“Martini –Shaken not stirred”

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The mantra is quite clear; brands today are using in-film advertising of their brands to create sustainable competitive advantages...


It was very much a ladies’ drink all though the 60s, but when James Bond took a sip – things changed for the Martini. Reese’s Pieces was just a candy brand till E.T. dug his alien hand into a packet of the candy and gobbled it up. Enfield’s black-and-yellow Rajdoot GTS Bike would have been just a bike had not Raj Kapoor picked it and put it in his film Bobby. The bike catapulted into becoming a legend. People started entering the shops and asking for the “Bobby Bike”.

If these were not enough, consider this: The car company Audi especially created the Audi RSQ concept car for the movie I, ROBOT. The car was customised so that it could seamlessly fit into the movie. The car makers worked with the director of the movie and with the designers, till both sides were satisfied with the final outcome. Today, no sports film is complete without “Gatorade”. You may not be able to afford real players or real coaches, but a bottle of Gatorade can turn on the magic. So be it Coach Carter or Jerry Maguire, Gatorade is always there.

Now that’s how in-film advertising is changing the way we market our products and brands. It’s the new buzz word, and everybody is clamouring on to this bandwagon. Scripts are being made to fit in brands, and marketers are doling out lots of moolah to be able to star in these films. Coke gave Subhash Ghai Rs.1 crore so that Aishwarya and Akshay could share a bottle, in the movie Taal! In fact, if rumours are to be believed, then that particular scene was shot with both a Coke bottle and the Pepsi bottle. The highest bidder got to feature in the movie! Stroh’s Beer paid Rs.15 lakhs for a 15 second appearance in the film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. All Shah Rukh did was mention the brand name in one of the dialogues. Not bad. Tata Safari was ready to shell out Rs.10 million for the film Road. It was probably more than the budget of the film!

This amount is peanuts, compared to what Hollywood blockbusters earn through corporate sponsorship deals. Jurassic Park grossed around $250 million only through such sponsorship deals. In fact, in-film placement and brand association with movies is big business in Hollywood. It’s a $450 billion industry. Though a fledgling industry in Bollywood, yet in-film branding is slowly but surely growing. So if the movie You Have Got Mail made a cool $6 million from its corporate sponsor AOL, Taal and Yaadein of Subhash Ghai raked in Rs.2 crore and Rs.3.35 crore worth of corporate deals respectively. The revenues through corporate deals are so lucrative that even conservative film makers like Barjatiyas of Rajashri films, who made blockbusters like Maine Pyar Kiya, are looking around for such deals. Moreover, advertising agencies like Percept, Leo Burnett et al, have now organised separate divisions to look after in-film product placements.

If those were Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia who eloped on the Rajdoot bike and made it a craze in India in the 70s (and introduced us to in-film branding), then it was Katharine Hepburn in “The African Queen” who tossed loads of the product “Gordon’s Gin” overboard, back in the 50s and started this trend of in-film product placements in Hollywood!

But then, what is it really that is making marketers and producers alike to come together and strike deals.

1. In-film advertising breaks the clutter:

Today the consumer is inundated with advertising. Be it television, radio, billboards, magazines, everywhere there are ads. People are so fed-up of watching countless number of ads on television that some television networks like ABC and FOX have started presenting shows without ads! In-film product placement helps in breaking this clutter and ensures that the viewer watches the product while watching the movie. The marketer is sure that unlike TV – where chances of the viewer taking a loo-break during the commercial break are high – a movie hall experience ensures the viewer appreciates the product fully engrossed.

In generic speak, TV commercials are today considered annoying, but not in-movie commercials. No wonder, in the movie What Woman Want, which had Mel Gibson starring as the lead, you had a Nike commercial woven into the script and shown in the movie. No one realized they were actually watching a commercial, camouflaged in the screenplay. The movie Evolution featured a brand of shampoo, which had a chemical that could destroy both dandruff and dinosaurs (yes, these things happen in movies still). It saved your hair, your planet and the company from losses. Talk of brand recall – what could be more effective than this!

2. It increases market share :

When Melissa Mathison was writing the script for the movie E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, with respect to a scene where the alien is supposed to eat candy, Melissa proposed M&M’s candy bar. The company refused the movie director’s offer, not realizing that it would eventually lose out on market share. One week after the movie premiered, the sale of Reese’s Pieces candies shown in the film increased by 40%. Every kid who saw the movie now wanted that candy!

It is of no surprise that every time a new James Bond movie is launched, BMW launches a new model. Just a month after one particular Bond movie (Goldeneye) was released, BMW received 9,000 orders for its two-seater car. No wonder, the company was ready to pay a premium to oust 007’s signature Aston Martin & use the BMW Z3 Roadster instead. FedEx saw an increase in its brand awareness in the international markets (Asia & Europe) after Cast Away was released. The movie, The Firm, featured a Jamaican, brewing a brand of beer known as Red Stripe. According to Business Week Online, the beer’s sales increased by more than 50% in the first month after the movie was released.

Dallas World Aquarium suddenly noticed an increase in the number of visitors to its penguin exhibit. They had never seen such excitement earlier. That’s when an intelligent presenter figured out the reason. He asked before the show, “Who saw the movie March of the Penguins?” As expected, a large number of hands went up. It was this Oscar nominated film, which had fuelled the demand for penguins! Films have tremendous power that can be exploited by marketers.

3. The advantage of Star Power:

You can get celebrities from the film world to endorse your product at relatively very less cost. So while Minority Report showed Tom Cruise entering a GAP store, one could also see that he was wearing a Bulgari Watch. Just for a few lakhs, BSA SLR had Aamir Khan riding their cycle in the movie Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. It didn’t cost marketers too much to make Amitabh Bachchan insist that his wife consume calcium Sandoz in the movie Viruddh.

When the film star also happens to be the brand ambassador of the product, it makes better sense to place your product in that film. So Hyundai Santro was a prominent feature in Shah Rukh’s home production Chalte Chalte. Pepsi was eager to feature in the movie Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum. Not only did the film have a line up of every marketable Bollywood star, but also had the credit of most of them having been Pepsi models. If Tom Hanks played a FedEx employee in Cast Away, then our Amitabh played an ICICI Bank employee in Baghban. ICICI was visible for 10 minutes in the film [No T.V. commercial could give it so much visibility!].

When the brand endorsers are seen using the endorsed product in the film, it makes the brand more convincing, apart from the added bonus of star power. To establish a foothold in the south, Tata Indicom willingly spent Rs.2 crore just to be associated with the recent Rajnikanth blockbuster, Chandramukhi.

4. Builds relationships:

Well known brands don’t need to build awareness. They need to build a relationship with them. Cadbury Five Star (a very popular chocolate brand) decided to associate itself with the Tamil movie Choklet. It was a movie of the youth showing fun and masti and Five Star wanted to associated with that feeling. They even went to the extent of having a song in the movie titled, “Five Star, Five Star.”

The well established brand Strepsils, known for its innovative marketing strategies, did not waste the opportunity of associating itself with, Preity Zinta who plays a radio jockey with a lovely voice in Salaam Namaste. This association helped make the brand look younger & trendier.

5. It’s the multiplex culture:

Retail marketing is at its peak today. With 250 malls coming up, it’s estimated that some 1800 screens would soon be put up in these multiplexes. Undoubtedly, this would drive the consumer, especially the SEC A viewer, away from the television to these malls & halls. With this kind of a promise, it is no surprise that brands too are flocking in with their goodies into these cinema halls.

6. A good launch platform:

Bollywood is the new ground for product launches today. Swift was launched in the movie Bunty Aur Babli. Titan launched its new range of jewellery in the movie Paheli. Not to be left behind, Rakesh Roshan has tied up with the jewellery brand D’damas. They will launch their jewellery (inspired by the film) in the film Krrish – a sequel of Koi Mil Gaya. The international brands like IKEA & Home Depot used the movie Humko Deewana Kar Gaye to launch their international range of furniture in India. This increase in curiosity level clearly helps brands to cash in on publicity generated quite regularly by such activities.

7. When you have no where to go:

Some companies don’t have many avenues left to advertise. For example, liquor companies are not allowed to advertise on TV. In-film product placement becomes a big opportunity for them. So Bagpiper was seen in the movie Dum, Zingaro Beer associated itself with Jism, while McDowell presented Stumped, Raveena Tandon’s home production. In fact, movies are great avenues for even cigarette companies to display their aura and brand personality. Philip Morris paid $350,000 to place Lark cigarettes in the James Bond film License to Kill, while Marlboro paid $42,500 to appear in Superman II. Such hidden advertising has great potential; though whether good or bad, is debatable.

8. Promos help the brand:

Today, promos of many movies also carry the logos of popular brand names. So Rang de Basanti had the Provogue logo in its promos. Zinda had D’Damas in its promos & trailers. Paheli saw Shah Rukh and Rani wearing Tanishq jewellery in their promos. Mangal Pandey – The Rising had the logos of Titan watches in its promos.

A word of caution. Subtlety is the key here. The message should be well-woven into the script. The product should blend with the theme of the movie. FedEx blended well with the script and storyline of Cast Away. Thums Up gelled well with the macho image of the Kaante men. In fact, it was so well placed that it was recognized as the top 10 brand associations of 2003 by Advertising Age Magazine. Being outlandish and loud will not work. The ad should say less, to be non-obtrusive. If it looks like an ad, the audience will switch-off.

The medium is powerful, there is no doubt about that. In fact movies are such a craze that not just the originals, but even the spoofs work well. Gold Member, which is a spoof on the James Bond film, showed a car called Shaguar (a spoof on Jaguar). They raised $120 million more than the original Bond film. That’s how big this film industry is. Today, brands are popping up everywhere, much more than previously. Be it TV shows or movies, one would find them everywhere. The hugely popular American Idol show has judges sitting with big red cups of Coca-Cola. The host of the show mentions AT&T wireless each time the contestants finish a song. Ford too has its logo prominently displayed here. They all paid a few million dollars for that. Just to satisfy your curiosity, each of the three paid $26 million for one deal. It sure must be worth it.

Back home, when Jassi was turning over from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan, companies made a beeline to be a part of the transformation. They knew a lot of girls across the country related to Jassi & they all wanted to grab the attention of this market. Be it TV or movies, the stakes are high, and so are the payoffs. It’s a thrilling ride. The canvas is large, the possibilities unlimited. Today, even movie names are getting branded. Consider these movies, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, or The Demise of Swissair, or The Devil Wears Prada. If grapewine is to be believed, there is a new Tamil movie coming up named Three Roses. This name of Three Roses happens to be a brand of soap from the HLL stable.

The day is not far when brands of such corporations would become producers (of movies, that is). But till then, in-film branding seems to suit both the producer and the marketers. One gets decreased costs, while the other gets increased visibility. So put on your impressive thinking caps. Innovators will be the most successful here. Get ready to Bond with the best. Let’s drink to that – a martini... shaken, yet not stirred!

You’ve got Mail

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The right message and design along wth the right database, can turn a direct mailer into a really lean, mean , marketing machine.


Back in 1886 a young railroad telegrapher in Minnesota acquired a shipment of unclaimed and thus undeliverable gold-filled pocket watches. They were exceptional in quality. He also happened to have a list of 20,000 names and addresses with him of railroad employees just like him. It struck him that they too would need an accurate timepiece. So he mailed each of them a letter which stated that he had just purchased an unclaimed freight of watches, whose quality he personally vouched for. He was selling them at a bargain price. Would they buy one from him?

If legend is to be believed, he sold all his watches in record time. Not just this, some of his new customers were soon ordering additional watches. So he mailed another letter to all his old customers, asking if they wanted more of those watches. Many said “Yes”.

If that was not enough some of his now regular customers, sent some of their watches for repair. So this time round he sent another letter to his customers, that he could also repair their disabled watches. He now expanded, by including repairing of watches as part of his business. Eleven years after his fortunate purchase of that unclaimed freight, his one page mailer had turned into a mail-order catalog of more than 750 pages with 6000 items. By 1902 the sales of his company had exceeded $50 million annually. The man was none other than Richard Sears, who founded the Sears, Roebuck & Company. Today the Sears Roebuck catalogue has become a household name. That’s Direct Marketing. If one has to go by definitions, then the best and the simplest was given by Drayton Bird. He said “any advertising activity which creates and exploits a direct relationship between you and your prospect or customer as an individual is Direct Marketing”.

Customers are getting more and more demanding. They expect greater variety of product and service to match their individual needs. They need to be targeted and marketed to directly, with tailor-made products. So direct marketing is growing in importance day-by-day. Today just about every company engages in direct marketing of one sort or another. In fact there are some businesses that are based on direct marketing – like Reader’s Digest or Time Life Books. Tools and techniques of direct marketing can be used effectively by any enterprise. Warner Brothers used it to promote their World War II movie “Memphis Belle”. They mailed 7,00,000 post cards offering a special $1 discount to each recipient and a guest for evening performances of the new movie. Interestingly these recipients were purchasers of the Time Life books or videos on subjects such as World War II, Nazi, Germany etc – all likely to be interested in the movie. Warner Brothers had formed a new organization Time Warner with the publisher Time Inc. They used this affiliation very intelligently to promote their movie. Direct Marketing did help in increasing ticket sales.

“If you sometimes unbutton your collar at the office we suggest you read on”. This was an advertisement for The Custom Shop Shirtmakers. It explained how only a custom made shirt could provide that extra quarter inch which was not possible in a readymade shirt. The ad. concluded by saying that “once we have your pattern you can reorder by mail or phone – very convenient” Come to think of it now you could actually order a shirt on the phone!

Back in 1952 Soichiro Honda and Mr. Fujisawa knew that one day they would have the best bikes in the world. Honda would make them and Fujisawa would market them. Honda soon made the Cub F-type. It was a small lightweight 50cc 2-stroke engine. It was smart and cute. This was also the time when often they would be asked by car dealers “What does this Honda Company do?” It was really difficult for them to get dealers and convince them to stock their product. That’s when Fujisawa thought of the numerous bicycle shops all over Japan. He decided to contact the country’s 50,000 bicycle shops by using a direct mail brochure. It was a masterpiece. It clearly showed how well he understood his customers. He wrote “After the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) your ancestors took the courageous decision to launch the imported bicycle in Japan and they are still the basis of your business today. But now customers want bicycles with engines. We at Honda have made such an engine. Please reply if you are interested”. Fifty – four years ago, there were no automated means of sending out 50,000 letters. Every single one had to be written by hand. The work was given to freelance clerks. However time was short so all the staff joined in to help. The response was incredible. They received 30,000 enthusiastic replies.

From movies to shirts to bikes – everyone has gone the direct way and it works. A good direct mailer is always a very useful marketing tool. A product is just a bundle of benefits; your direct mail copy lets the consumer “sample” the product’s benefits before he buys it. An intelligently written mailer can work wonders for the bottom line of your organization. Bi-Intelligent, Inc. a New York based software company was selling a product called “Easyfire” which could enhance the performance of several software applications. It was priced at $89.50. The company sent out mailers where the headline on the envelope read “For $89.50 you can make your IBM as easy to use as a Macintosh”. Surely a lot of people did open those envelopes.There are numerous factors to keep in mind while working on a direct mail campaign. Remember the simple 3C’s rule.

a. The Customer
The customer is the lifeblood of any organization. Every business is about creation and cultivation of customers. As Peter F. Drucker once observed “Companies are not in business to make things, but to make customers”. So you need to understand your target market well viz a viz – in terms of what are their need and desires, and what is it that will motivate them to buy. Not just this you also need to cultivate your customers. There is no tool stronger than direct marketing which helps in knowing and cultivating customers. Today with the help of technology, you can easily find out who are your repeat purchase customers, who are the one time buyers and who are the most loyal. Accordingly you can customize your mailers and achieve better results.

So, know your customers well, and establish a relationship with them. Sales are simply the results of such successful relationships.

b. The Contents Once you know your market well, you can design a content which appeals to it. Anyone can write a letter, but not everyone can write an effective letter. An effective letter is one which clearly indicates “What’s in it for you”. The reader should know instantly how he or she will benefit from the offering. The reader should feel that he is the special one. If you can give a personal tone to the letter chances of success are higher.

Enthusiasm is contagious. Show it in your letters. Write like a winner. Open your sales argument with your strongest sales points. The reader will definitely respond. Even though there are no rules yet some sentences always work. Like

  1. I have something you want….
  2. I want you to have this, but If I don’t hear from you I’ll have to offer it to somebody else.
  3. You can still get rich…

To these claims, if you can add something which makes those claims sound authentic, you have hit the nail on the head. To the above three claims you could add sentences like

  1. Here’s why or This is why I’ve chosen you for this offer.
  2. That’s because …
  3. This is what will happen…
There are some tricks which somehow always work.
  1. Open your letter with a question. It immediately and almost always involves the reader.
  2. Use exclamation marks… the reader will exclaim with you!
  3. Your contents should compel the reader to open the envelope. If you can do that, you have been successful. Consider this. You received a letter which says “Congratulations! You are our million dollar prize winner…”. Chances are you will open the envelope.
  4. Case studies have shown that a reader typically reads the first few lines of the letter and then his eyes go down the page to the P.S. So the postscript is your best buddy. Its always a good idea to incorporate the main points of the letter in the P.S. once again.
  5. Always call for action at the end. Either ask them to call a toll-free number, or create a deadline. A deadline usually increases the rate of response.
  6. “Brevity is the soul of wit” said William Shakespeare. He could not have been more correct. A short letter with short sentences and very simple eighth grade english always works.
  7. The Golden Rule is that there is no rule. Before you launch your direct marketing, blitz test, test and test. If it works it’s a rule! Follow these tips and you would be ready to make a rocking mailer.

b. The Contact The actual people who receive a mail from you are very critical. You must have the right mailing list. A good database is a very powerful tool and companies go to any extent to build it.

Gerber is a company known for baby food. The company entered into life insurance. While the baby food was sold off the shelf the company decided to sell its insurance policy by mail order. The insurance covered the child till he was 27 years old. The slogan they used to market to the parents was “Ask your baby about us.” Initially they had no database. However once the people applied, the company soon started targeting the children, once they became young adults. The mailer said “Your parents bought this life insurance for you when you were born and have been paying the premiums ever since. Isn’t it time you started buying your own life insurance?” The company had developed a relationship and was now leveraging that. Many of the children did stick to Gerber Life Insurance – just like their parents. If this was not enough, when the parents became grandparents, Gerber sent them a letter reminding them, how they had insured the lives of their children. Now wouldn’t they want to do the same for their grandchild? Not many refused!

A mailing list afterall is not just a collection of addresses. It is a list of people who actually need your product or service. Gerber for one sure has developed a very strong and relevant mailing list.

The falling birth rate in Britain was a cause for concern for C&J Clarks Ltd., Britain’s largest shoe manufacturer. The retailers started stocking less and less of baby shoes. Magazine advertising was not helping much either. So the company decided to go direct. They contacted 2,80,000 new mothers while they were still in the hospital and presented them with a “Bounty Box”. It contained a letter offering a poster which could be hung in the infant’s room and had a copy describing the various milestones the infant would pass through – like when would he start crawling then sitting then speaking then walking. When he would start walking he would need shoes. So the letter also described the benefits of buying the right “First Shoes” for the child. About 15% mothers wanted the poster. So Clarks soon had a database of 42,000 customers. When the children of these mothers were about to start walking, the mothers once again received a letter from Clarks with a leaflet describing how to choose the right shoes and the hazards of choosing ill-fitting shoes. Of course as the baby grew he would require another pair and there always was a letter from Clarks to remind the family where to go to. These letters always resulted in increase in sales because they were targeting the right customers.

The success of any direct mail programme depends of the Contact list. Make sure its relevant. Otherwise it doesn’t take long for “Bulk-mail” to become “Junk-mail”. That’s the razor’s edge you walk on. So you need to select your prospect with care.

Finally, remember studies have shown that it takes eight to ten contacts before people remember your message. No wonder you see the same ads being repeated again and again on T.V. So don’t stop mailing. Keep in touch with your customers constantly. Keep knocking on their mail boxes and keep reminding them about you and your product – they will take notice. If your mailer is well written and relevant they will respond. So go ahead reach out directly to them and say – you’ve got mail! It will work.