Thursday, August 27, 2015

Maggi addresses loyalists; says, "We miss you too"

Team Maggi begins its crisis management on the communication front with a three-film campaign.
"Kab wapas ayegaa yaar? Miss you."

"I miss you yaar. Come back, man."
"Ab aa bhi jao. Miss you yaar."
These are lines from the latest three-film digital campaign released by Nestlé Maggi. The ads are monologues by young men who're addressing Maggi. Rife with affectionate endearments, the ads are crafted to resemble a series of personal messages to an old buddy.
Maggi's new digital campaign
Maggi's new digital campaign
Maggi's new digital campaign
The brand name is not uttered. At the end of each film, the Maggi logo appears on the screen, along with the words #WeMissYouToo.
On the brand's YouTube page, a quick message accompanies the videos: "This one is for all our fans! Can't thank you enough for your support. Share it and keep spreading the Maggi love. #‎WeMissYouToo"
All three films end with this visual
Says Nestlé in an official statement, "These short films reflect the spontaneity and affection between consumers and Maggi. We are making efforts to get Maggi Noodles back on the shelves and have been overwhelmed by the messages of love and support that we receive each day. Such messages strengthen our resolve to be back with our beloved consumers. We want to share the warmth of our relationship through these films."
We are making efforts to get Maggi Noodles back on the shelves.
McCann India has created this campaign. Adds the Nestlé spokesperson, "While Publicis India is the agency on record for Maggi Noodles in India, we have been working with McCann India for some corporate projects. This is one such project."
After the 'pesticide controversy' Coca-Cola got Aamir Khan to swear the product is 'Poori tarah surakshit'
After the 'worms controversy' Cadbury got Amitabh Bachchan to assure consumers that the product's 'double protection packaging' is 100 per cent tamper-proof
In each film, the context of consumption, and the convenience Maggi brings to people's lives, is highlighted.
Interestingly, the films leave no room for the possibility that Maggi can be replaced by some other 'instant snack'; the young men resort to alternatives like ordering from restaurants or eating at a neighbour's home, as though they just cannot consider replacing Maggi with any other easy-to-make product that comes in a packet and can be purchased at a store. It's a subtle way of saying 'Maggi or nothing'.
Campaign Review
Viren RazdanFor Viren Razdan, managing director, Brand-nomics, a brand consultancy, the campaign brings alive the role of Maggi in our culture, and helps preserve the relationship people share with the brand. "For a generation brought up on this brand, this is 'right in the gut'. It's like a friend pulling you into an embrace, saying, 'Hey, I know you are missing me'. The quiet, non-defensive strategy of Nestlé was grilled by many, but these films are Maggi's way of saying, 'Hey, I would never harm you and you know it...'"
Ramanujam Sridhar

Ramanujam Sridhar, founder and CEO, brand-comm, a brand consultancy, comments on the strategy: "It appears to be guided by the fact that the brand still doesn't have formal approval and that the product is still not available in the marketplace. This is also is a way of subtly putting pressure on the authorities."
He finds the strategy interesting, given the current situation facing team Maggi. For a brand that's not completely out of the woods yet, the campaign, he feels, is impressive, as it reiterates the fact that Maggi has a considerable customer franchise and a big pool of loyalists.
While this campaign is hinged on intangibles like sentiments and loyalty, Sridhar is of the view that the next burst of communication ought to touch upon more "tangible" aspects.
"Logically, in the next stage of communication, the brand should give evidence that things are completely okay. Some clarification needs to be given on the ingredients front. They need to do this, especially if they want to get children - a TG they can't walk away from - back into the fold," he suggests, drawing on the reality that while youngsters might welcome Maggi back with open arms, parents will hesitate to feed it to their kids until they're absolutely sure it is safe.
"Maybe Madhuri Dixit can convey that message," he muses, adding about the current campaign, "This can't be the final campaign. It's more like an 'interim campaign, till the main one is out," he says.
Santosh Padhi
While Santosh Padhi (Paddy), chief creative officer and co-founder, Taproot India likes the thought ('We miss you too'), he feels "thrown off" because it comes from the brand.
"The message," he insists, "cannot come from Maggi. It should come from consumers. If they don't have enough loyal consumers who can stand up for them (hard to believe), then they'd rather buy them (without the world knowing) and form a 'club' of sorts," he says, adding, "The idea would've looked more authentic if it was delivered by a bunch of crazy people wanting the brand to come back into their lives."
In a campaign of this sort, there should be around eight to ten "raw" looking films, with a pan-India feel to them, that feature people across age groups and SECs, according to Paddy. "This set of films could have passed off as consumer-generated, but the logo at the end just kills everything and makes it look completely fake," critiques Paddy. He would rather have Maggi appear in the script.
Interestingly, the films showcase only one slice of the consumer pie - young men. In two out of three films, the implication is that he lives alone. "Why only these three youngsters? Why not a kid? Why not a woman?" questions Paddy, saying this makes it look like the nation is persuaded only by the youth.
Will the campaign help salvage brand Maggi, though? "The wound is too deep for these three films to heal," he answers, "There's a small percentage of people who definitely want the brand back, but there is a certain set of people who will never allow it back in their kitchen. But, there is a bigger group waiting to see how Maggi will approach them. These films won't really make a mother feel the same affection towards the brand."
Priti Nair
Priti Nair, co-founder, Curry Nation, an advertising agency, says about the campaign, "It is a superb bridge for a come-back. Unexpected and fresh. The usual, expected thing after a controversy is - a film that shows a visit to the factory, then the CEO/a celebrity will speak about the product. This one is from the consumer; it is warm and rings true," she says, adding about the execution, "It's fantastically calibrated, and has bang-on casting and performances. Good locations, even. And there was no need to actually name the brand (in the script); the slate at the end brands the films, top to bottom."
Nair adds, "Now let's hope this brand that everyone has always loved actually lives up to the love and does not have anything harmful in it. Or that would be a shame."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The advertising history of Liril

Is advertising enough for a brand to survive over a long period of time? Read on and find out which Indian does not know about Liril? It was launched in 1974 with great fanfare. Who does not remember the ‘girl in the waterfall’ commercial? Even without the benefit of social media this commercial made waves. People even knew the model’s name, which was as much a testimony to the uniqueness of the commercial as much as to the absence of clutter in those days. As a youngster in those days which was before TV made it big in India, I used to watch the commercial in the cinema hall like most people of that day and age. Here is a relook at that commercial. The follow up press ad encapsulates the brand’s promise of freshness that has endured over the years. 

Water and Liril the romance continues

The girl and the waterfall continued their association with the brand as different models advertised for the brand in a different waterfall. Here are a couple of  waterfall commercials.

Future commercials cued the water, the girl even if it moved away from the waterfall but the freshness, green and lime continued.

Then the agency wondered how they could make the commercial different given all these constraints. They moved to the desert of all places and here is a very different commercial. Some people liked the commercial whilst a few others were critical of it as well, saying that in the desert where water was so scarce who would waste water? Well take a look at the commercial and make your own judgement...

Brand goes into variants
Clearly the brand was getting tired as newer, younger brands were crowding the market place and others like Cinthol were edging in on the freshness platform with more media weight behind them. So the brand came up with variants, an icy mint variant.

So here’s the orange variant where the girl dances in the street with urchins in a scene that reminded South Indian audiences of Ilayaraja and a Tamil film. Watch this commercial...

Then the brand went the family way as the above commercial depicts

Time for a remix
Now after nearly four decades and numerous experiments it is time for the brand to perhaps reinvent itself, having gone through so many advertising avatars and executions that we have seen in this column. So what does the brand do? To understand that you must first know what a remix is and I am sure you are all familiar with remixed songs and movies. How often have we heard of famous songs of the fifties and sixties being redone with a fresh music track and the same tune? Some people like it as they have no attachment with the past or its history and just like the tune that is set to a much faster pace and beat that is in line with today. The new Liril commercial is essentially a remix of the commercial of the seventies and here it is...

What do you think of it? Even if you had not seen the old commercial you can relate to this whereas for someone like me it is a reminder of my youth as it might be for several others in their forties and fifties. Could this be the shape of things to come? Let us wait and watch the future...

So what does the brand’s history teach us?
Liril is a marketing and advertising case study and that’s the first thing we must place on record. It is something that people of my generation liked and admired.  It is a famous brand which is just short of iconic!
The brand had multiple associations some of which became properties like the girl, waterfall, freshness, the music track, green and lime. The problem with some of these over a period of time is that as you have more and more properties that are mandatory almost then there is very little scope for creativity. In the early years most executions looked like each other and people felt that they had seen the commercial before. Now the brand seems to have done a full circle and rather than looking for a fresh creative, they have redone their forty year old commercial. A remix of the seventies commercial!
Very often brands are looking towards advertising alone to provide the difference over the years and yet this can be almost impossible to achieve over a period of time, if the product remains more or less the same. The marketplace is getting more and more crowded with newer, sexier offerings and the solution has to be in the product not merely in the advertising. Is the brand relying too much on advertising?
Will the new commercial deliver the goods? Only time will tell. But the lessons that history teaches us are there, as students of marketing and advertising for us to mull over.
So what’s your key take out from the Liril story?

Monday, August 17, 2015

What Nestle could have done differently

About 25 per cent of Nestle's revenues in India comes from the sales of the Maggi 2 Minute Noodles. The company spends an estimated Rs 150 crore (of its Rs 450 crore annual advertising budget) on the instant noddle brand. No wonder Nestle's response to the events leading up to the June 5 ban and recall of Maggi noodles, and a string of developments thereafter leading to the Indian government filing a lawsuit against the Swiss food firm's Indian unit, has baffled experts. Here five branding experts discuss what the company could have done to avoid the crisis from blowing up in its face

Stand up, take it on the chin: Supriyo Gupta

Nestle needs no lectures or prescriptions on managing food crises. They have been at the centre of many a malevolent maelstrom over their food and promotions. Their long drawn wars over baby food is the stuff of many a case study. Every new episode seems to simply reinforce their inherent inclination to put up the walls and hunker down. The question is what did Nestle get horribly wrong?
  • Failed containment: When the issue first erupted, there was a healthy chance to keep it geographically locked up. Identify the factory that was the source for the suspect samples and lock in the batch. Contain. Isolate. Address. On the contrary, a dogged refusal to draw boundaries sucked the whole in.
  • The missing leader: Yes, there were no leaders coming out to bat for the jewel in the crown. Not even a brand manager was out there defending the brand. The global crisis manual probably kicked in and a bunch of lawyers crossed out all meaningful communication for fear of suits. Well, they have one now worth Rs 640 crore and that would be an invitation to shut up even more. On the contrary, it is a great opportunity to raise the flag of, well, revolt.
  • Opening with the King: In no strategy of war is the King the opening gambit. The King is the reconciler, the person who makes the moves that open a new chapter. Here they rolled him in straight into FSSAI. His ideal job should have been to build the image of remedy and reconciliation. Putting up the global CEO was possibly a very European view of engaging the government and sorting out issues rather than dealing with the opinion outside.
  • No credible external endorsers: Nestle seemed to have created and existed in a cold world. Possible years of dealing with people as dealers, vendors, paid artists and 'stakeholders' meant there were no warm relationships across the board. It is fairly unprecedented that a corporate with such an extensive presence in the country didn't have anyone standing up to bat for it.
  • Failing to stand up and take it on the chin: Somewhere between the clean chits of various food authorities and the rejections by Indian labs, there is a batch or two that may have fallen between the cracks. However, the biggest blunder in the episode was Nestle's failure to stand up and take ownership of the product and the brand. All that was needed was for the India leadership team to man the ship and communicate leadership. To say, that we own this brand. We will investigate. We will see. And we will fix.
  • Moves that became inexplicable because they didn't get communicated: Nestle recalled tonnes of Maggi and proceeded to incinerate them. Why? Who asked for it? There was possibly very sound logic in destroying products that would have expired if they had stayed on the shelf. But without explanation, it simply ended up looking like disposing off the evidence.

Yet, it continues to be a company that is in a reactive mode. There seems to be no real communication campaign in action. Much of the statements and speak seem to be heavily guided by artificial legal constraints.

Supriyo Gupta
CEO, Torque Communications

Do not deny involvement: Rita Gunther McGrath

Nestle, the global food giant, has had more than its string of troubles lately, with some commentators arguing that the company actually veers into a space they call 'evil' in its business practices. So the company's latest venture into really, really, bad publicity with its Maggi brand of noodles is unfortunately not completely out of character.

Despite an emergency effort by Nestle CEO to reassure consumers, including shredding his schedule for a two-day visit to Delhi, the leadership at Nestle really didn't do a good job of crisis management. The old nostrums - do it all, do it early and do it yourself - were basically ignored in this case.

For starters, it's clear that Nestle folks did not initially recognise the magnitude of the problem, magnified by the social media echo chamber. The initial recall of Maggi by the folks in Uttar Pradesh took place on April 30. Nothing was done until June, when the media uproar was well advanced, and APCO Worldwide was appointed to manage its message in India. Bringing in a crisis management communication firm after the crisis has already exploded leaves it too late. The firm was basically in denial that the questions represented a significant issue for it.

My colleague, John Kimberly, professor of management at Wharton, has some excellent ideas about what companies should do in a crisis situation. He recommends a five-point crisis management strategy for companies in such situations to restore credibility: "One, acknowledge that there is an issue that needs to be examined carefully. Two, buy time to get the facts. Three, do not deny involvement/ responsibility. Four, do not attempt to estimate the magnitude of the problem. And five, commit to a speedy but thorough investigation." (source: http:// knowledge .wharton

The Maggi incident also raises questions of whether operating in countries with different regulatory and enforcement standards creates new kinds of risks for large multinationals, as every misstep can be amplified by social media. For citizen stakeholders who feel powerless against what they may perceive as lax standards, social media provides a powerful way to draw attention to their issues. Can the Maggi brand recover? Possibly, but Nestle is going to have its work cut out for it to regain trust.

Rita Gunther McGrath
Associate Professor, Columbia Business School

Bring in brand evangelists: Ramanujam Sridhar

Maggi has been really a case of a poorly-managed crisis. Having said that I would also like to say upfront that it probably got a raw deal and was the victim of a witch-hunt. But on to what should have been done:

Who was minding the store? Every brand needs a custodian, more so a brand that is under crisis. Nestle's response was muted, confusing and delayed if it was even made. The brand custodian should have said: "I am in charge and will move heaven and earth to ensure that the consumer does not suffer and her health is not affected. I will identify, withdraw and meet all standard that the government decides. We will not compromise on consumer safety."

Speed was not the essence: One of the biggest problems was that being a global company, Nestle's speed of response is constrained. Today, in the reign of social media, we do not have this luxury. What Nestle did was to bolt the stables after the horses had fled. On the contrary, it should have quadrupled the speed of response.

So where was the consumer hiding? Let's not forget Maggi is loved by people. A few generations have grown up on that snack. Where were those evangelists and why they didn't come out and speak up- like Amitabh Bachchan did for Cadbury - that we trust it and have had it for years? The answer is not the mother and daughter ad but testimonials from real life consumers. They should have used real consumers.

Ramanujam Sridhar
Founder & CEO, Brand-comm

Respond in real-time: Anil S Nair

Now that the Maggi saga has fully played out in full view of all of us, one can preach some pearls of wisdom with the 'unfair' advantage of hindsight. Truth be told that what has happened to Maggi and, hence Nestle, is something that very few companies in India are prepared for. I am not sure if this is a marketing task or corporate affairs task or a legal and compliance task. So here is what Nestle could have done if they could rewind time.
  • Get up to speed: In this age of digital media you can't wait even for an hour before you respond to an issue like this. You have to start responding/acknowledging in real time. It is not about giving out legally vetted official statement but engaging with the audience in some form so that one can't be accused of 'hiding' from the controversy. If Nestle was out there facing the music from day one, things would have worked better for the company.
  • Show a human face: Nestle could have appointed an official 'face' who could reassure the consumers about their commitment to resolving the issue than merely give out delayed statements that lacked human touch.
  • Be proactive: Nestle should have recalled all the stocks proactively just to convey their commitment to the well-being of Indian consumers. This would have given a clear signal to the consumers that here is a company that is willing take losses but not willing to compromise on consumer confidence.
  • Communicate: Nestle should have opened all channels of communication - social, PR, advertising - soon enough to explain its position. They were slow off the block in this regard. It is not about saying the legally correct things but being seen as willing to talk - that is important.

Having said all this, these points are wisdom born out of hindsight than out of any best practice manual available on the subject.

Anil S Nair
CEO & managing partner, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi

Focus on internal branding: Saurabh Uboweja

A company of the size of Nestle is not new to handling or managing crisis. But when you put a question mark on the equity of a popular food brand and one of the world's top food companies, the best of your crisis management plans can go haywire. Crisis related to food products surface frequently and research shows that it can take three/four years on an average for a large successful brand to recover from the equity dilution and loss in sales after a crisis. The larger your brand, the higher the risk it carries as the chances of it failing its own standards increase because of its level of penetration and reduced control over the supply chain before it reaches a consumer's plate. There are, however, a few important steps one must take as a brand custodian during such a crisis:
  • First response: Timing your first response can be the most challenging decision during a crisis because you are in shock and are still gathering facts to formulate your communication. However, any delay of more than a few hours can be disastrous. Your first response must go out almost instantly, owning up to the crisis with a promise to supply more information and enumerating your action points.
  • One voice: During such crisis, everybody in your company has an opinion from your security guard to your CEO. It is important to focus on your internal branding first and limit the source of communication to a single point. This ensures consistency and builds both internal and external confidence in the brand during crisis.
  • Reduce messages: Fewer messages mean fewer speculations. Stick to the facts and share your firm official stand on the issues. Draft well thought out releases in advance by speculating all likely actions and reactions by the stakeholders.
  • Time it: Your messages must be timed with important releases from government authorities, the buzz in social media and reactions from other stakeholders. You need to be ready with your engagement strategy much before opinions start taking shape. Acting timely will give you rare opportunities to drift public sentiments in your favour by subtly influencing the discussions around your brand.
Saurabh Uboweja
CEO & Chief Brand Strategist, Brands of Desire

Indian Advertising: Then and Now

India has come a long way since the establishment of the country's first ad agency B Dattaram and Co. back in 1905, or the first AD club in Calcutta in the 1950s. Post the 1970s media boom, there was a plethora of magazines that needed ads, and Indian commercial illustrators stepped up to the challenge.

Come the 80s, and the Asian games immortalized the color television. The allure of the fantasy world commercials promised got even more believable. How could you not trust companies when your daily dose of entertainment - 'Hum Log', 'Chitrahar', or 'Mahabharata' was sponsored by them, and they had the likes of Lalitaji for Surf for commercials with claims that the detergent cleaned fabrics better than any other washing powder mortals could buy.

"Mind you, those days you didn't have commercial breaks like today. One had commercial breaks for a few minutes, and then the show ran non-stop for the next 30 minutes or so. It was a different era altogether," Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder and CEO, Brand-comm reminds.

The second major turnaround was the 1990s liberalization when foreign companies landed on Indian shores. Most Indian agencies were sold out, and agencies stepped up to address the needs of an aspiring Indians.

Sridhar goes on to explain how the industry has changed drastically over these years in accordance to rapidly changing client demands.

"The revenue structure of the Industry and their job has changed altogether. In the days of full servicing agencies we jokingly called agencies as 15% commission and 85% confusion. They got a 15% cut of anything they did for their clients - research, logo, printing or packaging. The agency was a one stop solution for all media needs. Today with the emergence of PR and other specializations, the job is fragmented and ad agency revenues have come down drastically," he adds.

That seemed preposterous when one thought of the advent of newer avenues like web advertising and reports of FMCG majors spending as much as 50% of their net revenue on marketing, and some e-commerce giants spending as much as a whopping 70% on the same. It's tough to believe ad agencies don't have their hands stashed with currency. Companies should be more than willing to pay for the original content they bet so big on. Turns out that's not the case, "Most of that budget goes to the media. The ad agency typically gets 2.5% of the total amount," Sridhar informs.

When asked about challenges ad agencies are facing today apart from the financial crunch, Sridhar says, "With increasing client demands and shrinking profit margins it is getting difficult to hire great talent. Advertising is currently one of the lowest paying professions. There was a time when ad agencies hired from the top B-Schools in the country, including the IIMs. You don't see that too often today. Nobody buys a television to watch commercials, or a newspaper or laptop to browse through ads. The more creative ones do well. The idea is to get you to watch it."

For naive readers, the last line is advertising rolled in a sentence for you.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

What is ‘strategy’ in advertising?

Read on to know about ‘what’ of an advertisement; and what works or doesn’t work, 
in the ad sphere

One of the most abused jargons in management today is the word “strategy”. Let me give you an example of how meaningless it has become with today’s management students. That day as I was walking in the corridor of the business school after a session I heard one guy asking another friend of his an extremely difficult question “Bro, I want to meet that girl at 5 p.m., give me a strategy”. I tapped him on the shoulder and told him “Check the time in your watch and land up at 5!” That’s an indication of how inappropriately the word is being used. But seriously let’s talk about advertising and the use of strategy in its making. So let me simplify this whole discussion and end with an example to illustrate what I am saying. But before this I need to have a fairly important task and that is to define strategy in advertising. Strategy in advertising is ‘what’is being said about the brand in communication. You could also use the word positioning and here I speak loosely as that subject deserves another piece. So the strategy could be to describe a product as long lasting or reliable or the lowest price. The execution of the advertising is ‘how’ it is being said. So you could use one of various advertising themes like use of a celebrity or humour or emotion even. Here is a commercial about long lasting Plywood with interesting creative.

Yet when you talk of great advertising you must remember that it works because both the strategy is bang on and the execution brilliant. It cannot work when only one of the two is effective but both have to work in tandem. Let’s talk about one commercial, that is not so recent but useful because it demonstrates the point I am trying to make.

We are the Blackberry boys

Here is another commercial that made some waves some time ago as it was also a very visible campaign with lots of media weight behind it. If my memory serves me right it even won a few awards. I am sure you do remember the commercial as it is not very dated  but before you see it let me give you a quick preamble to this commercial. The traditional Blackberry user was someone like me, older, who was using the phone for organisational needs like checking mails and going online in addition to the traditional phone usage of calling and messaging. He was hardly adventurous in the usage of the phone. My generation does not download music, chat or use the phone for almost everything unlike my children. Blackberry had a new phone and the objective was to change the profile of users and get younger consumers who were not looking at Blackberry seriously. This was for Vodafone users. Now let’s watch the commercial. 

As you can doubtlessly see it is striking and I am sure the agency would call it memorable. It has a jingle that is catchy and shows older people like me who are watching in bewilderment as younger kids edge the older people out of the frame as they claim that they do all the things with the phone that older people like me are reluctant or do not know how to use. Let’s revisit the objective and that was to get newer, smarter, younger users into the user fold. This brings me to my major grouse with the commercial. Let me ask you a simple question. How do you think brands gain market share? They do so by holding on to existing customers and by getting new customers. They don’t do this by alienating their existing customers as old, dumb or show them in a poor light. This is like saying that my wife is old and haggard just because I want a smart, young girlfriend. I remember a proverb in Tamil that translates as “Giving up your husband so that you can get the king“. Never mind the fact that the king does not want you in the first place!  So strategically this commercial fails in my opinion at least.

What should be different in your life now?

This is just a small piece to get you thinking. Think about advertising now that you are management students.  Hitherto you were mere consumers of advertising. You could merely say “it’s cool” or “it sucks”. Not any more, hereafter you must not only see advertising campaigns but analyse them. Discuss them while you are at class or with your friends. Try to understand what brands are doing and why. Critique them for soon you will be in marketing and others will be evaluating your work as well.

Welcome to the big bad world of work!