Wednesday, December 29, 2010
It’s time again to make New Year resolutions, make new promises, set new targets and make new plans. For most of us, it’s also a time to “wish-I-haddone-more”, wish I had planned better, worked harder, quit smoking, kept my new year resolution of 2010! This new year would also be the same as last year, if we do not start thinking differently. The last decade proved that in business, as in personal life, those brands and people who reinvented, stayed in business. You need to be alert and look out for new trends; but more than that, you need to be more aggressive in observing what’s not working and then changing it fast. Being in love with your old ways (however successful they were in the past) can be disastrous.

If you want to raise a happy child, the rule is, “Till he is five years old, treat him like a king. Till he is 13, treat him like a prince. From 13 to 18, treat him like a pauper. After 18, become his best friend.” The crux is that good parents change their ways as their children grow. Good marketers too change their strategies as markets and times change.

What worked this decade will be outdated in the new one. In the 1970s, the hottest marketing invention was the ‘Direct Mailer’. It is known as ‘Junk Mail’ today. The 1980s was dominated by “collect tokens; and exchange for gifts.” You were encouraged to collect bottle caps, tokens, labels and encouraged to exchange them for gifts, discounts etc. Today, you log on to or and find out exciting discount offers of the day. After all, who has the patience today to wait and collect a desired number of tokens and then get the discounts. The 1990s saw the explosion of ‘Loyalty Cards’. Every retailer had a loyalty programme, which promised discounts and freebies. Today, the consumer is not motivated by just discounts. He wants more. He wants to take charge – and Smirnoff showed him how. It launched a campaign named “Be There”. You were invited to a nightclub, but there was more it. Loyal consumers even got a chance to plan which music they wanted to hear and everything else they wanted to do that night via Smirnoff’s Facebook page. Today, those are the Fan Pages on Facebook that do more business for a brand, than loyalty cards do.

The new decade is all about ‘interactivity’. On December 14, 2010, Apple launched its first iAd for the iPad with the advertisement of Disney’s new film Tron Legacy. The advertisement featured 10 minutes of video and movie stills. Ipad had a movie theater locator with showtimings and a preview of the sound track, which you, as a privileged user, had the option of purchasing from iTunes. With the iPad becoming the “it” thing for gifting this holiday season, and with already more than 7.5 million iPad users worldwide, advertising professionals would soon have to reinvent and start thinking beyond the 30 or 60 second spots on TV, for those are the interactive advertisements that will be the next new exciting trend of the coming years.

All that you learnt about marketing in school is going to change totally. So be ready to give up your favourite ideas and start adopting new ones.

A great leader, like a great parent, changes and moulds his ways first. More importantly, a good leader never fails to accept his mistakes. It helps him to remove the shackles, free himself from the burden of his faults and move faster.

On April 10 this year, Microsoft launched its social networking phones Kin1 and Kin2. Exactly 79 days later, on June 30, 2010, it killed the products. A record! No other products till date had had such a short lifespan. To survive, you need to innovate; but to sustain success, you need to quickly kill innovations that went wrong. Sometimes, there is no second chance for flops. Intelligent marketers know that. ESPN launched its mobile phones in 2006 with the idea of offering exclusive ESPN content. No one bought either the product or the idea. ESPN withdrew the concept within eight months. HD DVD was supposed to be the next big thing after the traditional DVD. However, Blu–ray of Sony took away the cake and the Toshiba led HD DVD disappeared from the forefront within two years.

In their haste to outperform their competitors, sometimes apparently great sounding innovations fail to perform. An intelligent marketer should not hesitate to accept defeat, drop the idea and move on. It’s more cost effective that way, than trying to pump in more money in marketing a flop idea. Sometimes, it is argued that marketing kills the spirit of innovation. A dead idea, with excellent marketing can extend the life of that idea. We need to watch out for such ideas and kill them at the right time. Microsoft launched Zune in 2006, to compete with the iPod. It came nowhere close. Even today, Zune is struggling. Time you gave up the fight Bill Gates and dropped it. After all, when it comes to innovation, the one man, the one company that defeats all by miles is Steve Jobs and Apple. The 1990s saw Apple losing out to competitors and almost fading away; but the last decade belonged to Steve Jobs. Jobs has set new benchmarks, created and started new trends and changed marketers and consumers forever.

The key to successful reinvention is consistent investment and focus on innovation. The one company that dared to challenge and even defeat the biggies is Samsung. Whoever thought that this Korean company could defeat Japanese electronic giants – but Samsung did just that. Consistent investment in innovation has helped it beat giants like Sony; and now, Apple too is feeling threatened by it.

It is innovation that has transformed HP from an under performing printer-reliant giant to the world’s largest tech company. Huawei Technologies managed to become the #2 telecom-equipment provider and to beat big competitors like Nokia Siemens through constant product updates. The biggest innovator of the decade award definitely goes to Facebook. It is gobbling up competitors and making the whole world its consumer. By constantly innovating, it’s ensured that no one will come even remotely close to it.

Success makes us comfortable. No matter how impressive, we cannot rest on past laurels. The key is to identify when a successful idea has reached its full potential and is ready to be discarded or reinvented or rejuvenated. Leaders who reinvent themselves are the ones who reinvent their companies too. IBM was famous for its big mainframe computing systems. Today, the company has a large services component, responsible for its growth and profitability.

The decade started with the burst of the dot-com bubble in the year 2000. Thousands and thousands lost all their money, hundreds of companies closed down. Then in 2004, Tim O’Reilly and John Batelle held the first Web 2.0 conference and shocased to the world the immense benefits of “the web as a platform.” This resulted in a plethora of social media sites being created, which changed our world forever. The internet was reinvented and rejuvenated. Like never before. Today, it’s the internet & the social networking sites that are turning our world around.

Failures are a part of life and the strong reinvent and take failures in their stride. However, the players who leave the maximum impact are the ones who don’t take success for granted. They genuinely believe that it is only constant change that will give them sustained success.

It’s time to reinvent as the New Year approaches. It’s time to think deep, to really feel the urge to live your life. So, all that you have wanted to do but never did – go ahead, do it! Start with yourself; give up one bad habit. Stop smoking, give up on junk food, eat less and reinvent yourself. You deserve it. As you start reinventing yourself, you will not hesitate to reinvent your team, your leadership style, your marketing campaign and your brand.

Let’s end the New Year in truly believing in the power of reinvention, for that will help us to keep our New Year resolutions.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Yes, it’s too time consuming to wait to be let in. If you want to create an impact, you have to be quick. You have to be aggressive. You don’t knock. You just walk on in! In marketing too, a lot of brands have done it by catching our attention and our imaginations and walking right into our lives.

In fact, when you do so, it doesn’t matter whether you are big or small, old or new. What matters is how aggressive you are. If you put your energies in the right direction, even the mighty will crumble in front of you.


The person topping the list of “Dares” seems to be Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who is spilling the beans on the Pentagon, the Government, and even on corporations. He has shown what “being bold” can do. A single man who has dared to take on the Goliaths, much like some brands, the Davids, who took on themighty Goliaths and defeated them.
A new player in the telecommunications sector, this brand has shaken the old players. Its advertising campaign said it all. “Do the new and the world will follow, like other mobile networks did, or at least tried to. 1 paisa per second. Across India. Any network. No special packs. For life. Do the new.” Tata Docomo changed the rules of the game with its innovative pricing strategy. Another new entrant created waves in the Indian markets. Yes, it’s always been bold, been different and even irreverent, and that’s what makes consumers love it so much. Virgin entered the Indian shores with its Virgin mobile with STD rates @ 20 paise/min, and started the “Indian Panga League”. A series of telephonic conversations between fans of IPL teams. Eight passionate IPL fans from eight different states fighting all day long over STD calls. The tongue-in-cheek humour was a first of its kind to be seen on Indian shores. It was daring, delighted the fans and even dared to challenge the biggies in the business. Much like its founder Richard Branson who has always challenged the norms and the big players and managed to snatch his piece of the market share pie from them.

A clear favourite of the customers and with a market share of around 80%, Hero Honda stands way ahead of its competitors. Yet, this small player used a creative strategy to challenge the Goliath. Bajaj knew the best way was to target ‘mileage’, something that Indians value the most. Hero Honda had become famous because of its “Fill it. Shut it. Forget it.” campaign, which showed consumers how fuel efficient its bikes were. Bajaj did the same. Its “Discover India with the power of 1 litre” campaign highlighted the Discover bike’s super mileage power in an extremely interesting manner. The travellers on a Bajaj bike discovered amazing places like Mattur, near Manglore, where people still speak Sanskrit, places like the Magnetic Hill near Ladhak, which has magnetic properties strong enough to pull bikes uphill. The ads truly helped us discover India and helped the company discover new markets. The challenger ads helped Discover surpass its monthly target of 30,000 bikes, as sales touched 75,000! It sure made a big dent in the leader’s market share.

Just a good product will not solve your problems. You need to aggressively market it and many times you need to take on competitors headlong, challenge them and shake them up, so that the consumers notice you.


It’s not easy to reach the No.1 spot; you need to fight hard, and sometimes even snatch that spot, like Rin did. It came out with advertisements which clearly mentioned it was superior. The ads stated, “Tide se kahin behatar safedi de Rin”. Of course, Tide filed a case and Rin got into a controversy; but it helped generate a buzz – which is most important. Audi joined the top league when it came out with the advertisement which mentioned, “Audi is growing faster than BMW, Lexus & Mercedes.” Now, whether it was actually growing faster or not, did not bother the consumer much. However, it changed people’s perceptions about the car. Now, they clubbed it along with BMW and Mercedes. Audi jumped the rungs and established itself as the premium brand. Yes, sales increased too.

Sometimes, the fight for the top spot is taken public, consumers love it, and it never fails to grab eyeballs. Coke and Pepsi have been doing it for years. Apple and its humorous takes on Microsoft defined its brand personality and brand image as uber cool in comparison to the fuddy duddy one that competitor Microsoft had.


With the marketplace getting so cluttered for the No.2 was neglected. Of course, not always. Some very intelligent marketers knew that when there is no space at the top, it pays to be clearly labelled as No.2, for that makes people notice you. Avis did that years ago. Hertz was the leader and had the maximum awareness when it came to car rentals. So, Avis brought out its iconic ad, “We are number 2, that’s why we try harder.” Everyone knew who was No.1, but now for the first time a new slot was defined. So, if for some reason, a consumer could not get Hertz, he knew whom to call next. Avis carved a niche for itself, and did brisk business for now the consumer knew, maybe not No.1, but Avis was as good, and definitely better than hoards of others.

Hindustan Times (HT) seems to be doing the same in Mumbai. Its ads claim that “Hindustan Times beats DNA to become No.2 in Mumbai.” The beginning of this month saw HT advertising how it was now very close to the market leader, The Times of India, with a readership of 5.92 lakhs, a lead of 17,000 over DNA.

Sometimes, it pays to play the second fiddle. Miller High Life has always positioned itself as the “good” beer, providing “good” value for money. Miller Coors is America’s second largest company and it decided to take the second position seriously. In 2009, when the market leaders were paying $3 million for 30 seconds of airtime during the Super Bowl, Miller said it was No.2 and did not believe in spending so much and thought a “one-second ad” during the Super Bowl Sunday was enough to make its point. So, days before the Super Bowl, it started its 30 second teasers, promoting its 1-second-ad that it would air on Super Bowl Sunday, for its commonsense philosophy could be conveyed in just one second. The No.2, with a tiny ad budget drew more attention than the big spenders.


If you are sure about your product and your philosophy, you can tackle not one, not two, but many competitors at one go – much like our Bollywood heroes who cansingle-handedly fight all the bad guys and emerge victorious. That’s exactly what Brita water filter system did. It came out with ads which claimed that tap water in developed countries was excellent and there was no need to spend money on bottled water and increase pollution, for 16 million gallons of oil were consumed to make plastic water bottles – which could be totally avoided by using the reusable Brita water filter bottles. It asked you to drink responsibly and avoid buying bottled water in plastic bottles. Tap water was as good after all!

It takes vision and guts to speak out against the leader. But if you have a better product, it’s best to just bulldoze your way into the minds of the consumer with an aggressive marketing campaign. It works! Don’t knock ! Just barge in!


Thursday, December 2, 2010
His business plans go a little beyond – well, infinity, if I may put it that way. The vision of his company is to make us a multiplanetary civilization. Yes, we needn’t fear being stuck on Earth forever when some unforeseen tragedy strikes. For that 39 year old Elon Musk and his company Space X, are inventing a reusable orbit-class rocket, which according to him, will be one of the most important inventions in history. He plans to take us to various planets and he may be successful, faster than we think he can. However far flung his vision may sound, for starters, the man has managed to win a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to help deliver cargo to the International Space Station located 200 miles above the Earth.

Wow! That’s what dreamers are made of, those who dare to think beyond – in this case, way beyond the ordinary. Elon is also one entrepreneur who has his eyes set on the future. He has a car company. It’s no ordinary car company but an electric car company named Tesla. He also has a power firm; no ordinary power firm, but a solar power firm named Solar City. In the distant future, probably those are the businesses that will thrive, and survive.


Traditionally, the companies that traded in oil were the ones who made the maximum money and became the world’s biggest companies. So you had companies like Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP etc dominating the lists. They were soon joined by companies that used this oil to run their products. So those were the carmakers who started sharing space with them; and you saw companies like Toyota Motors, General Motors, et al join the group. However, the new trend is different today. The world’s largest corporation is one that manufactures more or less nothing – forget thriving on natural resources. Today, the world’s largest corporation is Walmart. From being a discount retailer chain to one that believes in selling energy-efficient bulbs (it sold 145 million of these in 15 months) to joining the Clinton Climate Initiative, Walmart knew that just giving discounts was not going to be enough. It had to show customers that it was progressive too. That and some quick global expansions validating that perspective have today made it No.1.

Things are changing fast. The Hotmail is hot no more. Gmail replaced it; and even that too could be a gone-mail soon, for now you have Facemail – the new service provided by Facebook. A lot of youngsters today don’t even remember when they last sent an e-mail. Its so passé... You message or mail via Facebook now.

It was the leader in car-rentals and ruled the business. It was the undisputed leader. Even its competitors acknowledged that. That’s why, when Avis wanted to catch the attention of consumers, it did what all others had done – acknowledged the leader. Hertz was the leader and Avis said so in its advertisement that read, “We are No.2, that’s why we try harder.” The advertisements shot Avis to fame, but little did they know that things would change soon for both Avis and Hertz. Here came a company that defined business. Its mission: “We are redefining the way people think about transportation.” This company went beyond car rentals. Now, you could rent a car for even an hour and at very nominal rates. Zipcar found that 77% of Manhattan (New York) households don’t own a car and knew instantly that America was ready for a carsharing company. Zipcar beat Hertz in its own game. Today, Hertz is trying hard to cope up by introducing its own car-sharing business model “Connect by Hertz” to get some share of the car-sharing segment. Zipcar is, however, cooler. Its members are called Zipsters. They are modern and believe in car-sharing more than in car-owning as the way to live. Everybody from students to businesses now hire a car of their choice, that too at rock-bottom rates. It’s simple, fun and will help change the world for the better. It’s the future of travelling. It’s the business of the future.


Remember what mom told us as kids; “Sharing is caring.” Today, that’s the business model that’s giving the maximum profits. The future of business is sharing, as Lisa Gansky very appropriately mentions in her new book The Mesh.

From a consumer’s point of view, it’s much easier to hire (share) than buy. If it were not so, Netflix (the iconic DVD rental company) would not have been so successful. would not have been so popular; so much so that it even featured in the movie Sex and the City. Why buy when you can hire it at a fraction of the price? It’s no more just music that people are sharing on the Internet. is an interesting website where you can send a box of clothes your child has outgrown and swap them for another box of clothes that fit your child. All you do is pay $5 plus shipping charges every time you swap. A box-full of clothes for just $5 is not a bad deal! Not bad at all, considering the company has already raised $1.4 million, which brings its total funding to $1.7 million. A startup couldn’t have asked for more. It’s already got 12,000 members, saved families an estimated $195,000 in children’s clothing, all in a year’s time. That’s what makes for a great business idea. Sharing saves money and makes money for you too.

“A great deal everyday” – that’s what makes Groupon a company everybody is salivating for. Be it restaurants, bars, films, sports, there is a money-saving deal everyday that Groupon sends to its members via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. It could even be a simple 50% off on a spa treatment. However, the offer is valid if a certain number of people opt for it. So, if you find an interesting deal, you need to “share” it with your friends. If the required number of people don’t choose it, the offer expires. It’s crazily good and everybody loves to save money. The company started in 2008, and today boasts of revenues upwards of $50 million a month. This April, it was valued at $1 billion. With 20 million subscribers, and presence in 29 countries, the business model has inspired hundreds of clones.

Everybody wants a share of the lucrative business idea, and everybody wants Groupon. In early December 2010, it was rumoured that not only was Google attempting to takeover Groupon in a $2.5 billion bid, but also that Yahoo was willing to pay $4 billion for the firm. This sure seems to be one of the best ways to ‘share’ & earn.

Even its clone in India is today listed among India’s most visited websites. Not bad for a company started 8-9 months ago.

‘Sharing’ is the new business model. Share a car, a deal, clothes, dvds, bags, anything and chances are you’ll make it big. There’s an old saying, “You become successful by helping others become successful.” In this business too, you earn when you help others save by sharing.


Street dancing just became the next big thing. A group of street dancers decided to show the world how beautiful street dancing could be. When Miley Cyrus (then 15 years old) left a message with one of the dancers that she loved their show Step Up 2, the group saw this as an opportunity. They didn’t know her number, so they challenged her on YouTube to an online dance battle. Whoever thought that that would work, got it perfectly right. It worked like hell and the online battle got a million hits within a week. Soon, Lindsay Lohan, Diana Ross, Adam Sandler all joined the battle and this group, LXD (The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers), became the biggest hit. It’s now a web series broadcast exclusively on Hulu. It’s more popular than the regular dance shows on TV. LXD showed the world a new way of viewing art and making money. They have become so popular that from the Oscars to Bill Gates, everyone has seen them and loves them.

If you thought charity meant donating old books and clothes to the needy, think again. Worldreader is an organization that believes in putting a whole library in the hands of the needy. It’s distributing Kindles (e-readers) to the children of the villages of Ghana in Africa, for now they can get any book from anywhere in the world and even “listen” to a book if they don’t know how to read. The e-readers are not just opening up their minds, but are opening up a whole new world for these people. That’s the charity of the future.

If you have an idea, you can change the rules, for in today’s world, the rule is – there are no rules. That’s the future of business. Have you got your idea for the future?


Thursday, November 18, 2010
Your first kiss, your first love, listening to an old song, walking in the rain, receiving a mail from an old acquaintance, watching your child sleep, watching the sunset, waking up to find you still have an hour to sleep, getting a gift that you were planning to buy, seeing your parents smile, sipping coffee in the winter sun! Guess these are just some of the moments that are our ‘bestest’ ones. Life is full of challenges, heartbreaks, pressures and tensions, but true satisfaction and long lasting happiness comes from some of the simplest things that life has to offer.

As in life, so in business, the best things are the simplest. Let’s take a closer look.


The most famous scientist who ever lived, and the person responsible for giving the most famous equation of the world: E=mc2, was, yes we all know, Albert Einstein. What made this man so famous and made his theories create the maximum impact was not just his genius in analysing things, but in his ability to explain even the most complicated theories in the simplest manner possible. Even a layman, a non-scientific brain could understand them. One of the simplest explanations of Einstein’s ‘Theory of Relativity’ was given by a young fellow, and this is what he said: “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it seems longer than an hour. That’s the crux of the Theory of Relativity.” Einstein too could simplify the various laws of physics and make everyone understand them.

We live in an “over communicated” society where an avalanche of news, messages, ads, et al, greet us every single day. If you want to stand out, you need to be simple; it’s the best way to beat the clutter.

Think of the punch line of any advertisement you like. Chances are, it will be short and simple. The most memorable advertisements have been the simplest ones.

Ask a creative guy and he will tell you how difficult it is to be simple. Simplicity is an art, and as one of the most famous artists of our times Leonardo Da Vinci said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” A great machine is not necessarily the most sophisticated one; it’s rather the one that’s simplest to understand by the person who will use it. The corollary? A great marketing message is the one that’s absolutely clear to the consumers. “Iodex maliye, kaam pe chaliye” is the simplest way to describe a quick-pain relief ointment. “The ultimate driving machine” best describes the pleasure that money could buy! BMW remains the world’s hottest brand. Alka Seltzer’s punch line “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is!” made the brand an instant hit. From Nike’s “Just do it” to McDonald’s “I’m lovin it” to Coca Cola’s “It’s the real thing”, those are simple sentences that have been responsible for creating the magic and making the brand name stick in the mind of the consumers.

In today’s world, it’s of utmost importance to focus on simplicity. In fact, your future survival will depend on it. According to UNICEF, “Nearly a billion people will enter the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names and a third of them are women.” According to the National Adult Literacy Survey (1992), some 47% of the US population demonstrated low levels of literacy. The case would not be better for most other economies. As business people, we need to understand that these are our consumers and if we really want to sell them, or tell them anything, it better be simple for them to truly understand and appreciate the message.

A simple marketing campaign, breaks through the clutter, is cost effective and works! Yes, simplicity works! Not surprising then that this year, the New York Festival, which awards the world’s best advertising campaigns, has introduced a new category “Marketing Effectiveness” which awards the simplest and most effective campaigns.

In the long run, those will be simple things that last. As Richard Bach said: “The simplest things are often the truest.” The simplest campaigns are the most honest – no wonder they work


This man is responsible for creating the world’s most competitive enterprise. When he became the CEO in 1981, its market capitalisation was $13 billion. In 2000, when Jack Welch stepped down, GE’s market cap was at $500 billion. His prescription for winning: “Have the courage to be simple.” He says keeping things simple is the key. Simple messages travel faster, simple designs work better, simple ideas impact the world and consumers more.

The world’s most successful investor and self-made billionaire, Warren Buffet, says it’s a simple business made complicated by investment advisors and analysts. His advice is simple; his way of working is simple too. He spends most of his day alone, thinking and analysing. If he wants to invest, he studies the financials himself. His advice, “Don’t follow the crowd, don’t rely on an outsider, but [do] your own research and invest in a company that has a strong foundation.” That’s the way he made his billions; not with the help of complicated models and charts but by finding good companies built on simple but strong foundations.

Simplicity is the route to success. While others were making complicated marketing strategies, this company decided to simplify the purchase process of the consumers. It took the product directly to consumers’ homes where one could see, touch, experience the product and then buy it. Dell made a fortune by just simplifying the way computers were sold. This direct marketing strategy showed the world a new and easy way of doing business.

Google would not have been such a hit so soon had it not been so simple to use. Right from the design of its page to the process, everything was kept as simple as possible.

Whoever thought something as basic and simple as a flip-flop could build a business empire and a world famous brand! Inspired by the Zori, the Japanese sandals made of fabric straps and rice straw soles, the Havaiana flip flops took the world by storm with their colorful, trendy designs and catchy slogans. Today, it is the hottest brand of Brazil. The brand has an exclusive outlet everywhere, as the ad slogan goes: “Havaianas. Everyone wears them.” Today, everybody wants to own a pair. Their product promise is simple – here is a slipper that would not lose its shape, not smell and the straps would not get loose. A simple product, a simple promise of quality and an iconic brand was born!

Nick Robertson was in the business of entertainment, but he noticed how much people loved the clothes, accessories, et al, that celebrities wore. He started a website with a simple idea of giving fans information about who was wearing what and called it ASOS (As seen on screen). Today, ASOS, not just gives info, but sells the labels that celebrities wear and its own line of clothes too! A simple business idea, snowballed into a huge profitable venture!

Tsubaki, a hair-care brand of Shiseido, saw that most beauty brands used Western models in their advertisements. Tsubaki realised that if Japanese women were supposed to buy their product, then it was best to show Japanese models. Their ad campaign did just that and showed how Japanese women were just as beautiful, if not more, than Western models. The brand, with a simple change in its strategy, won the hearts of the consumers and market share.

Facebook has changed the way people communicate, do business, advertise and search and now even send e-mails. It became a rage because of its simplicity. Just a click could get you going. This is the key to any good website too. Simple sites are not so expensive; and they even work better. Expensive ‘Flash’ sites give you no added edge. Most people don’t watch the flash and the few who do don’t do it more than once. It’s best to keep the site simple. Look at Apple’s website – its clean & clutter free. Twitter is being touted as the best designed website for its absolute simplicity.

According to the survey done by Advertising Age of the World’s Hottest Brands, two brands stood out in India, the Nano, and the Fullerton India Credit Co. Both businesses had a simple goal. The first one wanted to build a car for the common man about whom no one had thought of earlier; and the second decided to give loans to the simple, small-business owners of rural India for whom no bank had given any importance earlier. These small businessmen were scared to approach the big brands for loans, so Fullerton went to them and simplified the process. With the help of mobile vans, it went from village to village and helped in giving loans to these people to build their businesses – and in the process, they built a great brand for themselves too.

You de-cluttered your house this Diwali to make way for the goddess of wealth to enter. It’s time you did the same with your business. You need to win over your customers and the best way is to KISS them – Keep It Simple Silly. Keep your business ideas, vision statements, websites, your product design, your communication, as simple as possible, for that’s the best way to sell.


Thursday, October 21, 2010
Once again it’s that time of the year when the world gets into a festive mood. It’s going to be Christmas soon and marketers are already, ready with their plans and their campaigns. Back in India, Dussehra just got over, but festivities have only just begun, with the grand-dad of all festivals – “Diwali”, just around the corner. It’s that time of the year when everyone goes on a buying spree. Consumption reigns supreme this time.

However at the heart of all this frantic activity lies a simple thought – “the power of giving”. Yes gift giving is central to Diwali. It’s a way of paying homage to the deity of wealth – Goddess Lakshmi. No wonder Diwali is the largest gift giving and shopping festival of India. Gifts symbolise one’s prayers to the almighty for the prosperity and well being of the recipient. “Giving” is at the heart of all festivities, and “giving” should also be at the heart of all marketing activities.

This kind of giving is one of the oldest tricks in the books – a free gift! An interesting ‘freebie’ to help sell products. It’s something marketers have been using for decades to lure customers away from the competition.

Giving is powerful. It is a very strong way of communicating. It is “emotional communication”, which is one form of communication that creates the maximum impact. Be it in business, where you need to build relations with consumers or be it in personal relationships, one needs to develop and build emotional intelligence skills, to have and to maintain enriching relationships.

The effectiveness of “giving” (read as Freebies) is not something new. Marketers world over know the lure that the word ‘FREE’ holds for consumers. It somehow always works. An interesting discovery happened at This was at a time when one was supposed to pay an additional $3.95 for shipping if one purchased a book worth $16.95. Then they introduced a new scheme, which said if the customers bought another book & the total became more than $31.90, the shipping would be FREE! The FREE Shipping was so tempting that even though many did not want a second book, but for availing the free shipping, they were ready to pay for the second book!

“Consumers respond to the allure of FREE like starving people at a buffet,” says Dan Ariely in his book Predictably Irrational. Getting something at “zero cost” seems totally irresistible. No wonder, as you get ready to shop for Diwali, you will be lured by these free, “zero cost” products for every purchase. A TV stand “free” with the TV could swing your choice away from the competitor who does not make a similar offer.

Yes India contributed “ZERO” to the world, but did not realise how important a marketing tool it would become. A “free gift” is one of the best ways to improve sagging sales. After all, who does not like products that come at ‘zero’ cost. So deep is our love for ‘zero’ that Pepsi discovered that if it put “Zero calories” on its cans, the sales were more than even if it put “one calorie”!!

This festive season, marketers world over will be tempting consumers with “gifts” for every purchase they make. It’s the best way to build an emotional connect with the consumers.

However ‘giving’ is now acquiring a whole new meaning today. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) celebrated its 100-year anniversary last week in Orlando. The biggies of marketing attended the convention. There was P&G, and Coca-Cola and Dell, and all of them agreed on one thing – “the power of a gift”. The “gift” in question was not just a “freebie”, but a gift that would make the world a better place. Tide started its ‘Loads of Hope’ campaign after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. It sent a mobile laundermat to the affected area and washed, dried & folded the clothes of the families hit by the hurricane – for free. They realized what a big difference such a little thing as clean clothes made to the people. Not just this, P&G seems to be giving a whole new meaning to its business statement. It says, “We are in the business of helping moms”. It’s no more just a company that makes household and personal care products. This time it’s “giving” moms everywhere what they deserve most – “recognition”. It signed up this July, with the International Olympic Committee, which would give P&G global sponsorship rights for the next five Olympic Games, from London 2010 to 2020. This will help it to “give” back to moms globally. Under its “Proud sponsor of Moms” campaign, it took 25 moms to watch their children contest in the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010. It’s even planning to make a documentary video series called “Raising an Olympian”, which would tell stories of Olympic hopefuls as seen through the eyes of their moms. All this has resulted in 30% higher recall among target audiences and of all the Olympic advertisements, P&G Olympic ads showed a 62% higher message recall! That’s the power of “giving back”.

Brands today are looking beyond “freebies” and “giving” to causes that are relevant to their brand. It makes them more likeable, people connect better. Agreed that the purpose of a business is to make a profit, but no business can truly succeed if that’s its sole motivation. Your business should stand for a purpose, a cause too.

Giving with a twist of humor makes the campaign even more interesting & memorable. “Deforest yourself. Reforest the World” is an interesting campaign that was launched by Philips Norelco this year in May, where it challenged the hairiest men of New York to have their chest “deforested” by actress Carmen Electra! For every Body groom product sold, Philips would donate one tree. After all, it believed that ‘deforestation’ was today acceptable only on the human body!!

When you give to help make the world a better place, you win more hearts. This strategy is not just good for the world, but your bottom lines too.

An organization can stand the tests of time if it has a solid purpose for its existence defi ned by its founders. Business with a sense of responsibility is what makes for a strong business house that won’t be over in one generation.

An interesting survey caught my eye which talked of “Good Brands of 2010”. Topping the survey were, Google at No. 1, Apple at No. 2, Jamie Oliver at No. 3 and so on. Interestingly, all were great givers. Google gave us the power to search for whatever we wanted – for free! Apple gave the world some of its best products & is actually helping every possible business do business better today. In 2009, while other business were fighting for survival, there were some who racked up double digit sales & profits growth. At number one was a company United Service Automobile Associations (USAA) ranked 132 on the 2010 Fortune 500 list. In 2009, its revenues grew by 36%. Apart from other factors, it was a simple iPhone application that its chief Joe Robles developed, which helped the company grow. The application allowed soldiers from rugged outposts like Iraq and Afghanistan to deposit money from anywhere in the world, thus making USAA a leader in mobile banking. Think about it. It’s not just the iPhone, or the stunning iPad that have made Apple score a 12.5% revenue growth in 2009, inspite of its CEO Steve Jobs being on medical leave for the first half of 2009; but it’s the zillions of applications that Apple gives for “free” which make its products most appealing. A month after iPad’s launch, Apple’s iTunes store recorded its 10 billionth download! Yes, “giving” makes a difference – and how!

Jamie Oliver does business of a different kind. Through his TV show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution USA”, he raised awareness about the way children eat – especially in public schools. Food was not just meant to taste good, but improve lives. Giving American children the knowledge of healthy eating helped Oliver do brisk business too.

As David Ogilvy said in his famous quote, “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife”. Today’s consumer is quick to reject falsehoods as easily as he is ready to accept authenticity.

Yes, it’s time for business houses to think about “giving” & giving beyond freebies. This Diwali, let us pledge to give and give freely & from the heart. As Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”. So give, give away, your best ideas, your best thoughts, give freebies, give to the society. The best businesses are headed by great givers. Tatas, one of India’s most respected business houses, showed how to give. It gave the poor a car (Nano) a water purifier (Swach) and now it’s gone & given Rs.220 crores to Harvard, thus leaving an indelible impression on the world. You start giving too, and there is no better time than now to experience the power of giving. It’s the right time to master the art of giving.


Thursday, October 7, 2010
There was something very interesting that happened at Christie’s (the auction house) in London on September 29, 2010. The auction was very unique. The room was packed and beyond – people had even formed queues outside Christie’s; the heightened interest made the authorities shift the auctioning to a bigger room. People were bidding not just inside the room, many were on telephone, many more were registered online, from countries all over the world. From New York to Dubai, nobody wanted to miss the action… It was the auction of 300 items from Lehman Brothers’ London headquarters – paintings, miniature battleships, et al. It’s interesting to note that while not many were interested in the sale of Lehman’s European business (which was bought by a Japanese company Nomura), this auction was evidently different – and the most interesting bid was for a large metal nameplate that used to adorn Lehman’s London headquarters. An anonymous bidder bought the sign over telephone at an exorbitant price of £42,050. It was symbolic, for these letters symbolised the beginning of something new. The collapse of Lehman Brothers had ignited the global financial crisis, which changed the world forever.

Incidentally, Lehman Brothers’ mission statement was another sign that fetched record prices! It read: “We are one firm defined by our unwavering commitment to our clients, our shareholders and each other”!

A company that once seemed invincible is today gone!

“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,” these words of Lord Alfred Tennyson from the story The Passing of Arthur should never be forgotten if you don’t want to become redundant. It’s the “mantra” to help one keep growing.


Daimler, the world’s no.2 luxury carmaker, was in for a pleasant surprise when its largest order in Asia came from a dusty small town in India, one which most people probably have never heard about – Aurangabad. 115 Mercedes-Benz vehicles were ordered by the Aurangabad Chamber of Commerce. It seemed like a prank, but it went on to prove a point. If you don’t learn to look beyond, you may miss big opportunities. Don’t do what everybody is doing. Most multinationals, when entering a new market, simply look at the top 10 cities of that country.

If you want to race ahead, think ahead, for according to Boston Consulting Group, your next billion consumers will not come from the biggies, but small towns that have quietly grown while no one was noticing. Aurangabad drew the world’s attention by this gimmick of ordering 115 sedans (Mercedes, eventually sold some 148 cars there!). There are places like Curitiba in Brazil, Xiaochang in China, Yekaterinburg in Russia, and Amritsar in India, where the new markets lie. Not surprising, Wal-Mart has opened in Amritsar and guess what it caused – a huge traffic jam as Amritsaris in BMWs lined up to check out the new store!

If you want to make a quick buck, look beyond the obvious. The one multinational that has done this is Unilever. It never feared stepping off the beaten track and exploring new markets. It always succeeded. So can you!


Shakira recently sang the line: “It’s time for Africa...” Well, in business circles, the new song which hopes to set the cash registers jiggling to a happy tune is: “It’s time for Asia”!

UBS AG, Switzerland’s largest bank discovered that a large majority of its richest clients were from Asia. The number of ultra-rich Asians climbed 37% in 2009, which is double the global pace. With so much wealth-creation happening, Asia becomes a very important market. This quarter, UBS AG is focusing on its Asian clients and their needs.

India is Asia’s rising power. Its 9% growth rate, its rapidly increasing middle class, is making it the hot destination for the low-growth Western governments!

As if Slumdog Millionaire was not enough to showcase India’s dirty underbelly, the Commonwealth Games gave the Western world a display of how India functions. The world criticised our corruption, lack of planning and shoddy implementation. However, the flipside is: it’s these very nations (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) that are fighting hard to get into trade agreements with us. It’s also interesting to note that not one of the 54 participating counties backed out of India’s Commonwealth Games despite such negative publicity! India is today too important for the world. We may not work like the West, but the world has to accept “our way”, however chaotic we may be and however much we may have a habit of getting things done at the last minute. As Mr. Lee of Center for Independent Studies in Sydney quoted, “North Korea has great military parades with 2,00,000 people, but no one looks at them” even though they are executed with perfection. The world is watching India. Yes, it’s definitely time for India. If you want to test your entrepreneurial skills, look no further. India is your playground. Vijayawada, Ujjain, et al, may be difficult to find on the map of India, but you may find your best business opportunity in these places!


“If you think you can, you are right” – I believe in this quote from the book Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch. There is nothing more powerful than a strong resolve. Napoleon Hill in his world famous book Think and Grow Rich writes: “Thoughts are things and powerful things, when mixed with purpose and persistence”. Most great entrepreneurs have started not with big money, a great education or a strong circle of influence, but a steely resolve and the will to win.

Know first where you want to go and keep going no matter how hard the going is. You know not when you will strike gold!

Who had ever imagined that the once financial powerhouse Lehman Brothers would be auctioned off, that America would lose its sheen and that the world would change? All of it happened; and those who kept working are reaping the rewards. The new emerging nations – India, Brazil and China – are making the developed nations stumble. Save one. Germany! It’s growing faster than US. Its citizens for years have accepted wage cuts in return for life-long employment. And today, unemployment there is lesser than US. Of all the developed nations, it’s the strongest right now. Today, it’s the showcase of eurozone. This year, as Germany celebrates 20 years of its unification, it has shown the world that it is ready. It’s beaten all, and as the world gets ready to come out of the recession, Germany is prepared.

However, India is ready too. It has become too important to ignore. Look no further, for the world is coming here, looking for their next billion consumers, their next growth opportunity. You get ready too. Your pot of gold could be buried right under your feet! Get ready to be a part of this growth and let’s prepare to make our first million – right here!


Thursday, September 23, 2010
“I have two instincts, I want to have fun, and I want to change the world. As a rock star I have a chance to do both,” were the words of Bono, the lead singer of the Irish rock band U2. The man is not just great at “rock-n-roll” but is also today one of the most influential global leaders. The man today symbolises ‘poverty alleviation’. Not surprising that when the famous author Jeffrey Sachs released his book “The End of Poverty”, it was Bono who was asked to write the Foreword. The man is not just a great singer but also a great and influential world leader. Apart from receiving multiple nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, he has featured on TIME magazine as the “Person of the Year”. His campaign “ONE” boasts of over 2.4 million supporters. From the time he sang his hit single in 1984, Do they know its Christmas, to raising money for Ethiopian famine relief, the man and his band have come a long way. The man is what rock star leadership is all about.


To the world, they would be remembered as great singers who loved to rock-n-roll. But look deep and you realise that each of them taught us some very important principles of leadership. They taught us that those people, no matter what their background, who remain true to themselves and fight for what they believe in, can change the world.

As a student, she dreamt of being the world’s best dancer. In spite of a series of failures, the girl persisted. Her songs inspired women and talked of the hardships they endure. She worked hard, ready to give whatever it takes, till the world stood up and took notice of her and asked “Who’s that girl?” Madonna showed the world the power of dreams. A great leader dreams, persists and finally succeeds. When her mother died while she was barely five, Madonna told herself, “If my mother can’t love me, then I will make the world love me.” She surely succeeded in doing so.

In the 1960s, when Americans started questioning authority, questioning the futility of war, the assassination of their hero J. K. Kennedy, a man gave music to their thoughts. His songs voiced the change that was in their hearts, and people adored him. Bob Dylan showed the world how “The times they are a-changin” and they sang with him. Great leaders are those who understand the needs of the new generation and have the power to harness that energy. Isn’t that similar to Barack Obama, who did not sing, but “spoke” what the new generation wanted to listen, and won their hearts and votes, like never, ever seen before?

If you really want to be that great leader, you need to behave like a ‘Rock star’. Look at those guys and you could pick up some vital clues. They believe in themselves. As Bono said in his speech to the graduating class of 2004 at the University of Pennsylvania “…sing the melody you hear in your own head; you don’t owe anybody any explanations…” They are great with people. They know what works, and what people want. As Bruce Springsteen once said, “The audiences are there as a result of my history with the band, but also as a result of my being able to reach people with a tune.” Great leaders give people hope, make them believe in the future and show them a way to face today, much like good music, which is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with.

If great leaders are like great rock stars, then so are the great brands these leaders make. Great brands share the same rapport with their consumers as a rock band does with its fans. A hit single by a rock band excites its fans like never before. A whole stadium comes to life and sings like one. Thousands of people from all over the world growing to one beat, one set of lyrics; and then, if the band later comes out with a not-so-good song, they forgive it and wait for the next big thing. Great bands have great fans who follow it dedicatedly. Much like Steve Jobs. His fans wait with baited breath for his next release. His iPhone 4 may have failed initially. In fact, the wi-fi failed to work at the high profile launch of the phone, yet people are waiting for the device. Apple TV may not have been a great idea, but the iPad blew your mind. Like a rock star leader, the man knows how to keep his fans (customers) happy.

To really “rock” the work place, you need that rock star “attitude”. You need that super confidence, that uber-cool look. Be it Bono’s trademark sunglasses, or Madonna’s “Material Girl” fashion style which made her an icon, each had a unique style that made them stand out. A great leader too should dress differently to stand out, not blend in.

And finally, add a little “madness” to work. Make it fun, make it full of energy. Your workspace should pulsate with positive energy, like a rock concert night, where excitement reaches maddening levels. It all looks chaotic, yet everyone works towards one goal – to make the evening rock. Everyone should work, do their part with complete devotion to the brand, for in its success, lies their success too! If every employee puts the organisation before self and works together with others to achieve that one goal, the business, the work place, would truly rock.


Baron Kurt Von Hammerstein–Equord was a great general who defined leaders using four quadrants – clever or stupid, diligent or lazy. Stupid & lazy is what 90% of the army is made of. Make them do routine work. Stupid & diligent, he said were a menace, to be gotten rid of immediately. Clever & diligent were people, who needed to be given top positions. However the leader was one who was clever & lazy!! It’s that lazy streak, which makes you delegate (the most important trait of a leader). It’s that lethal combination of laziness and cleverness that make these people find the quickest, easiest and the most efficient way of doing things.

As someone once said, “Being lazy is sometimes hard work.” You do it right the first time, so it never needs reworking again. That’s successful lazy leadership.


She lived in an orphanage, yet she was crazy enough to dream big. She may not have spent her life in a rich and elegant environment but her clothes were demanded by the rich. Back in 1925, when women were beginning to go to work in offices, this lady showed them a crazy way of dressing, unheard till then. Coco Chanel taught them to cut their hair short, get rid of bone corsets, for it was impossible to work if a lady was imprisoned in one. She introduced suits made of “jersey” material, which till then was used only to make undergarments. Her crazy ideas gave women a chance to breath and feel comfortable and also fashionable.

Born into the lowest rung of rural life, made to work in the kitchens of rich families by her mother, this woman was crazy to dream of power and fame. Yet, at 27, Eva Peron became the First Lady of Argentina.

If you are crazy, you can even defy fate. Your “faith” in yourself, gives you the confidence to act like a rock star, who performs on stage and builds his fan-base, one show, one song at a time. Being ready to face failures and have the ability to come back again – that’s what craziness is all about, that’s what rock stars are all about. Today’s leader is that guy who works with passion, builds a fan-base that’s devoted to him through all his ups and downs, has the confidence to take in failures, the charm to make people love him and the power to act day in and day out, for he has a crazy, lazy streak that keeps him going!

Don’t just lead. Lead like a crazy rock star!


Thursday, August 26, 2010
He doesn’t care about your claims of “good” quality. He doesn’t care if you are number one. He buys only that product which makes him feel happy and which he thinks is right. The “market” is a totally different place today, than it was earlier. There is a new generation of consumers that thrives on products that didn’t even exist as recently as five years back. Technology has created new markets (cell phones, smart phones, iPhones, Twitter, Facebook) and a new breed of consumers that is very difficult to please.

Today’s consumer is even more demanding. He wants greater value from products and services, greater transparency, greater corporate responsibility towards the environment & the less fortunate. According to a survey by Landor Associates, 50% of the 18-25 year olds said they are ready to take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company. Add to this, the global economic downturn which not just affected many people’s wallets but also their outlook, and the way they are making choices in their lives. As Sheena S. Iyengar in her book The Art of Choosing says “…we use choice as a powerful tool to define ourselves and mould our lives.” If you want your brand to be “valued”, you need to make sure it is the one that this demanding consumer chooses which helps him define his life. Just hoping your brand will sell because it is of good quality, is correctly priced et al, won’t work. The “Don’t Know, Don’t Care” (DKDC) generation wants more. Nissan is rolling out a new ad campaign (dubbed “Innovation for All”), which showcases not price, but innovative features of its cars like keyless entry, air purifiers and smartphone apps, to appeal to this new consumer.


For the fourth year in a row, Google has been ranked the world’s strongest brand by Millward Brown Optimor. What is it that has kept customers loyal to this brand for years? It’s in the business of “search” and is the best & the simplest to use. This apart, it has a unique quality that it can be “personalised”. A Google user can personalise his home page! Much similar to an Apple iPhone user, who can personalise his phone by downloading applications. It’s one of the ways to make the consumer identify with you.

To remain relevant to today’s consumers, the one who innovates, survives! Look at IBM (no wonder it ranks No. 2). Look at those that relatively innovated less – Nokia, Intel, eBay et al. They all saw their values drop.

Launched decades ago, this brand has retained its number 1 spot in sports and no challenger gets counted even closely. It has done this by constantly innovating, so that the customer of every generation can identify with it. Nike! Mark Parker, the artistic, athlete & CEO of Nike, shook up the shoe business with his passion for innovation. “Irreverence inspires me,” he says. Well, it also inspires his buyers.

At 55, this brand is smoking hot! In spite of its product being condemned, in spite of laws stopping it from advertising, it is ranked #8 on the Forbes list. It innovated not just its product, but its marketing ways too & survived. Its secret to success – a growing database of 26 million smokers, who receive birthday cards, coupons and concert tickets (where they can smoke freely). A special booklet of 50 Marlboro prizes is sent to all. You could win the most exotic prizes, depending on the Marlboro Miles you earned on each pack brought. At #8, its value is more than the next 12 cigarette brands put together! New ways of marketing & new variations in the product have made it more relevant to the youth. It’s no more the “macho” effect but the “cool & trendy” effect that works. New flavors like Dark Mint and Cool Myst have been used to market it to the youth. The Marlboro man may be dead, but Marlboro remains the leader of the pack and the consumer still identifies with it.

Market innovatively to remain relevant. Molson Beer organises music concerts in Toronto. The power of the brand and its identification with youth culture is so high, that the company just advertises the event, without even mentioning the name of the performing artists. If it’s a Molson Beer concert, it’s cool! Clothing companies are hiring parking lots to hold a sale of their products and using the Internet to spread the word about the sale… That’s cool!

Be irreverent, or innovative, if you want to be the one that today’s consumer will choose. Remember – if you are perceived as “so yesterday”, the consumer doesn’t care. Google, though number one, is facing the heat from Facebook, which just might overtake it in the future, for Facebook is the brand that the consumer of today is identifying with more and more. Not surprising, Facebook though not yet in the top 100 lists of valuable brands, made its début in the Forbes list this year. Google, watch out!


Building a great brand is serious business – but you can’t be boring consumers to buy products that just make them feel good about themselves. Instead of explaining how good the product is, explain how the product can make them more successful, happier, and closer to the vision they hold of themselves. If you can do it with humour, your brand’s value increases more. In Australia, Virgin Mobile launched a “5¢ text service”, with a new campaign called “Warren campaign”. A nerdy looking guy, Warren, was the hero of this campaign. Warren was portrayed as a loser in search of a dream date. People were encouraged to talk to Warren, through TV, radio and Internet ads. His cheeky humour made him the most lovable loser & Virgin, the most lovable brand. In 10 weeks, Warren received 600,000 texts plus calls and 2 million hits on his website. Everybody loves underdogs. Supporting them makes them happy. Look at all the reality shows and you know what I mean. This hairy, plump, short middle-aged woman, who had never been kissed before, took Britain by storm with her singing. Susan Boyle, the underdog millionaire proved how much we love underdogs. Use them in your marketing business to make the consumer smile as you smile all the way to the bank with your valuable brand!

Smirnoff encouraged people to duck their responsibilities on December 7 (2003) and asked them to take a half-day off & enjoy Smirnoff at the participating bars. You could even enter a contest, where all you did was enter the names of three friends & you stood a chance of winning $25 coupons. Those three friends in turn, got similar messages from Smirnoff to win their $25 coupons. Not just did the campaign win many awards, its brand awareness increased from 38% to 57%. People loved the brand for making them switch off their computer & head-off to the bar! The more positive feelings people associate with your brand, the greater its value!


This year, BMW surpassed last year’s winner Toyota to become the most valuable car brand. It was not the economic downturn, rather Toyota’s failure to keep its promise of delivering quality that resulted in this fall.

With so much exposure to marketing from such an early age, kids today are becoming more sophisticated consumers. One wrong move can ruin your image forever, for these are also your future consumers. They know what is authentic. No matter how “hip” your product is, if you don’t stay true to your values, they don’t care.

In a nutshell, great branding starts with a rigorous assessment of your audience. No wonder great brands sell, and sell all the time – whatever the generation. Look at Coca-Cola – it’s no more just sugared water and fizz.

A brand is a promise. Features will get copied faster than ever. Those are the intangibles, the love, and the emotions that consumers attach to your brand that make it great, make it last and make it valuable.

It’s emotions that make Apple ‘think different’, and make Coca-Cola ‘the real thing’.

Understand your audience, & care for them. If you don’t, they don’t know you & don’t care either!


Thursday, August 12, 2010
It’s everywhere. Look around – technology is changing, customers are changing, companies are changing, values are changing, so much so even the climate is changing. As John F. Kennedy said: “Change is law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”. Yes, change is everywhere.

General Motors (GM) is back. From bowing out in 2008 and moving towards a 2009 bankruptcy reorganisation, the company is planning to advertise in the Super Bowl, the most expensive event to advertise in, in February. GM is now ready with its new ad campaign and a new tagline for the Cadillac which says, “The new standard for the world”. From down-and-out to up-and-about! What a change!

Gadgets have changed. Just look at the iPad and see what it has done to business. Not just have they changed the computer business, but have shown different businesses like Media, Advertising, Gaming etc, how to do business better! If you thought iPads and iPods were the only ones that got thinner this year, think again. If you thought “limited-editions” were for designer clothes, watches, cars etc, think again. Huggies launched limited-edition, denim-style diapers in May this year. The new, thinner and fashionable jean diapers sent moms into a tizzy. Everyone wanted one for their tiny tot. Its tagline “The coolest you’ll look pooping your pants” brought the smiles and laughs and big bucks too for the company. This change in design helped Huggies beat P&G and get back just about all the market share it had lost when P&G launched Pampers Dry Max. It was P&G’s biggest innovation in 25 years and it lost when Huggies changed.

Change is powerful! Keeping pace with it is the key. Earlier, social activism meant protest marches, and even giving up your life. Today it’s as simple as hitting the “Like” button on the Facebook!

In fact, Facebook has changed the world. A recent survey showed how people have reduced the practice of sending e-mails and text messages. They now Facebook! Hotmail is no more Hot!

What’s “Hot” is farming online! While you were busy buying seeds, farm animals and body armour, a company racked in $500 million almost entirely by selling virtual goods on its game sites like Farmville etc! Talk of “change”, selling could not have changed more. Whoever thought selling ‘virtually’ nothing could be so lucrative! Zynga is the company that has 240 million users playing Farmville, Mafia Wars and now Frontier Ville. Not surprising that on June 27, Disney acquired Playdom for $563 million plus $200 million as incentives. It too wants to get into this new gaming business. Brands like MTV and Google are trying to grab this virtual land too. For now, virtual goods are more powerful than the real ones! Those selling virtual goods are making more money than ones who are slogging it out in the factories.

While Zynga promises to change the world too, through games by selling virtual social goods that have benefited earthquake victims, children in Haiti etc, there is one game that people didn’t like being changed. Early this year when Mattle changed the rules of the game Scrabble, for the first time in 62 years, to allow proper nouns like “Shakira” as playable words, a lot of serious players got offended. While change is important, it’s important to know what not to change too!

There are some principles that are timeless! There are some “Core Values” that define you and give a meaning to things around. People and companies that have believed in not changing this have succeeded. At HP, their core value is “respect for individual. Bill & Packard turned down big government contracts that would have forced them to adopt the “hire & fire” strategy. Disney changed, from cartoons to feature films, to videos, to Disneyland, but never forgot “wholesome entertainment for family” as its core value.

When you know what not to change, that’s when you change best!

Business, once used to be all about finding and honing your competitive advantage. Today it’s about the ability to find your “next” advantage, which is important. If you want to survive, you need to “create” your future moves. It’s much similar to the way the “high jump” event changed over the years at the Olympics. Earlier, all high-jumpers used the “scissors style”, similar to jumping hurdles, and for years people tried to better & better this technique. Then one day someone found a better way to jump higher. Instead of jumping like hurdles, you now launched & landed on the same foot called the “Western Roll”. For 25 years athletes mastered this. Then in 1968, Dick Fosbury, a former gymnast broke the Olympic Record by three inches when he discovered a totally new way of jumping and showed the world how “creating” new techniques could leave competition far behind. This new technique became famous as the “Fosbury Flop”. While everyone was jumping with their feet first touching the ground, Fosbury landed on his head and shoulders and jumped higher than 2.3 meters. A feat that would have been impossible to achieve with the older techniques!

Today, becoming the best is also not enough. Beating competition is not enough. You need to not just beat, but defeat competition in such a manner that they find it impossible to compete with you. You change the rules such that you stand totally apart. With a zillion similar brands popping up everywhere, you need to “change” to stand apart. As Kim and Mauborgne of Blue Ocean strategy said, “by just beating competition you remain in the ‘red-waters’, but when you create a new game, competition becomes irrelevant and you move to blue waters.”

When people did not want to buy entire CDs, iTunes gave them the option of buying a song, that too, very reasonably priced. While all low-priced watch manufacturers talked of functionality, in came “Swatch” and showed how low-price could be stylish and took away all the market share. While the world thought that music stores should sell – well, music, in came Virgin with its megastores which stocked CDs, videos, games, stereo and audio equipments and changed the rules. Barnes & Noble decided that a bookshop was not just meant to sell books, but help customers cherish the pleasures of reading. It added lounges, coffee bars etc, and changed the way bookshops of the future would look and the future of their balance sheets too! While most cosmetic companies played on the emotions of consumers and showed beautiful images, Body Shop talked facts. It talked about its ingredients and their benefi ts. Soon, natural cosmetics became the rage. All these companies changed the way business used to be done and created their own blue waters which competitors could not reach fast.

It’s important to remember not to forget to change, especially when you are growing. Growth gives satisfaction and that’s no good. As Katsuaki Watanabe, the President of Toyota Motor Co. once said: “Everyone should be dissatisfi ed, with the present situation.” Don’t be satisfy ed with the status quo, even if you are the best. Don’t be afraid to change. Change is always good.

Even a thing like “Climate change” is good. In June, Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo said, “Climate change is good business for us,” thus embarrassing the UN, which in April awarded him the “Champions of the Earth” award! But maybe he had a point. Climate change has opened up a plethora of new businesses – from trading of carbon credits to green energy to alternative energy and many more...

Your success in life isn’t based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers and business.

Change is unavoidable. Change is the norm. We at 4Ps B&M have changed too. Our promise to never change our “core value” of delivering you world-class content however doesn’t change. We hope you enjoy the change. Change, can change the rules of the game. Go ahead… change something too!!!


Thursday, July 29, 2010
Meet the “Man your man could smell like”. That’s the new viral-video that’s clearly broken all previous viral-video records. It features Isaiah Mustafa who has now achieved a pop-icon status. Since the time this man showed the ladies how their man could “smell” like him, even though they didn’t “look” like him, Procter & Gamble (P&G) has been “smelling” money in every market. After the viral-video produced by Wieden & Kennedy hit the Internet, the P&G brand Old Spice has been constantly gaining market share. The viral showed in an interesting tongue-in-cheek manner how anything is possible when you smell right. It may sound a little over the top, but it’s a fact – when you smell right, dress right, you have higher chances of success!

Carmine Gallo, a popular communications expert once had the chance to interview Commander Matt Eversmann. He was the military hero who led his troops into battle in Somalia in 1993, and he also inspired the movie Black Hawk Down. Gallo asked him, “What’s the secret of leadership?” Eversmann answered: “It starts with how a leader wears his uniform.” That’s not a “mantra” or “gyan” many would give about leadership. However, as Eversmann said, his whites were whiter than his subordinates’, his clothes were better ironed, his shoes shinier! That’s where leadership starts.

You never get a record chance
Great leaders, if you thought, were about great speeches, great deeds, then think again. A lot depends on that “something” which happens even before you get a chance to speak. Many a time you find someone very lively and enthusiastic and you assume he is smart, likable and successful – without any proof of him being any of those things. It’s called the ‘halo effect’. A person who complains might be viewed as boring, negative, cynical, unsociable. It’s called the ‘horns effect’. That’s the way we perceive things around us. The sad part is that you never get a second chance to create that first impression, that ‘halo or horn’ effect. People size you up and decide whether they will like you or not on the basis of first impressions which are formed in – hold your breath – three to four seconds. Yes, even before you utter a word (forget about delivering a whole speech), even before you do something, chances are that people would have categorised you. Remember telling someone, “He looks like a leader,” even without knowing anything about that ‘leader’?! Dialogues like “She has a positive aura around her,” or “He looks dependable” or “There is something disturbing about him” are often used to judge people. These are nothing but people creating first impressions, which are not just created in a jiffy, but also are nearly impossible to change.

To create that great first impression you need to wear two things: (a) good clothes; (b) a great smile. Look at any great leader, from the various Presidents of America to the heads of corporations and you realise that they all come across as likeable and dependable, depending on the way they carry themselves and the way they smile. The optimism & enthusiasm of their personalities is reflected the moment you see them, and this is an unwritten law – “Leaders always stand out and dress better than their subordinates.” Today, it’s important to know what suits you and fits you the best and makes you look good.

Be it Donald Trump or Arnold Schwarzenegger, each one realised that to be a leader, you need to first look like one. They all dressed best, for a first impression takes just a few seconds to be created and you don’t get a second chance.

Do you look the part?
This man is so famous that people in almost every country have heard about him. A highly educated and qualified man, he was immensely proud of his country. Once he went to see the Queen of England. Anyone else would have dressed in his best suit and tie, but this man decided to wear a ‘dhoti’. You guessed it right – the man was none other than Mahatma Gandhi. He was fighting India’s War of Independence and knew that if he had to win this war, he had to dress like the poorest of the poor of his country and if the Queen wanted to meet him, she had to accept this. She did. The world took notice and soon people were convinced that this man would take India to victory. Every part of this man showed how deeply he believed in the cause he was fighting for. You just had to see him once to realise how committed he was. He looked the part he played.

Born in a Catholic home, and christened Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, this child grew up hearing stories of Catholic missionaries. She was so inspired that she became a nun herself. Mother Teresa went on to help thousands and thousands of the poor of Calcutta. She loved them and wanted to change their world. She even dressed like them in a simple white sari with a blue border. Even when she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, it was in this simple sari that she went to receive her award. She looked the part.

Donald Trump never really cared about the way he dressed. In his book How to Get Rich, he states that very soon he realized his folly and realised that if he had to get rich, he needed to look and behave that way too.

This determined young Indian girl worked as a receptionist from midnight to sunrise while studying in Yale, just so that she could collect $50 to buy a western suit for a job interview. Not well versed with Western wear, the young lady landed up buying a pair of trousers that reached down only to her ankles. Indra Nooyi was rejected. She went back to her professor at Yale who told her to dress like herself. She went for her next interview in a sari and was selected. She had found the “look” that would work for her.

If looks could kill
In today’s very competitive job market, it’s important to “look” your part. A well groomed appearance is as important as having a strong resume. You may have heard of killer looks, but if your looks are not right, they could definitely kill your career.

A well groomed look is simple to achieve – be fit and wear clothes that fit you well. If you dress well, it gives the other person the impression that this occasion was important for you and you put in efforts to look good. When you dress brightly and look happy, you attract attention in a positive way. Trendy dressers come across as young, lively and successful. It’s important to “look” appropriate. Barack Obama looked the right package to bring about change in America. His looks – a black man with a Muslim father – struck a chord with Americans. Making him win gave them a chance to prove once again to the world that this was a country where dreams come true.

So before you put your speech together, before you plan your presentation, check your wardrobe and dress to kill – competition that is! Today, careers, perceptions and images are built in seconds. It’s very important for you to figure out your winning look!


Friday, July 16, 2010
The closing ceremony of the FIFA World Cup, brought a lot of things to an end, like checking scores, looking in disbelief as big teams like Italy, Argentina, Brazil etc fell, like a pack of cards, smiling & wondering whether to believe in the octopus Paul’s prophecy! As Shakira sang “Waka, Waka,” the perfect cheering song meaning “Do it” during the closing ceremony, the world held its breath in anticipation. Who would it be this time – Spain or Netherlands? However, for a few moments, everybody forgot about the finals when this person entered the stadium, as all 89,000 spectators rose to salute the great leader, who actually started it all. Nelson Mandela’s overpowering presence left many teary-eyed. South Africa became the first African nation to host the FIFA Would Cup. Years ago, it also was the same nation that was banned from FIFA due to the apartheid system.

If you have seen the heart touching film “Invictus” directed by Clint Eastwood, you would understand what a long & difficult journey Mandela tread to reach here. If there is one leader who understood the power of sports, it was this man – Nelson Mandela. In his first term as the newly elected president, in 1995, Mandela did the impossible. He united an apartheid-torn nation, brought them together using the universal language of sports, as he worked hard to make South Africa win the 1995 Rugby World Cup – where both blacks & whites of South Africa for the first time cheered together for their nation. From there to becoming a hosting nation of FIFA, all one can say – what a man!

A few days back, Adidas launched a 60 - second viral to celebrate the success of its shoes F50 Adizero. The maximum number of goals during this World Cup were scored by players wearing the F50 Adizero shoe. While 20-year-old Thomas Mueller may have won the ‘Golden Boot Award’ and joined the club which has stars like Pele, Michael Owen etc, a totally different competition has started between Adidas & Nike. While Adidas in its viral claims its F50 to be the ‘2010 FIFA World Cup Top Scoring Boot’, Nike for its part claims the honours. After all, Iniesta who scored the winning goal for Spain was wearing Nike’s CTR360 Elite series boots.

Irrespective of whose claims are correct, this is sure, both brands would witness a surge in their sales. However, what’s interesting is FIFA or any other mega sporting events do more than just help sell sports shoes.

A month before the FIFA, people in UK were asked, “How safe is South Africa?” A good 56% responded ‘not safe’, while only 3% said ‘very safe’. Towards the end of the World Cup, 56% had changed their answer to ‘quite safe’. South Africa saw its image getting a boost after the world watched it on TV for about a month!

When Nigeria won the gold in soccer at the Olympic Games of 1996, even the Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha saw a rise in his popularity in the eyes of the world (at least for some time) as the world lauded the Nigerian soccer team’s victory.

After the 2006 FIFA World Cup, a research was conducted which showed that the campaign launched by Germany under the slogan “Germany rolls out the red carpet” really worked. The country worked hard by training its “service ambassadors” in workshops, making its service providers aware of intercultural relations, building tolerance, learning foreign languages. After the games, in-depth interviews of people, who had never been to Germany before the games, showed that they thought Germans would be strict, unapproachable and intolerant, but found them friendly and pleasant! People actually forgot about Hitler and liked the Germans.

Yes, there are hosts of brands that use this opportunity to market their goods, but a sporting event gives a country a chance to showcase itself like never before. More than any brand, a country’s best and strongest image builders are its sporting teams. A win can leverage a country’s image, so can hosting a mega sporting event.

A country’s image is extremely important and it makes business sense too. According to Simon Anholt, an expert on “Nations as Brands”, “...Countries with a powerful and positive image can export more products, more culture, more services and also attract more tourists, more investors, more attention and respect of other governments!”

People’s perception about countries is very very strongly linked to the country’s sporting excellence. A country that hosts a successful Olympics, or World Cup is remembered as opposed to one that hosts a “forgettable event”. Athens Olympics did nothing much for Greece. While Beijing Olympics changed China’s image in the eyes of the whole world.

The Nation Brand Index (NBI) is an important indicator of a country’s perception and it’s interesting to note that the ranking shows a direct correlation between a nation’s overall rank and its economic status.

NBI 2009 saw an interesting phenomenon. China had never changed its rank of 29 all these years; yet, this was the first time its rank moved from 29 to 22. It was because of the Olympics.

Today, countries take their branding very seriously. Last month, the International Olympics Committee announced the list of finalists who would bid for the Winter Olympics to be held in 2018. The three countries were France, Germany, and South Korea, with South Korea being seen as the front runner. A few months back, South Korea’s richest tycoon, Lee Kun Hee, the Chairman of Samsung Electronics, received a presidential pardon and was released from prison (he had been earlier arrested on criminal changes of tax evasion). The reason for his release was to help South Korea’s bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. Nations take sporting events very seriously and work in tandem with business houses to showcase their strengths years before the actual event.

“Image” is what counts and what matters most. Consumers in America or Europe will easily pay more for an unknown Japanese product than an identical Korean product. An Indian in a foreign market needs to work harder than, say his French counterpart, though both may be equally talented. It’s all because of the “images” of countries.

Great brands are built, when customers have “great experiences” using them. A sporting event or team gives others a chance to ‘see’, to ‘experience’ your country. An advertising campaign, however beautiful, can never make one country look ‘Incredible’. However, well organised, well planned and well marketed sporting events can make a country look grand, and get it international approval.

As one mega event comes to a close, one is left wondering – would India too be able to do this one day?

Just as corporations put in crores to build their corporate images and brand identities, it’s time countries did the same too. South Africa has probably managed to change its image from an apartheid torn country to a good host – India, it’s time you did too. Waka, Waka... let’s do it too!