Adstand: Adidas, Snapdeal, and the power of human potential

This week, three campaigns that celebrate the power of human potential, one in real inspirational sense, the second in pure commercial sense. One celebrates the power of human endurance, the urges the audience to enjoy life and unnox their potential. One works brilliantly, the other sounds like a dose of advertising. The two commercials have broken almost at the same time, may be that speaks a bit about the context of the times we are living in. Then there is a Tanishq commercial that too leverages this very context.


Adidas salutes the epitome of human determination

At the heart of the commercial is a simple tale; we make shoes that are odd. Two rights or two lefts for people who have lost one limb. The tale though is not told simply, its told with a huge dose of inspiration. The story of Major DP Singh, who is India’s first blade runner and who runs marathon is raises Goosebumps. The ad begins narrating the familiar thinking: if a man has lost his limb, may be its time to relook at life, may be cut back on physical activity. The narrative goes on to tell how Major Singh refused to be cowed down by being odd limbed and how he redefined his life. Adidas has woven a tale of grit and determination and human endurance in a very inspirational way. The narrative never becomes overtly commercial; the brand doesn’t become larger than the runner.

Adidas has done very well to showcase the power of human potential by saluting Major DP Singh.


Snapdeal’s Unbox Zindagi is trying too hard

This week Snapdeal unveiled its new identity, new brand positioning and new campaign. Splashed across all the front pages of newspapers we now know snap deal has turned into red box. This is an interesting evolution for a site that still in its name has the word ‘deal’. The brand has moved away from instant choices, attractive prices, and emotional anchors to someone who delivers a red box to your home. I am not sure if the transition from the place where you find the best for your life to the place that delivers is fundamentally evolution of promise, its more like sideways movement.

Then the brand goes on to build “ is a bold and modern symbol of India’s audacious aspiration that our brand seeks to enable. Our symbol is so much more than a box; it is a representation of untold potential and possibilities.”

In the desire to define a wider purpose for the brand, what we get is a load of advertising hyperbole. This advertising hyperbole has met with lukewarm response across the social network, and this s what makes the brand lesser about human potential and more about selling commercial dreams.

Snapdeal wants to become embedded in every Indian’s everyday life, something that cannot be achieve by saying it in an ad campaign, no matter how many celebrities it signs up to say so.


It is not easy for brands to tap into the wider human potential stories. The danger of becoming overtly commercial and losing the wider narrative is real. That is why gems like Adidas Odds move people and inspire them to push and make themselves better.

Original published here:

AdStand: The Newspaper advertising crisis

Can you quickly recall the ads you read in newspapers today morning? Ok can you trace back and recall what you read a week back? Is there a newspaper ad that made you stop at it last week and made you say: this is nice, or this is clever or this is too good?

There is a crisis that newspaper ads are struggling with. The one single reason why brands create advertising is memorability. If the advertising does not create memorability than it is an expensive indulgence that the brand can avoid.


Crisis of memorability

The three of the largest category that uses newspapers extensively are real estate, retail and ecommerce. May be the three categories are responsible for the crisis of memorability that newspaper advertising faces today. Real Estate advertising is transactional, the builders are not looking at long-term traction, they look at quick transaction. This makes the real estate newspaper advertising low on idea and high on details. The belief that prospective buyers are looking for details and the ad needs to say everything that can be said has turned real estate ads into catalogue listings. Ecommerce websites too look at newspaper advertising as catalogues to announce sale, there is rarely an attempt to build an idea in those ads. The entire retail sector has taken newspaper advertising back to the days of origination. In the earliest days newspaper ads were catalogue listing. Today, newspaper ads are back to being catalogue listing. There in lies the biggest crisis newspaper advertising faces today


Crisis of craft

Last week Snapdeal released expensive jackets across the country, announcing the new identity and its new consumer-facing proposition. Unbox Zindagi is an ambitious brand building exercise that the brand undertook. A key element of the campaign is an anthem that tells the story of the brand. Snapdeal turned the song into the body copy for the launch ads in newspaper. The Hindi lyrics if the sing were written in Roman script and became the body copy for the ad. The Roman Script Hindi was used in English newspaper ads that were released across the country, including in areas where Hindi is not the primary language. Brands invest in newspaper advertising to connect with its consumers, to tell the story of brand in the language if consumers. Snapdeal missed an opportunity to really connect and narrate the story of its brand. By being poor in craft the brand did not create the edge it could have by being true to craft. May be memorability of the individual newspaper ad was never considered and it was only used as a tactical weapon to make some noise.

Last week was also an expensive indulgence from Louis Philippe Shirts across the country with a gatefold that opened into a look at how they have changed the shirt forever. The hyperbolic ad was more a self-indulgence from the brand and less of a promise to the consumer. Did the brand need really expensive real estate to tell the consumer that Louis Philippe shirts have changed forever? Incidentally of you do end up visiting the website of the brand, then none of the tonality of the press ad exists on the web. Is the brand then suffering from an identity crisis?
Crisis of context

Like Snapdeal, Uber too launched a new campaign to announce its new consumer promise. Uber is no longer everyone’s private driver, Uber makes you move forward. To launch the new campaign the brand has released large format expensive newspaper ads across the country looking for people who can be Uber drivers. The press campaign supplements the web campaign that is the story of Shankar the driver. The newspaper ad is the story of another driver whose daughter is a chess champions. The campaign works till this extent. Does the campaign though need English newspapers to advertise or should it move to language newspapers? For both: the relevance and reach language newspapers will deliver far better impact. By being in English newspaper has Uber has lost the wider narrative. Language newspapers do deliver better reach and equally good quality of audience to the advertiser. The potential Uber partners are more likely to read the language newspapers than the English ones.

Uber may have missed the context of audiences’ lives completely.


Does newspaper advertising need reinvention?

Newspaper advertising is expensive. Brands invest a large part of their marketing budget in newspapers to build immediacy in brand advertising. Enhanced transaction or greater traffic on site or greater number of calls on the toll free number cannot be the way to measure the impact of newspaper adverts. Memorability has to be the key. Especially now when we are burdened with information overload and have shorter attention span.

I have just picked four random examples from brands that have over invested in newspapers. For brands that are not over invested, memorability becomes even more important. That is the only currency hundreds of brands should live by. It’s time newspaper ads stepped out of the shadow of TV ads.

Original published here:





The Power of Silent Majority

There is a pitched battle being fought currently. The Molotov cocktails are being hurled across the fence; the fire is raging and becoming a raging inferno. Words are used as cannonballs, and are being hurled at ferocious pace. The strategy employed is of shock and awe to subdue the offending side. The other side is not sitting idle either. It is fighting hard to defend its territory, but the marauding army has overrun them. The defenders don’t have the power of numbers on their side and their words are not diffusing the incessant shelling of words from other side.

The war has been triggered by India’s biggest celebrity’s opinion on the current political situation. The uproar has been massive, ugly and partisan. The war will continue till the fighting class finds a new subject that upsets them, but even after that the fire may remain smouldering under the ashes.

Aamir Khan is not just a cinema star; he is also India’s most desired brand endorser. Samsung, Titan, Godrej, Tata Sky, Coke and Snapdeal have used the power of the star to drive their brands’ acceptance. For most brands, his association has been a fairly long one, and is fair to assume that it has worked for the brand.

Not surprisingly, the marauding army of offended netizens targeted Snapdeal with the strangely worded #AppWapasi campaign. The hashtag is strange because the app of Snapdeal was not gifted; they sought it out and downloaded it because they believed Snapdeal is a good place to transact. What were they returning? In times of inflamed anger and blood lust, such small details do not matter. Godrej, Coke, Samsung too faced the backlash. The first reaction of these brands was to disassociate with the statement that the actor made and hope that the furore will subside and it would be business as usual.

I think the brands missed a trick, by not being upfront and supporting the actor. The brands have commercial interest in mind, and it’s for pure commercial interest they should have supported the actor.

Consider this. There are an overwhelming number of people who have been offended by the actor, there is a small number that has not been offended, and they have fought the pitched battle. But there is a vast majority out there that is watching this fight with derision. This silent majority is the one that doesn’t find it worth their while to join the mob on either side. They will continue to patronize the brands, as long as the brand fulfils its promise of quality, service and whatever else they seek. This un-measurable silent majority is the reason for the success or failure of any brand.

If I can digress for a moment, the reason why the measurement of the recent Bihar elections went awry was because the silent majority didn’t speak out, they went about doing their work, the vocal minority was heard and the opinions formed from that noise was not worth anything.

The same is happening today with this battle. The vociferous mob will move on to the next offending statement and fight the battle there, the silent majority will continue to transact with the brands.

Snapdeal, Godrej, Coke, Titan, Samsung would have found new fans if they had stood by their existing or past brand ambassador in times of mob frenzy. Snapdeal faced the fury of people giving the app single-star rating on Play Store, but it also had a small number of people giving it 5-star rating, and I am not sure if it saw a significant dip in transactions across the two days. Godrej publicly stepped away from Aamir; what if it also made clear that while they don’t have Aamir as the endorser, they feel Aamir still embodies their brand values?

It takes one sane voice to quell the mobocracy, that sane voice could have been that of the brands. The silent majority is a powerful force, far more powerful than the small vocal mob. Brands must tap into the power of silent majority.

Original published here: