Category Archives: Sights and Sounds

Where’s the Beef?

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The 1984 ad that took the ad world by storm featured nothing more than three wizened ladies who were impressed with the “very big fluffy bun” but bemused by the minuscule beef patty. An effective ad that gave pop culture one of its best catchphrases to date: “Where’s The Beef?”. Also a sharp prodding reminder to PR tacticians when they tend to get lost in a quagmire of ‘innovative’ and ‘path breaking’ strategies.

While keeping clients’ sensitivities and trying to work out a pitch that appears sensible to both customer and audience, PR folks often forget the simple purposes of their professions: to foster goodwill and to help all involved parties to arrive at a mutual understanding. Though these purposes are written by off by many as traditional and conventional definitions of public relations,  they forget this is precisely what the audience is seeking- a clear, concise message sans drama.

Most often the target audience is a layman, who may/ may not share the corporate’s viewpoint, but most importantly, someone who is intelligent enough to understand when he/ she is being taken for a ride. . It isn’t 1984 anymore. You might not even get a Peller screaming “where’s the beef”. The public will just trundle their cases to the next choice. So the next time you think up a mind blowing tactic, think twice and make sure you give ’em the real deal.

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Of Celebrities, Obsessions and We the Paparazzi

ImageIt’s an open secret that the country is obsessed with anything remotely connected to celebrity. Quacks claiming to be Ms. X’s physician and obscure fashion houses scrambling madly for the limelight because Celebrity Y happened to touch their door handle are only common fare in the papers nowadays. But what of quality advertisements and promotion campaigns? We, the honorable citizens might make righteous statements about how celebrities should be granted their privacy by the interfering paparazzi. We, the very same paparazzi, who are waiting to hear the latest tidbit on how so- and- so was spotted with another so- and- so at some cafe, the very same audience who do not hesitate to beg, borrow and steal a copy of the latest tabloid or cine magazine.

Celebrity endorsements have begun morphing into the most outrageous wars of ego. Business publications of yore have taken to writing paeans and editorials on how different brands of mango juice are endorsed by various grades of Bollywood top brass. Does it matter? When one is thirsty and wanders to the nearest refrigerator for a glass of mango juice, does it matter whether it was portrayed most sensually on TV by Mr. Khan or Ms. Kaif? Or would one grab the first cold beverage and gulp it down? Does every “serious and sentimental” ad require a yesteryear veteran actor to endorse it? Sensibilities decide to take a rain check when India’s Celebrity Mania comes into action.

Every corporate might not be able to make do with frugal marketing. Not everyone can stay content with investing more time and less money. One can also not deny that genuinely interesting effective celebrity- endorsed  have been unleashed on potential consumers. But the good is often overshadowed by the tasteless. it would do certain marketers a world of good if they looked before leaping and rethinking the necessity and relevance of their celebrity studded marketing sagas.

The Contemporary Mahabharata and Social Media

ImageThe February 18 issue of India Today featured a special report on the eternal war of India’s greatest political clans, the Congress and the BJP. Their latest warfare tactic is to resort to social media, namely twitter for live updates as well as Youtube to stream videos of speeches, rallies and other political events.

To the aam aadmi, politics is a part and parcel of life, so is the Internet. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India’s study conducted in June 2012, there were 200 million Twitter users globally of which 18 million accounts were from India. More than 45% of Internet users discuss politics on social media sites and online forums. The majority of the population have taken to voicing their feedback through the Internet in recent times. Politicians too, have understand the wonders of social media and its effective reach. The Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari remarked that a change had indeed been embraced and that the Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are now accepted political media. The Congress opines that this is not merely a tactical decision aimed at Election 2014 but a long term strategy.

The importance of social media rests mainly on two points. The Indian middle class, which earlier felt it could not affect election results have taken to popularity polls and seeking information through the Internet. Secondly, and more importantly, it is seen as a far reaching mouth piece which can communicate directly to the masses without being edited or abridged by news reporters, editors, TV anchors and other media middlemen. Statements being falsified, cooked and twisted to suit unhealthy media agenda and political shrewdness is a popular routine. which is why social media is seen as a straight forward channel, albeit a smart tool to foster the right ‘buzz’ and hype. “It’s you, dealing directly with the people. the benefits are obvious”. says Tewari.

Tailpiece: ‘Like’ to cast a vote for your favorite candidate might not be too far away. Wonder if the #Election Commission needs to have a think tank. Or maybe a #Parliamentary discussion? Food for thought.

Kerala shining…

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Bustling Edapally, from God’s Own Country, has been basking in the glory of being home to India’s largest shopping mall. The arrival of Lulu Shopping Mall is an eagerly awaited celebration begging to happen. With recognized metropolitan cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru readily available, why choose Kerala and it commercial hub, Kochi for a gargantuan venture of 1.6 million square feet?

Kerala was first projected as a rapidly progressing metropolitan city by the Malayala Manorama, the largest circulating Malayalam daily globally. With convenient access and transport facilities, population density, purchasing capacity,international airports, international container terminals, historic highlights, state-of-the-art health centers, rocketing health indices, international mega projects such as the Smart City, educational facilities, entertainment and recreational options, potential investors can change the question from “Why Kerala?” to “Why not Kerala?”

Professionals from other parts of the country have often tried to implement business and marketing plans in Kerala without making an effort to understand the sensitivities of the Malayali psyche. While the obvious choices for a metro would be Delhi and Mumbai, closely followed by Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad, one also ought to keep in mind the fact that these cities have reached saturation limits in progress and development and are stagnant in growth as time goes by. Kerala differs with its high literacy rates and employment statistics, signifying the greater audience available to the marketing tactics of any investor who wishes put down roots here. Kerala has matured into a self- sustaining metropolis; a city fit to join the pantheon, rather than remaining aloof as a state in the Republic.

Well, we couldn’t have asked for a more befitting retort. As Bang in the Middle’s Naresh Gupta told one of the senior ResPublicans, Jeevan Chandy, last day: “It’s our belief that real opportunity for India is with brands that have regional roots.” A major project such as the Lulu Shopping Mall is just the tip of the iceberg; a mere indication of how the underdog has arrived in style.

To be Green or not to be Green…

Green-marketing

Green marketing, also known as Environmental marketing or Ecological Marketing, has been a much discussed and debated topic over the years. Apart from the simple process of marketing commodities and ideas that are resumed to be environmentally safe, green marketing also constitutes a number of practices such as product modification, changes to the production process, packaging changes, as well as modifying advertising. In recent times, eco- friendly marketing practices have not only chosen to refocus and readjust marketing strategies but also offer a completely new perspective in the same.

Corporates have taken to reducing their carbon footprints as well as trying their best to enhance their image as a ‘green warrior’ within their communities. Even then, there is a marked difference between doing so for their own benefits and doing it out of corporate social responsibility. In implementing green marketing, consumers, corporate and the  government play a very important role. But there are few constraints in implementing it like lack of consumer awareness, financial constraints, limited scientific knowledge, lack of  stringent rules and competitive pressures. Green marketing mirrors the goals of traditional marketing, which is to “facilitate exchanges intended to satisfy human needs or wants.” According to Dr. Kamal k. Pandey and Dr. P. B. Singh of Integral University, the point of difference is that green marketing seeks to accomplish that with minimal detrimental  impact on the natural environment.

As companies face limited natural resources, they must  also develop new or alternative ways of satisfying their customers’ needs. So green marketing is also a way of looking at how marketing activities can make the best use of these limited resources while meeting corporate objectives.

The guidelines to sustainable marketing include embedding sustainable business practices into the business strategy, delivering marketing activities that create ongoing growth, promoting and supporting sustainable tasks within the business, influencing other businesses to adopt sustainable business practices as well as minimizing the usage of resources in day to day business operations.

(For further reading:

Green marketing: Policies and Practices for Sustainable Development:-

http://www.integraluniversity.ac.in/12052010/P.B_Kamal.pdf

Green Marketing in India: Emerging Opportunities and Challenges :-

http://14.139.58.2/ejournalver2/abstract/year2010/volume3/PavanMishraandMs.PayalSharma.pdf )

Turning tables in the Education Sector

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The hangover of a colonial past is probably what attracts Indians towards all things “phoren”. Or maybe it genuinely has something to do with the quality and rapid development in the field of education abroad. There is never a satisfactory answer to the conundrum of the student body mass migration to other lands when India boasts of Universities with world- class infrastructure all over the country. Whatever it may be,things have definitely started looking up for the Republic’s student body.

Countries such as the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many more have flooded the education market with ads and offers to somehow woo Indian students to experience the platter of degrees and diplomas their institutes have to offer. In recent times there has been a neat change of affairs that have turned the tables in India’s favour. The Times of India has reported that the SCMS Group of Educational Institutions, centred in Kochi would be opening a business school in London by the next month.The group is investing 10 crore to set up the SCMS London School of Business affiliated to the University of Salford, Manchester. Aimed at attracting an international student body, the School will be led by John Ryan, a former fellow of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

SCMS has brought on an innovative idea and is a definite harbinger and inspiration for many more such ventures in the near future. Sounds like brighter times assured for aspiring Indian scholars!

“Bang in the Middle” of Kerala…

A large number of independent ad agencies are popping up every other day, all over the nation. So what’s so special when one of them decides to set up shop in Kerala??

Given the state’s age old love affair with aging celebrities and their endorsements (no matter how silly they be), advertisement campaigns tailor- made to the client’s whims and fancies (rather than promoting creativity), highly flammable and fragile ties between the land’s commerce and politics, and of course, the conspicuous absence of creativity- for- the – sake- of- creativity, ‘Bang in the Middle’ coming to Kerala is big news indeed.

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Despite the surprisingly high rate of literacy and growing acceptance of digital and social media, clients in the Kerala market tend to remain traditionalists when it comes to adopting innovations in their communication strategies. Precisely why Bang in the Middle expects its Kerala operations to robustly grow in the coming months. The agency will initially operate from Thiruvananthapuram, and will offer a full suite of services to clients across Kerala, according to a chat that The Times of India had with Prathap Suthan, Managing Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Bang in the Middle.

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After burgeoning branches in Gurgaon, Kolkata, Chicago and New York, BitM takes its first steps in Kerala with the help of Satyan Nair, an advertising veteran, formerly associated with Stark Communications and Young & Rubicam. Nair believes that homegrown brands have refused to leave their comfort zone, which is why they have failed to upscale themselves. Suthan asserts with passionate belief that Bang in the Middle can provide the remedy to this endemic by offering a fresher perspective to advertising and providing better marketing opportunities through the digital marketing domain, especially because Kerala has an online savvy audience just waiting to be impressed. More about Bang in the Middle and what they do can be found at http://banginthemiddle.com/

Social Media Marketing: Yes or No?

Some blog about their businesses. Some others update Facebook statuses on a regular basis to promote their coupons and deals. Yet some others Tweet every minute about what’s ticking behind the company’s curtains. Is it truly a big deal to adopt a social media marketing strategy and engage customers? Does all that drivel really matter? According to J. D Power & Associates, the answer is a resounding “yes”. Image

In the 2013 Social Media Benchmark Study based on  responses from more than 23,200 U.S. online consumers who have interacted with a company via the companies’ social media channel, it was found that both social media marketing tactics and social media servicing had a profound influence on the customer’s buying decision. The study was aimed to create an awareness among companies on how to effectively integrate social media in various aspects of marketing engagements such as connecting with consumers to build brand awareness and affinity, in addition to promoting coupons and deals.

The study reiterates mainly the point that companies need to revamp their social media marketing strategies based on how their existing patronage and potential clients use the various social media that they plan to utilize. There was also found to be a marked difference in the demands and buying behaviors of various age groups. Whereas the youth tend to engage actively in both social media marketing and social media servicing, persons of middle age as well as senior citizens had a tendency to be more involved in social media marketing than servicing. The likelihood of social media marketing translating to buying decisions was comparatively low for the latter group.

A detailed perspective on the correlation between consumer satisfaction, likelihood of purchase, social media marketing strategies and the consumers’ perception of the company can be found at http://www.marketwatch.com/story/jd-power-and-associates-reports-poor-social-media-practices-can-negatively-impact-a-businesses-bottom-line-and-brand-image-2013-02-14 

INK!

ink stage

Considered the “ultimate brain spa” by many, the INK (Innovation and Knowledge) Conference aims to provide young thought leaders, a platform to share their ideas and also bring to the forefront, a new generation of role models who will inspire others into innovation and action. When listening to different ideas from people from different backgrounds the INK talks inspire innovative thinking and aim to showcase ideas that can can provide solutions to a wide cross- section of people.

In the past years, INK has boasted of various notable speakers with incredibly diverse talents to their names such as French perfumer Yann Vasnier, Indian actor-singer- composer Shruti Hassan, Jamaican poet- monodramatist- educator D’bi Young Anitafrika, New York based grapphic designer- typographer Stefan Sagmeister, Chief Engineer for Mars Science Laboratory Robert Manning, former Indian cricketer V. V. S. Laxman, American cartoonist- animator Matt Groening, Indian doctor- social activist- welfare worker and Magsaysay Award winner Dr. Prakash Amte, Autodesk thought leader Tom Wujec, technology entrepreneur Nam Do and many more.

INK is the brainchild of Lakshmi Pratury, co- founder of Ixoraa Media. She attended a TED conference and then worked with TED, organising conferences in the U.S. through her company which she co-founded in 2005 with Anu Sethuram. Seeing the potential of these events, she planned to host one such event in India. The conference is a for- profit venture that derives revenue from sponsorships, corporate events and conference fees. Pratury serves as the curator of the conference and oversees the content of the events. Finding the right venue that is neither too crowded nor inaccessible, getting audiences to pay the conference fees, stimulating the people involved and increasing the outreach of the program are some of the multifarious challenges Pratury, Sethuram and the Ixoraa team tackle throughout the year.

The INK Conference 2013 will be held at Kochi, October 25- 27. Be a part of the genius committee at http://www.inktalks.com/conferences/ink2013

Musings on Frugal Marketing…

jessie paul“The right time to engage in marketing is now. Preferably when your company is healthy. Not when you are fighting for survival. But it is never too late.
When I don’t have money, I can invest time instead, but I will never ever stop investing in marketing.”- Jessie Paul

If the marketer does not know what his/ her company is good at, then the whole purpose of marketing falls flat. Constructing a holistic marketing strategy for your company is something only you can do.  Unless there is a 360 inherent understanding of the environment, the company might not get the desired push into the public eye.

This is when certain mantras by Jessie Paul can be put into application. She is the founder and managing director of Paul Writer, a marketing advisory firm that works with clients in the B2B services and technology space. She has also worked as the chief marketing officer at Wipro’s IT business and as a global brand manager at Infosys. She highlights the golden rule that money is not necessarily the only element worth investing. Investing time along with some coordinated team effort can help even large companies market themselves much more effectively compared to a large cash flow and small impact. An impressive application of brains over brawn indeed.

Follow the link below to see why Jessie Paul believes frugal marketing can do wonders:

http://www.thesmartceo.in/special-features/frugal-marketing-its-not-just-for-startups.html

To reach Jessie Paul and her organization Paul Writer, visit: www.paulwriter.com