Thursday, November 28, 2013


AAP – Aam Aadmi Party, the one name that is on everybody’s mind, has done things no one could have dreamed was possible. A spanking new party and it has already shaken up the whole political system and all the politicians too. It is an interesting case study for both politicians and corporates. When one looks at the political campaigning of AAP one finds close similarities with the Obama campaign of 2008. The scenario was similar. Back then no one gave Obama a second thought. It was Hillary Clinton who was the more popular  candidate. In India too no one gave Arvind Kejriwal a chance. Yes, he might win 2 or 3 seats was the popular opinion, but like Obama the man proved everyone wrong by not just winning more seats than Congress but defeating Sheila Dikshit, the almost invincible Chief Minister of Delhi. Kejriwal admits that he studied the Obama campaign very thoroughly and tried to use the same strategies to reach out to voters. Like Obama, who used the power of the youth to help him win, Arvind Kejriwal too used the young first-time voters to campaign for him. Like Obama he too used the power of the social media to create a large volunteer base and reach out to many people. Like Obama he too had the whole campaign planned out in the minutest of details (his were on excel sheets, while Obama spent millions on a software to track voters). Each polling booth was tracked and mapped and campaigned for with the ultimate goal being of getting 100% of the supporters of the party to the polling booth. In short, one can say Kejriwal did an Obama in India.

Obama showed the world how you could market a President like a box of breakfast cereal. Kejriwal too meticulously planned out a marketing campaign and built a new brand that the consumers would love. His USP (unique selling proposition) was not unique as Obama had used the same sentiments but was unique for Indians. No politician had ever spoken like this to its voters as him. He had a message that people loved ‘Aap (you) against the corrupt biggies’. He inspired people to vote for change – just like Obama. He positioned himself as the ‘common man’ which appealed to the electorate and his logo (jhaadoo i.e. broom), his packaging (Gandhi cap), his slogans (power to the common man) all were totally in sync with the positioning and made him stand out distinctly from other brands (read: Congress and BJP).

Yes, it’s easy to say that he copied Obama, but the fact is not everyone can copy. You need to be really creative to copy and succeed. Mitt Romney too tried to copy every move of Obama but failed. He too used the Internet, he too used the slogans, but in spite of the US economy being in such a bad shape Romney could not swing the voters to his side. The fact is you may copy an idea but you cannot copy a vision. That is exactly what true innovators have. More than being plain creative they are visionary

Copycats are actually smart cats!

Agreed that creativity is not everybody’s cup of tea. Not everyone can really invent something extraordinary which can change the world, as it requires a different kind of intellect. However, there are some people who may not be creators but have the unique ability to spot a good creation, a good idea and use it to their advantage. When you think of the light bulb you think of Thomas Edison. However, the fact is he never invented the light bulb. It was Joseph Swan, a British inventor, who obtained the first patent for it. Edison was however the first to see the potential of the idea and worked hard to improve it and make it practical. The light bulbs of the past were very expensive and they did not last long, only 150 hours. Edison worked very hard to solve these problems. His bulb lasted for 1,200 hours and was cheaper. In fact, most of the inventions that Thomas Edison claimed were his like the movie camera, the telegraph machine etc were actually just ‘improvements’. Someone else invented them. He had the ability to spot an invention and quickly understand its marketing potential.

When you think of the concept of ‘touch screen’ you immediately think of the iPhone. Apple did not invent the touch screen. It had been there for donkey years. Steve Jobs just found a novel way of using the technology to his benefit. Invented in 1960s by E. A. Johnson, it was used by IBM when it released the first smartphone named Simon. Jobs saw the potential of this technology and rocked the world with his smartphone, which he called iPhone.

When you think of social networking you think of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. However, Zuckerberg stole the concept from the Winklevoss twins who came up with the idea of connecting all Harvard students online.

Be it Edison or Jobs or Zuckerberg all of them had one thing in common – they were smart enough to spot an invention, copy it and modify it to make it consumer friendly and profitable. You have to agree that Edison’s bulb was way better than Swan’s, it took a lot of hard work to convert the concept of connecting Harvard students online into a Facebook, and the iPhone was a landmark in the history of smartphones. You may call it stealing but as Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. In a 1996 documentary titled ‘Triumph of the Nerds” Jobs too quoted Picasso and said “We have been shameless about stealing great ideas” (No wonder the new iOS 7 has stolen ideas from various operating systems like Android, BlackBerry, WebOS, MeeGo etc).

So if you can spot a good idea go ahead and shamelessly steal it.!

It requires a lot of creativity to copy

It requires a lot of knowledge and intelligence to identify a good idea. You need to be really smart. You need to know what to copy and more importantly where and how to use it. Thomas Edison was one such person. He was a shrewd businessman and knew which idea was worth working on. As he very famously once quoted “Keep on the lookout for novel ideas that others have used successfully. Your idea has to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you’re working on”. Exactly similar to Steve Jobs who did not invent the first computer, or the first smartphone, or the first tablet. He just knew how to use these inventions and make them market friendly and also make him a lot of money. He could spot a good idea immediately and could quickly figure out how to use it innovatively. That is the quality, which is very rare. There are many people with many great ideas, but very few who have the capability to execute it perfectly.

A great idea without great execution is a dead idea

The hottest social networking site today is, which is based on a brilliant idea. It allows users to send photographs to each other but the photos disappear within a few seconds. Reggie Brown, a Stanford student, came up with the idea. He shared it with his friends Spiegel and Murphy, but the two friends ran away with the idea shutting out Brown from the company, and Brown too is fighting for compensation (like the twins of Facebook). The other two friends are arguing that besides the idea he did nothing much, they did all the hard work. Let’s see what happens to Brown, but the fact remains that an idea in itself is nothing.

It’s interesting to note that a lot of success stories are based on simple ideas. They could be ideas that maybe you had thought of too, but the person running happily to the bank is the one who had the conviction to go ahead and do it.

Many would have wished for a site where they could share photos with their friends, Flickr went ahead and created a site like that. Many like me must have wished for a phone with a USB drive so that a lot more could be done with it – and maybe somebody will go ahead and make one too.

An idea on its own is not such a great deal however brilliant it is. Behind each successful idea is a drive, a passion, and a crazy desire to succeed. If you have that you need not worry about people copying your ideas. People have and will always do so. You, your ideas, your brand, your business will always have to face competition.

What you need to always remember is that your one great idea will only take you a certain distance so the thing you need to focus is on the ability to come up constantly with new ideas, keep looking out for new trends and developments and keep thinking how to innovatively use them and passionately back those ideas with hard work and make them super successful. What you should not worry about is who is copying your idea, for you cannot stop that.

If you want to be successful, if you want to be different do not hesitate to be a creative copycat!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Last month Wal-mart kicked off a reality television series for the web named ‘Get on the Shelf ‘. This series featured 20 finalists of Wal-mart’s contest by the same name. It’s aim being to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship and help some lucky ones get a break. The public was given 3 days to vote for their favorite entrepreneur .The winner of each episode , that is the one with the highest votes would then be allowed to sell his goods on  Out of these winners the ‘grand winner’ would be the one who would get the maximum pre-orders on This grand winner would then get the opportunity to sell his product inside the  Wal-Mart stores . It’s a dream for any brand, any businessman, to see their product on Wal-Mart store shelves, and this television series (for the web) will help someone’s this dream come true!

The key point here is – the winner will be the one who can ‘sell’ the most. In entrepreurship this is the key element. It is also an element that in spite of being so important is ignored by many. The fact remains that it does not matter how good your product is, rather what matters is how well you could ‘sell’ it. 

“Being an entrepreneur means being a salesman” – this was the key mantra for success that was given by Niklas Zennsrom more popularly known as the co-founder of Skype. He says the one who can sell is the one who will succeed in the game of entrepreneurship. In fact in spite of ‘salesmanship’ being such an important aspect of business not many b-schools till recently focused on this. It was the reverse . This was one aspect that was looked down upon. Not any more. A recent survey showed that people were keener to know how to start their own business and be their own boss. Students today are keener to do a ‘Masters in Entrepreneurship’ than a regular MBA (Forbes magazine). After all the success stories of this generation are companies like Twitter, Groupon, Facebook, Yelp, Instagram, Tumblr …. And the list goes on. What they all have in common is a young guy who knew how to ‘sell’ his dreams to others. It does not matter whether you have lots of money or no money –what matters here is whether you have a great idea –and more importantly the skill to sell that idea.

Sell! Sell! Sell!
The true mantra for success lies in the ability of an entrepreneur to sell his brand. The one who can do it best is the one who scores the highest.
Captain Nair wanted to open a resort in Goa and was ecstatic when he could finally buy a property there. However there was a slight problem , his property was located at the southern most end of Goa, and took more than an hour to reach . Most tourists preferred the old established properties near the airport and in the north of Goa. So even though The Leela had 7 star facilities yet it failed to attract tourists. Not to give up so easily, he thought of an innovative idea. All it required was one advertisement in the newspaper with a headline that invited tourists to rediscover the land where Vasco da Gama had first stepped on. This was enough to raise the curiosity of the tourists and there was a steep increase in the reservations. The Leela was soon packed with visitors! A successful entrepreneur is one who never gives up , who never says never !

Selling is not about selling !
Confused? That is the real secret of becoming a master salesman and hence a master entrepreneur. A true salesman is one who does not take ‘No’ for an answer. An ordinary salesman is one who allows you to say a ‘No’ and then moves on to the next prospect. So how do I get people to say ‘Yes’ all the time, or most of the time?

Let me  illustrate. When recession hit America in 2008, it was observed , among other things, that the sales of Swiss watches which for years had witnessed double-digit sales growth saw a drastic decline in sales. The only way to salvage the situation was to re-learn the art of salesmanship. More than 60% of the customers were going to a luxury watch showroom to not buy new watches rather to get their old watches serviced. So IWC, a luxury watch manufacturer brought in a trainer to train its staff. The first lesson he taught them was to never ever discuss the ‘price’ of the watch, rather to point out its ‘value’. Sales after all is about selling an emotion and the last thing that helped one make a sale was price. Before coming to the price you had to convince the consumer that what he was buying was of ‘value’ to him. For that you needed to understand what the customer was looking for and what according to him was the definition of value. Once you can find that there will be no need to discuss price or haggle about it.

After all sales is also about understanding the customer and offering him what he actually wants. The better you understood people the better your chances of selling. He taught the staff various tricks but the most interesting was one that he learnt from casinos. In the casinos the trick is to flatter the men and more importantly to distract their wives. The longer the wife stays the higher the chances of the men to splurge. He used the same technique of teaching his staff to keep the wife engaged and entertained. If she was bored she would immediately say ‘lets go’ and that would be the end of a sale! Take care of the wife the husband will take care of you! 

In fact if you genuinely care about people, then you eventually make a sale. If you only care about the ‘sale’ you most often fail to make the sale. Be it inside a posh luxury watch showroom or inside the shops on the street markets of Morocco the most successful entrepreneur is the man who understands people. As Philip Broughton says in his book ‘Life’s a Pitch’ it’s the ability to win the trust of people that makes you a great salesman. He quotes Steve Wynn the billionaire hotel and casino owner on the most profound business lesson he ever learnt. Wynn says employees should relate to people not as customer and employee but as two human beings. Once you do this you can close a sale faster and better. Chances of hearing a ‘No’ will be reduced.

When the internet marketing was in its nascent stages, a company called found a new way to gain customer confidence. It knew that the biggest drawback of online purchase of a shoe was – what if it was of a wrong size? It used this weakness to build on its most successful selling strategy – that of free easy returns. Now all those who were unsure of buying a shoe without trying were relaxed and as a result the company could sell millions of dollars worth of shoes. Today almost everyone is using this same strategy. 

So to be successful you need to first and foremost master the ability to sell and sell in such a manner that the other guy doesn’t get an opportunity to say a ‘No’.

Friday, September 27, 2013


The way we communicate has changed today. Branding is a dif ferent game altogether. The strat egy that was considered the right way to build a brand just a few years back is all wrong today. We, as market ers, were doing a great job all these years and then came Tim Berners-Lee and changed it all. He is the man who invent ed the ‘World Wide Web’. With more than 2 billion users the growth in the number of people using the Internet in 2013, as compared to 2000, has been 566%. Whoa! That’s humongous. It’s this Inter net which has created a unique genera tion of consumers called the ‘Millennial’. People in the age group of 18-34 fall in this category. Why are they so important? Let’s look at a few quick facts. 75 million is the population of the Millennials in US alone. In countries like India and Bangla desh most of the population is around this age. What it translates into is a few simple facts. By 2022 at least 30% of all retail sales will be to this generation, and by 2025 about 75% of the total car sales will be to this generation, making this age group the most important consumers. They are the consumers of the future and as brand builders it’s critical for us to make them believe in our brands. How ever, this generation is very different from its parents. They live differently, decide differently, and hate being marketed to, making things very difficult for marketers. Gone are the days when you picked up a Lonely Planet or any other travel guide book to know about a new destination you wanted to travel to. Today, you just ‘google it’ and can know more about the place, and even see real time videos of the place. You read books on the Internet and buy them through Amazon. If you want to change your job you don’t go to a placement agency but to LinkedIn. If you want an education many prefer to go on line than to a campus. In fact, even if you want to protest for a cause you do not need to go out on the streets rather you go to the Facebook page and ‘like’ it and voila you are a protester!

Reading, writing, travelling, protesting – you name it and it’s happening on the Internet. So, logically your brand building too should happen on the Internet.

 Consider this, when someone from this generation wants to buy a car he does not got to the company showroom or col lect the car company’s brochure. The first thing he does is visit various websites, at least 25 of them, and then goes to a showroom when he has almost made up his mind of what he wants. Very rarely is the salesman able to assert his influence, for it’s ‘third party reviews’ which hold more weight than the salesman.

It’s said knowing your audience is the key to building a great brand for then you know exactly what he wants. However, this time it’s going to be an uphill task just knowing the audience as these guys are different. All these years brands were built by connecting and engaging the customer at various ‘touch points’, and the traditional touch points used to be TV, print, radio, outdoor hoardings, and direct mailers. A close look at these touch points reveals that this new generation watches his favourite TV programme on YouTube, or records it on his set-top box and watches it by fast forwarding the ads. He does not wait for the morning newspaper to arrive to know what’s the latest for he can log on to Twitter and read the sum maries of the top headlines, or log on to the website and get the information. With live streaming of music he does not listen to the radio but tunes in to his iPod, MP3 player etc. Be it direct mail or e-mail most of them go in the junk box if they are promotions of brands. To top it all, with new laws coming in the number of hoardings is also fast decreasing. So, if this is the scenario then how do you ‘touch’ this guy?


 If you want to reach the new guys then there are certain things you need to forget.
(a)Forget physical media. Instead think digital.

(b)Forget traditional TV. Think of the second screen. Mobiles will be big in fu ture and most brand building activities will happen here.

(c) Forget mass, think personalization. Mass mediums like TV and print have lost a lot of their sheen. It’s mediums which can send customized messages to con sumers that will work.
You need to think like Amazon. Once you buy from it, the second time that you go there it knows you, and suggests things to buy that you may like depend ing on your past purchases. This is the personalization, the customization that the consumer of today wants. One size fits all no longer works. One campaign for TV, print, outdoor, radio, et al will not work any more. They say it’s the end of ‘lazy marketing’ and marketers & brand builders have to wake up and shake up and think of new ways to engage the consumer. Thanks to Facebook and oth er such sites today you can break up your customer base into micro segments. Pizza Hut, for instance, discovered that it had 17,000 different types of customers and planned different online campaigns which worked for the various groups.

(d)Forget creatives, think content. When Cadbury wanted to launch its new chocolate bar named ‘Bubbly’ it de cided to launch it not on TV or on radio but on Google+. No expensive ads were shot using pretty models, rather just the photograph of the product and details of the product were posted. The advantage – the buzz was created and sales started even before the company spent a single paisa on advertising! Unlike traditional mediums here the feedback from the consumer was very fast which helped the company streamline its strategy without wasting time and money.

Creatives are also losing their impor tance as companies like Facebook and Foursquare are today teaching you how to make advertisements which will work on their platforms. Everybody can be come a creative guy, he does not need to hire an ad agency for that. You can even log on to and they will customize a logo for you in 5 minutes. Anyway just vanilla advertising will not work anymore. It’s ads with good content, which clearly show the consumer why he should buy a product, are the ones that work these days.

(e)Forget monologues, think dia logues. You need to talk to him, connect with him and then market to him.

(f)Forget media planning. In the digi tal space media is practically unlimited so the role of media planning is limited here. Rather this time the marketer wants to know how effective their plan is. Softwares like ‘Lotame’, which help

(g)you in audience data management and track every dollar that you spent, will be more effective than traditional media planners. Google, IBM, Microsoft today offer numerous tools (like Google analyt ics) to help you plan your media spend.

If you want your ROI(return on invest ment) to be high you have to ensure that your ROR(return on relationships) is very high. The more you will invest in building relations and knowing your customer intimately the more stronger will your brand be. Barack Obama had profiled each potential voter of America and knew him inside out. As a result he could micro target his potential voters and convince them to vote in his favour.


As we realize that traditional forms of brand building are dead we need to re alize that traditional advertising will not work. For over 100 years the world of advertising had remained stagnant, now its all changing. Thanks to digitization, thanks to the recession, budgets are shrinking, clients are becoming more demanding. As a result Harley Davidson ditched its agency of 30 years, which was instrumental in making it big and giving it an iconic status, and instead signed up with a very small agency Vic tor & Spoils, for they understood the digital space like no one else. So did General Mills, Virgin America and many more. Kraft Foods, one of the companies with the largest marketing budget of about $1.6 billion, decided to work with a small crowdsourcing company Genius Rocket to market its brand of hummus. The simple reason being the Millennials are all in the digital space and only those who can understand how to mar ket to them will survive. All big brands are bending backwards to please these Millennials. Be it Walmart which for all these years has built a reputation of a big box store where you can buy a pin and a gun all under one roof has now come up with small size stores to appeal to the new kids. It’s calling them ‘Wal mart on campus’ for if these kids do not step into these stores its finished. Bud weiser has also introduced a new bow-tie shaped can to attract the Millennials.

A final thought. Let’s look at the most powerful brands for the year 2013. At number 1 is Apple followed by brands like Coca Cola, Lady Gaga, Amazon etc. It’s just a coincidence that these very brands are also the ones who have the largest fans of Facebook? Is it a coinci dence that while Mitt Romney spent $26 million on social media, Obama spent $52 million – and we all know who won the race.

So, if you want to survive in today’s market place adopt the new rules of branding.

Monday, August 26, 2013


At the risk of sounding extremely materialistic yet I always tell budding entrepreneurs and future leaders that an education in management teaches one among other things to become an expert in marketing products. It teaches one to understand the needs of the consumers and position the brand in such a manner that the consumer feels he / she needs the brand and goes and buys it. Most of the students of management are quick to learn this and by the time they graduate they are ready to impress the corporate world with their newly learnt skill of ‘marketing’. As david ogilvy once said “a great marketer can even sell snow to an eskimo”. Many management graduates pride themselves upon the fact that they can ‘market almost anything to anyone’, and most of them are actually pretty good at it too. So then all these so-called expert marketers must also be greatly successful in their careers?

Surprisingly that is not true. This is because these marketers learnt to market everything and anything but forgot to learn to market the most important thing and that is ‘marketing themselves’!


Amitabh Bachchan
The traditional way of marketing oneself was with the help of a good resume. Today you need to go a step further than that. You need to ‘brand yourself ’. Just listing your achievements in a resume will not take you far. You need to be able to ‘sell and market’ your achievements effectively. Here are some points to keep in mind.

Be Distinct: Now I see you

This is a fact that we all are being judged all the time, and whether we like it or not, whether we realize it or not, we are constantly selling ourselves. In the business world it’s all about branding. The most ‘well branded’ product rules the market share and the hearts of the consumers. To be really successful in the corporate world you need to ‘brand’ yourself. You need to ‘position’ yourself correctly so that people see you as you want them to see you. Do not wait for people to discover for themselves your real qualities, your true potential and your strengths. You need to show it to them yourself through correct branding. You need to find out that one thing you are best at and use all possible resources to build upon it.

Look at it this way, who was the ‘angry young man’ of Bollywood? Yes, it was Amitabh Bachchan. Even though he gave stellar performances in other roles, he ‘branded’ himself as the angry young man. Who is the most generous Bollywood star? Salman Khan. In fact, his charitable organisation ‘Being Human’ has helped him make his branding as the ‘most charitable star’ even stronger.

Salman Khan
Social networking sites are an interesting platform for one to start their personal branding. In June Former Secretary of State (US) Hillary Clinton joined Twitter. However, the thing that got the maximum attention was her bio that she had posted more than her tweets. She branded herself as “wife, mom, lawyer, women and kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD…” Where TBD stood for ‘to be decided’, with many interpreting it as a sign that she might join the Presidential race in 2016. If she does join, then it’s her personal branding that will help her differentiate herself from the other candidates, just the way Obama did. He came out of nowhere, but his personal branding was so strong, so bang on target that he was noticed and remembered and voted for. He branded himself as the man who could do it. ‘Yes we can’, “Change you can believe in”, have become slogans that you associate with him only. No wonder when Narender Modi chanted ‘Yes we can...’ in Hyderabad as he flagged off the BJP’s election campaign he came under a lot of criticism with some even labeling him as ‘fake Obama’. That is the power of a strong branding – nobody can copy you. As in business – Coke is the ‘Real Thing’, and Pepsi can never be known as that or Nike is ‘Just do it’ and Adidas can only say ‘Impossible is Nothing’ but cannot ask its consumers to just do it! When you find a distinct way to brand yourself people start seeing you that way too. So don’t just be an expert in marketing for its too vague. Make it more specific. An expert in social marketing is probably a little more specific.

Hillary Clinton
Apart from people and products today cities are branding themselves too. One of the most well branded cities is Las Vegas. It promotes itself as the place where you can do what you want and nobody will bother you, for its tagline says “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”! Yash Raj Films branded Switzerland as the country for lovers and Switzerland can never thank him enough for the countless couples who started going there after seeing Switzerland in Yash Chopra’s films.

The more focused your branding the more easy it is for people to remember you and identify you, for now they see you more clearly and distinctly.

Be Honest

A successful brand is one that is built on a unique concept but more importantly one that is built on the foundation of honesty. The reason Oprah is one of the most passionately loved celebrity (read brand) is because of her total honesty. She was brutally honest about her poverty-stricken past, her failures, her struggles with her weight and just about everything. So on her talk show when she motivated people and told them they could overcome their problems, they believed her. It made her a success and her show the biggest talk show in the history of television. The reason ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’ today has the highest TRP is not only because of the clean honest humor its host Kapil brings to the show but also because his total demeanor has sincerity and honesty around it, for he does not pretend to be someone else, and the audience love him for that. In just the same way the people loved Steve Jobs. It was not just his marvelous products but his honesty about his weaknesses his failures along with his successes that endeared him to his customers making the brand ‘Steve Jobs’ iconic and him a legend whose tales will be told and retold many times over.

Be Relevant: Keep upgrading

Barack Obama
We are all pretty much like softwares. Just as they need constant upgrades so do we. Once you have identified your unique and distinct branding strategy and started branding yourself most honestly you will see success but if you stop now you may be lost once again. You need to keep moving and keep modifying yourself to suit the needs of the changing times. If I go back to my old example of Amitabh Bachchan, then from the ‘angry young man’ to ‘the most stylish superstar’ the man has constantly changed and upgraded himself to remain relevant to the new generation too. Coca Cola is still the ‘Real Thing’ and it has managed to remain relevant by constantly finding new ways to brand itself.

Branding is all about standing out so that the target market chooses you over competition. If you want to be successful start by branding yourself first. Be as distinct as the McDonald arches, as iconic as Apple, as loved as Nike, as admired as Facebook, as desirable as a Rolls Royce. Look at any success story and behind that you will find a well planned branding strategy. It’s time you started thinking like a brand and crafting your own branding strategy. In today’s fast moving world only the distinct and the distinguished make it to the top. Remember the golden rule that success starts by first selling yourself and never forgetting that you too are a product!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Amitabh Bachchan made his debut in Hollywood with a small but well portrayed role in the film The Great Gatsby. If you have seen the film you too would have been mesmerized by the grandeur of it, but if you have seen it from a marketer’s point of view you would notice how intelligently the film has been made to include well-known brands. It’s actually overflowing with premium products. The top international designers Miu Miu and Prada for the movie designed more than 40 different cocktail gowns. Brooks Brothers designed the lead actor Leonardo Di- Caprio’s clothes. Moët & Chandon provided the champagne used in the film. The top-notch jewellery designer Tiffany & Co. created the jewellery.

However, this time it has been done differently. There may be no obvious close up shots that the brands need to depend on to be noticed in the film. This time the brands ‘invested’ in the movie too. Which implies that they have specially created products for the film and in their advertising and branding strategies would highlight this fact. Since these are all limited edition pieces the brands have a lot to benefit. Tiffany & Co., for example, has already got a list of clients who would want to buy these pieces as a ‘keepsakes’ since the designs are from an era long gone and a lot of people are there who would love to own something from that era.

Brooks Brothers have launched their own “The Gatsby Collection” which has suits inspired by the fashion of the 1920s. The brands in question will promote these new collections in their advertisements, which will benefit not just them but the movie too.

So in-film branding has now taken a different turn. Instead of a brand just putting its existing product in the movie now the trend is of brands customising their wares and even investing and creating products exclusively for the film. Brands are now co-investors in the films.


The latest James Bond film, Skyfall was produced at a cost of $200 million. Advertisers who wanted their brands to appear in the film along with Bond covered much of it. Traditionally Bond is supposed to drink a vodka martini ‘shaken not stirred’, but in Skyfall he drinks Heineken beer. $45 million is what it cost Heineken to replace the martini.

Bond is the ultimate brand ambassador. No wonder brands do not hesitate to spend millions to be a part of this exclusive club. Coke Zero, which features in the new Bond film, too, made an advertisement to drive home the fact that it was Bond’s favoured drink. The campaign was called “Unlock the 007 in you”. The campaign shows an interactive vending machine in a train station that challenges commuters to reach a particular spot in 70 seconds and win tickets for the Bond film. To make the task a little difficult and make the film a little more entertaining the customers who took up the challenge were stopped by carefully planted obstacles in the form of a beautiful woman in red calling out their name to a cart of oranges spilling in their path to falling suitcases etc. The campaign was a hit on YouTube and got more than 10 million views.

Back in Bollywood, product placement went a step further with the central character of the film being a brand. Yes you got it, the Yash Raj Films (YRF) produced Mere Dad Ki Maruti where Maruti Ertiga was the main character and the film revolved around it. Maruti in return bought 50,000 music CDs of the film to be given away to all its customers making the film’s music a platinum success! YRF in turn made 5 music videos featuring the car and ran it across 20 music channels. This just goes on to prove that in-film branding has taken a whole new form. Today, brands are almost equal stakeholders as the production house itself. It seems this arrangement seems to work for both and benefit both the parties.


In the film Delhi Belly Imran Khan is gifted a red car which looks like the Santro. One of his friends comments “When a donkey f***s a rickshaw this is what you get”. Even though the car had no branding yet the company Hyundai did not take it well and demanded that the derogatory reference be removed.

Reebok paid $1.5 million for product placement in the film Jerry Maguire. However, all through the film Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) kept rebuking Reebok for ignoring him and not sponsoring him. The company was promised a totally different deal. They were told that in the end the player would get a sponsorship deal from Reebok, but it never happened.

In the movie Transformers, one of the characters transforms into a Mountain Dew vending machine, a rather evil one, which kills people by shooting out soda, cans. It could make a few people think twice before going too near one! Product placement is fine, but you need to be very careful that the brand is shown in the right situations doing the right stuff. Something that Budweiser did not find itself in, in the film Flight starring Denzel Washington. There is a scene in the film where the alcoholic Whip Whitaker (played by Denzel Washington) opens a can of Budweiser while sitting behind the wheel of a passenger jet as he attempts to land it safely. The company asked the Paramount Pictures to remove their logo and make it obscure. This is not what they would want people to associate their brand with.

In the film Hangover 2 one of the characters is seen sporting a fake Louis Vuitton bag and in one of the scenes he remarks “Careful that is a Louis Vuitton”. Even though he misprounces the name the company has not taken it very sportingly and has sued the makers Warner Bros on grounds of trademark dilution, unfair competition etc. A company called Diophy, which specializes in fakes, creates the fakes used in the film!


All this just goes on to prove that in-film branding works, or else brands would not invest so much in both making sure that they are seen in the right films as well as making sure they are not seen in the wrong films.

Nokia paid a staggering 30 million pounds to make Superman use its phone in the film Man of Steel. An astounding 94 product placement deals were made for the film raking in 100 million pounds for the producer Warner Bros.

It is so powerful that China is using this to change its country’s image. Last year a new agreement was signed between China and US concerning product placement. The agreement is between Dreamworks Animation Studio and China for setting up a joint venture in- Shanghai. This deal would give China access to films produced in America . The movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon premiered in Shanghai and became a huge hit. However, the more important part is that the movie featured some of the Chinese homegrown brands like Lenovo, Yili Milk, TCL etc. Add to this the fact that after the US the most profitable market for the film was China. It seems to be the perfect case of ‘winwin’ for both the players. China has long been known as the manufacturing hub of the world but it now wants more. It wants to be known as the nation of great brands, for this will give it the image it so desperately desires. China is turning to films to change the image of its brands and give them that ‘worldclass’ touch. In-film branding gives brands a unique aura. Add to that the thrills of having a captive audience for 2 to 3 hours (at a time when technology has reduced attention span of customers like crazy). All of these factors go on to make in-film product placements a huge opportunity for marketers. So even though cinema goers may not really take it well that Superman – the man of steel – uses Gilette to shave, drinks Budweiser, throws around only Chrysler cars, or wears spectacles by Warby Parker, the fact is you and I are talking about it and that is what the brands want!

So while some may criticize it but the fact remains that in-film branding works, always. Right from the time when the first brand Hershey’s chocolate was featured in the silent film Wings in1927 till date it does create an impact. Be it the Hyundai Santro in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, or in Delhi Belly or Bournvita in Koi Mil Gaya, or Coke in Taal, or Thums Up in Hum Aapke Hai Kaun, or Switzerland in Silsila or South Africa in Cocktail, everybody has benefitted from the association. Be rest assured that this is one branding technique that will never fade. Brands and Bollywood, Hollywood and all other woods will always be best friends forever!

Friday, June 21, 2013


Prof. Rajita Chaudhuri on 'DO YOU REALLY WANT IT!'
Michael Dell was in India recently. While addressing an audience he was asked, what is the secret of becoming a successful entrepreneur? His answer was something that surprised everyone. He said, “You need to be crazy!” If people call you crazy take it as a compliment for it means you are doing something that has never been done before! An entrepreneur is someone who dares to take risks, who dares to go off the beaten path. In fact, that is actually what success truly means. However, the irony is that it is success that prevents us from taking risks. Once we are successful we are too scared to change and do something different. Sticking to the same way of doing things seems to be the safest way to prevent failure. Take the case of a singer. Once his song becomes a hit he continues to make songs which are similar to the hit song, for fear that if he attempts something different it may not appeal to his fans. Same is the case with actors, painters, and even entrepreneurs! Once they find their ‘comfort zone’ seldom do they want to venture too far away from it?

However, a true business leader is one, who does not fear change, rather thrives on it! This is the only way to maintain your success, otherwise most often you may find yourself being left behind. Success comes not just when you do something different but when you continuously keep reinventing yourself. The ability to identify the changing needs with changing times is the key to long lasting and continuous success.


The people who can change with changing times are the ones who have a unique ability, and that is – to think different. The ability to think different keeps you ahead of others, beat competitors, and even tide over bad times. No wonder the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity took place in 2010 when the economy was in a slump (according to research done by Kaufman Foundation). Although logically starting a new business during times of recession sounds illogical, as it’s very risky to start something new and if times are bad the chances of failure become even higher, 2010 saw the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity and highest rate of innovation. It’s said when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Hence, the tough times saw the birth of the most ingenious of businesses. “Hangover Helpers” is one such business that two college boys named Regis and Kelly started. After partying all night, the next morning is the worst. You have a hangover, a messy house, and no energy to sort it out. This is where the ‘Hangover Helpers’ come in. They come with breakfast, energy drinks and cleaners who make you and your apartment sparkle once again! A simple idea, a little crazy too, but they were the first to think about it and have the courage to actually implement it, and they sure have hit the bulls eye, for these boys have been featured in Forbes magazine, on various talk shows on TV, and they have their hands full with so many hangovers to take care of!

Colonel Sanders, Founder, KFC
Alex, a marine biology student, went to visit an aquarium. And while others were admiring the different species of fishes, a business idea struck him. He realised that the most popular exhibit was the jellyfish exhibit and decided to sell jellyfish tanks! His business has been doubling its profits quarterly, and he now supplies jellyfish tanks all over the world. You could order one too from!

Crazy they may sound but if you look closely all these business ideas were based on a deep understanding of human needs. When Josh Opperman saw his fiancée walk out on him just three months after the engagement he was devastated sure, but not blinded with grief. He saw an interesting opportunity here. He started a website called ‘I do now I don’t‘ just to get even with his fiancée. The site, which has been featured in The New York Times, on CNN and various other mainstream media, is now a big hit. You can sell your engagement ring to other buyers at a price better than the one offered by the jeweller from whom you bought the ring in the first place. Sounds like a crazy idea, but think about it, right from the name to the ‘value for money’ proposition, everything fits so well and connects so well with the consumer and his needs. It’s a well-packaged deal!

Finally, successful entrepreneurs are those who not just had an apparently crazy idea but knew how to market that idea well too. Consider the story of this young army officer Nair, who left the army and joined his father-in-law’s handloom business. His factory used to manufacture a fabric that was dyed using vegetable dyes. As a result the colour would bleed with every wash. When he exported the fabric to US the buyer was furious when he found consumers complaining that the colour was not fast. He threatened to sue Nair. But Nair was unperturbed. He told the American buyer “Why did you not put washing instructions on the garment stating clearly that the fabric bleeds with every wash?” The buyer was confused, and then Nair explained that this was the speciality of the cloth. It was meant to look different after every wash! An article in the popular fashion magazine named ‘Seventeen’ picked up this fascinating concept and soon the fabric became a craze in the West. Now everybody wanted the ‘Bleeding Madras’ fabric. That’s the power of packaging a concept correctly. This same Nair invested in a beach property in Goa. However, the problem was that this property was located in the south of Goa, while almost all tourists went to the north of Goa. As expected no one came to his hotel. Once again he put on his thinking cap and this time came up with an advertisement, which said that the last man to walk on this beach was Vasco da Gama. It intrigued a lot of people and he says in one day he got 1,000 queries. The resort sold out and since then there was no turning back. Yes, you guessed it right. The man in question is the Founder of The Leela Palaces Hotels and Resorts (named after his wife Leela) and his property The Leela Goa is today a very successful and happening resort. However, the more interesting part is that it was at the age of 65 that Nair decided to close down his textile business and think of venturing into the hotel business. Yes, it would have sounded like a totally crazy idea at that time to think of starting something at this age when most people are planning their retirement and that too a business that he had no formal training in. But he believed in himself and today, at 91, he is one of India’s biggest success stories!


Captain C. P. Krishnan Nair, Founder, The Leela Group,Captain C. P. Krishnan Nair was not born rich but that did not stop him from dreaming big, even at the ripe age of 65 when he founded The Leela Group. The world is filled with similar such stories. This lady had a career in embroidery but later shifted to painting. She had no formal training but painted in her own style, drawing from memory and capturing American rural life. Initially her paintings sold for $5. In 2006 she sold one for $ 1.2 million! She was featured on the cover of Time magazine and Life magazine. Books were written on her and even a commemorative stamp was issued in her honour! What makes the story more remarkable is the fact that success came to her at the age of 80! She lived to be a 101 and in the last year of her life made 25 paintings!

He was a 52-year-old salesman of a milkshake mixer. Then one day he received an order for 8 mixers. He was intrigued for there was hardly any demand for the mixer, as it was a dying product. He went to visit the restaurant. What he found amazed him even more. The restaurant was simple with a small menu of hamburgers, fries, and beverages. He saw a potential and advised the two brothers who owned the restaurant to expand, and offered his services to become their agent and help them sell the franchisee. Six years later Ray Kroc had bought over the corporation and in a matter of time he had spread it across the world. By 2003, a McDonald’s restaurant could be found in 119 countries, making it one of the biggest restaurant companies in the world.

Ray Kroc, Predominant establisher of the McDonald’s CorporationHe started his career as a chef and then a salesman and finally had a stint in the Intelligence Service at the British Embassy in Washington. The job at the embassy was too stressful and he left it to buy a small farm and lead a calm life. However, at 37, without any formal training and any knowledge about the business, he opened an advertising agency, which we today know as Ogilvy & Mather. David Ogilvy had never written an advertisement before but he was confident of his ability of understanding people. He was the one who made Dove a huge success when he wrote a simple headline that read, “Dove is one-quarter moisturizing cream”. Many more fantastic ads came out from his agency and soon O&M was a big empire.

Colonel Sanders was 65 when he thought of a chicken recipe that he could sell to restaurants and make money. After being rejected 1,009 times he finally found success and today we enjoy his fried chicken recipe at the KFC restaurants. The old man you see on every KFC outlet is Colonel Sanders. Let that image be a source of inspiration and let it keep reminding us that success comes to those who are crazy and crazy ambitions come with no age limit! You just need to really want it!

Saturday, April 27, 2013


The big players of TV are a little worried and it’s all because of a small company named Aereo, an upstart which wants to change the way we view television. No wonder all the big firms from NBC, ABC, CBS to Fox have all sued it but its CEO Chet Kanojia (who incidentally is a native of Bhopal) is not worried at all for he is absolutely sure of what he is doing. Aereo TV, simply put is an ‘online TV service’. The modus operandi of the company is simple. Kanojia has made very small antennas. Each user is assigned one antenna which grabs the broadcast-TV signals from the air and with the help of a software those signals are aired to the user. Not just this, the signal can be aired to any device which the user opts for – his mobile, his PC, or even his TV set. What this translates for the user is: a) he does not need to pay the hefty cable fees, and b) he can now watch his favourite TV programme anywhere. He could be stuck in traffic and watch it on his mobile, or in office on his PC. Kanojia saw a loophole in the copyright act and made the most of it, which is why in spite of his company being sued twice he seems undeterred and has in fact won both times. Not just that, today he is sitting on a funding of $38 million with the help of which he would spread his network, which is currently available only in New York, to 20 more cities.

Kanojia saw a gap in the system and filled it up with his service. According to him, everything will soon migrate to the Internet including TV. The youth today is more loyal to a TV programme and not a TV channel. He wanted the freedom to watch it whenever and wherever he pleased. Add to that the fact that he did not want to pay for the channels he did not watch, but under the current system he had to pay for a package. Aereo, on the other hand, gave him just what he wanted.

Whether Aereo really makes it big and becomes the next best thing is debatable and only time will tell. However, it has an important lesson for all to learn and that is ‘never fear to challenge the big players or the best ideas’. You may turn out to be a game changer.


The way students learn is going to change in times to come. Some predict that with the advent of the Internet online classrooms, one-on-one interactive sessions may become the norm and shake up the classic lecture theatre model. Scientists from Stanford have already created a platform where universities can offer their courses and students have the freedom to choose different courses from different universities. 12 leading universities have already joined this portal, giving students greater access to the best courses across the globe.

Higher education in the future will see a dramatic change. One person who has been a pioneer in this is Gene Wade, the Founder of ‘UniversityNow’ which provides university courses online at a nominal fee. The students can pace out their courses at very nominal fees. Gene Wade’s vision is to make higher education ‘debt-free’ so that students do not carry the burden of heavy loans. He wants to provide high quality and affordable education to as many students as possible. He is a man a lot of people are sitting up and noticing as he had made university as cheap as your phone and cable bills and has already got 4,000 students! Not just universities but even banks are watching his moves carefully. He is going to change a few rules in education. Just the same way as Mark Shuttleworth changed the way people buy software. If Windows (Microsoft) charged a premium for its software then Shuttleworth decided to give it for free. He named it “Ubuntu”, an African word that means ‘humanity to others’, and dared to challenge the biggest player in the market. If Ubuntu can catch and retain the attention of the consumer then it has the potential to shake up this industry too.


The smart entrepreneur needs to constantly look out for changes in the business environment and change too or else be prepared to be left behind. When people asked Michael Dell last year whether it was the end of the PC era he rubbished the idea. Even when, in 2011, the sales of the PC (personal computer) declined by 1% no one thought much about it. However, the next year sales were down by 14% and then again 14%. What took Dell and Microsoft time to realize was the fact that the consumer had

moved on. He had moved on to the ‘tablet’ or the ‘smartphone’ as a replacement for his PC. What that meant was that in the past while 95% of all desktops and laptops were controlled by Microsoft now hardly 50% of the users were using that device and hence Windows. People today would prefer an interesting app like Box, or Huddle, or even a free platform like Ubuntu than pays for Windows. The company failed to move with the times. It had such a good grip over the market yet it lost out to the fast changing times.

However, one company has been keeping up with the changing times perfectly and that is Samsung. Apple used to be the one who changed the game for many businesses. Be it portable music players or notebooks or phones, its iPods, iPads, and iPhones changed the rules for all these categories. Samsung, on the other hand, did the same for the ‘lower-price category’ in all these segments. Today, it has launched so many products of such good quality and of such affordable price that it is giving Apple a tough time to cope with it. If Apple boasted of the world’s best designers in-house then Samsung went and hired the best designers from the best places and today its products are as beautiful. It has gone on a rampage by launching numerous new products, spending $38 billion in acquisitions and keeping its employees constantly on their toes to keep innovating and creating. Apple, the original game changer, might get replaced soon if it does not keep up with the changing times. Apple has it all. It is the original king, but it needs to get real aggressive to safeguard its kingdom, before it’s conquered by someone faster!

Even though its product had faced the maximum criticism in the world yet this company in 2012 ranked No.7 in the list of ‘Most Valuable Brands in the World’ . The brand is Marlboro and its brand value was $73.6 billion, just a little lesser than Coca-Cola, which at No.6 had a brand value of $74.3 billion. The reason being as times changed so did the company and its marketing strategies. Launched as a cigarette for women it quickly changed its theme to ‘The Marlboro Cowboy’ when it saw that just marketing to women did not work. It became the most ‘masculine’ cigarette. Then, when reports started coming in of how cigarettes cause lung cancer, it added a filter, and market share increased once again. To keep the interest in the brand alive it slowly shifted from the ‘cowboy’ theme to that of ‘Marlboro Country’. Then, when government and social regulations prohibited the company from advertising, it switched to a different strategy. Glossy advertisements were changed to in-store advertisements, mail coupon promotions etc. Marlboro packets were placed near check out counters for greater visibility. The company announced annual sweepstakes through mail. You could win a few dollars off on a carton of Marlboro or even a holiday to the ‘Marlboro Ranch’. Some lucky ones even won land in Montana! The company has been on its toes all the time, very agile, very swift, and is still such a valuable brand. Ethical or not, well, we don’t debate on that but as marketers this should serve as a lesson in innovation and the rewards of innovation and of changing strategies along with the changing times. This year American TV once again saw an advertisement of cigarettes. The last one was seen in 1971, on January 1, when Virginia Slims ran its final commercial one minute before the midnight deadline of the ban. This year the cigarette used was a little different. It’s an ‘e-cigarette’, a smokeless cigarette made by a company named NJOY King. They were invented in 2003 but are becoming popular with every passing day, with sales doubling every passing year. If the trend continues NJOY may just turn out to be the ‘game changer’ and steal all the market share from right under the nose of the big tobacco manufacturers. The victory will be well deserved for the last time someone innovated a cigarette was when the ‘filter’ was introduced in 1952 or the flip-box in 1954. NJOY might make traditional cigarettes history very soon.

Times are changing at breakneck speed and if you don’t think different you could be left behind. If you don’t question and challenge the big guys you may lose out. If you don’t believe in being a game changer you could become the biggest loser. So, stop doing what you have always been doing. Be a game changer, think different and dare to change the rules of the game. It’s the best strategy of survival.

Monday, March 18, 2013


What do you do if you are a pizza parlour and the neighborhood where you are supposed to deliver your pizzas has people from over 200 nationalities who speak equally varied number of languages? Dubai based Red Tomato found a way to solve this problem – with the help of a fridge magnet. This magnet is connected with the bluetooth of the user’s mobile phone. He just presses the button, selects his choice of pizza online and orders it. Now it no more mattered which language you spoke; you always got the pizza you wanted. Deliveries increased by about 500%!

In 2011 IPL used the mobile phone to spread awareness about the cricket series. It used the SMS2.0 service. All those who used this app to send text messages were shown a banner ad of the series. While their message was being sent the banner ad became full screen where the user could see options like check the score, read more, download ringtones etc. The company received more than 16 lakh impressions and more than 35,000 ringtone downloads!

Lego has found a way to be relevant to the young generation and has found a way to compete with video games for market share. All you required was the special edition box of the Lego blocks, and the mobile app ‘The Life of George’ downloaded on your smartphone. The mobile app beams images which you have to make with your blocks within a time period specified by the app. With every successful attempt you move up levels. There are no estimates available of the sales figures, but it generated 294 million page impressions!

In Stockholm McDonald’s created a digital billboard on which passers-by were invited to play table tennis using their phone’s touch screen. So it was you and your mobile versus the interactive billboard. If you lasted for 30 seconds you won yourself free goodies from the nearest McDonald’s outlet. An electronic coupon was delivered on your mobile phone which could be redeemed at the nearest McDonald’s outlet, directions to which were also sent along with the coupon. 460 people played in 5 hours and 400 of them actually went and cashed their coupons resulting in increased footfall.

Talking of free goodies, now you can send a free Coke to anybody in any part of the world along with a message. Coca-Cola has installed special vending machines which can be accessed through your mobile phone. At the touch of a button a Coke bottle is delivered to who ever you want to deliver – even a complete stranger – along with a personal message. Using your phone you can even see who got your Coke and what was his reaction!

The one thing common between all these examples is the use of mobile phones for increasing customer engagement. It is the gadget of the future, and is fast becoming the most effective way for brands to reach out to their customers.


Google is a very happy company this year. Its stock prices have been increasing constantly. Over the past year its stock has increased by 30%. One of the main reasons was its ability to successfully monetize its mobile user base. The company’s mobile ad division is today its second largest division. Mobile revenues have doubled from 2011 to 2012. It is precisely because of this that Facebook’s IPO fizzled last year. Just before the highly anticipated initial public offering it revealed that it was not making any significant revenue from its mobile website, in spite of more than half its 900 million members using the service on their mobiles. This year Facebook’s revenues from ads on mobile devices touched $305 million. Today, the company claims to be a ‘mobile-first advertising company’, according to its Product Director of ads Gokul Rajaram.

In the beginning of last year e-commerce website eBay estimated that it would make $10 billion in mobile revenues. By the end of 2012 the company had touched $13 billion. This year it is sure to touch $20 billion. According to its Senior Director for mobile commerce Olivier Ropars, business is all about ‘connected commerce’. It is the ability to shop anytime, anywhere and a mobile is the perfect device for that. According to him, one third of all eBay transactions are ‘touched’ by the mobile. No wonder eBay invested in mobile apps and today its mobile apps have seen a download of 120 million.


A few days back the South African Tourism issued a tender to find a UK agency to manage its website and digital creative for the next three years. This is a new trend that is emerging as clients are slowly but surely venturing into the online space and experimenting with new ways of promoting their goods and services. This is a trend that is worth observing as billings of advertising agencies are dropping every year. According to “Campaign Magazine”, a survey done by Nielson revealed an overall decline in billings of the top 100 creative agencies and the top 50 media agencies in the year 2012. The largest media agency, WPP owned MediaCom too posted a billing of £1.1 billion this year which is huge. However, considering the fact that this figure is 9.2% lower than 2011 once again highlights the fact that traditional advertising is changing.

Interestingly, last year (2012) the elite Cannes Lions advertising festival introduced a new category for awards called “Best Mobile Advertisements”.

Late Steve Jobs too is responsible for the increase in mobile advertising. He made big screens fashionable, and today all smartphones have oversized screens. This gives advertisers space to place their advertisements with minimum annoyance to the user. Moreover, thanks to the advancement in ‘Analytics’ there are now softwares that give you exact details about the performance of your mobile advertisements. What in turn it means is that for the first time marketers have a clear idea of whether their advertisement is effective or not, if its reaching the right customers etc.

If Apple showed the world the benefits of a large mobile phone screen then Samsung has shown marketers how to make good use of it. The new Samsung Galaxy S4 launched a few days back has an interesting feature called the ‘smart pause’. Utilizing the phone’s facial recognition software, videos will pause whenever a viewer looks away. What it would mean to marketers is, it would give them an idea of how engaging their content is. If its relevant the most viewers would not look away, it’s as simple as that. Of course, the feature has yet to prove itself, but the point here is everybody is looking at the mobile for the next big leap. Mobile marketing, be it through mobile ads or mobile videos, is going to grow.

Mobile marketing is soon going to become the most practical way of marketing your goods or services. The possibilities are almost limitless. There are mobile apps, mobile web, digital advertising and a plethora of other channels available to marketers to help them create marketing campaigns. If you are a marketer you need to seriously start planning around this. The only thing stopping you will be your creativity.

The number of mobile phone owners is increasing exponentially, the number of people owning smartphones is increasing (according to a recent statistic, 1.038 billion smartphones are in use, which in simple words means that 1 in every 6.7 people on the planet use one), the availability of WiFi is increasing. The number of people using the mobile to browse the web is increasing very fast as compared to desktop browsing, which revealed an interesting phenomena that 67% of mobile web users are more likely to buy from a mobile-friendly website and an almost equal number said they would shift to a competitor’s website if it was mobile friendly (a survey by Moovweb showed that almost 52% of the retailers surveyed did not have a mobile friendly website). That just makes perfect business sense to think mobile. Every smart marketer is today thinking beyond traditional media and shifting to mobile and social. It’s time you did the same.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


A simple arithmetic question for you: ‘A bat and ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?’ If you answered ‘10 cents’ you also probably are not aware of the ‘less obvious rules of success’. I will try to discuss a few here – the most obvious ones at least. Just as the obvious answer that 90% of the readers gave was actually the wrong answer (the right answer is 5 cents for the ball and a dollar and five cents for the bat), similarly the rules of success are the ones we most often tend to overlook. Success comes from strange quarters and with strange reasons too. Decades ago, an interesting book “What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School” became a best seller. The author had then tried to show how the most obvious things are not being taught, the things that actually impact our careers. Even today, most people are not aware of many similar things.


A research by Classes and Careers revealed some interesting secrets about how to successfully crack interviews. While most of us will spend hours learning the important answers and pouring over the course and trying to mug up as much as possible, as many important points as possible, it’s the smart ones who do that little bit extra, which is the difference between success and failure. The biggest game changer in the interview process are the ‘non-verbal’ cues. It is not so much what you speak, rather what you don’t speak which creates the maximum impact. If you falter here it might cost you your job!

Failure to make eye contact is one of the biggest mistakes. A good eye contact shows a confident personality. When you look at people, they look back at you! When you do not look at people they do not take you seriously and they do not trust you either. It’s a simple rule – liars tend to avoid eye contact. Eye contact is in fact the most important rule for survival and yet it is one of the most overlooked aspects of communication. In the animal kingdom, the dominant male is the one who can outstare other animals in his pack. If the contest turns out to be a draw, a battle ensues. If you stare at an animal, there’s a good chance it will either attack you, or pee on the floor. We humans aren’t much different. Keep looking at the person with whom you are having a conversation; however, do not stare. This is the tricky part. The most frequently asked question is “How do I look and not stare?” Well, there is a formula to help you get it right and solve this problem of yours. The simplest way to get started is by putting the 5 & 7 guide into action. This means, when speaking maintain eye contact for 50% of the time, when listening maintain it for 70% of the time. When you use eye contact properly, you avoid staring but still display interest and confidence. Eye contact is a powerful tool, and should be used wisely. In the end remember never ever to look at your cell phone to check a text message or a call. This not just causes loss of eye contact but also your job. The non-verbal message you send is ‘this interview is not the most important thing right now’.

The second thing to keep in mind is the way you dress. This is probably more important than the way you answer questions. An interview is all about making the best impression and the right dress will help you do that. A good degree, knowledge etc will take you a certain distance, but the right clothes will take you all the way. Ignore the rule ‘dress to impress’ and you may lose your job. The best way to impress is to be yourself. No one knows this better than Indira Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo and today one of the most powerful women of the world. For her first interview she went dressed in an ill-fitting business suit and orange snow boots. Her appearance elicited a collective gasp of horror from the people there and as expected she did not get the job. For her next interview, she decided to follow the advice of her professor at Yale University and went in a sari. His advise to her was, she had to be herself and most importantly be proud of who she was. She went for the interview relaxed, more confident and smart, and Boston Consulting Group recruited her immediately. At the interview table, you are being sized up continuously and it’s these little things that count. Ask yourself, who do you remember after watching a talk show or a reality show? Not necessarily the person with the best points but the one with the best dressing sense. Many people tend to overlook this one point, but its importance cannot be denied. Years ago, Mark Twain said the same thing: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.” Even today, your clothes could decide your success or failure, especially so if the interviewer has to decide between two similar candidates! You could influence his choice and swing the vote towards you by just dressing right.


The most non-obvious rule is, “Most of the times, people do not care about what you speak at all!”

Most speeches are forgotten faster than you can say ‘forget it’. Most of what we learn while attending a lecture is forgotten in the first one hour. In fact, education itself is defined not on the basis of what you remembered, but what you could not forget! “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school,” said Einstein. This is a fact. We very quickly forget most of the actual words, sentences, but what we don’t forget is how we felt.

While giving a speech, the focus should be on the way of speaking and not on the content. More often than not, it is the tone of the voice, the expressions on the face that matter, more than anything else. The most important thing is how you made the other person ‘feel’ with your words and actions. This is the one aspect, we do not think of at all in most of our communications and it is the most important. The most important rule to remember here is ‘if he feels cared for, then he will care for you too’. Be it the audience inside the auditorium, be it the stakeholders, the rule remains the same. A research has proved that it does not matter in business whether your project is on time, or if you do things within your budget, etcetera... Rather, the factor that decides whether the stakeholder will be happy with you and your company is if he ‘feels cared for’!

Many times, we underestimate the importance of non-verbal cues when meeting with stakeholders. In an experiment, it was shown that customers who were physically greeted when entering a place of business rated their experiences significantly higher than if they were met by someone behind a counter. Even within an organisation (remember employees are your first customers), it is better to walk down the corridor and speak to an employee than to call, e-mail or text. You make them feel special. Just like a mother who rushes to greet her child with open arms. She does not need to say it, but the child feels wanted and loved. We all thrive on non-verbal cues, yet most of the time we forget to use them or read them.

It is the ability of a person to read the non-verbal cues, which decides the success of a relationship, a business meeting, negotiations or even a game of poker! According to David Hayano, author of ‘Poker Faces’, if a player suddenly throws his chips forcefully on the table or suddenly behaves in a brash manner, it may be a non-verbal cue that his cards are weak. Similarly, while negotiating, if a talkative party suddenly becomes quiet, it could be an indication that he is hiding something. The author says that if someone starts over-talking and backslapping, it is an indication that he has very little to offer. It’s these non-verbal cues that determine the success of a negotiation. It is the many revealing body signals that may indicate a hidden agenda. When executives sit on a negotiating table, very few have the ability to read these cues. One simple rule to follow is never lose eye contact with the other person. Even if he tells you to read the papers, don’t make the mistake of looking down. Instead, ask him to give a gist of it as this will give you the chance to not lose eye contact and assess his non-verbal cues better. As decades ago Lord Chesterfield wrote to his son, “Learning is acquired by reading books but the much more necessary learning – the knowledge of the world – is only to be acquired by reading men, and studying all the various editions of them.” The one who can read people like a book is the best player, the best negotiator.

Before I end, one last teaser: “A clerk at a butcher shop stands five feet ten inches tall and wears size 13 sneakers. What does he weigh?” Answer is “He weighs ‘meat’”! Come on, he is a butcher after all!

The bottom line is, we as humans tend to overlook the obvious. Success comes to those who are most aware about these small, seemingly insignificant rules of success. So start looking.

Friday, January 18, 2013


The New Year will, as always, bring with it a change. For marketers too it will be a year of looking at business, at consumers, at strategies, at investments, even at job profiles in a different manner.

IBM is in the business of computers. Well, so you thought, for it does much more now. This year, it is also in the business of selling what is known as ‘trend detection’ to marketers. The hottest trend in fashion, music, etc this year is predicted to be ‘the Steampunk movement’. Who predicted it? Yes, IBM! It developed a model using proprietary software that studied various conversations happening in various networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc for years and also in the numerous blogs, and discovered that “Steampunk” was being mentioned more and more frequently and hence predicted that this was a trend to stay. It has been proved right as the popularity of this trend is increasing. Even the fashion label Prada launched its new fashion line with ‘Steampunk’ as the theme. What started as a literary subgenera in the 1980s is today a hot selling fashion trend. Now, IBM is offering its services to brands where it can help them predict and identify new trends with the help of its new software and be better prepared for the future. It is no more the traditional computer manufacturer.

Think about it, the job of a singer is to sing well; and if he is popular, he gets to endorse brands. Not anymore!, the lead singer of the band The Black Eyed Peas, just proved it wrong. Unlike other rock stars, his brand endorsements are different. When Coke wanted to sign him up as their brand ambassador, he convinced them instead to start a new division ‘Ekocycle’ (look carefully it’s actually Coke spelt backwards) and endorse that. He had deeply studied the company profile and found that this was an idea which would benefit both him and Coke, something no brand ambassador is expected to do. Rather, it’s the reverse as brands study the profile of the star to see if he fits well with the brand! This new division would promote ‘recycling’, with each product being labelled, stating clearly how many bottles were recycled while manufacturing the product. For example, a pair of headphones uses three bottles. The idea was a huge success, and today Coke and divide the profits equally from this division. Not just this, Coke probably for a very long time, will not change its brand ambassador either and many companies would be lining up at Will’s door to sign him up. Will has proved that it pays to not just be the traditional brand endorser, but to go a step beyond. Soon gone would be the days of many things traditional, one of them being shopping!

Definitions are changing, lines are blurring in the New Year. Let’s see how things will change even more everywhere.


Mobiles are blurring the differences between traditional industrial boundaries. A few years ago, Amazon was known as an eretailer while eBay was an online auction site, and Apple made personal computers. Today eBay, Apple, Amazon, and many more are all e-retailers and all are investing in ‘mobile technology ‘ very heavily as for each of them, the future business depends on this. Just focusing on the traditional channels of distribution, promotion will not work anymore. You need to integrate as many channels as possible and blur boundaries.

Home Depot, a brick and mortar outlet, sells home improvement goods, but now it also invests heavily in virtual technology to help increase sales. It now offers a ‘mobile wallet’ so that the customer can pay via PayPal at the cash counter. This has increased its turnover and customer satisfaction. eBay invested $5 billion in mobile technology. The God of all integrations and innovations – Apple – now allows customers to walk into their retail store, scan the bar code with their phone cameras, pay through iTunes and walk out. It’s the best omni-channel retailer in business today. If you want to succeed in the future, you too need to focus towards becoming an ‘omnichannel retailer’, or multi-channel retailer.

Godiva today does not just concentrate on making the best chocolates in the world but spends considerable time studying its consumers’ online history too and customize its campaigns almost immediately on the basis of customer reactions. For example in one case, they tested three different price points for free shipping qualifications. A, B and C, with ‘A’ as the highest price and ‘C’ as the lowest price. Everyone knew that the offer with the lowest price (i.e. offer ‘C’) would be the most attractive to consumers to avail of the ‘free shipping’ facility. Surprisingly, data analysis proved that ‘B’ was the most popular deal with consumers and made the company change its strategy immediately. Similarly, according to its VP Mahender Nathan, when they put more photographs of the same product showing alternate views, sales increased. An invitation to enter their e-mail address and get special offers was a move the company thought would turn potential consumers away, but to its surprise it increased the e-mail capture by 1,076% – that’s huge! Godiva now invests heavily in technology to help understand consumers better and serve them across various channels, be they real or virtual. A good web display is as important as a good instore shelf display.


The New Year should also get you to think of new ways to do business. The new way is one where there are no distinctions between the real and virtual worlds. The more seamlessly a marketer is able to merge them, the better it is. Take the case of the multi-brand retailer Tesco. Its department ‘Tesco Groceries’ now has a fancy website from where consumers can order their groceries, decide the time they want the delivery, decide the place of delivery, which could be home or a nearby Tesco outlet. As they start ordering on-line, the site can even predict their ‘shopping list’. All they do is log on to ‘My Usuals’ and it would show them the items they have been ordering most regularly. So you could shop in-store or via the mobile. To add to this, in South Korea, Tesco has installed a wall-length billboard in one of the subways. The billboard looks like the shelves of the supermarket where each product has a QR code. Shoppers can scan the QR codes from their mobiles, order it from their mobiles and the groceries are delivered home within 24 hours! Tesco has found the move so fruitful and sales has increased so significantly that in the year 2012-13, it plans to spend $200 million to promote its ‘mobile shopping’ venture.

At Marks & Spencer, the customer has in-store giant screens and iPads where they can see the in-store products, watch videos of latest fashion trends, create their own combinations of outfits and purchase on-line, either from the screen or the iPad available in-store. The order can also be delivered home in case you don’t want to carry a big bag around!

The differences between the real and virtual will blur even more, as more and more retailers will enable consumers to interact with and socialize with their brands through sites like Pinterest, Instagram apart from Facebook and Twitter, not to forget the good old e-mail. As they come to know their customers better, they will have to personalize their marketing strategies according to individual customer preferences. L’Occitane, the high end

bebeauty retailer, has invested in a tool which helps it to personalize its offerings. It found out that inviting new customers to share their e-mail address in exchange for special offers helped increase its conversions by 37%. It also found that placing a ‘best seller’ badge on products resulted in a 3% increase in sales. Through the IP addresses of consumers, it could figure out the ones who were nearest to its brick and mortar stores and mail them information about new products or promotions specific to the store near them. It now runs 70 different marketing campaigns at the same time to be able to attract different consumers with different needs.


The most successful brands are today selling their products via brick and mortar stores, via e-commerce websites, via mobiles and many other channels. The brand that can integrate all these channels the best will succeed in the long run. So it does not matter any more which gadget you have in mind while designing a website for your business. The key factor today is finding out if it will work as efficiently and as effectively on as many gadgets as possible. The consumer needs multiple touch points to access your products.

If 2012 was the year of understanding the consumer, collecting as much data/information as possible about him and interacting with him, the year 2013 will be a year of intelligently analyzing that data with the help of various technology solutions and providing more comfortable and better ways of serving the consumer.

A richer ‘shopping experience’ will be the key to success; and to achieve this, a seamless integration of various channels – real and virtual – will be the key to growth in the new era.