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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