Is The Classic Purchase Funnel Flawed?

Quick Read: With most products in any given category tending to have total functional parity, the only way to drive trial could possibly be through a singular route – curioisty.

Often times I am curious why “curiosity” doesn’t even figure in the classic purchase funnel.

In fact I tend to believe that without inciting a threshold level of curiosity in a consumer, awareness and consideration could end up proving to be moot pursuits.

Let’s take Kaviar. (or Smörgåskaviar to be specific)

Kaviar is a Scandinavian spread – a paste consisting mainly of lightly smoked cod roe that has a salty/sweet/fishy taste and a gooey pink/orange colour. Packed full of omega-3 goodness, kaviar can be eaten at anytime and practically spread on anything edible – breads, eggs, meat, cheese etc. (source)

Mills Kaviar

(Source: Mills Kaviar)

No wonder the Scandivaians swear by them, with the category that is sufficiently crowded with brands like MillsStabburet, Kalles, Kavli etc battling out for market share by commanding fierce loyalties.

However kaviar supposedly has one catch – it is an acquired taste and a first timer might find the taste disgusting

Now that’s where the Kalles Campaign proves to be a genius. (Kalles is a Swedish Kaviar brand)

The campaign holds a mirror to other nationalities’ incomprehension and their reaction at having something that tastes – let’s just say – strong and funny.

It starts with Los Angeles where obviously the Californians don’t hold back their feelings upon tasting something weird.

As it moves to Switzerland, the taste test yields more hand and eyebrow gestures than actual verbal responses.

“It tastes … ” a serious looking man in a tie says. “It tastes … ”

“Fantastic?” the Swede asks.

“No,” the Swiss man replies, with a resolute firmness.

In Budapest, the reaction is icier. A woman takes a bite, exchanges cold glances and upon being asked if she likes it, she smiles, and says “yes,” with a look that clearly says no.

The Costa Ricans laugh and gesticulate.

And the Japanese are very polite even as they appear to be gagging at the taste.

 The Kalles commercials began in 2012 and were made by the Swedish ad firm Forsman & Bodenfors.

As this NYTimes article says, if nothing else these ads are a whimsical cultural excursion into manners.

Now, can anyone get me a Kalles Kaviar please?

I want to try my own gag reflex.

I am really curious!

Now, where am I in the purchase funnel?

(Featured Image Source: My Guilty Pleasures)

Wants Of The Third Kind

Quick Read: At a simplistic level, needs tend to get recast as wants when marketing kicks in.But do all kinds of wants come with the same ‘baggage’? Are some kinds of wants more interesting than the others for a marketer?

Make things people want OR Make people want things? 

If there is one slide deck that is worth your 10 mins time today, it would be this, by John V Willshire – Founder at Smithery

An instructive concept that he shares in this presentation (and also his blog) is about three different kinds of wants that are generally prevalent from a marketer’s perspective:

  • Existing wants: are what we are typically surrounded by every day, on our supermarket shelves and smartphones. It’s simple for marketers to spot these wants, and so competition is fierce and sometimes desperate (more on that later).
  • Latent wants are obvious gaps in the market; things there are no present solutions for, but are easy for people to describe. If someone starts a product desription with “I wish such and such a product would do this”, then you know it is a latent want. For e.g., Nest as an idea was born out of a latent want for Tony Fadell.
  • Incipient wants are the things that customers have no idea could exist, but once made available can’t imagine how they have lived without it.

Any major habit forming technologically advanced product can arguably fall under this third kind. E.g., Walkman, iPod, iPhone etc. But, are incipient wants only about new, ‘fancy but necessary’ products?

Think about it for a moment. 

Now that’s why, incipient wants tend to be the most interesting territory for a markter today.

Marmite is a fascinating brand. You either love it or hate it, there is no midele ground. But, in the recent years the iconic UK brand had a challenge. A healthy user base but declining usage levels. Now, when you consider that this brand had typically high levels of affinity, the obvious question stares in the eye – why are then consumers using it less? 

Apparently, the insight to explain this dichotomy of high affinity and low usage could have been that Marmite has become an incipient want – “I have no idea that I was missing it, but once I saw it (stowed away in my cupboard) , I couldn’t imagine how I had lived without it all these days.”

The result. A genius of a campaign that draws attention to those neglected jars that linger, unloved, in the back of the cupboard with a simple call to action – Love it. Hate it. Just don’t forget it. 

Marmite Billboard(MARMITE – Just Don’t Forget It. Billboard – Source)

Besides, as Mr. Bhat puts it here “It takes a bold, confident team to run this campaign where the brand name & packaging is not even visible fully.” And that’s what I love about these executions the most.

And getting back to the Existing Wants – the areana of conventional supermarket aisles – competition here can sometimes get a bit too desperate. For e.g., did you realise that there are this new revolutionary bananas that can also be consumed on the go?

Chiquita On The Go(H/T Robert Campbell. Pic Source.)

(Featured image source)

Art Of Making Noise. Perfected

How would you make branded noise without making any ‘noise’?

We might need to ask Selfridges, the high end department store chain in UK (which has been voted Best Department Store in the World in the Global Department Store Summit, Paris 2012).

As part of their recent drive called No Noise – Selfridges embarked on a bold new initiative to offer a unique experience to its shoppers that is de-cluttered, de-branded and ‘de-noiseified’.

1. De-cluttered: By featuring fashion/apparels/beauty products that are a ‘carefully curated edit’ of minimalist design from brands like Jil Sander, Uniform Wares etc.  


2. De-branded: By featuring flagship products from brands like Heinz, Levi’s, Beats by Dre, Marmite, Crème de la Mer & Clinique that are (surprise..surprise..!) stripped off their logos. As it says on the website

  “Some of the world’s most recognizable brands have taken the symbolic step of removing their logos in our exclusive collection of de-branded products.”

No Noise Assortment

and ..

3. De-Noise -ified:  by getting equipped with Headspace pods and a re-instated ‘Silence Room’ – dedicated oasis of silence and contemplation amidst the usual frenzy of brands and bargains where shoppers can get access to guided meditation modules  and an ambiance  to help calm busy heads.

This is how they explain the No Noise initiative on their website:

As we become increasingly bombarded with information and stimulation, the world is becoming a noisier place. In an initiative that goes beyond retail, we invite you to celebrate the power of quiet, see the beauty in function and find calm among the crowds.

A couple of thoughts on No Noise:

  1. The initiative sounds like a very unique (and a first of its kind?) anti-retail concept by a retail brand 
  2. Sounds like the high street fashion’s foray into the space of low-fi living – the recent lifestyle trend that is picking steam where less is said to be more
  3. And obviously, contrary to the stated purpose, these products with stripped off logos end up creating buzz and making the greatest magnitude of noise.  For, after all, any partially fleshed out visual element that only leaves out the name and yet succeeds in making the shopper recognize its identity in no uncertain terms is a clever way to trigger imagination, engage attention, and reinforce the shoppers’ memory structures about the brand’s visual identity.
  4. Finally and more importantly it is clearly a self bragging loud statement by these brands on the iconic status of their visual identity elements so much so that these ‘unbranded’ products are being offered as exclusive collector’s items (Selfridges has even debranded its own bag).

To sum it up, as Tim Nudd aptly notes in AdWeek:

Throw in all the communications surrounding “No Noise,” and it seems the company is making more noise than ever this year.

Talk about the next level of sophistication in making noise without making noise.

Reminded me of Andrew Miller’s experiment Brand Spirit in 2012  – check out my  related post.

Top things I Learnt About You


The following BrandedNoise posts are my 6 personal favorites for 2012: (in no particular order)

1. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: On Skeuomorphs

2. Stories, Grommets & Epipheos

3. The Worst Hotel In The World

4. Social Dissonance: Blasphemy or Opportunity

5. The New Theory of Constraints

6. Marmite, Mouthwash and Microsoft

Besides thanks to Google Analytics, it was immensely gratifying for me to be able to learn fascinating facts about you – the visitors of the blog in 2012.

The Top 10 visitor locations for BrandedNoise areSingapore, India, US, UK, UAE, Philippines, Canada, Australia, Japan & Germany. Of whom 52% have been New Visitors and 48% have been Returning Visitors!!


Safari, Chrome and Firefox were the top 3 browsers via which you accessed BrandedNoise (with IE being a distant 4th!). No wonder.

Mobile Access:

iPad, Blackberry and iPhone have been the top 3 mobile devices through which the blog was accessed during the year (with Samsung Tabs and Mobiles being subsequent devices in the order). And No –  My mobile device is not even listed in the top 10 (and I access BrandedNoise from my phone quite often!)


Google Organic Searches, ‘Direct Browser Access’ (special thanks to those who have bookmarked my blog), Facebook Referrals & Linkedin Referrals were the top sources of the traffic generated to the blog. It is super fascinating to even be able to see the actual ‘keywords’ searched for by the visitors who eventually ended up on the blog! 

There are many other insights that I could glean from my Analytics Page and I am sure these would go a long a way in helping me make your valuable time spent on BrandedNoise more worthwhile in the days to come.

Thank you again for your encouragement and words of support through out the year. You have been a huge inspiration. As is the world of Brands, Innovation and Design.

Wish You a Successful and a Purposeful 2013!

The 12 Most Viewed Posts of 2012


The following blog posts received the top 12 pageviews at BrandedNoise in 2012.

1. The Power of Imagination. Unleashed

2. The Best Touch Points for Marketing Fabric Conditioners in India

3. Colors

4. Minimalism and Apple

5. Marmite, Mouthwash and Microsoft

6. 100 Days of Branded White

7. The IKEA Effect

8. Pulling the Triggers on Behavior

9. The Most Iconic Photograph Ever –  On Perspectives

10. The Uninvited Design – Agencies Beware

11. The Job Hunt – Part 1/3

12. Targeted Sampling

The Worst Hotel In The World

In a very small (80 page) book called The Dip, one of Seth Godin’s contentions is that whatever we chose to do (in life and for a living) it is imperative to be THE BEST in it – THE BEST in your world, THE BEST in your market, THE BEST for your consumer, THE BEST for a specific need etc. Else, he says, there is little reason to stick to doing/pursuing/selling something and one is better off quitting the very pursuit.

It’s interesting how one specific budget hotel in Amsterdam exemplifies itself as a proof of concept for Seth’s point on being ‘THE BEST’ in the world. Enter the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam.

What is so special about this place? It is obviously cheap, arguably seedy, apparently run down and potentially awful. And this is all expected regular fare from most backpackers or a super cheap budget hotel that your thrifty friend recommends from his travels or some sort of a ‘hostel’ that you get compelled to chose in the last moment devoid of budget/options or time. What sets this hotel apart from the others is that it actually prides itself at being The Worst Hotel In The World!

Conceived by KesselsKramer (their website itself is an eccentric, dynamically changing themed concept, and I am yet to get a grip over how ‘it works’ and how it ‘makes sense’),  an Amsterdam/London based agency led by Erik Kessels, the campaign is almost a case study of sorts. Purportedly with a brief to create buzz and thereby make a ‘branded noise’ to reach out to the young backpackers who are typically much too aware of the multitude of options to chose from when it comes to travel, accommodation, food, drinks and fun, it looks like a very well conceptualized campaign, and an extremely courageous one at that.

The following is what particularly interested me:

  • The Channels: It is indeed an Integrated Brand Communications campaign having different legs to it: Wacky Posters, Direct Marketing, ‘OOH’ (miniature promotional flags placed in Dog Poops around the city!), Digital (the website has a tastefully cheap look to it), a dedicated Youtube channel and an actual hardcover Book dedicated to the hotel (presumably as a PR leg)
  • The Execution: Across all those channels, it speaks in a very consistent tone: making a ‘serious joke’ of itself, playing onto your worst backpackers nightmares, promising absolutely nothing but the worst and highlighting its price point

Even more interesting are the results: 

  • It has become the most talked about hotel in the world in terms of the buzz (offline and online) that it generated
  • And ever since the campaign went live, it is said that the rooms have always been fully booked (a 42% increase in occupancy)
  • And the book has gone out and become a live case study of building a strong brand!

Go ahead, take time and browse through its website, and search for some of its communication material (by simply searching for the ‘Worst Hotel In the World’) and I am sure you would have some interesting bits to reflect upon.

A month ago when I blogged about how some brands have turned around a ‘hate-worthy’ attribute about themselves as a virtue, I had little clue about this case – an extremely unique, devastatingly dark in humor, decidedly cheap and funnily scary example of how a brand has actually gone ahead and touted itself as THE WORST IN THE WORLD.

And succeeded at it!

Social Dissonance – Blasphemy or Opportunity?


I am sure that most people who use Facebook must have felt a pressing need for a  an ‘unlike’ button at least once so far. There are a lot of irritatingly clichéd, painfully faked, ostentatiously humane kind of shares, messages, pics and videos out there so much so that you would sometimes cringe at even a hint of such posts. Give me an ‘unlike’ button or better still ‘hate’ button – you might yearn, at such times!

The bad news obviously is that Facebook bans even the usage of the words ‘hate’ or ‘unlike’ in the Apps and hence developers are told that it is a strict ‘NO GO’, evidently in the spirit of fostering more inclusive communities, curating  conversations and triggering engagements that are more positive in nature.The good news however is that very recently, a new kind of App has come into the ‘Social AppSphere’ that kind of comes close to this ‘dislike’ / ‘hate’ kind of intent. Records say that it became so controversially popular that it had got more than 10,000 users in just 36 hrs.  Enter EnemyGraph.

Created by a Dean Terry and his Grad Student Bradley Griffith (at University of Texas at Dallas), EnemyGraph essentially is a Facebook App that lets you identify, create and share your enemies list with your friends online. I have to admit that when I first heard of it I wasn’t very impressed by the idea. It smacked of something that’s trying hard to be innovative by deliberately trying to think different. But before pursuing the story further on the WWW, I froze in my heels and tried to argue with myself to see if there is something more to it.

Let’s get back to the basics – What are communities? and how are communities built? Wikipedia defines a community as a group of people that share common values and are bound by ‘social cohesion’. Now these vibes of cohesion or a shared set of values/beliefs are nothing but those that are created out of very strong affiliations – affiliations that are overwhelmingly positive or negative in sentiment.

So any strong sentiment that is overwhelmingly positive or negative in nature turns out to be a potential binding force for bringing together groups of people as strong communities. This very insight must have triggered this ingenuous attempt to foster and leverage upon the seeds of social dissonance planted in the social media landscape.

At a very simplistic level, assume that you like Justin Bieber, but one of your friends lists him as an “enemy.” EnemyGraph will send you a “dissonance report,” pointing out the difference and offering it up for conversation. What is actually happening here? Dissonance always tends to capture people’s attention. So when I know that something that I like, is hated by my friend (or vice-versa) it  makes me pause for a while (even in the occasional social media ‘rush hour madness’) and compels me to reflect upon this new equation, this new conversational dynamic and makes a participant out of me. Isn’t that cool?

Sadly the founders themselves feel that this could soon be seen as a blasphemy by Facebook as it could go against their social media philosophy, and hence fear that it could soon be shut down by Mark Z and his aides.

I, for one believe that there is a phenomenal opportunity in the idea – as a consumer and more importantly as a marketer. Interesting co-incidence that my previous blog post was about brands that have sought to create a distinctive and (in some cases like Marmite) an almost irresistible kind of proposition by using a HATRED related angle.

Let’s take Marmite as an example.To take their positioning that you either love it or hate it, to the next level, it could potentially have ‘fans’ (or let’s’ say active participants of a community) who declare their authentic affiliations towards the brand on their Facebook page. Tons would love/like it (as the pouring online evidence shows). Many could even hate it (as the brand communications boldly state). Just imagine. If there were to be an EnemyGraph kind of platform that helps the brand to capture these strong dual affiliations online, wouldn’t that be a very powerful source that truly reinforces its fundamental brand truth and thereby its iconic appeal?

From Marmite’s part, agreed that it requires a meticulously careful management of this love/hate relationship as it pans out in real time online and a very mature capability of curating content around that community in the over all interest of the brand.  Agreed that it could be a leap of faith for the brand (as things can very rapidly go downhill online if mismanaged). But we are speaking about a brand as iconic as Marmite, a brand that has literally taken a leap of faith nearly 3 decades ago and amazingly embraced the magical possibilities of a proposition like “You either love it or hate it”. Aren’t we 🙂

Lasltly, to sign off and to quote Dean Terry..

“You learn a lot about people by what they dislike.This app opens the door to wondering if there’s a way to draw people together against something that in turn results in positive social change, or at least brings [people] together in new ways.”

And yes, do check out the EnemyGraph site, it even has a “Trending List of Enemies”. And guess who is in the top 5 list? Internet Explorer – the browser that you loved to hate!

Marmite, Mouthwash and Microsoft

Marmite and Listerine are often quoted as common examples for a peculiar kind of reason – HATE.

These are classic examples of brands that have spun a hatred related angle into a brand positive. Just as a very quick recap, for the uninitiated.

Marmite – An English brand is essentially a Yeast Extract commonly used as bread spread (and many others) and is known for a very.. let’s say peculiar kind of taste – that has nearly polarized the world into 2 camps: People who love it and people who hate it. Through the decades it has established itself as a truly iconic brand based on just this simple ‘brand truth’ – you either hate it or love it. In fact it goes the extra mile in communicating to us that people who hate it do indeed find it repulsive to the highest degree.

Listerine – on the other hand was originally known for its very ‘non inviting’ medicinal kind of taste. When competitors began to launch mouthwash known for its ‘good taste’, Listerine smartly (and courageously) stuck to its ground and attributed its ‘virtues’ to its taste – that people hate twice a day.

Through the years, these brands have leveraged upon this ‘HQ’ (Hatred Quotient) and spun it into an incredibly positive sounding/ stimulating discourse about themselves.

(Source for the classic Listerine Ad)

Spurred by these very interesting examples of brands using ‘hatred’ as a nearly irresistible proposition, I tried to search around and see if there are any other similar examples. After about a few unsuccessful days of online crawling for ads/ brands/ campaigns high in HQ, I was almost about to give up when I stumbled into this.

The browser that you have loved to hate campaign by Microsoft.

Essentially this was a campaign for the launch of the ‘newest’ browser from Microsoft – IE9. See the cheeky/ballsy video here. In a nutshell, the campaign idea seems to be predicated on what is meant to be an honest disclosure from Microsoft. “We gave you a crappy product – you obviously hated it – we listened to you – we now confess our bluff – and hence we present to you a newer version of the browser that you had loved to hate”

See the official tumblr page here. Some highlights of the campaign as seen through the tumblr page:

  • The site reflects the new penchant that Microsoft seems to be developing for self mockery
  • But again (just seconds after you buy into the mockery confession), Microsoft tries to get into a more serious discourse on ‘comebacks’ with some seemingly unrelated examples of how comebacks come in many shapes and sizes (by speaking about moustaches, birds, false perceptions of reality, bikes that are hard to ride etc!!!)
  • The 2nd page has a list of all reviews of the IE9 from different sources while the 3rd page is a pin board of different tweets extolling the IE9

Now taking a step back and pulling all these 3M’s (Marmite, Mouthwash, Microsoft) together, I guess, these brands/executions are more different than not from each other. Fundamentally the reason they jumped into the ‘HQ’ bandwagon is for very different purposes.

Marmite –the story goes, that these 2 creatives (Flintham and McLeod) from DDB London didn’t actually set out to think of any new slogan. In fact it just struck to them as a fundamental brand truth as that’s how Flintham and McLeod saw the brand ; While Flintham loved the spread, McLeod hated it and thus was born a powerful idea that was then presented to the client, who in turn courageously embraced all its possibilities. The rest, as they say, is history. In essence, You either love it or hate it – has been the fundamental brand truth and thereby the core positioning that it had and still has in the minds of the consumers.

Listerine, as mentioned above, got into the hatred related discourse only in response to a competitive onslaught. Over the years, Listerine has been launched in various flavors most of which are more inviting and non medicinal in taste as opposed to the original Listerine. Naturally it is no more using this erstwhile campaign around the taste that people hate twice a day, as this was originally meant to be a tactical response and not much of a strategic initiative from the part of the brand.

Microsoft IE9, I guess, is a tricky case. It is neither a strategic move (obviously) and nor is it a tactical initiative. I guess it has been envisaged as a stand alone campaign to create awareness about the new browser – presumably by trying to ‘cut through the clutter’. In simple words, Microsoft, I guess wanted to gate crash into your chrome/firefox browser experience by entertaining you with a video of self mockery and reminding you that it is the browser you loved to hate, hoping that you would find it funny and thereby pass it over to your friends. As a result of the ensuing viral phenomenon it expects that it could count upon a good number of downloads and hopefully some converts along the way. Period.

The browser you loved to hate campaign reminded me of the Domino’s Pizza campaign aired 2 years ago. But what differentiates both is that the Domino’s campaign was not a self mockery exercise for fun, it had elements of communicating a serious, critical, introspective and an honest look that they had cast upon their own products, talked with the consumers and thereby made what they call as a ‘PIZZA TURN AROUND’.

On the contrary, the IE9 campaign puts its own authenticity into question, especially when you become aware that the IE8 was launched in 2010 with pretty much similar fanfare and positioned as a browser that enables you to browse with confidence. And just after an year it comes out and tells you that it’s actually a browser that you could potentially have hated. Wow! from selling ‘confidence’ to seeding ‘hatred’ – that was quite a journey!

Are there any other brands that have sought to ride upon the HATRED bandwagon?