Monday, January 29, 2007

They’ll kiss your lips & break your heart!

Is that being Heartless?
Is being heartless a disqualification?

I don’t want to pass a value judgment about these but let me tell you folks that a large strain of the current youth & young adult crop is just this.

Do more; feel less,
Want more; give less,
Lust more; love less,
Night more; day less

This could be attributed to the grooming & and the times that they are living in.
A large number of young boys and girls come from smaller families that pampered them more than any kid in their family tree had ever been in the past. Thus these kids have come out to be more full of self-love and take a lot around them for granted. They have learned to receive but forgotten to give.
Feeling is no more as big a virtue.
Also, these times of rapid change, opportunity & exposure make them less of feelers and more of doers. Smirnoff’s ‘Life is calling where are you.’ captures this rather well, just that the Indian youth might not relate to the nuances as well.
Another aspect of this crop is to do with their love for form over content.

“I don’t like Abhishek Bachhan in Guru – such a sad ‘look’ he has in that film.”
This is 19-year-old girl from Pune commenting on what she thinks of the Junior B ‘today’.
I am not trying to point at that how good or bad the film or the actor in it is.
There is something else in what the girl said that I would like to attract your attention to. There are two important words in her statement viz. ‘look’ & ‘today’. These two words are symbolic of the youth sentiment. This generation is more driven by the look one carries at a given point in time than how the person really looks. This is something that the grooming industry (from colour cosmetics to apparel manufacturers) has understood very well now.

Proliferation of media (Instant messaging over net & text messaging over mobile phones), increased pressures on time (friends, college, tuitions, distances, ambition, dance classes the list is endless) leaves them with precious little time in the day and thus days longer and linger into the night. All this keeps them awake for longer. Are youth marketers gauging the shifting primetime for this generation? There could be novel ways of reaching out to these ‘nocturnal’ boys and girls!

Do it, they won’t wait,
Give it they won’t thank,
Flirt, they are not feeling,
Wake up they are not asleep yet!

Big Bazaar in Small Towns

What happens when Big Bazaar & Food Bazaar enter small towns?
By small towns I mean towns where people have more time for themselves than their metro counterparts.
Big Bazaar or similar such stores might have to remodel themselves.

Most of the evolving retail formats that we see around us today are based on the Convenience Model. This convenience is based on efficiency; predominantly about saving time and is borrowed from the West.
In the western world it is assumed that the shopper does not have time thanks to a busy work life, social life & family life. This busy life is not just about busy men but includes women too. Thus helping the shopper save time is of great value in the Western Markets.

Contrast this with India and more specifically small town India. The assumption about convenience/saving time does not apply as well here. Leave aside women with busy work life, social life & family life, even men in these small towns are not pressed on time as much. As a result they do not look at regular shopping as problem to be solved. Instead it is a process to be enjoyed. Absence of many family recreational activities makes shopping a social & leisure activity that they enjoy together. The meaning of convenience for this shopper is less about saving time & more about engaging and spending time in a new, well organized, & comfortable shopping environment. In fact even in big cities a large number of middle & lower middle class treat shopping destinations as recreational spots.

Perhaps the retailer imperative in this context is to recast the retail format as a leisure-cum shopping destination. The shelves need not be organized to save time; instead they could be designed to engage the shopper, keeping in mind a bored homemaker who is having a day out with her kids, husband or her neighourhood friend.

As organized retail moves into the rest of India it would stumble upon new meanings of convenience. We might witness evolution of newer retail formats to cater to the multiple meanings of convenience that could range from extremes of saving time to the limits of spending time.

You know you are a brand when..

Every brand owner or brand custodian aims to build a brand. But what is a real measure of a brand well built?

I am no authority on quantitative or qualitative research that sometimes attaches numeric values to the extent of joy that a brand creates among its intended consumers but here are three subjective measures that I’d like to share.

In some way they are organised in increasing order of their significance.

1. A consumer or employee dreams of the brand more often than once or twice.
Some Google employees actually dream of their company and office regularly. And these are dreams not nightmares ; )

2. When the consumer is ready to forgive the brand
If brand is a person & we love this person, than this person could play any of these roles viz. a friend, a guide, a relative, a mentor, a partner etc. In our lives there come times when some of these people that we know commit mistakes, might end up doing something unknowingly that upsets us. But we do not snap ties with these people just because of that one act of theirs. Instead we pardon them and move on.
This is exactly the response that a ‘real’ brand gets from its loyal users when something goes wrong. If the user does not forgive the brand and moves away may be it was not a ‘real’ brand after all (at least not among this set of users).

3. When the customer begins to think what might the brand be thinking about him
This is my favourite. I do not know how many brands have been able to trigger such emotions or thoughts among their users. But if a brand can pull this off then we are talking brand equity or voltage or power at an entirely new level.

The future of celebrating the past

While going through business journal recently I came across something interesting. It was about technology. The write up asked if the technology sector, with it obsessive focus on the future, should celebrate anniversaries of its old technologies?

What should we value more – where we are today and where we want to be in the future?
Think about where we have come from?

Think about when was the last time we truly felt that something ground breaking had been introduced in the market?

  • iPod is in it’s fifth generation and it still looks and does the same old stuff;

  • Plasma screens are in their 8th generation and still suffer from the sme burn-ins!

  • Best of cameras still make normal eyes blood red and only after we have got them red can you used the red eye reduction function to cancel it out!

  • CDs have been around so long that they still make DVDs look young and yet both of them get scratched and malfunction!

  • Most surprising and sensational – notebook PCs are exploding, thanks to hot batteries!

  • So many people still have to cut a sorry figure after losing their girlfriend’s telephone number with the ever-increasing number of mobile phone crashes and ‘hangs’!

  • And we still click ‘Start’ to ‘shut down’ the PC!

Aren’t these anniversaries & celebrations missing something?
Like some really revolutionary products!

I would like to celebrate when I can click pictures with my eyes and record audio with my ears.
Till then let’s just focus on the next wedding anniversary get-together we have to attend!

As a technology company one should strive to create products and services that are worthy of anniversary celebrations but never really celebrate!
This also looks like a great positioning idea for a technology outfit wanting to do something similar to what Lexus used to proclaim in its press ads that used to get published in HBR & Fortune – Relentless Pursuit of Perfection!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Only the small can save the Big from the BIGGEST

First we had press then press ads. Then press ads made press cheaper to buy.
First we had TV then TVCs. Then TVCs made TV viewing cheaper
First we had Retail. Now we have retail Media..
Could it make the products on the retail shelves cheaper?

Well, I think it very much could.
Imagine a leading FMCG or Durable company paying a large amount of money to buy retail media space from a large retailer and the large retailer in turn ploughing back a part of this additional money that it has made towards subsidizing the merchandise on the shelves.
Cheaper products would become cheaper still.
These ‘still cheaper’ products would get more people into the big store.
More people in the big store would make the Retail Media more expensive.
And a more expensive retail media would once again mean greater subsidies to consumers to pick up store merchandise.
Net result the big retailer would get bigger.
Who loses in this?
In the short run the smaller retailers would lose valuable customers (unless they themselves decide to become customers of the big retailer!) but in the long run it is the National Marketer’s Brand’s image and business that would suffer the most.
In many ways the small retailer is a national marketer’s last hope of profitable business, but this might change soon.
Job number one for the big national marketers is to do everything it takes to empower the small retailer and help him build a strong and sustainable proposition for his set of customers.
It is rather paradoxical; there was a time when national marketers used to arm-twist the small guy the most and today the small retailer just might be this national marketers hope!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Taking the elevator test with Mom

Thanks to Manish's counterview to my last post, here are some more thoughts.

The point I am trying to make is not just for planning as a function or advertising as a profession. What I am trying to drive home can be summarized as taking the elevator test with our Mother.
If we can simplify/summarize our daily work or an idea or achievement in our chosen sphere of activity (be it NASA or IAS) into a few simple to understand, jargon-free sentences in the language of our choice, we can actually get a very candid account of our progress at work.

There is another way to look at it. Remember our innocent account of a day’s activities at school that we used to share with our Mother when we used to come back from school. It’s something like that..
As we grow up we stop doing it. How many of us share accounts of our workday with our parents?
Sometimes we don’t do it because we think that we’ve grown up and feel that all this is kid business; sometimes we think out parents wouldn’t understand; but what should never be a reason to not share is not having anything to share..
If not parents, we can share it with people from very different streams that ours. Believe me it can work wonders to the way we approach work..

There is one more dimension to this thought – everything that everyone is doing anywhere in this world at any point in time is a part of humanity in action. And if our actions or their implications (from NASA discoveries to Nano Technology) cannot be summarized into simple yet interesting nuggets, we need to seriously rethink about our actions or our ability to express.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Go ahead Ma, ask me what I did today!

We spend a large part of every day doing lot many things. Especially a large section of every weekday (more than 9 hrs on an average) is invested at work.
In these nine hours as a planner or a creative strategist, as Manish Sinha would put it, we do many things - covering some Asses, taking some; creating some ideas and peeing on some.
Well, all of this is simple to explain to anyone who understands advertising but what about those who do not.
While driving home last evening I tried thinking of how I would explain what I do in a day to someone who does not, for good or bad I don’t know, understand advertising. I am sure many of us would have already found ourselves in strange ‘verbal jam’ explaining to our Buaji (Aunt) or our father’s Phuphaji (Grand Aunt) about what is exactly that we do at work.
Coincidently the answer to how we would explain our work to our Granny or Grandson also has the ability to give us quick quality check on how great is our work.
Because when one tries to breakdown or interpret the meaning of our daily work in simple English or Hindi it gives us an idea of how good, new, interesting or exciting it really is.
So the next time you want to check how is your work – just try and think how you’d explain it your Mom or the little nephew and you’d have the answer yourself.