Wednesday, 23 November 2011

7 As of branding Jumla apples

Jumla is a far-flung remote district of Nepal with harshness and beauty of nature juxtaposed on the same canvas. While more than 90 per cent of Jumla habitants crave for food after six months’ comfortable consumption, the big, juicy and crunchy organic apples can be bought here at a mere price of NRs. 10 (USD 1 = NRs. 80). The climate is harsh here. There are no all-weather roads to reach Jumla. The only one road that joins Jumla to rest of Nepal is the Karnali Highway which is dusty, bumpy and dangerous, and almost impossible to travel through during the rainy season. In spite of all these challenges, the atmosphere and scenic beauty here is beyond imagination and the journey of Jumla apples from an unknown commodity to a brand in demand is fascinating.

Apples were introduced in Jumla in the 1970s. However, it was only since 2006, when the Surkhet-Jumla road (the Karnali Highway) opened as a seasonal road, the Jumla apples started reaching customers in nearby Surkhet and Neplagunj. Earlier the apples remaining after household consumption were fed to the cattle. Only few people working in Jumla used to take few apples for their families and relatives as gifts. The only way to reach Jumla was the airway and being a remote place, no one was allowed to carry more than 20 Kgs of possession.

The market accessibility snowballed the apple plantations. Since 2008, farmers have been planting more than 100,000 saplings per year. In the years to come, there will be more Jumla apples in the market.

Within a short span of time, the apples from Jumla have created a niche in the Nepali market and the demand for the brand Jumla apples is growing each year. Earlier, the Jumla apples found in the market used to be bruised, unevenly coloured and unevenly shaped. However, the apples were still tasty, crunchy and juicy. As the apples were harvested haphazardly, even by shaking the tree and picking from the ground, the bruises appeared after it reached the market.

After the farmers got training in improved harvesting and post-harvest management, they started grading and packing the apples properly. The apples for the first time saw foam nets, wrappers, and cartons. Traditionally farmers stored apples inside their houses in cool dark rooms. Now some improved zero-energy apple stores have been developed.

In comparison to Chinese and Indian apples, Jumla apples are widely recognised as tasty and crunchy apples in Nepal.

Jumla declared itself an organic district in 2007, and in 2009, the District Agricultural Development Office initiated organic certification of apples for three Village Development Committees. Even before announcing Jumla an organic district in 2007, pesticides were only used by the larger famers, an estimated 5 per cent.

The farmers went through various trainings and were inspected by Organic Certification Nepal (OCN) in August 2009 and were certified “Organic in Conversion”. The OCN is a Nepali certification agency which applied the Government of Nepal’s Organic Guidelines for this certification.

The marketing was supported with posters, banners and “certified organic in conversion” stickers for each apple to create demand and trust among consumers. In a similar manner, in 2010 these farmers organised themselves into three cooperatives, and 200 farmers were certified fully “organic’ and another 150 as “organic in conversion”. Slowly the uncertified apples also started benefiting from the increasing awareness among consumers about Jumla being an organic district.

Till 2009, apple producers in Jumla were hardly organised and sold apples independently. Therefore, they did not have much bargaining power for better prices. They also did not have direct contact with major apple wholesalers in urban markets and depended on apple sales to local traders.

In 2009, the three certified farmer groups undertook joint marketing, and in 2010, nine Jumla cooperatives did so under the umbrella of the Jumla District Cooperative Federation. More farmers started being organised as the group certification is cheaper than individual certification. This further helped the marketing and branding of the apples.

The Jumla apples are affordable at a price of around Rs. 120 per Kg in the departmental stores and fruit shops in Kathmandu. It has to compete with the Indian and Chinese apples which sell at around Rs. 100 and Rs. 80 respectively. Being organic and tasty, Jumla apples are favourite among the consumers and they do not hesitate to pay a premium price. The resulting price is due to the transportation costs incurred in flying the apples from Jumla to Kathmandu and other cities. However, the price at Jumla just increased to NRs. 30 from earlier NRs. 10.

The marketers made available the apples at major departmental stores and places in Kathmandu, competing with the Chinese and Indian apples, though in small quantities. Meanwhile the fruit wholesale market, the retail shopkeepers and the cycle vendors helped Jumla apples reach the customers.

In 2008/09, China supplied around 70% apples, followed by India with 29% apples. In 2009/10, China’s market share was around 90%, with only 9% for India. The rest is occupied by domestic production.

To aware the people about Jumla apples the traders went for aggressive marketing. The marketers put banners and information stands at the selling points, advertisements were aired from radio stations and stalls were put at the major crossroads.

The farmers from Jumla and the traders gifted the Jumla apples to the President and the Prime Minister which created ripples in the media. The people got curious about the Jumla apples and started buying the apples which looked inferior in front of Chinese and Indian apples. Once they tasted the crunchy and juicy apples, there was no looking back.

Way forward
Besides the 4 As (Acceptability, affordability, availability and awareness) of marketing, I saw the other three As (Accessibility, attestation and association) equally responsible in building the brand Jumla apples. As an avid marketer, I believe the Jumla apple will be able to turn itself into an established brand owing to its superior quality, if it further incorporates another A (Assurance – assuring the consumers that the brand will maintain its acceptability and availability) in its branding journey.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Lessons in branding from a remote village

What will you do when you are overwhelmed by copycats producing your brand? On my recent trip to Eastern Nepal, I was puzzled to see around two dozen shops producing the same brand. Peda – a sweet made from milk is not only delicious but is also offered to Hindu Gods and Goddesses as offering. The pedas from Barmajhiya, a village in Eastern Nepal, have earned reputation not only in Nepal but even in the adjoining districts of India.

Perseverance pays
It all started with an old man’s perseverance to make and sell the sweet. When he started making pedas, there were no other shops making and selling the sweet. He just had a small hut and when nobody was interested in eating pedas, he started selling the pedas to the locals and the passengers travelling from other parts of the country to the Eastern Nepal. The taste of his pedas started making place in the hearts of local people and the word spread to the surrounding villages.

The tipping point
When the passengers travelling from the capital Kathmandu and other major cities started liking the taste of his pedas, the word of mouth advertising did the trick and the brand was talked about throughout Nepal. The pedas were so tasty and marvelous that people soon started flocking to the shop, journalists started writing about him and his pedas, making not only the pedas famous but also making the place Barmajhiya famous.

The amount of milk he used to collect from the local farmers increased by leaps and bounds, his profits soared up, and the area around his shop started developing into a cluster of shops. Seeing the old man’s prospering business, many started considering him as role model while others started looking at him with envy.

The bandwagon effect
Then started the bandwagon effect – other nearby shopkeepers started making pedas and to the chagrin of many, all of them put boards claiming to be the “original old man’s peda shop”. As a result, the passengers travelling through the highway were duped by the “me-too brands”. Still most of the passengers travelling don’t know which one the original shop is.

Differentiating from others
The old man, Baidhyanath Sah’s business, is however, flourishing as usual. To differentiate himself from other shops, he has put his picture on the board – which can’t be copied by other shops. And I say, that is a clear-cut clever move to prove his genuineness.

Quality matters
Not only the size and shape of the old man’s pedas but the taste itself stands out among the other pedas sold by the two dozen copycats. The locals and businessmen in the area know his shop and pedas. The businessmen purchase pedas only from his shop which is further sold across the country. Even near the Patan Durbar Square in the Kathmandu Valley people can purchase the genuine pedas from the old man’s shop.

The old man needs no advertising to refresh his brand. He just keeps sticking to his brand – the quality remains constant – and it does the rest for his business.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

O & A of branding

Observing and analysing are the two most important elements of building a brand

I am returning from a restaurant and lounge bar and before I forget the bits and pieces of my conversation with its owner, I must share this piece of knowledge on branding with you all. I now firmly believe on the “connecting dots” concept of Steve Jobs – during his speech at Stanford, he said that all past incidents are connected to each other and they have a certain meaning in your life. I met this wise man during a class of elementary French at Alliance Francaise. I didn’t know at that time that our friendship will lead to enhancing my learning on branding.

Bikram, the CEO of the restaurant and lounge bar, an education consultancy and an import and export business is nowhere in his early thirties. However, his eyes are like that of an old wise owl. He sees a pattern and cause in each of his observation. As one rightfully said that a designer sees a pattern in each nook and cranny, he analyses each and every incident and adapts the lessons learnt from those incidents in his daily life. That’s how he builds his brand.

Lesson 1 – Observe well. Like a designer viewing pattern out of the blue, you will get to know the reason behind any design. Take the case of Bikram – whenever he goes to any restaurant, he observes the milieu, food and service – and if he finds something special, he scripts them in his memory, so that later he can decode the secrets for his own use. He doesn’t even leave the nuances – the colour, light bulbs, cutlery, crockery, seating arrangement, menu, staff behaviour and even the way he is served.

Lesson 2 – Analyse well. If you analyse well, you will find the right reason behind any happening. Take the case of Bikram – whenever he finds a food too good at a restaurant, he has the habit of calling the chef – to say thank you for the good food and hand him some extra tips for tickling his taste buds. In doing so, he befriends the chef and gets to know a little bit of secret of the good cooking. One of his analysis that I would always remember is – you must not make the arms of sofa too wide – the reason being, not to let anybody sit on the arms. That’s a brilliant piece of analysis – if people start sitting on the arms of your sofa in the restaurant, you can imagine how long it will last.

Lesson 3 – Adapt well. If you adapt the good aspects of competitive brands, you will obviously be able to make your brand stand out among the plethora of other brands. Take case of Bikram – he is a superb adapter. Out of his observations and analysis, he has decorated the interiors of his restaurant with warm orange colour. He says, “Orange colour stimulates your appetite.” He has taken care to choose high quality cutlery, crockery, lighting, seating arrangement and well trained staff. Those are the results of the cues he had taken from his observations at the different food joints.

His observing and analysing skills have given an extra edge to his brand. His menu is full of foods that have something special in comparison to the same ones served in other restaurants. He has managed to build a team of highly qualified chefs with tasty hands (who can with the touch of their mere hands turn any food into delicacies). To my surprise some of them are the ones whom he had thanked earlier for the good food. I must describe his adapting expertise a further – he has managed to design tables similar to a restaurant in China, he has managed to summon a sofa maker who used to make sofas for the royals.

After talking about the O&A (observing and analysing) of branding, now I must talk about the human aspects of building brands. It’s crucial to maintain the camaraderie and spirit in your team. Otherwise the brand can crumble down any moment. Now let me take the case of Bikram once again – he has 27 staff and he never forgets to celebrate their birthdays with a blast. Out of 365 days, he keeps aside 27 days to make his staff think that they are the special ones at his restaurant. And this motivates his staff and his brand gets further momentum.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Brochure basics

Are you worried about producing a product brochure? Worry not – with a realistic plan and brainstorming with the relevant colleagues, you can come up with a compelling brochure that markets your product instantly.

The first and foremost thing you need to decide is the size and shape of the brochure. Depending on the content you have prepared, the size and shape varies. However, my advice is, go for the regular shapes. The awkward shapes and sizes not only make it cumbersome for the readers but also pull the hair out of the designer’s head.

However, the target audience remains the boss and you must be willing to change your design, shape and size of your marketing material as per their mindset. If kids are your target audience, they won’t go for voluminous texts. They would love to have their favourite cartoons and in their case, you can go for creative shapes – octagonal, hexagonal with sparse texts and lots of illustrations and pictures.

The font that you use determines the tone of voice of your brochure. I have seen people using Comic Sans MS font even in serious writing. I would recommend choosing the font as per the seriousness of your message. Verdana, Arial, Times New Roman, Garamond – all of these regular fonts carry seriousness with them. Calligraphic fonts like Lucida Calligraphy are widely used by the artists. The only advice from my side is, use the fonts as per your key message. Don’t use more than three different fonts in a single brochure.

Choosing the colour of the brochure is again yet another challenge. As you all know each colour has its own personality, you must be careful enough to match the personality of your reader with the colour that you are going to use in the brochure. The right colour makes your marketing message click in the minds of the consumers easily.

The images that you place along with your message should create a lethal combination to get your motive across. The images should be clear, forward facing and interacting with the audience. You can leave the headache of placement and adjustment to your designer. In case you are the designer, I would advice – don’t get taken away by any other designs, create your own design from the void. Have you heard? Some advertising agencies have empty rooms painted with perfect white to allow the creative guy to create something genuine out of nothing.

Now the content crunching – write and rewrite your message till you are satisfied with what you have written. Read aloud the paragraphs and sentences in your cubicle when you are alone – this will give you a fair idea of your mistakes and the tone of voice of your content.

And yes, start with a bang! The first few paragraphs should content all the 5Ws and 1H – i.e. let know the audience of what, why, where, when, which and how of your message. Don’t remember to make the starting sentence interesting – it’s an old trick of generating interest among the readers to read further. Then you can slowly start talking about the features and benefits of your product.

Remember not to put any jargons and bombastic words. You are not exhibiting your vocabulary power to the audience but you are trying to convince them, to make them buy your product. Keep in mind - not a single sentence should be out of order and every single paragraph should be linked to each other. This creates a wave of flowing words and sentences which arouses interest among the readers and eventually creates interest to purchase your products.

Pull quotes and testimonials are another way of highlighting your product or message in the brochure. If used properly, they alone can convince the readers. If the small box with the gist of your key message and call to action is well crafted, consumers will vie for your product without reading the whole brochure.

Slogan marketing still works and if you can come up with an interesting title, slogan and subtitles, it will not only organise your content well but will also make the read interesting.

Lastly, don’t forget to include a detail contact address at the end of your brochure. A URL of your website and contact mailing ID will make your brochure interactive. The interested customers will visit your website for detail information and even write to you about the product.

Go ahead and create your own product brochure!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Go nuts, create lasting brands

Never feel shy to tell your crazy ideas. (c)
“Branding” has created a special brand inside my heart. The man behind instigating the brandophile (I am not a cigar band collector, but a brand lover) inside me is – I would call “nuts”. He is an IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) and IIM (Indian Institute of Management) alumnus. In fact he is a gold medalist at both the top institutions. We call him “GB” and he loves the monicker.

There’s an interesting aura around him. Before he starts a class, he asks, “Does anyone have asthma?” If the answer is “yes” then he goes outside and puffs his famous “India Kings” cigarettes. If the answer is “no” then he apologises first and then starts smoking in the class itself. He smokes none other than India Kings.

When the class gets tough, he takes a break and sips few drops of “Chivas Regal” right from the small shiny aluminium bottle tucked carefully inside his coat. It’s the one and only whisky that he drinks.

He always rides an “autorikshaw” and asks the driver to wait for him till he completes teaching – it could even take more than two hours – till then the driver keeps waiting, and he pays the guy for the waiting.

His way of teaching is totally different from the traditional teachers who go by syllabus and lessons. He deconstructs the boundaries and creates his own interesting lessons via anecdotes and examples which create an everlasting impression in your memory. He is a strong brand himself and I bet most of my classmates and his students remember him – he has created a “top of mind recall” among the hordes of teachers.

Now you may be wondering why I am talking about the past and GB while sharing some branding tips with you all – well, GB is a live example of creating long lasting brands. Some tips to create lasting brands follow the first tip of going nuts (this is the term GB uses when he finds someone creative and crazy).

Think outside the box. To create lasting memories and lasting brands, you need to think outside the box. The top of the mind recall can’t be gained by thinking like what all morons do all the time. To think outside the box, you need to rise above your normal level and think crazy, but with strings attached to normalcy.

I have created many advertisements, but the one that emerged as an “Eureka” when GB asked us to create short commercials within a time span of 15 minutes, is what I always consider one of my best short and sweet advertisements.

It goes like this – my product is a boot polish and I create frames of black and white for the advertisement. First frame – it’s totally dark and black, a firefly whizzes past and in the glow of it’s tail appears an outline of a boot and the word “SHINING” appears in the background. Frame two – again the boot is shown, and a spider is shown crawling up the boot, but like King Robert’s spider, it falls down each time, and the word “SMOOTH” appears in the background. Frame three - black paint is being poured on a white surface from a paint can, an ant emerges out of the paint and walks tiny steps creating black marks as it walks by, and the words “PERFECTLY BLACK” appear in the background. Then in the last frame – “XXXXX Boot Polish” appears in the background.

Isn’t it interesting and outside the box? The advertisement has created a brand of its own in my grey matter. So can your ideas create a lasting brand in the minds of your customers.

Content is the king. You all know, consumer is the king, but I love to say otherwise. If your product is not up to the mark, then advertising and branding don’t make sense. The branding will further deteriorate its brand value. It’s like negative marketing – the word spreads faster when your voice is louder. If the product is good, it’s certain to create ripples in the market and create a known brand in its segment. However, if the product can’t meet the expectations, it will be dumped into oblivion faster than your expectations.

Spread your social tentacles. When I say tentacles, it’s none other than networking. It’s not only the social networks Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the whole lot of other social networking sites but the brick and mortar chain of associations, distributors, wholesalers, retailers and loyal customers. They are the ones who talk good about your brand, pulling more and more customers into your network. Networking is not only useful but essential in this world of competitiveness. Even the hundred year old companies are vying for respectable spaces and fan following in Facebook and Twitter.

Knowledge is never enough. Keep updating yourself with the new findings and theories in the field. Read, read, accumulate and spread the knowledge – because knowledge is power. Start from classics like “22 Immutable Laws of Branding” by Al Ries and Laura Ries, and I say sky is the limit. Devour all the interesting reads in branding. The ones I would recommend are “No Logo” by Naomi Klein and “Unleashing the Ideavirus” by Seth Godin. Browse the internet and choose the best ones, book reviews will help you sort out the best ones.

Revitalise the brand. Nothing is perpetual. You need to keep on adding fuel to keep the engine going. So is the branding. You need to keep on revitalising your brand periodically. If you observe the major brands, you will see that they have changed their brand identities over a period of time to keep up with the pace of growing competitiveness and keep them fresh in the minds of customers.

Wrapping up, you must come up with something intriguing, genuine, and unique to catch the customer’s attention. For this as GB says and I say, you must go nuts – the ideas will start unleashing and flourishing.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Buffaloes on my plate

I was in Terai – the plains in Nepal recently and saw a sea of buffaloes sleeping in the shade of mango trees after taking a satisfying bath in the pond nearby. They had their bellies protruded out and their calves wandering around them with their heartfelt boos. The herder was whistling a song from a recent Bollywood flick, perched on one of the mango branches. Few children rearing goats were playing marbles nearby and their goats were grazing in the open fields nearby.

Maweshi Haat and the buffaloes
A farmer was beating the pair of buffaloes as it could not pull the plough with much ease as earlier. He was scolding them while plouging, “I will sell both of you tomorrow in the Maweshi Haat.” Maweshi Haat is a makeshift marketplace to sell and buy the domestic animals buffaloes, oxen, and cows.

The next day, I was at the Maweshi Hat. The sight of the Maweshi Haat took away the breath out of me. Most of the owners were hitting their buffaloes and oxen to take them to the main marketplace. The environment was filled with the pain and cry of the innocent animals. All of them looked pale and pallid. The buyers looked like crooks and the sellers – adamant to sell everything they had. After haggling over costs, the buyers took the animals to makeshift sheds. All animals were shouting at their best knowing that they were being taken to a different place and were being departed from their masters of so many years. All the buffaloes were tethered at a point and all oxen and cows were tethered to another point. A day after they will be taken to two different places – cows and oxen to Bangladesh and buffaloes to Kathmandu.

Journey to Kathmandu
The herd of buffaloes is made to move into a truck. Inside the truck they are again tethered and tied – their necks are tied with a rope so that they do not move around and create a mayhem among themselves. Also their tails are tied. The more than 12 hours of journey to the capital, Kathmandu, itself is a journey to death. The buffaloes even die in the way before reaching Kathmandu due to the jolts, abrasions and wounds.

Death at last
The buffaloes are then taken to the slaughterhouses. A group of overjoyed men tie ropes to each leg and pull towards opposing directions with all their might. Then a man hits the buffalo on the head with a huge wooden mallet. As the buffalo starts stumbling, he chops its head with a huge knife. Then the skinning and cutting meat pieces start which is a much disturbing scene. Even the vultures snatch the meat pieces with much sobriety.

Delicious momos on plate
Thus killed buffaloes cater to the hungry needs of more than 3.5 million Kathmanduites. The momo shops are ubiquitous, present in each nook and cranny of the valley. The price ranges from NRs. 20 to NRs. 75 (around USD 1). The Chinese cuisine has been the largest sought after fast food in the valley and has been the cause of merciless killings of millions of buffaloes.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Is word of mouth advertising once again back in vogue?

Most of the marketing messages get lost in the clutter, din and glut of advertising – be it the huge billboards by the roadside, swinging danglers hanging at the point of purchase (POP), direct marketing e-mails popping up in your inbox, uninvited inserts in your daily newspapers, glossy advertisements in the dailies and magazines, public service announcements (PSA) in the blaring FM radios, television commercials (TVC) in your favourite channels, or the ubiquitous salesmen miking in the busy marketplace.

The credibility of such messages further declines when you have a plethora of choices in front of you – your conscience dwindles while choosing the right product. Among the “mee too” messages, it is really difficult to choose the right one.

You don’t believe even a single message as you are hit by hundreds of similar messages. However, when a near and dear one recommends you something, you quickly go and grab that product. Such is the strength of “word of mouth advertising”. That’s why the social network marketing is turning into a booming advertising haven for manufacturers and marketers.

As you see your close friend likes a product – be it a book or a new film, you tend to check what the book or the film is like. Instead of googling to find out more about the product, you believe what your friends and peers say. This trait of human has once again attracted the marketers to resort to the “word of mouth advertising”, and this time they are coining a new term “P2P communication” which is short for “peer to peer communication”. Though not a new concept to the advertising and marketing world, it has been slightly modified to meet the needs of changing times and trends. The use of consumers and employees to promote a product as brand ambassadors, is rapidly replacing the tradition of appointing celebrities as brand ambassadors. Cause it’s now obvious that you believe your peers more than a celebrity who might endorse a product for a quick buck.

Taking the cue from the brilliant advertisers who started portraying the common man in the advertisements and TVCs so that the masses identified themselves in the characters in the advertisements and TVCs, the famous Nestle brand Maggi is using its consumers as ambassadors in its advertisements. The consumers are invited to share the role of Maggi noodles in their lives in the advertisements. The less famous brand “Kurkure” also invited its consumers to be displayed on its wrappers. It was a clever move of the marketers to turn the peers of the people on wrappers into loyal customers. And it really worked! Let’s take it this way – A Mr. Sharma from Uttar Pradesh (UP) of India will not only attract and entice the whole lot of Sharmas from the whole of India but also all the whole lot of UP dwellers to eating Kurkure.

Leaving aside the consumers, the brand managers are also asking the employees to be the brand ambassadors and promote the brands though their Facebook profiles. It’s not new – you must have got requests from your friends to “like” the organisations they are working for or “like” the products their companies are manufacturing.

The advertising is once again turning back to the age-old “word of mouth advertising”, though through a little bit modern approach. Let’s say – how many times have you refused a friend’s proposal on trying a delicious menu at a brand new restaurant? You at least try the taste after your friend recommends and once you like the recipes, you are a regular visitor to the place. Haven’t you bought a shirt or a pair of shoes your friend recommended?

Well, I am hundred per cent sure you believe your friend more than the salesperson in the advertisement. So, I am sure that you will agree with me when I say that we are again returning back to looking for views and opinions of our friends and relatives before making a choice to purchase. And it’s the beginning – you will see more and more of P2P messages from your near and dear ones in the coming days. I am sure you will believe them till the P2P turns out to be a complete glut of similar sort of marketing messages.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Interactive branding

Move beyond the traditional advertising Рthe terms below the line (BTL) and above the line (ATL) advertising are pass̩. Advertisers are coming up with new ideas incorporating latest techniques to provide the leading edge to their clients.

Nicely decorated kiosks, larger than life billboard with products oozing out of the frame, live models posing in the latest launched apparels, sensory testing at the trade fairs, painting the town with the colours of the newly launched brand – all of these ideas seemed creative and sometimes crazy. When I once saw a huge billboard with a real Enticer (a brand of Yamaha motorcycles) attached to it, I thought the advertising guys are going nuts. Then I noticed some live models in lingerie inside showcases in Europe and thought well the brands are getting livelier, with a human touch!

When the brand “Hutch” owned by the cellular service provider Hutchison Essar was launched in Delhi, the whole of the city was filled with the hoardings and banners with the message “Hi” for many days and people were left wondering what the hell is being launched. When the variants of boards were replaced with “Hutch”, the brand registered in the minds of Delhites strongly and within a short time, the brand gained the numero uno status in Delhi.

Now shifting towards the social advertising, who can forget the lissome models posing for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)? The stunts done by the PR and advertising agencies are now getting more and more creative and outrageous these days.

Let’s take the case of young achiever Anup Tapadia from India who owns the creative firm TouchMagix ( His idea is just fantastic – with products like Magix Floor, Magix Wall, Touch Table, Touch Window to name a few, he has added another dimension in advertising and brand building. With the three keywords, interact, engage and communicate, Touchmagix allows the consumers to engage in a whole new experience interacting with the brand. It offers variety of interactive display solutions that attract the audience to experience interactive content in the most memorable way. Unlike other available technologies today, TouchMagix combines an advanced optical hardware sensor, MagixSense together with sophisticated movement recognition software that interprets the user interaction into high resolution events on the display. The interactive floor projection converts any floor into an interactive projected surface which gives the consumers the chance to touch and feel the brand.

Now move beyond this. It’s the turn of 3D holograms. Provision Interactive Technologies has announced that it has enhanced the capability of its 3D holographic display platform to be fully interactive with Mobile Mouse, an Apple iPhone application (

Grocery store shoppers, now will be able to interact with a floating 3D hologram via an enabled Provision 3D display that consumers access though their devices. When they click on the image they can get more information about the product or see it from another view or even receive a coupon. The app uses the built in accelerometer to translate a person's hand motions into mouse movements on the 3D hologram.

A Canadian firm, RabbitHoles Media, specialising in 3D holographic posters, embeds up to eight seconds of 3D video footage into a poster – an image which can be viewed in 3D without special glasses.

Marketing agency Grain&Pixel designed a life size book on Christian Dior which could be flipped pagewise by the wave of hands. It used the interactive, gesture-controlled hologram technology called AirStrike that was developed by LM3 Labs.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Seven easy steps to developing a communication strategy

So, are you worried when somebody pokes you for your communication strategy? If you have a communication strategy with you, it works as a guideline for your organisation’s communication needs. Of course, the communication strategy needs to be a dynamic document – ready to accept new dimensions as per the cropping needs.

If you follow the theories –and yes, you need to do that to a certain extent – the entire communication can be divided into external and internal. The internal communication connotes the communication within the organisation and the stakeholders while the external communication denotes the communication with wider audience.

Step 1 – Analyse the background
The first and foremost step is to analyse the communication environment – finding out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (termed as “SWOT Analysis”, some love to call it “TOWS Analysis” singling out the threats and opportunities first).

Step 2 – Formulate goals and objectives
The next step is considering the goals of your programme and carving out communication objectives from those goals. The objectives should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable/attainable, realistic and time bound. For instance, a SMART objective can look somewhat like this – “By 2015, three million people in Bangladesh will be aware of tiger conservation in the Sunderbans”.

Step 3 – Analyse the target audience
Analysing the target audience is another crucial step in developing the communication strategy. According to the demographics and lifestyle the communication preferences vary and it is essential to cater to the needs of each segment of audiences. Let’s take the example of the above objective of making aware people of Bangladesh on tiger conservation. If we analyse the probable target audience, at a glance, we can say that some of them might be the bureaucrats, forest officers, people residing in the Sunderbans, mediapersons and the list goes on. Here, each of the target audience has its own age group, lifestyle and preferences. If you analyse the behaviour of the target audience well, it will be much easier to craft the key messages and call to action.

Step 4 – Develop the key messages
Developing key messages is another major step. The message is developed according to the target audience. As I mentioned, the key messages to each audience varies as per the preference of the target audiences. The key messages sum up your message in short memorable statements. The key messages should have some benefits for the target audience, otherwise they won’t be willing to support your communication objective. For instance for the people residing in the Sunderbans you can tell that saving tigers will raise their economic situation and save the magnificent species for the future generation. The overall key message for a wider spectrum of target audience can be compiled by putting together the benefits intended for them.

Step 5 – Craft the call to action
Call to action – what you need the target audience to do or act upon is similar to the key message but different from it as it provokes the target audience to act upon something or to do something. Simple rule to generating a call to action is to think what the target audience is asking you what they should do to meet the communication objective. Taking the case of tigers and Sunderbans, the call to action for the local communities can be “save the tiger”.

Step 6 – Design the tools and activities
Designing tools and activities for each of the target audience is quite simple if you go through all the steps of communication goals, objectives, target audience, key messages and call to action. For example a media trip can be organised for one of the target audiences, journalists in the above mentioned issue. A range of tools and activities including flyers, newsletters, online portals, street drama, radio programmes, public service announcements (PSA), public debates, television infomercials, media trips to name a few are employed to achieve the communication objectives. Be careful to choose the channels properly for media multiplier effect.

Step 7 – Set a budget and timeline
Budget and timeline is yet another crucial factor which can make or break your communication aspirations. Given a budget, you need to wisely craft and plan the tools and activities within a certain timeline. For instance, organising a media trip in the rainy season might be disastrous. In the contrary, if you broadcast a PSA on preventing forest fire during the dry season, you will be able to catch the interest of the target audience as it is the season of forest fire. Likewise, as per the priority and your communication calendar you can design the timeline for maximum impact.

Monitoring the activities and measuring the impacts is crucial for assessing your efforts and redesign, reschedule your activities accordingly.

Put all the above in a compact matrix format, keep a constant track of your objectives and activities and remind yourself of your priorities. This is a must to implement the communication strategy!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

High five branding

Creating strong brands catering to all the senses

Starting on a cheery note – let me start with an anecdote. During my college days, I was bunched in hostel together with like-minded friends and we ended up having frequent drinking sessions in the name of ideating. Once we had just started pouring drinks and as we were to raise the toast, one of my seniors asked, “Do you know why we tinkle the glasses before starting to drink?”

“Well, obviously to say cheers and wish good health to all,” was my immediate reply.

To this he said, “No my friend, you are wrong and not only you, a whole lot of people think so.” “While drinking, not all five senses are engaged – the skin touches the glass, the nose gets to smell the aroma, the tongue tastes the flavour, the eyes get to see the colour of the drink, but the ears have no job to do – so people came up with the idea of saying cheers and tinkling the glasses so that all five senses are engaged and we get the maximum satisfaction from the experience.”

His point of view was an oral history that he had heard somewhere and we all appreciated it. However, the marketers are well aware of this phenomenon and have introduced the involvement of five senses in their marketing pursuits.

I remember a friend of mine from India who often says, “Baingan ko dabake dekhna” meaning you need to press a brinjal before buying. In the past, the marketers well-captured the “touch”, “see” and “feel” aspects of the products in their marketing plans in the past through consistent packaging, colours and ambience respectively.

Consistency and coherence alone is not enough to create the “top of the mind” recall among customers. So the marketers are experimenting with the rest two remaining senses – hearing and smelling – turning the whole exercise into sensory branding.

These days if you visit the leading eateries, you will notice that they follow a certain theme to spread the design throughout the room and create a coherent ambience. However, that alone doesn’t sell. It’s a first time curiosity factor which attracts the customers for the first time. To retain the customers and make them visit again you need to create consistency in the delicacies, aroma and music around the room. A soothing music and fresh fragrance not only refreshes the customers but if the experience is consistent all the time along with the good service, then you are bound to create a horde of loyal customers.

Well, the sensory branding can not only be created in case of eateries alone but for a whole gamut of products that are being produced to cater the customer needs. The only thing that you need to consider is aim for five and not just three senses!

Read the article Sensory branding - tickling all five senses

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Human bonds make your brand stronger

How people branding can help create stronger brands

Does human bonding strengthen the brand? The answer is – yes. The brand loyalty develops among the employers if they bond well together and the brand loyalty capitalises into brand equity.

Spending on your people can lead to building better and stronger brands. In the recent years, organisations have recognised the power of people branding and have come up with everyday solutions to make their brands stronger.

The first one is, of course, team outings. Once in a while the teams should be encouraged to get together outside office environs and feel that besides working together at office, they are good buddies as well. This strengthens bonding, creates better teams, increases outputs, effectiveness, efficiency, and eventually helps build the brand. Trust among team mates is crucial for successfully achieving a common goal.

Imagine how you feel when you are invited to a bar by your immediate boss and s/he behaves like your closest friend. It encourages you further to put forward your creative inputs during discussions. You come out of the fear factor that haunts you all the time when you want to assert your ideas forward or disagree with your seniors.

The team building exercises also build stronger bonds leading to strong brand building. You never know who is good at what. Someone who might be too slow in grasping might turn out to be an idea champ. The team building exercises bring out the unseen qualities inside a person. Identifying and recognising talents is another crucial step towards building better teams.

Hiking the whole day in the weekend, sharing each others’ experiences in the way, competing with each other in terms of stamina, in terms of creativity in the photos you click on the way, sharing lunch, coffee, tea together creates a camaraderie which shows up in the group performance. Especially, if certain hikes are turned into a corporate social responsibility (CSR) stunt like distributing notebooks and pens to a remote school, teaching students about the environment, it generates sense of responsibility among the group.

It is high time organisations work towards bringing cohesion among the informal groups within the organisation. It is proven fact that the informal groups help nurture organisational politics that eventually hinders the growth of the organisation. Social events like “Happy Hour” once a month help bring together the whole organisation.

Every Fridays can be turned into a learning cum idea sharing platform. Well known think tanks can be invited to the organisation to interact with the staff. It not only infuses enthusiasm among staff, but also provides them ample opportunity to speak up their mind and put forward their opinions that might be worth a hundred dollar idea.

Bonding together motivates the staff to work effectively and efficiently. Organisations should seek to turn the workplace into a playground where camaraderie and ideas flourish together. It turns the workplace into a magic wand - waving it, the teams can create miracles anytime at the drop of a hat.