RESPOND QUICK... OR PERISH!

Friday, December 28, 2012
RESPOND QUICK... OR PERISH!
It is said that John F. Kennedy was America’s first television President. Barack Obama has shown that he is the nation’s first ‘Social Media’ President!

The super fast advancements in technology and the growth of the internet have changed the marketing landscape totally. Its impact was seen the most in the Presidential campaigns of Obama and Romney. This time, Obama’s campaign strategies were totally different from the ones he used in 2008. Yes, he once again used social media, but he used it more scientifically. This time, he had a huge team of ‘boffins’ (data analysts) headed by a new ‘Chief Scientist’ Rayid Ghani, whose job was to scientifically analyze all the data and use it to plan Obama’s various marketing strategies. For example, the team found out that in 2008, it had used the “Sign up now” button to gather followers on Facebook; but changing it to “Learn more” was far more effective in getting people to register in 2012. Each plan was tested, retested, analyzed and then implemented. A huge team of data analysts holed up in what was nicknamed ‘The Cave’ sat day in and day out crunching numbers and planning each move. That was the secret to Obama’s success.

The social media landscape is, after all, more cluttered and much different now than it was four years ago; so this time, it needed to be handled differently too. Obama showed us the most effective way of handling it.

RESPOND TO THE CONSUMER

The consumer talks to you in many different ways, and the most successful marketer is one who listens most intently. Today, most marketers do listen to their consumers, but the ones who can respond the fastest will win in the future. This is the new rule of the game. This is also called ‘adaptive marketing’, and both Obama and Romney showed the corporate world how to adapt real fast.

Every aspect of your marketing campaign has to learn to ‘adapt’. Nothing can be static, not even ad campaigns. If Romney got a reaction from the audience for a particular point during his speech, that point was turned into a small online video ad spot soon enough. If an online ad got a positive response from the viewers, it was soon made into a newspaper ad. Gone are the days when past experience, intuition and creativity decided your advertising strategies and media buying plans. With so much clutter in the market place, you need to have the ability to gather all possible data about your consumer, analyze it and use it to plan your move; and most importantly, change your move according to the changes in the preferences of your consumer. Obama’s team sitting in ‘The Cave’ used to process the data and run it through 66,000 computer simulations every night to figure out Obama’s chances of winning in the swing states. The next morning, the results were used to help him plan his next move, in fact his every move. Like for example, a study of old data collected for Obama’s campaign revealed that in the West Coast, George Clooney was the man who attracted the women in the age group of 40-49 the most. That was also the group that was rich and most able to donate. So a promotional event ‘Chance to dine in Hollywood with Clooney’ was created. In the East Coast, it was Sarah Jessica Parker who would work, so the next Dinner with Barack contest was born: a chance to eat at Parker’s West Village brownstone!

Media, too, was bought on the basis of data analysis. TV ads were planned according to the potential voters’ ‘browser history’. When you surf the internet, you leave a history and data miners are using this to know you better, figure out which TV programmes you are most likely to watch and put their ads there. So this time, Obama’s political ads were not only aired on news channels (as has been the case with political ads all these years); rather, you saw him on Discovery Channel on programmes like “The Walking Dead’, et al. Barack was there where his voters were (there were no Romney ads here incidentally!).

Campaigns of the future will be planned keeping in mind the likes of the consumers. Amazon does it. It knows the books that you have bought or browsed through and it sends you suggestions on what is new and of interest to you. KLM Airlines now offers a unique feature wherein travelers can decide who they want to sit next to by linking their Facebook profiles to your flight.

With technology advancing so much thanks to the mobiles, the tablets and the smart TVs, it’s become easy to know your customers. In fact, a recent study in UK revealed that 75% of consumers who had a relationship with the company were happy to share their personal information with it, for it made their lives easier. Everyday, he is daunted with zillions of options. If someone could pick out a few that suited him the best, the consumer would appreciate it.

Soon, we would be in an era of ‘IP-addressable TV sets’, and advertisers would be showing us ads of only those products that we are interested in (after analyzing our browser history!)! As our interests would change, so would the ads we see! Soon, campaign planners would know us better than us!!

So the brand, which can get the maximum data about its consumers and analyze it best, would be the most successful brand in the future. The brand, which responds the fastest to consumer opinions, is the one that is most likely to succeed.

Respond to consumers yet again

Apart from understanding your consumers’ likes and dislikes and responding to them by customizing your marketing strategies, brands have to also find more and more ways to engage with their customers and talk to them first hand. The growth of social networking sites has made this most imperative. When these sites started, they gave marketers an opportunity to connect to their consumers (through Twitter, Facebook et al). Today, many brands are connecting with their buyers through these sites, but very few are engaging them. Even fewer are listening to them and responding back. Walmart is one such company, which maintains a keen vigilance on the social networking websites. Once a consumer tweeted, “Sold Out@Target we want more @Boss_Starz Season1DVDs”. Walmart replied to the disgruntled customer, “Hi Nicole-@Boss_Starz fans can pick up Season One online here: bit.ly/MJ9F6c or at their local Walmart.” The consumer had a problem with the department store Target and Walmart saw this as an opportunity to win some brownie points and simultaneously get the competitor’s consumer to visit its store.

This year, Coca-Cola became the first retail brand to pass the 50 million mark in terms of Facebook fans. Coke has been working quietly towards increasing its presence on social networking sites; for it believes in the simple rule that its Senior Vice President, Integrated Marketing, stated, “Fans are twice as likely to consume and 10 times more likely to purchase than non-fans.” Coke considers these social networking sites as ‘social telephones’, and they seldom let them go unanswered, which is why their ‘customer service strategy’ has changed. Today, Coke has increased the number of employees in its ‘Twitter Response Team’ and reduced the team strength of its ‘tele-calling team’. Coke has recently launched a new white packaging for its product and it’s using this to engage its vast community on Facebook. It’s asking them to send in ideas on how to save the Arctic and polar bears. These companies have mastered the art of responding to consumers and interacting with potential consumers in a way so that their loyalty towards their brand increases.

A research done by Maritz Research Company revealed that a whole lot of companies are active on Twitter, giving information about their products, new launches and new services; but very few ‘respond’ to their customers. The research also brought out an interesting fact that 49% of those surveyed said that they expected the company to read their tweets and respond to them. The older the respondent was, the more they expected the company to respond to them. Out of those who did receive a response from the company, around 83% said they loved it. So if you are not responding, you might be losing out your customers to competitors.

Wars were fought in the battlefields decades ago, and then they were fought in retail outlets. However, in future, wars will be fought in the virtual world. The one who masters the art of interacting with his customers and of engaging his customers in a dialogue is the one who will win.

In a nutshell, marketing today is not just about the 4Ps – Price, Product, Place & Promotion – rather, it’s about the new 4Ps with the customer in focus.

Permission – to talk to you (customer)
Perception – understanding what you want.
Proximity – designing strategies and customizing them to suit you.
Participation – involving you in as many ways as possible.

You will now have to keep these 4Ps in mind while formulating your marketing strategies. The social media is changing us, our lives and our marketing theories too. Move with the times and the times demand that you connect well with your customer and most importantly, respond quickly… or else perish!

BOOTSTRAP YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS!

Thursday, November 15, 2012
The term ‘bootstrapping’ is an interesting term. It has a lot of challenge, a lot of drama built into it.

BOOTSTRAP YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS!
The term is attributed to a story written by Rudolf Erich. The story titled The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen is based on a series of tales narrated by the Baron about his travels, with some impossible feats and daring escapes. One such tale is about him pulling himself out of a swamp with the help of his bootstraps as there was no one to help him and there was no other way he could have survived. Today, this 18th century tale has acquired a new meaning; especially for entrepreneurs. The idiom “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is the secret behind the success of many people today. When all else failed, they looked at the end of their own arm and found a helping hand! Just the way when the Baron fell in the swamp and nothing seemed to work and it looked like all was lost, he thought of picking himself up by his own bootstraps.


Rajita Chaudhuri
This little boy used to walk barefoot to school. He used to sit on the floor in the classroom, as he was not allowed to sit on the desk; neither could he enter the temple of his village, for he was considered ‘unclean’ because he belonged to a lower caste. Ashok Khade is today a multi-millionaire who has Arabs as his business partners. A poor cobbler’s son, he had no money. He could barely finish his college and in spite of being a good student, he had to drop out and take up a job as an apprentice draftsman at the Mazagon Dock. His dreams of becoming a doctor were shattered, but he continued to work hard and became the best draftsman in the company. One day, his boss sent him to Germany for work. There, he chanced to see the paychecks of the Germans and was shocked to find how much they made in a month. This motivated him to work harder.

When everyone refused to help him, he decided to pull himself up by his own bootstraps and do something different. He worked hard; and at the right time, he started his own small company… something that was unthinkable at that time, when no one thought of leaving a steady job and taking this huge risk. It paid off and he soon got his first contract and then his second; and today, he has his own business empire, and his own voice. He organizes seminars where businessmen of his community (Dalit) give advice to companies like Tata Motors. He even persuades the government to give contracting preferences to Dalits, and the private companies to create job opportunities for people of his community.

BOOTSTRAP OR GET THE BOOT

Success in entrepreneurship has a lot to do with strategic planning. The most important planning is the one related to finances. Smart financial management is one of the most important keys to success.

Bootstrap basically refers to growing a business organically with little initial investment. It is a challenging and interesting option as it forces you to think creatively and figure out a business model that works and actually generates revenues for you. Consider the story of this 17 year old boy who left Durgapur, just after his class 12 board exams, because his mother could feed him no more. Hunger drove him to Mumbai where he did any odd job he could find. He then got a job as a courier boy in a pharma company. When the drive to achieve something is high, a man can find opportunities anywhere. Sudip Dutta, the little boy, spent his evenings in the same company learning how to make the pouches that the pharma company used to pack its medicines in. It brought him Rs.15 extra. He had no money, so he worked day and night and slept in the factory itself. Two years later, the factory owner sunk under debt and decided to sell the factory. The ‘bootstrapping’ entrepreneur inside Dutta saw this as an opportunity of a lifetime and he went to negotiate with his owner. He had no money in the bank, but only his hard work to bank on. He came up with an intelligent option. He told the owners to sell the business to him and he would pay them back in installments. The deal was that he would give them all the profits he earned from the business after he had deducted the workers salaries and Rs.5,000 for himself. The owner saw it as a win-win option and agreed. Within 2 years, Sudip had made the company debt-free and today, it’s a whopping Rs.700 crore business. He named his company Ess Dee Aluminum, which are the initials of his name. Today, Dutta is the undisputed leader of the aluminum foil business. He still loves his ‘pantha bhat’ and never forgets where he came from – a quality that makes each of these ‘bootstrapping businessmen’ so successful. Not only do they retain their humility, not only do they find creative ways of doing things, but they also learn to never ever give up.

Lakshaman belonged to a family of farmers, where his father used to make money by sharing in the produce of the farmers. However, the old-fashioned farm implements made life very tough and profits very less. It used to take two months to separate the grain from the chaff using bullocks; and many a time, rain used to spoil the crops. He used to hear his father cry in the nights and it pained him. He wanted to change things, but there was no money to invest. There was no money for anything in fact. Lakshaman had weak eyesight, but could not afford to buy spectacles. That did not deter him from studying. He used to sit as close to the black board as possible. His teachers rebuked him, but nothing mattered as his will to succeed made him overcome all obstacles. One day, he and his friend chanced to see a Japanese rice-thresher machine and decided to develop a wheat thresher on the same lines. Young Lakshaman convinced his family to put in all their money into making the wheat-thresher, as it would help in quick threshing of the wheat.

 
The machine failed; The family was bankrupt. The machine found few takers. Not one to give up easily, he reworked on the machine and found that instead of ‘round cutters’ they had used ‘straight cutters’. The design was changed... and it worked. But all this also gave the young boy an idea to start a new business of ‘farm implements’. Within a few years, he was making tractors; and today, his company ‘Sonalika Group’ is worth $785 million. And this year, in 2012, Lakshaman Mittal was ranked as the 75th richest man in the Forbes’ Indian Billionaires list.

Bootstrap entrepreneurs learn to make the most of each penny, and get the returns

to the fullest. They care not for adversaries but they do have the uncanny knack of spotting an opportunity even in the most adverse of situations.

BOOTSTRAP AND CUT OUT THE CRAP

When you don’t have enough or rather when you have nothing at all, you learn to focus only on the essential and cut out the things that don’t matter. It was in 2005 that Sridhar Vembu decided to challenge software biggies like Google and Microsoft with the help of his ‘bootstrap ideas’.

In 1995, this IIT graduate went looking for venture capitalists who would fund his business plan of making a software for telecom networks. No one was interested, but he did not give up and bootstrapped his operations, and started a small company in Silicon Valley. He soon started ‘Zoho’, which is a series of web-based programs. His success point is his bootstrapping philosophy i.e. of keeping costs very low and hence being able to sell his software at very low costs. He does so by not spending much on marketing, using free technology wherever possible, and most importantly, by keeping his employee recruitment costs to a minimum. He was very clear that a software does not have to be expensive and one does not have to be an IIT or an MIT graduate to develop world class products. He decided to hire undergraduates

from local schools of his native town in Tamil Nadu. He looked beyond traditional methods of hiring and today, he does not have to waste time or money handling restless & overambitious engineers from top engineering colleges. Vembu founded the ‘Zoho University’. His students were fresh undergraduates from poor backgrounds who he handpicked after going from school to school.

Then he gave them a one year training , a laptop, free lunch and dinner, classes in English and Mathematics apart from software training, and even a stipend of Rs.6,000. He then absorbed them into Zoho and today gives them salaries comparable to the salaries of people who have joined him from IIT, et al. These brilliant students from poor backgrounds work in tandem with the IIT engineers at Zoho and create world class office and business applications; comparable to those offered by Google, Salesforce.com, Microsoft et al. He was cash strapped and that made him think differently and it is this that helped him find a way to create his own talent by starting Zoho University.

In today’s world, only those who think like these bootstrapped entrepreneurs have the highest chances of success. Think frugal, think innovative and continuously find new ways of doing business. A business based on this kind of thinking is generally a very stable business, for it can scale up or scale down whenever required. It has people at the top who know how to think differently, who know how to survive the tough times, and who never give up because they know that they can make it work, come what may. They have the ability to make the maximum use of the minimum that they have.

If you are planning to start a business, expand a business or even just planning to study business, train yourself to think the ‘bootstrap way’; for in the long run, the winners are those who have learnt to bootstrap their way to success.

CHAINED TO SUCCEED!

Monday, October 1, 2012
Michelangelo
Michelangelo
She was a young girl when she first came to Mumbai from a small village. She was born into a dalit family and had faced discrimination all her life. After marriage at a tender age of 12, it got even worse as she was beaten up by her husband's family and tortured daily. She could not take it and ran away to her father's house. But the Indian society always looks down at a woman who leaves her husband. The pressure was too much for her to take and she tried to commit suicide at the age of 16. Her aunt saved her and inspired her to live her life on her own terms. That day, this 16 year old Kalpana made a promise to herself to live her way. She went back to Mumbai and started working at Rs.2 per day. She worked 16 hours a day. Soon, she started her own business. Subsequently, as luck would have it, she got a chance to run a metal engineering company - Kamani Tubes - which was in massive debt. She could understand the plight of the people best as she had already been in that situation once. She soon turned the company around and is today the CEO of this multi-million dollar company. Her commitment to herself, to never give up, finally paid off.

Rajita Chaudhuri
Rajita Chaudhuri
Success comes when you are ready to be bonded, when you are ready to be committed. With commitment, comes the ability to give your best without looking for returns. A mother's love is the best description of commitment. She loves her child without thinking or calculating what she will get in return. It's pure, it's unconditional, and it comes from a deep commitment towards her baby. All people who have achieved greatness have been able to do so because of their steely determination and their commitment to the cause. Michelangelo was one such person. He was a great artist, but his greatness lay in his ability to stick to his commitments. He sculpted his first masterpiece at the age of 21. He was so good that he was soon asked to paint the ceiling of a small chapel in the Vatican. He was initially asked to paint only 12 figures on the ceiling, a figure that over time increased to 400. Since he had committed to the task, he did not refuse to paint any of the 400 figures. The whole task took him four years, and that too while working mostly lying on his back, as he had to paint the ceiling. This caused permanent damage to his eyesight; and at the age of 37 itself, he started looking quite old. One day, while Michelangelo was immersed at work, someone saw him intently painting a figure that was quite concealed in a dark corner, a corner that most people would not notice. The person asked Michelangelo why he was working so hard on something that not many would see? His answer was, "God would see!" That is commitment. when you work with passion and give your best without calculating how much benefit you would get. As expected, the ceiling that Michelangelo painted set a new standard in art, which is being copied for generations now.

Mary Kay Ash
Mary Kay Ash
Great leaders are those who are committed to a cause. In fact, not just that, they are great leaders if they can make their employees as committed as they themselves are. As Thomas Watson Jr quoted in the book A Business and its Beliefs - The ideas that helped build IBM: "The basic philosophy, spirit, and drive of an organization have far more to do with its relative achievements than do technological or economic resources, organizational structure, innovation, and timing." If your people believe in you, then you can achieve anything. For them to believe in you, they need to see your commitment towards them. If you treat them well, challenge them well, and give a good, fair, honest feedback, they will remain committed to you come what may. Mary Kay Ash was not just a businesswoman committed to her business but she was also committed to the women who ran her business, who sold her products. After working for 25 years in a male-dominated industry, when Mary retired in 1963, she started writing a book on `direct-sales', something she had done all her life. The book soon turned into a business plan; and Mary and her 20-year-old son soon started a cosmetics company. She had spent her life in a male dominated world and knew how difficult it was for women and she was determined to change it. She created her company with a strong commitment towards women. A company where women had unlimited potential personally and financially. She once said, "My objective in life is to help women know how great they really are." The commitment showed and soon her company - Mary Kay Cosmetics - became one of the largest direct-sales cosmetics companies in the world. After all, a company is as great as its people.

Henry Luce
Henry Luce
Henry Luce founded the Time magazine not only to make money from it, but he also thought that it was his responsibility to inform and educate his readers. He wanted them to think, debate and discuss various issues. He brought a sense of mission to journalism. By 1940, he was America's most powerful and innovative mass communicator. It was his commitment to a cause that made his magazines more gripping than others and provided readers a better view of the world than similar periodicals and newspapers. Soon, Time Inc. became a substantial concern. Most correspondents started reading Time and tried to copy its style of writing.

When you are committed, you set standards of excellence.

COMMITMENT GIVES YOU A REASON TO LIVE
AND A REASON TO DIE FOR
One man who gave up his life for a cause, a commitment, was Ernesto Che Guevara. He said, "We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it." In 1955, Che, who was just a troop doctor then, met Fidel Castro. Slowly, he developed close bonds with Fidel. Soon, Che understood the cause for which Fidel was fighting and started believing in it. He started fighting with Fidel - and from a doctor of the group, Che soon became its most courageous soldier. He was deeply committed to the cause of the oppressed and the exploited and was ready to fight for them, irrespective of which part of the world they lived in. He was from Argentina but he fought in Cuba; he even fought in Bolivia where he met his death. This is what has made him the most famous revolutionary of the world. He is a man whose life will continue to inspire many, even years after his death, for he lived his life for a cause and even died fighting for it.

Che Guevara
Che Guevara
Commitment makes you go beyond your comfort zone. A lot of us start a lot of things because we are interested in them. We start learning a musical instrument, a new language, join the gym etcetera because, well, we're interested in the same. To be really successful in any field, one needs to go beyond merely being interested. One needs to be committed. When all that binds you with something is plain interest, you would undertake that only when it's convenient to you. But if you are committed, you'd do that even when it's not convenient.

Similarly, you find someone interesting and fall in love; but to make a marriage last, takes something more. A deep commitment to the relationship and a lot of hard work are required. Today, many are ready to fall in love but few are ready to commit to it; so the number of divorces are increasing because that commitment to love, no matter what obstacles or temptations come your way, is missing. Passion without commitment is of no use.

COMMITMENT IS FREEDOM

Commitment is a choice to give up choices. Once you have committed to a cause, it actually gives you a lot of freedom, for it removes all distractions; it removes the burden of finding other possibilities. You now become free to put all your energies into the one cause you believe in. When you commit to something - or someone - your life acquires a whole new meaning. Lack of commitment makes life unfulfilled and boring. Commitment makes you act, builds a sense of discipline, and gives you direction and satisfaction. Anita Roddick was one such leader. She was the founder of the company The Body Shop (which is now owned by L'Or‚al). She made cosmetics from plant extracts. She also made a commitment to herself that unlike other cosmetics companies, she would not test her products on animals. She operated a business of cosmetics but she was committed to the society. She once said, "I would rather promote human rights than a bubble bath." It was this commitment that helped her make all policies and make all the tough decisions. It is this commitment that made her company such a special company, for her customers too believed in her and in what she believed in - and loved her for it. She died in 2007 but her brand, her way of doing business, lives on. She showed the world that business could be done to help principles and ethics; and yet, one could make profits.

Ford Motor Company had been plagued with losses, yet the company stuck to its commitment towards the environment and did not succumb to pressure under hardships. Its focus and vision paid of and in 2011, it was voted as one of the world's most ethical companies. Its commitment to the environment was actually its key differentiator and helped it to beat its rivals. No wonder, it was the only auto company that made it to the list that had 110 companies in all. Ford made a comeback - but without compromising on the key issues it believed in.

All companies that have survived over generations, all relationships that have grown over decades, all leaders whom we talk about... all of them have chained themselves to certain ideas, certain philosophies. If you want to succeed, first find an idea that you want to commit your life to, that you want to be tied to and bonded to forever, for then you will find the freedom to really work and achieve what you want. It's a fact that with commitment comes true freedom, and being chained to a cause brings true success!

IT’S COMMONSENSE SILLY!!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012
The Olympics are over and forgotten and so is India’s performance. Yes, we did win a few medals, but we did not win a gold. If we had to look at the Olympics from a marketer’s point of view, then once again, there is this one company, which deserves to get the ‘Gold’ for its marketing strategy.

IT’S COMMONSENSE SILLY!!!

If you watched the Olympics, you would not have missed the neon green shoes on the feet of some 400 athletes. Well it’s not the first time that athletes have worn Nike shoes during the Olympics, but it is definitely the first time that they have worn this color. Earlier, Nike used to make shoes that matched the uniforms of the athletes. The shoes ‘matched’, which means that they blended with the uniforms. Nike did not like that for nobody really noticed them. Martin Lotti, the designer at Nike, was not happy just designing shoes; he wanted to be noticed. So he chose a color that was bound to stand out – be it the racing track, the boxing ring, or any other event. He colored his shoes neon green and made every athlete wear them. There was no chance that anyone could miss them. So while Adidas was the official sponsor of the game, it’s once again Nike’s shoes that got noticed.

Rajita Chaudhuri
Prof. Rajita Chaudhuri
If you stick by certain basic rules, chances of going wrong are reduced remarkably. Like in the above mentioned case, when people go to watch the Olympics, they go to watch the athletes. So if any brand wants to get noticed, the most logical thing would be to be as near to the athletes as possible. Nike did just that. It thought ‘athletes’ and all marketing and branding efforts were concentrated around the athlete. So while Coca Cola is rumored to have paid $100 million and Adidas has apparently shelled out around $63 million, it is Nike who did not spend any money on sponsorships that got the maximum attention. Branding is all about creating the right impact and Nike was bang on target this time. Branding is also about creating customer satisfaction, but surprisingly, many companies lose this focus and finally lose out in the race.

IT’S FOR THE CUSTOMER, SILLY

Peter Drucker quoted a long time back, “There is only one valid definition of a business purpose: to create a customer.” This simple fact is overlooked by many. First, you have customers, and the rest follows later. However logical and simple the concept, some companies just fail to implement it. For many, the focus is on ‘shareholders’. They rationalize that if shareholders are happy, the company is doing good.

Jack Welch is one of the best examples of a CEO who is known for his capacity to grow shareholder value. He moved GE from a market value of $14 billion to $484 billion; making it the most valuable and largest company in the world. It was the one company that met market expectations every quarter for almost 48 quarters, and it delighted shareholders for 12 years. So if shareholder expectations are the benchmark, then GE should have been the strongest company. But surprisingly, after Jack Welch retired, the company’s market capitalization started going down and today, GE has lost 60% of that value. How could this happen? The answer is simple; the earnings and the balance sheets were ‘managed’. There was no ‘real’ value creation happening in the company. This is one of the reasons why every day, a new accounting scandal emerges in the corporate world and companies that looked so strong and sturdy just disappear.

It’s customer delight and not shareholder delight that makes a company really outperform its competitors. Time and again, it has been proved that the company, which did not shift its focus from the customer, come what may, won in the long run .

The iPhone 5 was launched recently. It’s a phone the world had been waiting for with great anticipation. That’s because this is one company that never cared for Wall Street or the shareholders. It believed in only one rule – delighting the customer. In fact, Apple’s iconic founder Steve Jobs never left an opportunity to bring out the fact that he did not bother about shareholders, and what mattered was delighting the customer beyond expectations. His energy was focused on developing a new product and his consumers loved him for that. Apple fans world over adore the company, and do not care about the technology that it uses. So while the tech geeks might not rate the iPhone 4S very highly, the fact is that Apple sold four million iPhone 4 handsets in three days; the maxi mum a phone has ever sold in corporate history. The iPhone 5, which was launched a few days back, has been judged by many as lacking the ‘knockout gasping features’ that people have started to expect from Apple. But it will still sell 22 million units in the September quarter. In fact, after the launch, experts have revised their figures and are thinking that it will touch 27 million. According to some, the new device should sell as many as all the previous models combined. JP Morgan has even calculated that iPhone 5 could add half a percentage point to the country’s GDP growth!! Once again, you’ll see lines in front of Apple stores and share prices will start moving up.

Jack Welch
Jack Welch
A company that specializes in delighting its customers looks different, feels different and behaves differently. As Roger Martin, in his book “Fixing the Game”, says “To delight customers, a radically different kind of management needs to be in place, with a different role for the managers, a different way of coordinating work, a different set of values and a different way of communicating. This is not rocket science.” These organizations are not dominated by the sales force or the accountants, who only talk numbers; but by people who know how to create value. After all, it is commonsense that delighting the customer is what gets a business profits.

Business is finally for the customers and shareholder satisfaction is the consequence of correct strategies and not the strategy, silly!!

IT’S ALL ABOUT PEOPLE ALWAYS, SILLY!

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
A few days back, Michelle Obama delivered a speech at a national political convention. It was one of the finest speeches ever made. In fact, it was so powerful that it’s being touted as the speech, which could change the way the nation looked at Obama. If Barack wins, he will owe more to his first lady than any other president ever has. The speech created such an impact because she spoke from her heart, because she spoke the truth, and because she did not talk negatively about her opponent. Instead, she talked about herself, her family and her husband, and how they came from modest backgrounds and hence they understand best what the millions of voters are going through. She told them how she and Barack were still the same people and hence their policies would be the ones that they would have wanted when they were just simple working class people. She talked of love; she talked of how hard Barack had worked and how he was still that same man she had married years ago, for “being President doesn’t change who you are… it reveals who you are”. And for the first time, she had driven an entire nation to tears and most probably driven Barack Obama back into the hearts of many Americans.

Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama
Even when it comes to winning the Presidential elections, remember, it’s finally all about people and making people like you. Michelle Obama knew that people would appreciate honesty. Also, pointing fingers at your opponent will not put you in a better light; rather, being honest will. It’s commonsense.

Finally be it running a business, or running an ad campaign or even running for President; the rule remains the same. If you want to succeed, no fancy gimmicks may work. But simple commonsense will work always.

JUST DO IT!

Monday, August 27, 2012
The way to your dreams, your goals lies not just in charting a good action-plan, but also equally in decluttering your life, the way all great men have done

DON’T COMPLICATE IT

“Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature...” – Thomas Kempis

In today’s world, where we live in an environment of clutter, chaos and confusion, the person who is able to de-clutter and simplify his life is the one who can achieve the maximum. Most of us are doing too much – speaking too much, connecting too much (thanks to Facebook and other networking sites), multitasking too much, aiming for too many goals, filling our workday with too many commitments, and the list goes on. It’s time to hold back, think, and simplify things. It’s time to focus on the essential and de-clutter, and de-stress our life. All successful people have done it.

However, simplicity is the most difficult thing to achieve. The ones who can achieve it have been the most successful. Charlie Chaplin was one such legend. He simplified films. All his films were immaculately constructed. He understood human psychology perfectly and depicted it in the simplest manner in his films, which is why even today, they are as enjoyable to watch. Come to think of it, simplicity can be pretty complex. Only if you have a deep understanding of the problem can you think of a simple explanation or a simple solution. As Lao Tzu once said “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” The one who can master these three virtues is sure to succeed.

Look at the world of advertising; even here, simplicity works the best. The commercials we remember the longest are the ones that tell a simple story. Remember the Zoozoos of Vodafone, or the little pug of the Hutch advertisements? Almost all of us remember them even though the ads have stopped being aired on TV. A great advertising guru is one who has the knack to understand the pulse of the consumer. Ask any advertising man and he will tell you that the toughest challenge is getting ‘customer insight’, i.e. trying to figure out what will motivate the consumer to buy. Most of the times, the answers are the simplest. When Rasna was launched (sometime around 1983), the ad agency Mudra used one simple headline, ‘Home Magic’, and below it put a photograph of 32 glasses filled with Rasna with a straw in each glass. A simple idea, but the housewives loved it for the visual embodied the value-for-money proposition. One pack could make 32 glasses. So successful was this simple depiction that the visual remained the brand’s identity for 23 years. A great advertisement is one, which very simply articulates what the consumer wants. This requires great skill but once you have found your message, you do not require expensive locations, celebrities or expensive sets to make your ad stand out and get noticed. The right message is remembered and people never get tired of watching the ad. Amul’s advertisements are another example of the power of simplicity. They pick up a topic that is in the news and build an ad around it. In 1967, the first hoarding of Amul went up in Mumbai and till today, people wait for Amul’s next ad. Look what a simple idea can do!

Prof Rajita Chaudhuri
Rajita Chaudhuri
It’s said that the greatest truths are the simplest. The same can be said of the greatest men. William Wordsworth was a great poet who wrote about the simple joys of nature; and even today, his poems remain as popular. He said, “How many undervalue the power of simplicity! But it is the real key to the heart.” Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest men India has seen, believed deeply in the virtues of simplicity. He said, “Live simply, so that others may simply live.” The moment we ‘clutter’ our life with too many unnecessary wants and needs, we forget to enjoy its true beauty; and it’s this greed, this insatiable hunger that leads to more problems for not just us but those around us also.

In a nutshell, great things start with simple ideas; and truly great people have achieved their greatness by believing in simplicity. They lived simple lives and found simple solutions to every complicated problem. Very simply put, if you want to lose weight, the simple solution is to eat less. If you want to do well in studies, study daily. If you want to become a good musician or sportsman, get up every morning and practise. If you want India to really change, go ahead and vote for the most deserving candidate. If you want to achieve something, just do it!

DON’T GIVE IN

The temptations of time wasters are everywhere and are the causes of a lot of procrastination. The television and YouTube are two mediums causing the biggest wastage of time. Hours evaporate into a mist of undone tasks before we know it. These temptations are the greatest when we have the most to do. The less time we have, the more the temptation to waste it doing things, which could easily have been avoided.

In his book Eat the Frog, author Brian Tracy gives one simple advice. He says that according to an old saying, if you eat a live frog in the morning, nothing bad will happen to you for the whole day. However, the ‘frog’ that he speaks about is actually the one thing that you find the most difficult to do in your ‘to-do’ list. It means the task, which is the most important; and it is generally the most demanding task that we try to procrastinate the most. It is this ‘frog’ that should be attacked first and finished the moment we start our day. This will ensure that the job is done when you have the maximum energy and time in hand, leaving you feeling happy and satisfied for the rest of the day; and perhaps, because of this, one is encouraged to do even more things in lesser time. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is it comes one day at a time.” What he meant was that we write our future ‘one day at a time’; so if each day is planned well and if each day is made productive, the future is bound to be good. Live each day to its fullest, by planning it well and starting the day by doing the most important things first.

GIVE UP, BUT DON’T GIVE IN

Give up something. Abstain from certain things. Have the courage to say ‘No’, for it gives you strength and prevents you from giving in... from succumbing to pressure. Great people managed to achieve the impossible by making a promise to themselves of abstaining from certain things till they accomplished what they wanted. Chanakya refused to tie his hair till he had avenged his father’s death. Draupadi refused to tie her hair till she had taken her revenge. Gandhi refused to eat (and undertook indefinite fasts) till the British agreed to his demands. Giving up something to attain a greater goal has been the foundation of Indian culture. It gives one immense power. Fasting makes us stronger. Giving up non-vegetarian food makes us increase our self-control. You could start by giving up one activity that wastes time and use that time to do something productive.

One of the greatest qualities of a leader is his ability to overcome temptations. It’s his ability and courage to say a ‘no’ which gives him greater control over his life and his thoughts, for every time he says a ‘no’ to the temptation, he keeps the focus on his goals and that increases his determination and willpower. You say a ‘no’ for you refuse to take ‘not possible’ for an answer; because when you are obsessed with an idea and think only about it and nothing else, all your energy and life starts revolving around it. Once that happens, you are bound to succeed.

A person who can control his thoughts, a person who has a strong mind is the one who achieves the most. As someone said, “As you think, so shall you become.” Think about what you are planning to do today, for your thoughts become your actions. If your thoughts match your plans, only then will you succeed. The book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill says that if you have a burning desire to achieve something, you will get it, for that [burning desire] will help you overcome all obstacles and opposition. Thoughts become things, and as Hill puts it, “All achievements, all earned riches have their beginning in an idea!” So find that idea which will engulf you and make you work towards it like a man possessed, and you will never look back.

Both your thoughts and actions finally decide your future. So think right – this will help you to plan right. Before that, de-stress and declutter your life; simplify it so that you can focus on the really important stuff. Finally, once you have decided on something, don’t let anybody in the world change it... Just do it!

NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP

Sunday, August 19, 2012
THEY NEVER GAVE UP

She was born into a family of jhum cultivators of Manipur. She helped her parents till the fields and looked after her siblings. Brought up in such a modest background, she never imagined that she would one day win a medal for her country at the Olympics. The woman I am talking about is Mary Kom, a true winner who, without any formal training and money, has won six gold medals at World Championships. This year, she made India proud by winning a bronze for the country. While better and more popular athletes crashed out, this woman put up a tough fight and achieved victory. Her story is the story of a woman who never gave up.

Rajita Chaudhuri
Prof. Rajita Chaudhuri
Every cartoon this boy submitted was rejected by his high school yearbook staff. Later on, even Walt Disney refused to hire him. Yet, he never gave up. Finally, in 1950, his dream of becoming a professional cartoonist was fulfilled as his comic strip Peanuts was published. It soon became a big hit and Charles Schulz was soon earning $30,000 a year by 1953. The characters of his cartoon strip became virtual heroes and soon they were adorning cards, books, clothes, lunchboxes, et al. Snoopy, one of Schulz’s creations, was such a big hit that he soon became the mascot of NASA in 1969. NASA’s lunar excursion on the Apollo 11 mission was called Snoopy! Ford used the characters from the cartoon strip Peanuts to sell the Falcon. The characters of Peanuts were also used for 15 years to sell the products of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. A man who faced a lot of rejections and misery, but all the time kept his focus on what he loved, Schulz finally showed the world that ‘quitters never win and winners never quit’.

IT TAKES COURAGE TO STAND UP

In life, things may not go as planned, but great minds have the ability to rise to the occasion and take up the challenge. As Washington Irving once said, “Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune, but great minds rise above them.” It’s these people who have achieved true greatness. John Milton lost his eyesight, but it did not deter him from writing Paradise Lost almost 16 years after losing his eyesight. Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime, that too, to one of his sister’s friends for $50. Yet, he never gave up painting and completed 800 paintings without feeling dejected; and all the time totally believing in what he was doing. Persistence pays, and is the deciding factor between winners & losers.

The exhibitions of the ‘Impressionists’ artists were routinely rejected by the Paris Salon. They thought it was not art and refused to acknowledge it. The artists never gave up and continued their work. Today, there is hardly anyone who remembers the name ‘Paris Salon’, but anybody interested in art knows about the ‘Impressionist’ artists. In June 2008, the auction house Christie’s London sold its most expensive painting, that of Impressionist master Claude Monet, for more than 40 million pounds. Never ever in Europe had a painting been sold at an auction for such a price. The ‘Impressionist’ painters never let the judgment of Paris Salon pull them down. They never gave up on what they believed in till the world gave them their due.

He did not speak until he was four years old, and couldn’t read until he was seven. His parents thought he was ‘sub-normal’. He was expelled from school and his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrip forever in foolish dreams.” Those were these ‘foolish dreams’ of his that transformed the world. From opening a whole new world of ‘Quantum Physics’ to answering the question “Why is the sky blue?”, he changed the way people understood the world! Albert Einstein looked at things differently and saw what others could not see. Even the ‘God particle’ would not have been discovered had it not been for Einstein and the support he gave to our own Indian scientist Satyendra Bose.

This boy failed in sixth grade and he was defeated in every office he stood for. But he did not give up till at 62, he became the Prime Minister. His name was Winston Churchill.

These and many more such success stories have one thing in common; the people never succumbed to adversity and never lost focus. They relentlessly pursued their goals and believed in themselves even when the world gave up on them. These people had the courage to fight all odds.

Cartoonist Charles Schulz
Cartoonist Charles Schulz

IT TAKES COURAGE TO SIT DOWN

As Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen”. If success comes with listening to your ‘inner voice’ and not letting other’s opinions overpower this voice, it also comes when you have the courage to listen to other people – especially those who don’t agree with you. Success also comes when you have the humility to accept you were wrong and change your course of action. The most difficult words to say are “I am sorry” and ‘I was wrong”. People who have the courage to use these words win in the long run.

Indian Boxer M. C. Mary Kom
Indian Boxer M. C. Mary Kom
In fact, it’s so important to accept your failures that kings of medieval times kept court jesters, who were allowed to comment on the king’s failures; something others dared not to do. But kings realized that it was important to have someone point out their mistakes. Great kings had great jesters. In Persia, the autocratic Shah Naser al-Din had all his courtiers quaking except the jester Karim Shire’i. He would ridicule the whole court, including the Shah. Once, the Shah asked whether there was a shortage of food, and the jester said “Yes, I see that Your Majesty is eating only five times a day!” Be it Tenali Rama, who was the favourite jester of King Krishna Deva Raya or Birbal, who was the favourite of Emperor Akbar; these people made the kings realize their mistakes through their wit and intelligence and the kings rewarded them amply. Everybody makes mistakes, but it takes great strength of character to accept them. Only great leaders have the humility and courage to do so.

John Burroughs once said, “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” When you blame others, you learn to find an easy way out to justify your mistakes. This takes away the cutting edge from your fight, which is what makes true winners succeed in the long run.

Noted Painter Vincent Van Gogh
Noted Painter Vincent Van Gogh
When I have the courage to blame myself, I learn to take personal responsibility. When I blame myself, I close all escape routes, which helps me to keep a focus on my goals and work harder to achieve them. Richard Branson started Virgin Cola. Failed. He started Virgin Credit Cards. Failed. Yet, he never gave up. He accepted his mistakes and moved on.

There is no success without failure. The truly successful ones are those who have mastered the art of handling failure. They have the courage to accept their mistakes and sit down.

IT TAKES COURAGE TO STAND UP AGAIN

Everybody fails, but you become a ‘failure’ if you refuse to get up after a fall. There is a Japanese proverb that describes success in a simple line: “Fall down seven times, get up eight (times).” The Campbell Soup Co. was one of America’s most successful brands, but by 2002, it had lost its charm. When Douglas Conant was appointed its new CEO, he was not scared to put up a fight and even though sales were declining and new competitors were closing in, he kept the faith. After eight years, he changed this company, which was once labeled as “a beleaguered old brand”, into an ‘extraordinary’ one. Today, the company is once again going strong and is back on its feet because there came a leader who refused to give up.


Former British PM Winston Churchill
Former British PM Winston Churchill
Everything that could possibly have gone wrong went wrong with Chrysler, from a federal bailout to bankruptcy to takeover by the Italian automaker Fiat. Yet, the company did not give up and this year, it’s back. In fact, it has reported its first annual profit since 2005.

Edwin Land co-founded the Polaroid Corporation in 1937. By 1960, it became so popular that half of America owned a Polaroid camera at that time. However, when mobile phones with built-in cameras came in, the definition of ‘instant photography’ changed, and the corporation had to stop the manufacturing of its instant cameras. The company was down and out, for it failed to assess the changing needs of the market in time and lost out to new and better technology. However, as the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” A group of passionate photography lovers are reinventing the Polaroid. They have called it the “Impossible Project”. They feel that there still exists a market for their product. They have a new peg for their instant films. They say that it’s carefully manufactured to develop slowly in the palm of your hand. Maybe this initiative succeeds and Polaroid reinvents itself to suit the demands of the new market, but the fact is that here is a company that refuses to give up. It will not be defeated so easily. That is what success is all about.

Edwin Land Cofounder of Polaroid Corporation
Edwin Land Cofounder of Polaroid Corporation
The people who succeed are those who don’t take no for an answer.

You too, must not let failures affect you. Believe in yourself, for no one else will till you do so. Have the courage to follow your dreams, but at the same time, have the courage to accept your mistakes and correct them; and at every stage that you fall down, do not forget to get up and once again start working towards your goals. Everyone who has seen success will tell you this, for all success stories have one common thing – they never, never, never gave up!

TALK TO ME

Thursday, July 19, 2012
Humans are the most social of all animals. We love to talk and interact with others. It is one activity we crave for and if are deprived of it, we could sometimes lose our sanity too. Well, advertisers are realizing this fact too; i.e., if they do not interact with their consumers, they could lose their market share to those who do so! The latest development in TV ads is helping advertisers do just this. Technology is being used to change ads from being a one-way communication process to two-way. It’s time that companies realized that not many are watching their ads. Think about it. Every time there is an ‘ad break’, we use it for a ‘loo-break’ or a ‘mobile checking break’ or a ‘what’s-on-in-other-channels- break’!!! This is making many big advertisers turn away from TV.

Take a test… try to remember the last few Nike commercials you saw on TV. Chances are that you will not be able to clearly remember them, for the simple reason that Nike is no more big on TV. Nike’s spending on TV and print has dropped by 40% in the last three years, though its total marketing budget has increased and is today at a record high of $2.4 billion. Nike has shifted its focus from expensive celebrity endorsements and has started making more interactive online marketing plans that encourage the user to communicate directly with the company. So those are the products like Nike+ running sensor and the Nike ‘FuelBand’ that are its key areas of focus today. The one division that has doubled its size in the company (from 100 employees to 200 in just 6 months) is Nike Digital Sport. The company spent $800 million on ‘non-traditional’ media in 2010. Rather than spending on the Super Bowl as it had traditionally always done, Nike feels that it makes better sense to focus on its online communities. It is here that most of its consumers spend their time (and not in front of the TV). It is here that it can get 200 million visits everyday, as compared to that one Super Bowl Sunday when 200 million Americans watch the game. It is here that Nike encourages millions of its users to post their workout details and in return gives them fitness tips, helps them share their workouts with friends, et al. This ‘conversation’ helps the company know more about its customers and helps it plan better marketing strategies.

Considering the fact that today, more than 5 million runners log on to Nike to check their performance, Nike has followed the right strategy. It’s not surprising that in spite of Adidas and Reebok merging and becoming one giant organization and in spite of so many new and hot upstarts in tow, Nike remains the world’s largest sports company; for the simple reason that it has stayed connected to its consumers.

As Nike CEO Mark Parker says, “Connecting today is a dialogue.” He actually implies that those days when a good product with good advertising were enough to sell the product are long gone. Today, marketing is all about interacting closely with the consumer, probably just like the old days when its founder Phil Knight started selling shoes out of his car. He convinced each customer, made him his friend and sold him his shoes. Online communities help brands make friends and customize their communications to suit each one’s need. One can say that marketing has come full circle! Glitzy ads will not work, nor will world famous celebrities. What will finally work is your ability to understand the consumer and your ability to engage in a conversation with him.

TALK TO ME: CAMPAIGNS VS. CONVERSATIONS

Everybody is waking up to the fact that passive one way communication will work no more. So Microsoft has gone ahead and made this very passive medium, i.e. the TV ad, into an interactive one. It’s introduced the NUads on its gaming console Xbox 360 Kinect. It’s the new hands-free gaming experience, which requires no controls except your hand gestures, making everybody in the family from the 6-year old to the 60-year old enjoy it. On this platform, it has launched these interactive ads.

The ads that are streamed on the Xbox are different from your regular ads, for they ask you to participate in opinion polls, and even give you the results instantly. They ask you if you want to share the ad on Twitter, and once you say ‘Yes’, it takes just a wave of your hand to post it on your account on the social networking site of your choice. An advertisement for a TV show will ask you if you want to put a reminder on your phone, so that you don’t forget to watch it. Again, a swipe of your hand will send the information of the show timing on your mobile phone and set an alarm to remind you to watch the show. This and various other interactive activities have been built into the ads so that you no more watch them passively, or worse, still walk away while the ad break is on.

Launched last month, among the first few to experiment with this are Toyota, Unilever and Samsung Mobile USA. The ads would be launched later this year, but a sneak peak was available of Toyota’s ads. It decided to take its ‘Reinvent’ TV ad campaign a step further. In the ‘interactive’ version, not only will it show how Toyota has reinvented its cars, but it will also ask viewers what they would like to see reinvented. Viewers can then respond using Kinectpowered voice or gesture controls. It serves a dual purpose. The viewer is kept engaged and Toyota gets valuable feedback. Unilever is using this interactivity for its ‘Lynx’ brand. Its ads show a female cop chasing a robber; but by the end, we realize that she’s chasing a guy with the Lynx deodorant. The tagline reads, “Nothing will be the same again”. Viewers are then asked if the Lynx effect should be given to girls with options being “Yes, of course” and “No way”. It’s a fun way to engage the audience. In fact, the creative possibilities are unlimited. A car ad on the Xbox can now come with an option, “Do you want to know where the nearest dealer outlet is?” A wave of your hand and you can get the address. The car company, in turn, gets data about how many viewers were interested in knowing the location of its dealer outlets, which can help it plan its future strategies.

There was a time when companies talked and customers listened. Today, with these NUads, the customer talks and the company listens.

TALK ABOUT ME

Data is the lifeline of any business, as the CMO of Zipcar will tell you. Under him, Zipcar has grown by leaps and bounds and all he did was to use the data of customers to customize his marketing. He used data like how the car was reserved (online or via an iPhone app), how many hours did they use the hired car, which cars were preferred in which neighborhood, et al. All this data and more was used to plan media buying strategies, advertising themes, et al. The right data is what will help you fight competition, and interactive ads get you that data right from the customer himself.

So not just the Xbox, Microsoft is doing the same with its Skype services. It bought Skype for $8.5 billion last year, and is now finding a way to monetize it using ‘interactive ads’. Using the membership data of customers, it will figure out which services and products you would be interested in and every time you make a voice call, these ads in the form of contests, games, exclusive movie trailers, et al will flash on your screen. The idea being that you will start talking about them with the person you are on the call with and maybe even click on the ads and watch them. How it finally works, time will tell, but one thing is for sure. Advertisers have a whole world of opportunities opened up for them. The game will change, the rules of advertising will change, and the most creative will win.

Steve Jobs
The one company that has always believed in changing the rules of the game is Apple. Even its marketing strategy is a ‘game changer’. The last time Apple invested heavily in making an expensive ad was its ‘1984’ commercial. After that, it has focused on creating news around its product launches. When Steve Jobs announced that he was unveiling a new product, there used to be a mad scramble to be a part of that event. His carefully crafted words ensured that everybody was talking about his new invention. As a result, people queued up for hours outside its retail outlets to be able to buy the product. Apple could have reduced the rush and sold products online, but that wasn’t newsworthy. There’s no brand that attracts queues outside its stores the way Apple does. Steve Jobs was among the first to understand the power of PR, the power of creating a buzz. These queues got people talking about Apple, increasing the excitement around each of his products (even Samsung, Apple’s arch rival, could not help but talk about these queues in its ads!).

So obsessed are people with Apple that its users believe that it’s the best without even considering the competition, for they say, “If Apple says it’s the best… well, then it is!” This perception was built not with ads, but with conversations between people. Slick PR efforts, over the years, have helped nurture these conversations.

The bottom line is that if people talk about you, then you will survive. ROM, a Romanian candy bar maker, will vouch for that. It realized that American candy bars were stealing its market share, so in one day, it replaced the packaging of all its bars with the American stars-and-stripes. Romanians were furious to see their oldest brand turn American, and there were demonstrations. The company used this to promote itself on TV. It issued a public apology and soon returned to its original packaging. What an interesting marketing stint to get the nation to talk about your product! As expected, the sales of the candy bar skyrocketed after the carefully planned ‘error’.

People need to talk about the product or service for it to succeed. Marketers are going a step further and trying to engage people in a conversation through their advertisements. It’s the new way to catch people’s attention and get them to share details about themselves. The better I know you, the better I can sell to you. The future belongs to the brand that can make consumers talk about it or talk to it.

IT’S ALL ABOUT CREATING THE RIGHT IMAGE

Saturday, June 16, 2012
She is a heroine of a different generation and yet this month, so many celebrated her birthday as if she were still with us. She may have gone long ago; yet, she lives on, for her images just don’t seem to fade. In fact, every time an  unseen or unpublished image of hers is discovered, it makes it to the front page of almost all newspapers. The lady is Marilyn Monroe. Images are very powerful, they just live on and some even become iconic. The face of the Cuban revolutionary, Che Guevera, also being one such image. It’s not just a face. It symbolizes rebellion and freedom,  feelings that the youth just love. Put this face on any merchandise and it becomes a bestseller. The number of T-shirts  emblazoned with Che’s face that have been sold is incredible. It’s ironic that a revolutionary, who rebelled against the  capitalists, has today become the biggest bestseller of the capitalist world.   

That’s the power of these images. They  generate strong feelings. Another image that brings out strong reactions is the Swastika symbol of the Nazis. Recently,  Madonna used it during her tour in Israel. On a giant screen was shown an image of Marine Le Pen, who is the leader of  france’s National Front Party, with a Swastika on her forehead. The party was enraged and threatened to sue her.  Considering the fact that Madonna would be performing in France soon, this was a nice gimmick to get the nation talking  before she arrived! She is one of the few people who understand the power of images, of visual branding, and has used it  consistently over the years to keep her in the news and always ahead of competitors. Be it the cross of Jesus or the  Swastika of the Nazis, she knows how to use symbols to get people to notice her. 

It’s also the oldest trick of brand  building.   It’s also the oldest trick of brand building. Brands have used symbols (logos) to distinguish themselves from  competitors and build a unique identity around them. Associating oneself with a unique symbol makes it easy for  consumers to remember you. So on Marilyn Monroe’s birthday, Lady Gaga tweeted a picture of hers dressed as Monroe,  and more than one lakh of her followers (all in the age group of 14-19 years) liked it. The interesting part is neither Gaga  or her fans belong to Monroe’s generation and the only reason they are her fans is because of the ‘images’ they see of  her. These stunning images are the reasons for having ensured that ‘brand Marilyn Monroe’ will never die. And images  re the reasons that will ensure that your brand lives on in the future.


PICTURES WILL RULE 

The  most exciting websites in the recent months have been ones that have focused on pictures. One such website, which has created a lot of excitement, is Pinterest. If numbers are a measure of growth and potential, then according to Experian Hitwise, Pinterest is the third most popular social network in the US, just behind Facebook and Twitter. Not surprising then that it was recently valued at $1.5 billion with Rakuten Ichiba giving it a funding of $100 million. Rakuten is the largest e-commerce site in Japan and among the world’s largest by sales. Why should an e-commerce site be interested in a scrap-booking site? Because it affects sales directly. Let’s see how.    

Things have changed dramatically for  interest. In February, no brand was interested in it and then in two months, the number of brand pages increased by 24%. Pinterest links have appeared in retailers’ e-mails faster than links to Facebook, Twitter et al appeared, proving the point that retailers are benefitting from it. A study by Vancouver’s Emily Carr University has found that there is a surprisingly high correlation between ‘pinning’ an image of a product and purchasing it, with more than 1 in 5 Pinterest users buying an item they have ‘pinned’ on their Pinterest boards. Companies are finding it important to keep a watch  n who is ‘pinning’ what and where he is ‘pinning’ it. If a consumer pins a picture of your bike on his board titled ‘Bikes    m considering to buy’, it makes sense to check which other bikes is he considering and get an idea. An aggressive  marketer could even leave a comment on this consumer’s page giving him information about his brand. Similarly, there  could be many ways to mine information and use it.   

There is a shift in the way people are using the Internet. Earlier it  as largely ‘text’ driven, but today pictures and images are becoming dominant. People are using pictures to  communicate. Be it the image you upload on your Facebook profile or your BBM profile or even on your desktop, it’s become a way to communicate your feelings. No wonder that ‘smileys’ and ‘emoticons’ are used most frequently when  e text friends and family, proving the point that communication in the future will be more image heavy rather than text. Marketers need to understand this change and plan their strategies accordingly in order to reach out to the maximum  umber of consumers and make strategies that outwit their competitors. In future, marketers who can communicate with  mages will be the most wanted, for in future, it’s an attractive image that will drive people to your website more than an interesting statement. This is the reason why it has been found that Pinterest is driving more traffic to the websites of  rands as compared to Facebook or Twitter. From TV networks to magazines, interior designers to fashion designers to  ar and bike manufacturers to even writers and bloggers; everyone is out there with their best images to attract consumers. A blogger who was writing an article on which advertising campaign he thought would win at the Cannes  his year decided to use Pinterest and pin pictures and videos of the campaigns; for he found that he could attract more  people to his post this way over just an article.   

Images will decide the future of your business. No wonder that Mark Zuckerberg did not think twice before spending $1 billion in buying the iPhone application ‘Instagram’. It got people  talking and wondering why he did it. The reason is clear now. Facebook launched its own camera application last month in May that lets people take ‘Instagram style’ pictures, which can be shared on Facebook with your mobile phones. If there is one feature that people are using the maximum on their mobile phones, it is the camera, and future revenues for  companies will come from here only. 

Facebook seems to be excelling in gobbling other people’s ideas and using them to its own benefit. Whatever the method, one fact is clear that it’s going to be a ‘business of images’ and the one with the best image (pun intended) would win.   

FROM BRAND PERSONALITY TO  CONSUMER PERSONALITY 

The consumer of today is using pictures to express who he is. It’s a  way of self-identification. Years ago in 1995, a French professor Jean-Nol Kapferer introduced the term ‘Identity Prism’, which took the corporate world by storm. Soon, every company stopped going by market research findings and framing their policies around those results. Rather, they started paying attention to their own inner values and focusing  n them. So, from ‘market based’ branding, the game has now turned to ‘identity based’ branding. David Ogilvy mastered  his and his advertisements focused on ‘brand building’ instead of just stating the various attributes of the brand. Now  he brand felt more real, someone the consumer could identify with. So Harley Davidson bikes built a personality that  appealed to the ‘rough and tough’ guys. Surf detergent built a personality, which appealed to the ‘sensible housewife’ who did not hesitate to spend more on good quality (remember the ‘Lalitaji advertisement’?). 

Today, marketers are once  again focusing on the right image and the right personality of the brand. Images create lasting impressions and are difficult to forget. If the image matches the personality of the consumer, then he will not hesitate to use that image on his  age and on his profile, since he can identify with it and it helps him express his personality too. The consumer of today is also using pictures in many ways. Some are using them to remind themselves of things they want to buy. Some are even using Pinterest to make a visual resume of themselves. If you want your brand to be a part of his ‘visual’ list, it’s  important that not only should your product be good, but it should also be represented in an interesting manner, so that  he consumer likes the overall image that he sees. 

‘Content is king’ is the mantra we have followed over the years.  Today, the time has come to think beyond content and think in terms of images and even going to the extent of making sure that every piece of content is made into a shareable image wherever possible. A lot of marketers are converting their ‘texts’ into interesting ‘images’ so that they can be promoted on these ‘image sharing’ websites easily. Be it brand punchlines or quotations, the text is also available in an ‘image’ format. 

Not just logos or pictures of their products, companies today are hiring professional designers and artists to ensure that their products are photographed in the right setting, which brings out the right image of the brand and which makes the images interesting enough for the consumer to identify with and ‘pin’ on his profile. With most of us running out of time and patience, the fastest way to judge  people and pages and profiles is on the basis of the ‘profile picture’. If you want your brand to stand out, you must devote time to visual branding and create the right aura around your brand. After all, it’s all about creating the right image!