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 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

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