Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bang On!!

Al Ries, one of the most prominent marketing gurus, who along with Jack Trout coined the term ‘positioning’ as we use in marketing today wrote in one of his books on branding that a second brand can enter the market and gain share by staying far away from the leader in terms of mind space, or by taking an opposite positioning.

Perhaps ITC borrowed a leaf from his book when they were working out the positioning strategy for their packaged snack brand, Bingo!

While Lays was selling its American Sour Cream & Onion and Spanish Tomato flavors, Bingo! was positioned with its Indian flavors such as Tandoori Paneer, Tikka, Spice Paneer etc. We all know how the North Indian market (in fact, all of India except the South) loves all things Punjabi. And to appease the South Indian market, Bingo! had flavors such as Chatkila Nimbu Achaar, Achari Masti etc. In fact, Bingo! comes in 16 flavors to cater to the taste buds of different regions of India.

Bingo!’s advertising follows the AIDA model (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action). The clutter-breaking ads with their slapstick humor and irrelevant themes garnered enough eyeballs to create awareness of the product and generate an interest towards the product in the minds of consumers. The ads are simply insane & nonsensical to the point of being bizarre & utter crap. And that is why they are so funny!! This resulted in high product trials.

Take for instance the Glad Bangles ad with the Caucasian model complaining about her life being so pathetic that even her cat walked out on her!!

Or the one where the scientists at the Bingo Mad Labs issue a pregnancy certificate after feeding you Bingo! Mad Angles. The procedure, the ad claims, to test whether you are pregnant is fast, simple and painless. The scientists will offer you Bingo Achaari Masti, and if you are driven crazy by the tangy "achaari" taste of the snack & chase the scientists for more, then congratulations you have tested positive!!

Or the one where a guy says he has tried his hands at making a combination of his lazy brother Jignesh & a toaster!!! Posing for a family poster, Jignesh jumps up in the air even before the photographer could click. In another shot, his girlfriend gets the shock of her life as he springs up from his motorcycle leaving her alone on the running vehicle. These incidents lead the guy to conclude that unlike Bingo’s Mad Angles combination, his combination was a failure.

There are many other attention-grabbing Bingo! ads such as the Vango Pango ad etc. but what's interesting is the fact that Lays uses a brand ambassador approach with mass appeal celebrities such as Saif Ali Khan, Juhi Chawla & M S Dhoni whereas Bingo still doesn't have an ambassador. Finding one that can match its image would be quite a task!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Branding in the shampoo segment

It has been seen in the fast moving consumer goods category that brands that focus on projecting one or two aspects of brand imagery have been more successful than those that try to stand for too many things. The latter end up with a diffused imagery, therefore losing out on brand registration & recall in the minds of consumers.

Take for example 3 of the leading brands of shampoos in India – all in the premium category.

Proctor & Gamble’s brand of shampoo, Pantene, has harped on ‘shine’ through its communication, most recently through its ‘Shine Pantene’ campaign. As a result, the moment someone says Pantene, one thinks of shiny hair.

At the same time, Garnier Fructis has adopted the extreme imagery route, the focus being on ‘strong hair’. In their ‘If you want it long, it’s got to be strong’ campaign, the models wear unrealistic hair & are shown breaking objects that their hair gets tied to, rather than the hair giving way. It’s far-fetched but it works with the audience as suggested by the sales of the brand.

On the other hand, ITC’s Fiama di Wills shampoo has a very diffused imagery in the market. Their proposition is ‘gentle yet effective…through a combination of nature & science…for a beautiful you…today, tomorrow’. There are too many things they try to say through their communication. As a result, the ads have failed to register with the audience & trigger brand recall.


An interesting piece of trivia about shampoos…transparent shampoos are not accepted as much by Indian consumers as opaque (non-transparent) shampoos. This is the reason there are only two transparent shampoos available in the Indian market – Pantene Lively Clean & Garnier Fructis Oil Repair – while the rest are all opaque. The misconception among Indian consumers is that opaque shampoos produce a higher amount of lather as compared to transparent shampoos, and therefore clean better.


An interesting insight into the marketing strategy of Proctor & Gamble (P&G)….P&G plays only in the premium segment of the market, at least in India. They have concentrated only on 7-8 brands in the Indian market - Pantene, Olay, Head & Shoulders, Ariel, Vicks, Pampers, Whisper to name a few - all of them in the premium segment. Rejoice is the only P&G brand that is present in the economy segment while Tide plays in the mid-value segment. HUL, on the other hand, operates across all price segments.

Given that India is such a price-sensitive market, P&G’s strategy has been to wait for HUL & other FMCG companies to develop the premium segment in India, before they launch their own brand in the segment, so that there is already a market for premium products & the chances of their brand facing rejection are low.

For instance, Head & Shoulders was introduced into the Indian market immediately after HUL came out with it’s Clinic All Clear range of shampoos (not to be confused with Clinic Plus that straddles the mid-value & economy segments). Pringles was introduced after Pepsico had already created a market for Lays range of potato wafers. Olay was introduced after L'Oreal & Garnier had introduced various enhanced face creams in India. Similarly, Ariel was introduced to compete with Surf Excel.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Phelps, The Phenomenon

  • Michael Phelps was just 11 when his coach Bob Bowman called in his parents to tell them the boy could become an Olympic champion if he just applied himself

  • His policeman father Fred & school teacher mother Debbie separated when he was only 7. Elder sister Whitney, also a swimmer, has written that she used the swimming pool as a refuge from the yelling

  • Phelps' physique is perceived to be his greatest advantage. He's got broad shoulders coupled with a huge torso tapering down to small hips & strikingly short legs - a combination that provides minimum resistance under water

  • Unlike most people, Phelps also has an extraordinarily long arm reach, with his arm span about 3 inches longer than his 6 ft 4 inch height. This means he has extra long "oars" to propel a shorter body through the water

  • When Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe said he did not think anyone could win eight races at a single Olympics, Phelps memorised the quote to motivate him for Beijing

  • Phelps' underwater turn is supposed to be his signature style - he tends to go down deeper to the wall than other swimmers, performs a dolphin kick & rockets back to the surface, leaving the other swimmers behind

  • While most swimmers tend to specialize in one or two events, Phelps has entered eight races in Beijing

  • Phelps averaged 75km a week in training & took not more than 4 days off in the four years leading up to the Athens Olympics in 2004, none of them holidays

Monday, August 11, 2008

Nothing short of fabulous

Abhinav Bindra wins the Gold for INDIA in the men's 10m air rifle event. ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, BABY!!!!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Starbucks Success Story

The original Starbucks opened in Seattle in 1971 as a store that sold coffee beans & equipment. In 1983 Howard Schultz joined the company and after a trip to Milan, advised the founders that the company should start selling coffee as well as coffee beans.

His idea was rejected by the three founders as they thought that getting into the beverage business would distract them from their primary business which was to sell coffee beans. However, Schultz believed that there was enormous opportunity to sell coffee to ‘pressed-for-time-on-the-go-Americans’ and he started his own chain of coffee shops called ‘Il Giomale’. Subsequently, the founders of Starbucks sold their chain to Schultz, who re-branded the consolidated business as Starbucks.

Starbucks then experimented with food but realized that it had to contend with high materials cost and stiff competition from low-price fast food chains such as McDonalds, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts etc. that also sold coffee. So they decided to shift their focus back to coffee and started the process of re-branding.

Rather than communicating a set of images that Starbucks wished to stand for, they adopted the ‘Experiential Branding’ route where they tried to create an atmosphere inside their stores that would not only draw people to the store but also make them linger and return. They decided to spend very little on advertising & instead create a brand image through their stores. They made the following changes to their stores:

1. They discontinued the use of pre-ground coffee as grinding of whole coffee beans within the store would add aroma to the store

2. Smoking was prohibited inside stores & employees were asked to refrain from wearing strong perfumes as the smell of smoke & strong perfumes was believed to adulterate the aroma of coffee

3. They introduced the concept of “Coffee of the Day” as well as seasonal beverages such as ‘Pumpkin Spice Latte’ (served around Halloween) & ‘Eggnog Latte’ & ‘Christmas/Holiday’ blend of coffee that is sold during the Christmas season

4. They introduced Starbucks ice-cream for coffee lovers who also loved ice-creams & Frappucinos (sealed bottles of cold coffee)

5. They introduced the concept of the “Third Space” – the space besides home & work. This essentially meant that people could spend time at Starbucks outlets studying, working on their laptops, writing, reading, meeting friends, holding formal meetings etc. They were not kicked out of the stores or the bill thrust in their faces as soon as they finished their cup of coffee (unlike in Indian coffee shops)

6. The store format varied depending on the location of the store…downtown buildings, college campuses, shopping centers, bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, Borders etc. The stores had fireplaces, leather chairs & couches for those who wanted to lounge & tables with hard-backed chairs for those who wanted a more structured environment to study/work etc.

7. Starbucks began selling special Jazz & Blues CDs, which in some cases were special compilations that had been put together for the company to use as background music inside its stores. The idea for selling the CDs originated with a Starbucks store manager who had worked in the music industry and selected the new "tape of the month" Starbucks played as background in its stores. Customers liked what they heard & started expressing a desire to purchase those CDs. The Starbucks CDs thus became a significant addition to the company's product line.

8. Employees would know the names of the regular customers along with their order, INCLUSIVE of the “decaf venti 0% no-whip no-foam extra-hot extra-cocoa mocha” bit

For a person that loves Coffee, Starbucks indeed is a God-sent. Once exposed to Starbucks & the likes, the coffee shops in India seem to be a sham!!

Think I'll leave you with these. "Drink" for thought? :p