Monday, October 24, 2016

Was James Bond Brosnan really misled by Pan Bahar?

Pierce Brosnan’s interview to People Magazine, blaming Pan  Bahar for the controversy, came as a shocker and opened the gates of discussion in the advertising and marketing industry. Will the controversy affect the brand? And why did Brosnan react late?

Akansha Mihir Mota | Mumbai | October 24, 2016

The morning of October 7, 2016, was an iconic day in the history of advertising and marketing, when everybody saw James Bond star Pierce Brosnan holding a Pan Bahar box in his hands in a print ad. Some applauded the marketing strategy of the brand, while others ridiculed it. The campaign gave social media a chance to have its share of laugh. Nonetheless, the brand managed to trend on the digital front and gained a lot of publicity.
Going forward, there were media reports that the film was banned by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) but it was not. Later, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) sought an explanation from the brand. Then came another twist in the tale. Brosnan came out in the open and gave an interview to People magazine, claiming he had no prior knowledge that he was endorsing a ‘harmful product’. Brosnan said the company should remove him from its advertisement campaign.
Pan Bahar’s brand manager Vikash Shukla told BestMediaInfo that there was no breach of contract and that the company had written to Brosnan’s team. He claimed the product has no trace of tobacco in its content. Shukla said he would be able to comment once the Bond star’s team replies.

Is the controversy good or bad for the brand?
The immediate question that arose was would the controversy have any negative impact on the brand? Many industry veterans say any sort of publicity, be it bad or good, works for a brand. But a few believe it could have a negative impact on the brand. Then there are those who fell that no publicity will impact the brand.

Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, believes till the time people are talking about the brand, it is good for it. He said, “The controversy affects the brand, but only positively. I see no negative impact. Pan Bahar has attained much salience as it had never before. The ad has catapulted it into the stratosphere of brands of its ilk. This negative publicity is real publicity for the brand that will make it a talking point in the market.”
Any news is good news for a brand in the space of pan masala. Given the fact that regular advertising is highly regulated for categories such as pan masala, it could be that the brand is happy with the continuous controversy around the advertising endorsement.

Lloyd Mathias, Marketing Director, Consumer PC’s, Asia Pacific and Japan, says the controversy has a negative impact on the brand. He said, “This controversy does not speak well for the brand and the agency handling Pan Bahar. It is absolutely important for the brand to share transparently details about the brand and its product. Not doing so raises fundamental questions. This case raises ethical questions about endorsers not personally trying the brands they endorse.”
“Negative publicity always works for the brand in the longer run. People start sympathising with a brand that withstands negativity in the longer run,” he added.

Sandip Tarkas, President, Customer Strategy, Future Group, thinks that the brand has only benefited from the controversy, but non-users will not convert into users with the strategy. He said, “The brand got the whole benefit out of it. The brand is operating in a category where non-users will never use the category. It is only for the users who might switch from Pan Parag to Pan Bahar. The company has tried to shift the brand within the category.”
Bijoor asserts, “Ignorance of the brand cannot be an excuse given by any brand-endorser after the event.”

I don’t have great regard for the category in any case. These people should not be advertising. There is a lot of controversy regarding the health hazard in the category. I don’t think they are very ethical marketers,” said, Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder and CEO of brand-comm.
There are brand categories that require foreign celebrities to endorse its products. For example, Micromax is a good example of marketing strategy when they roped in Tiger Woods to endorse its product. But a category like Pan Masala using Brosnan to endorse its product confuses the audience?

Where was Brosnan until now?
Everybody who is aware of the controversy is asking one question. Why didn’t Brosnan react earlier? Why didn’t he sue the company? Why is he giving an interview about it instead? Why did it take so long for Brosnan to realise that he was ‘misled by the company’ as he said? Why didn’t it click his mind before that he was endorsing a wrong product?
Some feel it is probably because of the social media outrage that Brosnan realised he should do something about it.
Naresh Gupta, CSO and Managing Partner, Bang In The Middle, makes a very important point, “This strategy is very convenient from both sides. The brand has used him and taken full benefit out of it. Now, Brosnan comes into action and is saying that I didn’t know about the product and it is wrong. Out of the whole thing, saying that it is a tooth whitener, you can’t get lamer than that. Brosnan also put his signature in the ad. Don’t tell me, he did not see the final ad. It is really silly.”
Brosnan should have been more careful before signing deal
It is of utmost importance for a celebrity to double check the brand he is going to endorse. In fact, if the celebrity is endorsing a surrogate product, then he needs to ensure he is not being used in the non-surrogate part of the ad.

Darshan M, Director, Spoment Ventures, said, “It is very important for a celebrity to know details about the product he is going to endorse because you are an influencer and you are going to influence a lot of people. Once you have endorsed a brand, you can’t say that I didn’t know about it. You need to do basic homework and sign the document.”
Darshan said, “It is not that he was not aware of the product. It is just his reaction after he saw the reaction on social media. It is more of the celebrity manager’s job as the celebrity himself has other jobs to focus on.”
Sridhar said, “You shouldn’t hold the celebrity really liable, but this is a case of having second thoughts after making a bad deal. You can’t have second thoughts after taking the money, doing the shoot and releasing the film. He should have done his simple homework. It is a very popular product.”
Brands must give correct information to their endorsers all the time. Equally, it is the duty of the brand endorser to get independent assessments of the brands he or she is about to endorse.

 Manish Kumar, CEO and Co-Founder, Digi Osmosis, said, “It is not a lie from a brand’s point of view. They sell the product as a mouth freshener. They are not making him endorse tobacco. It is cancerous because of the long-term effects of kattha. The brand is absolutely right. The blame should go to the celebrity management team. The brand has not cheated anybody; it has just told you that it is an Indian mouth freshener. For the brand, it is a good product.”
Kumar believes that it is more of the celebrity management team’s responsibility. He said, “It was not like Pan Bahar would have entered Pierce’s house and have asked him to sign the documents for the mouth freshener. It should have been the responsibility of the agency that manages Brosnan and should have done the due diligence. The team who handles Brosnan should be held accountable for this.”
This incident for sure will set an example for the advertising and marketing. Going forward, people would write about the topic to learn lessons from it. While the world waits for the next twist, the show must go on.

Are you speaking yesterday’s language to today’s youth?

It’s important to understand the target audience when creating ads 
Last week I watched a commercial that sent me back in time — 43 years to be precise. Before we come to the commercial let’s take a look at a romantic past. It was in November 1973 that the film Bobby was released. It was the film in which Rishi Kapoor made his debut alongside Dimple Kapadia.

No, I am not going to talk about how time flies. Instead, I’ll talk about a song that made waves in its time with the lyrics ‘Hum Tum Ek Kambre Mein Bandh Ho’. You must be wondering what the fuss is all about.

Now, let’s cut to the present and instead of a room to a lift and a commercial for deodorant. Before you watch it, let me quickly tell you the script that I have understood. There is a guy and a girl in a lift and as a twist to the tale the girl starts whistling. And what tune is she whistling? Yes, you guessed it; ‘Hum Tum Ek Kambre Mein Bandh Ho’. It makes the guy blink; it tells you that the deodorant gets out your hidden thoughts and desires. 

Who is the target audience?
I suppose most of us use deodorant and in a sense it can be argued that we are all target consumers for the category, but every category has a core target audience and that is people in the age group of 15 to 24, which leads me to my concerns about the creative execution of such commercial. How would a millennial remember or recall a song that was a hit in 1973? More so, when it was merely whistled. Of course I was able to pick it up in a flash and that’s hardly surprising. But am I the target audience for such advertisements?

This leads me to what I am trying to emphasise. Too often advertising is created by older people who are double guessing what young people like. Often enough they are lost in their own world and forget that today, a generation gap is all of four years! So the biggest challenge for people in advertising and branding is to live the life of the target consumer. They must listen to the music of teenagers, understand their lingo and follow their lifestyles if they want to create advertisements that will catch a youngster’s attention rather than that of their fathers and uncles! 

It’s all in the detail
A few years ago I went to the Levis store in Bengaluru which had fantastic décor and clothes that were targeted at hip teenagers. But what was the music playing in the store? It was Bryan Adams, an oldie. Clearly the store manager was old and he was playing music that he liked rather than what his or her teenage consumers wanted or liked! Executional gaffes like these are common in brand management and they can send out contradictory signals that end up confusing consumers and make them wonder if the brand is really for them. 

Time to think young
The reality is that most marketing and communication decisions are being taken by older people for a younger generation and therein lays the challenge. I am fond of repeating “VPs are in their forties, MDs are in their fifties and customers are in their twenties”. But we can’t stop short at merely paying lip service to the youth as a market, saying how important they are and continue to talk to them the way we talk to ourselves (adults) and feel good. 

Live in the consumer’s shoes
The word ‘empathy’ is one that is often abused in marketing. What is empathy? That’s putting you in the consumer’s shoes. It’s understanding their concerns, discomforts, likes and dislikes, interests, and just about everything that makes them tick. Formal research will help but there is no substitute for observation. Keep observing life around you, customers around you and who knows what nuggets of information you might discover. 

Don’t be locked in your own world and don’t speak in Sanskrit to today’s youth!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Why are you ignoring me?

Why not design holidays for my generation - like a golfing holiday and shopping trips?

With agencies getting younger recruits, ads targeted at the ‘silver generation’ have all but stopped
I am proud to say that I belong to the generation that is now over the age of 50, even if advertisers and marketers scarcely give me a second look — a feeling that most married people are familiar with, as their spouses have been studiously ignoring them for years!
Let me give you a sneak preview of what some of my friends, who are in a similar age bracket as me, are doing.
One of my friends has just bought an SUV because he loves driving, and once in a while, will drive to Coonoor to check out his latest holiday home. Another one of my friends is on a Mediterranean cruise with his wife — who is a VP at a pharmaceutical major — and his two working, grown up children.
My son, who is working in London, is checking ticket availability for me for the Champions Trophy cricket tournament next year, while another friend is busy booking 10 tickets of ₹3,000 each for the Jeeves and Wooster show next month in Bengaluru for our group of friends.
As you can see, while many of us have 'been there and done that’, we are not actually done and dusted as consumers. But what do we get from marketers and people in advertising? A bored indifference to my breed which actually buys products and services, goes on holidays, visits their children abroad for their graduation, and owns assets!
Yes, we don’t trade pictures on Instagram. Does that make us less attractive as consumers? Look at all the advertising that comes on TV. How much of it is targeted at us? The only recognition we get is in the form of doting grandparents in commercials for financial products that no one watches! Come on guys, give us a break!
I am an individual
So what would I want as a consumer? It is an adage as old as the hills but each one of us is different as a consumer. Yet we have these allegedly sexy commercials, either on mass television or on YouTube, that leave us cold.
They don’t speak our language, and pass us by like ships at night. They are as effective as Hindi commercials being proudly shown in Tamil Nadu. Nobody cares, much less understands, what is being sold!
Remember good old data-based marketing with long copy, an offer, and a response device, which could be customised? You have my database, know my age, my spending pattern and perhaps even how many drinks I have. Why not use the data to woo me with customised offers and, for God’s sake, in a font size that I can read!
I have more time than the harassed generation, and have actually earned my holidays. Why not design holidays for my generation — like a golfing holiday and shopping trips? Why not a retirement community that is not an old age home, that is run sensibly and smartly, never mind the price. Why not a different smartwatch with all the features such as number of steps along with with other features for people of my age; maybe a smarter dial?
Why not design products and services that are classier, better thought-out, customised and sold? Yes, my generation values relationships. Incongruous though it may sound, I have had the same spouse for 34 years. When did you build a relationship with me, other than having a relationship manager who is changed every three months!
So what’s the problem?
I am sick and tired of the statement that India is a young country and that over 50 per cent of the population is below the age of 25, repeated ad nauseam. Well good luck to them, but when will they make their first million?
If you think they will be hooked to you for life and you will reap lifetime value from them, then you have another guess coming. No one is asking you to ignore them completely. All we are saying is don’t ignore us studiously — as you have been doing.
Today, with more and more marketers and advertising agencies teeming with people in their late 20s and early 30s, they are comfortable creating ads and offers for each other. I am not sure they understand “their dad’s generation”, and have generally good natured contempt for it. But that’s not the way to build targeted, marketing programmes. They don’t have the ability, even if they are pushed to have the interest.
Wake up CEOs
While many start-ups have CEOs whose hair has still not started to grey, in many other companies, the people who run it are much older. It is up to them to show the way and more significantly, change the way their marketing department looks at us. They must insist on older people handling agency relationships and invest in research in the silver generation, if I can call ourselves that.
Who knows? They might just strike gold!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Will Sindhu be the next Virat?

For far too long, sponsors have taken the no-brainer route to celebrity management
I was born in a cricket-crazy era, in a country that knew and followed only one sport — cricket. When Australia was playing England at Melbourne, you could be rest assured that several thousand cricket crazy nuts, including yours truly, would be up at 5.30 am, clutching transistor radios close to their ears and trying to listen to the commentary from different angles, hoping to hear the score over the frequency crackle.

Our tribe grew as India won the cricket World Cup in 1983. This, coupled with the phenomenal acceptance of colour TV and the opening of the skies (so that we got to watch cricket from all parts of the world) meant that the whole country became cricket obsessed.

It is hardly surprising, then, that this was the only sport that marketers followed and believed in. People like Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni lost count of the number of brands they were endorsing, while other sports languished without sponsors and support. 

Changing times
It is in this context that the news of PV Sindhu, India’s silver medallist at the Olympics, winning a ₹50 crore sponsorship deal is such great news. It even makes a diehard cricket tragic like me happy!


And competition and choice is always a good thing, lest cricket and its administrators get too complacent. 

Making their presence felt
As cricket, and if one may add, cricketers, became increasingly pricey, marketers tried to promote other sports; like Kingfisher tried to push football. But they soon discovered that the concept was more exciting than the results.

In the midst of all this, the IPL continued to top the viewing charts, despite being dogged by criticism, scandals and match-fixing. Well, the IPL did teach other sports a thing or two, with them soon following suit and hosting their own leagues — not the least of all, Kabaddi.
The power of television
Here, the credit must go to the broadcaster, more than anyone else, for modifying the game — for moving it from sandy villages to the metros, for playing it indoors, and transforming it for TV audiences, with celebrities rooting for teams from the front rows.

The channel had the capability and vision to move the telecast to mainline channels , and the TRPs zoomed. This leads us to an important lesson.

In the Indian context, the power of television can never be overstated. We don’t need bums on seats in India — we have people in their couches with a remote in their hands even as celebrities laugh all the way to the bank, some even investing in other sports, like football.
More power to the ladies

My passion for cricket does not blind me to the challenges of using cricketers as celebrities who endorse brands. While some of them can set the stadia on fire, sadly, they can hardly set pulses racing as some have very poor personalities and are hardly photogenic.

And whether we like it or not, we must accept our predilection for a pretty face or good looks. It was in this context that someone like Sania Mirza seemed to make sense — she was charming and a sportswoman of international recognition. 

Martina Hingis of Switzerland and Sania Mirza | Reuters  

Others who might have been Olympic medal winners too could not capitalise on their success, because a sport like athletics has limited following here. Nor too did other games benefit by way of increasing popularity or viewership.

It is in this context that Sindhu’s sponsorship deal is such great news. Her amazing show at the recent Olympics galvanised an entire nation as she seemed to be one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal show.

To add to that, she seemed extremely presentable with a phenomenal attitude and great regard for her coach, who had been the driving force behind her success and her aggressive transformation. Sponsors fell over themselves in signing her on for appearances and brand endorsements — far in excess of what her predecessor Saina Nehwal was able to garner. 

P V Sindhu being felicitated at an event in chennai   
Rajeev Bhatt
Saina Nehwal  

This augurs well for the sport of badminton too, with centres of excellence like Hyderabad emerging.
Look elsewhere
For far too long, sponsors have taken the no-brainer route to celebrity management by picking MS Dhoni or Priyanka Chopra. This has led to brand dilution since no one knows who is endorsing what.

Can they step back for a moment and reconsider their options beyond film stars and cricketers? Can they step out of their comfort zones and place a few bets on some sportsmen and interests that are less obvious and yet lead to dramatic results?

Imagine if someone had signed on PV Sindhu before the Olympics. What dramatic gains might have ensued! Let’s hope for Indian badminton’s sake that PV Sindhu does not get sidetracked by the accolades and endorsements, and realises that the way ahead for her and Indian badminton will be upward only if it is built on her personal success on the court. 

Let’s wish her well, for we need more Virats and not only in cricket!

Monday, October 3, 2016

MNCs wake up to advertising in India

Smarter brands talk interestingly to Indians irrespective of their global nature
There have been many MNC brands that entered India with the objective of making history in this country with its vast middle-class population. Sadly, some have become history, while others, who initially lost their way, discovered the magic formula of sustaining here, a bit later.

The smarter ones, particularly those who came in later, realised that Indians don’t like to be talked down to. They found out that to succeed in this country, you need to talk to Indians in their language, use celebrities they adore and make advertisements not only in India but for India.
Yes ‘Make in India’ may be making waves in manufacturing right now but smart marketers have realised that for advertising in India to work, it must have the average middle class Indian squarely in the middle, instead of relying on something made elsewhere in a different cultural context, which has limited or no relevance here. 

The connect
So how do you do it?

For the purpose of this discussion, I am keeping out brands like Cadburys and the many brands of Hindustan Lever, which are more Indian than some of us. Indians were born into a country which had these brands and embraced them as readily as they did an Amul or a Nirma.

Post-liberalisation, names like Kelloggs, which came into the country, struggled as Indians did not take to breakfast cereals as easily as the rest of the world did. Imagine an idly-vada loving person like me accepting corn flakes or oats easily. In fact, some of us would have Kelloggs only when we had fever!

Though the road was arduous and success slow, Kelloggs hung in there, learning on the way. Now, it is one of the real choices available in most urban middle class homes. Some others who refused to learn (like Henkel) never really made it here as they refused to accept that India was different. Others like Wrigleys tried to classify India as another Philippines and were left behind... and so the story goes on. 

The real thing discovers Thanda
Coca Cola in the US was the market leader and it could be secure in its leadership. But it discovered that India was a different kettle of fish. Its attempt to buy Thums Up and kill the brand misfired. And Pepsi’s advertising in India built around its slogan of “Yeh dil maange more” was leaving Coke far behind.

Then the brand realised what other marketers always knew — the easiest way to get into Indian hearts was to use the nation’s heartthrob who would push the brand up the popularity charts.

And who else could do it better than Aamir Khan and his histrionic ability? Aamir and a smart script suddenly made India sit up and take notice of Coke.

Now, let’s move from colas to mobile phones. We all know the eternal love story that brews between the Indian consumer and mobile phones. Even as Nokia (with its Indian sounding name and models specifically created for India and Indians) was running away with market share, Motorola struggled with its poor strategy of trying to sell models that were essentially not required in the US. Its bland advertising didn’t help either, leaving everyone cold.

Then Motorola came up with a new phone and even better advertising that featured Abhishek Bachchan, whose commercials, for some strange reason, seemed better than his films! Suddenly, India started to take notice of the brand, and advertising had no small role to play in its revival.

Apni Dukaan
Closer to the present, Amazon, which is as big a global brand as you can think of, is playing its Indian card more than adequately. Though its rival Flipkart had a head start, Amazon has been trying to tell Indians that it understands India, its languages and its consumers. Its commercials, with the theme “Apni Dukaan”, try to build proximity with the Indian consumer, while also speaking of its enormous range.

Here’s one of the many commercials that the brand has done, featuring people from different age groups buying different products. It really understood the Indian consumer’s psyche, as this emotional commercial for Raksha Bandhan shows.

So too the commercial for Ganpathi and the superstition, that seem to be part of the average Indian psyche.  

Mom be a girl again
Most recently, Amazon’s campaigns portray how moms have missed out a large part of their interests and life because of following their children. One of its ads has an interesting storyline of a mom who used to love playing badminton, but gave it up to keep running after her grumpy child. One day, out of the blue, she is gifted a badminton racquet by her husband, which Amazon delivers. This, then, revives her memories and interest in a sport she almost gave up on. 


I like the commercial because of the consumer insight - that so many mothers give up so much for their children. And Amazon tries to give back their interests so they can be girls again. 

Yes, the smarter brands talk interestingly to Indians irrespective of their global nature. Is your brand being left behind?