Could a Great Insight Backfire?

Quick Read: Rooted in a universal insight about play and its potential, Barbie’s new film is brilliant. But could that very insight be its undoing? 

Using imagination as the USP to sell something is nothing new.

But using imagination as a means to reshape a brand’s narrative into that of a more affirmative and purportedly more inclusive discourse is.

At least that’s what the new Barbie campaign does. To good effect.

In a new film by BBDO called “Imagine The Possibilities”, Barbie speaks of the power of imagination that allows girls to explore their potential.

It’s twitter page shows how the brand has begun to drive conversations around topics like inspiring confidence, celebrating boldness, encouraging self expression and calling out the ‘inner superstar’.

For a brand that has often been accused of perpetuating an epidemic of body hatred, this campaign seems to hold promise in getting parents to reappraise the role Barbie can play in a child’s life. At least a cursory look into the comments in the film’s YouTube page seems to suggest so.

The film is great because of its brilliant insight – when a girl plays with Barbie she imagines everything that she can become.

But ironically it is this very insight that could be its undoing. 

If when a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything that she can become, wouldn’t such an imagination naturally get rooted in a (misguided) notion –  i.e., the notion that her dream of becoming this someone could be a function of her growing up to look as ‘perfect & pretty’ as the Barbie dolls seem to her?

The jury is out.

Only time will tell if this can make any substantial dent in the brand imagery for Barbie in the long term beyond the seemingly positive discourse of “seek your inner superstar”.

Meanwhile, did you hear about Lammily?

Lammily

It is feted as as the “first fashion doll with realistic proportions”.

[Bonus Link: Did you know that every woman in every Disney/Pixar movie in the past decade has the exact same face? You should check this out.]

(Featured Image source: Barbie.com)

Embedded Moments of Truth

Quick Read: With some creative genius ‘moments of truth’ can lend themselves to some quirky embedded ads. Ask Banksy if you need greater proof. 

Late last year Google embedded itself in NYC with some delightful site-specific outdoor ads.

Created by 72andSunny, these wonderfully embedded site-specific ads brought several “OK Google, moments” to life.

Beer Bar Bowl Top of rockCoffee

(Images source)

The great thing about such embedded ads is that depsite the obviously limited direct reach, their creative genius transcends borders through earned media (including blog posts like this).

This month, Snickers embedded its “You make mistakes when you’re hungry” message across NYC’s outdoor “fails”. Examples include a handrail that goes up when the stairs are going down, or a door that says both “Enter here” and “No entry.”

snickers_1 snickers_2 snickers_3 snickers_6

(Images source. Agency BBDO)

Again, very limited direct reach. But the ROI from earned media stand point? It’s anybody’s guess.

To celebrate such genius, it could be worthwhile to have a seperate awards category for “embedded ads”, as opposed to just calling them “outdoor”.

And may be Banksy should judge those 🙂

(Featured Image: Banksy’s “The Street Is In Play” street art in NYC. 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.)

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)