Ki, Ka & Family!!!

Adman turned filmmaker Balki’s latest outing as his previous ones treads into unchartered territory in Bollywood. This post is not a review of the film but about its narrative. So, I’m not getting into rating of the film which anyway as per me was far better than his earlier work – Shamitabh. In this one, Balki through the male protagonist attempts to remove the differentiation of the “lings” in Hindi language namely स्त्रीलिंग (streeling) feminine and पुल्लिंग (pulling) masculine. I can pretty much understand as to where Balki is coming from. Like most of us from the South of Vindhyas probably Balki also found it difficult to figure out where to use Ka and Ki while conversing in Hindi😂. So getting rid of these “lings” would be a thing most of us will welcome!

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But the film is not about any reform in Hindi but about a new form of relationship between an urban couple.  For the benefit of those who gave this Ki and Ka a miss, here’s the premise of the storyline where the film attempts to break established gender stereotypes. (You may like to watch the trailer here which would sum up the premise better) The man sits at home as a house husband while the woman pursues her career ambitions and is the one “pulling” the strings of the purse that is. The man cooks, cleans, does the household chores and also satiates the sexual needs of the wife adequately while his wife is engaged in drawing up boardroom strategies to sell her company’s products as a marketing pro. All this voluntarily and not out of forced circumstances. Now this is a new hatke formulation for Indian society and a Bollywood film – one which instantly brings smiles on the faces of urban women. In one stroke, Balki has earned the fandom of millions of women by making “Ki” (lady) the actual “Ka”(Man)!

So far so good. However in reality, if ones looks at the timeline of relationships between couples atleast in urban India, there has been a gradual progression but one that has still not reached Balki’s make believe stage yet. The evolution in society has been like this. In our grandparents’ times, the role definitions were very clear. The man (husband) is supposed to be the bread winner and is the protector of the family. The lady (wife) did all the work at home as a house wife and was generally subdued. These were the unchallenged “Ka” times! As literacy and family income levels increased, women became slightly more empowered. The next was the generation where the role clarity became hazy. While the husband continued to earn and be the head of the family, the wife apart from taking care of the house, also did her bit in enhancing the family income. So this was the era of the “Super Woman” who was still subdued at home. Though the wife was equally involved in earning money, somehow at home she was still expected to handle everything right from the kitchen to children’ studies. Still the “Ka” era. The next generation – probably the current one is where I guess things are more balanced. Both the husband and wife are equally well educated, ambitious about their respective careers and at home they just simply outsource the work. Or the husband grudgingly or otherwise plays ball to share work. Actually the “Ki and Ka” times.  (I must hasten to add that some of the above situations referred to in historical context exist even today. I’ve just referred to the trend)

Now what Balki has shown in the film is his fantasy of a “Ki” Era. An era where the woman is completely emancipated. Now the question is – Is this the future? Will we be seeing more and more men preferring to be house husbands willingly and would women take it as their comeuppance?? One doesn’t know.

But if one analyses all the above formulations, it is abundantly clear that the dominant “Ka” era is on the wane. The dominant “Ki” era is still a fantasy and would be in all probability fraught with its own dangers.  It would seem that the one which can work is the “Ki and Ka” formulation. However I have another construct in mind. Which is the “Ki, Ka & family” formulation. Where the husband and wife take care of the earnings part, share the household work and at the same time teach the children to embrace household chores and do their bit willingly. The best process of coaching is always the demonstrative process. When a child sees his dad cleaning up a shelf on weekends, he tends to pick this as a habit when he grows up. Apart from being demonstrative, I believe it is equally important to let children do the work instead of being too protective. In my experience I’ve seen that behind most misogynistic men have been indulgent parents. This is wonderfully demonstrated in the Award winning #sharetheload commercial of Ariel. Watch it here. Where the old father rues the fact that he never helped his wife –in her household work and that his son in law who is seen ordering around would have also not witnessed his dad helping at home!! And commits himself to share the load henceforth in household work. Now there can be no better news than this for any woman for whom Newspaper, TV and now mobile phones are sworn enemies for life😃😃.

“Can you please stop typing away to glory and share the load here?  It’s the wife at home. “Yes, coming!!!” is my loud war cry. Followed by, “Beta, put off the TV and come to the kitchen. See what appa is doing”!!!😃😃

So for me it’s not “Ki” or “Ka” or even “Ki and Ka”. It has to be “Ki, Ka & family”👍👍👍

“Idea Extension Trap”!!!

Al Ries and Jack Trout the “Art of Positioning” gurus in their best seller – ‘Positioning – The battle for your mind’ devoted one full chapter on what they call as the “Line Extension Trap”. They claimed that Line Extension whereby marketers having built a successful brand in one product category extend the same brand to another line of products is a trap. A vicious trap which as per the marketing gurus ends up diluting the core promise of the original brand.  A Ponds talcum powder which has been a very successful brand when extended to a tooth paste confuses the consumer and eventually fails. And there are more examples. But in business, line extension is often the trap which the brand managers walk into with their eyes open with their advertising agencies in tow.

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These are the times of “Big Ideas”. And I see the same extension happening on good ideas. For example once an advertising communication idea once does well as measured by the viral and viewership statistics the temptation is to flog it again and again.  This, without realizing that the idea is already way past the best before date. A telling example of this is the Star Sports’ Mauka Mauka campaign. The first spot (see here) on this now familiar campaign was conceived before the Indo-Pak encounter in the league stages of the ICC ODI World Cup in 2015. With the background of the previous Indo-Pak meetings at the Cricket World Cup which have all been won by India, the spot featuring a Pakistani fan waiting desparately for a Mauka (opportunity) to celebrate a Pakistani win was bang on. The idea, the story and its execution no wonder caught the fancy of millions of fans and the commercial soon became a case study for viral marketing! It also spawned a variety of spoofs which added to the value of the Idea. So it was not surprising that Star Sports followed it up with another Mauka spot for the next India match which again became popular. Having smelt blood, the broadcaster decided to flog the Mauka Idea. India exited the World Cup in the Semis, but the Mauka spots didn’t. Now as the World Cup progressed, Mauka spots started to get boring, repetitive and almost were like being thrust upon the audience. One year later, for the ICC T20 World Wup, Star Sports was back as the official broadcaster. So did the Mauka ad just before the Indo-Pak match. Only that this time, the story line looked unnatural and the ad fell flat in terms of idea and execution. Now this is what happens when marketers (Star Sports in this case) waltz into the “Idea Extension Trap”. Star Sports is not alone and there are many others in its August Company.

Vodafone for one. I feel that the mobile service provider with its once adorable pug has also fallen into this trap. For its 4G launch (watch here), it has tried to resurrect the charm of the pug which few years ago did wonders for Hutch with its “Wherever you go our network follows” campaign. The pug again was brought into action when Hutch became Vodafone and it wanted to popularize their “Happy to Help” stores. But now in this Vodafone’s 4G launch campaign, the pug is looking tired and jaded (atleast in our eyes) and the campaign when compared to the Airtel’s 4G campaign doesn’t stand and that’s in my humble opinion.

In the big screen also oflate, idea extensions have become rampant. The original Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Gol maal was a classic and will remain one. This is one film which got remade in almost all major Indian languages. But the subsequent Rohit Shetty imitations of Gol maal in the form of Gol maal returns, Gol maal 3,..  will remain just that.  Lowly imitations of an idea which has now been flogged to death. Rohit Shetty went one step ahead by milking the same Gol Maal idea in another name – Bol Bachchan!!

This bug of Idea Extension is most prevalent in TV programming content. A successful format gets packaged, repackaged and extended and finally kills the original idea. When Kaun Banega Crorepati becomes a roaring hit with Amitabh Bachchan in Hindi, the producers extend the same KBC format to different languages with regional stars. The fact remains that there can be only one Amitabh Bachchan. The regional shows turn out to be pale imitations of the original big idea.

Is this trend of extending and flogging ideas which have worked in the past, due to pressure on time or pressure on cost, or a thought out strategy or plain laziness or a combination of all these is a matter of conjecture.  But one thing is very visible and clear. The temptation to walk into the “Idea Extension trap” is real and looks like may not recede in the near future.

Post script: Now here’s the irony. Having tasted enormous success with their 1st book –‘Positioning – The Battle for your Minds’, where they warned marketers of the “Line Extension trap” authors Al Ries and Jack Trout did exactly the same thing. Extended the “battle” concept to their next book and called it ‘Marketing Warfare’!!!

Jugaad Vs Anti-Jugaad!!!

In the last 2 weeks, 2 TV ads for different products by 2 different agencies but surprisingly around the same theme of Jugaad caught my attention.  One is for Sulekha.com and the other for Exide Life Insurance. Jugaad is India’s contribution to management theory or so it appears. That the word ‘Jugaad’ has a Wikipedia page attributed to it means, it “has” arrived. And I think it had arrived a decade ago. When we started seeing this term being bandied about in management lecture circuits and HBR articles in the context of a Rising India. Yes the same time when BRICS broke into investment strategy discussions around the globe. For the uninitiated, Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi/Punjabi word that can mean an innovative fix or a simple work-around, used for solutions that bend rules. (Courtesy: Wikipedia). One of the very popular examples of Jugaad which has been trumpeted about is the use of old run down washing machines as giant Lassi makers in dhabas of Punjab😤

So what was new in Jugaad?? The concept of Jugaad I believe emanated from the Indian psyche of use first, then re-use, then repair and use and refuse (to throw i.e.). So when you have a problem in hand, as long as you can just do something and fix it and Chalaofy, its fine. These days for our kids, when their slipper snaps, Snapdeal delivers a new pair the next day. In our time, when a slipper gave way, a safety-pin first came to the rescue to pull along for few days. When that also failed, the cobbler under the nearby tree stretched the life of the slipper for few more days. So the immediate instinct was to do some Jugaad to get it going before we buy a new pair.

It was but natural that the word entered the workplace soon. At factories, warehouses, offices – if there was a problem the first attempt is to do some Jugaad and fix it. And in interviews – questions like “Are you a go getter?” gave way to “Are you a Jugaadu??”😜😜 A supposedly smart cookie who can think quickly and provide a cheap and quick fix for problems at work. So the underlying association for Jugaad was that the solution must be quick to implement, cheap and can be a short term compromise. Nobody expected a Jugaad to be a “perfect” solution.

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Now this runs antithesis to probably a Japanese way of thinking. In Japan, solutions are found after a lot of thinking (so not a quick fix), they need to be perfect (turn out to be expensive) and for the long-term.

So I guess the Jugaad instinct is all to do with the economic status of the country and its people. In countries like ours which is still aspiring to be a developed country, our priority is to have a fix. Not be a perfect fix. Need not be for long-term. But should be cheap and quick. While this approach has paved the way for eulogizing the concept of Jugaad as a means of “frugal innovation” in countries like India, it also has its shortcomings. As can be seen in our day today lives. For example in the way our municipality fixes potholes in roads. Just fill up quickly with metal and tar and level it only to do the same exercise again in a few months. A Jugaad solution can prove to be a long-term pain and an expensive proposition. In this context, I am uncomfortable with raising Jugaad to a global management technique and all that jazz.

Ergo, interestingly I notice that the same concept which till recently had a positive overtone is taking a negative innuendo. The liberalization and the Software boom have changed things and thinking. These days we deploy less Jugaad in our lives. And we it seems now need long-term, Quality solutions even if expensive. Now coming back to those 2 TV commercials. As can be seen in these 2 ads Jugaad has given way to Anti-Jugaad and the till now venerable Jugaadu is being loathed upon. In my last post “Writings on the walls” (Read here) I wrote about the aspirational India taking wings in the heartlands. I see this emergence of Anti-Jugaad as another instance of the emergence of Aspirational India where the expectations of people have morphed from being just satisfied to yearning for more.

So, are the days numbered for Jugaad in India? May be not. But the question is – As the country which popularised Jugaad is there a “Good Jugaad” which we can still retain and a “Bad Jugaad” which we will have to do away with?

Postscript: As I am typing this racing against the iPad’s battery life, is there a Jugaad for the iPad’s battery life??? Please call me😜😜

Shuddh Desi Maggi!!!

First the disclosures. I am not a big fan of the 2 minute wonder – Maggi Noodles ever to have hit the Indian palate and plate. In all my life, I would have tasted it may be a few times and I detested it every time. Even when mixed with curd as how Bollywood stereotypes we Madrasis to eat even Noodles 😠. I don’t have nostalgic memories either of how Maggi Noodles helped thwart hunger pangs during some mountaineering expedition,… like how some adults professed as part of the Maggi campaign. The daughter though loves it. And wants more of it. Much to the dismay of the mother and the father. I also don’t have any commercial interests going with Nestle nor do I have a Swiss bank account!!!

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But I have a lot of interest in India and the signals it sends across within the country and outside as a place not abhorrent to business.  In the last 2 weeks, we all know how one Pandeyji from UP got his 2 minute fame under the sun after he picked up few Maggi Noodle packs, tested and declared that the contents were out of set limits. Many other states followed and soon Nestle had no choice but to pull their 2000cr (US$300mn) flagship product off the shelves and indeed away from the mouths of many a child and even grownups.  Leaving many a moms feeling surreptitiously happy when they found a way to desist the urge of their offspring citing the ban 😃.

In India, Newton is a much misunderstood man. When it comes to anything foreign, his 3rd law becomes “For every action, there is an unequal and opposite knee jerk reaction”😄 Either we go gaga about something phoren or go suspicious. There’s nothing in between. I am not for a moment questioning the veracity of the ban or arguing that Maggi noodles is above-board.  I am also not taking the oft-repeated line that in India there are so many other food items if tested would flunk all norms. Just that if the same situation would have been handled in a more compassionate way with a perspective view by the authorities, the Indian republic would not be viewed as a banana type!!!

For example, what if the same situation had played out like this:

  • Pandeyji picks up samples of Maggi noodles, tests the same and finds that the contents are beyond norms.
  • He informs the Central agency – Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) about his findings. (Instead of going to the press and banning the same in UP. What if it was just a batch issue??)
  • FSSAI arrange to do its own tests to ascertain the claim and also make a foolproof assessment. And let us assume that they indeed find the lead content above specified limits.
  • FSSAI informs the Food ministry of the same.
  • Food ministry calls the top officials of Nestle India for a meeting and they inform them of the findings. And gives Nestle couple of weeks to do their own assessment and come back.
  • Now its upto Nestle to accept the findings or prove with their own test results that they are in the right.
  • And if indeed Nestle finds that they are in the wrong, the onus is on them to come up with a plan of action to correct the situation. Temporary recall, change of recipe,…,…
  • They work with the FSSAI authorities and change the recipe of the taste maker which is tested and approved as within norms.
  • Nestle does a launch of the Govt. of India Approved ‘Shuddh Desi Maggi” Noodles with an appropriate campaign and continues its business as usual.

Product recalls on account of genuine safety concerns happen world over all the time these days. A more calibrated approach would have allowed the company time to work backwards with their whole supply chain – producers of atta/maida, spices, suppliers of the atta/maida, the factories which produce the noodle, the factories which make the packaging, transporters, whole sales distributors, retailers, kirana shops,..,.. to minimize damage. I just read a news item today that 300 in a company in Moga, Punjab that supplied spices to Nestle India lost their jobs due the ongoing Maggi noodles tangle.  I am certain under the current uncertain situation, many more will follow. Quietly not just Maggi, but the entire category is off the shelves I am told.

Some are of the view that Nestle itself could have handled the situation better. But I thought that by voluntarily agreeing to pull the brand off the shelves without getting into arguments regarding the test methods,.. they did the right thing. Now from here on they could take some lessons from Cadbury – another brand which faced a much worse situation few years ago. The relaunch of the Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate after the brand faced much ire when worms were found inside the chocolate wrapper is part of marketing case studies in India on the topic of “Recovery Strategy”.  The 2 minute Maggi Noodle must take a 2 months strategic time out and get the formula of their taste maker right not just for my daughter’s palate but also Pandeyji’s.

We have a Prime Minster who is desperately wanting to change the business climate in India and boost investments foreign and Indian. Unfortunately, episodes like the Maggi ban of this kind do not augur well for his intent.

Postscript: A friend told me that the Maggi ban and strangulation of Nestle is our Govt.’s trump card to make the Swiss authorities co-operate and reveal the black money offenders. Wah! “Covert” operations under the Modi regime have gone to a different level I must say😊😊

Image courtesy: NDTV.com

Marketing of “Acche Din”!!!

No other phrase has caught the imagination of the public – intelligentsia and others as this Acche Din” (Good Days) in recent memory in India. The only others I could think of are – Big B’s ‘Lock Kiya jai??’ during the heydays of KBC (Kaun Banega Crorepati). For few years post KBC-Season 1, we Indians were only “Locking” instead of “confirming” or “making sure”😃 . More lately, when Aamir Khan insisted on “All izz well” in Raju Hirani’s 3 Idiots, “I am fine”, “Sab teek hai”,.. got paraphrased by “All izz well”. (“All” being pronounced as “aal” ad nauseum😠)  So similarly these days, it’s raining Acche Din!!! Our Prime Minister has turned out to be so good in marketing that his Twitter bio could very well read – “Narendra Modi. Prime Minister of India. And a Marketing Maven”.

And this is exactly what has set the discourse in the media in a wrong track. Once again. “Your Government is all about marketing and packaging” is a refrain the NDA ministers were subjected to in all the interviews they gave around Modi365. The anchors were different, the channels were different, and the language was different. But the shrill accusation was the same. That this Government indulges itself in Marketing and loud at that.

As if “Marketing” in itself is a crime inflicted on society. And this notion is not something which has sprang up with the advent of Modi Sarkar. In general there is this subtext that marketing is nothing but a con job!! That marketing goes well with people with the Gift of the gab!!! And that marketing is all jazz and no mass.

For a long time I used to wonder where this impression came from! Gradually, I got the answers. First, in general Marketing and Direct selling (one to one selling) are often used interchangeably. That selling or sales is just one aspect of Marketing is a lesson which gets drilled in the first few pages of Philip Kotler. However in real life, people who are in say selling of Insurance policies or vacuüm cleaners or Time share holidays on one to one basis are often called as “Marketing” people. In direct selling situations more often than not we end up buying the product just to ward off the salesperson’s thollai/parishan (torture)😞😞. And the thought keeps lingering for quite some time that he/she has conned us into buying.  And hence the belief that marketing is just that – A royal conning!

Second, Marketing is also equated to Advertising. Even in B-schools many aspire to join marketing stream with a delusion that they will be associated with creating ads all the time in their career. In reality, advertising is just one part of marketing. When we keep seeing ads of toothpastes which promise “Crystal White teeth” in 45 days or commercials for Nutritional drinks which promise to grow children tall automatically in few months and nothing close to those anyway happen – we conclude that “Marketing” is all about taking people for a ride.

(And there is a third one which I get to see these days often. I.e using the word marketing for “going to the market for shopping”😜😜)

Thanks to the above fallacies, Marketing has got a bad name. In truth, Marketing is not hard selling. Is not advertising or for that matter shopping!! But is a more complex process of creating, communicating, and delivering something that have value for customers. (Ouch, that was a gyan overdose😜). Even a damn good product requires damn good marketing of the same.  In political context, the 1991 reforms which are now seen as the game changer for India now, were never marketed that time. So much so, even among the Congress there was such a backlash that Manmohan Singh, the then finance minister had to claw back on the reforms push. If the benefits of the reform programme were marketed well the phrase “Economic Reforms” in India would never have taken a negative connotation. Same is the case with NDA’s disinvestment programme during Vajpayee regime. So this brings to the fore the importance of “Good Marketing” (like the need for good cholesterol – for the sceptics) in politics for Pro bono.

Hence to a large extent, I am glad to see the present Government and the PM going all out to “market” their initiatives whether it is Make in India, Jan Dhan Yojana or Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.  Or for that matter packaging the 1st year achievements as ‘Saal Ek Shuruaat Anek’. As long as the PM and Government are good at last mile delivery of the products as they are in marketing of the same, I am certain Acche Din are round the corner for India. And I am also certain that the PM is also aware of the repercussions otherwise. That Abki Baar Modi Sarkar would be branded as Abki Baar Jumla Sarkar the next time around😆😆

Acche Din toon

Postscript: My apologies if the title made you to believe that this post is another post mortem of the 1st year of Modi Sarkar.  There has been 100’s of that in the last few days! So didn’t want to add to the clutter. On the other hand, Perception management is one part of Marketing. I thought Marketing itself needed a dose of perception management 😆😆

Cartoon credit: Satish Acharya

“Viral” fever and the Marketing “mauka”!!!

As India kicked off its campaign to defend the Cricket World Cup with a high-octane league match with its arch rival Pakistan, for Star Sports it was a perfect ‘mauka’(opportunity) to milk the moment. And how it did!!! With a very interesting commercial which is now part of marketing folklore showing a Pakistani fan eagerly waiting for the mauka to celebrate a Pakistani win in vain in the last 5 world cup encounters. The ad had all the ingredients to make it “viral worthy”. Soon the commercial indeed went viral and is even today much talked about. Newspapers wrote about the ad, online editions carried the link, In YouTube the ad got a few million hits, the ad got shared in social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp,… and also got written about in innumerable blogs,… No wonder the makers decided to spin the one ad to a ‘Mauka Mauka’ series as seen thro’ the eyes of the same Pak fan for all India matches so far. If you notice, while the 1st spot (the India-Pakistan) one was shown again and again, the subsequent ones were just aired few times just enough to carry the story further. Because by now the Mauka fever had become viral and you, me and all of us became Star Sports’ unpaid brand ambassadors by sharing the every new ‘Mauka’ spot as soon as it was aired!  And that is the point I am trying to drive in this post. For a marketer trying to promote his/her brand it makes sense to make the commercial “viral worthy”, sit back and relax as consumers multiply the reach of the brand.

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For small brands with limited budgets, this approach comes as a panacea to achieve high share of voice with low ad spends. And for big brands this gives the potential to get more bang for the buck! This (to make their ads viral worthy) seems to be a very simplistic and obvious solution in front of marketers. However a casual review of the TVCs which we see day in and day reveals that this approach may not be so obvious. In a typical day except for 1 or 2 TVCs which are viral worthy the others are mostly the usual drivel. For example, on the same day of the Ind-Pak match there was just another ad which was viral worthy. That was the one for Fevi kwik – again smartly playing with emotions coinciding with the Ind-Pak encounter while at the same time driving home the brand’s promise – ‘Todo nahi, Jodo’. Brilliant stuff.

So what makes an ad go viral?? My take:

And the best part is some of the good viral worthy ads spawn off spoofs (as seen in the Mauka series) and other versions (did you know a slow motion version of the Ind-Pak fevikwik ad was created and uploaded by somebody which is really funny) as well which keeps the brand top of the mind for extended periods!

For small/start up agencies/production houses one such viral campaign is enough to leap frog them to stardom. Who had heard the name – Bubblewrap Films before the Mauka, Mauka campaign?? Or for that matter who knew Vishal Malhotra the model who is the Pakistani fan in the campaign a month ago?? Now I do!!

In the pre social media/smart phone/internet days a good ad will be just talked about may be by a few people who are interested in the subject. In these times, they don’t get talked about but they get shared, and shared many times over across many platforms.

So a new brand, limited budget with mass offering??? A smart idea would be to spend time and resources to create an ad that is spot on viral worthy, have a few releases with the limited budget and then make sure to leak the links in all social media platforms. (Ironically, even a day after the Ind-Pak Fevi kwik ad was released, its link was not uploaded on YouTube!!!) And then follow it up with plugs in the media about germination of the Big Idea, making of the commercial,…,…

Just one note of caution. It’s not just ads which are viralling today. Songs, documentaries, jokes and so many sundry stuff. So, soon it will become a battle to win in the viral space as well.

And once I finish this post I am going to share this in different platforms not missing the ‘mauka‘ to viral this post!!! (And contributing to the viral velocity of the ads ofcourse!!!)

Postscript: It’s another matter that an Ind-Pak encounter that too in a World Cup doesn’t need promotion at all. But Star Sports had to promote it due its obligation/commitment to its sponsors, advertisers,.. I guess. Having said all this, I do feel that the Mauka, Mauka campaign is now getting a tad boring. What was natural in the 1st 2/3 spots seems artificial now and is losing steam!!! So there the other lesson – Even a What an Idea, Sirji when over flogged becomes – What a boring idea, Sirji!!!

One has now lost count of the ‘Mauka’ spoofs hitting YouTube every day now!!! And they seem better than the Star Sports version of the Mauka ads being released now 😦 😦

“Ideas Mela” – What an Idea Sirji !!! Part – 4

 “All the forces in the world are not as powerful as an Idea whose time has come” – thus said the famous French writer Victor Hugo on the power of Ideas. I think today the world – whether it is managing an enterprise or Governing a nation thrives on 2 I’s – Ideas and Implementation. In marketing and communication, “What’s the Big Idea???” is the question often asked but with few answers. Great Ideas are few and far between. Hence the need to celebrate the power of great Ideas and the people behind the same.

In these posts “Ideas Mela”-What an Idea, Sirji!!! series, I share interesting marketing Ideas which I come across which have used unusual and innovative media which made me say “Wow”. These posts are not about great marketing campaigns (there are so many) but “Big Ideas” hidden in “Small places”, novel ad placements, innovative media adoption,…  If you have not, do read my earlier posts Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 and here’s some great stand out Ideas from the recent past:

  • For a great Idea, concept is the Key. Yes, in the Tata Zest car Campaign, that literally was the case. Readers received The Times of India (TOI) paper dated 26th Aug, with a “Car Key” and an invitation to test drive the car. A smart innovation to a normal full page ad which would have been just an also ran.

TOI,Zest

  • It’s now well documented that BJP ran a Hi voltage 3600 campaign in the last Lok Sabha elections. “Abki Baar Modi Sarkar” resonated all over. But the stand out phenomenon was the way they used social media to reach out which I personally got to experience. On the day the BJP Manifesto was released, when I tweeted using #BJPManifesto, lo I got a direct message from Narendra Modi’s twitter handle, thanking me for the message with a link to the full BJP Manifesto. Anybody who tweeted with that hashtag got this response. Normally I don’t read manifestos of parties and so I believe do most of us. But on receiving this, I did do a quick read of the party’s promises.
  • Talking of promises, a marketer’s job is always to communicate the brand’s promise effectively to the customers. And what better way to do that than providing an experience. So when Emami launched their men’s deodorant – HE, they chose the International Men’s day to spread the brand promise, well literally. The TOI newspaper of 19th Nov. smelt nice of the HE Deodorant, making the product stand out or rather smell out. (Though this is not the 1st time a brand used the smelling newspaper route – HUL used It for their coffee as well before)

Emami HE

  • HUL has been a torchbearer in India for marketing innovations. So was not surprised when they chose to tag along with the Prime Minister’s social awareness campaign – Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to promote their products. “Toilerforbabli” was an interesting social media campaign supported by Domex (a sanitation related product) where they goaded people to blog about sanitation, cleanliness,.. and invited people to join their effort to make India’s villages “open defecation” free. Read more on this campaign here. The brand and cause association makes it a Big Idea.
  • At times, you find great Ideas parked in unforeseen places. In the parking lot of a mall for example. At the parking lot of Mumbai’s Inorbit mall, the automatic entry gate was seen wrapped with branding of a store (Me n Moms) that was in the mall. As cars stop in front of the gate for a few minutes to collect the parking ticket, this branding cannot be missed. A brilliant Idea which I am sure that doesn’t cost a parking lot.

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  • If you have been through the passport issue routine in India recently, you would have experienced the waiting ordeal. As I was killing time, watching whatever was dished out on the TV screens there, I was impressed to see a pop out spot for Godrej Safes running continuously which said something like– “Keep your passports safe in Godrej Safes!!!” Again the placement of the spot takes the cream for a fantastic Idea.
  • I have said this in my earlier “Idea” posts. I have always found interesting Ideas at PVR Cinemas in Mumbai. A few days before the film PK was released, the guys at the cafeteria were wearing this PK T Shirt as part of its promos!!! Thankfully they did wear something unlike the alien in the movie!!! The whole marketing campaign for the film was excellent and this bit was quite interesting. Do you remember seeing this???

PK promo,122014

  • And among interesting Ideas this one which I just saw couple of days ago takes the cake. There are many ways to caution people not to drink and drive. And a toll naka is one of the apt places to remind this I guess. And it is more apt is this reminder is served by Lord Yamraj (God of death) himself. So here it is a seemingly innocuous banner at the Mumbai Airoli Toll Naka which cautions people not to drink and drive with a visual of Lord Yamraj on the side view mirror which prominently says “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear”!!! I don’t know who came up with this Idea but hats off and What a brilliant Idea, Sirji!!!

Airoli Toll

 In the meanwhile, Idea Cellular the brand behind the “What an Idea, Sirji???” continues to impress with its latest campaign – called “IIN” – Idea Internet Network!!! What an Idea!!! Till the Idea for the next blog post, cheers!!!

Selfie please,…

Dear Universe, I know you have many troubles to address but can you please add the abolishment of the “Selfie” to your agenda...” – tweeted Karan Johar, usually not renowned for spilling profound gems of wisdom even when he is drunk. Being a popular film maker in Bollywood and a celebrity one in that, I can fathom where he is coming from. Like the other day, at the airport while waiting at the departure gate one suddenly saw a rush of people crowding around a person. I heard later that he was a popular small screen actor who also featured in couple of movies as one of the sidekicks. He sat down on the steps and was graciously acceding to requests from his fans for a “Selfie please” and soon a “Selfie pandemonium” ensued. Now if this is the scene for a relatively obscure TV star, one can imagine what would be the situation with Karan Johar and his many A-star friends!!!

From the time, mobile phones with front cameras came into existence few years ago, the Selfie has become a global obsession. Ofcourse the word “Selfie” had not entered the day-today vocabulary until Oxford Dictionary officially recognised the power of this new vogue. But today I guess, a day seldom passes in the world for the young without posing for a Selfie. Every day web crawlers must be stumbling upon millions of Selfies of all types being uploaded by netizen all over the world. You just need to google “Bizarre Selfies” to see how this Selfie obsession has reached bizarre heights. Recently I saw somebody posting a Selfie from the temple Sabarimala with a caption “Selfie Saranam” 🙂 :). It won’t be too long before people posting Selfies after returning from funeral service with you can imagine what 😟. I am sure Singapore zoo would be contemplating to replace its signature “Breakfast with Orangutan” with “Selfie with Orangutan” to keep tourists more excited :).  In all places of tourist interest across the globe, “Photo stops” will soon be replaced by “Selfie Pit Stops” where visitors can take their own pictures with the scenic spot in the background. Move over Group photos, “Groupselfies” are here!!!

I say global obsession because the bug didn’t catch just the common you and me but even the celebrities. The number of times the “Oscar Selfie” got retweeted is a new question in Kaun Banega Crorepati. More than the Oscars, the Oscar Selfie got talked about this time!!! That it was a smart advertising plug for a newly launched Samsung smart phone was not known to the naive.

The Oscar Selfie

The Oscar Selfie

From then on, no event gets over without the now customary Selfie. This is true for serious events like the U.N General Assembly or the SAARC summit,.. So you now have to contend with the UNGA Selfie, SAARC Selfie,… And ofcourse with the Selfie jokes which invariably follow. Remember the joke regarding the “Obama Selfie” with the Danish Prime Minister at the Nelson Mandela service which went viral. It was said that the “Selfie diplomacy” started “Cold War” at home 😜 😜

obama selfie

Not to forget the very recent ‘Selfie Joke” involving Bill Clinton who was caught on a Selfie Camera ogling at something. Old man is still naughty 😍 😍

Our own Narendra Modi is now a staple part of many Selfie anecdotes. I am told that Obama is making this trip to India in Jan mainly to take a Selfie with our PM as he missed to take one when Modi was in the US 😃 😃. Modi’s Selfie after casting his vote during the elections stirred up a hornet’s nest for breaching propriety. And more recently his Diwali Milan event with the editors and press corps ended up being a “Selfie Milan” where top editors of the country were seen rubbing shoulders literally with the PM for a Selfie. In press conferences in the past we usually saw editors asking tough questions to leaders. However these days where journalistic calibre is measured by level of access rather than other skills, a reporter’s calling card is probably the volume of Selfies with many politicians in his resume.

diwali milan

Talking of access and calling cards, all along it was only road side astrologers and soothsayers who use to flaunt pictures of them with celebrity actors, singers, politicians,… to build their credibility. Mostly these pictures would be taken without the knowledge of the celebrities, with the concerned gentleman just slipping himself in within the frame and later helped by some photoshopping. Now I guess it’s the Selfie routine which is used for marketing self.

While to some extent the Selfie obsession when clicked with others is understandable what is not is the Selfie of just the self. I’m sure this “Selfie Syndrome” will find its way into the list of medical disorders soon (if not already). Invariably in a Selfie a normal person ends up looking scary with eyes popping out and also puffed up. Inspite of this, to keep clicking Selfies in Close-ups and posting in public domain certainly falls under Narcissistic personality disorder!!! And blame it on the social media to fuel this condition.

selfie 1

With the Selfie Syndrome or Obsession gaining ground rapidly, its’ only natural that marketers jump into the bandwagon and milk it. So we now have a “Selfie Stick” which can be attached to phones and cameras to click more photogenic Selfies from a distance and not necessarily from Arm’s length!!! And Selfie Sticks with Bluetooth!!! Timer Apps!!! So there you go – a slew of products around this latest fixation.

And as I write this, there is more evidence springing everyday of the booming “Selfie Economy”!!!

“Now get a Selfie in space for Rs 50000” – it seems!!! Read here.

“The Selfie effect?? Cosmetic procedures rise manifold” !!! Read here.

Sorry Mr. Johar, it looks like on this one, all the universe may not conspire to help you. So go with the flow.

 Postscript: From the net –

The Oxford Dictionary has named “Selfie” the word of the year, narrowly beating out “Twerk”. In a related story the funeral for the English language is this Saturday 😃 😃 😃

Stir up to Sell – The New Mantra(d)!!!

 I don’t recall many ads in the recent past which have kicked off such a huge debate as the new Airtel ad which went on air last week.  If you are one to miss that, do watch it here.  Twitterati is divided in the middle as to if the ad is reinforcing male/female stereotypes or breaking. Or for that matter if the ad is trying hard to be feminist when it is not and so on. As is the wont these days, when social media buzzes on something, can the main stream media be left far behind?? I must have pored into atleast 10 columns trashing or eulogizing the ad.

This is one interesting debate on TV !!!

While the ad breaks new ground in showing a successful woman who is giving stern work instructions to her male subordinate in the 1st half, in the second half, the same lady is shown as a better half cooking dinner for her husband who is incidentally the same subordinate at office. The common critical take in the social media is questioning this apparent stereotyping of women – as submissive where the lady inspite of being a successful career woman has to don the dutiful wife role at home and cook food.  Coming on the heels of the now famous quote of Indra Nooyi that “Women can’t have it all” the response to this ad has been pretty predictable. Somehow the narrative of a successful career woman but cooking food for her partner at home has not been consumed well.

airtel ad

In all this debate on the ad what is being missed according to me is the strategy behind the narrative of the ad itself. Which is, to take a contrarian position, stir up a storm and be top of the mind for a good few days there by get more bang for the buck spent. And this trend in advertising has not started with this Airtel ad. This goes back quite a few years. In the past marketers were more circumspect in adopting this “Stirring up a storm” strategy to sell their products. So you saw this once in a while like the Liril waterfall ad of yore or the ad for Tuff Shoes where the models Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre were wearing just a snake and so on,..

But oflate, I guess marketers and their advertising counterparts have become more belligerent in adopting this strategy to hawk their wares and get their space under the Sun.  So we now get see more and more ads which go against established stereotypes.  As per me, in Indian advertising Balki of Lowe and his team has been one who have used this quite effectively and often. The Havells ads for fans usually go against the grain. Same for some of the “What an Idea, Sirji” commercials for Idea Cellular.  The Jaago Re campaign for Tata Tea also I would say fall in this category of ads.

Few months back, Tanishq the jewellery brand from Tata kicked off debate and interesting conversations in the media with their ad celebrating remarriage of a woman. Watch it here. Again clearly a story which charts new territory, (shows a dusky bride, bride walks along with a small girl to the mandap, the girl is her daughter, the groom carries the small girl along while doing the pheras,…)  sparks a huge debate and eventually garners a lot more interest for the brand. (Incidentally Lowe has been the agency behind all these campaigns!!!)

This recent ad for Brooke Bond Red label tea by Ogilvy India is another example of going against the tide to garner attention. The Hindu-Muslim plot (normally avoided in commercials) in the story is the new twist. There is always this threat of a strong over powering story shadowing the brand itself in ads. Like in this case while I remembered that it was a tea ad, had to drink few cups and wake myself up to recall the brand 😦 😦  This happens.

Recently, the series of ads for Kaun Banega Crorepati  (KBC) by Leo Burnett India have also been treading this path and have met with a lot of keen interest. The two spots I saw (see here and here) as part of the campaign shatter established stereotypes.  Not that great ads are required to evince interest in a successful show like KBC with Amitabh Bachchan as the anchor. But I guess they also have to sustain the interest after so many seasons.

Coming back to the Airtel Ad conceived by the agency Taproot India, my own view is that it is a sweet ad, executed very well. There is nothing in the ad which goes against woman as the social media debates make us to believe. As per me, there is nothing regressive in a woman cooking and as long as she wants to cook a nice meal and enjoys what she does (like it is shown in this TVC) to demonstrate her love to her hubby, there is nothing wrong.  Same is true if its vice versa – husband cooking at home.  I have to allude here to my earlier post – By hook or Cook!! here 🙂 🙂

So want your ads to work big time?  Take a contrarian position, stir up a storm and the idle armchair minds in the social media (me included) will debate and do the needful for you. As far your brand, with all the unpaid buzz around the ad, will laugh its way to the coffers.  That’s some home cooked food for thought 🙂 🙂 🙂

P.S: Now, only if Airtel can make their network as effective as their ads 😦 😦

“Ideas Mela” – What an Idea, Sirji!!! – Part 3

It may still be a long way to go to reach the iconic status of that ad line – “You have come a long way, baby!!!”  of Virginia Slims cigarette but this line – “What an Idea, Sirji??”  is for sure within India atleast getting there as one of the most memorable ad lines of our times.  And for the campaign itself the silver lining was the use of SMS poll among people by the Aam Admi Party (Now don’t ask me what’s this 🙂 🙂 ) to check if they should form the Government in Delhi or not. And not surprisingly Idea cellular re-ran their old TVC with a changed voice over – “Dilli mein Sarkar banana chahiye???”  Smart stuff.

 In part 3 of this series –“Ideas Mela” – What an Idea, Sirji?? ,(you can read Part 1 and Part 2 here and here) I talk about few more campaigns which have used media differently and smartly to take their messages across to their target audience.

At the airports these days (Mumbai for sure) it is difficult to miss the branding presence of a new travel portal called Musafir.com with Sachin Tendulkar as its brand ambassador. Instead of plain vanilla panels and standees,.. Musafir has deployed quite a few Mobile charging terminals with their branding ofcourse in vantage points at the airport – a great way to connect with aspirational travelling public.

Musafir,Airport display,122013

On the 26th Dec, 2013, the Times of India newspaper became “Engines of India” thanks to the Half Flap innovation.  The ad for Honda City engines I think hit the bull’s eye with just that one release.

TOI ad,3,25122013

TOI ad,1,25122013

Talking of Times of India and innovation, the other good idea which comes to my mind is of Oral B Toothpaste. On the 6th of Jan, 2014, they reproduced the 1st page of yesteryear TOI paper of 6th Jan 1963 with a half page ad for Oral B toothpaste which said – “You wouldn’t want yesterday’s newspaper. Why would you want yesterday’s toothpaste???” taking a dig at their longstanding archrival Colgate!

gillette

Oflate, I have noticed that PVR Cinemas have become showcase for interesting creativity. In my last post I remember sharing an instance. They have interesting ways of plugging promos of upcoming movies in the movie hall. For example, as part of their package of commercials before the movie, they show clips on maintaining theatre etiquette,… (no cell phones, no smoking,..) I remember when I went to watch a movie in January the film Gunday was about to be released.  The pre-show clips were featuring the Gunday stars – Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor. This doubles up as social messaging as well as promos for the new movies.

But in terms of social messaging, this one by the Mumbai Municipal authorities I think tops the chart. In order to deter people from boarding and alighting from running trains, the authorities used artists dressed up as “Yamaraja” to communicate the perils of such stupid acts to commuters in Railway stations. I am not sure, how many days they did this. But the sheer PR mileage you extract of such ideas is enough to keep this on top of the mind for few days.

churchgatestation-5

Advertising in Cabs or Cabvertising is fusty stuff these days. We see this very commonly for many brands. But what Ambi Pur, a car freshener product did was interesting and is worth mentioning. Apart from using the car freshener in the cabs, which creates an interest among people, they also went one step ahead of selling the product if customer is interested at the end of the ride in the cab itself.  Brands these days are using the sort of time available during a car ride to sample their products as well as even sell like Ambi Pur did.

The recent Loksabha elections indicated that political advertising has come of age in India. With the use of different media and platforms, brands – parties in this case in particular the BJP took political advertising to a completely different level.  Sample this. On the day the BJP manifesto was released, I tweeted a message with #BJPManifesto and lo I get a direct message from Narendra Modi’s handle with a link to the party manifesto!!!  Also among various other media which the party used, I read about the party distributing large “branded” umbrellas to road side vendors,.. to beat the summer heat at Varanasi where Narendra Modi was contesting. That the umbrella is a metaphor for protection was not lost on people I would surmise.

BJP,Umbrella,election season,052014

Can you imagine a FMCG company running a radio station? Well that’s what Hindustan Unilever does in India. The country’s largest consumer goods maker has come up with a free radio-on-demand service to reach out to villagers in remote areas. And it seems its lone channel — Kan Khajura Tesan, or ‘centipede station’ — is already the largest radio station in Bihar in terms of subscribers. This is how it works. Any mobile phone user in Bihar can give a missed call to a specific number to immediately get a return call that will play Kan Khajura Tesan for 15 minutes. Besides a series of entertainment programmes, the channel of course plays advertisements of HUL brands. Apart from reaching the message across of its products, the company also gets to know who is listening which is the missing link in mass media advertising. Kan Khajura Tesan – I think this takes the cake for “What an Idea, Sirji??”

P.S : Talking of Ideas and their impact – One Spelling mistake in the title of the book made it an instant hit helping to sell millions of copies in just few days and the mistaken title was “An idea can change your wife”  🙂 🙂  – What a mistake, Sirji???