Thursday, August 30, 2007


Interactive television and a bird called Kingfisher!

Kingfisher is a Bird!

Q: Television channels seem to be getting more and more interactive. What’s the big idea?

-Sudha Deshpande, Mumbai

A: Sudha, a most positive trend for sure in many ways. The medium, in many manners of speaking, is the message.

Look at the way the various mediums in our recent year lives have morphed. In the beginning it was print. And then there was radio. Television. The Internet. Word of mouth. And everything else that will follow.

In the beginning, newspapers believed in communication that was one way. The purpose of the publication was the top-down dissemination of news. Along with comes the adjunct and more commercial purpose as well, the dissemination of advertising material as well for a price paid for by the advertiser at large to reach to the consuming masses.

As the days went by, the newspaper business found itself evolving around the needs, wants, aspirations and desires of consumers. The newspaper got interactive. It invited response. It acted on this response as well. Newspapers even encouraged columns from readers who seemed to enjoy all the attention. Advertisers similarly hopped onto the bandwagon of what content was driving thus far. Advertisers put out contests which had readers actively participating. The newspaper got more and more interactive in terms of both content and advertising.

A similar movement was seen in radio. It is now the time of television to get interactive. Albeit in a different manner altogether. Interactivity in Television in many ways has always been there, right from the days of Tabassum and her very highly appreciated chat show of yore. Viewers were invited to call in and chat.

Today’s interactivity on television is a different model altogether. Television channels today invite you to share your mind, mood, sentiment and participative vigor all together on the public channel at large.

Take the case of the Jessica Lal murder petition that NDTV spearheaded. Take the case of Zee TV and its many cases and causes. Take the case of CNN IBN and its recent light a candle campaign for the Mumbai blast victims. Television channels today encourage interactivity that has the consumer involved very closely with the current affairs of the day. The CNN IBN Citizen Journalist initiative is another interactive measure that will have the rather thick and deep line between viewer and participant blurring.

Channels of the future will take consumer activism forward as well. All this will of course come at a price. The price you the viewer are willing to pay spending on that SMS you will send the channel. All this will result in a margin as well. The margin the channel shall make on the premium SMS rate agreements the channel will have with the telecom service provider at large. Interactivity is fun. Interactivity can be profitable as well.

Q: Is India going to be the next hub that will produce brands that the world will franchise? Or is this fancy thinking?

-Rohini Kubal, Mumbai

Rohini, India will produce brands for the world to consume for sure! So will all of Asia. Let’s enjoy the glow!

I do believe this will be true particularly in the category of Service brands. Not so much in the category of products. Our strength lies in the Services sector. As we do see in the IT sector, we are great in Services and quite terrible when it comes to products!

Why services? Very simply because we have a heritage that supports the services mindset. Take the Indian home for instance. The guest is very, very welcome. Even surprise unannounced and over-staying guests. This is not quite so in the US for instance, where you need to take a prior appointment to visit a home, and worse still in Japan, where you are not invited home at all....for a long, long time.

Our Eastern heritage, which spans all of the Indian sub-continent, Thailand, China and most certainly many other parts of Asia(except Japan) are excellent at the category of service. Walk into a Thai store, buy something, and before you leave, you have been thanked all over in a most humble and gracious manner!

I think Asia will be a creator of the future brands that will dot the globe. This will be so embracing some of the ancient practices that Asia has used for many years to success.

Yoga, Vaastu, Unani Medicine, Ayurveda, the Art of Living, and spiritual reliefs of every kind will be the brands that will dominate the Western hemisphere more than ever.

Add to it everything in the services category, such as brands of restaurants and food and beverage solutions of every kind. Add beauty and health solutions to it. Add the retail effort of every kind, including Chinese pedicure as a practice, Thai massage as an art that can be branded and replicated, and we will see Asian brands doing it in the future.

The American dominance in the realm of branding took the ‘clonal’ path. Branding from the American perspective was a static entity that moved millions. The brand had to be consistent, factory produced, consistency-led and literally the output of a conveyor belt. This 'massified' approach will not help the Asian brand in the future.

The Asian brand will need to follow unique ways of reaching out to the market. It will need to be that much more customized, personal and in-touch with the myriad and changing needs of the consumer at large.

Q: What is the real power of a brand name? Is it not all a lot of hog-wash?

-Swetanshu Garg, Mumbai

A: Swetanshu, firstly sorry for changing that expletive at the end of your question to “hog-wash”! Forgive the British sense of correctness.

Now, let me illustrate the power of a brand name to you simply.

If I ask you what is Kingfisher? What will your answer be? Think.

A quick answer from you will say it’s a beer. A more thought out answer will say it is also an airline today.

The real answer: Kingfisher is a bird!

Dr. Vijay Mallya and his team have made you forget this basic fact that kingfisher is a bird, and your first responses are a beer and an airline!

That is the power of a brand name, and indeed the power of a brand! In your mind!

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


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