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What worked this decade will be outdated in the new one.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?