Tuesday, April 01, 2014


Of Sugar and Film Stars!

Film-star or Marketing-star?

By Harish Bijoor
Q: Film stars today dominate not only the celluloid screen, but also the small screen. They are on the big screen with movies and on the small-screen with brand advertisements and more. Is the film star a marketing star as well today?
-Ratna Ganguly, Kolkata.

A: Ratna, film stars today are not only film stars. They are more. They are social evangelists. They are event managers. They are marketing stars as well, as you put it.

It is common knowledge today that some actors make more money on the brand endorsement circuit than they do with their films. Add to it this new trend of selling personal lives and personal life stances through products and services to it.

Film stars today understand themselves to be consumable products. Their fans and to-be-fans are waiting to consume them and their every word. They therefore monetize their abilities, their pull-factor and their credibility scores with fans. There are actors who therefore employ full-time brand-managers whose sole job is to monetize every opportunity there is to monetize. Film stars also fully understand that if one star is not willing to do something, another is. Film stars are also aware that their charm will last for a while. This time is a window that is to opened and monetized: fast and quick. So never mind if a product is a pregnancy kit, a hearing aid or whatever!

The benefit of such exercises is totally monetary to the star. Along with monetary benefit, there is a non-benefit attached to the star as well. Film stars in fact lose credibility when they endorse brands that lack a fit with their persona. The consumer is a fool. Not a bloody fool! Let's remember, consumers are innocent, but not gullible.

Q: Is India the delight of a sugar manufacturer? I have never seen so much of sweet stuff marketed anywhere in the world as much as in India. Am I right?
-Sophie McCullough, Mumbai

A: Sophie, you are absolutely correct on this one. We are a sweet country. And a sweet people to boot.
The Indian at large is a tooth. A sweet tooth. As I keep saying, if I was to symbolize an Indian in picture format, a large tooth and a syrupy yellow-orange Motichur laddoo would tell it all as the story of a nation with a sweet tooth!

I do believe our sweet fixation stems from the days of yore. Our mythology is loaded with sweet stuff. Our every region has hundreds of varieties of sweets. Every region has a variation on it. Add to it the fact that we are a nation of festivals. We celebrate a total of 169 large festivals in India. And every festival is typically signified by a large quantum of sweets and flowers. The sweet is a fundamental corner-stone of every festival we celebrate. Does not matter what religion it is all about, it is about sweets of every kind. The wedding is yet another occasion for a splurge on sweets. Every child that is born means a lot of sweets around. Every new job means laddoos or pedas all around. Sweets abound in our lives.

India is therefore a very sweet nation. A nation that consumes sugar and oil in large quantum.  No wonder then that we are the diabetic capital of the world as well, with some 36 million diabetics of a total count of 145 million worldwide. We must also be closely inching to he status of cholesterol capital of the world as well.

Our sugar fixation is therefore a big opportunity for marketers of sweets, candies, gum, ice cream, frozen desserts of every kind, tinned offerings of sweets, chocolates and more. India needs no evangelical selling of the sweet product. If the price and taste fits, the market is ready. Marketers in this category therefore enjoy insulated volumes.

The clear opportunity for marketers of chocolates and candies is the replacement opportunity offered by the large base of traditional sweets. The consumption opportunities are many and organized. Festivals, weddings, birthdays, celebrations and such consumption occasions for the traditional sweets are consumption replacement occasions for the chocolate and candy product at large.  The future is therefore bright.

Q: If brands need to create success, what do they need to keep in mind?
-Shipra Matthew, Bangalore.

A: Shipra, this is a big question that deserves a big and long answer.
However, very crisply, brands need to keep many things in mind.
The first is an intact product-equity. This typically means that the product does not and has not made compromises over the years in its taste, composition and offering. Not many brands can claim this even in the Indian context today. I do believe if you do maintain product-equity intact, you are well taken off in the long term. Yes, in the short-term you might end up spending that much more in terms of product input costs, but in the long-term, you are paid off. In sheer brand-equity terms.

The second key aspect is that of brand equity. It is important to ensure that the brand proposition is showcased with consistency and integrity in the base line. If you do this right, you have a solid and positive brand-equity you can leverage in the future.
Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Email: harishbijoor@hotmail.com


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