Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Digital Branding

Digital Interactivity

By Harish Bijoor

Q: Why is digital media in such good focus today? And what is new here?
-Jyothi Virwani, Mumbai
A: Jyothi, the visual appeal of digital mediums cannot be matched by any other medium. Immediacy is hot. In the sense that the medium is closest to the point of purchase, or on way to purchase. It is an excellent reminder medium as well.

Further, it is also a medium that can build two-way interactivity.

What’s new?
Today, we have technology available where a digital signage can actually not only transmit lovely visuals and offers, but can also read who is watching it at a moment of time and dish out specific advertising. For instance if the sensor detects a woman in the mid fifties watching the medium, the product that can be shown to her digitally will be something relevant to her rather than items of irrelevance.

The medium can be used to research out consumers and consumer reactions even. Therefore the applications are many. Privacy issues remain though, and therefore such interactive digital signages need to have up-front communication aimed at viewers that is totally transparent.

The most recent and the most exciting development in the digital signage media is this. I have indicated the true-blue value-add possibility of interactive signages. Here, as you watch the signage, the signage watches you as well. Its complex algorithm will assess your sex, your age, your social class by way of dressing, your attitudinal stance by way of how you sport your hair, etc. In turn, it will dish out advertising that is specific to you and not umbrella advertising that is more often than not irrelevant, irritating and myopic.

Q: When a crisis hits a company, what is the process of communication that needs to fall into place? What if I had an Enron or a Satyam happening in my company?

-Vasanth Panigrahi, Hyderabad
A: Vasanth, God forbid! Let’s just hope we don’t have too many of these happening.
Just in case, it does though, the process needs to be quick. It needs to involve those who are close to the top. Close to the real center of information. Once quickness has been established as a norm here, it is important to use every neutral tool and vehicle to advantage. A neutral tool would be capturing everything that is written on the crisis and presenting it on a common platform for all to see. This will swathe the entire effort with credibility, and will not be seen to be a Goebbelian method of PR activity.
Once this credibility has been achieved, communication needs to get interactive. It needs to answer every question that is raised. Such questions can come from Opinion leaders, the media, employees, and the lay public even. Every constituent needs to be respected and given an answer that is right, and an answer that could be cruel in its impact even. People want the truth. Never hide it. Say it the way it is. Once said, truth has a way of settling down in the psyche of the individual. Do not molly-coddle hard fact. Do not clothe hard fact. Just give it out naked!
Set up an independent Ombudsman to assess the role of this crisis communication team even. Listen to the Ombudsman. And let this crisis-communication auditor come from a neutral source. This will be a rich process then.

Q: Indian retail has just about matured. What do you see to be the important factors that will contribute to its success further?
-Joseph H Hoover, Trichy
A: Joe, I am not sure I agree with you. Indian retail is not yet mature. It is at its most immature adolescence as of now.
Immediately however, Indian retail needs to adjust its mentality for Indian conditions. We need to be multiple-formatted. Every chain needs to have multiple formats and must not rely on niche formats such as the mega super-marts. In the early days, such a focus on single-formats will work, as the low hanging fruit of the ready-made consumer in urban markets is plucked. But things will dry up soon. Smaller format outfits need to be a reality for every chain sooner or later. Non air-conditioned retail is something that cannot be missed.
A partnership of big retail with small must not be missed as an opportunity. Imagine if an Aditya Birla Retail contracted 2, 00,000 existing small kiranas to partner in their retail spread. Every one of these small kiranas would get the benefit of an organized front-face in terms of branding and of course the benefits of mass sourcing. For the retail brand, this would mean a quick 2, 00, 000 outlets that sport the brand name of the company. Also, this would mean 2, 00,000 business people in small retail continue their livelihoods. They would bring passion and a deep understanding of the local market for the big retailer. Every outlet could be co-branded. More-Ghanshyam Stores and a More-Shetty Stores!
Indian retail inroad can be made by the big player only on a win-win format of big and small. And not to the exclusive benefit of the big alone!
My prediction is that in the next six years, the face of Indian retail will look very different from what we see today. Today's big ones might just vanish altogether. Bubbles burst, you see!
Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

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Recession-time Marketing

Learning from the Down-turn

By Harish Bijoor

Q: India is just going through an economic down-turn. What are the learnings from this? How do we educate ourselves from this experience?
-Pallav Gopal, Mumbai.

A: Pallav, the economic downturn is really a slow-down. A correction in the earning, stocking, spending and celebrating mindset of the Indian consumer at large.

While at the macro level, our GDP growth rates were at a more sobered down 5.3% overall, this signified a down-fall from the gung-ho years of successive 8.3% growth.

One fine point on this macro number is the fact that rural markets grew faster than urban markets. In the case of several categories such as auto, durables and cosmetic care items, urban markets saw a de-growth at large and rural markets showed growth. At the end of the day, when we aggregate volumes from both, there was some semblance of small growth overall.

In real terms, even though there has been no real recession in macro terms in the country as a whole, in urban markets there has been a real recession, which I call a cautionary recession. This simply means that people had money in hand, but postponed the decision to buy, not knowing how the future would pan out in terms of holding on to jobs, securing increments, securing bonuses, and in many cases even retaining the same salary as last year. Being laid-off was a big worry as well.

In rural markets, growth remained and spending remained at the level it was.

Brands learnt many things from this down-turn. The top 10 learnings from my perspective:

1. It is important to have a strong rural foot-print in the country. It is important not to depend too heavily on the urban sales skew. Rural-sales is a good hedge when the chips are down in urban.

2. Re-define value. Don't get carried away by value that is defined by slick advertising and even slicker retail appeal. Get to the basics and focus on basic brand appeal. Brand appeal needs to go in sync with value-pricing.

3. Reduce obscene margins that are typically made and taken for granted in categories. Brands must not distance themselves from consumers by building walls of unfair prices. Mass consumer appeal is important. Don't sacrifice width of appeal and use for depth of margins.

4. Being in contact with consumers is important. Marketers need to get off the pedestal of television advertising and walk into markets and feel the alien sweat of the sadly alien consumer.

5. Demand-generation is a task that cannot be forgotten and taken for granted. Even older categories of consumer goods and services need to indulge in demand creation games at the ground level. Demand generation is always fashionable.

6. Dependence on Above the line (ATL) needs to be questioned. There is plenty to be done Below the line (BTL) if markets are to be made.

7. God is in the details of branding. Mass branding does not necessarily work. The answer lies in 1:1 branding formats.

8. Small retail cannot be ignored. It needs to be nurtured if brands have to succeed in India.

9. The point-of-purchase is a point of advertising. A point of branding. A point of selling. A point of consumer activation. A point of market-research. Indeed it is the point of everything!

10. Intermediation in the selling and marketing process needs to be re-visited. Distributors do not do enough in the market. One needs to get into the act as a company on its own as well to stay in touch. To stay relevant, original and innovative. Outsourcing of distribution has gone a bit too far.

Q: Is Digital marketing the next new thing really? Why?
-Sampath KK, Chennai
A: Sampath, I do believe digital is next. Digital is really broad-based. It manifests itself through every electronic medium there is to use. It is all about a nation morphing to be a nation of screen-besotted individuals. And the biggest of them is the smallest screen of them all: the mobile phone.
Even as I write this reply, we have a total telecom connectivity of 490 million phones. Growth per month stands at an average of 14 million phones. This is a dramatic shift in medium-access.
The mobile phone is going to be the biggest digital device there is ever to be. It is ubiquitous in every hand. In some hands there are two. It is on 24 X 7. It is kept closest to the heart and it is a device around which a lot of lives revolve.
Add to this digital device of ubiquity, every screen there is. The laptop, the desktop, the Outdoor LCDs and more. Digital is personal, very intrusive and is visual oriented in its messaging possibility. This is big stuff. A revolution to watch out for.

Q: How do brands work in rural markets? What is the brand rationale at play?
-Shalini Patra, Bhubaneswar

A: Shalini, rural folk are very brand conscious. Rural folk trust brands as friends. Most purchases in their purchase basket tend to be un-branded. But when they actually buy brands, they buy with gusto. The brand is seen as a reliable mate. An entity that promises and delivers. The higher price is considered a safety net that assures longevity and performance.

Brands are trusted friends. Brands in many ways are a guarantee of quality.

Rural folk do not necessarily have "limited " monies in their hands. Rural folk are really folk with a higher disposal income portion in whatever they have in hand. Rural incomes, largely, are crop incomes. These crop incomes are tax free.

A person in Urban India in the salaried class could fork out as much as Rs.22 out of a Rs. 100 income as tax. The rural person has this additional Rs.22 in hand that moves into disposable income. Brands are therefore entities that attract the interest of rural folk.

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

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Tryvertising and more....

Chicken Brand & Egg Advertising

By Harish Bijoor

Q: What is branding and what is advertising? Is there a difference between the two?

S Venkat, Trichy

A: Venkat, the key big paradigm of Marketing has been the confusion between branding and advertising. This is a perennial issue that bogs down marketing understanding. Branding has been linked a bit too close with the function of advertising. What needs to be remembered is that branding is about strategy and advertising is about the physical execution of that strategy through the use of the tools and devices and allure of advertising.

It is important to understand that branding comes first and advertising later. Branding is insight-led and advertising is all about taking that brand-insight and getting the creative-throw that is necessary for that base brand thought.

I do believe that this distinction needs to be in public limelight.

Q: Is India back on the tracks of fast growth? Do we get to see prosperity and progress now? Does advertising as an industry gain from it?
Swapnil Mehta, Mumbai
A: Swapnil, not yet. But give it another 18 months and we will be back on track. My personal estimate of the advertising pie for the year 2010 is INR 17,200 Crores. This is disappointing.
Corporates are tightening their belts even now and Consultants are busy advising caution even today. Media at large will underplay the down-turn, but the reality is that there is urban down-turn in India.
In India the silver lining is the fact that 60% of the economy is reasonably insulated due to the rural consumption being intact. Rural contributes to 60% of the GDP today. Urban centers have seen shrinkages in contribution to buying and consuming. This signifies a real recession in urban buying.
At a larger level, when 60% of the economy is booming and 40% of the urban economy is on a slump, overall, the picture is still a positive one. One that justifies the prognosis of a 5.3% GDP growth rate overall.

We will see prosperity around in marketing terms. But be patient.

Q: What are the dynamics of the luxury market? How does it work in India?
-Sachin Mandre, Mumbai

A: Sachin, luxury is essentially a mindset. Every segment of society, whether it is the Upper Income Group, the Middle Income Group, or the Lower Income Group, has its own definition of luxury. To someone who is in the UIG, Luxury is all about the experiential dinner at the on a yacht moored out in the Arabian Sea with 7-star service. To someone in the middle income group, it might as well be a gourmet dinner at a Taj or an Oberoi. To someone in the lower income group, luxury is all about a family dinner at a local restaurant or even a fast-food joint like McDonald’s where the prices are low but the ambience is electric!
Luxury is therefore a mindset. To each their own. As many consumers as there are in the market, that many different ‘avatars’ of what is luxury and what is not.
The current market perception of typical luxury therefore varies across the HIG, MIG and LIG.
Luxury is really anything that is out of reach, relatively expensive, high on image and high on cost affordability as well. Luxury is also about the image-driven value that one derives in the usage of the luxury product or service.

Q: How does the new concept of ‘tryvertising’ work? Is this just a Western fad?
Sabeena Khan, New Delhi
A: Sabeena, ‘Tryvertising’ is very simply the new and aggressive mode of using the trial of a product or a service as the ultimate form of persuasive advertising.

The fact is simple. If people try a product or a service, they are more likely to be persuaded to buy and use rather than depending on advertising alone, which is considered remote and distant and on the television. Far away. Out of reach.

India is yet to adopt it with vigor.

In many ways however, the lowest common denominator use of ‘tryvertising’ is when a brand places itself for a free-pick up at a super-market, or through in-home free samples or even through magazines which send subscriber lists whole big cakes of soap and shampoo alike. Free sampling is the lowest common denominator avatar of ‘tryvertising’.

Higher end forms are yet to hit India in a big way.

Hotels offering a free stay, resorts offering 2 nights free altogether to a select mailing list, car companies offering free drives with a "keep the car" for a week and try kind of offer are all possibilities.

The concept is really economical for brands which have a high price tag.

What is important to understand is the number of days of trial or occasions of trial that is necessary for the product or service to be just right for adoption by the consumer. Once that is understood, the economy of the activity can be worked out.

For instance, for a coffee brand to be adopted in home, a total of a minimum 3 months of trail daily is necessary. This means that a competing brand should be able to work this right only if it is able to provide that deep a placement of its free stock. A simple Rs.5 sachet free does not work.

This space of ‘tryvertising’ is reasonably empirical in its offering. Different categories of products and services have a differing degree of ‘tryvertising’ need.

This is not a fad. Can be a good new marketing property to use.

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

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