Friday, December 16, 2011


“Why this murderous rage, girl?” has become the rage of the nation. It’s the ultimate song for the youth and almost everybody below 20 has made it their anthem. Come to think of it, the lyrics are ridiculously funny, the tune is very simple and yet this ‘soup song’ (meaning, a heartbreak song) just gets on you. It’s so easy to remember and so hummable that you cant stop singing after hearing it! But most importantly, it’s a song that every music company would want in their kitty today, it’s a viral campaign that every marketer dreams of making, it has such crazy levels of popularity that would be a dream for any celebrity and, it has reached an iconic status that every brand would die for. It is an excellent example of how to establish a name, an idea, in today’s crowded market place, filled with consumers who understand all marketing gimmicks; who hate being marketed to and who are a most aware and a sceptic lot.


Why has ‘Kolaveri’ become so popular? It’s the simplicity of the message and the magic of the internet that have made it so popular. Gone are the days when one had to wait for the mainstream media to pick up your story and make it popular by writing about it in their newspapers and magazines or showing it on TV. Today, thanks to the internet, you can go directly to the consumer and be heard. If your message is interesting, it will spread like, well, a viral ! This is exactly what happened to the ‘Kolaveri’ video when it was posted online a few weeks ago. Shot inside the recording studio, the rough version of the song made it to the internet through the backdoor, making it an instant hit and forcing Sony Music to release the song much earlier than planned. Its foot tapping beats made it irresistible to anyone who heard it, and today, it has got more than 22 million hits on YouTube. In fact, so much is the craze for this song that anything associated with it is becoming a hit too. Sonu Nigam’s son has sung a ‘milk version’ of the soup song and that, too, is set to become a rage on the internet. A good and interesting idea spreads like wildfire. You must know what the audience wants and give it to them, as John St., a Toronto based ad firm did. To market its services, it circulated a viral based on a satirical idea of how ‘catvertising’, that is videos with cats in them, would be the most watched videos on the internet by 2015! Tongue in cheek, the advertising agency explains how it has now opened the world’s first ‘cat video’ division to stay on top of competition, for everyone likes to see videos of cats, and cats are good for business. Considering the fact that everything in the world today is just a ‘mouse-click’ away, the ‘cat videos’ are bound to be a hit. Not surprising, then, that the ‘catvertising’ viral has got more than a million hits already. What is it that makes these videos become such a craze? From the ‘Kolaveri’ viral in India to the ‘catvertising’ one in Canada, what is it that makes them so popular? They have the ability to connect with the viewers instantly. They have a simple message told quickly and in an interesting manner. Most importantly they are fun!

Friday, December 2, 2011


Apple is a unique company for it’s loved by many and envied too by an equal number of people, especially its competitors. First, every mobile phone company tried to copy the iPhone; and now, taking subtle shots at the iPhone is a gimmick being used by all. However, in November 2011, Apple’s most aggressive competitor Samsung went a step further as it blatantly compared its Galaxy S II model with the iPhone. The advertisements poked fun at the iPhone buyers who were shown as people ready to stand in a queue for days to get their hands on the latest iPhone, while a better phone (meaning the Galaxy) was already there with the smarter ones. The ad mocked the iPhone users for buying the iPhone4S when in fact there was no visible difference between iPhone4 and 4S. Moreover it did not have a great battery life and its screen was not as wide as that of the Galaxy. Whether the Galaxy is better than the iPhone is secondary, the debate is, “Is this kind of advertising going to work for Samsung?” It has managed to get everybody’s attention with its provocative ads; but would this help it sustain in the market place?

Talking of ‘provocative’ advertisements Unilever found itself in a tight spot when its internet campaign for Lynx deodorants was banned by Advertising Standards Authority (US) as it was considered degrading to women. To prevent further damage, on November 25, 2011, Unilever immediately posted a “Sorry from Lynx” video on YouTube, which featured the same model (this time, less provocatively dressed) returning all the props she had used in the ad and saying sorry to the viewers. Sometimes brands lose focus and do things, which appear to give quick results but can actually prove fatal for the brand in the long run. It was named one of America’s hottest brands in 2010. After spending close to $23 million in advertising (in 2009) on its ‘Easy- Tone’ shoes, Reebok was hot property as its shoes sold like hot cakes. Approximately 5 million pairs of ‘EasyTones’ were sold in 2010 alone. Every woman wanted these ‘magic’ shoes that could do wonders to her figure without much effort. It seemed too good to be true. Well, it probably was, for in September 2011, the Federal Trade Commission (US) announced that Reebok had deceptively advertised toning shoes and apparel; subsequently, Reebok was asked to withdraw its advertisements and pay $25 million as settlement charges. The marketer, though still standing by its claims, said that it agreed to pay to avoid a protracted legal battle. For a company that spent $23 million in 2009, then another $31 million in 2010 and add to that another $10 million in 2011 in marketing its ‘toning’ products, this was a big blow. It was after all a brand positioning strategy that was created and nurtured for 3 years. Now the company will not be able to use this strategy anymore.

Yes, the market place is tough and times are even tougher nowadays, but this growing competitiveness should not force marketers (and definitely not the big ones) to succumb to pressure and take recourse to unethical means. Poking fun, using sexual innuendos or making promises that are just not true are not things that the consumer of today likes.

The consumer is very finicky and your unethical means may put him off.

Friday, November 25, 2011



Companies are worried about the coveted FDI regulations for this market. Economists are worried about its massive poverty indicators and growing inequality. Politicians are worried about their next elections as usual, but perhaps much more today about simply getting caught! Business in general is worried about favourable government policies and reforms and also about the appalling Indian version of the term “infrastructure”. And on top of all these, the common man is worried about (including infrastructure, of course) rising prices on all fronts, corrupt and inefficient systems, uncertain markets, lack of a social security net… the list is quite endless.

Welcome to “Incredible India”, the term itself a perfect fit for this country, and not just because the words are catchy and rhyme well. It’s also because of their meaning. Not great, or awesome; but ‘incredible’, in simple terms, hard to believe. And that’s how intellectuals at different points of time have described the ascent of the Indian economy.

Nevertheless, marketers love stories, and the Indian story attracts them like few do. Goldman Sachs’ BRIC report laid the groundwork followed by many others. Another exhaustive report by McKinsey in 2007 gave some important indications of where India could potentially be. It projected, with an assumed CAGR of 7.3%, that India would triple its income levels by 2025. That will bring around 291 million people out of poverty and the middle class will rise by ten times over the period to around 500 million. What’s more, 23 million people would count among the wealthy, which would be more than Australia’s current population (around 22.7 million, Australian Bureau of Statistics, October 17). And the most exciting part, of course, is that the country has a combined young & working age population (14-60 years of age) that comprises nearly 54% of the total (UN, 2009 figures). Another 31.3% are in the wings to enter this group (age 0-14 years). India’s working age population is expected to edge out China by 2028.

Friday, November 18, 2011


We are a nation that lives and breathes cricket, yet many feel that they are now getting an overdose of it. The 15-20 year olds today do not identify so much with cricket. They want something different, something fast and something trendy. Formula One seems to be the answer.


Kingfisher went ballistic with the promotions of its beer at the Indian Grand Prix held in Noida last month. Airtel was the title sponsor of the event. It ended its sponsorship of the Champions League Twenty-20 cricket even before the three-year deal ended. For a nation that is obsessed with cricket and for a sport that dominates advertising in India, when a big sponsor like Airtel backs out, is it an indication that things are changing? Is cricket facing boredom? Is there oversaturation of cricket? Perhaps. Think about it, Neo Sports, the official broadcaster of the India-West Indies series gave a 40-60% discount for a 10 second ad spot; add to that the falling viewership rating of the sport and you have your answer. Today, advertisers are looking for big sports properties other than cricket. Agreed, cricket was and will remain a religion in India, but the youth wants something more, and F1 is the sport that’s fashionable to follow and appeals to the young and restless. In spite of initial scepticism, the inaugural Formula One race was a success. To the surprise of many, the 3-day event drew a crowd of 95,000 spectators on race day.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Last month, a beautiful film named Dolphin Tale hit the theatres. Based on a true story, it’s a ‘tale’ about a dolphin without a ‘tail’. It’s the story about a young boy’s efforts to convince scientists to create a prosthetic tail for this dolphin named Winter , whose tail had got amputated. In doing so, he not just changes the life of the dolphin but also of the people around him. It’s a story of grit and determination. It made the audiences cry and the producers fly high – in North America, the movie grossed $14 million from Friday to Sunday. It opened at #3 but rose to the #1 spot in the second week, something not very common.


Not just is Warner Bros very happy with the performance of the film, but so is ‘Clearwater Marine Aquarium’. This is the water-park in Florida where the movie was filmed, and Clearwater cannot thank its stars enough. Even before the movie opened, visitors to the water park increased tremendously. The impact of the movie has been so great that the aquarium is now spending $12 million in expansion including a new “Dolphin Tale” exhibit. The aquarium now also has a new website and calls itself “The home of Winter”.

The dolphin’s tale of survival has worked wonders for a lot of people and a lot of brands too, apart from the Clearwater aquarium.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Early this month, Nike did something a lot of movie fans and shoe collectors were waiting for. It created the exact replica of the shoes worn by Michael J. Fox in the popular 1989 flick ‘Back to the Future’. He wore the shoes when he travelled to 2015 in the movie. 1500 shoes were put on e-bay for auction – they were sold out faster than one could imagine; the campaign has been evidently massively successful. This sneaker is getting Nike extra attention not just because of the ‘limited edition’ of the shoes but also because all the proceeds will be donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s disease research. To top it all, Sergey Brin has pledged to match the donations made to the foundation up to the next year (to a maximum of $50 million). The shoes have been auctioned for anywhere between $3,500 to $10,000 with the British rapper Tinie Tempah even paying $37,500 for his pair! The purchase of the year did help Tinie jump into the spotlight, but this has kept Nike in the news too and for some good reasons.

Brands need to be in the news for the right things. When a brand associates itself with the right cause, it gets noticed and spoken about, and that’s where it has a chance to overtake its competitors. Hugo Boss released a campaign this month for its perfume Boss Orange. However it was not the regular ‘glamour shoot’ that most perfume advertisements are about; instead, it talked of development of schools in Madagascar. Boss Orange has donated $300,000 to the ‘Schools of Africa’ initiative and through this campaign, it hopes to help at least 60,000 pre-school children in Africa. It used celebrities Sienna Miller and Orlando Bloom to propagate the idea that ‘every child has the right to an education’ – and Boss, along with UNICEF, would help do this “Today. To Help. Together”. When Bloom was chosen as the perfume’s brand ambassador in 2010, he said he identified with Boss Orange immediately because “it had a laid back spontaneous quality,” much like he had. So while Boss and Orlando were working on giving the brand a distinct identity, associating it with a cause made it stand out.

When a brand associates itself with a cause, it changes the total image and reputation of the company. Research has proved that firms that are socially responsible are considered by consumers to have a good reputation. In a study done by British Telecom in 2002, as much as 25% of a company’s reputation was dependant on its commitment to society.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Early this month, the UK Daily Telegraph ran a strange story that went like this: “Domino’s Pizza has announced plans to conquer the final frontier by opening the first pizza restaurant on the moon”. As expected, the story became the most read story in the newspaper and got people talking. Some even smiled and wondered if its “free if not delivered in 30 minutes” rule would be applicable for this branch! Domino’s is known for its wacky marketing and this one got everybody talking. You need to get noticed if you want to stay on top of the consumer’s mind. There is too much of clutter and only the ones who dare to be different stand out and lead.

A few years back (1993), D.C. Comics released a comic book The Death of Superman. A character that had been a part of our lives for decades (Superman was born in 1938) would suddenly be no more – this created a ripple and the media covered it almost as seriously as if a head of state had passed away. As expected, the comic book sold out on the first day itself. Numerous other issues were released after this and eventually the company came out with another iconic issue, which was titled Return of the Superman. Just when D.C. Comics found the interest of the customers falling, it decided to get the excitement back into the brand by announcing the death of its most popular character! It worked.

Friday, August 26, 2011


We all love ‘Anna’! He seems to have united India and its youth. But is India really one, especially when it comes to business? This is one country where all the laws of marketing will fail, because it’s so diverse. If you have just one theory, then it will not take you anywhere. India changes every 200 km. Yes, a few basics remain the same across India, but a lot changes too. For starters, language changes (we have 192 official languages and dialects), culture changes, traditions and festivals change, food habits change. If this is not enough, think about it – even the geography and political views change. Yes, it is vast, but it is not an easy market. Only the hardy marketers will be able to survive and thrive here.


A lot of multinationals have come into India but failed – not because their products were not good, but because they failed to understand India’s culture. Globalisation has been the new trend, but ‘standardisation’ will not work always. As a marketer, you need to be sensitive to each culture’s identities and its unique regional preferences and customise your product offerings.

Friday, August 12, 2011


This is a brand that has made the world sit up and take notice, for not only is it worth millions, but it also teaches us important lessons in Brand Building. The day she changed her name from Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and rebranded herself as Lady Gaga, a star was born, both for the music world and the business world. Single handedly, this ‘Lady’ has shown the world how to build a brand and how to do business in today’s crowded market place.


Lady Gaga is not just a singer, she is the way of doing business in the future. If you want to ensure that your brand will survive in 2025, it’s time to learn some quick lessons from the Lady. She understands the system the best.

The business model of the future has some new rules now. However, some ground rules never change. For starters, your product has to be good. Everything depends on this. Like all good brands, she first ensured that her product is good. Yes, her music is good and she can sing. She works hard on her lyrics, writes them, conceptualizes the music, the video and the costumes. Working on her piano, she ensures that her “core product” i.e. her music is of great quality. We all know one simple fact; no amount of brand building will do you good if your product is not world class. Secondly, you need to understand your audience very well. You need to keep a finger on the pulse of the audience. No one has been able to understand the market the way she does.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


What makes this song so entertaining? Is it Salman or is it the lyrics or both? Probably both. The words were as important as Bhai’s unique style in making it such a big hit. Mind it, the language you speak can change the fortunes of your brand, your company and your movie!


Language has the power to attract and this new language has taken everyone in its grip & its here to stay. From Bollywood to the business world, from babes to brands, everybody is using it. Hinglish is the language of today. It’s trendy, young and happening and it’s keeping the cash registers ringing for all who use it. Today’s most popular songs – from “Munni darling” to “Pappu can’t dance saala” to “My name is Shiela” and the current craze “...Character dheela hai” – have Hinglish lyrics. It makes the songs catchy and very entertaining and the audiences love them.

Not just Bollywood, smart businessmen the world over have realized that it’s this “street English” that works like magic to attract the consumers, so much so that even foreign brands are speaking it. Pepsi now says “Youngistaan ka wow!” Cadbury says it is not just a chocolate but “meetha” to be had after meals (a typical Indian custom). Domino’s for years has been asking “Hungry kya.” Lehar says “Control nahi hota,” and they all have successfully managed to connect to their customers! The verdict: The one who speaks the language the customer loves, rules.

Friday, June 3, 2011


I’s summer once again and time to enjoy nimboo pani, mangoes, long summer holidays, trips to cool places to beat the heat. But it seems the one thing that people love the world over is going out for a good movie. Yet, in 2009, the number of films released in theaters in USA dropped by 12%... Then came the biggest hit of all times – Avatar. Ticket sales zoomed. The number of people rushing to theaters increased to crazy levels. Reason? Well everyone wanted the catch the 3D version. Despite tickets of the 3D version being priced higher, 75% of Avatar’s revenues came from them. After all, it was the only 3D movie running at that time and people just couldn’t get enough. Avatar grossed $760 million, and Fox Studios, made all other production houses sit up and rethink. Fox had shown how to revive a business.

Movie theaters are today are filled with 3D versions of films. From ‘Cars 2’, to ‘Happy Feat 2’, to Steven Spielberg’s much awaited ‘The Adventures of Tintin’, all are getting ready with their 3D versions this year for your increased viewing pleasure, and also for increased box-office collections (hopefully!)It takes 3 to increase profits!

Friday, May 20, 2011


Osama is dead. Obama could not have been happier. Suddenly, his approval ratings have jumped up and he is being viewed as a better leader, for the man stood by his promise. People love a leader who stands by his words, his promises, his commitments.


Passion is short term. Plain passion will not take you far. More than passion, it’s ‘commitment’ that makes things work. Be it a marriage, a team, a company, a country, a society, or a civilisation, it’s an individual’s commitment that makes things work. As Robert Sternberg once said: “Passion is the quickest to develop, and the quickest to fade. Intimacy develops more slowly, and commitment more gradually still.” Passion backed with commitment is the foundation of a great relationship, a great team, a great company.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Many of us turned into “revolutionaries” this April. It required no protest marches, no dharnas, no violence, not even fasting. A mere click of the ‘Like’ button on the “India Against Corruption” Facebook page, a change of our profile picture into that of Anna Hazare’s, an updation of our “Status” message into “I support Anna” made each feel a part of the great movement. For many, just giving a missed call on 022-61550789 was enough to express their solidarity towards the movement. Anna Hazare fought, not just by fasting but also by ‘Facebooking’. It was the Internet & other communication tools that increased the voice of his anti-corruption movement. So powerful was this tool that within two days the members of the ‘India against corruption’ page increased from 5 lakhs to 12 lakhs. Some 7 lakh people showed their support by giving a missed call on a number texted to them. The revolution was “virtually there” for everyone to join in. It did not require physical presence; as long as you thought alike you could be a part of this ever increasing group, whenever you felt like, and could voice your opinions too on this “virtual” meeting place!

Friday, April 8, 2011


It was an unforgettable moment of pride for all. That night of April 2, 2011 every Indian forgot his caste, creed, worries, tensions, apprehensions and rejoiced with his fellow countrymen as India won the ICC Cricket World Cup. It was a long wait of 28 years and victory never earlier had tasted so sweet. A big achievement for India and most importantly for its most amazing captain M. S. Dhoni. Fearless, confident, cool and unflappable. He drove in unlimited self-confidence into each player, and together the team conquered the world.

The man showed the world he doesn’t play by the rules – and India loved him for that. A captain like Dhoni and a tournament like the World Cup is a combination that doesn’t come too often and it made every marketer sit up and take action. With the whole nation glued to their TV sets, there was nothing more exciting an advertiser could have asked for. Along with the nation, every brand too was eating, sleeping, breathing and singing cricket. Every brand had jumped on to the cricket bandwagon.

Friday, March 25, 2011


“The King’s Speech” won the 83rd Annual Academy Award this year for the ‘Best Picture’. However, instead of the Oscars, those were youngsters of China, India, Brazil, et al that the big movie studios were looking at this time. Today, the success of a film depends on how it does in foreign markets and not on how many Oscars it gets. From Harry Potter to Sherlock Holmes to even Inception; all were declared hits because they did big business outside America. Avatar, the highest grosser of all times, made 3/4th of its money outside US & Canada. The markets with the biggest growth potential are Russia, China India, et al. There seems to be a ‘cinema boom’ in these countries and they are lapping up Hollywood films like nobody’s business. So, for Hollywood movie production houses, the most important task today is to distribute their films in these markets and make the maximum money. The focus is not just on a good script, but also on choosing the right actors and locations that will appeal to the audience of these markets, Success lies in accurately predicting foreign tastes. No more is it important to predict what the jury of the Oscars will like. Money flows into Hollywood when the youngsters of India, Brazil, China & Russia flock to the theaters.

Friday, March 11, 2011


“How to get your roommate to clean the room?”
“How to survive the boring talks of your girlfriend?”
“How to stare at other women, in front of your girlfriend?”

Find all your answers at the “University of Freshology”. These new advertisements of Sprite which ask you to “first drink, then think” are bringing a smile on many faces! The new advertisements take a fresh look at Sprite while keeping the ‘Brand Image’ the same. From the beginning, Sprite has believed in one thought – unlike other innumerable products / brands that promised you impossible benefits, Sprite offered you only freshness. From the time it was launched in India in 1999, with the tagline “Sprite bujhay only pyaas, baki all bakwaas”, it has stuck to its image of being the no-nonsense- just-thirst-quencher brand. This time too, its advertisements are interesting and, well, obviously refreshing.

Friday, February 11, 2011


It’s once again that time of the year when love is in the air and all around you, or as Jay Leno once described it, “Today is Valentine’s Day – or as men like to call it, Extortion Day!”


A great marketer loves people. He observes them well, and is quick to find out what they want, many times even before the consumer himself! They call him the “accidental billionaire.” But one thing the man knew as well as software programming was what people his age liked and wanted. Mark Zuckerberg knew that kids on campus want to always be in touch with each other, apart from of course knowing who was dating whom. He probably was right; no wonder Facebook has over 500 million users, and the “status” tab is the most talked about feature! For a great marketer, the consumer is king.

The rule is simple, give them what they love and you will have them eating out of your hand.

Friday, January 28, 2011


The movie was insipid, I agree! However, marketers have important lessons to learn – no, not from the film, but its title. Think about it, all our marketing activities are centered around the “Break”. The “breaks” are our lifelines. On TV, it’s the commercial break where all the action happens for marketers!

But does TV still work? Does it hold as much promise today as it did earlier?


TV has almost become a dirty word in today’s marketing world. Most people, especially the younger generations, seem to be spending all their time online. So who is watching TV?

According to the Association of National Advertisers, a survey done on US marketers showed that 62% of them believed that TV advertising had become less effective in the last couple of years.
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