Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Of In-sourcing and Out-sourcing

In-sourcing the Advertising

Q: Why are the large advertising agencies in a race to set up smaller outfits that cater to specific clients?

-Prasad M, Rajahmundry.

A: Prasad, the size of business is big enough from these specific clients, and clients, particularly in sensitive
churn areas such as telecom and retail are asking for it. These teams work
solely on one client and become the outsourced advertising wing of the

Watch this trend carefully. This can go only one way. My prognosis is that in the future,
companies will in-source advertising teams into their organizations.
Reliance will have in the future all the advertising team owned by it. So
will HLL maybe. And so will the Future Group!

Data is sensitive and so is insight. Companies will want to preserve this
internally. It is the cutting edge. The only thing that cuts!

Q: What’s this new fad on health that is hitting Indian markets? Is this sustainable?

-Sapna Kulshreshta, Mumbai

A: Sapna, I do not believe this is a fad at all. It is a self-sustainable idea. An idea whose time seems to have come.

Marketers of food and beverage have been plucking the low hanging fruit of consumer expectation, want, need, desire and aspiration for long. India is now entering into Phase 2 of its marketing era.

Phase 1 was really the early years from the Sixties on. The years when India showed a gradual craving for the product and service the whole wide world was consuming. This phase really reached its take-off stage in the early years of the 2000 series. Today, things are taking a wee bit of a turn.

Phase 2 of marketing era in India is just about beginning. 2006 showed the first signs of this trend. Consumers are waking up. Consumers connected to the developed world at large are waking up to concerns of health. Health as represented as offerings in the food and the beverage the consumer consumes. The Maggi ‘Atta’ noodles is here. So is the Amul Probiotic Ice-cream.

New categories are emerging. The sugar substitute has now matured. What used to be a sugar substitute in a small sachet for use in a cup of tea or coffee is now in a large jar for kitchen use. You might as well make even a 'Gajar Ka Halwa' with a branded sugar substitute in a bottle.

The movement is bound to cascade. Consumers are going to question the amount of sugar in a bottled drink, the amount of fat in a cup of cappuccino, and indeed the amount of fat in a portion of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The trans-fats debate in the US is having its own impact in India. Sugar is an issue at debate. Oils of every kind will face scrutiny. So will fats. Every food and beverage player, whether in the product space or service space, will need to re-invent themselves for the future. As margarine rises, butter will face flak! And there will be a margarine in every category of food and beverage, waiting to offer itself as a salvation product or service.

Watch out for more of this, rather than less.

Q: As a practicing manager, I am continually seeing consumers to be less and less loyal. More the variety on offer, more is the propensity to move, even from brands with strong sets of hitherto core consumers. What’s this all about? 'Gyan' please?

-Rohit Bhargava, New Delhi

A: Rohit, let me conceptualize a wee bit on this.

I call it the Love-Hate pendulum. All consumers are essentially promiscuous. Man is promiscuous. Absolute brand loyalty is absolute bullshit. Man is an animal, and all animals are promiscuous. It is a genetic reality. Men and women however fight hard to fight this promiscuous reality. Society, religion, peer pressure, parental pressure and the rest try to prop up man to remain in a state of non-promiscuous behavior. If these pressures were to yield, even for a moment, the natural state would set in. One feels the pull of gravity when it comes to promiscuity. All the time.

As marketers continue to believe in the concept of brand loyalty, I seek answers on the scale of the love-hate pendulum that seems to be the definitive understanding of the real consumer. As the future opens up, and as consumers explore their real selves with that much more reality and connect, the love-hate pendulum as a theory will help deliver a better understanding and solutions for the marketer in a fix over his nano-second consumer switch-offs he faces in the market.

Imagine a pendulum in your mind. At one end of its maximum swing (at 180 degrees) is the point of complete 100% love. At the other end of its maximum swing (at the opposite 180 degrees) is the point of complete 100% Hate.

The pendulum is never to be at a static state, just as the human mind, mood, tone and tenor is never ever still. Till dead! This pendulum is in a forever state of motion. Set the pendulum on its swing at 180 degrees of total 100% love. This is the point you can equate with the point when consumers enter brands totally besotted by the offering.

The pendulum then starts its swing. From 100 love to 90 love and further down. Brand love can never be sustained at 100 love as the pull of gravity will have its sway. From 90 to 80 to less and less, till it crosses the Rubicon of average love to a little hate and then more and more hate. The pendulum then touches the theoretical point of complete hate.

The good news however is that nothing is forever in this space. From complete hate, the pendulum starts to swing back. Now it is a little less hate and less and less. Then begins the love climb. This time however, the love scores you hit is not as strong as when it started. This time round, you will hit a maximum love-score of say 80.

This is a continuous process.

The pace of swing is a different subject altogether. I have studied that in detail and varies from segment to segment and is based on the profile of the consumer, his upbringing, his culture Eastern or Western, and as many as 23 different parameters of definition. In some brand cases, the consumer will get old and die even before he moves too far into the terrain of hate. And brand-marketers mistake this slow pace of movement of the swing to be brand loyalty.

Suffice to rest my case and say that brand loyalty as we understood it in the early days of an Aaker is truly dead. Understand Brand Promiscuity better for your category of panty or powder or perfume, and you will understand what’s happening to your brand sales volumes today better.

And Rohit, relax. You are as promiscuous as your consumer is.

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


Thursday, October 18, 2007


Clutter Marketing

The Experiential Buzz

By Harish Bijoor

Q: Why the buzz about experiential branding? Is it all about making brands intrusive?

-Sutapa Ganguly, Kolkata

Sutapa, experiential branding is the future, if not the near-present. Every brand across every category has to consider an experiential link with its set of consumers current and potential.

I do strongly believe that every product needs to morph and become a service. When it does this, true-value is unlocked.

I recently presented a paper on this subject at the London World Thought Leaders Forum. The paper focuses on 26 different category of exports from India, 19 commodity categories from China and Vietnam, and 42 categories of possible commodity exports from the US (which is a laggard in this arena today). Every one of these commodities has the potential of becoming a service.

Look at it this way. Tea cannot be a product forever. It has to become a “Cha Bar”. Coffee has to become a Café. Even milk tomorrow ill have “Milk bars” where you will sip milk and pay Rs.80 for a tall chilled value-added glass! When you worship God at home, God is a product. When you worship God at a church or a temple, it is called a “service”!

Everything has to morph from a product to a service. And when it does, this is where the experiential element of a brand comes forth. And for this experience the consumer is willing to pay a premium. A cup of coffee at home will cost you all of Rs.2. The same cup at a Café will cost you Rs.40!

Consumers in all markets are looking for experiential branding. As the outdoor lifestyle increase, you will see more of these!

Q: Walk into any small store and there is tremendous clutter around. You need to be a veteran at the store to know what is where. Nothing stands out. How does one make sense here? What needs to be done?

-Jayesh Bhatnagar, Mumbai

Jayesh, yes, clutter is a way of life in the 'kirana'. The role of creative display and merchandising is a science more and more people need to focus upon for impact.

This is where I have a complaint. Advertising people are just too focused on above the line media and everything that goes into it. Just no one, no one senior enough focuses on below-the-line. I do believe it is all about money!

This needs to change. We need more exciting thinkers thinking out innovative ways of standing out at the vast number of retail outlets in the country.

The focus of advertising people and indeed every marketing man woman and child should be on below the line for sure. And rustic below the line. Not just below the line being designed for the 176 malls in the country, but below-the-line solutions devised for the 17.2 million retail outlets in the country.

Ours is a nation of shop-keepers. Small shop-keepers! Let’s focus on them.

Aggregation of business in this country is going to be a much more slow-paced process than what we have seen elsewhere in the world.

Q: When it comes to luxury brands, which are the categories that have a future in India?

-Mekhala Kumaran, Bangalore

Mekhala here is a small list. Auto. Foods and beverages. Perfumes. Mobile phones. Apparel. Durables.

Of all these I am
particularly excited about the opportunity in the realm of the mobile phone.
This is one piece of equipment that is with you 24 X 7. It is kept on by most
all of 24 hours. It says closest to you, right next to your heart, or close
to your groin (depending where you keep your phone). This is one piece of
equipment everyone notices on you in nano-seconds. Many make opinions about
your personality through the mobile you use.

The luxury category of the mobile phone is therefore exciting. Vertu has a
great future in India.

Q: Is there a need for the marketing strategy in the domestic versus the global market to be different at all?

-Gopinath VS, Chennai

Gopi, very different needs and therefore very different solutions to attempt.

Branding is today a contextual science. Contextuality defines a success. It is important to remember that the consumer is clonal no longer. Every marketing economy is a unique representation. In this unique representation it is important to customize and be what the market wants and not what you as a global brand wants to be.

The Indian brand with global ambitions needs to understand this truth better than the global brand with India ambitions has understood it in the past. Most global brands that have made an India-foray have understood this basic a-clonal fact of markets, particularly in their South-east Asia forays after spending a whole lot of time, money and effort down the drain of the great Indian marketplace.

Q: Why is Indian advertising not working as efficiently as it must?

-A Shankaran, New Delhi

Shankaran, why Indian advertising? World advertising is equally in a bit of a tizzy about what works and what does not.

It is simply this. Indian advertising has taken it a bit too far. The creative license has been used a bit much even. It is time to sit back and think.

Advertising must respect the consumer and his sensitivities. It is time to sit up and say that the consumer is not a moron. Here are some examples. We have a television set that is really healthy to watch as it emits Bio-rays! We had and hopefully still don’t have this tooth-paste that has Oxygen in it. What next? Nitrogen? Or better still Helium so that the toothpaste floats in the 'loo'! We have an honest shirt. And we have lots more.

As advertising traverses the creative route from the sublime to the ridiculous, advertising will be laughed at, enjoyed, rewarded with plaques and metals of every kind, platinum, gold, silver and bronze included! This advertising will not necessarily be rewarded by the consumer in terms of long-term brand equity measures that translate affection into purchase and purchase into repeat franchise.

I do believe integrity needs to seep back into the advertising creative. I do believe every creative needs to go through the scanner of an ombudsman within the ad-agency who sits up and says, “Hey guys, this is a bit much!”

Continued exposure to advertising that has taken too much of a creative license will spawn a generation of consumers who will not trust anything that is said in advertising anymore.

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


Monday, October 15, 2007


New Gandhi City?

New Delhi and New Gandhi City?

By Harish Bijoor

Q: The Big Idea has been around for a while. What’s the buzz all about?

-Rohini Venkatesh, Chennai

Rohini, the Big Idea is really bigger than it is really made out to be. The Big idea is not about advertising. It is about much more. The big idea is about the brand thought itself.

My definition of a brand, which I have been defending at Indian and International academic fora for the last four years, is a simple one. “The brand is a thought”! A simple thought. Nothing more. Nothing less.

This thought lives in people’s heads. These people are not necessarily customers. They may never be your customers even. The thought is nevertheless important. It is this thought that creates everything positive, and indeed everything negative for the brand at large.

The Big Idea is really about this one thought. This singular thought that can live and thrive in the minds of people.

The Big Idea has often been used in a rather limited sense of the term. The Big idea is more than an advertising term really. Much more than phraseology limited to the creative big idea. The Big Idea is really bigger still. It is one brand thought that can percolate and cascade through multiple brand experiences of consumers. It needs to be used as such.

Air Deccan uses a big idea. It uses the singular thought of a low cost airline. It’s every execution, whether in the limited amount of mass media it uses, or whether in its every touch point with the consumer or non-consumer alike, breathes it.

Yes there are many others in this space now, but it is all about being the first one to do it. It is also about the one who does it all the time. Every breath you take, and every step you take, breathe the big idea then. That is, if you have one!

Q: Value addition is a big need in the agricultural commodity category. How does one attempt this? And what are the aspects to consider while doing this?

-Ramesh Sikka, Chandigarh

Ramesh, value addition is the buzz mantra of choice in commodity marketing.

Value addition has two aspects to it. The first is value-addition to the product itself and the second is value addition in terms of image of the product. This is essentially all about branding of the product. Both these aspects have one common goal: to maximize returns from the item on offer.

The agricultural sector largely operates at the level of the commodity. If I am to draw a pyramid that explains the various hierarchies in branding, right at the bottom of the pyramid is the Commodity. This is normally the largest chunk of the market in agricultural products. Just above the commodity category in value-addition terms is the Quasi-brand. This is where the commodity at large has some distinction achieved for itself by its agri form or processing additions. The Arabica and Robusta are classic quasi-brands in coffee. Just as the whole leaf Darjeeling and the CTC and Oolongs are in Tea.

Above the quasi-brands lies the brand. And right at the peak of the pyramid is the super-brand. In many ways, in the coffee category, Nescafe could be called to be one brand knocking at the doors of super-brand-dom. This is the point of time when a commodity ceases to matter as the commodity. The super-brand is a passion and a cult in itself. This is the peak of the value-addition ladder in brand terms.

I do believe value addition of both product and product image are critical to the agri product, be it tea, coffee, spices, rubber, ‘dal, cheeni, chawal or atta” or whatever!

In recent years, bigger companies have been making efforts to climb the value addition chain. These companies are however a niche in the market for commodities at large. At best, these efforts are at the top of the pyramid of the market of consumers out there. Very little effort has focused on strategies that are truly mass.

This momentum needs to be sparked. While individual companies will make their small little efforts that seem really large when you see their advertising, but are really very very small if you peek at heir volume success in terms of the overall market for the agri-product at large. The biggest of companies are but pygmies in this game of branding for the masses.

Q: City name changes are in fashion. Tell me the likely costs of such name changes. And who bears it? And which city do you see changing its name in the near future?

-Dipankar Bora, Guwahati.

Dipankar, your own city went through a seemingly small change some years ago. From the old Gauhati to the new Guwahati!

The change might seem small, but the cost of it could be substantial.

The cost of such exercises are typically borne more by the private sector
than the public. For the Govt. of Assam for instance, this name change may have
costed all of 20 lakhs, but a serious full-fledged change of all private name
boards, visiting cards, stationery etc., will cost the private sector in Assam maybe a few tens of Crores of rupees!

While there is an economic cost that is expended by the government and the private sector for these name changes, the political and emotional profit could be significant to the people who matter in government.

Which city is next? This is a difficult one to answer, as every city has its own set of demands.

I have a personal demand, which I have encapsulated in a proposal to the Govt. Of India. Here it is.

I do believe New Delhi must change its name! Ouch! That hurts!

Why? Very simply to recognize the greatest Indian of them all. Mahatma Gandhi. I do believe New Delhi could ask for a name change. The new name: New Gandhi City. The ultimate recognition for a man who gave this nation what it deserved. Freedom.

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


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