Tuesday, 25 December 2012

What is branding?

Let’s start with the American Marketing Association (AMA) definition. The AMA defines a brand as a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.

However, a brand stands for more than that. It’s a set of values, experience, sense of belonging, and much more. Let’s understand it in simple words by simply running through the below video. It presents the basics of branding.

So, did you find anything new? I am sure you will say “it’s the same definition everywhere”. Now, let’s see what these people have to say about brands.

Stephen King of WPP Group, London distinguishes a brand from a product as he says, "A product is something made in a factory; a brand is something that is bought by the customer.” “A product can be copied by a competitor; a brand is unique."

Likewise, Marketing Guru Philip Kotler says, “If you are not a brand, you are a commodity.” Advertising Guru David Ogilvy simply puts it as - "Within every brand is a product, but not every product is a brand."

The creator of Revlon, Charles Revson also agrees with them when he says, “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope." While Walter Landor of Landor Associates takes it to the next level when he says, “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.”

Al Reis and Laura Reis, the authors of 22 Immutable Laws of Branding also connect the brand with consumer’s mind. They say, "A brand should strive to own a word in the mind of the consumer."

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon personifies a brand. He says, “A brand for the company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

David Ogilvy adds the human experience to the definition of a brand. According to him, “Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith and perseverance to create a brand.”

Stuart Agres, the Principal at Adduce Consulting and Owner, Adduce International Corp., links a brand to a set of promises. In his words, "A brand is a set of differentiating promises that link a product to its customers." While Harry Beckwith, the author of Selling the Invisible, draws in the trust factor when he says, “It is not slickness, polish, uniqueness, or cleverness that makes a brand a brand.” “It is truth.”

Talking about brands, consumers and brand loyalty, Edwin Artzt, the former CEO and Chairman of Procter & Gamble, says, “Brand value is very much like an onion.” “It has layers and a core. The core is the user who will stick with you until the very end.”

Brand has been compared with time. In Stephen King’s opinion, “A product can be quickly outdated, but a successful brand is timeless.” Creators and curators of brands die but a brand lives on, if managed well. In former Diageo Chairman George Bull’s words, “Well-managed brands live on – only bad brand managers die.”

Brand is a complicated story. Its innumerable connotations are never-ending. Scott Bedbury, an American Advertising Executive formerly associated with Nike, Inc. and Starbucks and the author of A New Brand World: Eight Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the 21st Century, says, “A great brand is a story that’s never completely told.”

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Choose right brand colours, connect with consumers

There’s something special about brand colours. Colours say it all - WWF’s black and white, Facebook’s blue, Twitter’s light blue, Coca-cola’s red, McDonald’s golden and red, and likewise other colours convey the psyche of a brand (read the article Colour communicates).

Rummaging through the webpages, I found this interesting article by Jason Miller talking about how different colours can help you connect with your consumers.

Read the original article True Colours: What Your Brand Colors Say About Your Business.       

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Overuse brand colour at your own risk

Use brand colours wisely. (c) www.freepixels.com
I was overwhelmed by the red colour during the festive season of Dashain, the most important festival of Hindus. Everywhere there was red – little children wearing red dress, women wearing red saris, family members wearing red tika on their foreheads after receiving blessings from the elders and even the decorations in the marketplace – all were red.

It perfectly matched the adage, “Paint the town red”. Then I landed in this newly opened restaurant. I would not take its full name so that their marketing efforts are not jeopardized by my comments. It was named “The Red…..”.

When I entered, there was red and only red everywhere. The door was painted in red, the sofas, tables, chairs and curtains – everything was red. When the waiter came with the menu, not only its cover was red but even the inside pages were red. To my dismay, even the plate and cup were red in colour.

While eating, it felt as if the red colour will stick to my tongue. You can imagine what others have felt. The restaurant was well designed, located at a prime point in the marketplace, well promoted in the local media, and of course the dishes were delicious. However, I saw, the customer turnout was not so exciting.   

Talking about the use of brand colours, I can’t forget another example where the marketers have overwhelmingly used their colours to brand their product. It’s of NCell, a telecom service provider in Nepal. The marketers have not spared any nook and cranny in the country. They have painted with purple the flower pots, street lamp posts, bus stations, small restaurants, public parks and to my dismay even the national monuments. The roundabout of Kohalpur in the Western Nepal has been smudged with their brand colour. Seeing all purple in the surrounding, I was feeling as if I will puke purple!

I don’t mean that it’s bad to use brand colours and your logos in abundance. It’s what the marketers have done in the past to subconsciously attract the customers and influence their purchase decisions. But there is a limit to everything. Simply painting the surroundings with your brand colours won’t help your brand make its way to your customers’ hearts. Instead, they will be annoyed to see the same colour everywhere.

Use your primary and secondary brand colours wisely. Remember the saying “if you overeat sugar, it will seem bitter after a while”.  

Friday, 23 November 2012

5 organisational lessons from animals and insects

Have you ever thought of animals and insects teaching us to organise better and effectively market our products? In the last few weeks, I rummaged through research journals to delve into the animal and insect behaviour, and came up with some interesting facts fuelling some practical lessons.

Change your strategy to suit the market needs
Goat kids change ‘accents’ to sound like their peers: As “kids”, the goats mimic the sounds of their mother and siblings. But when they get older, they wander off to join social groups, or “crèches”, with goats their own age, changing their accents to sound like their peers.

Now let’s talk about the practicality of this trait. Once Facebook was only for college students and required .edu e-mail addresses in order to join. Many of its users preferred its “exclusivity” to the “generality” of other social networking sites like “Friendster” and “MySpace”. However, Mark Zuckerberg gradually changed the strategy of catering only to college students to accommodate more users and the rest is history.   

Stick to discipline and organisational culture
Ants mark violators for policing: Policing is a familiar mechanism for maintaining cooperative behaviour in human societies. This mechanism also operates in other animal societies. Among ants, the workers physically attack other workers that selfishly attempt to produce their own eggs, and by such policing keep the colony focused on cooperatively aiding the queen’s reproduction.

This teaches us to build a culture within our organisation and ensure it is strictly followed through the ranks in the organisation. At the end, it is the organisational culture that makes an organisation stand out among competitors and create a brand of its own. It creates a common ground for team members, reduces uncertainty, and contributes to a sense of continuity and unity providing a vision to the organisation. Like the ants, you need to make sure that the members’ shared values, beliefs and behaviours are guided towards a common goal and no one violates the rules.        

Concentrate your efforts on a particular value
Rhinos leave dung piles at a particular place: Rhinos are known for their habit of leaving dung piles at a particular place. Most rhinos use piles of dung to leave “messages” for other rhinos - nuances in the smell of dung can tell a rhino a lot about others in the area. Each rhino’s smell identifies its owner as unique - the smell is different for young vs. adult animals, for males vs. females, and females in estrus vs. non-reproductive females.

Likewise, don’t try to be everything. Follow certain values to establish an identity of your own. In their book “The Discipline of Market Leaders”, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersma say, “No firm can be all things to all people and that a firm’s managers must clarify the value proposition, select a value discipline from one of three major choices and then build the right value-driven operating model to support that discipline”.

The three value disciplines that Treacy and Wiersma outline are:

  • Operational Excellence-where firms focus on price and convenience.
  • Product Leadership-where the emphasis is on creating products that consistently push performance boundaries.
  • Customer Intimacy-where firms cultivate deep relationships with their clients.

Target the decision influencers
Leapfrogging in lady beetles: Herbivores aggregate in habitats where their plant resources are optimal and avoid habitats where their predators are in abundant. The research has shown that lady beetles aggregate where their prey’s plant resources are best, even though they as predators make no direct use of the plants. This strategy is termed ‘leapfrogging’ because the predator’s attention skips over the adjacent trophic level to concentrate on the one that is two levels down.

While you are formulating your marketing strategy, not only focus on the direct buyers, the primary targets but also take care of the influencers. It’s the same old theory of a housewife influencing the husband and children influencing their parents during the purchase. Nowadays, with the influx of so many social media platforms, the decision influencers have grown by leaps and bounds. That’s the reason marketers are putting their efforts in getting the maximum number of “likes” in Facebook pages of their products and are trying their best to instigate the consumers to share the pages with their peers and friends.
Tell the competitors to stay away
Honeybees tell hornet predators to buzz off: Asian honeybees signal to their enemies - bee-eating hornets - to let them know they have been spotted. All the guard bees simultaneously vibrate their abdomens from side-to-side for a few seconds when a hornet approaches the colony. In the wild, this produces a spectacular "Mexican wave" of vibrating bees. Warned wasps would retreat from the colony and try to catch bees in flight instead.

Keep on admonishing your competitors by continually improvising your products. This not only keeps intact the interest of your customers and creates long term brand loyalty, but also makes the customers feel proud using the products. Take the example of Facebook. Its continuous improvement in terms of features, navigation and utility has not only helped it attract more than 800 million users but has also kept the competition at bay. 

I am sure there are many more animal and insect behaviour that give us clue to organise better. Please add to the list if you come across any such lessons.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

5 Cs of consumer behaviour

Recently I travelled to Nepalgunj, a city in Western Nepal famous for its chat (a spicy mixture of potato, onion, chilly, curd, tamarind and spices), rabri (a form of condensed milk) and sekuwa (grilled mutton chunks). I was alone and it gave me freedom to roam the streets and observe the consumer and trader behaviour.

Clustering attracts customers
As I approached the Tribhuvan Chowk, the street that is famous for chat, I could see hordes of food carts selling the delicacy. Even the surrounding shops were catering to the demands of the customers. They were also selling chat. It is really helpful to have a street full of sellers selling same commodity. One doesn’t need to wander here and there in the city in search of the required material. The benefit of clustering together is – the customer has many choices to choose from. So, it attracts the customers in first place. In case of sellers, they don’t need to wait for customers in an obscured corner, but the customers come to the street looking for them. It is like being part of the fraternity selling similar things.

Caring for the crowds
Having a plethora of choices, I moved on to a cart which was surrounded by many eaters. It is a human psychology to believe in the crowds. It provides live testimony that the seller is selling quality products. A seller needs to care for the crowds and for every single customer in the crowd. If s/he is able to satisfy the demand of the customer, the crowding-in continues. It is not only word of mouth publicity but I would rather say sight for eyes advertising.  

The chatwallah knew all Cs of consumer behaviour.
Catering to the customer’s needs 
On reaching the food stall, I was greeted by a warm smile of the vendor. He asked me to wait for my turn gracefully. A duo of father and daughter had arrived earlier than me and he was catering to their needs. I was the next in the line and it was my turn within few minutes. I didn’t hate waiting for my turn due to his friendly and warm behaviour.

Clean and clutter-free ambience enhances the mood to buy
In spite of being in a busy street, the disposable plates and spoons were clean, the stall and the handler both were neat and tidy. Above all, the delicacy was hot and spicy, fresh from the frying pan. I gulped down the chat within a minute. It was very delicious as recommended by my friends. I sensed that the cleanliness and clutter-free ambience amplified my desire to eat.    

Caring your customers builds loyalty
When I was leaving the stall, the vendor asked me with a smile, “How was the taste, Sir? Did you like it?” I told him that the taste was terrific. He then requested me to visit again. That was the reason to visit his stall again and savour the tasty chat prepared by him.

I was satisfied in every way – I got to eat the delicious chat, was treated like a royal and above all, the experience reinvigorated the consumer behaviour theories remaining stagnant in my grey cells!   

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

7 media trip essentials

Media trip is a time-tested tool for communicators to highlight the project successes. The journalists get to see and verify the first hand information, analyse the situation and report accordingly. You don’t need to put extra efforts to convince them to write on the subject.

Forming a small and diverse team
The team should be small – not more than seven members and should comprise journalists from all media: print, electronic and online. Make sure the journalists are from top ranking newspapers, television, radio and online portals.

Preparing a well planned itinerary
The itinerary should be planned well with all the meetings fixed ahead of the trip. The itinerary should be shared with the journalists well ahead. Make sure you set aside enough time for the real job and daily essentials like breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If your itinerary includes trekking or walking in rugged terrain, inform them of the duration and landscape. They will be prepared for it accordingly.

Briefing about the project
The journalists should be briefed well ahead of the trip. A backgrounder with all project details should be forwarded to the journalists at least a week ahead, so that they are well informed on the subject. Brochures, booklets, flyers and relevant project publications should be provided.

Besides, they should be informed of the weather and things to carry with them. They should also be informed about the tradition and culture of the place, so that they don’t end up dishonouring the local people and their culture.

Sticking to the story angle
The story angle should be decided well ahead and the coordinator should stick to it. The itinerary should be based on the story angle and the interviews should be scheduled accordingly. Meanwhile the journalists should be convinced to disseminate the story in the same way.

They will, in the most cases, highlight the humane interest stories. However, you should be careful enough to link your project objectives in the stories in a subtle manner.

Treating the participants with dignity
Treating the journalists well is a must. They should be made to feel at ease. However, the professional boundary should not cross the personal limits.

The stakeholders with whom the journalists will meet should be informed of the meeting in advance and they should be briefed ahead of the publications/channels they represent.

Following-up for stories
The journalists are busy with so many assignments and stories. You need to follow-up but in the mean time must make sure that you are not pushing them to publish the stories.

Sometimes they take time to gather the relevant information needed for their articles. Also you’ll need to check the statistics with the journalists. Sometimes the facts are exaggerated and in some cases under-reported.

Following-up for future relations
Just taking the journalists to the field, getting the stories published and closing the chapter is not enough. Relationship building is a must for future.

Once the journalists are interested in the issue, they will continue to write on that topic. However, they will need some leads to the stories. You will also need to pitch your interesting stories from time to time to get them published at regular intervals.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

9 Es of Advertising

Ernest Vincent Wright might have written the novel Gadsby: A Story of Over 50,000 words without Using the Letter “E”, but it is not possible to advertise without considering the Es. Having worked and being heavily involved in the advertising industry, I could not keep myself mum when I went through an article in an Indian magazine 4P which dealt with 5 Es of Advertising (Engage, Empower, Educate, Entertain and Enrich). I have added few more Es to the list and poured in my views on each of the Es. I hope you would find them interesting.

If you have experienced more Es in advertising, you are welcome to add to the list. Here goes my list of Es.

Engaging with the consumers should be the prime focus of the advertisement. If you don’t engage with your prospective and current consumers, then you are losing their insights, suggestions, inputs and feedback to you and your product.

You must have seen the message in the bottles and packs of consumer items with the toll-free number and email ID for consumer feedback and suggestions. It was the only way to interact in the past with the consumers.

Now you have got Facebook – create a fan page of the product and interact with your consumers. A Twitter account will help you get your message regarding the product to your consumers who follow you and your product. The Pinterest boards are also gaining popularity where you can display your products and their attributes.

However, just being in the social media platform is not enough, make sure that you are there to interact with the consumers, reply to their queries in real time.

There’s more than engaging with the consumers. Educate them, but make sure not to be a teacher. A blog about the product, its features, and its benefits will attract more of your consumers to your product, provided you are offering what you are preaching.

If you are launching your product that is ahead of time, you need to make sure that the consumers are educated about the product. It’s a must. I remember eating dumplings in a Delhi restaurant “Belle Momos” a long time ago. At that time, the proper Delhites were not used to eating dumplings. So, to educate them they had hung framed advertisements teaching “how to eat momos”. It was hilarious for dumpling fans like me but was an eye opener for the starters.

Make the consumers feel that they have a stake in their favourite product. Listen carefully to what they say, what they suggest and don’t even leave behind any crazy suggestion that comes your way. Some of them might lead you and your product to innovation which your competitors might not even think of.

Many fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) are coming up with innovative advertising campaigns empowering their consumers, in the process building brand loyalty. Earlier this was restricted to the FMCGs asking for recipes from the consumers and putting the snaps of consumers on the packages (Remember the Kurkure and Maggi campaigns?).

Now crowdsourcing has gained momentum, not only in raising money and for a cause, but also for collecting individual opinions and advices on a subject. Summarising the opinions and views and picking up the best can lead to innovative ideas to reckon with.

The Times of India’s Lead India campaign was highly successful in motivating the youth to becoming leaders to change the fate of the country.

Enrich the customer experience. Make them walk along with you while you are advertising and building the brand. It all depends on how you communicate the experience behind the product you are offering.

There’s a famous Nepali bottled water brand “Aqua Hundred”. In its advertisements it asks the customers to visit the factory premises and observe how the water is purified. This gives not only a sense of security to the consumers but eager ones can see on their own how the water is made safe for drinking.

Make your advertisement interesting and make sure it entertains the audience. P S Mann, the Creative Director at RR Swamy BBDO in an interview to 4P says, “If an advertisement is just an advertisement, the consumer will develop a defence mechanism and not watch it.” “So it’s extremely important to deliver entertainment. Engagement comes from entertainment and from entertainment comes attention.”

To entertain the consumers you should create advertisements which are original, interesting, creative and of course entertaining. Just have a look at the Fevicol advertisements created by Piyush Pandey and you will get an idea of what entertaining is.

Evolve with time. Change is the name of the game. Be aware of the ambience and what your competitors are doing and offering. You must be able to change yourself accordingly. Creating an advertisement with old setting won’t work (It might work sometimes but only for a short duration).

Use the modern techniques, tools and medium to reach the audience. Rise above the above the line and below the line advertising. Target cloud advertising – get online and attract the online customers.

Have you ever wondered why the guy in the television advertisement resembles you? Because the advertisers are targeting the customers like you! Study the demographics, psychographics and lifestyle of your target audience and create your advertisements according to their tastes, interests and aspirations. They will like your product if a character of their class is shown preaching about the product.

Evaluate your efforts and redo the campaigns and advertisements to suit the customer preferences. Do the cost-benefit analysis and pour in more money sensibly if your efforts are not generating customers.

There is no dearth of crazy people with ideas these days. With decent spend you can get a good team of creative people who can come up with compelling campaigns.

Last but not the least, don’t leave any stones unturned to entice your customers. This doesn’t mean that you should splash skin all the time like all the deodorants do. Sex obviously sells but it should not be made the main means to attract the customers all the time.

Leave no stone unturned to entice your customers.
You must have heard that a poor guy sued the deodorant “Axe” after he wasn’t able to attract any girl after spraying it all over himself. However, the help of sensuousness can be taken to advertise your product like the “Aamsutra” campaign which shows a Bollywood actress (Katrina Kaif) devouring a mango enticingly while advertising a mango drink Slice.

Now it’s your turn to add to the list of Es!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Advertise, advocate and sell your ideas

Bolne ko pitho bikchha, nabolne ko chamal pani bikdaina” (One who advocates can sell even a lowly rated commodity like flour, but one who doesn’t speak can not sell even a highly rated commodity like rice) – the Nepali proverb says you should advertise – tell others about your product to sell it. The age old proverb simply asks to preach about the product and advocate to the prospective buyers.

Spread your idea like fire.

With the advent of advertising, the “talking to the prospective consumers” has leapfrogged and every day the advertisers are coming up with innovative ideas to attract and arouse interest among the consumers.

Rather than going for the “saying on the face” trend, the advertisers are resorting for subliminal forms of selling. Product placement is one among them. Now the advertisers won’t tell you to drink a fizzy drink. However, you will notice your favourite actor drinking it on screen in one of your best movies. Consumers are enticed to purchase the products after seeing their idols using them.

Besides, stealth endorsement is catching up where the celebrities are asked to wear merchandise or talk about the product in public forum. This indirect form of endorsement keeps audiences guessing whether the celebrities are endorsing the products.

Likewise, through cross-merchandising the advertisers market different merchandise prior to the release of a film. Many Hollywood and Bollywood movies utilise this technique to create interest about the forthcoming films among the audiences.

Another form of advertising which is quite popular is ambient advertising. Marketers these days put the advertisements everywhere from shopping mall floor to metro and public vehicle bodies. The moving vehicles carrying the advertisements reach thousands of consumers. The old tradition of putting hoarding boards at crossroads (still in practice these days) is being taken over by innovations like 3-D hoarding boards, rotating boards, display changing boards etc. As I mentioned in my previous article this form of advertisement is gaining popularity.

Organising events is another big hit these days. Won’t you be enthralled to know that your favourite beer is bringing Snoop Dogg to your city? Obviously, lot many consumers get to know the brand sponsoring such mega events.

So, next time you plan to advocate your cause, remember the above forms of advertisements that will sell your idea to a larger audience.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Revitalising the media multiplier effect

A decade ago, it was the buzzword and everybody used to talk about the multi-benefits of media multiplier effect. It is pounding the consumers with the same marketing message through all channels at the same time – so that a consumer sees a brand displayed on a hoarding while passing through a major junction, hears the product jingle in FM radio, reads the message in daily newspaper and watches the product commercial in television. However, with the onset of the 21st century and the advent of social media, the concept is being sidelined. With the evergrowing Web 2.0 and the fascination for the social networks, the marketing and advertising concepts have completely changed and so has the media multiplier concept.

The three famous buttons
You must have noticed the three famous buttons splashed everywhere at the end of any online article – share this through Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus. More buttons are being added to the list, LinkedIn and Pinterest being the most prominent ones. In a way these buttons are replacing the traditional media multiplier effect efforts. It’s quite easy to click these buttons and share the news, advertising or any other piece of writing to your followers and acquaintances. If the stuff is interesting, they further share the same with their followers and acquaintances, thus, spreading the word much faster than expected.

BTL versus online marketing
Below the line (BTL) refers to non-classical ways of communication and promotion in opposition to classical advertising through mass media. The hoarding boards at prime junctions and promotion materials at the point of sales still do the trick of promoting your brand. However, the consumer has to walk the extra mile to see your brand. Suppose they don’t get to see your message – it means they will be unaware of your brand and its benefits.

To bridge the time gap, the internet has come to the rescue of marketers. Media and specifically online advertising can be powerful in creating consumer awareness and attracting them to the product websites. Social networking sites as well as specific product-related blogs, open forums, online guides, wikis and consumer communities are fast emerging and provide opportunities to initiate positive word-of-mouth publicity and strengthen brand recognition and loyalty.

Consumer marketing versus cooperative marketing
Consumer marketing includes activities that are directly aimed at reaching end-consumers and stimulating interest and ultimately demand.

Cooperative marketing includes joint advertising, joint media and press relation activities, cooperative publication of promotional leaflets, sponsoring of client events and distribution of promotional materials, and developing joint budget allocation to share costs for activities among partners.

Cooperation makes work easier.
Joint marketing provides a clear financial advantage, as costs for marketing activities can be shared among marketing partners. Moreover, joint marketing may have the advantage of increased consumer awareness through brand alignment and mutual brand endorsement.

Collaborating with strong brands help to build trust and brand credibility for the upcoming brand, among consumers.

You can develop ideas for creative, innovative and fun campaign concepts (i.e. including a consumer competition component) that initiate participation, high involvement and viral distribution through word-of-mouth, social media and online channels. Establish strategic marketing partnerships with industry partners, interest groups, associations and brand companies and develop joint/cooperative marketing activities.

Media versus public relations
Journalistic media coverage including features on TV programmes, print magazines and newspaper articles can be influential in creating awareness and inspiring consumers in their purchase decision. Strategic and targeted media relations and PR are therefore important.

Develop and implement a media release programme with quarterly media newsletters. Pitch stories around the product to media representatives through one-on-one media calls (face-to-face, email, phone). Use networking events to initiate media contacts and organise specialised media events such as press conferences and press events. Develop a press pack with background information including a fact sheet. Initiate media cooperation and media promotion activities such as reader competitions.

Celebrity endorsements versus events
It still bears a question mark – whether celebrity endorsements work or consumer targeted events work better. However, there is no harm to appoint a celebrity who matches your brand persona. S/he will at least pull her/his followers to your brand. Plan interactive events involving your celebrity and you will see the hordes of increasing consumers.

Now put together all mentioned above, squeeze out the best ones and remember to place your message everywhere, in each media, targeting all your consumers – and you will see your media multiplier effect bearing results!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

5 proverbs, 4 animals and marketing lessons

You must have noticed that adding proverbs while discussing makes the discussion not only lively but also adds spice to the language. It helps you clarify your views, makes your opinion more specific and adds impetus to what you are saying. I prefer to say that proverbs are chutneys, the hot and spicy mixture which adds spice to your otherwise plain food.

Many proverbs originated from different animal behaviours and their relationship with humans. While all animal related proverbs guide us to better living, quite few of them teach us important marketing lessons.

There is more than one way to skin a cat
The proverb means there is more than one way of achieving an aim. You can employ different approaches to market a product and eventually build a brand. As Philip Kotler suggests, depending on your market plans you can either go for entrepreneurial marketing based on direct selling and grassroots public relations, formulated marketing with a marketing department and salespeople or intrepreneurial marketing adopted by large companies where brand and product managers study consumer behaviour and visualise new ways to add value to customers’ lives.

Don’t put the cart before the horse
It means don’t reverse the accepted order of things. First create a world class product, then market it and advertise in full swing. If you do it the other way round, you will not only lose money but also the faith of the consumers.

Don't change horses in midstream if you want to succeed.
Don’t change horses in midstream
The proverb means don't change your basic position when part-way through a campaign or a project. Once you start building a brand, don’t lose your patience in the mid-way. If you start marketing apples, don’t leave it owing to losses and start selling oranges.

A leopard cannot change its spots
The proverb means things cannot change their innate nature. As in the case of leopard, a brand too can’t change its true form. A brand should stick to its origins. You can’t imagine of a Mercedes ice-cream or a KFC car. However, a McTikki as a sub-brand of McDonald’s can attract consumers.

Every dog has its day
It means every dog, and by implication every person, has a period of power or influence. It tells us to wait and persevere because brand is not built in a day. It requires continuous dedicated effort to create a brand in the hearts of consumers. People will get to know your brand if you keep on delivering consistency and adding value to your product gradually.

Friday, 9 March 2012

7 tips for an effective press release

Press releases are windows to getting your story in the media. If your news is “newsworthy” and you are able to get it to the right media at right time, your news will get a decent coverage.

However, don’t consider sending press releases for trivial issues, it will hamper your credibility. Send press releases only when you have got something containing real news and important for the general public. While crafting a press release consider the steps below to make it effective.

1. Start with a bang
The headline should be interesting. Choose the right words that tell your story and keep in mind to keep the headline short and crisp. The first paragraph should tell the summary of your story. The following paragraphs can tell the details.

Remember to mention the 5Ws and 1H (what, why, where, when, who and how) of the story in the first paragraph, in short simple sentences.

Organise the information in an inverted pyramid form – with the most important information at the top. The reporters and editors generally lose interest in your press release after going though few paragraphs. So, if you put the major crucial content in the first few paragraphs, you will most probably get the bulk of your story in the next day’s publication.

2. Present the facts
Always tell the truth – never exaggerate your content. It might help you for the time being, but in the long run you will lose your credibility. If you have nothing exciting to share, don’t write a press release. Keep it aside till you have an interesting story.

3. Ensure your news is timely
Make sure that your press release is timely and has a good news hook. Tie your news to current events or social issues if possible.

4. Use active voice
Verbs in active voice make your press release lively. Rather than writing “entered into collaboration” use “collaborated”.

5. Avoid jargons and flowery language
Remember only you and your colleagues will understand the jargons within your organisation. Nobody outside your organisation will be interested or understand the jargons. Avoid the jargons. Also never use flowery languages and unnecessary adjectives.

6. Use quotes
Wherever possible, try to put quotes from concerned people to make your press release lively. Ensure that you have written permission before including information or quotes from the concerned people of other organisations.

7. About your organisation
At the end of the press release you must mention the name and full contact address of the person who is responsible for answering the queries related to the press release. Following it, as “Notes to the editor”, don’t forget to mention a paragraph about your organisation. If it is a joint press release, mention about both the organisations.

Besides the above points, on occasions, media outlets, especially online media, will pick up your press release and run it in their publications with little or no modification. Journalists, in most cases, will use your press release for a larger feature story. So, try to develop a story as you would like to have it told. Even if your news is not printed exactly as in the press release, a substantial amount of information will be picked up by the journalists.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Leave aside USPs, interact with consumers

Gone are the days when the consumers had no choice than to clinging to daily newspapers, listening to radio stations or watching television. Now the choices are abundant – you will find newspapers and magazines of all sorts ranging from sports to economics; name any field and you will find loads of glossy papers rolled out with flashy pictures and heavy content. Talking about television – as in case of newspapers – the channels cater to all genres of interests. In case of radios, there are hordes of stations, playing per request. While the traditional media have grown by leaps and bounds, the new age media – microblogging and social networking have spread their tentacles in the hearts and minds of consumers.

USP versus contextualisation
Once it ruled the integrated marketing communication (IMC) plans. Each product was uniquely positioned in the market to win the hearts of consumers. The unique selling proposition (USP) of a product depended on the public persona of the targeted consumers.

However, the tables have turned with time. The product marketers are reading and analysing consumer behaviour to design their products accordingly. “If the USP ruled earlier, brands now need to create movements, experiences and engagement with consumer,” says Bindu Sethi, the Chief Strategy Office of JWT India, in Brand Equity, the special edition of The Economic Times. “The world is more interactive and we need to respond.”

Dhiraj Sinha, Regional Planning Director, Asia for Bates says, “In today’s world, brands need to provoke debates and engage people, and this needs a very sharp understanding of what’s changing in the culture and how people are behaving differently.”

Your brand needs to highlight the aspect of interaction with locals and develop new slogans reflecting the different product features. You now need to adapt your brands to target the major source markets.

Go online, interact with consumers
The internet has become a common platform for both the marketers and consumers. It is considered as the most important source of information by consumers. Official product websites are important point of information for consumers. Media and specifically online advertising can be powerful in creating consumer awareness and attracting them to the product websites. Social networking sites as well as specific product-related blogs, open forums, online guides, wikis and consumer communities are fast emerging and provide opportunities to initiate positive word-of-mouth publicity and strengthen brand recognition and loyalty.

Follow the below steps to start interacting and engaging with your consumers online.

  • Assess and review your current website regarding usability, graphic user interface, content, structure and marketing message and implement changes where necessary.
  • Develop website content for special-interest groups.
  • Develop an online communication plan to promote your product website and implement search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and backlinking activities to secure better ranking and promotion of the product website online.
  • Constantly update content to keep the website appealing to users; match any content with the marketing messages.
  • Prepare a list of potential online advertising platforms and invest on them wisely.
  • Identify relevant social media networks and communities, blogs and forums and develop a social media plan.
  • Analyse popular networks and work on enlarging the Facebook community through constant updates as well as fun and participatory elements such as competitions, pictures, videos, feedback loops on posts, etc.
 The constant touch with your consumers will give you clear idea of steering your marketing strategy accordingly, rather than sticking to a stubborn USP for a certain period. Go ahead and indulge in the online world and know your consumers better!


 *The social media logos have been downloaded and adapted.


Monday, 20 February 2012

Stick to roots, comply with changes, build a brand

There are logos and there are brands. Logos are simply brand elements and sometimes these are so widely recognised that other brand elements like name, character, slogan, packaging, jingles etc. are overshadowed. Many brands have changed with time, changing all elements including their logos. However, many brands have stuck to their origins and haven’t changed a bit from their day of genesis. Taking the mid-path has always been beneficial to brands. The brand should upgrade its elements with the changing time, but must stick to its origins.

Al Ries and Laura Ries in their famous book The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding say that whether the market conditions change, the brands should stick to its consistency in the chapter The Law of Consistency. However, in the next chapter The Law of Change, they advocate that brands can be changed, but only infrequently and only very carefully. The same has been followed by the world famous conservation brand WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature. The beautiful panda representing the world conservation organisation has changed with time to revitalise its image in the minds of millions of its followers.

There’s an interesting story attached to the history of WWF logo. When the group of conservationists who found WWF was looking for a logo to represent it, there was a giant panda named Chi Chi at the London Zoo. Naturalist Gerald Watterson drew preliminary sketches in admiration of Chi Chi. Sir Peter Scott then designed the world famous black and white logo of the giant panda which later became the symbol of the conservation movement.

In 1961, the WWF logo just had a giant panda and the panda was not looking straight at you. In 1978, the panda symbol was copyrighted and a © was added to the logo. In 1986, the logo was upgraded with the panda looking straight at the viewer. It helped the brand interact and create relationship with its followers more easily. Remember you interact more easily with a person who faces you from the front and looks into your eyes. Another brand element, the name of WWF in a trademarked serif font was also added. With the popularity of san serif fonts, the name WWF was replaced by WWF in a trademarked san serif font in 2000. The copyright symbol was shifted to the hind legs of the panda to balance the brand elements evenly. The same logo is being used till date with no changes. During its journey from 1961 till date, the brand has stuck to its origins with little tweaks and additions to revitalise its image among its followers. And it has been highly successful in creating the top of the mind recall among its audiences.

Apple is another famous brand which has stuck to its origins. Like WWF, its logo has displaced all other elements and has been the sole brand driver till date. The first Apple logo was designed in 1976 by Ronald Wayne, sometimes referred to as the third co-founder of Apple. The logo shows Sir Isaac Newton sitting under a tree and an apple dangling above his head. It was dedicated to the historic moment of the falling apple and discovery of the theory of gravity. The phrase on the outside border read, “Newton… A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought … Alone.” The first logo lasted only for a year.

Steve Jobs, the man who looked into details of brand building commissioned graphic designer Rob Janoff to modernise the logo which looked archaic. He was asked to stick to the origins and change just a little bit. Eventually he came with one of the most iconic and recognisable corporate logos in history. Janoff put a “bite” in the Apple logo to represent an apple, and not a tomato. Steve Jobs is rumoured to have insisted on using a colourful logo as a means to “humanise” the company. So Janoff added a rainbow stripe to the apple. Janoff arranged the colours without following any pattern as he wanted to add the green leaf at the top.

The multi-coloured Apple logo was in use for 22 years before Steve Jobs once again commissioned to modernise the logo. The colourful stripes were replaced with a more modern monochromatic look that has taken on a variety of sizes and colours over the past few years. The overall shape of the logo, however, remains unchanged from its original inception 33 years ago.

As the company started to innovate and produce sleek and cutting edge products, it needed a logo providing more flexibility in branding the products. The sleek and suave design of the monochromatic logo added to the brand value of the products.

The brands WWF and Apple stuck to their roots but upgraded their brand elements with the changing market trends. The wide recognition, customer loyalty and top of the mind recall were results of keeping the brand elements intact, with just little bit of tinkering from time to time following the market trends. Not only WWF and Apple but many brands have followed this trick to stay atop in the fierce competition, in the hearts of their loyal customers.

- WWF and Apple logos have been downloaded and adapted.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Analyse your audience well, get your messages right

Target audiences are unpredictable - it’s hard to find out their nature and intention. While designing your campaign, your main focus should be on analysing your target audiences and crafting the key messages and calls to action accordingly.

You can categorise your target audiences in several ways – primary and secondary as per the preference of your campaign – as early adopters, wait and watch groups, and rejecters as per their interest and intent.

Obviously you pay more attention to your primary audience and influence them first, moving on to the secondary audience. Likewise, the early adopters are quite easy fellows who follow you and support your campaign without much persuasion. Meanwhile ones belonging to wait and watch category are difficult to please and they can convert either into your allies or opponents. It always gives you space to coerce them and take them into your side. The rejecters are outright your opponents and in no way they can be reverted back to your camp. However, you can try your best to convert them into your allies.

Similarly, some communicators categorise their target audience into apparent, intermediate, ultimate and unintended audiences. Apparent audiences are the audiences that appear to be the target of the message. They may or may not be the real, intended, or final targets of the message. Likewise, ultimate audiences are the real, intended, or final targets of the message. Meanwhile intermediate audiences are used by the communicators to transmit the message to the ultimate audience. Unintended audiences are the ones receiving a message directed to another audience.

Whichever way you categorise your audiences, the success of your campaign depends largely on how you analyse the target audience and develop the right key messages and calls to action. To develop the right set of messages you need to know the target audience well.

First, find out the target audience’s involvement in the issue. Then enquire about their awareness of the issue. These will help you craft the right messages with much ease. It is always easier to persuade the audiences who are aware of the issue and are involved in the issue.

Find out more about the target audience’s demographics. Their age, religion, social status, family status, income, sexual orientation, education level and social class hint you on the type of message for each of them.

The target audience’s psychographics – their personality, ideology, values, beliefs and general attitudes – provide you a firm basis to craft the right message.

Their lifestyle – Do they prefer pumping iron at gym? Do they like partying? Are they bookworms? - These simple questions and similar ones make your job easier to identify the right messages for them.

Now after getting to know your audiences you just need to take into consideration three key questions – What are the barriers to their acceptance of call to action? What would persuade them to accept call to action? What is their language?

These three questions will make your crafting of key messages much easier and specific. Someone has quite cleverly put the above points into a formula. It is much easier to remember!

Analysis- Who is the audience?

Understanding- What is the audience's knowledge of the subject?

Demographics- What is their age, gender, education background etc.?

Interest- Why should they be interested in your campaign?

Environment- Where will the campaign be conducted?

Needs- What are the audience's needs associated with your campaign?

Customisation- What specific needs/interests should you address relating to the specific audience?

Expectations- What does the audience expect from your campaign?

Once you are able to analyse your audience well, the following task of creating right messages become much simpler and much specific.

(Photo Courtesy: Nikon D700 Advertisement)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

5 ways to get your story in the media

If you are in field of communications, you must have got requests and instructions to get your organisation’s stories in the mainstream media. While publishing a story in the media channels doesn’t seem to be a strenuous task, getting published the right content at right time is always challenging.

However, if you plan well and execute the plan rightly, you will be able to get your message through. Check the tools and activities and their nitty-gritty that will help you get your story in the media.

Organise a press trip
Organising a press trip to your working area gives the journalists a fair amount of first hand information about the work your organisation is doing. They can interact with the beneficiaries and stakeholders and come up with the desired story.

Two points that you need to take care while planning a press trip are – 1) plan well ahead, sketch the itinerary, make list of the persons you want the journalists to interact with, collect all background information and 2) weave stories you desire to appear in the media, brief the journalists accordingly, lead them towards your angle of the story.

The two perfect no’s during the trip are – 1) never distort the facts and 2) don’t ever try to influence the journalists and request them to write on your behalf. It would not only shatter your media relations but in a long run your orgnisation will be blamed to be a manipulator.

However, you can request the journalists to share the stories prior to publishing to check whether the designations of the people speaking for your story have been distorted or they have been misspelt or misquoted.

While organising such trips make sure that you make a good mix of local and national level journalists. And yes, don’t forget to include a photo journalist – if s/he publishes a well captioned photo in any of the major pages, your work is done. A picture is worth a thousand words!

Organise a press conference
Another easy way to get your news in the media is organising a press conference at major events. Just keep in mind few basics of holding a press meet.

Invite the journalists a day in advance – don’t forget to use all means of communication – email the invites, fax the invites and call the news desk to confirm whether they have received the invites and have assigned the reporters.

Get your press release ready, well in advance. Get the quotes in your release signed off from the speakers before finalising the release. If you want to disseminate the release in more than one language, get it translated on your own. The journalists won’t bother to translate your press release and create news out of it.

Put your message in an inverted pyramid structure, answer all the 5 Ws – what, where, when, who and why, and 1 H – how in the first paragraph itself so that the journalists get hold of your message by skimming through the first paragraph itself. Don’t forget to make your title and first paragraph interesting. These will lead the readers to the latter part. Write your story well, link all the paragraphs so that none of them appear to be off-balance.

After the press conference hand over the press releases to the journalists – never distribute the release at the start of the programme, otherwise they won’t stay and listen to the speakers. Then fax the press release to all the media houses. Always remember to send the soft copy of your press release to the journalists. Sometimes, if you are lucky, your story is interesting and they are running out of time, next day you will see your full story in the media.

Pitch a story to media
It’s not always the reporters writing your story, but you can also try it the other way round. If you can play with the words well, then you can pitch your story to the media. Prior to pitching, make sure that you have a convincing story outline. Then identify the right media that would be interested in your story. Researching the media carefully, you need to find the right person to whom you can write a convincing email pitch. While pitching the story, you need to be patient and wait for the publication. Follow up your pitch if you receive the positive reply but your story is not published for long. There are lot many people like you who pitch their stories to media, and don’t forget they have their own able reporters.

You can also attract attention of the editor and your target audience by writing a letter to the editor about a feature article, op-ed or news piece related to the subject of your concern. You can at least talk about your concerns in short.

Collaborate with journalists
One of my bosses once told me that journalists are like wild horses, if you manage to ride them well, you will reach the destination. But if you are either in the front or back, the horse will kick you either on your back or right on your face. No offence to friends from media, but you must be able to maintain a working relationship with the journalists – never get too closer nor be farther – that’s the mantra to keep yourself and your stories in track.

You can follow groups of journalists (they are bunched up into groups like environmental, sports, energy, education, gender and so on) in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (just rummage through the friend lists and following lists of your connections). Get noticed by liking and adding sensible comments to their posts – you will build relations in no time.

One of the easiest ways to educate the journalists and imprint the subject in their minds, is organising a training on how to report on the subject of your concern for the reporters. If you request the editors for participation, they will obviously send some representatives from their media. In the process you will not only build the relations but will also arouse interest on your subject among the journalists. You can collaborate with journalists’ associations to hold such trainings.

Organise interaction programmes where experts from your subject and editors can have a dialogue on the subject. This will further push your agenda – the editors will be well aware of the issue and will be positive towards the stories/articles/news pieces filed by the reporters.

Perform stunts
Journalists, especially the photo journalists are always in the look out for interesting shots. If you organise an innovative stunt at a major public place and inform the friends from media – you are sure to get a good coverage.

Engage celebrities in your work, campaigns and stunts – it will be an added attraction for the shutterbugs!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Do you still like teaser advertisements?

You get joy out of making people wait, guess and predict. Meanwhile the respondents test their IQ and feel proud to guess what you are talking about. In the past, advertisers took advantage of this human trait to launch new products, associate their products with the customers’ interests and refresh their brand identities.

The cat and mouse game
You must have been witness to advertisements in dailies that ask you to look at the same place again the next day. The next day you are again requested to do the same. With each day the curiosity inside you increases till it plateaus. And when you think that you are not going to do the same next day, the advertisers cleverly put forth their messages, making you part of their campaigns. You become so involved with the product that you try it at least once. If the product delivers your expectations – you are glued to it – turning into a loyal customer.

I would like to cite the example of launching of a tea brand “Tokla”. The advertisers put hoardings and banners with the message “Kala is coming” for few weeks, all over the marketplace, in the streets and major thoroughfares. The message was there in the daily newspapers as well. People kept guessing and speculating what the thing “Kala” was. On the stipulated date, the marketers revealed the new brand of tea “Tokla”. The brand was an instant hit. Owing to its good quality, the brand has still maintained a string of loyal consumers.

However, things have changed with the fast paced lifestyle. In the current rat race for moneymaking and enjoying life to the fullest, people easily get impatient. They don’t have time to look at the same place of the newspaper day after day. So, if you are a clever marketer, you know that people are not going to ply with your playing the “cat-and-mouse game”. Some might be interested till the second or third day, but from the fourth day onwards, almost everybody will have lost interest in your message.

Filling the gap between curiosity and patience
The marketers have again come up with innovative ideas to bridge in the gap between curiosity and patience of customers. Now you will find a set of teaser advertisements in a certain page of magazine or newspaper which asks you to turn on to the next page and at the end you are led to the introduction of the brand. This little teasing tantalises your brain and in a way you are more attached to the brand than others displaying the products one time only.

The advertisers have also come up with the idea of extension advertising (advise if you have better name), where they design different versions of the same advertisements with coherent message and a common tagline. The advertisements are generally displayed on the right hand side pages. As you turn the pages, the similar advertisements arouse your interest and you are led to the final advertisement which talks in detail about the product. Sometimes the products and the messages are revealed on the first page itself and similar, coherent messages are carried out by a set of advertisements that follow the first one, but of course with new visuals, graphics and colours.

The river returns to its original course once in 12 years
The trends keep changing with time and tend to return with some improvements within a certain time period. As goes the old proverb from the Indian subcontinent, “A river returns to its original course in 12 years’ time”, the marketing trends keep on being tweaked, adjusted, adapted and improved with time – landing up with the similar sort of campaigns which are marketers’ favourite at some point of time. However, for this time around, the teaser advertisements are certainly out of the scene.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Promote publicly

Brand is not built in a day. It needs a long time to build reputation, repeat sales, consumer loyalty, brand recognition and top of the mind recall. While the media multiplier effect (pounding the customers with same message at the same time through different channels) is needed to reach the consumers and build brand recognition, the visual presentation of the brand at public places is a must to build curiosity and interest among consumers for the initial pull. Hordes of international and local brands have been presenting themselves at public places successfully.

Workplace hoarding
The factory and office sites displaying huge hoardings are the basic rungs of the brand building ladder. People passing by the site will not only witness the hoarding with brand identity of the product but will also be curious about the punchline of the product if it’s a hard-hitting one.

Point of sales promotion
I have seen brands painting the town red with their promotion boards and materials while launching the new variants. You will get to see the same brand at every retailer, wholesaler and shopping malls. However, the same brand is replaced by a new entrant over a period of time. Claiming the POS spaces at major nook and cranny is a clever idea to display your brand image.

Social awareness promotion
It’s a sure shot way of making your brand look responsible and in the meantime build soft corner in the hearts of consumers. One of the messages displayed by a brand at a major crossroad in Kathmandu asks the passers-by to cross the road only at the zebra-crossing. Half of the board then displays the brand. The brand has tied up with the Traffic Police to put the public awareness message. When one reads the message, s/he looks at the brand and its tagline as well. I am sure one out of ten people reading the message gets interested in the brand consciously or sub-consciously.

Street direction boards
Another popular way of promoting your brand publicly is to sponsor the street direction boards. Though the boards have a little space to share with the brand, at least people looking for directions will take notice of the brand.

Road islands
The road islands are a relief sight to your eyes, if you are driving in a jam-packed road for hours. While the customers driving by look at the beautifully managed island, plants and flowers, they come across the brand managing the island. A careful display of “The island is managed by…”gets noticed.

Bus stop signage
Public vehicles will never lose their popularity with the masses. Majority of the city dwellers commute in public vehicles and the bus-stops are favourite places for the marketers to display their brands. Nowadays, even the movie marketers eye the bus-stops and metro stations to display the posters of new releases.

Public gardens
Amongst residence colonies, amidst a busy city, there are public gardens. A whole lot of people visit the gardens in the morning for fresh air, daily exercise and relaxation. The company managing the garden can showcase its brand at the most prominent and preferred place of the garden.

Road dividers
A major bank in Kathmandu, in a unique collaboration with the Metropolitan Traffic police, has painted the road dividers falling on the way to its head office with its brand colours. Not only, that, the bank staff were engaged in painting the dividers – as a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) contribution.

Flowers and trees by the roadside
Again a major paint brand has collaborated with the Kathmandu Metropolitan City and has planted trees and flowers by the roadside. The marketers have prominently displayed the brand while planting the flowers and trees.

3-D hoarding
A motorcycle brand fixed a real motorcycle to a huge hoarding during its launch. Rather than painting the brand, the marketers preferred to display the real machine and it was an eyeball catching, brand building exercise which led to bigger sales.

Balloons at fairs and exhibitions
It’s a general and popular trend. Thousands of people come to the fairs and exhibitions and if you display your brand there, you are sure to catch the eyes of at least hundreds of customers.

While the public display of the brand image is just a part of the brand building exercise, it necessarily triggers the initial pull for the brand. Once you display your brand at public places, be sure to refresh the occupied space with new, fresh coat of paint, display of fresh but coherent messages from time to time. It will not only display your brand but will also tell the customers that your brand is live and kicking!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Brand differentiation – the tea drinking hen way

When I saw a hen pecking at a glass of tea, drinking tea from the glass at a town (Khanikhola) 23 kilometres west from the Kathmandu Valley, I was inspired to write this piece. The hen, at the moment, created a lasting differentiation in my mind. Generally, chickens are meant for either meat or eggs and they don’t have any brands as such (leaving aside the species of chickens). You can broadly categorise them as local or broiler breeds.

In the recent days, the local chickens have lost market to the broiler breeds. However, the local breeds are in much higher demand owing to their superior quality. The tea drinking hen, besides being a brand in much demand added value to its demand (at least for me). It was a differentiated product!

In line with the weird bird habit, have you ever seen a parrot with dandruff? A witty television commercial delves into the psyche of consumers and uses the punchline to denounce the herd mentality. When the owner of a parrot sees the bird dusting off its wings, the word spreads and the parrot becomes an instant hit with visitors from all over the place coming in hordes to have a glimpse of the unique parrot. The commercial runs well, but at the end the real reason is discovered by a curious cameraperson who sees the dust from the peeling interior paint on the ceiling falling on the parrot. The advertisement has been successful in differentiating the said paint from the competitors.

The marketers analysed the weaknesses of the competitive brands (peeling off easily) and developed the same weakness into its strength. They took care of the customer experience gap and packaged the product promising to deliver it.

Now talking about bottled water – you will see a horde of companies bottling water in blue bottles with blue logos except few like Evian which uses pink logo. However, when I saw a green bottle of mineral water with green logo, it was a welcome sight for me. And the brand, Davidson mineral water, also kept its promises by delivering good quality drinking water. The marketers thought of offering something different than the usual run-of-the-mill product. They tried to position themselves differently.

If you travel around 20 kilometres to the east of Kathmandu Valley (the place is called Janagal), you will come across a modest eatery where toast with khuwa (Nepalese local butter) is served instead of the regular toast with butter. An extra plate of potato-pea curry is served along with the toast. The taste is incredible and the brand differentiates itself from the regular eateries serving the regular menu! The eatery owner analysed the customer engagement drivers, and added a competitive input to his product.

Talking about differentiation to create a brand name, I would never forget the exercise taken by Pepsi thereby changing its regular colour to blue. It was a disaster differentiation, at least in the Indian subcontinent. In Nepal, the colour matched the colour of the kerosene and though being good in taste, it seemed you were sipping kerosene out of a regular Pepsi bottle! And, it was outright flop in terms of sale and moneymaking. So, care should be taken while differentiating a brand by keeping in mind the local culture and context.

Now coming back to the basics, you need do three important analyses (as done by the marketers above) before going for differentiation – 1) internal analysis, 2) customer analysis and 3) competitor analysis. Just go for a quick TOWS Analysis. I prefer looking for opportunities and threats ahead prior to jumping into the strengths and weaknesses. The opportunities and threats are external traits and can not be influenced. However, strengths and weaknesses are internal traits and you can work towards converting your weaknesses to strengths.

The next in the line is analysing the customer perception, behaviour and desire to add competitive input to your brand and position your brand differently, keeping in mind the local culture and context.

As Shiv Khera says, “Winners don’t do different things, they do things differently” in his book “You Can Win”, your product will win only if you differentiate it from others. And while you are designing the differentiation strategy, just remember the tea drinking hen and it will inspire you all the way!