My Nokia World

July 31, 2009

Came across a blog written by a friend of mine about Nokia phones and applications for them. I’m not that into smartphones, but if you are then this blog might be useful to you. Check it out at My Nokia World

The Government tries, but alas

July 30, 2009

I happened to be writing an article on ecotourism today. In the course of my research, I happened to stumble upon the website of the Sikkim Department of Tourism. I was pleasantly surprised by it. Although the layout and user interface could be much better (the site claims it is under upgradation), the content was great for an Indian state government site. There were no broken links that I came across, all the information was up to date and it contained a nice browse by map section that I really liked.

I, being a loyal Bangalorean, then searched for the Karnataka Tourism Department website. But alas, the search was not easy. I Googled “Karnataka Tourism” and the tourism department site was not on the 1st page.  I then tried “Karnataka Tourism Department”. The result, unfortunately, was the same.  Down but not out, I tried “Government of Karnataka tourism department” this time. The result was a listing of a few private travel sites, a report by the Government of Karnataka and the official site of the Karnataka Government, but still no Tourism Department. A closer look at the pages that showed up in the search told me that the tourism department is actually named the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC). It turns out that the KSTDC promotes two websites promoting Karnataka Tourism – KarnatakaHolidays.net and KarnatakaTourism.org which did actually show up in my earlier Google searches but showed no indication of being official Karnataka Tourism sites. In addition, the KSTDC has its own site. I still can’t figure out which one is the actual official Karnataka Tourism website.

As it turns out, both tourism websites are quite usable, well designed and have a lot of relevant information. But if the Government can spend lakhs of rupees on developing these sites (as I’m sure they did) wouldn’t it make sense to spend an extra Rs. 1000 on a Google for Dummies book and get the site optimized for searches? I guess some people never learn.

Viral Epidemic – No Cure?

July 16, 2009

The past few weeks I’ve heard a lot about viral marketing. The firm I’m currently working in is trying to concentrate on the digital advertising space to differentiate themselves from the pack. A good strategy, given their young, dynamic employees and a fairly good understanding of the Internet and its use as a marketing tool. However, the focus on everything viral is quite disconcerting.

Digital marketing, and viral marketing through the digital medium, is only a nascent trend in India. The current downturn has ad agencies scrambling for ideas and strategies to differentiate themselves from the pack and grab the few crubms that are being given in these times.  So in a desperate effort to stand out from the crowd, a lot of agencies have jumped into digital marketing. The success of a few high profile viral campaigns like Subservient Chicken by Burger King (http://www.subservientchicken.com/), the “Best Job In The World” by the Queensland Tourism Department, and more recently the Great Driving Challenge by Mitsubishi (http://www.greatdrivingchallenge.com/) have done wonders for raising the awareness of their respective brands. It has also resulted in a lot of advertisers and advertising agencies sitting up and taking notice. All are intrigued by the power of the online medium as a viral tool that can catch millions of eyeballs at very low cost (relatively).

Is viral marketing in the online space a solution to grabbing peoples’ attention for every brand? Or is this viral contagion a harmful epidemic that needs to be stopped? No doubt digital marketing and viral campaigns have the power to singlehandedly change the fortunes of a brand. The problem it has the power to change the fortunes for the better and for the worse. Mortin’s ad which got released on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmykFKjNpdY) created a huge uproar from mothers. The ad, which suggested that motherhood is a pain that needs to be tolerated, created such a backlash that the brand may never recover.

This reveals an interesting problem. Although viral marketing may have a tremendous potential to do more with less, it is not well advised to jump into the viral/digital bandwagon without careful thought. This is true for both advertisers as well as agencies. Viral marketing can truly be an epidemic. Once it is started it is nearly impossible to stop, whether it works for the benefit or harm of the brand.

My Job Is…

July 8, 2009

Enter “my job is” in google and check the auto-complete options. You’re not alone!

My Job Is...

My Job Is...

Has my digital identity taken over?

July 7, 2009

I had an interesting experience yesterday. I played chess with (or rather against) my cousin. As surprising as it may sound, I do know how to play. Whats interesting about that you ask? Well, although we were sitting right next to each other, we didn’t play on a regular board with regular pieces; we played chess on Facebook through a chess.com application. Has my digital identity taken over?!

Until a couple of years back I had no real digital identity to speak of. I wasn’t present on any social networking sites. I didn’t have a blog, I didn’t read blogs and although I did have an email address, I never used it. I never had a need for a digital identity. I was happy enough going to college, playing sports, playing boardgames, watching the occasional movie and hanging out (read drinking) with my friends. Remember the times when the most important social gauge was how many people showed up to your birthday party and not how many people follow you on Twitter? I kinda miss those days.

Today the first thing I do at work is check my work mail. I then check my personal mail. Then check my Facebook and Twitter accounts, then my blog, then a friends blog… by the time I’m done an hour has passed. That got me wondering whether I do all this just to pass the time at work or have I become addicted to the digital me? On one hand my Sundays haven’t changed much from 5 years ago (thank God). But on the other hand, I am posting this on my blog! What do you think; has my digital identity taken over?

Big 10

July 6, 2009

Have you noticed the Big 10 buses that have recently been introduced in Bangalore. It was pointed out to me recently that the logo reads BIG in both English and Kannada.

The Big 10 Logo

The Big 10 Logo

I’m really impressed by BMTC’s newly acquired design sense (although I’m sure a design company hired by them designed the logo). It’s a really pleasant change from the drab looking buses that we usually come across. I’ve seen a few pictures of buses with really funky advertising. I like this quit smoking campaign.

Creative Bus Ad

Creative Bus Ad

Why don’t we have more such advertising in our country? I think it makes buses look a lot cooler than they usually look. Check out this link which has a few nice creative bus ads.. http://www.toxel.com/inspiration/2009/03/07/clever-and-creative-bus-advertising/

Anyone seen other nice ones?

Hop on the bus, Gus

July 3, 2009

Everybody hates Bangalore traffic. Gone are the days when Bangalore was known as the “Garden City” or “Pensioners’ Paradise”. The first thing that people from other cities ask me is “Is the Bangalore traffic really that bad?”. Well I hate to admit it, but it is!

Bangalore was never designed to handle the kind of traffic it does today and so the roads are not wide enough. But a large part of the problem is that Bangaloreans who can afford a car or a bike simply do not use public transp0rt. Compare that to Bombay, where executives in suits share the local trains with labourers in lungis.

A lot of blame lies with the public transportation system of the city. Until recently, the BMTC buses were unusable for the uninitiated or the brave. Buses that are designed to hold 40 people are packed with more than twice that number. Route information was written only in Kannada and timings were highly unreliable. However, things are beginning to change. The Volvo fleet introduced by the BMTC makes commuting on a bus much more comfortable. You get a comfortable ride in an AC bus with a great view of the city. I take a Volvo bus to work on most days and I enourage all of you to do so. It’s convenient, cheap and comfortable.

Even though the BMTC has done quite a bit, there is still a long way to go. Bus timings are still unreliable. The bus that I take to work (BIAS route 7) arrives anywhere between 9.00 and 9.20. I’ve resorted to calling up the bus conductor everyday to find out exactly when the bus will get there. The BMTC website is woefully inadequate. It is designed so badly it is almost unusable. Trying to find out information about the buses that ply on a particular route or timings of a particular bus are an ardous task. A more usable site which has such information is btis.in.

The Namma Metro project seems to be chugging along quite nicely, with things seemingly on track. I read a newspaper article today that said that the government is planning a mono-rail project to supplement the metro. There is a high speed rail link coming up that will connect the Bengaluru International Airport with the city. This will supplement the BMTC’s airport bus service.

Things are looking up as far as the public transport infrastructure goes. Now comes the hard part – bringing about a change in mindset. All you guys who drive to work and back everyday, hop on the bus!

Aligning Objectives

July 3, 2009

Ever feel like pulling out your hair because nobody in the organization seems to be on the same page? Do the management and employees have different perceptions on what the brand means? Do people in the organization have varying opinions on the target segment that the company is trying to serve? Time to think of a brand manual

It’s a common feeling in the corporate world. Varied understanding of the organizational values, business strategy and meaning of the brand mean that there is an inconsistent perception of vision, mission and objectives across the organization. This results in misguided efforts from various fronts. Marketing managers may conceptualize products working on a faulty understanding of the segments that the company is targeting. The sales force may focus on the wrong kind of customers because of a failure to understand the positioning of the brand. All this leads to confusion in the consumers’ mind about the meaning of the brand, eventually diminishing its equity. And of course, it makes the CEO want to pull her hair out!

In addition, many companies don’t have clearly defined guidelines that employees can follow when it comes to communication, both internal and external. This results in each person using their own styles, fonts, colours and language, depending on personal tastes and preferences, to represent the corporate brand. Combined with the less than perfect understanding of the corporate brand identity, its vision and objectives, this is a recipe for a brand disaster.

This is where the brand manual comes in handy. A brand manual is a document that provides users with comprehensive information on the corporate brand. It contains information on the company’s vision and mission – the reason they are in the business. It defines the objectives of the firm, both long-term and short-term. The brand strategy, and the business strategy from which it is derived, are clearly defined in the brand manual. In addition, it contains clear guidelines on use of the corporate name, logo and signatures. Users can refer to the brand manual to find out how to use fonts, images, styles and colour palettes in their presentations and documents. This helps the company spit out consistent and coherent communication through all its channels.

An additional benefit that a brand manual can provide is the elimination of duplication of effort. Everyday we perform tasks in which we reinvent the wheel. Duplication of work is a major reason for the Pareto principle – 80% of our productive work comes from 20% of our time – simply because we spend so much time doing something that has already been done. A brand manual can provide an archive of templates for communication so that someone using it doesn’t have to go through the trouble of starting from scratch. Imagine if you had access to templates for spreadsheets, presentations and emails that are used frequently. All you would have to do is supply the content and not worry about the formatting, layout and style. Wouldn’t you have a lot of free time on your hands?

If your company is thinking about getting a brand manual designed, there are a few aspects that should be kept in mind while deciding on the project. The brand manual is meant to house the essence of the corporate brand in a readable, easy to understand manner. This means two things. First, whoever is designing the brand manual must first understand the essence of the company the manual is meant for. Time and effort must be spent researching and understanding what the brand means to its various stakeholders and what it wants to become in the future. Second, the designer and creative writers must use language, imagery and typographical styles that make sense to the end user of the manual. For example, if supermarket clerks are reading the manual, it shouldn’t contain too much management or creative jargon. Otherwise, they will simply stop using the manual or worse, start interpreting the manual in their own way.

Once the brand manual is created, the employees must be encouraged to use it. A lot of new initiatives that a company takes fail because employees are reluctant to evolve and adapt. Let me narrate a recent experience I had with a storage equipment manufacturer which illustrates this point. The company, a medium sized manufacturing unit with a turnover of about Rs. 140 Crores, had recently implemented a sales dashboard – a software package that provides up to date information about a host of things to the sales force. The sales dashboard provides information and visualization aids to the sales force that helps them make quick fire decisions. In theory, the dashboard should have improved sales productivity by leaps and bounds since it reduces the time needed to research each prospect before making a pitch. This would justify the money (a significant amount) spent on the software since even a small increase in sales productivity increases the bottom line by a significant amount. However, when I asked a dozen or so salesmen how often they used the dashboard I got a nasty shock; only 2 of them said they use it at least once a week. Well the point I’m trying to make is that unless people use the tools given to them, they add no value. The management must make a concentrated effort to educate the employees about the advantages of using a tool – such as the brand manual – and how it will add value to them. This requires a commitment from the very highest level. In addition, employees must be given a sense of ownership in the project. This can be done by taking and incorporating suggestions made by employees themselves about what goes into the brand manual, how it should look and where it should be (hard copy or online).

A brand manual can add significant value to your organization. However, like any other tool, the management must understand its applications and benefits before making the decision to get one. Once that decision has been made, careful selection of a vendor is a must. In parallel, employees must be educated about the brand manual and how it will add value to each of them. They should be included in the decision making and the design so that they feel an involved and get a sense of ownership. If a company follows these steps, a brand manual may be the solution that prevents early hair-loss for the CEO!

Why Blog?

July 3, 2009

I never really understood why people blog, or use stuff like Facebook and Twitter. Well i started working about a month back and now I finally understand. Boredom at work! The primary reason for blogging and all social networking.


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