Sunday, November 04, 2007


First movers and Retirement marketing

The First Mover Advantage?

By Harish Bijoor

Q: What is the right time for the launch of a cool drink variant from an existing good brand like Coke or Pepsi? Should the variant be launched in peak summer, just before summer or in winter?


A: Murali, there was a time when marketing folk operated on rules carved out on very tough stone. A brand of colored, flavored, carbonated water could be launched only in the summer months. These were to be the peak thirst months. Months in which soft-drink off-takes from shelves were meant to be very high. High enough for the new brand to be able to make an impact and gain a share of throat and bladder alike.

The days have however changed. Today, a whole new set of “non-rules” apply. The old paradigms of when to launch a soft-drink have been shattered. The answer to your question would be: launch whenever you want to.

If you launch it in peak summer, you benefit from big off-takes, but also suffer from high decibel media activity levels from all players, including your own high profile brands. It is quite likely that your carefully thought out advertising plan could get badly lost amidst the clutter.

If you launch it just before summer, you are quite likely to benefit from possibilities of good shelf placements, but you might as well get swamped by everyone else who is preparing for the summer months ahead.

A winter launch would mean exposing your brand and its appeal in months when smaller numbers of consumers swim in the market of consumption. If you expose it all in winter, it gives the competitor plenty of time to plan the summer offensive against your specific positioning stance for sure.

Murali, the choice is yours. Just as it is Hobson’s.

Q: Your 'Pan-wallah' distribution system answer some weeks ago was interesting. Can one segment this distribution system? How?

-Ranjit Sinha, New Delhi

A: Ranjit, there are indeed three types of 'pan-wallahs' in the country. Right at the top of the pyramid is the prosperous heavy foot-fall 'pan-wallah'. Every city
has a minimum of three of these. Indore of course has twenty! These
high-footfall 'pan-wallahs' will sell nothing else but pan. Consumers who walk
in are from every prosperous segment of society and the sole purpose of the
walk-in is to pick up the pan. This segment is not exciting to the marketer.

The second rung 'pan-wallah' is the guy who has a mixed foot-fall for this and
that. These are location-driven 'pan-wallahs', who by virtue of having
occupied the 10 X 10 ft location just outside the UPSC Bhavan, do a roaring
business. These guys are prime targets for every new marketer around. It is
at time tough to get an entry for the new product here.

The third rung 'pan-wallah' is the one who is not necessarily in the high
traffic density locations. These are open to enrich their businesses by
stocking new products of every kind.

Segmentation is certainly possible, and this is but the tip-of-the-iceberg kind of segmentation I have attempted. More can be done. Excitingly more.

Q: Is the advantage of the “first-mover” still working in Indian markets?

-Sheetal Pinheiro, Pune

Sheetal, the first mover advantage worked in the old days. It does not anymore. The new age marketer has to be completely amoebic in his marketing orientation.

The consumer is indeed changing much faster than the marketer is. The marketer needs to be prepared to morph. The marketing person needs to be prepared for catharsis of every kind. It is this catharsis that keeps her running and ahead of the pack, and not necessarily the fact that the first mover advantage is with the marketer.

The First mover advantage today is quite a bit of a myth. Life in the marketing fast lane is tricky today. It is a slippery totem pole you are climbing out there. No one is a leader forever, never mind if you were the first one there.

The amoebic chameleon marketer is the successful marketer. Change your shape. Change your color. Change everything that needs to be changed with consumer need, want, desire and aspiration. Nothing needs to be sacrosanct anymore.

Q: The retired-folk market seems to be a reasonably large segment with plenty of potential. How does one crack in?

-Jyoti Paluskar, Mumbai

A: Jyoti, the retired folk market of tomorrow is different from the retired-folk market of yesterday.

Those who retire ten years hence are different sets of consumers altogether.
There is a generational shift in affordability and the attendant attitude
and propensity to spend.

Look back at the tens of generations that have gone by. Every generation has
seen a morph in terms of values. Most of these value changes have been due to
the impact of media, availability of more money as disposable income,
environmental situations of peace that has spurred on the spending attitude,
and much more.

Today, with the stock market boom at hand, real estate at peak levels,
investments from Mutual Funds offering more and more solidity in terms of
the liquid assets of people, and most certainly the Insurance era which
takes care of the unforeseen events, the consumer at large is that much more
secure in his spending pattern.

Those retiring ten years hence are rather well taken care of. A pampered lot
even. Plus, there is the prosperity brought in by new wealth from the
e-economy. The electronic economy has brought prosperity that is what I
classify as new wealth. This wealth in the hands of the retiree is easier to
spend than "old wealth" as signified by the wealth transferred over the
generations in terms of land and gold and money as well.

The new retiree will therefore be an E-retiree. Or a wealthy retiree with
new attitudes to savings and spends. This new retiree ten years from now has
spent his matured days under the umbrella of the credit card culture which
encourages you to spend more than you have as well.

This new generation will believe in the power of spending. The power of Now
is a potent thought with them. Add this attitude to money in the bank, and
you have a more aggressive spending consumer at hand.

Most of these new consumers in the age group of retirement will be
empty-nesters with their kids having settled down well enough. Now, it is
husband and wife again in most cases. Time to do the entire things one missed
out on. Time to take that bit of travel, and splurge on brands and their
respective brand appeals as well.

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


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