Thursday, August 31, 2006

Shop till you drop

Nobody would have betted on India being the world’s number one retail market; it’s a slight change now – Everybody does!

When was the last time you sauntered across the road in front of your house to a Wal-Mart to buy a pair of sneakers? And then ambled a block away to a Target supermall to grab grocery for home? And then scampered a block further to the Macy’s superstore to buy a set of Chanel’s top-line perfumes? Let me guess the answer... Never! But hey, this dreamy vision just might come true, right here in India, where a retail boom is sweeping across with astounding velocity.

The retail industry has been estimated to be around Rs.90,000 crores – which, according to some, seems a very conservative estimate! India seems to represent the most compelling international investment opportunity. According to A.T. Kearney’s 2005 Global Retail Development Index (GRDI) India moved from the second place to the first, displacing Russia as the top hot spot for investing in retail. In 2006 too, India retained its top spot in the index. If things go as planned, then organized retailing in India has the potential of creating over 2 million new (direct) jobs within the next six years.

The market is surely bursting with growth potential, and retailers are queuing up to grab a portion of the retail pie. So while luxury retail chains like Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior & the new entrant Versace have gingerly placed their feet on Indian shores, vast numbers of others are waiting in the wings; in fact, the likes of Gucci, Armani, Jimmy Choo, Tumi Luggege are just starting to unfold their plans. But what’s interesting is that by 2015, India would have over 550 million people under the age of 20, making it a vast playground for kids and teen retailers. No wonder, in India the Walt Disney Company has decided to launch its range of toys, clothing etc designed around the popular Disney show “Power Rangers” in collaboration with Shopper’s Stop, Archies, Funskool etc.

The wonder of it all is that those are not just the foreign brands and chains, but Indian retail chains too, which are gearing up for a huge expansion plan. No one wants to miss the opportunity of growth that India is offering now. If global behemoths like Wal-Mart and Carrefour are planning to come to town, the RPG group – with its Rs.200 crores planned investment and long creditworthy Spencers brand – might be the least of worries they’ll have to face. The biggest headache, a debilitating one in all probability, for these international leaders would definitely be Mukesh Ambani, who plans to invest an eye popping Rs.25,000 crores, and employ a soul stopping one million employees over the next few years on retail. Reliance could well be the Indian Wal-Mart. And I’ve not even started talking about companies like Pantaloon, which have already started consolidating their presence in the retail sector. In fact, even companies like Siyaram – one of the few brands that was able to give Raymonds a run for its money – are planning to introduce retail outlets across the nation. Indian corporations surely seem to be in the know of phenomenal gumption and confidence to fight foreign brands on home-turf. Retail is surely in!

On the food front, while McDonald’s has already invested Rs.800 crores, it plans to invest an additional Rs.300 crores in the next three years and open at least 100 more outlets! While no MNC has been able to stand up to the might of Amul, the company is taking no chances and it too has expansion plans up its sleeve and plans to increase its ice-cream outlets from 60,000 to 80,000 this year. Not to be left behind, Shopper’s Stop has been keeping an eye on the changing food habits of youngsters and is planning to set up food carts, which would give tough competition to the likes of McDonald’s, Pizza Hut & Barista etc.

With almost everyone planning huge expansion plans, what exactly are the various factors that are key to operating a successful retail chain? Especially given the fact that retail is a “people oriented” business, and the way one interacts with customers is of paramount importance – the customer of today is very aware, very discerning; he is more demanding and winning his loyalty is tough – so how do you keep them flocking in?


If there are three things to keep in mind while opening a retail outlet, they would be (1)Location! (2)Location! (3)Location! Yes, that’s how important it is. While there perhaps can be no location better than Oxford Street for a retailer to ensure that people pop in at least once to take a look, Wal-Mart, on the other hand, located itself in small towns – which none of the other big retailers were targeting – and soon became a roaring success. In straightforward terms, the outlet’s location should be within easy distance of the target audience. ITC made its e-chaupals highly successful by locating themselves near their target audience – the villagers who earlier had no shopping opportunities. The corollary is that one needs to understand extremely well the demographic profile of customers residing within the geographical area in consideration. Simply said, open a high-end store in the high-end part of a town; and a low-end one, in the low-end part. Take time to choose the right location. It’s worth it!


In 2002, the Minneapolis–based Target Corporation leapfrogged over all other competitors to become the number two discounter – just a few steps behind the colossal giant – Wal-Mart. Today, its giving Wal-Mart a few lessons in retailing. Target realized there was no point in taking Wal-Mart head-on. It needed to make its own position. So while Wal-Mart had got the price advantage and was perceived as the ‘Everyday Low Prices’ outlet, Target had to build a new image for itself. Target very cautiously started to build an image of ‘Cheap-chic’. Clever partnerships with designers, and creative advertising made it sure that young, better educated and more affluent customers started frequenting Target. The supermarket soon made a name for itself as a happening and fun-place to be. So much so, it made Wal-Mart look old and frumpy. Target became hip and cool.

The image people have about your retail outlet is very important in ensuring customer loyalty. So Big Bazaar is known as a no-frills-discount store. If you are looking for a great buy, then this is the place. Shopper’s Stop, on the other hand, is for the upwardly mobile and trendy. And the fact is that you need to weave your advertising strategy around this image too. Years ago, Bloomingdale’s did this by using the tag line, ‘Like no other store in the world’. It immediately cast an aura around the store and set it apart-so much so that when Queen Elizabeth visited USA, she stopped at Bloomingdale’s!

Supply-chain management

This store made retail history when its founder Kresge started a ‘Five & Dime Store’ and introduced the world to the concept of a discount store. The concept was a super-hit and soon, in just one year, this chain grew to a smashing 63 stores. That was 1963. The same store created history once more when in 2002, it filed for bankruptcy protection. The store was K-Mart.

Both K-Mart and Wal-Mart started in the same year; yet, what is it that caused K-Mart to go bankrupt and Wal-Mart to prosper? In certain terms, tt was the poor supply-chain management of K-Mart, which was the cause for its downfall. Wal-Mart used information technology to keep track of its sales. It knew quickly when to order which product, which product was a best seller, which a loser. It developed a sophisticated hub & spoke supply-chain system, innovating (then) the global usage of bar code tracking, and (even now) RFID tags. K-Mart, on the other hand, relied on quasi-manual systems. As a result, goods were not ordered & delivered on time. Shelves stayed empty. Managers had very less clue on which goods were doing well, and which weren’t. The outdated technology often resulted in goods sitting in trucks parked behind stores, all because there was no storage space. By 1983, while Wal-Mart was spending only 2 cents per dollar in getting goods into stores, K-Mart was spending a pathetic 150% more. No surprise then that Wal-Mart could offer products at prices that were 3% lower than those offered by K-Mart; this soon eroded K-Mart’s customer base substantially.

Shopping experience

The customer is “gold” and should be treated like that. Treating customers with respect and going that extra mile for them, always helps build loyalty. Those are the small touches that ensure that the shopping experience of customers is exhilarating, and that they come back to your store and go nowhere else.

H&M, one of Europe’s most successful fashion chains, takes care that its stores are brightly lit, there is trendy music playing always and the shelves and goods are placed in unobstructed straight lines – all for the benefit and comfort of the shopper. In fact, outside some Japanese malls, one can even find numerous bicycle sheds. There, people cycle a lot and sheds are a convenience being offered to them. If that’s giving a lot, think about this Swedish furniture company, which was ranked 11th, not in terms of its furniture business, but for being one of the best-earning ‘eateries’! Furniture giant Ikea lures customers with cheap warm meals! One out of every 20 euros spent at Ikea goes into its cheap meals menu. It’s not just a hot dog for €1, the company also provides free baby-sitting services, so moms and dads can shop in peace.

Clearly, the customer should not just be well taken care of, but also be provided an environment that astounds their experience pleasurably.

Your employees

Sales are made not so much with low prices as with emotions. Get enthusiastic young turks to manage your shop floor. Their energy and emotions will rub-off on the consumers too. Take care of your employees they in turn will take care of your customers. Have in–store award programs, acknowledge special achievements. Give them responsibilities and reward them frequently.

The Merchandise

While profits of stores like GAP and Marks & Spencer fell, things seemed to be going great for the Spanish retailer Zara. Today, its founder has become one of the richest men in Spain. His policy was straight and simple. People were looking for fashionable things – not necessarily things that would last for ages. So he gave them clothes that were different and fashionable without the hefty price tag, and kept changing the range constantly. The word-of-mouth about Zara’s excellent merchandise kept customers pouring in. In short, select your merchandise carefully. It should be in-sync with the image. Have an assortment of things to meet the needs of the people. Knowing what to keep & what to discard is the key to an expanding customer base.

Retailing is definitely an art. It’s the art of charming your customers. You need to be creative, you have to make them want to own what you have to sell. So put on your thinking hats and rework your retailing strategies. If you want to survive – make them shop till they drop.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Build a better mousetrap and the world would beat a path to your door... Viral marketing has done just that, and is the newest rage in global marketing strategies!

A women scorned by her husband seems to have caught the attention of New Yorkers and Los Angelinos alike. It’s a woman named Emily, who discovered that her husband “Steven” has been cheating on her. She decided to get even with Steven by placing a large billboard near his office, with a message on it for him. The message went like this: “Hi Steven, Do I have your attention now? I know all about her, you dirty, sneaky, immoral, unfaithful, poorly-endowed slime ball. Everything caught on tape...

Your (soon-to-be-ex) wife, Emily

P.S. I paid for this billboard from OUR joint bank account.”

The billboard did get a lot of people talking. To top it all, Emily happened to have a blog of her own, where she wowed to go on a rampage for 14 days. Emily kept everyone guessing about her identity. People were confused. They wondered what was happening. Nevertheless, everyone wanted to keep themselves updated on the latest between Emily and Steven. The net was rife with speculation. People discussed whether it was an ad. Who was this mystery woman? People everywhere were talking about it. Radio shows were receiving calls from people who wanted to discuss the billboards. Guess who was having a field day? The ad agency who created this advertisement!

They had managed to do what every advertiser dreams about and looks for – that is, creating a buzz. In technical terms, one would call it “Viral Advertising.” Just as a viral infection spreads from one person to the other, similarly ‘viral’ ads spread from one person to others as people discuss about them or forward them to other people via SMS messages or e-mails.

Today, marketers are accepting the fact there’s too much advertising and there are too many media channels. Consequently, people are tuning out the regular advertisements. According to a study, television viewing actually took a dip this year for the first time in history. The study found that people under the age of 25 spend more time on the Internet than on television. The internet is the largest playground for this new form of communication tool called ‘viral marketing’.

The most powerful selling of products and ideas takes place not from marketers to consumers, but from consumers to consumers. It’s an old theory of the word-of-mouth being the best advertisement of a product or a brand. Viral advertising or viral marketing are its 21st century avatars! It is this viral marketing, which is largely responsible for the success of Hotmail. All Microsoft did was put a small line promoting Hotmail in every outbound message sent by a Hotmail user. “Get your private free e-mail at The virus spread faster than the Avian flu and within 18 months, Hotmails subscriber base grew from nil to 12 million users. In the history of the world, no company had ever attained such a phenomenal success in such a short span. What’s amazing is the fact that all this happened on a shoe-string budget of $50,000. While its competitor, Juno, spent $20 million on traditional marketing during that time, it failed to create any impact. In countries like India, where Hotmail had done no marketing, it got the largest clients. That’s the magic of the viral.

The “CLICK” and “SEND” form of marketing

Today, it’s ‘online’ that clients are making a beeline for. Viral marketing is much cheaper than traditional methods. It’s more believable than a regular advertisement. It’s more interactive and interesting than the mundane marketing gimmicks. So when Axe wanted to popularise its brand, it took recourses to the net. It created a video showing a news reporter talking about how Axe deodorant was sprayed on the town of Ravenstroke from an aeroplane; and how, consequently, hundreds of beautiful women raided the town. The video was a big hit with youngsters who forwarded the same to many more.

On the same lines, HLL too initiated an online campaign for its Sunsilk Shampoo. HLL no more convinces girls to use their shampoo, rather encourages them to visit It’s trying to build India’s first online all-girl community. Rohan Sippy too created a viral campaign to promote his movie Bluffmaster. Users could play on a slot machine; and on pulling the lever thrice, they were informed that they had won $500,000. Later, they received an e-mail informing them that this was a bluff. If they wanted to find out who had bluffed them, they could follow the link. The link took them to the Bluffmaster movie’s webpage. If they wanted to bluff their friends, they could forward the game to them too! They managed to bluff about 1 lakh people with panache!

Mazda Motors of UK came up with a unique idea of not just entertaining net users, but providing tangible brand benefits with the help of its online viral marketing campaign. One of the movie clips posted went like this – “All I can say is clever, very clever. Now let’s see her get out.” It was commenting on the car parking capabilities of a man versus a female. The campaign struck a chord with the viewers. Soon, everyone was talking about it. Mazda’s “parking campaign” almost sparked off a global debate! Blogs soon popped up and within a month, almost one million people had viewed the video clip. It’s a kind of concentrated viewing that would be desired by any ad man for his ad. The video gave such high brand exposure that it increased the brand recall tremendously. Even though Mazda’s products were not extraordinary, its sales vis-à-vis its competitors started to increase.

On the web, word spreads faster than fire; and if your content is good, its popularity grows exponentially. After all, all you’ve got to do is click on ‘forward’, then add the ten addresses of your close circle of friends, and press ‘send’. It’s done!

It’s the “word-of-mouse” which works

If there are two things that string the youth of the world together, then they would be music and the World Wide Web. No wonder, big ad spenders have combined both to create a heady mixture. Bacardi is spending $40 million to fund an online radio station called ‘Bacardi B Live Radio’. It would primarily play dance music with exclusive mixes provided by popular DJs. Not to be left behind in delighting its customers, Coca Cola has launched a website called Here visitors can enjoy exclusive live performances, behind-the-scenes footage and personal interviews of their favorite artists. They can download all contents for free – with compliments from Coca Cola! After all, if you drink Coke, you deserve to live the “Coke side of life!”

These sites don’t just entertain, but help build a “feel good” factor around the brand. They are ways of connecting with the young consumers, who don’t waste a second in forwarding contents that they like to tens of other friends! The net is where young people interact with each other. If you can catch their fancy, they become the best promoters of your product or brand. They spread the message with dedication and do all the awareness building for you. And now, advertisers are specifically allocating budgets for viral advertising campaigns. Volkswagen, for example, decided to release some of its advertisements exclusively on the web.

MakeMyTrip has its USP in that it offers the lowest airfare. They claim to foot the difference in fares in case the customer can find someone offering fare lower than their’s. They decided to use the net to spearhead their promotion strategy. The agency Webchutney was roped in to create a viral campaign for The ads were fun to watch and were forwarded to fellow friends at an astonishing speed. After all, the best way to judge the success or failure of an viral ad campaign is the number of times it is forwarded. On that ground, MakeMyTrip came out a winner (The ads were based on various themes picked up from Ramayana and in fact worked really well in India).

Weeks before Britney Spears launched her perfume named ‘Curious’, a banner ad was released on the web with a photo of Britney. The ad asked girls to type their cell phone digits & zip codes. More than 30,000 girls typed in their numbers to receive a 45 second recorded message from Britney, where she told them how she was working on a fragrance and was really excited. Later they received a text message from Britney telling them about the launch & where the perfume was available. In all, the campaign succeeded in reaching out to a sizable number of 300,000 girls!

When Burger King wanted to promote its chicken sandwiches, it used ingenuity to promote its product. They used a man dressed in a chicken outfit and made a video, which was released exclusively on the net video. One could make the chicken do anything. All one had to do was type a command and the chicken would obey. It could dance to push-ups; or even watch TV! This “Subservient Chicken” was an instant hit on the net. One million hits were recorded in one day. Burger King had proved its point – you can have a chicken any way you like! It did it without spending money on traditional forms of advertising.

Back in India, brands like Itchguard & L.I.C are going in for viral ads – and winning awards too! With times changing and with technical innovations, it’s the ‘word-of-mouse’ that is responsible for creating the longest hype and the biggest buzz around a product. No wonder, products as diverse as Vanilla Coke, or Kingfisher F1 club or Standard Chartered Bank or even the Yash Raj film ‘Mujhse Dosti Karoge’ have all incorporated viral ads in their strategies.

What makes a good viral campaign

It should have the “Wow!” factor: A dash of humour, or an unexpected ending always helps in increasing the attention span of the viewer. If he/she has enjoyed it, he is bound to forward it to other friends. Also, chances of other media picking it up (and hence giving free publicity to the brand) are very high. Ford, with its Sportka Evil Twins “Pigeon” online viral campaign, did just that. It showed a pigeon being knocked out (or possibly killed) by the car. There was a huge uproar from pigeon lovers across the country. People debated and discussed the rights and wrongs of the campaign. BBC ran a 10 minute slot in its most watched programme ‘Top Gear’, where they showed the Sportka racing against a pigeon for over 100 miles (Of course, the pigeon won!). So while the world debated, Ford sat back and enjoyed all the limelight and editorial coverage. To top it all – it hardly cost them anything

It should provide value to the customer: There should be some benefit coming the users way. You could either offer a monetary incentive, or an intangible benefit. So Crest toothpaste has come out with a quiz, where you can check your irresistibility score! The Crest Irresistibility iQ Quiz helps you compare your score with other celebrities, and also gives you tips on increasing your score! Including freebies & sweepstakes also work as incentives. But don’t overdo it – it won’t work.

It should be easy to track: It’s always a good idea to be able to measure the effectiveness of the campaign. This is one medium where, with the help of technology, you can find out the exact timber of people who visited your site & saw your ad!

Clearly, nothing works better than a positive review from a fellow human being. It is more powerful than the largest of advertising budgets. Viral marketing does just that. You frame your contents in such a way that users are tempted to forward them to others. It is a rat race for market shares and you need to have the strongest “mouse”. As your customers network with each other on the world wide web, don’t go looking elsewhere, but plan right now, how to catch them all. Go ahead! Build your best mousetrap!

Thursday, August 3, 2006


Brands that have refused to be dynamic & customer-oriented, have simply been digging their own graves

“We read the world wrong and say that it deceives us,” said Rabindranath Tagore. It’s a saying worth looking into more carefully by our corporate houses and their CEOs. It would help them understand & “read” consumers more accurately, and offer them the right products & services.

According to some estimates, 80% of all new products fail upon introduction, and a further 10% die within five years. Booze Allen & Hamilton, too, published a finding which found the simple truth – most new products fail! Yet, corporations repeatedly spend their precious resources on products, just to fail time and again in the market. Come to think of it, more that 22,000 products are introduced each year – most fail. Why?

Adapt or Die

Since the beginning of time, the survival rule on this planet has been simple – only those who have been ready to adapt to the changing circumstances have survived, the rest have perished. 99.9 % of all species that have existed on the planet have become extinct. The marketplace, too, seems to follow this killing jungle law.

This product used to rule the Indian roads. Launched in 1972, the brand was the quintessential part of every bride’s dowry list. It used to have a waiting period of more than 10 years. This superstar of a brand was none other than “Hamara Bajaj”. However, this vehicle of the masses, the inimitable Bajaj Chetak scooter, officially closed production in December 2005. Bajaj did not change with the changing needs of the consumers. Chetak – named after the most dependable and reliable stallion of Maharana Pratap – could not keep galloping forever. For almost 40 years, the company did nothing to change or modify the design of Chetak. This winner succumbed to the growing & changing demands of the consumer. How ironical, that a product that had a tag-line of ‘You can’t beat a Bajaj’, itself got beaten in the marketplace, just because it didn’t change.

When it came to the ‘pain rub market’, only one name loomed large – Iodex. It ruled the market for almost eight decades. However, somewhere down the line, it forgot that the consumer is the king and stopped listening to him. It did not realise that there was someone waiting to fill the gap. Surreptitiously, Moov moved in and dethroned the king. A brand owned by a giant like Glaxo, commanding not just more than 50% of the market share, but also a huge goodwill, is dwindling today! Ooh, Aah, Ouch!

The name Federal Express did not match with the express delivery service that the brand stood for. People perceived it to be a slow government organisation. They immediately changed the name to a smart & snappy FedEx. Suddenly, the Fed was a happening company!

As home baking took a back seat, thanks to the packaged food culture taking over the market, Arm & Hammer changed too. They started promoting their baking soda as a deodorizing agent for refrigerators & drains. Sales, once again, shot through the roof.

There is no place for complacency in today’s market. When the theme restaurant, Planet Hollywood, was launched in 1991, it seemed to be a jackpot of an idea. You had top Hollywood stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Sylvester Stallon, who had stakes in it. The place was decorated with Hollywood memorabilia. The recipes were given by famous stars. They even had a full line of Planet Hollywood clothing being retailed at the restaurant. People were curious and thousands flocked in. However, very few came in a second time. They felt the food was nothing great and it was over priced. The company was too much in love with itself to look down from its ivory tower. It refused to change! From 95 outlets, the number reduced to 13; and by 2001, its founders, Robert Earl & Keith Barrish, were struggling to escape bankruptcy. The planet flew out of its orbit!

If success makes you arrogant, you are bound to fail. Hayes was a brand that was as strong as Microsoft and Compaq. Sometimes, people bought the Hayes modem before they even purchased a computer. The consumer was in love with the product. However, success muddled up the company’s vision and they did not see the changing needs of the consumer, who now wanted many more features. The company refused to budge and today lies buried in the godowns of failed products.

Initial success does not guarantee long-term success. You need to re-invent yourself. You can not rest, on your past laurels. Customers have to be nurtured. So it’s imperative to innovate constantly. Margo, one of the oldest soaps in India, refused to do that. Back in the good old days, when people’s tastes were not so refined and were much simpler, a good soap with the medicinal properties of neem was enough to convince them to buy it. However, with time, the consumer wanted better packaging, better fragrance, better shapes. Margo refused to re-invent itself and lost out on the younger generation, who refused to pick up an old, ugly looking soap. It was a classic case of waking up to reality a bit, too late. Lifebuoy, almost as old as Margo, changed quickly and adapted itself to the changes. It survived! Margo, even with its neem content (something Indians depend on today, too) had to taste “bitter” failure! Darwin’s law still rules. It’s still the survival of the fittest!

Missed the bus?!

Surprising, but true. It’s the fear of failing, which is causing many CEOs to fail. No wonder there is an over dependence on research. Coca-Cola had to face a lot of flak when it launched C2, its low-carbohydrate version of the main drink. The company, after doing intensive research, launched the drink just when the low-carbohydrate diet fad was waning. The product bombed.

Kraft, too, decided to launch its range of products based on the South Beach diet, after research proved that it was the next hot trend. However, when the products finally hit the shelves, the diet had already lost its chance and hardly anyone picked them up!

Depending blindly on research findings can be fatal. Coca-Cola succumbed to it yet again, when research showed them that consumers’ tastes had changed and they now preferred a sweeter taste. Armed with these findings, Coca-Cola launched the new Coke. The product was a debacle, for everyone wanted the “Real Thing.” You need to be an expert in being able to grasp the market perception. Just relying on the numbers can prove to be dangerous.

This does not imply that we should not undertake research. However, we must not base decisions only on research findings. Come to think of it, if research had to be believed hundred percent, then one would have never seen movies like Star Wars (by George Lucas) and E.T. (by Steven Spielberg), whose initial research advised the producers to ditch the ideas. In fact, the world would not have seen the likes of Walkman, FedEx or CNN. All were researched, and were forecasted to be bad ideas!

Marketing Blunders

In the 90s, Hoover offered its British market, something very novel. They would get a chance to fly to the US for free if they spent £100 on Hoover products. The offer, open only for very limited period, resulted in about 22,000 people scrambling into Hoover showrooms, buying vacuum cleaners they did not need. What Hoover was giving away for free was worth twice as much as they were asking the consumer to spend. It was something which was too good to be true! People were buying Hoover just to get the free tickets.

What the company failed to realise was, though the offer was for a very limited period, the number of people jumping on to the bandwagon would ensure Hoover’s costs shooting up, sky high. In fact, consumers became so awash that papers were soon full of ads of sale of second hand Hoover vacuum cleaners – some still in their boxes. Couples getting married even warned, they did not want Hoover’s products as presents. It was one of the biggest marketing gaffes. The company eventually landed up paying £50 million for the tickets and was forced to sell up to Italian washing machine maker, Candy!

In the 90s again, P&G was ruling the European fabric detergent. To get back its foothold in the market, its arch-rival, Unilever, introduced a new detergent called ‘Power’. It had a secret ingredient, namely manganese, which could rip out even the ‘stubbornest’ of stains. The product was launched as Omo Power in Netherlands, as Persil Power in the UK, and as Skip Power in France. Unilever had planned a marketing blitzkrieg in Europe to fight for the number one slot and take it away from P&G. Not to sit and wait and watch in the wings, P&G did its own research and came upon an interesting fact. It discovered that the new washing powder produced holes in boxer shorts! P&G hired a PR firm and inundated the market with a campaign showing lots of pictures of clothes damaged by ‘Power’. Though Unilever tried to fight it back, the consumers decided to step aside and switch to safer brands. Eventually, Unilever had to pull out its product and concede defeat after spending more than £300 million on developing, manufacturing and marketing Power products!

Dasani was launched in the US by Coca-Cola as bottled purified water, and soon was a roaring success. Encouraged by this, the company launched the water in Britain too. However, someone discovered that unlike most bottled waters in Britain, which are sourced from glaciers or natural springs, Coke got its from the tap. All it did was purify it and add some minerals. The next day papers were covered with headlines that read, “Coke sells tap water for 95p!” When someone as big as Coke goofs up, the media has a field day.

Coke got a huge amount of negative press coverage. In just five weeks, Dasani was withdrawn from the market, even though it was the purest water available. When your marketing goes wrong, everything goes wrong – since the whole world comes to know about it and the dent it puts is big and deep! You have to have your marketing principles absolutely right, or else failure is certain.

Olympia was a brand of beer which was a pale lager, very similar to Coors. However, it had an image problem. Young people did not identify with it. So the company decided to make advertisements that would appeal to the young. At the same time, it changed its packaging, too, to emphasize the lightness of Olympia. Back in the brewery, the brew-masters know that Europeans liked a richer tasting beer and modified the taste of Olympia. In the blind-taste-test, it came out a clear winner as compared to all other beers. Still, the product failed miserably. While the ads and the packaging had emphasized the lightness of the beer, when the consumer tasted Olympia, it was not so. Instead of judging it as a “rich tasting beer,” it was branded as the “bad light beer.” This mismatch ruined Olympia. The brewers had worked hard on the taste, the ad agency had worked hard on the ads, yet, the brewery was closed down. A sad demise of a product due to mis-marketing.

Marketing wars, as they say, are fought in mind. One has to be very clear about market perception of the product and weave all marketing ideas in-sync with it. Or else, be sure the product will land up in Ithaca, New York. It’s a museum which houses, among other things, marketing disasters and dumb ideas. You would find strange exhibits like – ‘Garlic Cake’ (I wonder who could have tasted it!) or “Dr. Care Toothpaste (a toothpaste in an aerosol can!).

Surprisingly, your product need not be bad to fail. In most of the cases, the product is great. It could fail because someone simply failed to communicate the product’s benefits properly to the audience. The concept of “golden eye technology” was developed by Videocon. However, it was marketed so perfectly by LG that one felt they came out with it first! Zen is a good car still. Today, it’s gathering cobwebs in the garage and no one wants it. It failed to market its benefits efficiently.

Strand was a brand of cigarette, which was advertised using the best of talent. Its jingle was written by the very famous Cliff Adams. The model was Terence Brooks, who looked like Frank Sinatra. He was shown standing on a lonely street in London, wearing a trench coat, a hat and lighting a cigarette, as a haunting melody enveloped him. It all looked so good. And finally, the punch line “You are never alone with a Strand!” As expected, the agency was barraged with enquiries. No one was bothered about the cigarette. Everyone wanted the music! The people perceived the cigarette to be a loner’s cigarette; and no one wanted to be termed that. The product had to be withdrawn while Cliff Adams rose the popularity charts for his music and released a hit single. “The Lonely Man Theme.” At least someone benefitted!

Such goof-ups leave everyone bewildered. Vidal Sassoon came out with its “Wash & Go” shampoo. Someone misinterpreted it as “I wash my hair, go.” The shampoo could never again find a place on the supermarket shelves! In Spain, Coca-Cola came out with its innovative 2 litre bottles, but they did not fit into the local refrigerators of the Spanish market. The product had to be withdrawn!

Great products fail for no fault of theirs. However, some people have made it their business to find out such brands from the corporate trash bins and turn them around. One such man is Jeffrey Himmel. He believes, “If you have the right product and do the proper kind of advertising, the cash register is going to ring.”

Ovaltine was already assigned to the bottom-most shelves of stores and had started fading in the consumer’s memory. Jeffrey picked it up. Made simple ads reminding people, their old favourite was still around. Wherever he got the cheapest rates, he bought those slots and bombarded the air-waves with these ads. In 100 days, sales doubled. The annual sales of the product jumped from $13 million to $26 million!

This is a fact – and this magazine that you are reading is proof of it – business is marketing. You need to know and understand the power of a good marketing campaign. Put in your best efforts here. Or else be ready to write the epitaph of your brand for it to be buried in the brand graveyards to “Requiescat In Pace” R.I.P.

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