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Size Matters? How Does App-Only Fit In?

17 Jul

Appified

Last week, my Facebook newsfeed was filled with posts like these:

– As an inveterate online shopper, (can’t remember the last time I bought at a physical store/grocer/mall) I am appalled to read Flipkart will soon go mobile-only. I don’t care what their analytics team says. To browse/drool/look/re-look on a teeny 3*5 screen….yikes! How terrible the experience is likely to be!

And a sample of some comments:
– …did you order that from the cell phone? I did try ordering from the cell phone and gave up half way.

– …Agree totally. Refuse to shop on the mobile:)

– …Totally agree – no matter how good the mobile app is, I can’t imagine peering at stuff on my phone screen and trying to figure what to buy

– …Interesting . ..have they done their research right with the correct tg?

– …The experience is beat when I use all my senses to see, hear, touch, feel, taste and smell the physical product. Even with books, I love to browse through every chapter before buying. Perhaps you may call me old-fashioned and not abreast with the times.

Here’s another one:

First Myntra, now flipkart! I am not ‘appy

With its comments:
– …I think they are moving way too early. It will be a while before the phone replaces the desktop in terms of Internet surfing. Myntra already recorded drop in sales after they moved. Not sure how it will end up for Flipkart.

– …Agreed …while I use the phone for a bunch of apps, I still like the exp of sitting on my desktop / laptop to shop.

– …Ha,, ha They are making sure that users land up with nice neck, shoulder, hand pain… they should soon start another division for treating their loyal users!! why is it that human factors are not considered with technology advancement?

Then my husband, who was tracking a gift order I had placed on Amazon, told me – It’s been despatched. When I said – where from? Bangalore or Delhi? He said, just a minute – lemme check on my laptop 🙂

Not only normal people, but “experts” are debating this – HuffPost carried an article on why this move could be a potential disaster for Flipkart; while of course other folks are hailing this move as a harbinger of an app-only economy in the fastest growing app market in the world!

myntraflipkartapponly

This move should make folks like my friend Debjani, whose company zineone has bet completely on a mobile ready world, and who makes very cool app support software for enterprises, happy and vindicated.

But clearly, many many people (users) are not.

The big reason really seems to boil down to size! Tablets/ Phablets notwithstanding, it IS so much better to see a 14 or even 11 inch screen than a smaller one. The whole experience changes significantly! Scale, in all its manifestations, we all know the benefits of – economies; distribution synergies; skill specialization enablement; technology consolidation; etc etc…infact, even in the new digital/ e-comm & m-comm economy, we are seeing actions and transactions that reflect the desirability of scale and size – you see companies consolidating, take overs and buy outs – which will eventually I’m sure result in a shakedown.

Other Side of the Coin?: You know, it’s interesting, that I actually started writing this post (with the same first part of the headline) a few weeks ago – and at that time, it was going to be an “anti-size” post!

What prompted it was I guess the time of the year – it’s back to school time, and most people my age have kids leaving home to go to college for the first time – parents thus facing shrunk households. This always, but always, leaves my tummy churning, with a dreadful sinking feeling – I just vicariously go through the whole empty nest thing, and badly so (I still thankfully hv a few years before this hits me – one of the few advantages of a late marriage). And the thought came to me – looking at all these large 5000 sq ft houses, what are two old people (and in some cases, a dog) going to do, rattling away in these houses? Maybe they should de-size/ de-clutter/ scale down!

Achu

It also struck me, when after visiting a friend’s lovely spanking new, set in a 1 acre plot house, built in the beautiful traditional Kerala style, with a drool worthy Prof Higgins like library, my husband told me – hey, let’s buy a plot there. And it struck me, there’s really no end to this – bigger house, bigger car, bigger salary, bigger bank balance, (and bigger tummy to go with it!); and, actually, rather than buy a plot there – I did kind of anti-action – convinced my husband to sell off one of our (bigger) cars. So, we learn to survive with just the one (we’re managing fine btw, the Ubers and Olas have made life so much easier)

See, one gets faced with it actually even in business – after expanding the no. of items on offer, a retailer almost always goes through a phase of SKU rationalizing; large companies, after many M&As, get down to downsizing; many larger size packages of consumables start getting sold in smaller and smaller “trial packages” (sachets being of course the Indian success story to aid purchase in a low Per Capita Income society.) It is no secret that none of the Big Pharma actually now have a super cool pipeline, it’s the smaller boutique Biotech and Pharma companies that are doing all the meaningful research to bring potentially blockbuster drugs to market.

Incidentally, even downsizing is not easy. Read this interesting POV on retail store resizing problems.

Dino Extinction

It is said that Dinosaurs went extinct because their bodies scaled up disproportionately as compared to their brains; (and it is said that human beings will become extinct because our brains will become too big as compared to our bodies!)

So maybe it is a circle of life thing. One is small, then wants to become bigger, so expands. When one is too big, one has to reverse direction and cut down. Anti Size! ….One is single, then gets married, then has kids, then the kids fly the nest and you hunker down…anti size! 😦 ….Company gets many quarters of growth, starts becoming bigger, acquires diverse competencies, then…realizes is becoming inefficient, so, downsizes…anti size!

So, which is it to be? Big or Small? Website or App Only? Scale or Anti Size? Laptop or Phablet?

While you ponder this, I think that the defining “default” answer on “size matters” can be found in the Friends episode below. Enjoy 🙂

The Unpredictable Nature of Virality

10 Feb

flappy-bird

My household was in mourning on Sunday. Reason, the kids got up and saw that this year’s most popular game, flappy birds, was being taken down by the creator.

Looks like the boy is throwing away 50 million downloads and some 50K in ad revenue, coz he’s overwhelmed by the buzz (both positive, and negative) and wants his simpler life back. (Can’t say I blame him!). Unless ofcourse it’s a clever marketing ploy.

Really makes one think about this internet-spawned phenomenon of “virality”.

I googled for “how to make a video viral”. Guess how many hits it got? 306 million! (AND it auto-completed before i was halfway there – with other suggestions being – viral Facebook page (241 mil), viral Facebook app (108 mil), how to viral tweet 136 mil.)

Not only is this therefore a marketer’s dream goal – to have a video/ ad go viral (see some top videos of last year embedded roughly midway down this post) , it’s also their biggest nightmare obviously. We all know about the negative/ reputation busting tweets/ videos/ posts that went viral – some of them mentioned in this earlier post of mine.

Incidentally, I had posted a blog roughly a year ago on viral posts, and facebook etiquette regarding reactions to them. It mention some viral videos of that time.

So many PR agencies and marketing departments now make a living out of “listening” to what is being said about their brands out in the digital media landscape. Some 4 – 5 years ago, we spent many days and months attempting to educate clients on how this could be a “proactive” research tool – i.e., people mentioning your brands give you this mound of data that is attitudes/ usage/ behavioral etc – and all unsolicited. But, that use case for social media found far lower traction than the one which was “monitoring” for reputation protection. Basically, the Dell Hell/ Progressive etc PR disasters had instilled so much fear in people’s hearts that they wanted to be on top of any negative, “potentially viral” opinion. My company EmPower actually made a living out of this monitoring of media.

Even more than corporates, we had governments antsy – we had executed monitoring assignments for advisors of kingdoms and governments in the MENA region who were really scared by the social media trigger of the Arab Spring revolution.

Everyone asked us – can you predict what will be viral? That was the million dollar question – how can we ensure that we are not caught napping when a Tahrir happens, or United breaking guitar video happens.

And, I have to say, while we did a pretty good job of predictive analytics in general, this – predicting precisely what content where will go viral, and how, was completely beyond us!

After all, who in their right minds would think that The Fox would be the viral story of late last year!

Moral of the story – don’t overthink this. Controversy does help (banning – witness Sodastream Superbowl commercial), so do spoofs, but most often it is just pure unadulterated luck!

Finally, I think some of you will like a look at this : It lists 10 videos that went viral in the pre internet era!.

And, following a thread running through many of my recent blogs, and a story that has caught the imagination of India at large, this is a hilarious spoof on a much maligned-yet-watched TV show every night, interviewing the hottest young star of Indian Politics; that is now nearly viral. For those of you who havn’t watched it, enjoy!

I think the flappy bird issue also highlights that of success – how people handle it; and of simplicity – and how now many people activity desire a simpler life than the one they have. So good, more food for next posts :).

On Flappy Bird, my kids heaved huge sighs of relief when they figured nothing was happening to it if they’d downloaded it already! Their current high score is 6 – what’s yours?

Shoot the Messenger, the Media or the Originator? Social Media can do Good..

21 Jan

Last weekend saw the tragic death of a fairly high profile socialite/ businesswoman/ minister’s wife in India. Cause of death is still uncertain – but it followed a fairly venomous yet convoluted debacle on twitter, followed by retractments/ clarifications by husband and wife on Facebook.

A long debate followed – on the role of social media, twitter specially, in her death. Leading newspaper Hindustan Times actually carried a poll on whether Twitter was to blame for Ms. Tharoor’s death. (Results: 52% agreed that SM was to blame for her death!)

I say this is BS (pardon the french) – all that Social Media has done is allowed everyone an easily accessible/ easy to use/ free/ and increasingly popular medium for self expression – the presence of this medium in no way controls emotions/ behavior – except ofcourse allowing for an increasing need for sharing these emotions and behavior (and yes, in consequence making these same emotions/ behavior more share-worthy). It cannot be held responsible for what may be infidelity (except maybe give a means for communication of infidelity), and by no means is it a trigger for someone to pull a figurative trigger on oneself!

A now fairly viral article agrees with me – it looks like traditional media (read print and TV journalists) are those making the strongest allegations that Social Media was to blame; while, interestingly, post this article, Social Media is loudly saying that traditional media was to blame! (the lady had reached out to many journalists to “tell her story” – most were too busy to grant her a hearing!)

What Social Media is doing, is putting the onus on most of us to learn some new etiquette, and a newer/ maturer way of handling it. Celebs are most vulnerable (An interesting related article on Social Media savvy politicians mentions an interesting website Politwoops – check it for some fun stuff!). By the way, an Analysis of twitter behaviour for Mr. and Mrs. Tharoor shows that the politician was far more savvy than his wife.

There is a lot of good that Social Media is doing – look at its impact on Healthcare, with advocacy groups on most conditions bringing support and relief to millions of patients to state one. Or, as an example, my ex co founder’s initiative Let’s Do Some Good , and my husband’s proposed body for investing in Uttarakhand (yes yes, shameless plug!) that she is primarily promoting on Facebook. Or, just the pleasure that Facebook gives to the silver surfers – my mom and aunt being two avid proponents! It is really silly to state that the medium or the messenger is responsible for people’s stupidities.

I could go on and on, but just as I was writing this (reasonably impassioned) piece, I came across a new short film made in collaboration with…yes…you guessed it – Dove! It’s the perfect ending methinks to underline this message – the medium is not to blame! It can be used for a lovely reason as well…enjoy….

StartUp Dilemma 8 – What’s the Magic Number of Founders?

16 Jan

Entrepreneurship is a bit like marriage – you get married (willingly that is) either because you really like a person and would like to spend the rest of your life with him/ her; OR (seen less often in the western world, but very common in India) because you feel that this is the right time to get married (for whatever reason – biological clock and the need to guarantee perpetuity of race/ the desire to not live alone/ the pressure society is putting on you to find your soul mate/…).

Entrepreneurship also, very often hits either because you have an idea/ (or many ideas) that you really think will allow you to rule the world; or, because you want to start ‘something” on your own (“something” is undefined – and you are open to trying many of those). (Click here to read an earlier post on the right age to be an entrepreneur, and some segments of those!).

To take the corollary further, choosing co-founders is also a bit like marriage – you basically either know someone really well already, and are used to doing things with them – so they become a natural part of whatever you embark upon. Or, you kind of mount a hunt for someone who has what you need – it could be the code/ the BD contacts or skills/ the Ops knowledge/ the charisma/ and ofcourse the money!

So this questions often gets asked – how many co-founders should I have? Should I have any at all? How many is too much? And, how do I go about looking for founders.

Founder fin

Sometimes, (rarely though) this meeting happens a bit by chance – like it did for us. Debjani had a skeleton of an idea, her boss said – go for it; she knew Shoma of old, and said – OK, you want to try working from home/ in your pyjamas for a few days an hour, Shoma said yes; they figured they needed someone who India better, asked a neighbour if she would join, Asha said – not me, ask my friend (me); I was at a loose end and just getting bored with parenthood, agreed to meet Debjani and Shoma for a coffee (was in a hurry as had left 2 year old at home), listened to “idea” for 5 mins, figured there was no downside, wrote their numbers on the back of a tissue paper; Debjani figured now that we had 2 in India she needed one in the U.S. – asked her old friend Kyung if he would join – he was at a loose end too, said yes – EmPower was born!

And, for obvious reasons, while it turned out well for us, that is so not what you should bank on (co-founders falling into your lap pretty much).

So, start from the top – solo? (Obvious advantages – you are sole master, can control your destiny – have no one to blame, and ofcourse, get to take all your winnings home…) Actually, there are both pros and cons to being a solo founder, but in balance, it is better to have a team than not.

I can recall one successful Indian entrepreneur in the analytics field who did it alone (actually roped in his wife later) – but he got many advisors and early angel investors – and kept adding to his core management team who were all equity holders that helped him build his company – he’s done it really well. But he I think is a minority. (Though, to be fair, some examples of successful companies with one founder are Dell, del.icio.us, Facebook, plentyoffish)

Two? Sure, gives you a shoulder to lean/ cry on, a sounding board, and added expertise (in general, one is client facing, and the other is the techie/ content person). But, what if you have completely divergent views on a critical topic?

Hence, as a tie breaker – Three? Looks like VCs prefer 3. An old, but interesting article shows empirical evidence for the magic number to be —- yeah yeah it’s stat so it has to be weird —– 2.09 :). Also, this article on the “unicorn club” – i.e., those with Billion dollar valuations in recent years, seems to show that 3 is the magic number…

I agree – 2 to 3 is a good number. But, in our case, 4 worked well mainly because we were a cross border organisation – the market was primarily in the U.S., and development in India. So, both geographies needed the shoulders to cry on/ lean on – and sometimes bitch to, (about the other 2 🙂 ).

Ofcourse, the more founders you add, the more “noise” from fighting interpersonal battles emerges, and ofcourse, your share of the pie keeps getting diluted.

On this point, what do u do when u feel one is not pulling weight, or if you have a clash. Most startup failures are attributable to founder clash. Zuckerberg’s arguably ruthless treatment of his “co-founders” has been made famous in the movie The Social Network (watch this clip at 1.23-ish). Most people suggest a parting of ways is the best – if not the most pleasant option. Speaking for myself, we couldn’t do it ever. Not that we had major clashes, but there were times when one of us suggested that they just couldn’t work with someone else – and the others would step in, and say – “Hey, we started as a team, we will finish as a team, come what may”. Maybe not wise, in retrospect; but certainly easier to live with our own consciences – clearly, we are no Zuckerbergs 🙂

On the search for a good co-founder, this article is a good read, and has a few good examples. A further few interesting tips on hiring non-technical co-founders can be read in this article

Finally, I think there is no magic number honestly, it is what you feel the need for/ can make happen. If you feel you need skills in areas you cannot provide, and can find the “right” people for it, for sure, go ahead and look. What is important is that they should have complementary skills, and the right chemistry.

Even the “unicorn club” analysis shows that Ninety percent of co-founding teams comprise people who have years of history together, either from school or work; 60 percent have co-founders who worked together; and 46 percent who went to school together. But, teams that worked together have driven more value per company than those who went to school together.!

I think the defining opinion on this topic can be found in the following article.

So, don’t spend too much time over thinking this problem – it IS an important one, just like marriage, but, do what feels right to you – the money will follow 🙂

Outlay vs. Outcome: Why I need to diet AND exercise (or, why is “purchase intent” better than “likes” or “retweets”)

20 Nov

child studying

Classical scene in our house post any exam for the 8th grader child: One parent checking child’s answer against question paper. Child ofcourse answering to less-than-parent’s-satisfaction. Parent in glumpish/ lecturish/ sad/ disappointed mode. Child whining – but ma, I STUDIIIEEEDDDD – for TWO hoooouuuurrrrssss….

Actually mirrors my own scenario to a certain extent with the whole aerobics/ swimming business. I began attempting to get some exercise the beginning of this year (for the first time ever, I may add). Some 46 weeks later – very very very very marginal reduction in inches and kilos.

weight loss fail cartoon

(Credit)

Reminds me of our early partner calls running our start-up, when we would each ask the other partner – so, what’s the sales pipeline looking like. And, one of us would always say – see, I called company XYZ, tried to catch person ABC, attempted to get a meeting with so and so….

What’s common between each of these? Effort – Much. much. much. much…. Result – Zilch. zero. zip…

The point is, most of us very often kind of give sop to our consciences saying – I put in so much effort – I studied x hourse/ did y hours of community service/ made so many calls/ research so many papers. NOT IMPORTANT – what IS important is – did you achieve what you were trying to? Did it have the required outcome/ the impact???

Honestly, if it didn’t, your effort went waste! There is a saying – don’t just work hard, work smart. It’s to do with this outlay vs. outcome thing. ROI is a key metric most smart organisations measure – how much “bang for your buck” are you getting? Are you able to get higher turns out of your resources – inventory/ capital/ people time…and, the only way to do it is to be efficient/ smart/ outcome focused.

A good tool to measure this is a time sheet – I remember in the early days of our startup, we four founders decided to fill up time sheets – one week into the game, and i had trouble accounting for my 18 hours that i burnt the midday and midnight oil at. It was astonishing for how many of the hours, I would have probably put in “email” and/ or “internet”…(ofcourse, we were a virtual organisation, hence email was important; and we were a secondary research oriented org, hence the internet was inevitable) – but still, eye opening!

It’s a classical HR conundrun also – do you hire/ keep the “well intentioned/ great attitude” employee, or the “expert” one – who probably comes with all kinds of baggage of maintenance. A smart company actually hires a mix – and the managing of this mix determines the success or not of the org.

Interestingly, this is counter intuitive advice from what the Bhagwad Gita (a well known Indian tome) gives you – Karmanyevadhikarastey, ma faleshu kadachana – means keep focussing on your work, don’t worry about the result. (looks like this has had a great impact of me one way or the other – I just realised I used it in a completely different context in an earlier blog). I think, it would have been better if Krishna said – “work ofcourse, but work towards a goal – results will come, so don’t worry about them” :).

I saw a depressing example of the flip side of this advice actually a few days ago. As most Indian corporates know, recently the Companies Act got revised, and it now includes a provision that companies have to show spend of 2% of their net profit on CSR activities. A friend (and former co-founder) now actively in the CSR space wanted to pitch advisory services to firms about how to make use of these “mandatory” funds to make an impact. The finding in most cases is, that companies don’t really care about impact – they care about the “doing” – so, its all – “We Spent XXX Volunteer hours on CSR activities” – OoooKaayyy, what did you achieve? “uh-duh…who knows, who cares, how do we find out, why should we measure”! Kinda defeats the spirit of the act, don’t you think?

Another corollary – the whole Social/ Digital Media ROI piece – most folks are chasing likes/ retweets/ shares – and calling it engagement. Sure, these are good goals to chase as a FIRST step – but thats all they should be – a means to an end. Unless it translates to actual brand health KPIs – like, consideration/ purchase intent/ recommend-ability, loyalty…its all so much “feel-good” stuff.

I read this interesting article recently on HBR – pretty much says the same thing; slamming “being slammed/ busy/ neck deep in work” on grounds of outcome vs. outlay, worth a click.

What’s the solution though – how do you make sure you keep end objective in sight and don’t get bogged down by the effort. Most of you management sorts probably HAVE the toolkits, for me, a simple daily checklist worked well (I loved the ticks against each completed task) – but this daily checklist needs to get collaborated against yr monthly / quarterly/ annual goals. (It’s end of the year, folks – I’m sure many of you are now filling out “traffic signal” sheets against goal achievement? ).

For weight loss, I’m onto a protein only, no carbs diet for some time starting, uh, tomorrow? 🙂 (I see with my own eyes the much better effect of a combi diet-cum-exercise regime on my aerobics classmates everyday!).

Weight Loss tips Cartoon
Credit

Regarding kids, and how one makes them goal oriented, and not effort oriented – well, I have NO answers! (Its amazing how the simplest parenting problem is so much more insoluble than the most complex corporate one isn’t it?) Anyone with any idea, DO PLEASE pitch in!!!!

Social Media: More a Research/ Analytics than a Marketing Tool?

2 Sep

Social + Media + Research

Read an article yesterday about increasing apathy amongst college goers on brands’ social media marketing efforts. Add to that another from the flip side of the coin – CMOs. According to a recent study, only 15% of U.S. CMOs have been able to quantitatively prove Social’s impact!

It kind of points towards an old felt-but-not-quite-articulated hypothesis I had! At the time, I used to think that I felt this way because my business was more focussed on the use of social media for a “learning” experience, not so much an “outreach” one. And this despite the fact that marketers we spoke to almost always were interested in the lower hanging fruit, i.e., the marketing using SM. So, when we went in with a pitch that said – “hey, this is what social media can teach you about your consumer or your competitor or your brand”, they would say, “hey, can you help us make our facebook page better”! Maybe it was compounded by the fact that the consumer insights/ market research people, those that would truly benefit from this, turned up their noses at this “unconventional, unstructured, “qualitative”‘ data source and took whatever we said with a pinch of, no! scratch that – huge dollops of salt! (See my very first blog post on this question of whether social media research is fish or fowl! )

So my hypothesis was just this – that Social’s FIRST and BIGGEST benefit was as a data source for higher consumer understanding. After all, this was/ is a medium that is changing the way people talk/ behave/ share/ opine – in many cases, this reflects people’s needs/ wants/ perceptions/ attitudes/ usages/ purchases. Most importantly, it is PEER to PEER. And proactive/ not reactive. Why then would you not leverage it for classical research questions? (Sure, it applies only to that percentage of the population that is connected, but, a) that is a large number in most countries now and b) even where it isn’t, it can be used as a proxy for the relevant categories.)

Ofcourse, I don’t think we should be ready to junk Social Media as a marketing tool yet – in fact, my hypothesis notwithstanding, I do think that the world is getting more digital – and therefore, marketers have no choice but to follow their consumers – i.e., go where the consumers go – in other words, social..

So then, what causes the CMO’s disenchantment with the medium? Maybe its the inadequate/ non standardised measurement/ metrics piece – obviously, if you aren’t convinced about how you are measuring input and output, you will not be convinced of the ROI of your spend. (See my older post on KPIs for Social Media Measurement for a way towards metrics and KPIs)

What is your take? Marketing or Research? (or measurement?)

social media research (Credit: conversition.com)

Multi Channel Marketing – Distribution Expansion or Cannibalisation

25 Aug

Bricks and Mortar Retail

My young nephew Dhruv came home very agitated the other night. He is planner and brand manager in charge of the store experience of a leading lifestyle brand. They were running a promo and he had spent many hours planning for the activation – he is a geek, so has devised simple but interesting models for inventory optimization, repricing etc.

Problem – in classical copybook style, he had planned that all “unique”, limited stock, special merchandise would be sold at their own retail showrooms during their heavily advertised promo. Makes sense, right? This is where you plan your retail experience, where you keep your best trained storefront people, where you spend megabucks on displays and merchandising.

What happened — yes, you all know it! 2 days before the activation was to hit the market, he figured that the dealer network had already booked all of it, and before he could say “activate….”, that inventory had all vanished!

Gives rise to classical undercutting!

This is a common problem in all dealer network sales systems, specially in India. Long ago, when I was leading area sales for Mattel toys in one of the toughest markets in the North of India, we kinda had the same problem. There was a dominant “wholesale” market in the center of town, and one fat cat distributor who supplied to those guys. Because the wholesalers bought in bulk, they got higher slab discounts – infact, all the the distributor kept for himself was a small margin. The rest of the city got supplied by other distributors, and since the retailers were smaller, they got no/ lesser trade discounts. Prime ground for channel conflict. Many retailers, who anyway visited the wholesale market for purchases of other/ less well distributed products would then get our merchandise cheaper at the wholesalers, leaving their distributors high and dry. This ugliness climaxed one fine day, when we had invited all distributors over for a meet and greet, and many of them almost came to blows!

Barbie Wall of Pink

(We did resolve this – and fairly innovatively too! But it took great guts and a strong belief in the power of our brand’s consumer pull to implement the strategy! We essentially cut down the slab discount mandates to retailers – and made the distributors accountable and penalizable for any contraventions! Would this have meant a reduction in revenues? Yes, a temporary dip – but our theory was that given the fact that we were selling a branded product in a largely unbranded products’ market, anyway, our retailers stocked our products only as the “hook”. Also, kind of following a not-price-led-but-brand-led version of the bait and switch tactic, they always attempted to switch the customer to a non branded – higher margin product that relied on trade push and therefore incentivized trade heavily to execute! Which meant, that all sales that we were seeing of our products were actually happening DESPITE the retailers, and not BECAUSE of them! That was the strength of our brand! Hence, crossing our fingers, we took the HUGE trade discount rationalisation step, which almost made history in trade sales!)

Coming back to channel conflict – my husband was ranting about this recently in another context. Attempting to invest some of our money in some bonds (or whatever), he asked the relationship manager of the bank what percentage interest we would get. (remember, we are so called ‘HNI’ so we merit a relationship manager who, btw, calls me everyday to give annoying snippets like – NIFTY has crashed/ the blasted ruppe is at 65 blah blah…). Imagine his disgust when the RM quoted him a rate that was – hold your breath – LOWER than that quoted on the bank’s website!!!!! (That poor RM i think didn’t get sleep that night since he was probably nursing a wounded ear – post the blasting that Manoj gave him!)

This online sales or “own store” sales vs dealer/ brick and mortar sales is a true conundrum.

Kind of rubs off on marketing as well maybe. The biggest thing that brands and companies nowadays are trying to achieve, is Multi Channel Marketing. ( we saw many RFPs on precisely this task last year). This is particularly relevant in the digital world – so, your offline presence needs to be synched to each of your digital avatars – your website/ blog/ forum presences/ social networking pages or channels. Since this is still fairly new, most brands are at the entry level of figuring this out – which largely means making sure that the visual identity in each channel is more or less similar (not as easy as it sounds – since most of these channels evolved at different times, and were probably executed by different departments within the company).

But, the true test of, and resolution to this is when you can remember the main reason behind having different channels – just greater/ higher reach. You know your customer now doesn’t have the will, or the need to – try too hard to get what she wants. So, you have to go where your customer is! This is true of the offline/ bricks and mortar space and of course online. And of course, different segments on your customers will go to different places – that is after all, the raison d-etre of distribution! So, you expand/ diversify/ have multiple avatars. Then the real way to avoid conflict is – differentiate your offering! Have merchandise as well as communication specific to each channel/ that suits the channel’s peculiarities and also that segment of your consumer that visits that channel. So, LinkedIn needs to have a more professional orientation, while Facebook can be/ is gimmicky/ polls and freebies…Dhruv’s own store needed the one off/ special merchandise because consumers come there expecting the widest range, NOT the most common!

The dichotomy though – how do you standardize visual identities/ simplify SKU hierarchies/ rationalize pricing while at the same time customizing offerings for every channel??? The answer – you do a bit of both! Have visual identities that cue the same stuff, but adapt to the channel – but DO differentiate the offerings for different channels – respect your channel – there is a reason why it is different – recognize that difference! Only then will your channel give you love back!

conflict resolution