Friday, December 21, 2007


The world is getting more and more virtual. Thanks to social networking and mobile phones, we are spending more time nurturing relations on-line than face to face. Most of the time, families aren’t ‘together’ even though they may be living under the same roof. Everyone is in their own world enjoying virtual company more than each other’s company. Small wonder that today people are increasingly realising the importance of family, even as they fight the 24X7 busy lifestyle.

Going the family way

A whole lot of marketers are flocking to the virtual world and marketing their products on various websites, but advertisers have discovered a new trend, a new way of attracting consumers. It’s the ‘family mantra’. With even children bemoaning the lack of family time, this is one theme which today is attracting consumers like never before. Everyone is frantically looking for some way in which they may squeeze in quality ‘family’ time into their busy schedules. And those who can show them how to, are assured of rich benefits.

The original Xbox was targeted at hard core gamers. The brand endorser was the stereotypical young male dressed in black and living independently. That was six years ago, in 2001. Today Microsoft wants to position Xbox as a connector that brings people together. The positioning seems to attract more buyers and hence is more profitable to the company. They have realised that family games like ‘Uno’ and ‘Pac-man’; and less violent games like ‘Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action,’ have a bigger market than the hard-core violent games.

Santro shot to popularity when Shah Rukh claimed “Hum Santro Wale Hai”, meaning the hatchback from Hyundai’s stable was the car of intelligent and smart families. Chrysler is now marketing its mini-vans with a new tagline – “Family room on wheels.” Toyota’s Innova was launched in India as a car with enough space for the whole family. After all, as Indians we prefer to do everything with the family in tow. Our trips and holidays are incomplete without pappa, mammi, daddu, mini, guddi & company, right?

Surprisingly ‘family time’ is catching on in the rest of the world, too. After 9/11, people became far more introspective and family travel increased. Similarly, overburdened and guilty parents find it imperative to take kids along on vacations. All travel agents with vacation plans that include and entertain children, find their businesses booming now. Even an outdoor adventure oriented tour operator like Austin-Lehman, realised that families accounted for 50-55% of their business. Small wonder that most travel agents are now modifying and customising their packages (beach and lake vacations, theme parks, cruises) to accommodate kids.

Panasonic decided to spend sometime, researching and finding inventive ideas to furnish fun and quality time for families. Its new punchline is “Bring back family time.” High definition flat TVs, which till now were marketed as symbols of success to young professionals, are today being marketed as a means of getting the family being together.

Toys were either bought as gifts or to appease a yelling child. Well, not anymore. Today, toys that have been certified and approved by “Parenting Center Seal of Approval” sell more because – yes, you guessed it right - they help families spend more “family time.” Mattel introduced a game named “Chatter Matters” to encourage families to talk (chatter) and share their feelings about various topics (matter). The game would help parents communicate with their teenage children and help Mattel fight competitors.


A staggering 83% of parents today believe family dinners contribute to their child’s success in school. Yet only 70% manage to eat together four nights a week. Anyone offering them quality food with ‘family time’ thrown in as bonus, is catching their attention. McDonald’s, no more advertises its outlet as one only for kids. Its “I’m loving it” theme cuts across all age groups. To encourage entire families to come over, the QSR chain is now planning to put nutritional values as per age groups on the wrappers of each product.

Domino’s realised that 70% of the orders were from families. So it announced its ‘fun meal for 4’ – after all, when families order together, they look for variety. Add to that, Domino’s value for money USP and the management is confident of keeping Pizza Hut away.

Once restricted to just Hrithik and Aamir, Coke has moved ahead with times. Its new theme, the ‘Coke side of life’ is now about friends & families connecting & sharing. With the holiday season just round the corner - companies too are realising that making families eat together makes more money for them.

Families that sing-n-dance together

“It’s all about loving your parents” was how the very popular blockbuster Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was promoted. Families flocked into theatres to cry, laugh and smile together with the actors on screen. Hum Aapke Hain Kaun broke many box-office records, as parents & grandparents continued returning to the theatres for more. Bollywood history is proof that nothing works like family films. The 1940s saw films like Ghar, Sansar et al, which were touted as ‘for women’ movies. Today, they have found a new avatar in Ekta Kapoor’s K-brand of telly soaps, which are giving every other serial a run for their money. If yesterday’s Baawarchi was hugely entertaining, then so is today’s Cars of Disney Motion Pictures.

According to Movieguide, the percentage of family oriented films has risen from 6% in 1985 to 45% in 2002. G-rated films yielded the highest gross profits on an average, as compared to PG or R-rated films. After all, it makes more business sense to sell four tickets to a family than one ticket to a teen or adult!

Families of the future

Of course, ads emphasising family unity seem to be working well, but here’s a word of caution. The definition of ‘family’ is changing simultaneously. Parents of the future may have fewer children; or may not be married. Couples may be child-less by choice, many preferring to adopt. One needs to keep these factors in mind, while depicting families in advertisements.

Companies like Ikea, J.C. Penny are already showing people of different skin colours and races – as a family. American Express showed a couple getting a call informing them that there was a child waiting for them in China. Kodak showed a Caucasian couple on an airplane holding an Asian baby. The caption, ‘The flight takes 12 hours, taking the picture takes 2.5 seconds.’

As George Santayana once said, “A family is one of the nature’s masterpieces.” Marketers and advertisers can’t agree less. They are generating huge profits from ‘the family’! Just as ‘family packs’ of goods generate larger volumes of sale for companies, compared to small or regular size packs, similarly ‘family themes’ in ads captures more attention.

Here’s a word for all those creative geniuses. While planning ad campaigns in future, don’t forget to include chacha, mausi, dada, nani, tau, pappu, chintu, mummy and papa... after all family does matter.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Surprises in-store

In-store marketing is increasingly turning into a virtual last mile for marketers, which could play a major role in their long term success

Walk into Wal-Mart and chances are you will come across a TV showing how Listerine Agent Cool Blue pre-brushing rinse turns plaque blue. This is not a regular commercial that you would see on TV. Rather it’s an “infomercial” that is custom-made for retail stores and chances are after seeing it you might just pick up a bottle of Listerine – just to give it a shot.

Reebok stores around the country recently carried out a fitness test for people who walked into their stores. The customers were asked some questions and based on that the retail attendants mapped their fitness levels and even gave the customers suggestions to improve their level of fitness.

This Diwali, Planet M placed kiosks in its music stores from where customers could download songs.

A 34-feet long Heritage Wall greets you in Bangalore. Its touch-sensor links make it a virtual scrapbook that depicts decades of history of Levis. Marketing has a new baby and it’s being touted as the hottest new medium. You may see it dangling from the ceiling or pasted on the floor or being flashed on TV screens inside shops or maybe even on the trolley carts. Its importance is in fact growing almost at the same pace as that of the internet. It’s called “mall marketing” or “shopper marketing.” “In-store marketing” is the latest way in which marketers are trying to reach the wallets of consumers.

Why in-store marketing?

The world’s largest advertiser Procter & Gamble has cut down part of its ad-spend on TV and increased its spending on in-store marketing/advertising. P&G spends at least $500 million annually on shopper marketing today.

Krrish movie merchandise was sold exclusively through Pantaloon stores with the assistance of in-store advertising.

Today, thanks to retail chains and retail becoming more and more organised, the complete endeavour of shopping is changing. Most of our purchases today are unplanned and impulsive. Shopping is no more a chore but an experience and retailers are going all out to make it as pleasurable for the shoppers and as profitable for them! This is the “last mile”. It’s the last chance marketers have to make a sale and it’s proving to be the most fruitful “last mile”. After all, a shopper inside a retail store is most prone to buy. Research, too, has proved that more than 70% of purchase decisions are made inside the store. So chances of an advertisement being seen in-store and causing a sale is more than an ad seen “in-home” or elsewhere. Not surprising, then, that “In-Store-TV” is becoming so popular now-a-days, where content is made specifically to suit the needs of the retail-chains and the customers. Wal-Mart TV today is probably more influential than regular TV. According to a T. N. S. survey done in 2005, after seeing ads on Wal-Mart TV (inside Wal-Mart stores), 15% people purchased the product the same day, proving that Wal-Mart TV drives significantly higher motivation levels than advertising for similar brands on in-home TV.

Traditional media like TV and press have got too cluttered and customers have learnt how to avoid the ads here. In-store advertising seems to work wonders for marketers.

It’s a whole new world in-store for you

Gone are the days when cardboard danglers were the most novel way to promote your products in-store. Retail store design is a whole new medium. Intelligent retail store designs are actually improving sales. Titan discovered that after trying seven or eight watches, the customers were a little hesitant to ask the salesboy for the 9th one. So they designed a card reader which was given to every customer who entered the store. He could record the codes of these watches and once he was done, he would be presented his collection on a tray – to see, try out and select at leisure without any salesperson being involved!

In-Store-TVs are the latest entrants and have contributed to a 20% lift in sales. Not just do they show ads specifically designed for the retail outlet, but also entertain shoppers. Hypercity has introduced digital signage in its consumer electronics section to help customers understand the various features of products. In its kitchen section, chefs demonstrate the use of the latest kitchen appliance and customers can even taste the dish – before deciding to buy the appliance which helped cook it.

Shopping is being made more enjoyable. H&M, the Swedish clothing giant, has put flat screens behind the cash registers where people waiting to pay (often in very long queues) at the cash counter are kept entertained. Macy’s has flat screens, which show the football games each Saturday. While the wives shop, the husbands watch football.

With 74% of buying decisions and 37% of brand switching decisions happening in-store, “In-Store-TV” has become a very powerful marketing tool today. Think of it… with more then 50 brands of toothpaste, 175 types of teabags, 285 types of cookies, 360 types of shampoos to choose from, which one will you pick? Probably the one whose ad you saw a few seconds back on the In-Store-TV, which not only entertained but informed too. Almost every retail chain is coming out with its TV. Future TV from Kishore Biyani group is going the Wal-Mart TV way in India. League One is another big player in this area.

Decades ago, what started as signs on shopping carts has today grown to unrecognisable promotions. In-Store-Marketing is reaching new heights. The “Mall” is the medium for advertisers. Marketers are queuing up in front of them for this is their chance, rather their last (but not the least!) chance of getting to interact with customers.

Retailers all the way

Retailers have never had it so good. Everyone from banks to credit cards, to airlines, wants to be seen inside these retail outlets. They all want to connect with the consumers for inside a shop, the consumer is in a buying “frame of mind”. It is the sheer mobility that retail marketing affords. Some 40,000 customers walk in on a weekend at a Big Bazaar outlet. So Big FM doesn’t hesitate to pay Rs.1 lakh per month for each Big Bazaar store to play its radio station.

Hutch and Worldspace prefer to be seen inside a Barista Café. Nerolac has now decided to promote its paints with Disney characters inside KFC outlets.

In China, in-store advertising contributes 4-6% of the total sales of a store. Mumbai malls estimate that selling ad space in-stores accounts for 15% of the mall’s revenue. It has becoming an important stream of revenue for retailers. So much so that Shopper’s Stop has now recruited a team to look after their in-store marketing initiatives.

With prime time TV prices increasing & viewership dropping, with increase in clutter, marketers have realised that brands can best be built in a retail environment. In-store-TV today is more effective than In-Home-TV. With innumerable brands and endless varieties, marketers have realised how important it is to be visible to the consumer just at that moment when he is about to decide what to buy.

Shops are being re-dressed and revamped, consumers are being pampered to the fullest inside these shops and marketers are working hard to showcase their brand – one last time – in such a manner that it seems irresistible to the consumer. After all, in-store displays are found to add significant incremental volumes, over even price cut activities by companies. For consumers & marketers alike, retail outlets are turning out to have a whole lot of surprises in-store.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Gen-Y is changing the marketing rules. This is the I-Me-Myself generation that’s grown up in the digital world. It buys brands like Mudd and Paris Blues, rather than Nike, Levis & Converse.

Mudd, Paris Blues, In Vitro, Cement…do these ring a bell? Now consider the second list – Levis, Converse, Nike? If the names in the first list don’t ring a bell then, it’s sad, for your name just got transferred into the list of “the older generation”.

The market is in turmoil and the best brands are losing their grip on the market. There is a whole new breed of shoppers from whom these once famous big brands are facing a shrug of indifference. Levi’s, an iconic brand, woke up to the harsh reality that it was losing its popularity and watched in disbelief its market share slide down & down. Nike’s sneaker sales are tumbling too, and it no longer remains the coveted one. Who is causing all this upheaval? It’s a new generation called “Generation Y,” which is changing the rules of the game. At the “Pepsi and MTV Youth Icon 2007” awards, Orkut was declared winner as the style icon for the Generation X. In this fiercely fought battle of style, Orkut defeated big names like Abhishek Bachchan, among others. The world is changing at a super fast pace and marketers need to make a quick note of this if they want to stay ahead. This is a different generation.

Who are these guys?

Well, this is a generation which is difficult to define. It’s very young. On the one hand, it’s like the Tata Safari commercial which states “Reclaim Your Life”. On the other hand it’s like the Bajaj ad which shows that though this generation has access to the latest in technology and all the material goods, it has not forgotten its culture and traditions. It’s a generation that doesn’t trust advertising. It thinks online and spends hours on the net. It’s a generation that values companies and products that support good causes and will most easily switch to a brand that gives back something to the society. It’s a generation where many live in a single parent home and almost all seem to know someone who is gay, and it’s no big deal! For a market like India, where 72% of its population is under 35 years of age, it’s particularly important to know this generation if you want to stay in business.

The work place is changing. Students barely out of college are walking into swanky offices & getting hefty pay packets. The economy is booming & new sectors are emerging, opening numerous doors of opportunities for the young. Companies are realising how good the youth are for their balance sheets. At Infosys, 59% are rookies. Citigroup says the younger its taskforce gets, the better its profits become. With corporate bending backwards to please them, this generation has a lot of spending power and is dictating spending patterns.

The Google Generation

This is the I-Me-Myself generation which enjoys the iPod, as much as the ‘My Pepsi My Can’ concept. It is always looking for something different and if you can keep it stimulated all the time, you win. The reason why Nokia mobile phones have beaten their competitors is because of constant innovation which has prevented this generation from getting bored. This generation thinks differently. They rank Honda as the number one car brand because Honda makes it easy to accessorise cars and remodel them. Plus, their preference to shop at eBay has more passion than at Macy’s.

To keep pace with this new breed of consumers, brands are reworking their strategies. Toyota has designed a new car “Echo” which is targeted exclusively at first-time-car-owners for it calculated that by 2010 there would be four million “new drivers.” Motorola introduced the “Razr” phone to attract these young guys. Tommy Hilfiger ensured that it did not slip down the popularity charts by making sure that those teen film actors, rappers, and young MTV icons were seen sporting its clothes. Volkswagen changed its advertising strategy. The ads are more quirky, less serious, funny, unpretentious and less bothered about keeping the traditional image of the company. Coca-Cola is launching “Red Lounge” where the cool guys can chill out and Pepsi can be kept at bay.

Even real estate developers are designing apartments to suit the needs of these very highly educated, young first-time renters, with plenty of cash and a want for premium and rarest of tastes. Wi-Fi, high speed internet, hundred-channel cable networks, gyms et al, are the basics nowadays. To surprise them, developers are putting cable connections in the wall anticipating that these guys would use a flat screen TV. They are including coffee bars in the apartments. Options of high speed dating, video games played on big screen are some other unique offerings.

So much so that even the rules and ways of marketing have changed! McDonald’s has realised that product-placement in video games is more beneficial than ‘in-film’ branding. Lux sells itself as “**X” to appeal to the young crowd. It has created a dance track “Lux Friday Night Fever” to look cool-n-happening. Microsoft has launched to make your e-mail id more rocking. Samsung came up with its youth marketing initiative “Target yo,” for they are the key influencers of digital & high-tech purchases.

Retailers are also changing their store designs to cater to this generation. Shops today contain areas with lots of visual stimuli, brilliant colours and interactive activities to encourage these young people to hang out and not just shop. Virgin Records long back started this – by putting lounge chairs in its music store, with option of listening to the music without any compulsion of buying.

For sure, this group of consumers cannot be ignored and is soon going to take over the world. What’s more, if you catch them young, chances of turning them into loyal customers for many years to come is very high.

How to get them?

The most expensive TV programmes, according to Advertising Age, are ‘Friends’ at Number 1 and ‘Will & Grace’ at Number 2. It’s easy to figure out why – the millennium generation watches them!

They don’t read newspapers, but love magazines. They hang out in ‘cool’ joints. Pubs are passé; cafes are in. So Himalaya Drug Company decided to launch its honey in Café Coffee Day outlets. HLL launched its Liril Orange Soap in Café Coffee Day too. Traditional advertising is taking a back seat. For this crowd, word of mouth works. Mountain Dew became a super hit, not because of its ad campaign, but because word spread that it contained a very high dose of caffeine.

This generation lives off SMSes, iPods and chat sites and those are the very places to catch them. Very rarely will they be found sitting in front of TV or reading newspapers. They live in a virtual world – literally. No wonder sunsilk got 100,000 members in just 36 days; and companies like Unilever, Nokia & Nestle are now spending less on TV and print, and more on mobile phone & internet. Axe has created a virtual land called ‘Axeland’ to attract consumers. Lee (jeans) has now launched the ‘Lee Lounge’ as its online social community. From pub crawling to blog trawling, this generation lives life on its own terms. They buy differently and they need to be marketed to differently.

From hereon, a scorching pace of innovation, unconventional marketing, honesty and the ability to connect with the youth is what will keep most brands in business. To figure how to wriggle your way into the hearts and wallets of this brilliantly networked, well informed, hi-tech group of people – all you need to do is think and act like them. This generation is unique, for this is (yes, you got it right) generation next!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Thank God for GODS!!

God sells... Wondering how? Ask those marketers all over the world, who are certainly going crazy peddling deities in all their extravagance and finery!

A free Diwali invite for all. Come and enjoy the vibrant Diwali celebrations complete with light displays, and floating lan terns and a spectacular show of martial arts and kathak. Not just these, there would be scrumptious Indian cuisine and mehndi stalls too. The event has everything you possibly can think of, except one tiny detail – air tickets are not included. For this one’s not a Diwali mela happening in your backyard, but at the Trafalgar Square in London. Every year, thousands of lamps are lit all over this beautiful square, symbolising the return of Lord Ram back to Ayodhya, even as thousands of NRIs come together to celebrate “Diwali in the Square”.

The ‘Festival of Lights’, yet another celebration in the United Kingdom is considered to be the biggest Diwali celebration outside India. It’s a non-stop entertainment mela with competitions like roti-rolling and sari-tying, and is funded by The Western Union. A whole lot of MNCs are realising the power of the ‘festival of lights’ and its ability to brighten up their balance sheets too! Western Union knows that Diwali time is the busiest time of the year for them, as people send money transfers to family & friends back home and it pays to be associated with the Diwali festivities. Non-Resident Indian communities are getting larger and richer and companies world over are watching their spending habits very closely., a popular flower delivery website in the UK, has included Diwali as a special date when you can send flowers, along with days like Christmas and Halloween. Mattle Toys too realised that they needed to dress up their star Barbie doll in Indian clothes to increase sales during the season; a special Barbie was launched before the festive season.

Time to celebrate

The festive season means excitement for retailers too. Last year the festive season started early – so did the frenzy. This year it starts a little late, but the craze is still the same. Just about everyone is in a shopping, spending and celebration mood. In fact, these days months. The customer is now ready for a spending spree and marketers are all set with their offerings. Almost all of them have big plans up their sleeve and all are waiting to hear the cash registers go jingle jingle.

LG is all set to achieve a Rs.2,500 crore turnover this festive season. It has launched its Pearl Back LCD TV in October and is hoping that the buying frenzy will contribute towards its aim to sell 20,000 units of Pearl Black in 45 days. Samsung is expecting to do business worth Rs.1,200 crores and plans to sell 5.5 lakh colour TVs during this time. It plans to give away Rs.35 crores worth of gifts and fill our lives with “Har ghar mein khushi, har ghar mein Samsung.”

Aviation player Air Deccan too is hoping to grab a share of the pie and has released 1.5 lakh tickets at special low fares. GoAir has come out with tickets as low as Rs.225. Even for the airline industry, this is the strongest quarter with a large number of NRIs visiting India to celebrate with their near and dear ones.

If it’s time for big money and big profits, Big FM will certainly not be left behind. The FM station has teamed up with ICICI Bank to offer Diwali discounts ranging from 9.27% to 92.7% on gadgets, jewellery, furnishings, et al.

Season of hope

Even the two-wheeler industry, which has been on a downswing this whole year (Hero Honda, Bajaj Auto & TVS, all saw their sales fall during April to September) has pinned its hopes on the festive season. This is their last chance to come out of the red and they are planning to flood the market with record discounts. And it’s not just the two-wheeler market, but it would be raining discounts for the car market as well, with Maruti Suzuki and Tata Motors giving discounts as high as 15%. Clearly, since this is the best time of the year to buy cars, companies have saved up their best prices and best models for these months. Ford too is offering special edition models, while Spark, Zen Estilo, WagonR & Fiat Palio are all slashing their prices.

To add fuel to fire, banks have also decided to lower their interest rates at this time, so that consumers can borrow easily & splurge. SBI may reduce its home loan rates, just like HDFC. Whirlpool too is planning to cover its losses this time. It is expecting a 20% growth in sales this time and has kept aside Rs.200 million (out of its total marketing & advertising budget of Rs.700 million) for promoting its goods during the festival bonanza season.

It has worked in the past and should work this time too. After all, last year on October 9, Nokia sold 400,000 handsets in a single day, which is a record in its own right. Microsoft too made sure that it launched its X-Box 360 gaming console in India during Diwali. There is so much of spirit & good cheer that things will surely look up – and all marketers & retailers are keeping their fingers crossed.

Gods sell

Whoever denied that “god” had special powers. Marketers are accepting it too. Onam in Kerala ensures a boom in property sales. Durga Puja in Kolkata sees weeks of frantic buying of almost everything. Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra sees a whole lot of companies bending backwards to please customers. Airtel provided online priests & Ganesh hymns; Reliance’s Big 92.7 FM offered “Aarti” services to listeners. Gold coins with figures of gods & goddesses embossed on them are sold at a price higher than plain gold coins of the same weight.

God sells! So much so that the hottest selling fad items these days are lunch boxes with Hindu deities. From ‘Kali night lamps’ to ‘Ram T-shirts’ to ‘Krishna lunch boxes’, all are all bestsellers. So be it god in your prayers or god on your products – it always helps in making a sale. There seems to be just one prayer on the lips of all – thank god for the gods!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


It’s not enough to advertise. Companies like Unilever, Medimix and Reliance Comm. have focused more on changing consumer perceptions and succeeded.

A recent study was done on children aged between three and five. Each child was given two samples of food, one in McDonald’s packaging and one in plain wrapping. The children found the food in McDonald’s packaging up to six times more appetising than the one in plain packaging. Fact was that other than packaging, both samples were identical!

A survey was conducted and respondents were asked to recall a brand. Almost all could remember the brand and most of them claimed they saw the product being advertised on television. The company was confused, as they had never advertised on television! In another survey, the number of people who recalled seeing an ad in a prestigious publication exceeded its readership. Why do such things happen? The simple answer is – certain brands remain at the top of your mind and you think you saw them in places where they didn’t exist.

As marketers we have important lessons to learn from these outcomes. The consumer sees your products, judges it and analyses it completely differently from the way marketers look at the brand and their strategies.

During food poisoning, diarrhoea et al, the doctor might advice you to consume Limca in small sips to replace body salt… the reality is it is just another carbonated beverage. Sprite, 7 Up, Canada Dry will never be able to figure out why people preferred Limca over their product when all were identical.

Pepsi encountered the same confusion when in 70s it did a blind taste test. People were asked to choose which one they preferred, Coke or Pepsi (without showing the brand names). Most could not differentiate between Coke & Pepsi, and those who could, said that they thought Pepsi tasted better. Yet, when they were actually shown the brand names, 3 out of 4 preferred Coke.

We associate certain images, certain feelings with certain brands. So then is it true that how we choose a particular brand, curiously has nothing to do with conscious preference – rather the subconscious. Probably yes. Consumers have their own set of perceptions that successful marketers need to understand. Consider this: sachets costs more than regular sizes in terms of “per ml” cost. Yet across the spectrum, consumers have readily paid a premium for these sachets, without even realising it.

Many a times it’s the popularity of a particular brand that gives it the real edge. In a survey carried out by Young & Rubicon, it was found that brands such as Kodak, Maruti, Pepsi, Amul and Raymond were topmost in consumer mind in terms of “brand esteem.” The fact was most of their opinion were based on the popularity than the quality judgment of the brand.

Brand perception influences purchase decisions and advertising plays a very powerful role in building that perception. No wonder FMCG majors opt for high decibel advertising to reinforce the notion of perceived superiority – and it seems to work. According to ORG-MARG, branded goods comprise for 65% of sales even in villages.

Managing or mismanaging perceptions?

Fire extinguishers were considered to be an industrial product till “Real Value” launched its hand held portable fire extinguishers for the masses. Man’s primordial “fear of fire” was used brilliantly in the ads to make people go out and buy one.

Medimix in the 60s was perceived as a medicated soap to stop itchiness and the salesman was dubbed as the “itch-soap-man.” Today, it’s one of the top 10 toilet soap brands in the country. Through continuous promotions & indirect advertising in Tamil films, the brand changed its image from a itch-soap to a beauty soap. This is very similar to what Lifebuoy has managed to accomplish. Launched as a soap which kills germs, the soap today competes with the top beauty soaps of India! It revamped its advertising totally.

In a survey, the respondents were asked to associate Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan with any paint. About 80% associated him with Asian Paints. Reality was that he was endorsing Nerolac, whose biggest competitor was Asian Paints! In effect, people’s perceptions can cause your marketing and advertising strategy to backfire. Years ago when people were asked which brand of suiting Nawab Pataudi endorses, most said Raymond, when he actually endorsed Grasim! In fact, a lot of consumers cannot differentiate between Graviera, Gwalior and Grasim. Most perceive them as similar.

Just great advertisements are not enough to sell a brand. You need to find out how your brand looks from the customer’s point of view. Anil Ambani realised that people viewed his brand as not very emotive, approachable or youthful; and hardly anyone remembered its punch line “Growth is Life.” To get back into the grove and connect better with its consumers, last year, the company changed its colour coding to red & blue and the punch line to “Think Bigger.” Vijay Mallya may have taken over Air Deccan, but he has to tread with caution. People loved it for its Re.1 ticket, but the flight cancellations & delays gave Air Deccan some amount of negative publicity. Mallaya needs to structure this brand with care to gain maximum mileage.

Some things negate change

Foreign banks may cry hoarse explaining the benefits of banking with them, but somehow Indian consumers trust public sector banks more. SBI dominates the mind space of most. It’s a fact, only the very rich in India actually choose their bank – the rest generally walk into the nearest branch! The ‘sting’ in Dettol ensured that consumers picked it up as compared to Savlon for they felt it killed germs better. Safi and its bitter taste works miraculously to sustain the belief that it purifies blood. Some things just don’t change. However, sustained advertising sometimes helps, as it did for a whole lot of brands. People initially rejected Zero B water purifier. It was too small to be effective.

Kellogs (through its ads) changed the perceptions of it being expensive and not filling and nutritious enough as compared to traditional Indian breakfast dishes.

Bottled water is big business in Europe. However BBC concluded after a survey that people were actually buying the bottle – the image – not the water. According to experts, there was hardly any difference between tap and bottled water. Yet, most consumers felt that bottled water tastes clean! When Maggie was launched in India, housewives refused to accept that a nutritious meal could be prepared in just two minutes. Today Indians consume the maxium Maggie noodles in the world.

Success is more the art of managing consumer perceptions well. After all, many times, what they think is – far from reality!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Want to break through the growing clutter of TV ads? Don’t just make ads; make larger than life ad films and spend the big bucks!

Nicole Kidman, is running gazelle like, being pursued by paparazzi in a cityscape lined with billboards bearing her image. She ducks into a taxi to escape and orders the driver to drive. Little does she realize a sultry Brazilian is seated beside her. Kidman escapes with him. He does not know who she is. She claims to be a dancer. After four days of a fairy tale like life, she realizes she can’t escape from reality and needs to go back. And so she does, leaving the Brazilian wistful, remembering only “her kiss, her smile, her perfume.” The film finishes with a one minute rolling of credits.

This film cost £18 million to produce. Its not a feature film… but a 180 seconds advert for Chanel’s No.5 perfume. The very same perfume which was made famous by Marilyn Monroe when she claimed that all she wore to bed was Chanel No.5. Today, however, with Britney’s perfume being the fastest selling one, Chanel No.5 is considered to be a scent you buy in the airport for your grandma for her birthday. Chanel needed a face lift and Nicole Kidman loved the concept, for the ad showcased her as the “most famous woman in the world.”

Is this the future of ad films? Many say yes. According to a survey done by TiVo about the TV commercials that get fast-forwarded the least, the ones with special effects featured a lot on this list , especially the ads of movies with special effects. No wonder then, ad films are getting slicker, more technically superior – and they are costing a lot.

If you need to keep the fingers of the viewers off the remote, you need to do a whole lot of interesting stuff. You can’t just make a good ad film. You need to make one which gets talked about and which people enjoy watching.

Way back in the early 90’s, Lehar Pepsi was launched in India. The ad featured Remo Fernandes and Juhi Chawla. It was a hit and became a much talked about ad, for this was the first of the Indian ads which touched the Rs.1 crore mark! Today, Rs.1 crore has become commonplace. Be it Happydent, Thums Up, Mahindra Scorpio, Fevicol, Pepsi Gold and a whole lot more advertisements that were shown last year – all cost about Rs.1 crore. If you want to be noticed you need to spend Rs.1 crore minimum.

Ad Films or Feature Films?

Today, the line of difference between ad films and feature films is thinning. More and more actors are replacing models in the ad films. More and more film directors are becoming ad film makers. Of course, the budgets are sky-rocketing – some times getting even bigger than the budgets of the feature films. In fact, with so much moolah involved in ad films, more & more feature film companies have started making ad films to earn quick bucks. Yash Raj Films, now has a Yash Raj Ad cell, which wrapped up 20 commercials for Dabur Chyawanprash & Hajmola with Amitabh Bachchan.

There is so much of advertising & so much of clutter. The easiest way to break through it is by using a celebrity & feature film makers have the easiest access to them. No wonder Videocon went to Santosh Sivan when they featured Shahrukh Khan in their ads. This is not a new trend; back in the 60’s, B. R. Chopra did the Lux soap ads, for it required film actresses.

One of the most expensive TV ads was of Apple Macintosh. It, too, was created by Ridley Scott who directed movies like Gladiator, Hannibal, Blade Runner, Alien et al. After all, a feature film’s fate is decided every Friday, while ad films – if good – have a much larger life.

Cost Consideration

You need people to notice your ad – you need to spend. When it comes to creating an impact, no one is doing cost calculations today. Brands are ready to go all out just so that you give them a second glance. ICICI didn’t hesitate to pay Big B Rs.10 crore, so that he could endorse their product. Coke and Pepsi for years have been using celebrities to keep their products on top. Other brands are learning this trick too.

To stay on top, you need very aggressive advertising. Ask Maruti, which lost some of its gloss and a virtual monopoly in the small car segment as other players entered the market.

Take the white goods market of refrigerators, washing machines, et al. With so many players in the market, if they don’t market & advertise aggressively, there would be a huge inventory pile up. No wonder companies like Samsung, LG, Phillips – all popular brand names – still advertise so heavily. Cost is no concern here. They would do almost anything to stand out.

Celebrities and Brand Wars

Yes, celebrities today are fighting it out for the brands. If Dena Bank roped in Juhi Chawla, then Bank of Rajasthan got the dream girl Hema Malini. Dabur, such a popular, old and trusted brand name of India, required Amitabh to help Chyawanprash fight aggressive players like Himalaya, Zandu etc.

Back in 2002, Pepsi agreed to pay the then pop princess Britney Spears $8 millions for two ads. Popular faces are helping to make brands become popular too – even if it costs the moon.

War with TiVo

Some years back, Nokia and Pepsi tied up with a leading television producer to make a unique show with no commercials. Instead, they said, the advertising message would be incorporated into the show. It shows how advertisers are getting anxious about the rise of personal video recorders like TiVo, which make it easy for viewers to skip commercials. As TV set manufacturers and cable companies are increasingly building such recorders directly into their equipment, advertisers are forced to find way to place their ads in such a way that they don’t get forwarded. As in the above example, Pepsi & Nokia are ready to shell out $1 million an hour to showcase their products/brand names on the TV show.

The Super Bowl’s allure has increased – thanks to TiVo. This is because Super Bowl is live and least affected by TiVo. It would be one of the few shows, which millions of Americans would watch without zipping through commercials. A 30 second spot could cost anywhere around $2.6 million! Nevertheless, companies are ready to pay. They would get a chance to show their best and most finely made ads – for people would actually be watching the ads for once. Those who would record the Super Bowl using TiVo would do so to forward the game & watch the ads in leisure.

Technology has made it a whole new world for advertisers. You need to create ads that are entertaining enough to get people to stop fast-forwarding. As Steve Pacheco of FedEx put it very correctly, “The ads now need to be designed knowing that they might be watched more closely, more than once and on different platforms. The ad now needs to stand up to being seen live, played back on a DVR, viewed over the web or even downloaded on an iPod.”

You need to make sure you give nothing but the best. Your ad needs to work harder and smarter now. It should not only deliver the message in a few seconds, but should be visually alluring too. Advertising is not just about creativity, it’s also about big bucks!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pint Size-Power House

They’re tiny and therefore not as obvious. But they are certainly not to be overlooked. Here’s a peek into logo-power!

Hewlett-Packard (HP) recently unveiled the new Compaq logo in Shanghai. In 2002, HP acquired its rival Compaq, creating a lot of controversy both inside and outside the company, one that had even cost its CEO Carly Fiorina her job. After 5 Years HP has finally found a good use of the logo. In fact, revival and up gradation of the Compaq logo is a part of the group’s strategy to help recover its lost market share. HP is using Compaq to protect itself from competitors nipping away at the low-end market; HP is being promoted as a premium top-end brand, while Compaq would be promoted as the simple and affordable PC. This way HP is ensuring that its price-sensitive consumers don’t deflect to Dell or Toshiba.

What’s interesting is, although customers won’t see the new Compaq products for months, but from 2005 onwards the company has been working hard to make people understand the difference between the product offerings of HP & Compaq, by marketing them differently and aggressively making the two logos, visibily distinct.

Logos give a brand its identity. They are a company’s most valuable asset. It’s no secret that a whole lot of Fortune 500 companies devote millions of dollars each year to develop their brands and promote their corporate identity. In fact, logos are what instantly make a brand recognisable. They make a brand memorable. According to some, the five interlocking rings of the Olympic Games is the most recognisable logo.

Logos also have tremendous impact. In 1974, Milton Glaser produced a logo (at his Manhattan studio), which has today become the most frequently imitated logo design in human history. IYNY (I love New York) has probably changed the way people express their love! Another popular logo – FedEx – was designed by Walter Lander. Observe the logo carefully and you would spot an arrow hidden between the ‘E’ and the ‘x’. It was meant to signify speed. After shortening the name from Federal Express to Fed Ex the company suddenly started looking more trendy. Not just that they even claimed that they saved so many tins of paint and therefore dollars!

Playboy once received a letter with the distinctive ‘bunny’ logo as the only identifying mark appearing where the mailing address would normally be written. Goes to prove, that logos, many a times, become the strongest identity of a brand.

Logos to freshen up

They may look like a tiny blob put next to the brand name, but logos work hard. They represent change. A new logo is the most effective way to signal change in an organisation. A new logo is used to make a jaded company look fashionable and in sync with the times. Hindustan Motors (remember the good old Ambassador) changed its logo to look more contemporary. The new logos of Hindustan Unilever actually consist of 24 symbols put together in the shape of a “U”.

Indian Airlines wanted to be seen as a company ready to take on domestic private airlines and shed its image of a plodding public sector undertaking. It acquired new aircrafts worth Rs.9,500 crores, and a new logo made people realize that things were changing at Indian Airlines.

Competitors & competition makes organisations sit up and take charge. Banks are all about image & service. With a whole lot of multinationals setting up shop here, our desi Indian banks realised it was time they changed. A whole lot of them developed new corporate identities to look younger & trendy. A large part of the “make-over” was a change in logos. Bank of Baroda now has a new logo called the “Baroda Sun”. UTI bank has a new name & logo “AXIS Bank”. SBI has undergone an image change. Even smaller banks like Lord Krishna Bank and Catholic Syrian Bank have redesigned their logos. They don’t want to be perceived as ‘last-genera tion’s banks’ and a new logo gives a quick facelift.

Companies that have been in the business for too many years face this problem. One of the world’s greatest vehicle brands Land Rover found its corporate look did not excite the younger generation much. It changed its corporate identity and the magic began working. Shortly after, the laurelled Land Rover achieved its financial targets.

Logos need to be revisited and spruced up every 10 to 15 years, or else they become redundant and lose their relevance. Last year Kodak introduced its new logo after more than half a century. After all the last few years have seen a change in the way the world ‘clicks’ and preserves its memories. It’s a transition from film to digital imaging and to stay in sync the company sure required a new look. Back in India Bajaj Auto’s decades old logo gave way to a new corporate identity, symbolising that the company had made the transition from a scooter company to a motorcycle major. This was Bajaj’s young management’s way of saying that it was getting on the fast lane.

To change or not to change

Change is good. It symbolises evolution. Yet a lot of corporations are faced with a dilemma of whether they should change or not. When Asian Paints wanted to get a corporate makeover, they decided it was time to bid goodbye to their mascot of many years-Gattu-the cute little mischievous boy. Little did the company realise that his absence would be surely felt.

HMV instantly brings to mind the image of a dog listening faithfully to his master’s voice coming out from the gramophone. After the company saw its profit dip by 20%, it felt the time had come for a change. So it’s replaced the old dog Nipper with a new one (from the Wallace & Gromit Series) called Gromit. People love the old logo and the company is not taking chances. It says the new logo is only for a few months–its focus being on selling children’s DVDs.

NBC after all burnt its fingers when it changed its logo to a capital ‘N’, way back in the mid 70’s. ‘N’ lacked the charm of the peacock and did not go down well with the public. It was changed back to the peacock, a few years later.

Just changing is not the solution. You need to do so with caution as sometimes sudden changes upset people. Quaker Oats modified the Quaker Man on its package over a 10 year period to avoid undermining customer confidence.

Long lasting logos

You need to design your logo with caution. A good logo is one which won’t lose its charm too quickly. After all logos need to be cared for and nurtured and it takes millions of bucks to make them popular. A logo, it’s said, works on the heart of the consumer. Think Nike... its logo symbolised a whole generation. Carolyn Davidson created it in 1971 for only $35. Today’s youth swears by Google... a logo which actually was the misspelling of the word “googol”. More people in America recognised the AT&T logo (93%) than the name of their President. Come to think of it, AT&T changed its logo design almost 70 times till it finalised on the current one!

Logos are small, but they depict large images and create long lasting impressions. Think of Superman & his logo – the large ‘S’ – is probably the most lovable and most recognised logo ever created. Some logos are just everlasting, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, BMW... you never tire of seeing them and you always like them.

Logos are strong symbols that have the power to unite, not just organisations, but people too. If Wipro’s rainbow flower helps unite its diverse business, then “Om” unites all Hindus & the “Cross” unites all Christians. Logos are more than just graphic designs. They are, in fact, pint size power houses! And by now, I’m sure you agree...

Thursday, September 13, 2007


For those who thought that the first mover advantage is the real thing, here comes a sensational eye opener...

If there was one launch that the entire world had been waiting for with bated breath, it was for the iPhone! Its been one of the most well planned launches in the history of marketing. By deliberately giving scant information about the product, they raised the excitement level to an unprecedented height, with frenzied fans waiting endlessly just to catch a glimpse of the coveted product. Not surprisingly, iPhone created a record by selling 2,70,000 devices, just within the first two days of its launch. Yet, analysts predict that the success run may not sustain. Competition has already begun to work frantically on phones that will look and sound like the iPhone and probably be much cheaper too.

Conventional business wisdom says, being first in the market allows you to set standards. In addition, you can gain economies of scale, get the consumers hooked on to your brand and gain market leadership. But reality is not all that simple. If you thought Hotmail was the first company to offer free e-mail; Amazon was the first to sell books online; eBay was the first auction site; or that Starbucks was the first to start a coffee shop, you could not be more wrong. Instead Juno was the first to offer free e-mail; was the first online book store (launched in 1996) and Peets was the first to launch the concept of a coffee shop.

Being first is not enough

The brands mentioned above were first movers in the category, yet the world does not remember them. It’s not enough to be the first mover in any segment. It’s not enough to innovate something new and introduce it in the market. Just doing that cannot guarantee you success in the long run. After all it was Robert Fulton who invented the steamboat, but Cornelius Vanderbilt was the one who ran off with the shipping business. Atari created the videogame industry. Some say if it wasn’t for Atari there wouldn’t be a videogame industry or a reason to have a computer on your desktop (in those days – 1980’s – people bought computers to play games). Today, the industry is defunct.

Not that being first does not have its advantages. Consider Coca-Cola – the first mover in the soft drink category. Pepsi is still struggling to fight “the real thing”. Similarly, Hoover was a first in vacuum cleaners. Henry Ford was the first to invent the automated assembly line, which gave him an edge over the competitors. But look closely and you realise that being first does not guarantee automatic success. Silicon Valley is proof to this. During the dotcom mania, the first-movers were the ones with the unique idea, who got all the venture capital, but it didn’t take long for the bubble to burst. Many burnt their fingers pretty bad.

First movers or first losers

Bill Gates didn’t develop the original DOS, he bought the programme from Seattle Computers Works for $50,000. Bill Gates is more a marketing genius than an innovator. It was his great understanding of the market that helped him keep a strong grasp on his market share.

After all, it was not Microsoft Internet Explorer that was the first web browser – it was Mosaic. You need to think fast, you need to adapt quickly to the changing consumer needs and you need to mould your brand constantly. The one who is the fastest, will survive and win. Intuit was faster than Microsoft and today it’s beaten it at its own game. Intuit’s Quiken beat MicrosoftMoney, its QuickBooks beat MicrosoftProfit – and come to think of it, Intuit was the 47th mover in its category!

There’s more. Dell was not the first to invent Personal Computers. It was a company called Osborne. Dell just showed the world a new and innovative way of marketing them and succeeded. Gillette didn’t hesitate to develop Mach 3 which would kill off its own product Sensor Excel, which was a highly profitable product. Cannibalising your own product is a tough call to take, but that’s what survivors are made of – they don’t fall in love with their old inventions, they move on.

Overnight delivery was not a new concept but FedEx gave a whole new meaning to it. The US Postal Service is still reeling from that one. The automobile industry in the 50’s and 60’s was in an enviable position. However, during the 70’s oil crisis, consumers demanded smaller fuel-efficient vehicles and only those who stood up and took notice reaped rich dividends. No wonder, Japanese auto-makers easily captured the US car market.

There is no guarantee of continued market dominance where technological innovation is possible. If you need to survive you need to keep innovating and changing. It’s not necessary to discover something new. You just need to be alert about the best practices and incorporate them. “Shamelessly copy best practices,” says Jack Welch. That’s innovation for you. Throughout its history, Japan excelled at finding the best the world had to offer and then adapted and improved it. It is this that accounted for its stunning economic growth between 1945 and 1985.

Just being a pioneer is no big deal. Nearly 47% of all market pioneers fail. Chucks invented the disposable diapers, yet it’s Pampers (of P&G) which is the leader. It was not Coke or Pepsi that invented the diet cola but a company called Royal Crown Cola. Ericsson was the first mover in the mobile market, but Nokia realised that it was design which appealed more to the consumers. Nokia leads the mobile phone market today. Similarly, Matsushita has always got a piggy ride on other firm’s inventions (like Sony), rarely inventing anything new. It just identifies the winning products, makes them and markets them well.

So if you have not been the first mover or have nor been able to invent something new, don’t worry. Gillette didn’t invent the safety razer, it was a company called Star! Gillette marketed it brilliantly. In fact iPhone is not as good as the original called IBM Simon which was priced at $900 back in 1994 and had most of the features found in today’s smart phones. In fact its buttonless touch screen interface was better than iPhones. Yet, the IBM Simon flopped.

History is proof that it’s not the largest, strongest or fastest that survive, but the ones who are ready to adapt. And sometimes it’s actually good to be the second best. As Avis once stated in its ads “We are No. 2, that’s why we try harder.”

Spot a winning product, a winning trend, keep an eye on customers needs, be flexible and don’t sit on your initial successes, for competitors are always keeping an eagle eye on you. Keep moving, try a lot of things, but keep only those that work and quickly discard those that don’t. Henry Ford once said “I believe, the best strategy is to be the first person to be second.” After all, first ain’t always good enough!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Give and you will receive

There was a time when capitalism meant making profits, philanthropy be damned. But times, they are a changin’...and how!

This is an area which is not new to Indian business houses. Long before Bill Gates, Microsoft’s Chairman committed millions of dollars for various social causes, Jamshetji Tata and his family have been following the principle of “give back to the people what you have earned from them.” Back then charity was a headache – something that the government was supposed to do. Yet the Tatas worked tirelessly towards the upliftment of the community. They were the first ones to think of Maternity Benefits and got it enforced as a law in 1946. In 2004, they spent Rs.45 crores on social service. Small surprise that India’s most loved and respected corporate house is Tata.

Today, a lot many corporates are understanding the positives of being socially active. Bajaj believes in the teachings of the world’s greatest leader – Gandhi. They have instituated the Jamnalal Bajaj Awards which are given every year to people following the Mahatma’s principles. Not just this, Bajaj Electricals has developed special lighting equipment keeping in mind the people at the bottom of the pyramid. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, myriad corporates stressed that these initiatives were today becoming mandatory for survival, giving them a cutting edge over other brands in the market.

Payback time

Corporates are realising that its now time to give back to the people who have worked for them and bought from them. The soda companies have for long been blamed for encouraging unhealthy eating habits & child obesity. Last year, Pepsi decided to do something about it. They launched the PepsiCo S.M.A.R.T programme whose aim was to provide a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.

ITC of India has become a water positive corporation (recycling water from waste) through its agro forestry programmes. The company has made about 30,000 hectares of wasteland cultivable and planted over 10 crore saplings. Its chairman Y.C. Deveshwar is committed to making his company a ‘zero solid waste’ organisation with the help of recycling techniques.

A large number of corporates are today fighting a lot of these social and environmental problems and taking on collective responsibility. They want a sustainable development which takes care of them and their consumers. Today CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) has become an important reputation measurement for a company. Maruti changed the lives of million of Indians by providing them an affordable car. It made their dreams come true. Today it’s a company close to the heart of millions in India.

Not just marketing

The home page of Tata Motors website says “We Care”. ITC has launched a “Sunfeast Hara Banao” campaign to make children more environmentally alert, by using less measure of plastic bags, helping make a “Butterfly Garden” and many more such initiatives. P&G has realised that today’s mother values education more than anything else. So it launched a “Shiksha – Secure Your Child’s future” programme. You could now buy any of P&G products like Vicks, Whisper, Ariel, Tide, Head & Shoulders & Pantene and win either Rs.2 lakhs toward graduate education fee of one child or Rs.50,000 as one year tuition fee of a child. P&G wanted to show that it did not only make great products but wanted to improve the life of its consumers too. A novel way to build brand loyalty.

Nestlé came out with a “Stick of Hope” where ice-cream lovers could write a few words of inspiration, a favourite joke on a virtual pop-stick. For every message Nestlé would contribute 25 cents to the City of Hope Cancer Centre to help children with cancer. Banana Republic started a “Drop your pants” campaign where you could donate your gently worn cast-offs. They got an incentive to clean out their closets and felt good about helping someone.

MAC cosmetics does various programmes to benefit children with AIDS. Its “kids for kids” programme sells greeting cards made by children and the proceeds go to benefit children with HIV/AIDS.

Cause marketing campaigns are today transforming the market. Everyone admires and expects from them. After all if you want to grow consistently and be loved by all, you gotta follow the golden rule – give and you will receive!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Go Green

If you thought that the colour of success was red, blue or pink; think again, my friend! It’s positively Green...

Madonna will “speak to the planet” at Wembley stadium in London. She would call for mass global change to reduce carbon emissions and to tackle the “climate crisis.” Former US Vice President, Al Gore, has turned into an environmental campaigner and has started a spectacular series of concerts across the world called “Live Earth” to raise awareness about global warming. The world’s biggest stars would perform across all the seven continents (even Antarctica!) to appeal to the world to reduce its “carbon footprints”.

In fact, Carbon footprinting is the latest buzz among environmentalists. It is a way of measuring how much impact you, as an individual or a corporate, have on the earth in terms of units of carbon dioxide produced. You can now calculate your carbon footprint (how much you have contributed to polluting the earth); you can even offset your carbon footprint. You could plant a tree in Kenya to help reduce CO2 emissions. In fact, your wedding too can now be customised to become “carbon-neutral”. Instead of receiving 10 juicers or 5 toasters you could ask your guests to donate trees to organisations like carbon at the cost of £10 per green tree.

The world is getting more and more carbon literate, especially with the scare of global warming looming closer and everyone wanting to leave a greener earth for their children. Many are busy calculating their carbon footprints by measuring the amount of CO2 they are producing through consumption of gas, heating and electricity. Even the means of transport – not just cars, but lights too emit CO2 and cause environmental damage – and people across the world are doing their best to cut it down as much as possible.

Superstars like Madonna and Kate Moss, thanks to their private jets, their super luxury cars and their ultra lavish lifestyle are among the worst polluters and have the largest carbon footprints. This is no small matter and companies are now under pressure to reduce their green house gas emissions, and come out with more carbon-neutral products, services and even events. No wonder even “Live Earth” concerts are being lambasted for causing immense emissions. With stars jetting in from around the world, fans arriving in gas guzzling cars, thousand of tonnes of rubbish, and sound equipment using so much power, these events are slated to become big polluters. Ironical?!

Green Marketing is Smart Marketing

Companies are now developing products keeping the environment in mind and marketers are using “environmental-friendly” as the new trick to sell their products and make them look more attractive. Running short of ideas? Well, you could get great ones by just brainstorming with an environmentalist. The Arm and Hammer brand of baking soda for 7 years had no growth in sales. Then they decided to market their products as an environmentally preferable cleaning agent. Sales rose by 30% in 35 months!

Toyota and British Petroleum too are big organisations that have realised the power of eco-innovation and green marketing. Toyota has beaten its domestic competitors, hands down, by introducing new automotive eco-innovations. Its eco-friendly cars like Prius are slowly eating away into the competitors’ market share. British Petroleum’s advertising campaign “Beyond Petroleum” highlighted the company’s support of renewable energy recourses. It is one of the very few companies that mention climate change in their annual reports.

Shareholders are today demanding that companies reveal more about the environmental impact of their products and explain what they are doing to make them more environmentally compatible. Ireland’s largest insurer “Irish life and Permanent” has launched “green loans scheme,” designed to reward borrowers, who wish to borrow money for environment-friendly improvements to their homes by offering them a 1% discount on the normal lending rate for its personal loans. Similarly, HSBC had started a “green sale” that reinforces the bank’s commitment to environmental issues. It would donate £0.50 to WWF for every customer who signs up for internet banking during the period of sale. It expects to raise £1 million this way. Such schemes have helped HSBC to become the world’s first carbon neutral financial service provider.

Wal-Mart too is testing an energy-saving retail store design. Philips has introduced energy saving bulbs. P&G’s new laundry detergent – Tide Coldwater is designed to clean clothes effectively in cold water, & hence help the consumers save energy. Steelcase, the world’s largest office furniture manufacturer has come out with a “Think Chair”, which is 99% recyclable – its presence symbolises a smart socially responsible office! Xerox promotes its solid ink printer as being non-toxic and producing 90% less waste than laser printers. McDonald’s is doing all it can, to show to the world that it cares by incorporating a series of environmental and social initiatives. Early this month, it announced that it would turn its spent cooking oil into bio-diesel fuel to power vans in the UK. Its menu now has coffee, soya, et al, that is sourced from companies, which do not destroy rainforests. Its décor of bright red & yellow is slowly being changed to dark green to reinforce its environmental faith and have a positive influence on consumers.

Pret-a-manger, a sandwich chain in the UK today has 1.3% of the sandwich market eating out of its hand. It snatched the share from Marks & Spencer (the original inventors of the sandwich for lunch concept). They did this by using only natural ingredients and minimum preservatives and making sure everything in their shop was recyclable, as also caused minimum waste (of paper) & damage to the environment. GM too launched a campaign “Live green, go yellow” to promote its flexible – fuel vehicles & its support of ethanol-based gasoline.

Green: Colour of money

It’s the youth that are turning more “green-conscious” today. According to a poll done in America, 50% of the respondents from the age group of 18-29 years, said that they were ready to spend more on products that were organic/environmentally-friendly or fair trade. It shows that Generation Y is obviously more environmental savvy than its seniors.

No wonder, the very popular website among the youth called “Second Life” where people create virtual doubles of themselves, has launched a competition for the best idea to redevelop an area in the city and make it more environmental-friendly. People from everywhere participated, which shows that people want to do something for their surroundings, if given an opportunity. Countries that have suffered environmental disasters like the Bhopal Gas Tragedy (India), the Exxon oil spill, the Chernobyl disaster (Ukraine) that caused radioactive contamination are today demanding their pound of flesh. They want better, safer products & don’t mind paying more, but they want to put an end to these man-made disasters.

Green is the new mantra. Anything “green” sells, even the green Ogre “Shrek”! It raked in more than $600 million and created history as the largest domestic debut ever for an animated film in the USA. Remember how Popeye, the cartoon character, solved all his problems by gulping down a jar of green spinach – well, if you want to win and watch your competitors turn green with envy – go green!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dress ed to Kill

He is 25 years old. He dropped out of Princeton University and now he is turning “worm-poop” into green bucks! Tom Szaky and his friend Jon Beyer started a company called TerraCycle Inc. The company uses worm waste to create plant food and the best part is it sells it in recycled soda bottles. Most of these plastic bottles are collected through a nation-wide recycling programme organised by the company itself. It’s got schools and churches to collect empty plastic bottles and milk cartons, which are used to package its products. They now even have neck-tags on these recycled bottles where you can put your first name and the state from where you collected your bottle. It’s this idea of such an innovative packaging that generated copious publicity for this company that it has hardly spent on advertising. It even showed what the company believed in and stood for. Body Shop had done a similar thing years ago. They encouraged customers to bring their old packaging back into the shop to be refilled and re-used or recycled. They did it at a time when no one else was doing it – and it spread a good word about the company, which is more powerful than any advertisement.

Packaging is the first tangible interaction a consumer has with your brand. If it’s powerful and creates an impact, then it’s the best way to differentiate your product from competition and even beat it. No wonder Coors Brewing Co. is relying on packaging to help boost its sales. The have introduced “Cold Wrap” bottles. A wraparound label on the beer bottle keeps the brew cold longer by reflecting heat from the consumer’s hand. Not just this, they even have an agreement with the packers, whereby, the Cold Wrap bottle will remain exclusive to Coors for “at least one year”. What a way to beat the heat and the competition!

New and innovative packaging always helps to create a buzz. Last year, Pepsi Co’s soft drink 7UP decided to get the excitement going high by introducing its drink in a new packaging and using Mallika Sherawat’s curves to up the enticement quotient. It suddenly made the brand both hot and cool. Coca-Cola too had to change the shape of its soft drink Limca if it wanted to remain in the race. This year it made its bottle curvier and called it the Limca splash bottle. They said, it gave consumers a better grip. It might even help Coca-Cola to retain its grip over the market!

It’s a new world

Today it’s a whole new generation that we are marketing our products to. This “millennium generation” or “generation why” is very different. Generation Y, according to Crispin Reed of Sterling Brands, is “...arguably the most savvy generation ever to walk the planet. It’s never felt the chill of the Cold War, never knew life without AIDS, learnt about the birds and bees from President Clinton, never went to library, wore designer kids’ clothes & can’t imagine a life without DVDs, AIMs, Internet & SUVs.” If you have to attract their attention, you need to make the right moves. Amul re-designed its packaging of ice-creams, cheese and shrikhand. Nestlé has changed its “Fruit n Dahi” to “Milkmaid Fruit Yoghurt” and packed it in a cup.

Great packaging changes a brand’s image instantly. No wonder, companies are spending more and more on packaging, year after year. The packaging industry itself is growing at an annual rate of 4-6%. The range of products being packaged is growing and getting more and more diverse. After all, everything is getting packed and ready-to-eat-off-the-racks.

Intelligent packaging has made life easier. Think of life without resealable bhujiya packets, wet wipes, travel kits of the various cosmetic brands, juices in tetra packs, Coke cans, salt & pepper dispensers of Catch and many more.

On the shelf...

There are so many developments in packaging which are now helping in increasing the shelf-life of the products. Processes like vacuum packaging or gas packaging are being used extensively. The shelf is also the place where your brand competes directly with the rival’s brand. Marketers are using packaging to make a statement on the shelf. Some years back Coca-Cola unveiled a 30-litre plastic bottle of Coke. It was 4 feet tall, weighed 274 pounds and required, on an average, three men to lift it! The logic? They said Americans like big things – big car, big stereo, big TV. So why not a big Coke! They did try to make the brand look larger-than-life!

Windows Vista and 2007 Office systems not only redesigned the software package, but also the outer packaging to make it look more attractive on the shelf – displays; apart from protecting the software inside for life-long use.

DVDs and CDs have seen so much of experimenting when it comes to packaging. Limited editions and collector’s editions are just ways of innovatively packaging the old discs to make them look attractive and encourage impulse buying.

Thanks to the “Wal-Mart culture” of retail chains and department stores, most of the purchases nowadays are impulse-driven and many-a-times it is attractive packaging that makes you reach out for the product. Not just this, packaging also increases the brand recall. So it’s imperative your product look good on the shelves.

Save our planet

With the effect of global warming already being felt, consumers are becoming more conscious and making more ecologically friendly choices. Wal-mart has even announced a rollout of a “green” rating system of the packaging used by its suppliers – in a bid to become more environment-friendly. All suppliers would be required to lower the amount of packaging that they use, by 5% and use more eco-friendly & recyclable products. Those who don’t, might lose their business with Wal-Mart!

In today’s world, packaging even makes a statement about your commitment to the planet. Today it is no more packaging... it’s the era of green packaging.

Starbucks invented the disposable coffee cups and has shown that it is environmentally responsible too. Today, it is changing that and trying to rework a system, whereby, it would encourage consumers to drink inside the stores. America started the “take-away” culture and gave birth to a whole new style of packaging, while Europe still believes in the “consumer-in-store” culture. Consumers are demanding that companies show their responsibility towards the environment. No wonder Starbucks now serves in non-disposable re-usable containers.

So packaging is a powerful medium. It’s a statement! It gives a brand its identity. Use it with caution and you could reap rich dividends. If you have to win, make sure your products are dressed to kill.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Think Pink (Marketing to Women)

Men may be from Mars, but smart marketers now know that it is the species from Venus that calls the shots in purchase decisions...

The year was 1929. The man was called Edward L. Bernay, considered by many as the father of public relations. The Easter parade was about to be staged on Fifth Avenue. This was also the era when women did not smoke much in public. Before the parade, Bernay alerted the newspaper that women would be smoking in public to promote ‘equality of sexes”. Suddenly, everyone was excited & wanted to cover the event. What Bernay told no one was the simple fact that he had been paid for this effort by American Tobacco, the maker of Lucky Strike in their effort to encourage women to smoke. It was one of the most famous marketing moments of its time.

Recently Dell’s marketing representatives met Oprah and showcased their products on her show. Its Pocket DJ and 30 inch LCD TV featured on Oprah’s Favourite Things 2004 shopping list. About 70% of Dell’s plasma sets were sold in weeks after the list appeared on Oprah’s show. Twenty years ago, probably women were just considered as “add-ons” by marketers, with no major decision making roles. A recent survey in America revealed that women now account for $55 billion of $96 billion consumer electronic market (in 2003). With more and more women joining the workforce their purchasing power and decision making power both are increasing. What’s interesting is 25% of these women make more money than their husbands or boyfriends. So marketers are now being forced to give them a long hard second look and formulate plans and strategies to rapture this fast growing market.

Pretty in Pink

Women today are buying more electronic gizmos than men. What were earlier referred to as “boy’s toys” are no more the sole domain of men. Companies are going back to their design tables; reworking and revamping their products as they get to know the female consumers better. Gone are the days when Gillette wanted to target their razors to women, they just colored them pink. Today, that’s not enough. A woman knows what she wants and if you want the green bucks to keep coming, you gotta give her what she wants. No wonder Camel cigarettes are now available in packages of hot pink fuchsia and minty green. They know their customers would “walk a mile for a Camel” (the famous tag line of Camel cigarettes). They also know many of them would be wearing stilettos!

Women are different & the one who recognizes that faster, benefits the most. As someone said, “When women are depressed they eat or go shopping. Men invade a country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.”

When the Lancer group of Canada wanted to market their luxury condominiums, they included things like a walk in closet, a laundry room, plenty of counter space in the bathroom for make up. What they didn’t include was a giant wide screen television. Their target was single women aged 21-45 years who were bothered about various other details of the house and definitely did not value a giant TV screen. Today marketers are getting into the skin of a women to understand what she actually wants and desires. One of them did what no one had done before. Kevin Burke, father of lucid marketing which specialises in marketing to moms actually wore a thirty three lbs pregnancy suit for nine months just to understand how a woman felt the experience. He sure was very serious about marketing to women! Tetley, Canada, has a created a special online site “Music Lounge” where women can download free songs for their digital music players and computers – basically they get to chill out the ‘Chai’ (Tea).

Diamonds no longer a women’s best friend

With more and more women on the streets, driving their own cars, the hottest selling gadgets seems to be the GPS tracking system. Most of these navigation devices are being bought by women. About 55% of GPS customers are women. Not just this, even car manufacturers are seeing a rise in the women customers. Hyundai Motors India Ltd has announced special loan schemes to lure the women. ‘Santro’ and ‘Getz’ are being portrayed as women friendly cars.

Harley Davidson, long a symbol of male pride launched a web site dedicated to women motorcyclists. They figured out that 10% of all the Harleys sold in 2003 were bought by women, as compared to just 2% in 1985. Back in India too, the two wheeler marketing segment is seeing a lot of action. Hero Honda has launched its ungeared scooter targeting the young women. Not just this, they have even launched a retail initiative called “Just for Her”. These women- only showrooms would be used to distribute its scooter “Pleasure”.

TVS has come out with accessories specially designed for the female rider and even an exclusive website to sell this new accessory range. For bike manufacturers, the real growth lies in targeting the female users. The customer is the Queen for them! Women are a rapidly growing consumer force. If you are not including them in your marketing plan, you are putting your business at a disadvantage. When Home Depot (one of the largest retail chains of US) realised that most of the people who purchased a home in 2003 were women, they immediately included them in their business plans. Home Depot now regularly organizes classes targeted to women where they learn to use power tools, lay laminate floors and paint their own houses!

Ipod decided it was time to time to introduce iboxes for women too! Bharti Cellular has now a “Ladies Special Plan” which allows them to receive special beauty and lifestyle tips & also gives them special discounts on subscriptions of magazines like Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping, among others.

The new single woman

Today many women are choosing to stay single and are loving their independence, both emotional & financial. Marketers everywhere are doing whatever they can to attract this segment. New products & services are springing up to cater to this solo-lifestyle, like ready-made foods, investment services etc.

UTI has launched a Mahila Unit Scheme exclusively for women investors above 18 years of age. Indian Bank has introduced a loan scheme called “Swarna Abharna” to help women buy gold ornaments. Women live longer than men & insurance companies are leveraging it. They are coming out with policies to target this new independent woman. Working women need a smart wardrobe. They no longer want to wear pants designed for men. So brands like Allen Solly, Wills Lifestyle etc. have come out with a range of clothes to suit the tastes of this woman.

TV channels too have realised that it’s the woman who controls the remote. So she is the target for most of their programming. Women are from Venus About 80% of all household purchases are done by women. She is the “family’s purchasing officer”; she is shaping up the new retail trends. Thanks to their expanding purse-strings, they are changing trends. Women spend differently from men. They spend more on “home-improvement” goods and luxury, designer goods. Today’s woman is ready to spend more on a product if it makes her life more convenient. She doesn’t mind spending on a Jacuzzi for those few moments when she can actually relax. She doesn’t mind paying a premium price for an oven if it cooks meals faster & gives her more time with her family.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


They come up on you slowly yet stealthily; but they mark you forever. The new age marketer knows a thing or two about the laws of the jungle...

One day in Manhattan, New York, 16,000 butterfly stickers appeared overnight across the city, forming a trail leading from Times Square to Central Park where a promotional event launching internet software package MSN 8 was taking place. This resulted in a major public outcry against the campaign, as it is illegal to advertise this way in New York. Microsoft immediately apologised to New York and agreed to remove the butterfly stickers. But it was worth the effort, for the campaign generated more that 168 news articles around the world! Not just the people on the streets of Manhattan, but world over, millions came to know about the new software package that was being launched by Microsoft.

Yahoo Personals Billboard Dating campaign put a woman on a Los Angeles billboard for three days. The woman spent three days atop the billboard, using a wireless internet connection and “Yahoo billboard Personals” to search for and schedule her dates. The campaign got so much of media coverage and free PR that it helped increase the number of visitors to the website. More than 6.4 million new visitors logged into the website. The company sure knew how to take dating to new heights.

In Australia, Vodafone painted their logo across the back of a person. At an appointed time, the man ran into a cricket pitch, where the game was on. Police ran behind the shirtless Vodafone man, so did all the cameras (which were telecasting the game across the world) and the eyes of the spectators. Vodafone had made sure that its logo was aired live around the world and all it cost them was $250 – the fine money that the police slapped on the streaker who ran into the pitch!

Welcome to the world of ‘guerilla marketing’. All the above mentioned instances are examples of this form of marketing. It could be defined very broadly as an unconventional way of performing promotional activities. And as consumers are increasingly avoiding or ignoring traditional advertisements, considering the increasing clutter, ‘guerilla marketing’ is the way to go. All it requires is, lots of imagination, for it is ridiculously inexpensive!

There are anti-ad filters as TiVo and mainstream advertisers are finding it difficult to reach the target audiences efficiently. To succeed in business you need to understand marketing. It’s said that most businesses fail because they don’t understand marketing. However, even when you do marketing, it is not easy to reach the target audience. ‘Guerilla marketing’ helps to breakthrough this clutter. That’s because just like guerrilla warfare, it catches the customers by surprise – thus making them remember the message (you can even call it a marketing ‘stunt’ if you deem fit) for a longer duration. In fact, ‘guerrilla marketers’ are even called ‘Buzz Agents’, precisely for the buzz they manage to create amidst consumers. They get people talking about the company and the brand.

When the Minnesota state officials wanted to boost tourism to a local resort town, they put a couple of canoes on some of the busiest streets of Chicago. The canoes had people wearing life vests and flannels as they pretended to fish and even row down the streets! Even a staid, jaded onlooker would have balked first and then smirked at the sight, and remembered it. Surely a novel way of fishing for more customers. The best part about ‘guerrilla marketing’ is that it delivers results quickly. And even if a plot backfires (as in the case of Microsoft) the company loses nothing, as every marketer knows there is no such thing as ‘bad publicity’, what matters is to get people talking about your ‘stunt’.

Hit it where it hurts

All that an effective ‘guerrilla marketing’ campaign requires is time, energy and imagination – not big budgets. So it works wonderfully for small businesses that work under financial constraints. This way they can challenge big competitors too. That’s exactly what Big Bazaar has done. It took on biggies like Shopper’s Stop, Lifestyle and Westside with cheeky one-liner hoardings that did catch a lot of attention and got the buzz going. “Keep West – aSide. Make a smart choice!” Shoppers! Stop, Make a smart choice!” “Change your Lifestyle. Make a smart choice”. These lines did stir-up competitors and gave shoppers something to smile...

Pepsi was still struggling for acceptance when Coke was riding high on the waves of success. Its biggest strength was its six and half ounce bottle. They used it in every ad and even trademarked it. Pepsi came out with a 12-ounce bottle for the same price. It had hit the bull’s eye. Youngsters immediately switched to Pepsi. It was the perfect guerrilla attack. That year Coke spent $15 million in advertising, while Pepsi rejoiced, for it spent just $600,000. An intelligent ‘guerrilla marketer’ finds a weakness in competitor’s strength and attacks!

Appear where no one expects you to!

A number of empty prams suddenly appeared on streets of Stockholm. As people passed them, they could hear a baby crying. When they leaned over to look at the baby, they saw some information written inside the pram which was, “Everyday 136,986 children are born who do not exist.” It was an effort by UNICEF to raise awareness about how infants, particularly in small remote villages are not registered at birth – which make them officially non-existent and hence easy victims of child abuse. The campaign lasted for 3 days, but UNICEF was able to collect some 2,000 donors who were ready to support the campaign.

After the Jet-Air Sahara deal, Jet Airways came out with a hoarding that highlighted their changed uniforms, logo, et al. The headline read “We’ve changed”. Within 36 hours, Kingfisher came up with bigger hoarding next to it, with a cheeky headline “We made them change.” The element of surprise works wonders for all successful ‘guerilla marketing’ campaigns. They are highly creative and deliver almost instantaneous results.

Have fun

Think creative, think out of the box… sure, but a dash of humour always increases the effectiveness of campaigns. When Spiderman 2 was about to released in India, Contract ad agency created a campaign that shocked and amused male cinegoers. They saw a urinal placed high up, near the ceiling - one that only Spiderman could use! Next to it was a small poster that read “Coming soon Spiderman 2.” A security glass company wanted to demonstrate the strength of its shatter-resistant coating. They treated a bus shelter’s Adshel with the coating and filled it up with bank notes worth three million dollars (apparently). Almost every passerby ended up either kicking or punching the glass. Some even returned with their families. The company had spent hardly $6,000 Canadian dollars, yet countless magazines and newspapers around the world covered this story.

‘Guerrilla marketing’ is fast developing into a new tool for marketers to get quick and effective results, besides being a unique way of reaching out to customers. For success in the contemporary marketplace, you don’t need to match budgets with the big players, instead you need to match wits. So if you are creative, innovative and ready for risks; and if you are looking for instant results, this is the place for you. Here there are no rules – the only thing that rules is – your imagination.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


The verdict is clear, the Big B can sublimate even King Lear, as millions of fans will now hear...

A fabulous mythical bird, almost as large as an eagle with brilliant scarlet and gold plumage and a melodious cry – that’s the phoenix. It’s said, the phoenix used to appear at dawn every morning to sing a song so enchanting that even the sun god Apollo would stop to listen. And if mythology is to be believed then only one phoenix exists at one time. As the end of its life approaches it builds a pyre nest and sets it on fire – from the ashes of which rises a new phoenix. The bird is immortal. It’s similar to this man whom even mighty failures could not deter...

He made his debut in a movie in 1969, which failed miserably at the box office – and so did his next ten films! Any other actor would have been considered history with such a performance… but the man miraculously rose from the ashes in the avtaar of Indian cinema’s “angry young man”. Any movie he starred in, drove audiences crazy. The launch of his organisation ABCL spelled doom for him once more. The Bachchan magic that worked wonders on the big screen failed to work in the boardroom. An injury on the sets of Coolie in 1982 had brought the nation and Indians across the world to a halt as they prayed for his speedy recovery... the same man was now at risk of losing his house, as creditors lined up. He owed debts worth a staggering Rs.90 crores. The phoenix rose again as Bachchan agreed to host the TV show Kaun Banega Crorepati and became the most expensive endorser on television. Today, if Amitabh Bachchan as much as sneezes – it sends a chill down the spine of the whole industry – for he is the industry!

Loved & revered

The resounding success of KBC did make Amitabh the most expensive endorser – but he is also the most loved. He is the most saleable face of India – also the most dependable. Most importantly, he’s the most respected and believable celebrity that India has – the common man has blind faith in him. It is this hypnotic effect of the Big B that is drawing brands to him in droves. This 60+ man has all the top brands lined up for him, while some of the much younger celebrities are left high and dry. Bachchan’s high appeal cuts across gender, age and socio-economic groups. According to some studies, his effectiveness as a celebrity is nearly three and a half times more than the second most recalled celebrity Sachin Tendulkar.

The Midas touch

In the first two-and-a-half decades of his acting career of more than 100 films, he never endorsed any product. However, when he did do his first commercial in the 90s, it was for BPL washing machines. “BPL – Believe in the Best” was an interesting commercial and Amitabh charged a fee of Rs.8 crores – the highest anyone had ever been paid in Indian corporate branding scenario. The ad was so effective that it really worried BPL’s competitor IFB, who even went to the extent of finding out which washing machine he had. As luck would have it he had an IFB! So they came out with a cheeky ad that said, “Amitabh believes in the best. That is why he uses an IFB washing machine”. The ad created a storm and had to be pulled off – but the company had made its point.

Reid and Taylor too had a dream launch in India. Their strategy was flawless. They launched just before the World Cup in 1999, and roped in none other than 007 Bond to endorse their product. The market for luxury suiting was not yet developed and this seemed to be the right way to give popular brands like Raymond a run for their money. However, this side of the world there is only one Bond – Amitabh, and only when Amitabh featured in their ads did consumers respond. Customers walked into stores and asked for “Amitabh wali suiting.” Suddenly the brand saw its popularity growing in India. It did pay to “Bond” with the best.

He has a magic which cannot be denied. His unblemished personality makes him a real safe bet for advertisers. Nerolac improved its brand image by associating with him. “Yeh rang har kisi ko chhoota hai” helped Nerolac bridge the gap between itself and market leader Asian Paints. Dabur Chyawanprash, though a market leader, also needed the charisma and energy of Amitabh to continue keeping the brand relevant to consumers.

If advertising is about persuasion, then the guru of persuasion is Bachchan, and no one understands it better than Cadbury. In 2004, when the worm controversy hit Cadbury, the company’s reputation was in the pits. It did a lot to convince people about its high quality and safety standards, but nothing seemed to work. It took a Bachchan to salvage the company. His magic worked yet again and people forgot all about the worms – after all “Amitabh ji kuch khaas hai.” Marketers at Pepsi must’ve been wishing for his magical presence to bale them out of the recent pesticide controversy. Actually, KBC really started Amitabh on his second innings. After KBC, people started viewing Amitabh as a very genuine person – a fatherly figure. They started believing every word he said. The man did not betray his fans either. When Eveready approached him with a proposal to endorse their torchlight Jeevan Saathi, Amitabh refused the offer since the storyboard portrayed the product as a dowry item.

When a little boy innocently asked him why he endorsed Pepsi when it was full of pesticides – Amitabh did not renew his contract with them. Instead, he lent his persona to help the ‘Pulse Polio Programme’, to save lives of millions of children. Rural or urban, if Amitabh says it’s important, then the message must be serious, right?

The man has a conscience. Says he will not endorse tobacco, alcohol and gutkha. The star is hugely expensive (his fees are to the tune of Rs.5 crores to Rs.12 crores), but hugely effective. Not that he’s invincible, mind you. There have been cases where his magic has failed – the Maruti Versa flopped inspite of both Big B and Abhishek Bachchan. His ad for Uttar Pradesh hasn’t gone down well with the masses either. But then, as someone said: “It is the prerogative of great men only to have great defects.” We must overlook these instances.

King Lear is regarded as one of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies. The character of King Lear is most strenuous and demanding and very difficult to perform on stage. The part has been played by many great actors the world over. However, only one in India can play the part to perfection – Amitabh. He is iconic. From Sholay to Sarkar, from suit lengths to sweets – the man can sell it all. If you want your product to be, noticed, your brand to be remembered. If you want to break the clutter, if you want to beat competition - you know whom to turn to – Amitabh Bachchan, for he is India’s Last Lear!

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