Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Of Condoms and Brand Valuation

A Google-eyed Nation

By Harish Bijoor

Q: What’s with condom advertising in our country. There is little to choose from. The latest campaign from Moods is however interesting. Any take on this?
-Rakhshit Pratap. Jaipur

A: Rakshit, condom advertising has been a relatively closed-door syndrome at play in the country for obvious reasons of the mass consumer sensitivity to the subject.  A very creatively used category though, if you look at all the ads that India has seen thus far.
The Moods campaign is a refreshing way of looking at Condoms.  Goes in sync with the mood of a nation on the morph in its mentality to the condom category at large.
Condom advertising in India has traversed from the sublime to the ridiculous over the decades of condom advertising acceptance.

While Nirodh (the nationalized condom?) kept the condom category as a functional category that helped contraception, Kama Sutra took it to the point of adding sexy zing to the wardrobed sex lives of Indians.

Moods does it differently here in its latest sets of executions. Moods actually uses a quiet and suggestive language altogether. It uses the branding opportunity provided by the condom inner-pack very well. It is a highly campaignable piece of advertising that can use any and every situation to brand intent. It is quiet, sedate, and happily does not use sweaty half-nude bodies in a state of presumed coitus. Despite not using all these visuals, it leaves you behind with a clear brand message that Moods is it! That everyone is using Moods! Whatever the mood, whatever the age, and wherever. That everyone you ever thought would never use Moods is using Moods as well. That sex happens everywhere, never mind whether it is inside a Museum or
in the cramped quarters of an aircraft toilet.  Interesting.

I do believe the creative is very well handled and can be a true-blue
global piece of communication, relevant to every copulating culture.

Q: Tom Cruise came to India recently and there were reports that crowds had to be bought to welcome him. Is this not a big change from the good old days when we went goggle-eyed with white-skinned stars?

-Sowmya Mehul Parekh, Surat

A: Sowmya,  the point is simple. India has grown up from its early goggle-eyed status of Western brands that stared down at us. Today, this is not a goggle-eyed nation. Instead, we are a ‘Google-eyed” nation. Today, we are being wooed as a country by brands from every geography, the West and the East alike. In the bargain, there is a surfeit of choice, and the mother brand market of them all, the USA is just yet another one of them. This has caused for a slight dulling of sheen of brands from the USA. Or for that matter from Europe as well.

    I do believe this new trend of taking it all in our stride, and as it comes, is more about the internal prosperity norms of Indian and the Indian at large. The Indian is a much more mature brand person today than he was yesterday. Therefore we do not go gaga when Lady Ga Ga hits the Indian shores, as we would have in the past. Yes there is excitement, but this excitement is far more restrained than in the days gone by.

India is also besieged by every geography today. The US has deteriorated to be just 'one among many', rather than the status of the 'one and only' which it enjoyed in the past.
Q: When does a company get into brand-valuation?
-Maria Nazareth, Mumbai
A: Maria, a company considers brand valuation at a point of time when it wants to assess its true-blue health.
This health is something it can leverage monetarily. At times this brand valuation number can be used to sell stake in the brand, or for that matter even mortgage a part of the brand to a bank or a financial institution. Most of the brand valuation exercises we do is to help brands monetize their intangible asset, the brand. In many ways it helps tangibilize an intangible.
Q: Where is the digital Out of home industry going? Where do you see its future?
-PP Yadav, Hyderabad
A: Yadav-gaaru, digital OOH is a medium with potential, but I do not believe the potential has been exploited with panache.

    The opportunity is out there, but there is not enough of scale seen in digital OOH mediums. In the bargain, the medium falls between the many stools of television, print, outdoor and traditional non-digital POP. What is needed is a scientific exploration of this space. It is time for digital OOH companies to do pressure tests in limited number of cities. These tests must go to prove the efficacy and true value of the medium. There is a gap in terms of acceptance and faith in this medium as of today. In the bargain, the medium writes a self-fulfilling prophesy of stagnation in terms of value and use. And remains niche.

Q: Telecom seems to have emerged the top advertiser in recent years beating FMCG. Why?
-Sapna KK, Kottayam
A: Sapna, in the last few years, we are seeing telecom as the top advertiser category while FMCG has fallen down the order. Correct.

It is all about margins and value. The FMCG sector is really going through trying times, fighting to retain margins, and fighting to stay relevant as branded offerings in a sea of commodity options that seem to be emerging as well. The FMCG category is also under margin pressure from the emerging organized retail. As the percentage of sales volumes grow in organized retail, traditional margins which were enjoyed by marketers are under stress. Add to this the climate of uncertainty. All this makes for the FMCG player to be that much more cautious. I do believe in media spend terms, the FMCG marketer is going through what I call a "cautionary recession". The volumes are more or less intact, the moneys to spend are there as well, but the attitude is one of saving for a rainy day.

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

Monday, May 07, 2012


Outdoor Advertising and the Liquor Market

Vomit Charge

By Harish Bijoor

Q: As the Indian Outdoor industry grows by leaps and bounds in terms of opportunities to use, what is your advice to the industry? And is there one thing my agency can do to stand apart from the rest?
-Jayanta Padhi, Mumbai

A: Jayanta, congratulations. First of all the industry is witnessing its much needed growth after decades of patient waiting. This in many ways is an industry that never got its due. Overall turnover of the industry has grown slowly and rates charged have always been under pressure.

Advice? The one big piece of advice would be to tread this space with caution. Just don’t overdo the Outdoor piece a bit too much. As Outdoor advertising booms, there is a run to capitalize and monetize every bit of valuable eye-ball space there is. This should be done with care and finesse. There needs to be a great degree of sensitivity as you grow the space of Indian Outdoor.

Clutter is a big issue to manage. India and the Indian at large is going to wake up, sooner than later, to the issue of visual pollution. I do believe that the idea of ‘visual pollution’ is an idea whose time has come. Consumers of Outdoor Advertising are going to sit up in time and protest the visual clutter and visual pollution at large that advertisements of companies thrust on them.

As this issue gains credence, it is important for players in Outdoor Advertising space to exercise restraint and show a great degree of aesthetic finesse in every outdoor effort. Adopting a stance that says that your agency is “visual pollution sensitive” might be a good and proactive stance to take. This just might set you apart from the rest. Try it.

Q: Which is the best book to read to understand the liquor market in India? There are many books from the Western perspective, but none on India.
-Shamik Rudro, Delhi

A: Shamik, the best book to read on anything is the market. When you find no books that tell you what the market is all about, just step into the market. The market teaches you a lot. But this is hard work.

Whenever there is nothing to read, make your own reading material. Make it from the market. Market working is an old habit. It has served generations of marketers very well. It is only the new marketer of today that is relying on secondary data and secondary published information that is most of the time either out-dated or useless. In both cases, such information leads to nothing.

Remember, when there is something published, it is read by all. It is ready by your savvy competitor as well. If you really want information about the market that you can act upon uniquely, get to the market.

Again, market working is not about working the market once. Instead, it is about working the market regularly. It is about keeping your finger on the pulse of the market all the while. At times it is good to work the same market again and again with periodic intervals. This gives you an idea of change. It gives you a measure and a calibration device as well.

Talking of the liquor market, when you work markets you get very unique Indian insights. India is a very different market. You will get stuff that is solid, and stuff that is anecdotal as well. At times you can base a lot of your branding truth and fact on all that you pick up.

As a parting nugget, I worked a small market near Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh last week for an understanding of the liquor market. I walked into a dirty “Ahata” (a make-shift low-cost bar for rustic drinkers) and sat around for a while absorbing it all. I looked up and checked out the menu. There was a price list that listed everything. Egg fry came at Rs.25, Two boiled eggs cost Rs. 20 and there was yet another charge on the board: “Ulti charge: Rs. 50”!

If I was to translate this into good old English, it would simply mean “Vomit charge”. This “Ahata” in rural MP charges its customers if they vomit within the premises. If you were to vomit here, you would end up paying twice the price of a plate of Egg Fry.

How realistic and practical can markets get?

And guess what, no book on the liquor market would list this as well. The market is a great teacher. Full stop.

Q: When will we brand the air we breathe?
-Rohini Venkataram, New Delhi

A: Rohini, that will be the last frontier of branding to breach. I really hope we don’t ever do this.

If you look for this kind of branding keenly, you just might find an air humidifier trying to do this, just as a fan might attempt to tell you that you are enjoying USHA air.

As branding forages its way category after category, I just do0n’t put it beyond reason that this space will be breached as well.

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

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, May 05, 2012


Akshay Kumar, Cold-drinks, hot-markets and the Hindi heartland of India

Cold Drinks and Hot Markets

By Harish Bijoor
Q: After years, Thums Up has changed its brand-endorser. Akshay Kumar is out. What’s your take on this? Why the change?
-Smiju N Thomas, Kottayam

A: Smiju, every brand of a fizzy drink needs fizz in its advertising. Just as it’s advertising needs fizz and action, its endorsers need to remain fizzy. In many ways Akshay Kumar had completed the task on the brand, and his personal fizz-quotient to fit the brand was albeit missing. To that extent, the new campaign moves a step forward. After all, how long can you keep asking the same star, "Tumne apne Thums Up ke liya, kya kya kiya hai?"

Brand endorsers age. Brand endorsers go through cycles of achievement and non-achievement. Brand endorsers have hits and misses. Brand endorsers are human beings with limited life cycles of appeal. And brand-endorsers age. Brands don't. Brands have two choices then. They can either age with their brand endorsers, or they could change their brand endorsers. Thums Up chose.

As of now, Thums Up has many brand endorsers. In many ways, having 4 brand endorsers versus one, is hedging. Each endorser appeals to a different class of consumer. Every endorser has an appeal that could even be region specific. Having 4 brand endorsers in many ways is the ultimate brand revenge on the brand endorser of yore. Brand endorsers, particularly film stars are very promiscuous in their brand endorsements. Some endorse as many as 14 brands simultaneously, changing their clothes, their hairstyles and at times even their accents, tone, tenor and decibel of talk and walk.
Cheekily speaking, the idea is a simple one: if a brand endorser can endorse so many brands simultaneously, why can't a brand take on more than one brand ambassador? After all this is the best hedge against bets that could go wrong with solus stars. This is a hedge on the popularity of stars, hits, flops, region of appeal and more.

With this change, I do believe the brand is looking peppier by the day. This piece of advertising adds zing to the brand. As Pepsi ages in the Indian market, Coke and Thums Up are looking refreshingly younger and younger in their brand profiles. “Aaj Kucch Toofani Karte hain” resonates with the young of this country and their current mood as of now. To “toofani “ then.

Q: Is the Hindi heartland of India becoming an area of focus for the marketer today? Is this  a trend? Why?
-Kiran Gaonkar, Itarsi

Kiran, absolutely yes.
The Hindi heartland is the new market that is just about emerging. What was derogatorily called the "cow belt" and the "Bimaru states" in the past, is a market that is coming to roost in the present and most certainly the future. These states have become very progressive in their development indices. These states boast of a GDP growth rate that is at times even more robust than the national numbers. This means that these markets will see faster consumer growth in terms of demand in terms of volumes, value and innovation.

India is a very young nation.  These states have a solid representation of the young. These states are therefore excellent markets for young-oriented products and services. The robust growth numbers in the education sector is proof enough. Add to it the entertainment market, the market for mobile phones, gadgets of every kind, clothes and accessories, cosmetics, shoes, physical exercise-oriented products, and you have a solid market of the future emerging.

The youth in these States are real, rustic and aspiring. Every one of them wants to create a better life for themselves. The first effort is at education. Private schools, colleges, centers of higher education such as MBA Institutes, Professional degree institutions, and coaching centers alike, are magnet points for the young. Then there is the aspiration to dress better, look better and eat and drink better as well. This is spurring consumption of not only functional products, but products of cosmetic value as well. Products that relate to health, well-being and proactive health care rather than just reactive care, are being craved for as well. The young in these towns have a far bigger hunger quotient than the privileged young in the bigger cities of India. Here again, I would segment this territory into urban, rurban and rural. The hunger deepens as you go from urban to rurban to rural. The opportunity for marketers therefore deepens as one penetrates down this strata.

Marketers need to be careful and cautious though. Marketers need to stay humble, talk the language of the people, and offer solutions that are relevant, original and innovative. Marketers need to tailor-make themselves to the market, rather than take their tailor-made solutions to the market. Bottom-up marketing is the mantra to adopt. Not pompous top-down marketing norms that we have imported, imbibed and practiced with lack of success in the past.
Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


Of Kingifsher, Apple, Brand-valuation and Brands

Tangibilizing the Intangible

By Harish Bijoor

Q: With the Kingfisher brand being valued recently, the question in mind is what are the parameters under which brands are valued? How do you arrive at a monetary value? Who decides?
-Purnam Venketeshwara, Hyderabad

A: Purnam, brand valuation is an objective exercise done with the subjectivity that the brand valuing organization, its peoples, consumers of the brand and the current environment in which the brand lives bring to the table.  In this rather complex exercise, one looks at current financial strength, potential value and future earnings. In addition one is looking at consumer strength the brand enjoys. The more consumer-centric you make the exercise, the more subjective it gets, and the more financial statement oriented you make it, the more objective it gets. Both have their own pitfalls though.
In many ways, intangible assets are tangibilized by sensible and neutral brand valuation exercises.
Brand valuation is however not a one-time exercise. It is good to do it on a continuous basis. We run brand valuation exercises on a continuous panel basis for years together. It is quite like the ECG readout every one of us must get. It tells you realistically the state of your brand health. It helps peg a number to all the notions that may abound in businesses. It is however an ever-changing number, quite like your Blood Pressure count.

Q: Apple is not really aggressively advertised in India. Despite that it is a big brand. Why and how?
     -J Ratna Sabapathi, Chennai

A: Sabapathi, Apple is the gold standard brand in the telecom handset market. The allure of an Apple is much beyond advertising. The brand depends heavily on peer group influencers in the market. To an extent, the Apple device is slowly but surely becoming a ubiquitous cult symbol in the hands of the young. Something that is beyond advertising. If I am to use Pharmaceutical language, the brand is prescriptive. Prescribed by the peer. And this peer-to-peer prescription holds immense value. Much more value than mere advertising tout.

Q: How have brands evolved in India? Can you help me trace history?
       -Romi Malhar, Mumbai
      A: Romi, you are asking the biggest question of them all. Difficult to do this in all of 300 words. Will attempt this though.
       Brands have evolved from being basic offerings that touched the largest numbers to specialized offerings that touch niches today. In between these two movements, there lie whole sets of stories that indicate an evolutionary process that has kept pace with the Indian consumer. As the Indian consumer has gotten more and more adventurous, brands have kept pace.

In the beginning, brands were all about the things we ate and drank. Then they got into the realm of what we wore. And then into realms those touch our lives and make them happen, stuff like education and Medicare and more. In each of these categories, branding happened only at the top end of each category. The bottom end remained a commodity. Over a period of time however, the brand started touching the bottom-rung entities in each category as well. Take tea for example. The category had a large loose tea orientation in the days gone by. Today, literally every tea is a branded option. The movement climbed top down and not bottom up, as has happened in other countries. The same is the case with salt and every ingredient and eatable there is. Stretch this to beverages as well...and you have a pattern.

The economy and its affordability indices spurred this on as well. As more and more money started getting the spend-tag of being a disposable income, more and more brands came in. The movement from cycles to mopeds to motorcycles to small cars to big cars is yet another aspect of this evolution. As India went through adjunct categories such as mopeds, the economy signified that it was in its adolescence. Products were kid products, adolescents and then mature products. The cycle is a kid product, the moped that of an adolescent India and the motorcycle of a grown up India.

Have brands kept pace with change? Not really. Brands have watched consumers evolve and have offered them products. The early ones which offered mature-market products had a bad time and a long gestation period towards profits and break-even. Therefore, most others learnt the tough way and did things as consumers wanted them, rather than give things that consumers might want. The Tea bag evolution on India is a classic example with Taj Mahal tea bags doing evangelical work and struggling with lack of profits for as long as 20 years.
Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


The Facebook Farmer and Rural Twitter

The Facebook Farmer

By Harish Bijoor

Q: Do you see social networking sites spreading their applications and wings? If so, where is the opportunity?

-P Malik Krishna, New Delhi

A: Malik, social networking sites hold immense potential for a range of applications. These applications need not necessarily be for urban educated folk alone. The opportunity is ripe for the rural farmer as well.

Take the large agrarian community in India. Most live distanced from physical market places. Facebook or Twitter or for that matter any other robust social networking format that attracts eye-balls and visits that are robust (we are told FB has 423 million daily visitors and users) can help bridge the gap between the physical and the virtual. Staying far away from physical markets can no longer be a disadvantage. In many ways, geography is history. If a farmer is on FB, he can experience real-time prices, a real-time feel of the market, and indeed a real-time interface with buyers and sellers alike. To that extent, buying and selling and  information facilitation is just but one of the many applications that can be farmer-friendly.

On the other hand, for the Corporate, the social networking site does away with the one big issue most corporate organizations  grapple with: access to market. Access to market today is defined not by physical product presence in the market, as much as the access to information about the product. Imagine a fertilizer or a seeds company that can network with the farmer online, offer prices on quantities, offer consulting and counseling services, and then finally sell. All this is today possible, thanks to the social networking site.

In the old days, a corporate entity would define for itself the urban market space as the space it could manage to cater to, due to distance. Today, every corporate can have an e-presence and an e-commerce and e-consulting and e-counseling plan in place. This means that no corporate is too far away or too close to the market. In many ways, the social networking site re-invents the model of Pure competition, where no player is too far or too close from the market. The potential is therefore pregnant.

Farmers can use these sites in several steps. Step one would be to garner information. This can relate to weather, cropping patterns, crop-volume-estimation across growing areas, rainfall patterns and more. In addition, farmers can network with brethren-farmers across the world and utilize the power of peer group influence in terms of buying and selling. Add to it the possibility of a more knowledge-enriched farmer, and you have the potential of a shift of power back to the farmer, from the current days where the power and margin largely rests with the middle-man. In many ways social networking sites can help dis-intermediate the market and help the farmer retain larger margins.

Q: Premium and luxury brands do not advertise on radio as a medium. Why?
-Shephali B Raghavachar, Hyderabad
A: Shephali, yes, premium advertisers think radio as a non-premium medium. There is just too much of it, and there is ample research available that tells you that the premium-category shopper does not depend on awareness scores for luxury brands from radio. In fact radio tends to negate effort for luxury brands as of now. Proves counter-productive to effort. Radio is much too mass for luxury brands.

Premium luxury brands will still depend on niche mediums. Niche mediums such as niche print for instance. Airline in-flight magazines work beautifully here. Even for the small town traveler. In fact he carries away these in-flight magazines and salivates and shops. Works better than radio for sure.

Q: How big is the e-retail industry today and how does its future potential look?
-Nalin Vaidyanathan, Chennai

A: Nalin, e-retail is today growing differentially across categories. Since the base is small, in some categories you witness a 600% growth and in some a 220 per cent growth. Today, we have 143 million Indians on the Web. Of these, we have 49 million people who are the prime audience for e-retail mechanisms as of now. My prognosis is that we will have 320 million Internet users by December 2014. As this happens, expect e-retail to boom.

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

Labels: , , , , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?