Last month, the large conversation was around GST. The country was preparing for a big transition from one indirect taxation structure to another taxation structure. Ideally, it should have been a simple affair of a switchover. But as it happens in India, the whole buzz leading to the switchover was anything but smooth. The amount of jokes that sprung up on GST must have increased the bandwidth consumption in India by many gigabytes. The markets went on GST sale, the brands made special offers, they created the GST price protection plans, the constantly on sale ecom portals had one more reason to stay on sale. The country had a shopping festival this year that may have been bigger than the coming Diwali.

There is one brand that may have won the entire GST hullabaloo; that brand is Durex. In a clever cheeky post on Twitter, Durex usurped the entire GST conversation. Clever from Durex. Wonder why no other brand has a take on GST?

In the lead-up to GST, the Government of India did release a high pressure, high intensity campaign across the country. Whether all of the ads were thought through and whether the live event had everything correct is really up for debate. The countrywide press ad was poorly crafted and badly written. This is unlike what this Government has done till now, their ads have been sharp and well made. Here’s the launch ad and you can have your own take on the headline.

The switchover from the previous system to the new system was beamed live to the whole country, but did the PM walk away to theme music of Darth Vader? The public broadcaster obviously is poorly trained on small intricacies of music and movies.

The bigger issue though is one voice that has become the voice of the Government. You will hear this very well-known and loved baritone across the Swachh Bharat Mission, Pulse Polio Mission, Hepatitis, GST and possibly more in quick succession on Radio. It’s not Mr Bachchan’s fault that he comes across sounding similar in all the ads. The creative teams of all the causes that Government pushes have used him in a singular way. The similar sounding tonality across all the ads should be a cause of worry as it does impact the memorability of the campaigns. For the advertising-savvy government, this is one blip it must correct quickly. Mr. Bachchan may be a great choice, but he needs to be used in creatively vibrant ways.

Apart from all the pressure of advertising from the Government and switchover of the taxation structure, MP Birla cement released a high on emotion campaign where they tried to go beyond the usual appeal of cement brands.

MP Birla Cement is a rather unusual brand name for a brand trying to create consumer appeal, the advertising though is rather nice. Here is the ad that talks about how making a house in India is such a tough task. The emotional overlay of sacrifices a family makes in making the house is then connected to not just the quality of cement but also to expert advice on usage of cement. Trying to create appeal for an intermediate product like cement is a tough task, and strength is the dominating appeal. MP Birla is adding the angle of expertise. In the long run, this may turn out to be differentiator, especially of the expertise angle that is rolled in a big way for the end consumer.

Staying with cement, the ad of the month for me comes from Japan. Japan is the master of ludicrous advertising, but sometimes there are ads that cross over to become insanely mad. Here’s a commercial where the actors are screaming and shouting and while watching you are trying to guess the category. It’s really an odd way of advertising for a boring category but is done with such quirk that it is impossible to ignore the ad. The ad did very well at Cannes this year.

So did Durex with the clever tweet.

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/07/ad-stand-gst-amitabh-and-cement/

Adstand: Has Baahubali redefined marketing in India?

I may be among the rare Indians who hasn’t seen Baahubali. I may be among few world citizens who haven’t seen Baahubali. The one key question kept the buzz alive for almost four years. One simple question drove the engagement for the movie. Closer to release the movie unleashed brand partnerships of epic scale. Brands were happy to play subservient to the appeal of the movie. By the end of the week, the fantasy saga had re written every rule, broken every record. The movie is an epic hit.

There are lessons for marketing fraternity that are hard to miss.

 

The word National needs to be looked at with new eyes

What is a national brand and what is a regional brand in India? National brands have always tended to start from the larger landmass of upper India and then moved to ‘regional’ pockets. Brands have often tweaked appeals to suit the regional markets. There have been very few brands that had their origination in the regional market and went on to become a national brand in no time. Yes there are brands like Ujala, Sabeena, Nyle, Chic, Wagh Bakeri, brands that crossed over from home states to claim a stake at the national level.

Baahubali has shown that it is possible to be born in the regional market, not speak Hindi or English and yet be a national sensation from day one.

Baahubali, especially Part 2 didn’t remain a Telugu movie, it became a national movie, and therein lies the brilliance of the marketing team. They refused to think regional.

 

Brands need to stick to conviction

It would have been nice to be a fly on the wall listening to the conversation in the conference room of the studio. Did they debate to mute the regional language overtones in the movie? Did they debate to make the idiom a lot more tuned Hindi Speaking market? I don’t know if they even debated these issues. What they did was stick to conviction. The overall packaging of the film remained true to film and what the film needed. The product didn’t even try to hide its origins. They did not add anything to the product to expand its appeal like adding a Hindi film star in special appearance, and such tricks.

Conviction in the product, its values, and the resultant story is very important for any brand; this is the fodder for the appeal that eventually gets created. Baahubali made sure that it didn’t waver from its conviction of telling a story that is grand, lavish and eye-popping. The resultant single mindedness made the brand into a very powerful brand.

 

Being audacious is a great way to build engagement

Building appeal always starts with a great product but needs a very audacious appeal to become a sensation. Audaciousness has been written about, it’s a big jargon in PowerPoint, business even hire consultants to write the audacious goals. If you want to look for an example of being audacious, look no further. The brand did everything with audaciousness built into its core. There were no half measures, there were no shortcuts, and there were no small dreams. They went big. For a new brand or a brand that is trying to challenge the paradigm, they need to be seen as people who are trying to create a new idiom. Baahubali was phenomenally successful in making people accept that they will not be the kind of popular cinema that is most often commercially successful. They would be the outlier that charts its own path.

 

Baahubali sensation has just started. There is a TV series coming, may be that too will capture people’s imagination like the movies. But in any case, the movie has proven that breaking the mold with conviction and audacity can lead to major success.

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/05/ad-stand-has-baahubali-redefined-marketing-in-india/

AdStand: Coke, Oppo, GoIbibo, Kellogs and Deepika

There is an easy way to get eyeballs, that is to sign up the current superstar and watch the brand soar. Coke, Kellogs, GoIbibo and Gionee have all got the advantage of having possibly the hottest celebrity as the endorser. All the brands have released the ads at the same time, giving the brands a certain topicality.

 

The Coke Elevator Campaign

While Pepsi faltered in its campaign, Coke has kept the narrative simple and created a very Coke kind of spot. The story of a star bumping into a commoner, connecting with each other and the star leaving the common stranger with a goofy grin makes for super viewing.

There is a certain charm that Deepika brings to the commercial and despite a very tight story line and little space to improvise makes the commercial memorable. The hotel room service steward is also perfectly cast.

The spot though is adapted from the international commercial of Coke. The international commercial is a modern day Cinderella story where an ordinary girl bumps into a celebrity DJ and ends up having her own starry moment and a selfie that didn’t work out as well as she thought it would. The winner this the interactive digital content which takes you floor by floor giving you a taste of candid moments.

The digital campaign has far more interesting take on the modern Cinderella story than just a selfie that is dominated by a bottle of Coke. This is a winner from Coke

 

Selfie and Oppo

Oppo was about the love story between two stars. These two stars haven’t been cast together in a movie, so by a phone brand that was a brave move. The brand has now moved beyond love story, into Selfie. The emotion of finding long lost love has been replaced by narcissistic feel of looking at your face with a weird pout. Deepika is fighting the pout war with Alia and Ranveer. This is an interesting war out there, pouts, pouts and pouts and three hottest celebrities.

 

GoIbibo and Deepika

At 8.5 million views in YouTube alone GoIbibo is doing very well to help Deepika make money by using her contacts on her phone book. This is a simple tale that is enlivened by Deepika, but more by the technologically challenged aunt. The aunt plays the old-world-old–idiom driven lady with extreme pizzazz. It’s the casting that is inspired, the rest of the ad is usual.

 

Kellogs and Deepika

 

Kellogs and Deepika were into selfies last year. Deepika was showing off her weight loss post two week challenge last year. This year Kellogs Special K Protein is more about maintaining your weight by eating the most tempting Cranberry flavoured cereal. There are many cranberries in the commercial, almost from frame one to frame hundred. Its just in final frame you discover that Kellogs has two more flavours. This is a classical packaged food commercial, and does the job of selling the breakfast well. Kellogs will benefit from having a supremely fit and attractive Deepika as its ambassador

 

Deepika and new ASCI Guidelines

ASCI’s new guidelines for brand endorsers and will the guideline have an impact on Deepika’s brands? The bubbly drink is about making friends, that should be safe. The dual lens cell phone is about selfies, you can’t debate that. The travel brand is about making money from friends, that’s a matter between friends. The breakfast cereal is about maintain weight. May be Deepika now needs to hire a nutritionist and a food scientist. Or may be Kellogs can explore selfies again.

They are in fashion.

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/04/ad-stand-coke-oppo-goibibo-kellogg-s-and-deepika/

 

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: 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: Going cashless

In last one month or so, India has learnt two new words. Both can be treated as a stimulous, the response to both has a deep sense of patriotism. One is ‘surgical strike’; the other is ‘cashless’. The two are interconnected. It’s the surgical strike that has aided the rise of narrative of cashless.  Surgical strike has not made it to the brands’ arsenal as yet, cashless has.

We know that India loves cash. Our cultural reference to riches is golden chest with piles of cash in it. Our symbol of someone being rich is someone who sits on pile of cash and carries not just a golden hue, but wears a lot of real gold. With such cultural reference, its tough for brands to build narratives around being cashless. What is helping the brands is the context. The country has gone cashless, not by choice, but driven by circumstances.

 

Cashless is new tactical opportunity

Snapdeal is running large print ads for what they call ‘unbox cash free sale’. For all ecom brands sale is a strategic reason to advertise, unlike brick and mortar brands that treat sale as a tactical activity. The cash less sale is mere branding for another of many sales that Snapdeal keeps announcing. The promise of keeping the transactions alive even if you dint have cash is a but too brand speak. It would have made far better sense if they had nit made it so transactional. Did the brand miss a big opportunity by not being strategic about it?

Toyota is the other brand that has made cashless the theme of its advertising. Every day finance offers are tactical activities for an auto brand and that is exactly how Toyota has treated the subject. Car brands have offered 100% financing for a long time, even if they don’t offer 100% financing, they rarely accept cash. The brand has just used the plank to be in the current context. Make My Trip too has jumped on the wave of cash crunch, and like the others has just mentioned the word.

 

Government’s public service ads

Surprisingly it’s the Government ads that seem to be doing a better job of connecting the issue with how it impacts people’s lives. The series of radio ads detailing how phone can be used for everyday transactions are doing a good job. Government’s entire campaign is to connect with the lowest common denominator and instill a sense of confidence. The campaign may have started late, but does the job. The narrative currently for all the ads is instructional. All the ads are about one urban erudite person telling the other person about how they can make use of phone to transact. May be the next phase of ads will become more conversational and less instructional.

 

The windfall for wallet brands

The wallet brands have seen unprecedented growth. The wallet brands have responded by being aggressively building traction. In last two weeks, PayTM has stolen the lead. It has almost become the default mobile wallet brand. The three options that most merchants today give are Cheque, Card or PayTM. This is making life tough for Mobikwik or PayU or Freecharge or even Mastercard who have been spending money. As the category moves on and becomes big, brands will have to occupy distinct spaces. This is the time when the category is in infancy and often the early leaders tend to become stronger. Its time for all the mobile wallet brands to step up. The challenge for them is tougher with PayTM launching payments bank and UPI becoming the new protocol of payments. The category called mobile wallets itself will mutate into something else. What will become even stronger is payment on the go. This is where the opportunity for brands exists. This is the edge they need to build; this is the long-term asset they can build.

May be there is a new wave of communication coming from wallets.

Today going cashless is driven by extraneous factors. Brands have the ability to impact culture, change behavior. Can they do the same with the need for cash?

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2016/12/ad-stand-going-cashless/

 

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