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: 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: When Sale is a strategy

There is a lot happening in the consumer space. More brands are on sale then ever. Homes are on sale, cars are on sale, phones are on sale, even brands are on sale. If you are a consumer, then this is the time to go shopping.

Conventional marketing theories have been about building strong pull for the brand by building on core values. Brands should demand a price premium and consumers should seek them out. Price offs are tactical ways to expand the franchise and bring more people in. Marketing managers in past have spared no effort to study the impact of price drop on overall profitability of the brand.

All this is now history. Now sale is the dominant consumer strategy. And if the brand is not on sale, it might have a deal being offered by some deal app.

With opening of ecommerce brands and the race to acquire customers, the money they spend on sale far exceeds the money they spend on brand building. Today Amazon is on sale, Myntra is on sale, Jabong is on sale (and is up for sale).

Meanwhile a brand in US has just introduced drinkable Marijuana Tonics.

 

Myntra is on sale

 

Its not just a sale, its India’s largest fashion sale. Heck, they even have Hritik Roshan getting ready to shop on Myntra. Asking people to create a wish list is simple, that’s what people do before a sale. Myntra even created a behind the scene video of how they are getting ready for the increased demand. There is nothing unusual about the video, just a brand telling its own story.

The big take out from the campaign is simple, you need a big superstar to build traction for sale, that will last two days.

 

Amazon is on Sale

Amazon’s latest fashion campaign has a bus, has a few youngsters who are on a road trip, while on the trip they showcase fashion styles from global ramps. Interestingly, there is another brand that a year ago was doing the same. A bus, a road trip, a bunch of youngsters celebrating life, but not from Amazon, from Jabong.

They called this the Citizen of Fashion campaign, and did a sale extension of the same campaign. Even before Citizen of Fashion could be established, the brand moved on to sale. Clearly offering fashion cheaper is more important that offering fashion.

Clearly, price is a strategy and not a tactic

 

Jabong is on sale

Jabong created a completely different persona for the brand. They went younger and rebellious. This was Jabong’s way of building credential as high fashion brand. They too are on sale. The big brand sale has number of people jumping all over the screen to create high energy impact.

Jabong too has used the sale strategically. Its not a build on the brand tonality they had. They even dropped the brand signature. For the ecom brand, sale is the strategy

 

Sale is the dominant tactic

For most ecom brands, and not just the three fashion brands, sale has become the dominant strategy. Sale has been topped by cashbacks, deals and more tactics that tell consumers ‘we are cheap’. Brands today spend a huge marketing money to ‘announce’ price deals. This is not the conventional branding logic. There are two issues at play here.

One, the ecom brands are actually retailers who leverage the brands they sell. Are they harming the brands by being on sale?

Two, will the consumer go back to these ‘brands’ if they stopped the discounts?

 

Meanwhile there is a store in US has launched a brand called Legal. Here’s the video

Now this may be really differentiated brand thinking