Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From Niche to Mass Market ? Where do u want to be?

In this media frenzied world , it is quite important for every brand to understand where it currently stands , what is its current positioning and where the brand should be seen according to its identity,values and characteristics
For example , A premium and an exclusive brand cannot afford to advertise in a mass market , which ultimately leads to several repercussions .
First it loses its target customers , the brand values are diluted and the core purpose of the brand and what it stands for is defeated.

This post is actually based on an interesting incident from the book, Accidental Branding I read recently read , and incidentally based on my previous post on Product Placement .

It talks about , how a small TV serial episode managed to change a niche and an exclusive brand into a mass market brand and led it into its major crash.
Seinfeld ,one of America's popular sitcoms , had a tie-in with J.Peterman ,a designer brand for a product placement in an episode

The scene goes like this :
[On rainy street at night]
Elaine: (sob sob) (bumps into man with an umbrella) …
I don't even know where I'm going.
Peterman: That's the best way to get someplace you've never been.
Elaine: yes, (sob) I suppose, …
Peterman: Have you been crying?
Elaine: Yes, (sob) you see this (sob) woman, this manicurist,…
Peterman: Oh no, that doesn’t matter now. That's a very nice jacket.
Elaine: Uh, (sob) thanks.
Peterman: Very soft, huge button flaps, cargo pockets, draw string waist, deep biswing vents in the back perfect for jumping into a gondola.
Elaine: How do you know all that?
Peterman: That's my coat.
Elaine: You mean..?
Peterman: Yes, I'm J. Peterman.

J.Peterman was an exclusive brand sold only through catalogues sent to a few selected people.People considered the brand to be a premium and far differentiated from other brands.
But after the episode , millions of them watched it and enquired about the J.Peterman brand of clothes. The "catalog only" model didn't work out anymore , and he was forced to sell retail.
The sales grew rapidly thus paving way for more expansion across the United States.

The expansion forced the J.Peterman brand to lose its "Exclusivity" tag and hence became a mass market brand . Incidentally for that episode, it was said Seinfeld and Peterman himself
wrote the script

He wrote the script for his own fall ! What an irony

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Business Plan Workbook

The Business Plan Workbook: The Definitive Guide to Researching, Writing up and Presenting a Winning Plan
Publisher: Kogan Page | Pages: 416 | 2008-07-28 | ISBN 0749452315 | PDF | 2 MB

Written for entrepreneurs, executives, and students, The Business Plan Workbook is a guide to all aspects of business planning. Based on methodology developed at the Cranfield School of Management and using successful real-life business plans, The Business Plan Workbook brings together the process and procedures required to produce that persuasive plan. The case examples in this edition have been updated and include a cross-section of businesses at various stages in their development.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Indian Railways : Have they really embraced the Web ?

Indian Railways is one of the biggest organizations in the world and holds the record for the maximum no of employees employed under them. They have been quick to adopt changes, forecast demand in rail services and has managed to deliver constantly and moved on along with the times

Yet, their initiative to join the Internet bandwagon in providing Ticketing services and online information on trains may not be actually successful , compared to their forecasts and expectations.
The above failure is attributed to several reasons ,discussed below

  • IRCTC(Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation) charges a service charge of Rs.40/- per ticket in case of Second Class and Sleeper Class tickets and Rs.60/- per ticket in case of tickets of other classes , for booking online.
The Rs.40 charge may not be a big deal ,but the concept of shelling out more to book online is frustrating , when we are actually saving transaction ,labour costs.Even the cost of printing the ticket is ours.

When all firms are encouraging their customers to perform transactions online , to save from overhead costs,employee costs,costs incurred in physical locations etc , IRCTC is charging more when one books online.

Citibank actually introduced a scheme called "Suvidha" where it charged customers around Rs.150 evertyime they came to the bank to do a transaction and not online.
Similarly private airlines such as Jet or Kingfisher offers a far better deal online rather than booking directly in an office.
Railways has to understand that , when one books online it actually means , less crowd in booking offices, considerable less human resource required and subsequently cost per passenger comes down considerably which thereby increases profits

  • Failure to integrate their reservation site and booking site. People usually log into southernrailways.org or www.indianrail.gov.in to check for availability and IRCTC.co.in separately to book the tickets . Indian Railways must integrate the sites , and provide an option for booking a ticket and linking back to the IRCTC website directly in that same page ,if the corresponding ticket is available. They may be two different departments / entities in the organization , yet it is a must to bring them together to increase traffic
  • The southern railway and the Indian Railways website looks like a horrible mess ,with huge banner ads and matrimonial ads (even airline ads, which is a direct competition) and makes it look like a cheaply hosted website run by a small firm , and definitely not look like that of a 5000 crore turnover Govt Organization
  • Server capcity and traffic handling capability of the Indian Railways website is extremely poor , with the server going offline several times a week . 40 % of the time , it shows a network or a database error.
  • The "search for Information " process to search train names, schedules or timings can be quite a difficult task for novice users. Only those people who are aware of the "string and substring search" concepts , and actually knows the mechanism of the search may find their required information . If the whole string is entered with a slightly different spelling , it shows an error or "No records found" msg, to indicate No such train exists ,and does not offer any alternative trains or suggest some other info .
  • Their "Spot your Train" feature, which indicates the exact position of any currently running training across South India is a brilliant concept (similar to the "track your flight feature in International flights"). Yet it has failed quite considerably with less support , and poor marketing . In a quick dipstick survey it was found that 90 % was unaware of any such feature in the Southern railway website.

If they could eliminate these errors ,and channelise their resources ,byr providing other services too, I guess they can reap in huge success and even convert some of the air travellers ,including foreign tourists to rail travel.

Probably they have to position their service offering , not as "just a train journey" but as an "experience" to savour

P.S - The last line was actually inspired from a true incident . The last time i travelled in a Shatabdi Express , the TTE actually loudly greeted all their passengers , like an air hostess and went and wished everyone a nice journey, personally

Monday, November 10, 2008

"The Bond" Marketing

The recently released "Quantum of Solace" has been touted as the "the next golden age of Bond movies" , with a fast paced ,realistic and a much "humane" movie . Starting from where it left, it has certainly accepted to be a far better movie compared to Casino Royale , with Daniel Craig delivering a powerful performance in the movie with his solid fist fights and chase sequences.

Yet, the movie seems to be missing on a load of factors , the usual Bond fan might expect to see.
For starters , the soundtrack of the movie ,"Another way to die", by Alicia Keyes is a major letdown , especially for a "Bond song" .Who could ever forget the 007 song composed by Moby for all those Pierce Brosnan movies ?

The next major factor that might affect the movie is the "In-film" Product Placement.
Product Placement esp in films , TV serials and games has been on a considerable rise the past years , with more corporate tie-ups and sponsorship deals between the production houses and the corporate companies and media agencies.

A product placement is a type of marketing/advertising , where corporate companies make a deal with the producers ,to make sure their brand /product advertisement appears on the movie in an indirect way , and follows a non disclosure policy

Some of the recent examples for Product placements that I have observed include :

Lage Raho Munnabhai (Hindi)- WorldSpace Radio
Life in a Metro(Hindi) - Shaadi.com
Fashion(Hindi) - Several fashion brands including Vogue,Lakme etc.
Chandramukhi (Tamil) - Tata Indicom

Hollywood :
Cast Away - Fed Ex
Devil Wears Prada - Vogue,Cosmopolitan, Star Bucks etc.
Minorty Report - GAP, Coca Cola
The Island - Microsoft
I-Robot - Converse

A James Bond movie particularly is quite renowned for introducing a whole new range of car models from famous brands , esp from the likes of BMW , Aston Martin, Volkswagen,Ford etc
This movie has certainly ain't been spared , with a whole new range of product placements throughout the movie . The audience were more tuned in identifying the brand names in cars,cell phones, alcohol,laptops,watches etc, rather than being absorbed in the thrilling chases and fights.

According to IMDB , the product placements and brand integrations for this movie include :
  • Aston Martin DBS,Alfa Romeo and the Ford Motor Company including vehicle makes Volvo, Range Rover, and the new Ka
  • Smirnoff Vodka, Bollinger Champagne,Heineken Pilsener Beer
  • Sony Electronics & Sony Ericsson cell phones including the Titanium Silver Edition C902 Cyber-shot Phone;
  • Virgin Atlantic Airlines
  • Omega SA Watches, James Bond wears the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M; Swatch etc..

I'm sure its a dream run for marketers and advertisers for their brands to be featured in a James Bond movie,which will be watched by millions of people across the world , but when it comes to the average moviegoer , I guess they'd prefer to watch an "original" movie rather than a "sponsored" brand movie.

So next time , in a movie ,the hero drinks a "Starbucks" coffee rather than just a coffee , you know what it is !

Thursday, November 06, 2008

To Change or Not to Change !

To Change or Not to Change !

We belong to a society , which has managed to build a closed surrounding, that resists change in any form. We desist moving into a new city or neighborhood , desist moving away from familiar groups ,desist moving into a new job or workplace,desist coming out of our personal space,afraid of breaking open the wall we have built all these years & fear of meeting someone for the first time and try including them in our group . We are cast into a particular form and shape and want to stay in that state eternally, meanwhile shaping others too in the process.
We expect people to behave in a particular fashion with us , and mold them according to our likes and dislikes.

We hate and despise new rules and legislation brought out in our society, schools, colleges, workplace and the country itself. We do not like someone to dictate terms on how do we do things.We want to do it in the same way we have been doing all along. We take a considerable time in adapting ourself to a particular habitat and its tough to force upon ourselves a new change , even if its meant for the positive side.How many times you have given this quizzical look , when your friends remark , "you have changed" , and retaliate saying "Definitely No". What better pride can you display than to say "I havent changed a bit. I'm just the same"

Dr.Meredith , in Grey's Anatomy says "

Change. We don't like it. We fear it, but we can't stop it from coming. We either adapt to change or we get left behind. It hurts to grow, anybody who tells you it doesn't is lying, but here's the truth sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same. And sometimes, oh, sometimes change is good. Sometimes change is everything.

This new "change" eventually raises a lot of questions to question the validity of change and do we really need to change?
How often do we find ourselves in a situation asking the inevitable "IF ? " question .
"If I did that , If I had said that, If i had known that information, If I had told him the truth , If I hadnt done that , If I had managed to reach in time " , the list is endless.Only to later realize , "If" is just nothing but a two letter word for futility.You cant do anything about.
If one has to change ,it has to be for the future and not for what he has been in the past.

As Sidney Sheldon quotes " Future is like clay. It has to be molded day by day. Past is like a bedrock stone.It is immutable"

Even travelers and globe trotters , who has seen most parts of the world , actually discover life and find solace only in their own homes, no matter where it is or how small it is .
They may need a break , yet find their own feet only within the confines of their little home.

The line from Wayne's world summarises everything : We Fear Change

Yet , the same "Change" interestingly has been responsible in deciding whos the most powerful man in the world.
Barack Obama ,the first black president of the United States has successfully shown,what "Change" can do - to win a presidency , by assuring people , that Change is good, and it is there in the offing !

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ma Man !

Is there a single Ferrari fan on earth who wouldnt have shed a sympathetic tear for Massa ?

Who in the world would have thought , that the F1 championship title would have been decided in the last corner in the last lap of the final race of the season , which actually leads us to the question, Who was the best man of the race ?

Was it Felipe Massa who drove an impeccable race , leading it from start to finish. Or is it Lewis Hamilton , who stole a championship , with the help of Timo Glock, who "incidentally" had a Tire Temperature problem causing him to slow down and give way to Lewis .

Was it the man who pounded his heart with his fist,lifted the trophy and showed the thumbs up to the millions of Ferrari Fans across the world , when he knew he lost a championship by one point or the man who claimed his maiden championship with a defiant aggression and domination.