Monday, January 30, 2017
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Monday, January 16, 2017
Clients, too often, don’t like to be advised by PR firms, despite mouthing platitudes that they are partners | Sentavio/Shutterstock
It is important for PR companies to lead the relationship rather than merely follow a client’s orders
How often do we (PR companies) feel frustrated when we are unable to convince our clients to take some action we know they must take for their own good, but they don’t do it? Very, I’m assuming!
Let me share with you a recent experience I had with one of our clients, a large, profitable firm that is rated very highly by its peers and competitors. The head of communications said, in a very matter-of-fact manner, that they could spare a couple of hours for the MD for media interviews — for the whole year!
Which brings me to a conclusion — that companies have time for discussions on revenue, costs, collections, operations, people, appraisals… basically just about everything except their brand image!
Why are discussions on brand image relegated to the backburner? And even if they do take place but the marketing communications head is unable to convince senior management about it, then isn’t the onus on the PR company to educate the client? And when we do get the opportunity, how ready are we to take on the leadership mantle?
Three kinds of companies
In my experience, there are three types of companies.
The understated kind
The first, perhaps more popular in the south, is of large, successful companies who are understated and low key. Their attitude is “our achievements must speak for themselves”. While this is noble, it leads to even their genuine achievements not getting the recognition they so richly deserve.
The frustrating thing, however, is that their competitors, who are probably half their size and nowhere in their league of achievements, get disproportionate share of voice, thanks to their desire to be in the news and eager beaver PR companies.
The second type of companies is that which makes forward looking statements — many of which are wishful. “We will open 1,000 stores!” they say without batting an eyelid. And what happens when they complete the year? They have a mere 80 stores!
In the early days, before the internet became a way of life, we had a number of companies which would casually talk in this manner, and without too many after effects. Today, however, companies would be well advised to be more reticent, as their statements are being recorded for posterity on the internet. And no journalist will meet a client without doing his homework first.
Role model kind
The third type of company is akin to Infosys. Now here’s a company that has been a role model of how to handle one’s image and public relations. Whilst they have had fantastic achievements - like being the first Indian company to be listed on Nasdaq - they also ensured that they got the maximum mileage for these achievements.
This leads me to an important observation. While companies should be careful about making forward looking statements, they should not hold back on their genuine achievements and ensure maximum visibility for it whenever and wherever possible.
While a lot of new generation companies seem to understand the value of being in the news, the older, better established brick-and-mortar companies particularly, still suffer from what I call the stiff upper lip syndrome.
So what should PR companies do?
Running a PR company myself, I must confess that too often, we are comfortable in merely taking orders. We don’t rock the boat or assume the mantle of consultants who advise their clients on the desired course of action. We often rationalise and console ourselves by saying, “Every client gets what he deserves”.
What you should do
I need to also tell you that clients, too often, don’t like to be advised despite mouthing platitudes that they have an open mind and that we are partners. But someone must bite the bullet or the PR Company will be left holding the baby. Of course, there is a time and place for everything. Clearly the PR Company must find an opportune moment to share their recommendations.
In my experience, the beginning of the relationship is a good time. Ideally, if we could start the relationship with a media workshop, where senior management could be present, that would make a good beginning.
The reality is that many CEOs need to be told how Public Relations helps their company’s stock price, get better employees and improves the company’s pricing. They simply aren’t aware of these things. I think it is important for PR companies to lead the relationship rather than merely follow the client’s orders.
Which leads me to another difficult question: How many of us are truly ready to be consultants? Do we possess the knowledge and the confidence so that clients can look to us for advice? It’s not an easy question to answer, but it certainly is something that should occupy our attention and energies, if we are to get the importance we deserve.
Monday, January 9, 2017
Gifting has spawned interesting concepts and ideas by marketers and branding students
Gifting is as old as the hills. Even when I was a kid, Amul ran a campaign for chocolates with the tagline “A gift for someone you love”. But the pioneer in the Indian market when it comes to gifting has, arguably, been Titan. The brand’s gifting campaigns have set the tone for its advertising over the years.
People had been gifting items of their choice — jewellery, watches, et al — when Titan decided to make gifting its own with its “Joy of Giving” campaign. This was way back in 1999. Here’s the first gifting commercial that the brand executed, featuring a daughter who surprises her parents on their anniversary.
Titan’s pair watch continues to be a star in the company’s portfolio, and the brand has stayed steadfast with its gifting strategy. The brand’s evolution has seen gifting moving away from birthdays and anniversaries to anytime gifting.
Here’s another commercial about a retiring teacher. (It’s a matter of considerable intrigue to me that in my last 25 years as a teacher, I have never received a gift. But then, I am not retired yet!)
The saga continues
While there have been many commercials riding the gifting bandwagon, the ones that stand out are those which have a creative twist or those with consumer insights.
Like Nazraana Jewellery’s commercial, for instance, which has an interesting turn and features a husband (a bit like me) who seems to have forgotten his wife’s birthday. Thankfully, his mother comes to his ‘rescue’.
The commercials that have made a greater impact on me, however, are the ones done for Amazon. One of the positive features of the brand’s advertising, as far as I am concerned, has been its ability to truly Indianise its advertisements. Not merely being satisfied with the fact that it can offer enormous choice to its consumers, it has constantly been searching for consumer insights about India and Indians. Here’s an insight I could relate to with the two commercials shown below.
There’s that yellow sari again
There are a few of us who constantly get great satisfaction in giving. We are happier gifting to others than buying things for ourselves. After all, the smile on their faces when they receive carefully selected gifts is our ultimate reward — or so we would like to believe. Yet mothers do know their children and are able to see through some of their idiosyncrasies, as this commercial demonstrates.
Then there’s another commercial where a young husband gets an increment and dedicates it to his wife, saying “What’s the difference, whether you earn it or I?” The delighted wife asks the husband if she can use the amount to get herself a necklace, and he says, “Order whatever you feel like on Amazon”.
When the parcel comes, she asks her husband to open it. Imagine his delight when the gift turns out to be a camera that he always wanted! Yes it is certainly gifting with a twist and it struck a chord with me.
A gift to remember
Another brand that has recently gained traction and market share with consumers has been the deodorant Fogg. It has become a force to reckon with in the fragrances market.
The brand recently diversified into a related category — scents — which, one can say, is a relatively nascent category in India. Most people who use it, usually go for international brands. Having said that, let’s take a look at this commercial, where a bunch of friends are talking about gifts they are carrying for their friend, Rahul’s wedding. While one gets him a bouquet, another talks about giving him Fogg scent, a gift that will keep reminding Rahul about the person who gave him the gift, every time he uses it. Interesting, though I am still wedded to my international brand!
Yes, gifting is spawning interesting concepts and ideas by marketers and branding students. So what’s the next step? Gifting experiences! Why stop with gifting products when you can gift the people you love an outstanding experience that he/she can remember, recall, share and talk about?
Coming soon in this very column!
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Collin Furtado Wed, 4 Jan 2017-07:20am , Mumbai , DNA
From roping in sports stars to big Bollywood celebrities, auto makers are now driven to change the face of their commercial vehicle campaigns
Tata Motors recently announced the signing of Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar as its brand ambassador for its commercial vehicles (CV).
While Tata Motors’s passenger vehicles has Lionel Messi as the global brand ambassador, this is a first for the CV business of the company to appoint a brand ambassador. It is usually very uncommon to see commercial vehicle manufacturers appointing brand ambassadors, let alone big Bollywood actors.
Many of them would instead go in for sports stars, like India’s cricket team ODI captain MS Dhoni who was the brand ambassador for Ashok Leyland from 2012 to 2015. Eicher Motors too had taken Olympic medal winning wrestler Sushil Kumar as their brand ambassador in 2012.
However, Tata Motors is not the only commercial vehicle company to sign on a big Bollywood star. Mahindra in March 2016 signed actor Ajay Devgan as their brand ambassador to promote their trucks and buses. The brand released its first campaign with the star promoting its heavy commerical trucks ‘Blazo’.
While it is not uncommon to see Bollywood stars promoting passenger cars such as Shahrukh Khan being the brand ambassador of Hyundai, Varun Dhawan promoting Mahindra’s KUV100, and Ranveer Singh as Maruti Suzuki’s ambassador. It is definitely new for commercial vehicles to take these Bollywood stars to endorse their products.
As passenger vehicles are more consumer centric, it makes sense for them to use film stars to promote their sales. However, with CVs targetting small enterprises or farmers, there was little need to communicate through such high profile celebrities. Like industrial based advertising, CV firms decided to concentrate on the technical attributes of the vehicle in their communication. Even the previous Mahindra and Tata Motors CV ads used the approach to communicate to industries the reliability of their vehicles.
Very few industrial-based brands use Bollywood star to promote their products: One of them being Binani Cement signing Amitabh Bachchan as their brand ambassador.
According to Sridhar Ramanujam, founder & CEO of Integrated Brand-Comm, these CV companies have now recognised the emergence of entrepreneurs buying such vehicles as they need it for their small business, and well financed by banks and financial institutions.
Another reason that CV companies rope in Bollywood stars is to drive their sales at a time when it has been sluggish due to several road blocks.
While the government’s push for implementation of BS IV emission norms has been a concern for many CV makers, the recent demonetization drive has impacted sales even more. From Ashok Leyland to Tata Motors, Mahindra and others have seen double-digit decline in December sales as a large portion of its sales used to be made using cash transactions. In addition, rural sales contribute a large portion, where majority is in cash.
For Mahindra, signining on Devgan led its May 2016 sales to overtake Tata Motors’, with a 52% market share cargo carrying truck segment. However, Tata Motors managing to do the same with Akshay Kumar at the wheel remains to be seen.
Monday, January 2, 2017
Paytm seems to be a company that is bold, innovative and unafraid to take risks
Marketing has often been described as being in the right place at the right time. One company that might appreciate the wisdom of that statement might well be Paytm. The Paytm wallet was launched as recently as 2014. So we are essentially talking about a brand that is less than three years old!
And yet, the fact that this company has spent over ₹600 crore last year probably explains why it is at the top of people’s minds not just in mobile wallets but across categories. Apart from running huge ads in the daily newspaper, viewers are also subjected to Paytm ads as a constant reminder during cricket matches, as Paytm was the sponsor of the India-England test series that India won so easily. The brand’s good fortune continued in this sponsorship deal as well. In my view, test cricket is a format that relatively fewer young Indians follow, but India’s superior performance, and the fact that the sponsorship coincided with India’s highest test success record all helped superior recall of the brand.
But let’s step back for just a second and examine the advertising strategy in greater detail as advertising has been an important constituent of the brand’s success.
How much should you spend on advertising?
There’s always been a debate on what is the right amount to be spent on advertising for a brand. While there is divided opinion on this, the important thing to remember is that advertising is an investment and not a cost. Brands need this, much like vehicles need fuel to move ahead. I remember an interesting strategy that BPL, the leading consumer electronics brand of the 1980s and 1990s that I used to work on, followed.
BPL would consciously and strategically outspend its competition and at that time I didn’t see the value of this. “Why are they doing this?” I would ask myself, even though no one at the agency was complaining! But it did help them get disproportionate share of the voice, which eventually led them to be the market leader. In fact, they kept spending even in recessionary times, to the bewilderment of industry and competition; and the results were there for all of us to see as the brand became the #1 brand in colour televisions. This is precisely what Paytm has done. Its first ads seemed more about Narendra Modi than the offering.
I personally feel that some level of controversy can actually help a brand in the early stages of its success.
One of the greatest challenges brands and companies face is their ability to spot trends that are likely to impact business. I am not sure how many people spotted the dramatic and sudden moves to demonetisation, but a brand that definitely benefited from this move that has caused a major impact in other sectors has certainly been Paytm.
If you look at some of the brands that have achieved phenomenal success over the years have been brands like FedEx and Google. “Can you FedEx it to me” asks the consumer. “Have you tried Googling it?” asks the professor of a student. Who can forget “Xerox” and its generic rise?
Paytm too has been consciously trying to make Paytm a way of life and its slogan of “Paytm Karo” is slowly but surely getting increasing traction. It is not uncommon to find small juice vendors or bakeries with the Paytm signage. The brand claims to have more than a million merchants, with 12,000 individuals selling the service and the company says that five million transactions are being facilitated every day.
The road ahead
Paytm strikes me as a company that is bold and innovative, with risk-taking built into its DNA. I am quite sure the cynics can talk about the mounting losses and the fact that all this visibility is built on VC money, which can often be initially cheap. It is also likely that some of its competitors, such as FreeCharge and Jio Money too could capitalise on the tremendous interest in the category.
While the brand has succeeded in reaching out to more establishments than the competition, we must also remember the depth and width of this country, and all these brands are merely scratching the surface. As more and more people start using Paytm and credit cards, I am sure the stretched networks of India might further struggle, and the honeymoon period of subsidies and discounts too might not last.
But let’s not forget that India is one of the few economies that is actually growing. Whatever the predictors of doomsday might be saying, brands like Paytm with their funding, investment in advertising and visibility might reap the benefits — most by virtue of being “top of mind”.
Yes, advertising works! Use it sensibly and reap the benefits!