Leadership Marketing!!!

David Packard, Co-founder of Hewlett Packard famously said, “Marketing is too important to be left to the Marketing Department”.  He meant that in an organization, every individual – the CEO included, has to perform his/her bit in “marketing” the company’s products.  I am not sure if there is anybody else who has taken to this concept more keenly than Donald Trump, a CEO turned POTUS. How else could you explain this?? On the 28th Jan, Trump has a call with the Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull as part of his global leadership outreach since he became the President. Post the call, the official White House Readout on the call went thus:

“President Donald J. Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke by phone for twenty-five minutes today. Both leaders emphasized the enduring strength and closeness of the U.S.-Australia relationship that is critical for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and globally”.

A few days hence, media reports emerged on the call which said, “Donald Trump yelled at Australian PM during “worst ever” phone call about refugee swap deal – then HUNG UP”. For obvious reasons, this report created a furore all over with the rumblings being heard for few days over. In the meantime Trump at a Prayer Breakfast added,

Believe me, when you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having – don’t worry about it. Just don’t worry about it,”

Now, here’s the intrigue. Apparently we hear that while on the call with Turnbull, Trump was joined by the then National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and senior advisor Steve Bannon. Only. So how did reports of his so called “yelling” and “hanging up” find their way to the media??? Surely the President’s office is not bugged by some media house! It’s clear that the media reports were a part of an orchestrated PR campaign to market the product called Trump. In this case it was clearly intended to send a message to his constituency which bought his message of “America First” during the campaign that he is tough and is now “Walking the Talk”.  Notwithstanding the tremors that the news of the call created, I am sure it did the job of enhancing Trump’s image among his supporters as a no nonsense leader. So it was not just important for Trump to talk tough on the refugee issue but to communicate to the world that he talked tough.

trump

Welcome to the age of “Leadership Marketing”!!!

Closer home too, we have parallels to this. Through Narendra Modi our Prime Minister. For example, when Heeraben, our PM’s mother visits him in Delhi and spends a few days at the official Prime Minister’s residence, we get to see pictures splashed in the newspapers of Narendra Modi with his mother. The source of this being the Prime Minister’s twitter handle itself where Modi posted pictures of him walking his mother in a wheel chair along with his tweet which said “My mother returns to Gujarat. Spent quality time with her after a long time & that too on her 1st visit to RCR”.  So to his many followers, the intended message is clear. Here’s a leader who is tender at heart with his mom while being blessed with a 56” chest in his own words to take on his adversaries.  In India more than spending time with wife and children, image of a leader taking care of his mother has a telling impact. Again it was not just enough for Modi to spend quality time with his mom but to inform the world that he did so!!!

America, arguably the global fountainhead of marketing has been in the forefront of adopting this technique with Trump now but even with Barack Obama before. Routinely we were fed with images of how the Obamas enjoyed quiet dinners at suburban restaurants on weekends. On Obama’s 55th birthday which was his last in Office, we saw plugs like “55 pictures of Obama discovering his inner child” and so on!!! In the case of Obama the positioning was not of a tough leader but of an affable and lovable man who cared for everybody.

In India, giving competition to our PM in Leadership Marketing is the Aam Aadmi Party Chief Arvind Kejriwal. He wears the positioning of Aam Aadmi on his sleeve. Literally. Even as a CM of a state he walks in chappals, wears loose fit clothes, tweets reviews of films he catches up on weekends,… to reinforce his positioning. The party also posts routinely on Facebook like this:

“Chief Minister of India’s Capital. No security, No VIP treatment. Truly Aam Aadmi,”  With the following picture:

ak1

Not surprising that the post got over 30,000 likes and 5,400 comments!!!

So, Leadership Marketing is no longer the exclusive domain of Americans.

In advocating this Leadership Marketing, I must say that the advent of Social media has made the job much easier. No need to depend on your PR agency to do the job. One could time it yourself.

On the flip side, the case of Vijay Mallya tweeting a picture of himself at a Super luxury hotel in Dubai and claiming to have a rocking time when his employees were hitting the streets for unpaid salary back home were bad optics and horrendous Leadership Marketing!!! Leadership Marketing is the new double edged sword in the arsenal for leaders to “position” themselves “right” in the battle for the minds and hearts. Double edged it is and hence they can’t leave it to the party’s publicity wing or an external agency but have to be on top of it themselves. Just as Packard advised.

As leaders engage in this marketing and optics, we the people need to develop the skill of separating wheat from the chaff and make our judgement objectively rather than fall for the optics or surround sound!!!

So the next time when you see a report quoting from an “inside source” of Trump banging the table during a meeting with Tim Cook for not making Apple phones in America or a clip of O.Paneer Selvam praying to a Jayalalitha’s picture tucked in his shirt pocket, you know why!!!

Somebody famously said, “The Future of Marketing is Leadership”. I am tempted to paraphrase in tune with today’s times as “The Future of Leadership is Marketing”. Amen.

Writings on the Walls!!!

First a disclosure. The topic for this post is lifted from the ace columnist Shekhar Gupta’s columns – the ones he usually pens on his sojourns to the rural heartland of India during election times to gauge the mood of the electorate and to see for himself the changes sweeping the country. This piece is on similar lines. One which is based on my recent visit to Coimbatore where I spent the last few days of the 2015 and rang in the New Year. Coimbatore is the 2nd biggest town in Tamil Nadu and by no means can be categorized as a rural heartland. It has been an industrial hub with a higher than average per capita income in the state and the country. But for those living in metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore or ChennaiCoimbatore is an idyllic place with much cleaner air and purer minds. And as you move further away to the suburbs of this town like Vadavalli the “Writings on the walls” are clearer. Let me attempt to recap some of those which I found interesting:

  • First up, as you drive down into the city from the airport, through Avinashi Road a commercial nerve centre a new Audi showroom has sprung up! Atleast I saw it for the 1st time. Not surprising though for a city where the entrepreneurial class had always high exposure and aspiration as far as cars were concerned. But what surprised me certainly was a brand new showroom which was getting ready for Harley Davidson bikes down the lane.
  • In a lazy afternoon, as we hit upon the idea of watching a film, Bajirao Mastani won the battle over Pasanga-2 (a Tamil film). My own snotty idea that tickets for a Hindi film will be easily available in a place like Coimbatore got demolished the moment I checked for tickets online. It was indeed a year end and generally a holiday week, the film screened only in 3 multiplexes and just 2 shows compared to 5-6 shows of Tamil movies,…,.. But still for the whole period we stayed there Mastani proved elusive. Still griping with the thought that Madrasis are Hindi haters –Think again!
  • More proof of this would emerge when I saw boards hanging like this in gates of houses. Note that stress on “Hindi”

Board in C'tore,012014

  • Coimbatore has huge gas stations. Once as our cabbie got into an IOC gas station, I saw this billboard.

Fitness catching in Cat d towns,122014Written in Tamil, it was talking of a promo by which those filling up petrol were eligible for VLCC gift vouchers. Was interesting to see the aspirational connect. And as we drove further I would see many more billboards for VLCC beauty products (Like this one)

Signage in a Vill petrol pump on face cream,1,122014

  • Again further proof for the increasing thrust on looks showed up shortly as I and the wife were going around looking for a friend’s house. The landmarks wereK.R.Storesand “a beauty parlour”. I kept asking few people for K.R.Stores in vain. The wife then took charge and asked the next lady the directions for the beauty parlour. And lo she clearly directed us to the house we were searching in the scorching sun for the last 15 mins😁. I wanted to tell K.R Stores to change from selling wheat flour, rice flour to being a beauty parlour😁😁
  • When the daughter pestered for taking her out, we went to a household products Trade fair which was going on in the Codissia Trade fair complex near the airport. Frankly I was going to such a fair may be after 15 years. My images of these fairs were always of stalls selling products like Roti makers, Vegetable choppers,… which usually work wonderfully in demos at the stalls but fail miserably at home😞. And then you had the myriad handicraft stalls from different states. Stalls hawking bedsheets, pillow covers,… What I saw this time was revealing. There were no stalls pushing choppers and roti makers first up. But one could see stalls selling organic food products, home security solutions, food products made of millet and other exotic cereals, solar products, foreign holiday packages and few stalls peddling fitness solutions including Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali products😃😃!
  • The neighbourhood cabwala whom we usually engage was now an Ex Ola wala. He got into the Ola App bandwagon and got out of it within few months. In his own words –‘Ola customerukku nalla Appu. Aana engalukku nalla Aappu!!’ (It’s a good app for customers but for us cabbies it’s a bad deal.). Apart from driving a taxi, he runs a provision store. His son is not interested in this business and wants to be an Engineer. ‘Avan eppo paarthalum ethanayachum kodanjukitte irupaan’ (he’s all the time fiddling around with something or other)
  • A videographer in the vicinity now offered live streaming of events. He claims this is a must now as folks abroad need to watch marriages,… live when they cannot attend.
  • And If I dare to call so, Coimbatore is fast emerging as the Retirement capital for Tamilians the world over! What started more as a social concept of community based living option for elders (whose children are mostly out of the country) has now morphed into an aspirational option. Coimbatore is now dotted with Gated community spaces designed specifically keeping “living alone senior citizens managing NRO accounts” in mind.

Now all these (except the last one) may not be unique to Coimbatore only. If one travels to a small town in Maharashtra, UP or Orissa the “Writings” may be similar. What is commonly wringing in all these so called “Writings on the walls” is the aspect of “Aspiration”. Whether it is craving for better looks or learning Hindi or wanting to ride a Harley Davidson or seeking better health, the new Indian (even senior citizen if I may add) is not satisfied with what he/she can make do with. But aspires for the better and the best.

It is this idea that Narendra Modi tapped into in his prime ministerial campaign successfully and rode to power. And it is important that his government doesn’t forget this aspect and does everything to fuel economic growth which will give wings to these aspirations at all levels. Ignore these “Writings on the walls” and the writing on the 2019 wall will be clear.

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???