Friday, September 26, 2008


As the media clutter becomes deafening, the sure-shot way to make your message reach the ears of consumers is to ride on current events and hip happenings!

Oh God… Oh God… please, please let Sachin play well this time. I hope India reaches the super six. Shall we make it to the finals? An example of some of the prayers heard all over the country when India goes to play the world. The best part is that the same prayers are heard in many boardrooms, advertising agencies and television studios as well! It’s the biggest and the greatest spectacle of the year. The heartbeat of the whole country seems to be in the hands of these eleven players. These are the demigods and the whole country looks up to them. The match is not just a game, it’s a fight and they better win! A victory is adulated, but a defeat brings so much wrath, it is actually scary. Cricket is the only thing that unites India like nothing else. North, South, East or West, go to any part of the country and you’ll find the same passion and similar devotion to the game. If it’s cricket time, the country’s heart beats together and bleeds together. This is our way of showing the world our best face. It’s our pride. Each victory is like a personal achievement. This is that time of the year when ad rates go skyrocketing and media planners go in a frenzy deciding where, when and how many times to show their commercials. This is also that time of the year when the quantity of “cricket-related” advertisements sees an upsurge with each one being more entertaining and better than the next. Some ads are, in fact, so good that you remember them long after the matches are over and forgotten.

No one can forget the Cadbury ad. The young beautiful girl and the nervousness in her eyes. The last ball of the game. It could be the winning shot or it could spell disaster. A crucial moment in the game – something we all love. The thrills, the chill, the anxiety of will he or won’t he, all portrayed so well in those few seconds. The girl nibbles on her Cadbury Dairy Milk. The bowler bowls his best ball… and the cricketer strikes it. The ball soars towards the sky and yes… it is a six! The girl runs over the ground, dodging the security, breaks into a lively jive, celebrating the moment doing something we all feel like doing when India wins a crucial match (especially against Pakistan!).

Kuch baat toh hai cricket mein!

Yes, there’s something special about cricket in India and advertisers know that this time “cricket-themed” ads will work best. Events affect the advertiser and their advertising strategy. In fact, an intelligent adman uses events to make his advertisements more interesting and eye catching and hence more memorable. The advertisements which reflect the mood of the society are more interesting. When India completed its 50th year of Independence in 1997, the whole country was in a celebration mood. Advertisers too hopped on to the bandwagon and dressed up their ads to meet the occasion.

Towards the end of 1999, the world was in a state of confusion. No one knew how the Y2K problems would affect them. Advertisers used this opportunity to warn, inform or entertain the customers, with many innovative and interesting advertisements.

If your punch line matches the spirit of the event, then it makes a good advertisement. Look at what Max New York Life did. The punch line is, ‘Your partner for life’; and what better way to think of your life and your partner than ‘Karwa Chauth’. It asked the man to insure his life for a wife who would be praying for him the whole day. The ad said:
‘She will spend the day thinking about your life. Spend a few minutes thinking about hers...’

The first to speak

Be it any event, any happening, any burning issue, one company that has never failed to give its version, tongue-in-cheek is Amul. It’s one company whose advertisements have always been “utterly-butterly topical”. Amul has had a say in every event of any importance. Its hoardings are so popular that people wait eagerly for the next change. Over the years, a lot of people have written Amul ads, but it’s the sheer consistency that has made them so successful. So the eighties saw some very interesting headlines like: Monica-Lewd-insky or Kabhi Butter Kabhi bun… it’s all about loving your butter. Each ad has been daring, different, interesting and always lovable (thanks to the ‘in tune with the times’ approach).

Slipstreaming: the new way

Slipstreaming, by definition, means a vacuum of air created behind a fast moving vehicle. When a speeding car zips past, the bystander feels a powerful wall of air that can almost blow one over. Motor racers know the moment you get too close to this force, there will be little wind resistance, so you get “sucked” along by the slipstream.

According to Max Sutherland, the author of the book ‘Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer’, one can use the “slipstream” phenomena in advertising also. So advertisers tend to keep a lookout for top news stories – essentially those stories that get a lot of publicity and are clearly the most talked about and sometimes even gossiped about. Then, if one reworks their brand slogan in such a way that it gets linked to the top story, the consumer is bound to notice it and give it more attention over and above the regular advertising clutter.

One company that has been doing this kind of slipstream advertising is Energizer batteries. It has used its slogan, “Are you power mad,” to fit various topical stories and news headlines. In 2003, when the Chelsea Football club was buying soccer players left, right and centre, Energizer used the story to popularise its slogan – “Are you power mad?” Next, when there was a power struggle between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair for the hotseat at 10 Downing Street, Energizer featured a cartoon showing Gordon Brown changing the number of his house on Downing Street to “10” and the caption “Are you power mad?” fitted just perfectly!

Another clutter-beater

Using topical themes, or working on witty one-liners that link your brand to an event or story in news always helps. It is like a shot in the arm – especially for a brand that needs to advertise regularly, but has nothing new to tell consumers. This is the easiest, cheapest, quickest way to beat competition and the media clutter – allowing the brand to draw the attention of the consumer completely.

So before you plan your next advertising blitz, pick up the newspaper for a few new ideas. Rest assured, they will charge up your marketing plans – for being topical is the best way to generate maximum impact, and that too at no extra cost.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dream of anything... and get it too ! ! !

History is packed with instances of great dreams coming alive on the back of great negotiations... Every deal is negotiable; yes, every!

This is the story of a boy in his twenties. He was into the real estate business and this was his first deal. He wanted to buy an old dilapidated hotel named Commodore Hotel, near Grand Central Station on Forty-second Street in New York City. The hotel used to remain vacant most of the time. It had a sleazy club and the land on which it was built was owned by another bankrupt organisation Penn Central Railroad. The city was in a financial mess, so much so that no bank would even consider giving real estate loans in Manhattan. This boy planned to buy this hotel by convincing a bank to loan him $80 million to rebuild & transform it into a state-of-the-art hotel. It seemed an impossible task and when he discussed it with his lawyer George Ross, the latter thought the boy was totally crazy... but agreed to help him nevertheless. After two years of planning and rigorous negotiations, the young boy finally bought the land for $12 million and apart from other deals, even convinced the Bowery Savings Bank to give him a loan. Not just this, he managed to rope in Hyatt to become a partner in the deal and to fund half of it. Not bad at all for a first deal! Soon, the old Commodore Hotel was transformed into a beautiful hotel, which he named ‘Grand Hyatt’. Of course, he wanted to name it after himself, but since he couldn’t, he managed to name the restaurant inside it ‘Trumpets’. You must have guessed it by now; the boy was none other than one of the richest men in the world, Donald Trump! And though this was one building he couldn’t name after himself, the master negotiator has over the years dotted the American landscape with ‘Trump Towers’. Those are his skillful deals, his power to negotiate most effectively that have seen him rise to such heights. Love him or hate him – you can’t ignore him or his art of striking the best deals & his uncanny knack of negotiating even the most impossible situations.

Today more than ever before, people who can not just communicate, but communicate in a manner that they can convince the person on the opposite side, are the ones who will succeed. Conflicts are common and unavoidable – but resolution of conflicts is what finally guarantees success. Studies have shown that negotiation skills are among the most significant determinants of career success.

Know what you want to get what you want

A whole lot of people and businesses fail when people are not clear about what they want. Most often, they are not properly prepared and have no idea how much they can get, and as a result, they rarely get the best deals. Look at this deal – Quaker Oats acquired Snapple for $1.7 billion and sold it 28 months later for 20 percent of what it had paid for. Another one – Newell Rubbermaid’s CEO and original champion of the Rubbermaid deal, Daniel Ferguson; a long time after Newell bought Rubbermaid, confessed that Newell had paid too much for Rubbermaid. According to a study, fifty percent of M&A activities in the past 75 years failed to create value. All cases of poor negotiations.

Not many would be familiar with the name Leigh Steinberg; but “Jerry Maguire” might ring a bell. The movie Jerry Maguire is based on the life of a very famous sports attorney, Leigh Steinberg. During his 33 year career, Steinberg has represented over 150 professional athletes in football, basketball etc. When he started out, he was 26-years old, fresh out of UC Berkeley’s Law School and had one player signed in. However, it was the sheer power of his ability to negotiate contracts for the sportsmen that his company within no time became the most powerful agency. He negotiated a $49.2 million, six-year deal for one player, and the next year a record $11.25 million signing bonus for Ryan Leaf from San Diego Chargers. His record-breaking deals for the NFL players saw many people flocking to him, but Steinberg insists that every contract negotiated for his players included a clause requiring them to contribute to one or many charities – a small way to repay the community that helped shape them. That’s one aspect that many tend to overlook while negotiating.

Everything is negotiable

A good negotiation deal is not one where you win and fool the other party. No one likes a negotiator like that. Bill Gates and Microsoft are the quintessential American success story – but perhaps not the most loved. According to Paul Cormier, a 20 year software industry veteran, Gates is responsible for Microsoft’s win-at-all-costs culture making many of his own employees unhappy and uncomfortable with Microsoft’s reputation of a ‘Vicious Competitive Monster’.

“Wining-at-all-costs” is not negotiation. It’s intimidation or bullying. A good deal is a “win-win” deal. It’s the deal where both parties come away feeling good. It’s a deal, which has made Donald Trump and many more like him successful; it’s a deal like the one that Leigh Steinberg does for his players – where the player, the company, the society, all benefit.

According to Stephen Covey, most people think of only their ‘win’. A person with the “win mentality” thinks in terms of securing his own ends - but leaves it to others to secure theirs! Compare this to the “Win-Win” mentality, which means reaching up to that negotiation point where both parties feel good about themselves. This is mutually satisfying and increases the commitment of both parties to the deal or plan.

No wonder when Tom Muccio, an executive of P&G, encountered the world’s ultimate non-negotiable partner, Wal-Mart, it was his commitment and belief in the “win-win” option that helped him survive and sustain. He slowly built a relationship with Wal-Mart where he kept the focus on joint visions and problem-solving. Wal-Mart, which has always kept its focus on “lowest prices” while dealing with suppliers, found this style of negotiating pleasantly different. From 1987, when Muccio initiated the changes, to 2003, P&G’s sales to Wal-Mart grew from $350 million to $7.8 billion. Thinking “Win-Win” actually works!

If you are sure and clear about what you want, you will get it! Remember, everything is negotiable.

Everybody needs a good negotiator Be it resolving labour disputes, negotiating salaries, or signing up M&A deals, every situation benefits from a master negotiator. The ground breaking deal between United Auto Workers union and General Motors was the best negotiation done in corporate history in 2007.

UAW – America’s biggest and most powerful trade union – by signing the contract with GM ensured that industrial relations in America entered a new era with this contract. The unions put the old confrontational style behind them and worked on collaborative style.

Not just corporations, even countries need good negotiators to manage them. Those are geniuses like Dennis Ross who have worked for years and played a leading role in shaping US involvement in the Middle East peace process. He also helped Israelis and Palestinians reach the 1995-Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Be it labour disputes, strikes, nations at loggerheads – all it requires is a skillful negotiator to set things right.

There was one man who lived many decades ago who proved this ideology beyond argument, a man who out-negotiated the mentality of not just a person, a group, a corporation, or even a country, but the whole world. His name was Martin Luther King Junior... And all he started off with was a dream...

So remember if you can be a good listener, if you can visualise the end result & prepare your case well in advance, if you can sustain & hold onto your deal, if you can think like a dolphin – it’s the only mammal that can swim in a sea of sharks & yet survive (incidentally one of the best management book ‘Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive’ is based on the qualities of a dolphin and talks about how to “Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate and Outnegotiate Your Competition”) then congratulations to you – for you too can, like Martin Luther King Junior and many other successful people can dream of anything – and get it too!!!

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