Archive for the 'marketing' Category

Less Ad(d) More News

Recently, as I was flipping through channels, I came across a Kannada channel where there was news highlights going on and on the left hand side there was a large photo of Akshay Kumar taking almost 40% of the space. For a moment I was confused whether the news was about him. When I looked closer, I realized it was an Ad within the news flashlights.

We continue to sink to new lows day in and day out….

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The art of “restrictive” gifting

Recently we received Pizza Hut gift vouchers from Airtel and Citibank. I generally don’t look at promo mailers. I was about to throw it when the picture of food caught my eye. I looked at it carefully, it said that we could get a medium “Tuscan singles” pizza free if we present the voucher. I had three such vouchers and wondered if we might just do a pizza today. Well, alas! turn the voucher around and there in fine print lies the art of “restrictive” gifting.

One cannot redeem multiple vouchers together, need to have a bill of Rs. 500 or more to be able to use the voucher and worst still – need to be a dine-in order to be able to use the voucher. Needless to say, I trashed the vouchers anyway. Why?

I don’t remember the last time I did a dine-in for pizzas. I don’t remember the last time my bill order went to Rs. 500 at a pizzeria (there are too many offers for meals for two floating around and we don’t do any pizza parties) and if I can’t use all my vouchers, then?

I understand that one of the reasons for launching the campaign must have been to push people to dine-in at pizza hut, raise the bill to Rs. 500 and come multiple times to redeem the multiple vouchers within the expiry date. But, isn’t it too much to ask for from me? What if, I’m not a big fan of Pizza Hut pizzas, then you need to induce trial and this is no way to do it. What if, I’m looking for the best value meal in pizzas, then you have just blown away your chance for a consideration.

Ok, I can go on and on. But the point I was trying to make is that the art of sending vouchers is not all about what you want it is all about figuring out why things are the way they are and then trying to address that through incentives (namely, vouchers – if that is the case). I’m sure to get into the mailers of Airtel customers and Citibank customers, they must have paid a bomb. What a sheer waste of money to do so on a “restrictive” gift that screams selfishness and lack of understanding of consumer behavior at its best.

Or do they really think consumers are that stupid that on the receipt of such a gift voucher they would go rushing to change their habits? Anybody listening from Pizza Hut’s marketing team?

Consuming Information Digit-ally

RSS

Image via Wikipedia

Lately I’ve realized that I’m consuming almost all my information through my RSS feed reader – news, blogs, articles of any kind. I’ve not yet moved to e-books because, ahem – all e-book readers (when they are available) in India seem to be so bloody costly!

The fact is, I still travel with a book or two. But, reading the latest blog articles on my mobile from a set of people I follow and admire, always seems to win vs. the books from authors I barely have a connect with. This has serious consequences, in my mind, on what kind of information/news/articles are being read by people. Instead of passively consuming some randomly pushed plot as decided by a publisher and a writer, now I decide the twists in the plot.

Jokes aside, the middle man is being cut out by the power of the reader and it is not just the traditional content creators that are in trouble, as is touted by the “big banner demise stories of newspapers”.

The small and convenient size of the blog articles and the easy to read format also make them more appealing to me. Oh, not to mention, most of the people who blog are experts in their fields or are striving to be so and if you pick and choose right, you get loads of good and solid information in their respective fields of expertise that is current, handy and reliable. Also, many of them have managed to create brilliant communities around their blogs, so each and every blog post gets 100+ responses. Another way to get a feel of the various industry opinions and contradictory viewpoints. They, in a way, complete the posts and make the rugged and more comprehensive.

I’ve never been able to watch news without losing interest in the first 2 minutes, read a newspaper without falling asleep (except for some interesting articles, here and there) but leave me with my RSS feedreader and I’m glued forever.

What role does a marketeer play in this world where content producers directly communicate with the readers? What do you think?

Laptop with wings please

It’s been such a long time since the laptop got a game changing feature. Except for form factor and design (and to some extent the trackpad!), nothing seems to be changing in the laptop world.  >90% of laptops are manufactured in Taiwan and quite a large extent of the design and innovation (or the lack of it) also happens there.

I decided to ask for more.  How about if we had a laptop that could do the following?

1. Print – I’d love for my laptop to print out my flight/train tickets (yeah, I hate having to buy and maintain printers just for tickets. I’ve stopped printing much else now a days)

2. Scan – I’d love for my laptop to scan things I come across quickly and store, categorize them for later references (scanning is on the up move but all the same, I don’t want to buy a separate device to do this)

3. Project – I’d love to be able to project my presentations without having to connect it to any external device, just click and shoot!

And while we are at it, can it please also have wings? Talk about advanced mobility solutions! Acer, Lenovo, Dell, HP, Toshiba – are you listening?

Readers, what are your demands from your laptop?

Wants vs. Needs

I was listening to Melinda Gates at the TEDxChange talk aired on Sep 20th on the Millennium goals. It was wonderful to hear all the speakers, but one thing she said stuck in my head.

She was narrating the story of the reach & success of Coke and comparing it with the success of the Millennium Goals. She said, as she travelled all over the world trying to spread the message of a life without disease and misery, even where there was no electricity, education or sanitation facility, there was COKE. For quite some reason, coke had figured out the secret formula that eluded the best of the international efforts at alleviating poverty, disease and lack of education!

She pointed out that it could be broadly ascribed to three things – they are very data oriented, they  tap into local entrepreneurial culture and create incredible marketing campaigns. In short, make you aspire to something you don’t even need in the first place! However, for some reason, she said, “We don’t seem to think that we should make people want what they need” when it comes to poverty, education and disease eradication. This results in colossal wastage of the best laid out aid efforts in the poorest of countries. Since, we don’t craft the messages with “sufficient aspirational value” they don’t seem to get through to the people and she gave some very interesting examples (Go watch the talk for examples, I’m not giving them away :)).

This is so beautifully said that I can’t add anything to it except for the fact that, what “they need” is generally a “perception” from an outsider’s point of view, for them  it is something in their core – a “habit”, “culture”, “religion”, “chore” – that you want them to change and instead do this “other thing” which they are not familiar with. Why should they trust you? Why should they put in the extra effort?

Inspiring someone enough for them to “want” to do something is the best way to create a “need” – marketers figured this out way long ago. But making someone want what they need, while making it available is the best way to reach out and make a difference in the society, probably the most exalted job for marketing there is to be!

PS: Seth Godin wrote an article on the same topic in his blog recently –Needs don’t always lead to demand.

Technology is not the panacea – Part 2

The next part of the puzzle has to do with the traditional “market ethos” of “why break something that ain’t broken?” If you haven’t read the introduction to this series, you can catch it here (you might want to take a quick look at it before reading this thread)

One might argue, “let’s make things better” or “this is for their good”. But, asking someone to put in any more effort than what requires to keep things going doesn’t ring a bell of happiness in most people’s heads, it rings a bell of despair/alarm. (Obviously, I’m not referring to the market of “techno-enthusiasts” here)

They either know that you right, but don’t want to be the first adopters and hence, a ring of despair or they are alarmed that you are out to get them.

Take the case of school teachers, they all agree that technology could potentially improve the learning capability in students, but why should they be the learning scapegoats? Why, for the peanuts they earn, should they put in any kind of extra effort without a social/economic benefit to show for it (no extra pay, no climbing the hierarchy, no awards – you know, the works)? The prevailing majority attitude then becomes, let it happen independently. That shows for the success of many online tutoring services and several other direct to student technologies. One might ask, what about the success of the likes of Educomp, Everonn etc. – that, for me, is a subject of another post. I’m referring to technology from the teacher’s point of view in this example.

Lets take another example, the nation’s favorite for technology advancement – farmers! All the incubation labs in the country are buzzing with activity around creating technology innovation for farmers. What is the story on the other side though? Alarm bells start ringing in their heads when you talk of any new technology introduction. They think that you might have a trick or so up your sleeve and hence want them to use the technology that you are talking about. Call it lack of knowledge, their hand-to-mouth existence that precludes trial-n-error or “been-there-been-tricked” experiences.

All this results in the best of the technology interventions not being met with the kind of excitement or implemented with the kind of enthusiasm that was intended. What with all the effort that was put into creating the “cool technology wonder”? Be it the lowest cost laptop, the simplest digitally controlled water pump – if the team doesn’t make an equally gallant effort (as for creating product) into delving and unifying the product experience with the market ethos – it is bound to just remain “a newsworthy cool technology”, nothing more.

Technology is not the panacea – Part 1

I know the title might seem clichéd to many, but for a technophile like me who has an eye (more say an affection) for products, a cool technology seems to open up a vista of opportunities (and more dreams) that can be tapped. I had to learn it the hard way to realize that technology is not the panacea, it is only a piece of the larger puzzle that needs to be solved to create innovative solutions that create an impact in the world.

Lets take a few examples, why is the penetration of information technology, internet and computer in substantial parts of India, say vis-a-vis mobile phones, TV, Radio etc. so low?

I’ve come to believe that it has less to do with technology and more to do with “perceived need” (and I mean a need and not a benefit – very difficult to convince people living on subsistence money on the “potential benefits” of your product when all they are worried about is their day-to-day life). This is the immediate, visible, “will-break-a-habit” – kind of need and not some random “wish”. So, if internet (or any other technology for that matter) has to penetrate further we need to establish and educate people of the “need” first.

This first step of establishing a need and educating people how to “elevate their problem” through the use of technology cannot be over emphasized. Skip the first step and the coolest of technology cannot win against “traditional ways”. Do the first step right and with/without technology innovation, adoption might skyrocket. Two real examples opened up my eyes to this:

1. I realized the importance of “educating” people on their problem when I came face to face with the “perceived notions” on technology in schools. At a deep rooted level most teachers believe that technology is an “attention grabbing” technique for today’s students (and hence, at best frivolous). Very few amongst them have the exposure/experience to use technology as an aid to help the students learn and explore the world around them in innovative ways. Without the right orientation and understanding of the need for change, the best of technology aids are largely underutilized in schools and any wonder the usage of technology remains so low despite the potential benefits?

2. Recently, I came across an entrepreneur at a Tie event who is selling “clean water” to the villagers in India. In order to accomplish this, he says the major challenge for him was to educate the villagers that the water they were using was “unclean/contaminated”. They didn’t know that many of the issues being faced by them and their children like bowed legs, deformed teeth etc had to do with something like fluoride contamination in the water.

Technology (no matter how simple or low-cost) cannot by itself make someone use it, there needs to be a larger momentum for that to happen – which can only be achieved through structured & mediated educational/training interventions to help the participants “be better”, “do better” and hence, “deliver better” through the right kind of technology aids.

In the next post, I’ll talk about understanding and working with the “ethos” of the market rather than pushing a technology-based solution that you consider innovative.


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