Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Firing the social media salvo

Brands have realised the significance of social media and its peculiar demands. Utilising the social channels’ storytelling abilities, they are creating an image of a more personal and reachable entity

Friday, September 25, 2015

Nestle scores a century in an "away test"

Companies should integrate better with customers and local audiences through benevolent 
CSR programmes

To those of you who follow cricket you must have observed one common trait. Most teams whether it is India, Australia or even Bangladesh tend to be “tigers at home”. Sadly as Australia kept reminding us in England they need hardly be that in alien conditions. And it is in this context that we must remember that Nestle a global company headquartered in Switzerland completes 100 years of being a part of India and its life, its fabric even. Let’s watch their recent commercial which is done for completion of 100 years in this country which has seen several other global brands bite the dust.

It is a nostalgic commercial giving an old world feel about India and the events that have made the nation what it is. The stuff that memories and dreams are made of. The whole commercial is about India and its glorious moments of which Nestle has been a part of. Forget macro India, closer home, I do remember some of my sweetest moments have been in slyly slurping the Nestle condensed milk in our kitchen. I am sure I am not alone as millions of Indians have been weaned on Nestum and Cerelac initially. And who can forget Maggi, whatever its current troubles, the ketchup with those mad commercials and more recently KitKat. But as usual I am digressing. The commercial goes back to 1947 and Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous tryst with destiny. It shows the nation’s pride at Rakesh Sharma’s exploits in space and India’s first World Cup win in 1983 which has been an indelible moment in the lives of many Indians like me. It has a collage of shots of old and young enjoying glorious moments in everyday life sweetened by Nestle.

Troubled times at the multinational
And yet, the last year has been a period of trauma for Nestle. We all know the chaos that Maggi noodles faced in the country resulting in their being taken off the shelves. Newsprint, Facebook and Twitter have been bursting at the seams about Maggi and Nestle and what they could have done and yours truly has added to the chaos on the subject. So I will strive not to repeat myself and merely stop with saying that it is easy to be wise after the event as some of us have been. But it must be said that Nestle which had to use the tremendous love and equity that Nestle had with his customers was hardly used as consumer testimonial in the height of the crisis. But I daresay some things are better late than never. So once Maggi was pushed off the shelves and here it must be mentioned that Nestle would exercise abundant caution and not release the product to the market till every legal condition was met. So then it released a number of these commercials on YouTube (see links) featuring lots of youngsters, speaking to the camera and talking about how Maggi had been an integral part of their lives and how they missed it in their lives. Whether it was being self-sufficient, or being able to rustle up late night meals or not being found out as poor cooks. Clearly the brand has the stature and the long standing relationship with customers to take the stance it does. Watch the commercials which is in line with most modern advertising, primarily created for the social media and not so much on mainline television given the costs associated with that powerful medium.

Some things worth pondering
Let me just give you a few random thoughts on the subject. People and brands should not reach out to others only in times of need and this is what the current communication reminds me about. Sadly Nestle seems to have the same problem. I remember reading somewhere that Nestle first came into the country in 1912 and yet it remembers that it has been here for a century in 2015 after the shit has hit the fan. Yes, Nestle has been an integral part of India and Indians but must it remember this only now? I always remember the Tylenol crisis and why Johnson and Johnson was able to come out of it a lot easier than a brand like Eveready which had absolutely no connect other than selling batteries for a profit. I wish companies would integrate better with their customers and local audiences with benevolent CSR programs as the bond cannot be created by advertising only. Having said this I would still like to believe that Nestle has a continuing future in the minds and hearts of India and its consumers. Trust is neither built nor lost in a day and people like me will always remember the role Nestle played in our lives.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Wake up to the world of hyperlocals

Young MBAs must understand the various facets of the business, study the players and get ready to be noticed and soon recruited

“Wake up to freshness every morning” screams the headline of a two-page ad in one of the recent editions of a newspaper. One more hyperlocal brand called 24x7 Fresh is desperately trying to ease into the huge market for local goods. Hyperlocal is the new buzz word in the ecommerce business and venture capitalists are bending over backwards to invest in this category as they see enormous potential. With the increase of two income families and growth of the internet, ecommerce is bound to grow the VCs say.

Number crunching
Let’s look at some of the data. Internet users have grown from 198-million to 269-million users in 2015, with an expectation of it growing to as much as 500 million by 2017. The contribution of Etailing is expected to become 28 per cent in 2015 up from 14 per cent in 2011. 

An engaged consumer
Men and women are spending a lot of time on shopping apps with nearly 90 minutes a day on the average being spent per month on these apps. It might be surprising to note that it is no longer a metro phenomenon and people in the smaller towns too are spending more time on these apps, approximately 15 per cent more time.

It is hardly surprising that the ones that hog attention and money are the likes of Flipkart, Snapdeal and Quikr to smaller ones like ShopClues and Yepme. Sadly, though, the consumer, as they are the world over, are looking for discounts and deals. This is a sad situation from the branding perspective. Hopefully things will change.
The categories that are active
Let’s look at some of the categories and brands that are striving to get our attention. As people from the cities, cook less and eat more brands such as Foodpanda, Zomato, TinyOwl, Swiggy and EazyDiner are some of the brands that consumers are aware of and patronising. There are a host of brands offering handyman services such as Timesaverz. There is the global company Groupon offering discounts from local restaurants, spas and shops and local brands like Zopper too.
With other apps you can book doctors, get study lessons and even compare prices. Do you want a yoga trainer at home? Urban Clap offers this, though I must mention that my request to them for a yoga teacher at home is still to be acted upon by them. Sadly, while many of them have big budgets, their back end still needs to be worked on, in my view at least.
Shah Rukh Khan is big basketing, are you?
A brand that is making waves, in Bengaluru at least, is Big Basket. I know enough of the young people in my office who are smart enough to get their daily groceries from Big Basket which delivers cut vegetables and even places the vegetables in specified shelves in the refrigerators in their house. Clearly the company has caught the fancy of investors, like several others in the sector, and has been able to afford large ads and what’s more a celebrity of some consequence in the guise of Shah Rukh Khan. Have you seen the commercial? If not let me take you through it. Two delivery guys come to deliver groceries in Shah Rukh’s house and are asked to enter from the back. “Will he be at home”, “Must have gone for a shoot?” says the other not so hopefully. Imagine their surprise when the door is opened by Shah Rukh himself. He asks for the apples, oranges, basmati rice and everything that a normal house wife would order from the grocers. He also tongue in cheek says that this is his role at home and says that he will order every week and the guys can take a selfie with him the next time round. Surprised? I certainly was. Let’s see if the superstar makes a difference to the grocery brand.
What of the future?
While I certainly see a big opportunity for many of you in the hyperlocal space as I expect the sector to recruit heavily. But I do have certain reservations about the long-term future of some of the companies, at least that are spending huge sums of money trying to buy eyeballs and market share. I will also go back to a point made earlier in the piece about the preoccupation of consumers with discounts and deals. This could easily become the bane of the industry, and if I may add, the economy as well. Brands and marketers must try to focus on customer engagement. That is the way to lock in the consumer not deals and bargains.
Whatever may be the case, there is no doubt that the hyperlocal business is an interesting proposition for youngsters like you. Understand the various facets of the business, study the players and get ready to be noticed and soon recruited!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Advertising that rewards the viewer, sells the product

 As a management student, it’s time you start looking at ads closely to learn how and how not to sell
Let me start with something that I am fond of repeating and I crave your indulgence, if you have heard it before. People don’t buy a TV set to watch the ads or a newspaper to read the ads. Though it is possible that someone who is interested in selling a house or buying a second hand car might look at the classifieds or even buy the papers for that.  However, as a general rule advertising is an intrusion. Your ad comes in at a crucial time of the match forcing me to miss an important moment in the game. And yet advertising is necessary as it keeps the wheels of the industry moving. It enables people to choose between brands and make considered choices, yet because there is so much clutter; a lot of advertising is interesting otherwise people would just flip the channel. Have you seen the commercial for Abbott? If you haven’t because you have been so busy studying (!) let me quickly show it to you. It shows an old lady outside a scenic house in a hill station looking unhappily at the flat tyre in the bicycle that is kept near the house. She calls out loudly for her grandson who does not seem too keen to come out as he probably dreads what is going to happen. He defensively says “I have not punctured the cycle tyre”. She calls him out firmly and he has no option but to come out, which he does, reluctantly. He keeps remonstrating with her that she should not do it and finally tries the trick which lots of elders must have done with him and says “let’s do it tomorrow”. The old lady however is firm and asks him to come. We realize that the old lady wants to take a cycle ride and the terrified boy tells her that if she falls down, she will get hurt badly. She insists, sits on the cycle and asks him to push and eventually let go. The boy is a face, a study in emotions does with increasing fear. She takes off and calls out to him as she turns the bend. He runs out expecting to see the worst but sees his happy grandmother fairly flying with ecstasy written all over her. The commercial really talks about the value of health and how age does not matter as long as your health is good and the value of dreams notwithstanding your age. It is a corporate commercial for Abbott which is in the healthcare space. There is a press ad also with the same visual and theme which talks about the importance and benefit of good health.

The purpose of advertising
Let us step back for a moment and define advertising. The purpose of advertising is to sell products and services and not merely to entertain people. We have movies for that. You can imagine how difficult it is to actually sell detergent for instance. Here is an interesting ad done many years ago for Surf Excel doing this difficult task. It is entertaining and yet ends with a sales pitch.

Now in the case of Abbott, the task is slightly easier as there is no hard sell. It is a corporate commercial with a strong messaging doubtless but with the idea of making you, the customer feel good. It is set in a beautiful place, has models who emote beautifully and has a simple story line that charms and that most of us can relate to. I believe the same commercial would not have been so endearing if a product had been offered for sale at the end of it. This merely talks about the need for good health and how age need not be a deterrent if you have good health. Here the objective was building a corporate image and say endearingly that Abbott cares for you and your health.

Start observing advertising
Now that you are in management school, you are no longer mere consumers of advertising. You can’t merely say “it’s cool” or “it sucks” about an advertising campaign. Try to analyze it on strategy and execution. What in your opinion was the brand manager trying to do? Do you agree with her? How differently would you have done it? If you approach every commercial or ad that you are exposed to, in this scientific manner, I am sure you will learn and quickly. You will be able to discuss campaigns instead of merely consuming them. And who knows someone like me might be reviewing your own campaign!

Now isn’t that interesting!