Tag Archives: digital marketing

The New Age Crime: Advertising for the sake of it

29 Jan

Hanes Petal Outdoors

Driving down the streets of Bangalore, I was shocked (not as in mortified/ embarrassed – but as in ohmygod, WHO would DO that, and WHY!) at the sight of big hoardings showing the Hanes Bras with petal technology.

Now, it is a good message – not brilliant, and certainly not unique either in terms of proposition, or creative execution; but certainly topical offering (seamless yet concealing ) and visually eye catching.

What had me foxed was choice of medium – outdoor!. Not, because bras are so called “stay in closet” categories by the way! I like what is happening to lingerie – even in a relatively conservative country like India. But, because the media was so not “optimum” for the Target audience. Now, the Hanes brand is definitely targeting the “SEC A” – the upper class in income/ education and socio economics. Even there, if you were to further segment, it would be the modern/ urban/ relatively younger ones. These folks are ALL connected digitally – intact, many of them order everything online – including lingerie – because of some interesting new e- commerce retailers (which are also quite often dealers for Hanes themselves). These girls/ women are NOT likely to buy a brand because they see it outdoors. Even if, as in this case, the hoarding is placed on a road which contains a shopping mall, and therefore, may be intended to trigger brand recall.

Everyone knows that media is getting fragmented – and ofcourse, digital is increasing in importance. Many big CPG brands are actually thinking “digital first” (See Marc Pritchard, CMO of P&G saying digital is first thought, and in India, Pepsi allocating 20% of the IPL budget this year to digital ). (The only reason I have incorporated this link is because Deepika is a great friend! name dropping at its worst, yeah!)

Oh btw, the P&G – Sochi ad referred to in the article above is this:

On Sochi, since that is the other advertising thread running along, I thought the BBC trailer was a bit over the top – eventhough it kind of looked Middle-Earth-From-Lords-Of-the-Rings-ish…What did you think of it?

The other ad that I thought is a bit over the top, just because of the sheer generic nature/ and I-think-flop-attempt-at-laddering is the Axe Superbowl one. Axe and Peace??? huh? (OK, Coke and happiness I kinda get; even IBM and Smarter Planet – but Axe and Peace…nyaahhh..)

That ofcourse brings me to the most awaited advertising event of the U.S. year – the Superbowl. A google search on “Super Bowl 2014” btw, showed me 1.6 billion hits!!!! wow!) At $4bil a pop, here’s a look at who’s buying what.

I saw a few interesting articles on this:

– The top 10 most shared super bowl ads of all time

– The banning, for the second time, of Sodastream’s ad with Scarlett Johanssen. Apparently, Fox rejected it because they are scared of the sponsor Pepsi. It also looks as if a sure fire way to get viral is to get banned (at last count, the video had been viewed upwards of 7 mil times)

– The fact that the Superbowl, while arguably the most watched show of the year in the U.S., it is not so internationally (well, duh)

And finally, what Google autocomplete says about some top advertising brands – funny!

LGBT advertising Sec 377

I do think that the advertising that hit India when the Supreme court upheld the questionnable Sec 377 (On LGBT rights) was great – though in some cases, remarkably similar (I have also embedded one Coke clip from Russia – given the Putin government’s anti gay laws, there is immense pressure on Coke and other sponsors to boycott the Sochi Olympics!)

Some fresher perspectives were provided by my all time favorite outdoors advertiser – Amul (and another all time favorite though controversial advertiser Gap)

Amul Gap LGBT

On the subject of Amul, I think their latest take on a highly awaited but turned out to be damp squib interview by an Indian politician is, as usual, brilliant! Enjoy:

amul ad


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

Is Facebook Killing Other Digital Assets?

15 Mar


A few days ago I got into a conversation with the sales head of an entity – this is a platform that operates in what i would say is still a niche. It started as a blog, but now has contributory content from many authors – some paid for, mostly free. Fairly wide coverage across segments, nice viewership numbers – which the team actively tracks as metrics.

Now they have the next step in front of them monetization – They are chasing the obvious like sponsorship and advertising by brands, apart from other more interesting ideas.

But, the question that this guy asked me is:

If you are a brand, why would you not buy facebook advertising – where you can get access to an immensely wider reach, a much wider demographic, arguably higher engagement…Don’t forget, even for this entity, 75% of their discovery comes via facebook – which is probably true nowadays of most newer digital assets.

Ofcourse, much has been written about why companies should keep their blogs rather than just go for facebook pages alone – here’s a neat infographic on this. Prime reasons are – control of content, better engagement of a type, higher relevance, better chances at showing thought leadership rather than mere snippets (so different content types as well). All these make sense.

Ofcourse, as a counter, there are apps – that pretty much work as content platforms now (the mother of all content platforms being arguably wikipedia), including those on Facebook. Actually, honestly twitter more than facebook works better as a local – intact hyperlocal – content platform, though with the changes to the newsfeed, facebook will come closer. But see, publishing houses such as the Guardian are choosing to evict those – read why here

And then there’s the argument against websites of how video is the big gorilla in the room now – look at these amazing stats, and facebook aids the video wave.

But this sales guy’s point was not so much from the brand/ company’s point of view, but the advertiser/ spender’s – who is viewing website vs facebook as media channels not necessarily content ones.

I do think if the advertising/ sponsoring brand is serious enough to want to own proprietary content – remember in the digital world content is king – it shouldn’t rely on Facebook – for the same reasons as owners of the content shouldn’t rely on FB alone! There is something to be said for acquisition of eyeballs in an uncluttered/ controlled environment after all. Ofcourse they will also get the concomitant facebook page – so you do end up “going where your targets are” – the classic win for facebook, apart from “taking targets to where you want them to go”.

What’s your take?

Read also related earlier post here

Website or Blog, Pinterest or Facebook Page or….The Problem of Plenty For Start-Ups

9 Jan

My friend Shoma launched a new recipe/ food related web-site today . My other friend Sumanya on the other hand started with a facebook page for her nameplate making business which she runs out of home. I want to release a portal for moms – not a new idea, but sorely needed (i think) in the avatar i envisage it. The question is – should i create a website/ or will a facebook page suffice. Or maybe, because i do want this to be contributory/ interactive, i shd just make it a blog!

Sounds familiar? I’m sure a lot of small scale enterprises, attracted by the ubiquitousness of social media and the ease of marketing their business using these channels face these problems. 

So what is the answer? While i do have my own point of view here, i started by what a start-up would do – “Just Google It”. And came upon many “definitional” differences between blogs, websites and facebook pages. (no advice mind you :)).

Just so you understand,

A blog IS a kind of a website – (infact, its name comes from weB-LOG). THe only difference is that generally, a website has content that is fairly core to your business and so “static” i.e., it doesnt change/ get refreshed every once so often. In contrast, a blog is MEANT to have new content every day/ week/ hour/ minute — and the whole aspect is designed to show the changes in chronological order. Due to this, a website is typically informative about the company, and very often directed towards purchase (think e-commerce). A blog is more thought leadership-ish. Jeff Korhan has a nifty take on this – he says a Website is a digital storefront while a blog is a digital magazine.

A facebook page obviously, being a later avatar of all things digital, tries to combine the best of both. Having said that, the essential difference is that in a website – you wait for your audience/ customer/ reader to COME to YOU – i.e., you have to attract her to your destination. Once done, however, the audience is in a non competitive scenario – as she is consuming only your content. On the other hand, in a facebook page, your content is GOING to WHERE your customer IS – i.e., her newsfeed! Which means, that your content has to be compelling enough to even attract attention as the reader is scrolling through her newsfeed! This is the reason why facebook is often used as one of the media to draw traffic to websites (when both exist – as they often do). Per Jeff Bullas, facebook is not killing the web-site, in fact they co-exist.

Add to this the fact that all lines between different channels are blurring anyway! Web-sites now have blogs, they also have facebook pages. Blog platforms like wordpress and blogger now give you templates where your blog can be turned into a website. And facebook now has monetization options a la e-commerce. This convergence means, that there is no true form now.

Confusing, isn’t it? i’m sure you’re saying – OK, OK, i get the differences, so which one should I start with?

I have 2 pieces of advice here:

a) Think about WHAT you are trying to do with your business and with the digital marketing of it – Sumanya just wanted to spread awareness amongst a “manageable” circle. She views her business as a one man operation which will satisfy her creative urges, keep her busy as well as get her some recognition and pocket money. She is not into scaling it. It makes sense for her to use her circle of facebook friends who will spread the word to their facebook friends and so on – enabling creative appreciation via “likes” (see my other post on likes) and a steady stream of incoming requests. Shoma on the other hand, having been an entrepreneur, does want to keep herself open to the possibility of scaling her business (to eventually sell off). Hence she used the web-site format. She also, incidentally, has a blog embedded – that satisfies her creative writing urge just as the web-site itself satisfies her creative cooking one. She also “marketed” her web-site through her facebook page…See the possibilities?

b) But most importantly, and honestly, my BIGGEST piece of advice to you is – start with whichever one you know, are comfortable with, and can manage easily yourself! The main objective is to GET UP there on the web, it doesn’t at this stage matter too much – HOW!

As we all know, in the garage mode, we entrepreneurs have so much to do – and the biggest lesson we learn in this, is focus – on the core competence. Its very easy to get distracted by the myriad things we have to do. But after all, it IS necessary to get some kind of marketing done – and a digital presence is the easiest. Given the fact that all forms have all others embedded in them anyways, i would say – till you grow large enough to warrant specialised marketing and/ or can hire these folks who can market for you, just get started! You can refine/ add/ migrate whatever when the need arises.

So, ladies and gents, choose your poison – but just DO it…..err, on my idea? so, maybe i shd do facebook….no, – blog….no, website….ok, all three……