Archive for the ‘Thoughts on Marketing’ Category

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 (, the “Best Job In The World” by the Queensland Tourism Department, and more recently the Great Driving Challenge by Mitsubishi ( 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 ( 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.


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..

Anyone seen other nice ones?

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!