The Stranger Self

Quick Read: Our future selves are strangers to us. For any brand marketer that wants to drive a habit change among people, this could be a million dollar insight.  

What advise would you give your younger self? 

That’s a common question Tim Ferriss asks his interviewees in The Tim Ferriss Show.

The answers are always wise, instructive and helpful. As they ought to be. For the exercise of looking back and reflecting upon one’s journey so far, tends to be a highly visual and (thereby) a pretty straightforward affair in our minds.

Brands like Tine – a Norwegian Dairy brand – have even used it as a construct to tell one of their stories. (more on this in my older blog post)

The idea of looking into a younger version of oneself was also the central theme of a fascinating photography project called Reflections by Tom Hussey.

Each photograph features a person looking into a mirror and seeing a reflection of his/her significantly younger self. Result – a powerful and a poignant means to communicate the story of someone whose mind has gotten stripped of its more recent memories.

Novartis – the pharma giant, used these photographs towards a campaign for their Exelon Patch – a prescription medicine for Alzheimer’s. (more here)

(Photographs by Tom Hussey as part of his Reflections series)

Now let us try flipping the scenario.

Let us try envisioning our future selves.

Think about it for a moment. Is it as easy as envisioning our past selves?

The answer tends to be in the negative. Well, mostly.

Many studies establish our biological truth that one’s future self is a stranger within each of us. For example, Jason Mitchell – Professor of Psychology at Harvard –  has found that when we picture ourselves experiencing something pleasurable a year from now, many of us use the brain areas involved in imagining a stranger.

Biju Dominic’s latest piece is on this very insight and what it could mean for us as a society.

He says that it is this lack of relationship between our present self and our future self that is at the core of many of our behavioural problems — from not saving enough for our retirement to unhealthy lifestyle practices and many more.

This is such a compelling insight that I am tempted to go out on a limb and wager that this lack of a more intuitive relationship between our present and our future selves could actually be the key to solving for classic marketing challenges like low levels of penetration prevalent across several future focussed categories like BFSI (Mutual Funds, Insurance) or Beauty (Anti Ageing) or other FMCG categories (like Oats, Sugar free F&B variants) etc.

The solution to this lies in getting our present self to be more aware of, relate to and empathise with our future self.

Is-that-me-in-the-mirror-1024x682
Pic Source

But that’s the challenge.

It is known that the feeling of empathy between two persons diminishes as the physical and temporal distance between them increases. So how do we get our present selves to build empathy with a self that is 20 or 30 years ahead in future?

Now that could be a great problem worth solving for, with creative possibilities in marketing communications.

Biju Dominic’s article even provides thought starters for possible approaches. He writes..

Hal Hershfield, a social psychologist at UCLA Anderson found that people who spend a few minutes getting acquainted with a computer-generated simulation of what they might look like in the future were motivated to make better decisions about retirement planning.

Now that’s a spring board of an idea – using computer generated simulation to show what one might look like in the future.

Now hold on to that thought and juxtapose that with this famous Dove Sketches execution.

Do you also see the possibilities that I see?

(Featured Image: The Old Man in the Mirror by Vergyl)

Sonder And The Art Of Photography

Quick Read: Perspectives can be valuable.  A Kickstarter campaign shows us how to create value out of them while a multi million dollar campaign from a global brand shows us what it can learn from the former.

Sonder is a fascinating word.

It is the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you. (source)

At a fundamental level, Sonder for me is a shift in perspective that makes me cognizant and appreciative of the tens of thounsands of stories unravelling around me, in all their characteristic diversity and profundity.

It’s sonder that makes Street Photography fine art. It’s sonder that makes Vernacular Photography artistic to our eyes.

In fact, it’s sonder that can even help us put a price to perspectives.

Heard of Tribe Photo? James Kell is a photographer and sailor. In his words..

Recently during my work in Haiti I had an opportunity to put my subjects on the other side of the lens – to give them the chance to experience the pleasure of photographing people.  I found the perspectives of the locals – when they were making the photographs – was completely, strikingly unique. This was the kernel of the idea that is now Tribe Photo.

Read more about the business model of Tribe Photo on its kickstarter page.

But the essential idea that underlies Tribe Photo is insightful and impactful in many ways than one. It gets to the heart of the “art in photography” by transcending the narrative of the camera gear. It puts a value to perespectives as seen through the photographer’s eyes and thereby puts the photographer first, celebrates the art of photography and gives back to the community.

Tribe Photo

I Am Generation Image

Now, contrast that to the campaign that Nikon is introducing this week timed for the Christmas shopping season. This campaign with an estimated budget of $ 5 – $7 million themed “I am Generation Image“, is essentially a plea to the generation Y – the millenials –  to shoot more with a DSLR than with their phones. (source)

So what is this campaign all about? Check this video out.

This attempt at speaking to the millennials by asking them “Are Your photos good enough?” loses out on two counts:

  1. In putting people first: in fact it challenges them in a way that might actually provoke them to go out of their way to shoot outstanding photos with their phone camera
  2. In celebrating the art of photography: While the campaign does have at it’s core this page being promoted through this video audaciously titled “See Through The Eyes Of This Generation”, the content on the page tries hard to dumb it down for their TG. Sample this: “Zoom out as wide as you can, and you can even do selfies on a DSLR”

Really? All this from the brand whose theme has been to be proudly “At The Heart Of The Image”?

(Featured Image: IamGenerationImage.Com)

Diffusion – Of Ideas, Infections and Innovations

Quick Read: Why do certain ideas spread faster than others?  Diffusion – a social process where people talk to people is still the way that ideas and inovations spread. Stories from diverse fields like health care and ethnic foods provide further evidence.  

Did you know the story of the humble Doctor’s coat?

Till a major part of the 19th century, a doctor’s coat used to be black in color. Why? Because a visit to a doctor had an air of ‘finality’ attached to it, almost like the solemn nature of a funeral. As per this historical account, until the late 19th century, seeking medical advice was usually a last resort and frequently a precursor to death. The reason? Poor hygiene standards in medical practice.

In fact, back in those days,  a doctor’s badge of a busy practice was their black coats stiffened with blood and remains of previous operations. Practices like washing hands, sterilising instruments were virtually unheard of in medical practice during those days.

Naturally infection became the curse of surgery – becoming the single biggest killer of patients who underwent even uncomplicated procedures. Infection was so prevalent that the discharge of pus from a surgical wound was thought to be a necessary part of healing!

Ever since then, many medical practitioners tried hard to conceive of and spread the idea of basic sanitation as an effective means to combat preventable life threatening infections. But failed.

For e.g, Ignaz Semmelweis published the earliest known studies that showed basic hand-washing to be effective at reducing mortality rates of surgery patients. His findings were known to have offended the doctors! Even Louis Pasteur’s Germ Theory or Joseph Lister‘s concept of antiseptic surgery techniques contributed little to the mainstream propogation of the idea of sanitation in health care.

grossclinic(“The Gross Clinic,” by Thomas Eakins, 1875. Source)

The break through in seeding this key idea came over the course of several years as follows.

It turned out that the key message to teach surgeons was not how to stop germs but how to think like a laboratory scientist. A few pioneering German surgeons siezed upon this idea – of the concept of surgeon as a scientist – and seeded this in their students’ minds, many of whom were young medical practitioners from US and other countries.  The result?

The students swapped their black coats for pristine laboratory whites and returned to their home countries as ambassadors not only for the use of antiseptic practice to kill germs but also to prevent germs.  Evangelising through their own students and colleagues, they finally spread the ideas worldwide.

So, the idea of basic sanitation and sterilization for health care and germ prevention spread not because of academic journals or publications, but because of social diffusion – where people (medical practitioners) talked to people (students).

Spreading a Miraclous Solution. One Person At a Time

In many parts of the world, Diarrhea remains the world’s biggest killer of children under the age of five. ORS (Oral rehydration solution) has been known to be a simple yet effective cure for the illness which required a miraculously easy formulation that can be made at almost every home around the world  (water + sugar + salt).

In 1980, a Bangladeshi nonprofit organization called BRAC embarked on a nationwide ORS adoption drive. How did they go about this? The organization didn’t launch a mass-media campaign. It attacked the problem in a way that is typically dismissed as impractical and inefficient: by going door to door, person by person, and just talking.  

ORT(Door to door ORS Education by BRAC, 1979 . Source)

They hired, trained, and deployed thousands of workers region by region who went door to door through more than 75,000 villages and showed 12 million families how to save their children with this simple solution. Eventually, the knowledge became self-propagating and child deaths from diarrhea plummeted more than 80%  between 1980 and 2005. The program was stunningly successful. (source)

Shifting gears a bit and moving over to Ethnic Foods..

 The Greek Yogurt Revolution In The US

Till 2005, Greek Yogurt was a niche segment in the US with a market value of just about $60 million. But in just 5 years a new brand, Chobani has gone to become one of the most explosive food start-ups ever to hit the market netting more than $1 billion in annual sales and rejuvenated the entire Yogurt category in the US. How did that happen?

Ofcourse, Chobani, under the visionary founder Hamdi Ulukaya,  had a brilliant execution of its mix – from clutter breaking packaging, category defying in-store placement (he is known to have insisted that Chobani packs be merchandised in the main dairy area, not in the specialty section), competitive pricing and appealing flavours.

Chobani(Chobani Ad Campaign extolling its fruity goodness. Source)

But fortunately for Chobani – the timing was just right. Consumers were adopting healthier snack options into their busier lifestyles. So much so that when someone opened a pack of Greek Yogurt, it inadvertently became an instance of conspicuous consumptiona prominent scenario of social diffusion enveloped in a message of healthy tasty snack. 

So each time a pack of Greek Yogurt was opened, it created awareness and generated talkability around Greek Yogurt’s health benefits and unique taste. And this was even before its first mass media campaign. As Niel Sandfort, Director of Marketing at Chobani says..

“Before you even think about mass media or paid media, you have to have your ducks in a row on a number of fronts.”

So by the time, the company embarked on its first mass media campaign, the size of the population that was aware of or bought Chobani at least once, reached a “tipping point“, allowing the product to take hold widely. The result? An explosion in the growth of the Greek Yogurt segment. 

Today, the Greek Yogurt category – once a niche segment –  now accounts for 36 percent of the $6.5 billion in total U.S. yogurt sales (source) with Chobani being the number one seller in the category, with nearly 52% market share in the US!

Perks Of Being A Party Food

Guacamole – is an avocado based dip that originated with the Aztecs in Mexico. But in less than a generation, it went from an unknown Mexican delicacy to becoming part of everyday cuisine as a dip, condiment and salad ingredient. This growth of gacamole  was partly because it’s a party food. i.e., people discovered it when others shared it. 

So in essence, while we yearn for frictionless, technological solutions, people talking to people is still the way that ideas and innovations spread. In fact,Diffusion of innovations – a theory by Everett Rogers that seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread throughcultures – says diffusion as a social process of people talking to people is central in spreading an idea or innovation among the members of a social system.

Meanwhile Sabra – a PepsiCo owned company that sells Middle Eastern food products in the US  – is fretting that 80 million Americans have never heard of hummus

(H/T: to Seth Godin for this riff on Guacamole, to Atul Gawande for this valuable article on idea diffusion in medical practices. Featured Image source 

Convenience – With Capital ‘C’

Quick Read: Recent innovations across sectors underscore how Convenience is at the core of their offering to the consumers who are happy to pay a premium for the same. While these could have disruptive implications to traditional business formats, they too are not far behind in figuring out the new playing field – otherwise called Convenience with a Capital ‘C’.  

Convenience as a core value proposition is getting all pervasive.

And for proof of this, one needs to just look at the vending machines in Japan or the jidohanbaiki as the Japanese call them.

Japan, they say, is like the spiritual hub of the vending machines. In fact according to this CNN report, there are currently around 5.5 million vending machines in Japan, which is one vending machine for every 23 people in the country! You have them across categories spanning every conceivable kind of location.

You have vending machines at street corners, restaurants, coffee shops, toilets, even in trams and on mountain tops selling everything from canned drinks to drinks that are supposed to be a surprise till you buy them, from hallucinogenic herbs to charms, from books peddling porn and erotica to those listing test questions for exams, from footwear to bras and panties. Almost everything and everywhere!

Regardless of the amusement that these jidohanbaiki or the vending machines in Japan evoke from people around the world, the simple grain of human truth that seems to emerge out of all this is the fact that people tend to value convenience over price on many an occasion –  irrespective of the category and location. And more so in the recent past.

More recently a Japanese food company Kagome has installed vending machines at the start/finish lines of one of the city’s major running routes to sell fresh red tomatoes to the exhausted runners. The tomatoes are priced at a 280-gram bag for 400 yen ($3.80) and a 180-gram bag for 300 yen ($2.80) which is nearly 270% higher than the price at which you would have gotten it at a supermarket in Tokyo. (as per Tokyo market prices at the time of writing this article). Despite the price premium, reports suggest that these tomatoes are selling well, given that these vending machines are said to be replenished every day.

Kagome(Kagome Tomato Vending Machine. Source)

What does the consumer value here? Kagome – it appears – is not actually selling tomatoes through their vending machines, but a natural alternative to energy drinks and bars delivered at your convenience.

Let’s Take Pharmacy

Disrupting the equation that patients traditionally had with their doctors, insurance agents and drug stores, IDEO has recently worked with a startup to design PillPack. This short video explains the concept neatly.

As this FastCompany article says, PillPack is an end-to-end pharmacy and delivery service for pharmaceuticals that is using design to vastly simplify the process of swallowing pills each day. You don’t have to worry about pillboxes, reminders, refills, insurance, co-pay, ad hoc doctors’ prescriptions etc; PillPack takes care of all that for you. All you need to do is tear off the latest M&M Fun Size packet and swallow what’s inside when it tells you to.

Costing $20 per month for the user, PillPack’s service is an interesting example of how – despite several regulatory, legal and FDA challenges that govern drug/drug delivery –  selling healthcare in a convenient package could indeed be big business. In fact, the company has now successfully raised $4M in funding from investors and is boldly stepping up its bid to become the top mail-order pharmacy disrupting all existing players in the traditional value chain.

PillPack

Again, which business is PillPack in? Drug delivery? Or is it Convenience in medication?   

Fashion Retailing

Lamoda is an online fashion retailer in Russia. Albeit with a twist. Not only does Lamoda’s uniformed deliveryman bring the clothes that a customer orders, but he also waits for her to try them on, offers fashion advice, takes returns, and processes her payment on the spot.

Lamoda(Delivering the experience of your local store at your door step, Lamoda. Picture source)

As per this Businessweek report, Lamoda currently employs about 700 couriers and services 1.5 million active users in Russia with sales of more than 6 billion rubles in 2013 despite the logistical challenge of having had to deliver mail orders to the world’s most sprawling nation, spanning nine time zones with an extremely unreliable postal service. The fact that Lamoda looks at it as a serious bet on the business of offering convenience to its customers becomes apparent when you look at its underlying cost structure.

Reports say that despite the cost of delivery for Lamoda accounting for as much as 25 percent of an order totaling less than $1oo, the company doesn’t charge for shipping and keeps prices at the same level as in stores. As a result, its 2013 annual expenses were expected to have exceeded its annual sales. And the interesting part is this. These current losses haven’t stopped investors from betting big on Lamoda’s potential. Over the past two years, Lamoda has raised more than $200 million from billionaire Len Blavatnik, JPMorgan Chase, Kering etc.

Is Lamoda selling clothes? Or Convenience? It appears to be a moot question again.

Retailers not far behind in the new game

Interestingly the underlying theme common in all these 3 examples – Japan’s ubiquitous vending machines, mail order pharmacy business model of PillPack and Lamoda‘s clothing courier with a twist of convenience – is unmissable. The brick and mortar store as it stands today is at threat.

But it appears they are not far behind. For the first time in decades US cities are said to be growing faster than suburbs with customers seeking convenience more than anything else. So, stores like Target and Walmart are embarking on major experiments in scaling down, finding the right locations while ensuring the right formats in order to cater to this convenience seeking urban dweller.

With emerging markets rapidly catching up in spending power, with money value of time increasing for average consumers and an infinite ocean of choice to choose from in virtually every single category, convenience has already become a key differentiating factor.

Probably in a very near future, most products and services will have offerings that sell convenience as their core value proposition. Otherwise they are perhaps in the fitness industry.

(Featured Image: Vending Machine atop Mt Fuji, Japan. Source)

When Sub Cultures Influence Brands

Quick Read: There are several fascinating Sub Cultures and Urban Tribes around the world that could give us insights and compelling perspectives into consumer behaviour by way of their unique shared values and behaviours. In each such instance they exemplify how anthropology can influence advertising and vice versa. The Floggers in Argentina and The Sapeurs in Congo are two cases in point.

As a Youth sub culture, THE FLOGGERS originated in Argentina at the end of 2004 and have become popular through their unique fashion and went on to popularise the concept of picture sharing via photo blogs.

Essentially the floggers have two key characteristics:

  • They are dressed up in unique style: Floggers wear bright coloured unisex clothing – commonly tight trousers , V-neck T-shirts and canvas trainers and have dyed hair with long emo side fringes which cover their eyes and lip piercings. They have even developed a particular way of dancing to electro/techno music called Electro. 
  • They share their pics on Fotologs: Floggers take photos of themselves and friends and post them on photo blogs. Among FloggersFotolog.com is one such popular platform and lists more than 5.5 million users in Argentina, which is one of the two biggest markets for the site (Chile is the other). Here users comment on one another’s photos. The more comments, the more famous the flogger. (source)

floggers09(Flogging Frenzy, Source –  The Argentina Independent)

As a sub culture, if you come to think of it, the Floggers represent an interesting niche that are at the intersection of fashion, photography, social media, music and dance. Elite members of such a unique urban tribe naturally become trend setters in fashion and are the de facto voice of their generation cutting across class, creed and hierarchy.

Augustina Vivero a.ka. Cumbio is one such Flogger. She has a fotolog site that is said to be the most viewed Internet sites in Argentina logging 36 million visits in a single year alone! She is known to be the most popular and by many accounts the most influential flogger in the world and by age 17 has catapulted herself to stardom and unexpected affluence by transforming her Internet fame into marketing muscle –  signing modeling contracts, promoting dance clubs and writing a book about her life. (source)

Not surprisingly Nike enlisted her for a three month campaign including a giant sneaker-shaped slide that the floggers could slide down while posing for pictures.

cumbio(Agustina Vivero a.k.a Cumbio holding a NIKE poster featuring her, Source)

 Active members of sub cultures like the Floggers being ‘extreme users’, make for a rich minefield of emerging trends, attitudes, values and vibes of a whole generational cohort for the marketers. Thus they make for an interesting case study on how Anthropology influences Advertising (and arguably vice versa).

The Gentlemen of Bacongo

Take the Sapeurs – one of the world’s most exclusive fashion clubs in a city that you least expect – Congo.

SAPE – which loosely translates to The Society of The Elegant Persons of Congo – are a group of people whose life is not defined by occupation or wealth, but by respect, a moral code and an inspirational display of flair and creativity by way of their stylish dressing.

SAPE(Of Style and Swagger – The Sapeur. Picture by Daniele Tamagni. Also a cover page of his book)

In the words of Hector Mediavilla – who photographed the Sapeurs in his outstanding project, the SAPE can be considered to be the most interesting anthropological phenomenon for several reasonsDespite being surrounded by poverty and civil war the Sapeurs:

  • Dream on and survive the harsh reality.
  • Bring joy to those around them by way of their clothing and
  • Are required at funerals, parties and other celebrations to bring a touch of stylishness to these events.

Essentially, while everybody knows their elegance is just a façade but nevertheless, they perform an important social function for their fellow citizens. And in journalist Tom Downey’s words “when men dress as Sapeurs they become different people. Their gait, their gestures, and their manner of speaking are all transformed. The clothes are the gateway into a whole other way of being in the world.”

No wonder, the Sapeurs have inspired some fascinating photography projectsbooks and even music videos. More recently Guinness has brilliantly weaved the sartorial sub culture of the Sapeurs into their latest campaign, as part of which they enlisted Hector Mediavilla to shoot an inspiring documentary and a TVC.

Don’t miss this 5 mins documentary and the TV Spot.

Sapeurs Documentary

Guinness Sapeurs TV Ad, Agency AMV, BBDO London

For me, the connect between Guinness as a brand and Sapeurs as a spirit is a creative masterstroke truly befitting the flair and the flamboyance of ‘The SAPE Spirit’.

Do you know of any other marketing initiative that has sought to tap into a sub culture or an urban tribe

(Featured Image:  Sapeurs of Congo, Hector Mediavilla, Source.)

The Best Touch Points To Market To SME Businesses In India

Imagine stepping into a market that has only 10% market penetration of the category that you specialize in.

Sounds like too good to be true?  Welcome to a new chapter in the Indian growth story. The  SME – Small and Medium Enterprises sector in India.

A few facts first.

In India, the size of the investment that a manufacturing or services company makes in its plants/machinery/equipment determines if it is to be classified as a Small, Medium or Micro Enterprise:

SME Classification INDIA(SME Classification: Indian Manufacturing and Service Enterprises, Source)

 Besides, today the SMEs in India are known to:

  • Contribute to 45% of the industrial output
  • Make up 40% of India’s exports
  • Employ 60 million people
  • Create 1.3 million jobs every year
  • Produce more than 8000 quality products for the Indian and international markets and
  • Have been growing at 8% per year (source)

In fact, by some accounts India has the largest number of SMEs in the world — at 48 million —second only to China!

But that’s not the most salivating part of the story. The magical statistic is the following:

As per a recent study conducted by Microsoft-Boston Consulting Group (BCG), nearly 90% of SMEs in India have no access to the Internet(!), compared with only 22% of SMEs in China and 5% in the US. A commensurate increase in technology adoption by SMEs can potentially add  $56 billion to the country’s economic output and create more than one million additional jobs, says the study.

This is a telling statistic on the growth potential for IT companies that market to SMEs, their wares related to Cloud computing (e.g., SAP, EMC), Productivity Solutions (e.g., Microsoft Office Suite, Xerox etc), Digital Marketing Solutions (eg, Google Adwords etc), Networking & Infrastructure Management Solutions (e.g., HP) etc.

No wonder then companies like Google have begun to make massive inroads to market to SMEs in India. Two recent examples:

  • As part of a massive campaign called ‘India Get Your Busisness Online‘ aimed at bringing down the barriers that prevents SMEs to get on the Internet, Google India & HostGator recently targeted popular traditional markets in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot and built websites for over 5000 small businesses making them accessible to the world besides also creating Google maps listings and Google+ business pages for them. As part of this, Google India has recently announced its plan to get 50,000 SMEs in Gujarat online by end of 2014. (source)

  • Google India has partnered with Getit Infomedia to market Adwords to SMEs in South India. As part of this 50,000 SMEs in Coimbatore mainly in engineering, automotive components, textile machinery and pumps and motors would be targeted and educated on how to achieve global reach at lower cost with measurable results and personalisation. (source)

So while there doesn’t seem to be any dearth in the ambition and appetite of IT companies that target SMEs, the natural question that this begets is  – What is the best touch point to market to SMEs in India? What is the Zero Moment of Truth for these customers? 

My take on this  –  For IT vendors, banks are the best touch points to market to SMEs in India. The Zero Moment Of Truth in marketing (potentially any IT product/service) to SMEs is the time when they engage with their bank for their financing needs.

Why? My reasons as below:

  • Relationship: Given the role that banks play as lenders/financers/ advisers/ networking conduits for their SME customers, the latter tend to nurture their relationship with their banks for their long term interest. So the ‘lender – borrower’ equation in this context lends itself to exciting possibilities as a touch point for cross category marketing and info dissemination.
  • Reach: Banks have a very wide reach across the length and breadth of India.  For e.g., SBI – a government owned banking corporation has 14,816 branches in India, as on 31 March 2013, of which 9,851 (66%) were in Rural and Semi-urban areas (source). So they are naturally positioned as an incredibly powerful ‘distribution channel’ to market to SMEs.
  • A Customer Mindset that tends to be Future Oriented: The moment a SME operator steps into his bank to say, apply for a loan, his Zero Moment of Truth begins. After all, the sheer process of zeroing onto and applying for a loan are the most forward looking instances in terms of the customer mindset in setting up/sustaining his business. So can there be a better time to engage with him on possibilities and the cost benefit equations that are relevant to him from your product proposition stand point?
  • The Equation of Trust: From a psychological perspective, banks are traditionally about ‘trust’. So any message that gets seeded to a SME customer within the context of a banking relationship is bound to be enveloped with a liberal coating of feel good emotions like openness, good will and trust.   
  • Multiple Touch Points to Seed Content: A typical customer journey in a banking process is laden with multiple touch points from the multitude of application forms, the multiple approvals that need to be sought, the bulletin boards on the walls, the pamphlets that help the customers kill time as they wait for their turn, the tellers, the bank manager etc which can all seed compelling content on potentially any given new product/service that could be relevant for the SME.
  • A Win Win Relationship: Most banks tend to be big customers of IT services/products already. So they can be a willing accomplice to partner with an IT company to help market their wares to SMEs in return for say, a competitive pricing package for the coming year on their IT requirements. So a win win relationship can thus be effectively leveraged.
indusBank
(Image Source)
So there you have it, some food for thought. All along the purchase funnel right from building awareness, influencing consideration, driving sales to growing loyalty and retention, aren’t banks the strongest touch points to tap into when it comes to marketing to SMEs in India?

And for a category like ‘IT’ that is only 10% penetrated among the SMEs, what are we waiting for?

Twitter and Condoms

Two companies. Two successful IPO debuts in the same week. But two different stories.

Let’s start with Twitter.

Twitter shares surged 73% at market debut this week, and closed at $44.90, after hitting $50 at one point – or almost double its $26 offer price. Financial Times reports that at that level, Twitter was more valuable than market heavyweights such as Time Warner and Yahoo! In fact, by some reports, there is also a sentiment that by pricing its  shares at only $26, Twitter has ended up leaving an awful lot of money – nearly $1.3bn –  on the table!

[Amidst heaps of articles out there currently on Twitter, if there is one article that you need to read this week, this would be  it – Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover story on the ‘Surprising Sophistication of Twitter’.  

Twitter Businessweek

(Cover Page, Bloomberg Businessweek, November 11 – 17, 2013)

A small teaser from the article:

Millennia from now an intelligence coming across a single tweet could, like an archaeologist pondering a chunk of ancient skull, deduce an entire culture.

Deducing an entire culture from a single tweet? Do read the full post to appreciate the wealth of data that gets encapsulated in each tweet that we send out and its implications.]

For hints on how Twitter could possibly go about driving growth and revenue, one just need to look at these two statistics:

  • 77% of current Twitter users are from outside the United States. And given the potential swing of the demographics in many Asian economies in the coming years, Twitter’s target user base in these markets is expected to grow at a sustainable pace.
  • However while the advertising revenue that Twitter currently realises from every 1,000 interactions from the US is $2.58, this figure is only 36 cents for the other 77% of the interactions. (source)

These clearly underscore the tremendous growth potential that Twitter has in several Asian markets.  No wonder then Twitter has started to strengthen its focus in markets like India over the last 1 month.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world earlier this week…

Karex, a Malaysian company – the world’s largest maker of condoms –  has debuted on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange with a 30% surge in share value on day one. The company, which supplies to prominent global brands like Durex besides also selling its own brand Carex, has nearly 10% global market share in condoms. (source)

Carex_Condoms_Firefly(Carex Condoms, Agency: Grey Group, Kula Lumpur, Source)

Today by Karex’s own estimates it cranks out almost 10 times more condoms than Trojan – the key condom brand in the U.S. Karex’s IPO was a tremendous success amidst analysts’ forecast that greater awareness of family planning in developing Asian countries will spur demand for condoms.

So while one company that went public this week has a story of exponential growth expected from the ‘powerhouse’ Asian markets, another company that went public during the same week from the other side of the world has a story that counts on the contrary – family planning and control in population growth in the Asian markets!

Couldn’t help noticing the contrasts.

Two companies. Two successful IPO debuts in the same week. But two slightly different stories.

(Featured Image, Source)

Taking Over The World One Mobile At A Time

These days it is not uncommon for food to get onto Facebook / Instagram or Pinterests of the world before it gets into the mouth. 

Armed with this insight, Spoon – one of the largest restaurant chains in Costa Rica created the following campaign.

Developed by GarnierBBDO, the beauty of this campaign is that it smartly builds upon an existing habit of people.  And why Facebook? Apparently, Costa Rica has one of the highest ratios of Facebook to internet users of 95% (source).

Damn smart! I’d say.

Such campaigns can be a great inspiration for restaurants and bars seeking to drive awareness and generate talkability with minimum investment and presumably a high ROI. In fact, fast food industry today is known to be one of the most represented on Instagram with a near 100% adoption rate!

Instagram Adoption by Brands per Industry

adoption-of-instagram-by-brands-per-industryFrom left to right: cars, fast food, soft drinks, apparel, telcos, retail, personal care, beer, luxury, financial institutes, insurance, technology, oil & gas

(Instagram adoption, MillwardBrown 2012 BrandZ index, Source)

And yes, Food happens to be the  #1 category of content on Pinterest too with 57% of Pinterest users known to have interacted with food-related content during 2012. (source)

Now, let’s take one step back in the process and look at another emergent habit

Even before we tag the food in our plates on our Social Media pages, what do we do? We place our order with the waiter/bartender. However this poor waiter today vies for our attention with – surprise, surprise –  our mobile phones.  Thanks to our emergent habit of ‘checking in’ also called ‘location tagging’.

In fact, during the two year period ended in September 2012, Facebook has seen 17 billion location tagged posts including check ins (source). And to put that number into perspective, using May 2013 statistics, this would equal every single user of Facebook in the world checking in/ location tagging at least 8 times in an year over 2011 and 2012!

Understandably Facebook wants to make this key statistic- that of every user around the world checking in on Facebook – a reality. So after a pilot that was successfully run for over an year at over 1,000 SMEs in the US, Facebook – on October 2nd 2013 – has formalized an arrangement with CISCO. Named as ‘Facebook Wi-Fi‘ program, it converts retailers’ routers in the US into public Wi-Fi hotspots accessible to customers of the merchant establishment for free on one apparent condition. The deal? Go to the retailer’s/restaurant’s Facebook page and check in, and you have the Internet for free!

In other words, the three-step Facebook Wi-Fi system, which can be deployed by merchants running a Cisco router setup, lets people connect to a venue’s Wi-Fi, launch their browser, and click on the blue check-in button to gain unfettered access to the Internet.

Facebook WIFI

The deal for the merchant establishment?

  • Obviously each customer check in generates visibility leading to additional exposure that could pull in more customers or inspire more ‘likes’
  • While Facebook shares with the merchant an aggregate of anonymous demographic data such as age, gender, and interests on customers who sign-in to Facebook Wi-Fi, which they can potentially use for more effective targeting of their upcoming Facebook advertising campaigns

For Facebook, the Wi-Fi-with-check-in initiative is part of a broader plan to attack the local market by encouraging merchants to set up and maintain Pages on the social network and more importantly to seed – in the general public – the habit of ‘checking in’ on Facebook and thereby become the default gateway for the Internet.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world…

Chances are that you would have heard of Facebook Zero. If not, you should read this post right away. Essentially in 2010 Facebook collaborated with several mobile operators around the world and worked out an arrangement whereby the end users of these mobile networks can access  0.facebook.com – a faster and a free version of Facebook for your mobile, no matter which phone it is –  without any data charges.  People will only pay for data charges when they view photos or when they leave 0.facebook.com to browse other mobile sites. So, when they click to view a photo or browse another mobile site a notification page appears to confirm that they will be charged if they want to leave 0.facebook.com.

When this was launched in 2010, Facebook signed up 50 mobile carriers in 45 countries. The following image shows how Facebook made itself accessible on every class of phone through this initiative:

ubiquitous_mobile_facebook

How Facebook made itself accessible on every class of phone (Image source)

A smart way to drive usage of Facebook in emerging markets where the average monthly spend on mobile connectivity, which is often just voice and text, is 8-12% of the average take-home pay of a cell phone user. (source) In fact in just 10 months after its launch, Facebook Zero has become so popular in Africa that the site was said to have driven the adoption of broadband internet, just so users can have faster access to all those pictures and status updates!

Read this brilliant post on Quartz on how Facebook is conquering the world one mobile at a time.

Today, with more mobiles on earth than are people, and with smartphone penetration exponentially increasing in the emerging markets, the story has but just begun – after all there are 250 million Facebook users in Asia , more than on any other continent, and yet that’s just 6.5% of the population. In Africa, its penetration is less than 5%

And then Google launches Free Zone.

And the battle for world domination continues one mobile at a time.

Marketing Lessons From Emerging Markets

Successful marketing examples from emerging markets teach us many a lesson in getting the basics right.

Let’s take Indonesia for example. While Coke is the beverages leader globally, it is NOT so in Indonesia!

Teh Botol Sosro – The Indonesian Beverages Leader

After 80 years in Indonesia, Coke sells around 80 million cases per annum. Interestingly a local player by name Teh Botol Sosro (TBS) sells 2x that volume. Fascinatingly, TBS is not even a cola, it is a Ready To Drink Tea format and has become Indonesia’s favorite beverage in less than a decade! (source).

sosro

The reason? As per this insightful post on Occasion Based Marketing, it is two fold:

(1) TBS’s positioning is grounded in 3 local truths

  • Indonesians eat several times each day (3 square meals and 3 to 4 more snacking occasions)
  • Indonesia has a strong tea culture
  • When Indonesians eat or munch, they feel the need to drink something as well

Given these, TBS positioned itself with the simple and straight forward tagline

“Whatever the meal, Teh botol Sosro is the drink”  –  (“Apapun makanannya minumnya Teh botol Sosro”).

(2) Discipline in executing marketing strategy

Not only did TBS get the basics right w.r.t the beverages segment, it also ensured robust execution through:

  • Consistency of the brand messaging across all touch points
  • Ensuring Physical Availability i.e. solid distribution across retail and popular fast food chains like McDonalds and KFC
  • Building Mental Availability i.e, driving top of mind awareness and salience by leveraging on all media channels: ATL & BTL

TBS-Iklan-Ramadhan-01

(A Ramadan promo material for TBS,  shows the extent of its ‘Physical Availability’ – Image source)

McKinsey & Co Report On Building Brands In Emerging Markets

In many ways, each of the above principles strongly resonate with the findings of a recent McKinsey report titled “Building Brands In Emerging Markets”. Read the full article here for an elaborate report based on research conducted in nine product categories (including food and beverages, consumer electronics, and home and personal-care products) across various developed and emerging markets.

Essentially the report highlights 3 key differences between emerging and developed markets and its implications as:

  • Harnessing the power of word of mouth is invaluable, as it seems to play a disproportionate role in the decision journeys of emerging-market consumers.
  • Getting brands into a consumer’s initial consideration set is even more important in emerging markets, because that phase of the journey appears to have an out sized impact on purchase decisions.  
  • Finally, companies need to place special emphasis on what happens when products reach the shelves of retailers, because the in-store phase of the consumer decision journey tends to be longer and more important in emerging markets than in developed ones.

McKinsey Report On Emerging Markets(Exhibit Source, McKinsey Report On Emerging Markets)

While the above example and theory are inspiring and instructive in many ways, these miss out a commentary on an important characteristic of an emerging market.

How about speaking about building CATEGORY RELEVANCE first?

Emerging markets are essentially those where the categories / segments in question are under developed.  i.e., the target consumers in these markets don’t find the category/segment relevant to them – at least as yet. So if a segment itself is not seen as relevant in the market place, how crucial are word of mouth / perfect in-store experiences / or consistency in communications for a brand?

As a corollary, brands that start off by ‘setting up the dialogue on a category relevance’ can be said to be leveraging the opportunity to drive awareness of the category/segment and thereby establishing a strong salience of its branded offering in the market. If this key – setting up the context – activity is handled right by a brand, it can naturally have a solid advantage in the market place in the emerging category.  Let’s take 2 examples, one from a marketing strategy stand point and the other from a creative execution stand point.

1. Wines in India – Marketing Strategy In An Emerging Market

Wines in India is still an emerging market.  In 2012, wine (including imported varieties and sherry) only made up 0.45% of sales of 9 liter cases of alcohol in the country! (source). In other words (for various reasons) wines as an offering in India are still not seen as ‘relevant’ in the consideration set of alcoholic beverages category by most target consumers. So how do you build relevance for wines?

Sula Wines – a pioneer at the forefront of the Indian wine revolution shows by example. It embarked on a set of relevance building initiatives for the segment by going all out to promote wines domestically.For example, it holds about 1,600 wine tasting sessions a year to educate people on the finer points of enjoying a glass of wine, off late it has also been actively developing ‘wine tourism in India’ with vineyard tours and a music festivals held at its winery.

As a result the company produced 550,000 cases of wine last year and expects the number to rise by 25% in 2013. (source)

Sula Kebab Fest

(Image Source, Kebab Fest @ Sula Wines)

2. 4×4 Drives in Venezuela – Creative Executions In Emerging Markets

Venezuela has 147 motor vehicles per 1000 inhabitants. Compare this with 797 motor vehicles per 1000 that USA has (source). Motor vehicle here is defined as  automobiles, SUVs, vans, buses, commercial vehicles and freight motor road vehicles.

So how does Jeep communicate in each of these two markets?

You guessed it right! In a market like Venezuela,  Jeep focuses on setting the category context first – i.e. it’s communications are tuned towards building relevance of GETTING OUT as an activity ; and not so much on its technical specifications or competitive claims. See the following print ads by Leo Burnett developed for Venezuela. I love how Jeep manages to drive relevance of its segment without losing its tongue in cheek tone.

Jeep_Climber_ibelieveinadv   (Source, See the other ads in this series here, agency Leo Burnett)

On a related note, see how Jeep communicates in Bolivia here.  Similar theme here too –  More focus on setting up the category relevance than on proclaiming its uniqueness / superiority vs competition.

Now, as a contrast, how does Jeep communicate in the US?

It still speaks in its tongue in cheek tone, it still speaks about getting out or making the world your playground. But here, it also focuses on what makes Jeep the best in its segment by rattling off the pertinent technical specs or superiority credentials. See the following print ad from the US.

wrangler_garage(Source, Click on the ad for the enlarged version, agency BBDO)

The copy says: “Dana 44 solid axles, heavu duty Rock-Trac 4WD system, Tru-Lok fornt and rear differentails, front and rear mounted tow hooks, CD player, and seven speakers.”

On a related note, see Jeep’s print ad for Germany (another developed market) here and here.  Similar theme here too as that in the US – The focus here is on reinforcing its uniqueness and/or technical superiority vs competition and not so much on setting up the context / category relevance.

In Summary..

Whether it’s about a marketing strategy or even a creative execution,  whenever we see a success/failure of a brand in the context of an emerging market, probably the first questions to be asked could as well be:

  • Who was the first to drive the category/segment relevance in the market place? (who initiated the dialogue)
  • And How?  (is the dialogue grounded in local consumer truths?)

Once you have these answers, often times, you might not need to see the market shares for validation.

Don’t you think so?

(Featured Image –  BRIC Countries, Source)