About nareshgooglegupta

Communication Strategy Expert, wannabe archaeologist, accomplished philateslist, columnist, outspoken, incisive

AdStand: When brands break walls

We live in strange times. The times where the leader of the free world wants to build walls and the brands from the same free world break the walls down. The war between the political brinkmanship and brand statesmanship has never been so stark as it has been now.

Whoever thought that there would be a time when the leader of men will become jingoistic, small minded and tight fisted, and purveyors of transactions will become global, large hearted and celebrate the human diversity.

The chaos started with Donald Trump banning refugees from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering US, in a clear act of religious discrimination. The backlash against the executive order was massive from the public and from the establishment too. The courts stepped in and within 24 hours, the travel ban was put in limbo. The massive backlash from ordinary Americans and from citizens of almost every country gave brands the fuel needed to create messages of unity and celebrating diversity.

 

AirBnB released its ad on Superbowl to make a simple point: The world is more beautiful the more you accept. The entire copy of the ad — “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept” — is a powerful statement against what the political powers to be have made the country out to be. The #WeAccept campaign is an evolution from the film they released last November.

Coke dipped back into its archives to pull out an ad from 2014. America the Beautiful spot starts in English and then the verses keep flowing into multiple languages, including Hindi and Arabic and various others.

The ad from Coke was very polarising when it was aired last. The reactions this time too has been sharply divided for both the commercials. While many hated the commercials, many more loved not only the message but also the bravery of the brand to take sides and be more than just a brand, being politically correct with the timely message.

This is where both Coke and AirBnB score very big, they refuse to tow the middle of the road line and are aggressive in displaying their progressive (and some may even say correct) side in the current scenario.

Leo Burnett’s #ReverseForKindness is the most insightful piece that I have seen recently on the culture gap and human diversity. The simple act of writing English like Arabic, not left to right but right to left, creates a strong impact. The underlying message that the directional way of writing language does not change the way of expressing thoughts is very powerful. In these times where the leaders of nations are busy dividing people, this is a powerful message of unity.

These brand messages are the real positives in these troubled political times. In India, brands rarely display their political belief. They stick to the middle of the road acceptable protocol of messaging and almost never live on the edge. I am not expecting brands to jump into the fray and start to display their political leanings immediately, but being culturally sensitive and having a contra point of view is not always a bad thing for brands.

With a small dosage of hate come a large dollop of admiration and a long lasting memorability.

Add some admiration to it too.

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/02/ad-stand-when-brands-break-walls/

AdStand: The Milk Sellers

Milk is integral to India, almost every urban home in India is a consumer of milk. The day starts in India with milk, from tea to coffee to a glass of milk. A whopping 10% of global milk production comes from India. Yet for all these years, milk has not seen many brands come in and build traction. We have seen distribution brands being built by cooperative dairies, but otherwise fresh packaged milk has remained a liquid commodity. This has started to change rapidly. In last few months there have been a slew of brands that have been launched in the market. Corporates like Coca Cola are trying their hand in milk market, though not in fresh packaged milk.

Amul has been the leading players in fresh milk. Amul has almost created the category in India. Amul then let many state level cooperatives launch their own brands. Mother Dairy, Verka, Vijaya, Nandini and Saras are the local state level brands that now play at the national level.

Now there are a host of brands that are being launched, some are aimed at the small regional level, some at the national level. There are even tech start-ups that deliver fresh packaged milk to your doorstep. The start-up world has entered the world of gwalas.

The organic food culture has come to fresh packaged milk world in a big way.

There are many small dairies that are aggressively building local offers to supply fresh organic milk. Milcch in Gurgaon, Pride of Cows in Mumbai, Madras Milk in Chennai are all building traction for premium milk. These brands are also creating a new language for milk brands. There is the hyperbole of Madras Milk about being the new standard of milk, to confidence of Pride of Cows about being full of love to Milcch’s claim of being innocent. Farmers are leveraging technology and consumers are getting better choices.

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It’s not just that the action is seen in the niche organic or high quality milk market, the action in the mainstream milk market has also heated up.

Mother Dairy has been very active building both the delivery and fresh milk through a host of campaigns. The challenge to Mother Dairy is coming from aggressive brand like Kwality, which is investing heavily in brand building to gain consumer traction.

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Kwality has signed up a celebrity, known for fitness and is aggressively investing in advertising. As an erstwhile ice-cream player, the brand is not new to the dairy segment. There are two big symbols of milk communication, the milk moustache that Got Milk Campaign uses and the milk splash that is used by many brands. Kwality has used the wings that give Akshay extra power.

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Milk Life, a brand of USA, has been doing the same for many years, and the content it has on the site is extensive. Milk Life became the template for Coca Cola’s campaign for Fairlife Milk. They used milk as fashion statement for today’s models.

Not all appeals in milk advertising are positive. Gurgaon-based Milkor is using fear as appeal to sell milk. Milk is fed to snakes in India in search of blessing; to see milk take the shape of a snake is rather scary. In fear an appeal that can work for a niche unknown brand? Incidentally Milkor is world’s leading brand of Grenade Launchers.

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What is worth pondering over is the fact that despite such a large production base, India does not have a milk brand that is known in the world. We aren’t even known for our prowess in dairy.

Now if cow and buffalo milk is not for you, then there is camel milk available in India. No, not from a home-grown dairy, but from UAE. Check out  https://camelicious.in/

The milk wars may just be beginning, there are many more salvos to be fired. Remember Mahatma Gandhi was fond of goat milk.

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/01/ad-stand-the-milk-sellers/

AdStand: Gandhi, Amazon and Commerce

 

This has been an interesting week with two controversies that broke out of nowhere. First involved Khadi, Gandhi and Modi. The second was about Amazon selling doormats and flip-flops with images if Indian flag and Gandhiji’s pictures, not in India though.

 

This week KVIC released calendar and diary, which had pictures of PM spinning the Charkha instead of Bapu. The picture of Bapu spinning Charkha is iconic and is almost a symbol of what the Father of Nation stood for. The outrage on social media was enormous. Reportedly even the PM was not impressed by what KVIC had done. One argument that was given out was that Modi is a bigger brand name then Gandhiji and has made a significant impact to the sale of Khadi in India.

The question then is this: is either the PM of the Father of the Nation a brand name? Brand names are transactional. There is always a give and take involved with them. Without the layer of commerce and transaction a brand is just a method of recognition.

For me both the icons belong to the whole country and have no connection with being a brand. They espouse a certain symbology that has wider meaning than narrow commercial interests. Khadi can do with both the icons coming together to create a narrative that is uniquely Indian. Remember an American Denim brand can take khadi and launch ultra expensive pair of trousers and meet with commercial success.

Khadi needs a consistent brand building effort; it is an icon of India’s cultural heritage. What it needs is more contemporary image, something that may not get crafted by merely replacing one icon with another without changing the symbology. May be there is a lot that PM can give to Khadi.

 

The second controversy was about Amazon Canada selling doormats with Indian Flag and then Amazon selling Flip-Flops with Gandhi’s image. Both created a flurry of activity on social media with the External Affairs Minister leading the attack on Amazon.

We can debate whether the attack was an over reaction, and whether the might of Government could have been used to exert pressure on Amazon to remove the offending products from sale. When it comes to commerce, louder the noise wider the impact.

There are some lessons that Amazon can learn from Facebook which has a fairly stringent community guidelines about the kind of stuff that can be posted. Many of these are automated and FB bars using from posting stuff.

There are countries that have no qualms when the national icons are used for commerce, like USA allows the graphics of its flag to be used commercially, but we in India don’t. In the hyper connected world Amazon has no option but to live by the rules that have been set by various countries. Using global icons like Gandhi for commerce also falls in the same category, especially when the product becomes offensive.

 

Using icons of national importance for commerce is always a tough thing to do. Culturally India keeps commerce and national icons fairly insulated from each other. When Khadi uses Gandhi’s images it uses the images to build on the rich heritage of Indian and values India stands for. The imagery is of defiance, determination, and walking on a self-created path. We don’t use the national symbols fir commerce for we keep them at a higher pedestal than mere transactions.

These are lessons that are not easy to learn for those who are not seeped into India.

Let the PM endorse Khadi, but let him do it in newer more contemporary ways. Let him show the new path of discovery and determination.

Original Published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/01/ad-stand-gandhi-amazon-and-commerce/

AdStand: The Gender Balance In Advertising

 

On the New Year eve, the act that happened in Bangalore shocked the nation. There were men caught on camera groping women and misbehaving. The reaction from political class was on expected lines, blaming the western culture and the usual unseen monsters. The outrage this time was serious and intense, this forced the CM of Karnataka to acknowledge the problem and apologise.

This one incident forced me to think why we in advertising cannot change the narrative. There are some outlier brands that are talking of gender sensitivity, but most brands are about playing the dominant societal codes in their communication. Brands often do not reflect the progressive mindset, they reflect the dominant ones, and this helps them be seen positively by the mainstream consumers.

The question then to debate is this: what happens if the brands decide to relook at most of the dominant codes they push in advertising. What happens if the brands actually push the new gender sensibilities? Maybe the brands can become the drivers of new sensibilities. If the advertising campaigns can drive the new sensibilities, the consumers will connect in stronger, engaging ways.

The first thing that needs to change is the way mothers are portrayed. The mothers are always the nurturer, the provider of food, the ones who take care of hair, teach beauty tips to daughters, get evaluated for making fluffy chapattis and see love soar because they can make tea. Change this scenario. Let mothers only be seen with sons. The conversation between mother and sons is about being responsible, about being responsive, about knowing how house is run, discovering that there are no demons in kitchen. The conversation can go beyond mother and son to between mother-son-daughter. This is the conversation where the son actually listens to life’s truth as told by sister. There is a huge change in perspective that advertising can drive. From noodles to atta to tea to milk additives, mothers can drive a change that needs to be driven.

The second thing that needs to change is the entire alpha male portrayal. Why should men be in control in categories like automobiles and deodorants?

A deodorant is the category where man gets to choose girl or girls depending on his sex appeal that is enhanced exponentially. The narrative can change. If deodorants is about sexual attraction than the attraction can be crafted in reverse. The choice moves from men to women, who chose based on factors far more than pure machismo. If the category is built on sexual attraction, then the category can build narratives that are driven from women’s point of view. Male superiority works for the alpha male, but also becomes the wrong narrative for the wider society. This is true even more of automobile category. Here the male becomes attractive thanks to a set of two or more wheels. It’s easy to move the needle and make women attractive thanks to two or more wheels. There are many more things that can change in this category, all with the underlying theme of male superiority.

Financial category has always portrayed father in control, and often the context is of father and family with son playing a prominent role. This is a category where the predominant roles of males need to be tempered and balanced to create a far more balanced narrative. This has implications beyond gender balance, more so because the category has poor penetration among women.

The issue of subservience of women in society is deep rooted. These are realities that find their way into advertising and through ads into popular culture without trying too hard. The spiral continues, the perceptions get hardened and pop culture moves in certain direction, doesn’t evolve to a new look. With the deep-rooted biases against women now being played out in open in the biggest of cities in India, we need systemic intervention to change.

Advertising has the power to drive change, advertising can create new reality. Its time that we collectively stepped up and make this small change in narrative. The change cannot be driven by an odd outlier brand.

Original published here http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/01/ad-stand-the-gender-balance-in-advertising/

AdStand: Imperial Blue, AVT and Panasonic

2017 is here and so are some new commercials. Last year had its moments, but largely it was a lukewarm year. For me last year was about Kalki’s Printing Machine, Kenzo’s awesome long format ad, Nike’s demolition of the iconic Just do it line for Olympics, the quirky Swedish Tourism Campaign, and Ariel’s interesting Share the Load campaign.

 

The Imperial Blue and continuing story

Imperial Blue has built a very nice narrative around Men will be Men. The series of commercials the brand has done have hilarious take on how testosterone driven males often lose their ability to judge or be nice when they see an attractive female. The diamond buying husband because he missed the anniversary or the guy pretending to own that big black car for he saw a girl or wanting to go up and down in lift with a girl around, the brand has played the male desires in a far better way than say Axe.

The new commercial has a girl walking into the aircraft and two men looking at her with empty seat between them. If you know Imperial Blue as a brand, then you know what will happen in the commercial from here. After five years may be expect a little more from the brand, of it not being so predictable. It’s the predictability that takes away from the commercial. Many-many years ago, before YouTube and Facebook came into being, Lakme did a commercial with exactly similar setting and a far better take on the single attractive girl in the aircraft.

 

Tea and AVT

I normally would not have noticed this ad, but for the PR the brand has done for the commercial. This is the usual tea commercial. The lazy son on a rocking chair wants a cup of tea, that only mother can make. Mother wants the newlywed daughter-in-law to make the tea. And the secret to good tea is the brand. May be we just sat in a time machine and travelled back to 70s. Every stereotype that can be thought of about husband, wife and mother-in-law are at play here. Coming on back of campaigns like Ariel’s #ShareTheLoad and even Amazon’s Don’t Adjust, this one has no hope. With more and more husbands entering kitchen, this one has no hope. May be the tea needs to give a jolt of inspiration.

 

Panasonic Smart Phones and the wanderlust

Cell phones are very product centric in their communication, they are a lot about the features and technical mumbo jumbo, or they are about camera and pictures. Panasonic has taken the camera angle to create a new social campaign #LiveYourDreams. This is a simple sweepstake with a rather longwinded film that directs you to a website with a very simplistic non-involving way of participating. Both the film and the contest are disjoint and archaic. How does Panasonic solve the issue of overworked female executive who wants to travel? The process of winning a sweepstakes by getting more likes is five year old. Apple with its Shot on iPhone campaign has taken the camera game many notches up. There is an idea in what Panasonic thought if, it needed better craft to become something that catches the imagination.

 

Here’s wishing everyone a blessed 2017, we need to make it the most rocking year. India has taken a bold step to break from past. As Indians if we can accept new monetary habits, then brands can do with fresh, exciting narratives.

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/01/adstand-imperial-blue-avt-and-panasonic/

 

AdStand: 2016 The Year of Do Good

This is the last AdStand of 2016, and this has been a roller coaster year. The year started with promise of being an extremely good year for advertising. Ecom wars truly came to India. Flipkart and Amazon fought pitched battle, Myntra gobbled up Jabong, more fashion startups got launched. The classified listing sites continued to push new messages. The year ended in a whimper with money going out of circulation. Demonetization was more than a bump, it was like a pause. What happened as fashion though were brands latching on to socially relevant messages in a big way.

 

Ariel Share the Load campaign is now part of advertising folklore. The Dad’s take on how he should have taught his son about sharing the load of household work was crafted very well and the message delivered with impact. Ariel has done campaigns earlier with similar messages, specially the one where the husband does laundry for his wife (kuch paane ke liye kuch dhona padta hai) but somehow the brands moved away from husband wife bonding and stayed in the functional washing cleanest zone. This campaign seems to have sparked a whole trend of brands creating more purposeful communication that go beyond mere functional messages. Not all were winners though.

Earlier this year Bournvita’s #ExamKiTayyari hit all the right notes in marks obsessed exam totting country. For a brand that was about excellence in studies too (Tan Ki Shakti, Man Ki Shakti) this was a remarkable departure. For a brand to use the School Principal as the protagonist and debunk the culture of marks is breaking many molds. This was even more path breaking then Ariel’s Share the Load campaign. The million plus views on YT alone tell you that the world sat up and clapped at the ad. For a brand built on loads of scientific babel about ADA and Vitamins, this is a welcome departure. Bournvita has a winner.

Hero Motors did a salute the soldiers’ ad immediately after the POK strike was built on the emotion of the moment. The ad is about a biker helping a soldier catch the bus by racing ahead of bus and stopping it. At almost 2 million views the ad was liked for the context it leveraged. This could have been a much better crafted ad. While the ad leveraged the mood of the nation and had a relevant social message, its script was flawed and could have been far more realistic. For brands to be riding the wave of purposeful messages, it is necessary to go beyond symbolism to create the relevant connect with the brand.

By the end of the year Amazon  released an ad that was dripping with goodness and was sugary sweet in its execution. While the message was socially relevant with the right insight, its execution was way too filmy, or way to TV Serialish to be impactful. This is often the issue with messages that need to be socially relevant, they need to go execute the message with certain class and intrigue. Amazon’s own Priest and Imam ad

rises many notches up in both craft and messaging. They broke through the goodness trap by building anticipation and heightening drama.

 

While there are brands that used large socially relevant messages, some did ride on to the wider societal issues, without being only about goodness in brand messaging.

Nescafe in India did a second commercial after the famous standup comic featuring an out of work cartoonist. They tapped into the wider issue of diminishing readership of newspaper and the cartoonist becoming an Internet sensation. Kohinoor Rice created a story about an Indian Boy and Pakistani Girl who do not agree upon anything. The differences in both countries are played out in the stereotypical way, and predictably they agree that Kohinoor is the best rice. The commercial refuses to rise above the ordinary narrative, despite having an international set up and aimed at global audiences.

In staying with socially relevant messages Tea-A-Me did the Tea for Trump  stunt by sending Donald Trump, the presidential candidate 4 years worth of Green Tea supply for him to drink green tea and soak in the goodness. Tea-A-Me is an unknown tea brand and despite the stunt has remained an unknown tea brand. The stunt though will be remembered for sometime, more so because Trump won the elections

 

In creating the messages that latch on to social goodness, brands need to start from the wider societal issue but then craft the appeal that makes it own able by the brand. This is a fairly challenging task and often the cause becomes bigger then the brand. Brands need to be intrusive in messaging, and by just remaining focused more on goodness, they can lose the ability to create the impact. For brands to truly leverage the goodness quotient, they need to do more then just create broadcast message.

This is not the easiest thing to do.

Original published here http://bestmediainfo.com/2016/12/ad-stand-2016-the-year-of-do-good/

AdStand: The diminishing power of impulse buying

Online shopping has changed many things. Things are available all the time, at the click of button and delivered instantaneously. This has killed the spontaneity of shopping. Earlier the brands used the point of payments to sell mints, razors, batteries, and in India candies. Even otherwise the joy of discovering something that wasn’t on the shopping list and buying it was an important part of the shopping expedition. Many a times consumers did pick up brands that they didn’t expect to buy on a whim and categories benefited from that behavior. With smart algorithms, shopping tips from the sites and suggested things to buy, the power of impulse has started to go down sharply.

 

 Shopping is now a lot about Like and Tags and Shares

There is a new filter that consumers now apply to shopping. This filter is of likes they will get on social media or the shares and comments they will have once they buy the brand. For instance the reason to buy a new cellphone is often how the circle of friends will react to the post and very little about how ‘I’ would feel about using the product.  Gaining approval and exerting influence are the new reasons to buy a brand and this is the factor that brands have to now factor in their communication strategies. Even trivial choices like the food to eat or movie to watch needs a pre-validation from friends and social circles. This is the new currency if digitally connected youth as digital conversations get ingrained in their lives, and this is where the influencers take over and impulse steps back.

 

Is trust then a big factor?

Trust is the result of impulse. While it sounds like trust and impulse don’t meet, this isn’t true. Most path-to-purchase start with impulse and repeat buys makes the impulse into habit. Its habit that eventually leads to trust. We trust those brands that we either buy often or we intend to buy in future. With new social buying driven far more from social pre-approval, the comfort of looking at the brand that is used by many stops becoming a motivating factor. In the digital scenario trust is really about fulfillment and not about usage experience. With a favourable delivery experience and acceptance from social peers, the whole trust game takes a new angle. This is a huge challenge for brands as poor delivery experience impacts the brand and not the site that delivered it, but a good delivery experience impacts the site and not the brand that was ordered. Brands will have to rewrite their strategies with trust becoming a less potent force to drive brand loyalty.

 

So then can brands be really single minded?

The diminishing importance of impulse is also diminishing the need for brands to be single minded. In the era of media proliferation brands pushed the same message across multiple channels to build same impression in minds. Has this started to change? In the earlier era of broadcast, it paid to be single minded. In the era if personal media, it pays to be intrusive.  If the message is not intrusive, the chances of it not being consumed are very large. If we look around, the biggest brands are not really single minded. Apple, Google, Amazon are far more than just one thing. They have crafted a wider narrative to overcome the pre-approval mindset of consumers. As the brands proliferate and media becomes personal, brands have to become more intrusive. Is the intrusion crafted with a single minded feature or a host of cleverly created connected features will be the difference between success and impending doom

 

Marketing theories in 2017 will need new editions, and some of it is a function of new consumer behaviours. Impulse is diminishing, the need for brands isn’t

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2016/12/ad-stand-the-diminishing-power-of-impulse-buying