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.

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