by a reliable external source.

Q: HLL has taken a name change. How do you see this change?

-Swati Pinto, Pune.

A: Swati, as they say, what’s in a name?

The HLL of yore will now be an HUL. A small semantic change. Will it matter? Does it matter?

Of course it does. I guess that’s why the name change is what it is. It could have been a global sounding “Unilever India”. Thankfully it is not.

The “Hindustan” equity in HLL is significant. This has been preserved. Just goes to prove that India is big in the scheme of things of Unilever worldwide. Big brands, deep consumer involvements and of course a very wide-spread touch of millions of consumers unparalleled in the world.

To the consumer at large, the individual brands of HLL matter that much more than the name HLL itself. If this umbrella name is now an “HUL” from “HLL”, it doesn’t make too much of a difference, I guess.

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


Monday, July 23, 2007


In-film advertising and all that.....

“The Coca Cola Kid” and Brand Quilts

By Harish Bijoor

Q: What happens to a brand when it stops advertising? Does brand equity vanish?

-Adit Khanna, New Delhi

A: Adit, depends on the age of the brand and its residual equity accumulation over the years. Also depends on the category, the profile of consumers and the clutter of competition and competitive action in the category in terms of advertising. In short, the reply depends on context of specific brand in question.

Let me take the case of an old brand with a Residual equity accumulation (REA) factor that is high in its favor. Amul.

Amul's fundamental equity in the butter segment is unparalleled. Even if Amul stops advertising for the next 11 years for its butter, it will still reign. The word of mouth on Amul is terrific. The word of taste is terrific. So is the word of emotion. Generations have enjoyed this butter, and Amul butter is quite like the friendly old quilt in the house. Tattered maybe, but nevertheless something you will not give up. Never mind the great new quilts that have hit the market.

In contrast take a newer brand. Take Covo the chocolate bread-spread launched by Lipton many years ago. It was a big hit when it reached the market. It had focused advertising for a couple of years. And then it was over. The brand sales volume could not afford advertising input. The brand vanished slowly. Advertising stopped. And so did the brand, in its tracks.

Q: I am a recruitment consultant. Which do you believe in the most difficult position to manage in tech organizations today?

-Rahul KS, Mumbai

A: Rahul, world over, there is one position that is most difficult to fill. The sales position.

Sales positions of the senior and middle levels are the most difficult to
fill as of today. This is particularly so in the B2B selling arena. This is
affecting industries that operate in the Knowledge terrains of IT, ITES,
Biotech and related arenas.

Sales positions are the most critical to fill as these are positions that
bring in the revenue for the quarter-after-quarter growth numbers that firms
are vying with one another to achieve. These positions are positions that
demand domain specialists who have a significant amount of market
experience. These selling positions are all about leveraging not only
existing contact-profiles, but look at leveraging aggressively into the
market-shares occupied by competitors.

The US market in particular is a tough one to fill. So are several locations
in Europe such as Germany and UK as well.

Competition in terms of pay packets, profit positions and ESOPs are deep at
these levels. Commissions offered for these jobs are significant and
competitive as well. Despite it all, the challenge continues. In the bargain, recruitment specialists such as you will thrive. Enjoy.

Q: In –film advertising seems to have perked up in recent years. What’s the 'gyan' to keep in mind here?

-Jyoti Manchanda, Mumbai

A: Jyoti, here’s the 'gyan' then. In-movie branding can be overt at one end and covert at another. Overt in-movie branding is all about the huge Manikchand glow-sign that keeps popping up at every dance sequence and the rather larger than life cut-outs of a Bournvita peeking out now and then, from your favorite movies.

Covert in-film branding is all about using the brand within the script in a rather non-intrusive manner. In a manner where it seems accidental even.

I do believe covert branding works better in films than overt. When brands are woven into scripts subliminally, and when the script itself speaks the language of the brand, efficiency is at its highest.

Cinema is a popular medium of the masses. Mass brands can utilize cinema with efficiency to promote their line, tone and tenor.

Have you seen the “Coca Cola Kid”? A whole movie was made with the brand in the title itself. This was a big hit. Try and catch it. There is more ‘gyan’ there to pick.

Q: If you were to distill insights for a successful brand of the future, what would they be?

-Mathew Joseph, Bangalore

A: Mathew, one of the biggest ingredients for a successful brand of 2010 is the honest and hard working product or service. Good brands cannot be built on the foundation of the faulty product or service.

Add to this the element of integrity and honesty. All consumers are essentially honesty seeking entities. Offer it with sincerity and open-ness and the brand is bound to find its place in the sun.

Patience is yet another ingredient. Brands cannot be built overnight. They are properties that take time to construct, and even more time to consolidate as integrity oriented properties that can build, sustain and nurture consumer trust.

Mathew, that’s how much I distill for now.

Q: I am just on the verge of entering a career in PR. What would you advise me at this important part of my working life in PR?

-Shivani Lobo, Mumbai

A: Shivani, my advice to someone like you entering the realm of PR would be to stick to the knitting of
integrity all the while. Never sell your personal integrity level for short
term goals of any kind. The company is important and so is the client. But
remember, what you will carry with you all the while is your personal self
and its reputation. Manage your reputation well and manage it with
integrity. Everything else will fall into place.

Never allow PR to get the bad name it just might be on the verge of getting
due to the behavior of a generation of people who have used it rather

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


Friday, July 20, 2007

Locations of visitors to this page


Love & Hate?

The Love-Hate Pendulum

By Harish Bijoor

Q: Do consumers switch off brands just as they switch onto brands? Is a brand forever?

-Ravi Balasubramanian, Chennai

A: Ravi, there is the answer that is aspirational and then there is the answer that is practical.

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 United States has gone one step beyond in the game of personal branding. This Café chain recruits youngsters to join the chain and wants them to stay loyal to the chain in these absolutely job-promiscuous days. It has a condition for those who want to join it. An entrant must agree to get a permanent tattoo on his serving fore-arm that has the Café-chain’s name imprinted. What a way to ensure loyalty!

Q: What would you suggest to market a premium fitness product in India?

-Saranjith Ramachandran


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. India is changing. Consumers in our country are fast climbing the rungs of the pyramid of consumption. While in the early days the consumer is besotted with the basics of food, clothing and shelter, later days have consumers demanding the security products and social esteem products that make for a good and safe life-style. When all this is done with, the consumer moves on to focus on a healthy life-style.

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 India needs to follow a complete Integrity-selling model where all the facts are revealed to the most open levels of dissemination. There have been just too many instances of scam-selling in this category.

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.



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