Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Go nuts, create lasting brands

Never feel shy to tell your crazy ideas. (c)www.morguefile.com
“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.