The New Marketing Mindset

Invention and Innovation could sometimes be polar opposites.

Seems counter intuitive, right? But when you read this brilliant piece on Segway, it would seem almost commonsensical. Segway, the article posits, failed because it was focused solely on inventionbelieving that it alone has come up with the perfect idea for a great product. The company didn’t spend as much time or effort on innovation the ongoing iterative process of going back and forth with the consumers to test and understand what the market wants and ensuring that the product meet their needs.   

This on going iterative process with the consumer to test and understand what market wants and applying these learnings to make your product meet their needs has a specialised name today.

Growth Hacking.

Depending upon who you are / what you’ve been smoking / or what you’ve been reading recently, this could possibly be the first time you hear this term or probably even the zillionth! Whichever be the case, Growth Hacking as a term is topping the charts in popularity, appeal and relevance to describe a must have mindset in the world of product design and marketing.

Coined by Sean Ellis in this legendary article, Growth Hacking is essentially marketing albeit repurposed to the evolving dynamics of consumer, product and consumption today. Chances are that most of us would have been witness to, experienced, and were target consumers of live Growth Hacking experiments. Don’t believe me?

  • Did you yearn for an invite for a Gmail account back when Gmail was introduced? That was neat Growth Hack from Google!
  • Did you refer your friends to try out Dropbox to get free storage space in return? You were being Growth Hacked!
  • Do you remember those end lines in mails that said something like Sent from my Blackberry/iPad/iPhone..? Growth Hack, it was!

Read about the 10 of the best growth hacks of all time here. Aaron Ginn’s page is a great place to start on a journey to explore more resources on Growth Hacking and Ryan Holiday’s book Growth Hacker Marketing could make for a great primer on this topic over an afternoon meal.

Today ‘Growth Hacker’ as a term has gone mainstream even in the jobs’ lexicon. For it is not unusual to run into marketing job postings that come labelled as “Wanted Growth Hackers”!

While case studies of how Growth Hacking has worked out for (now) big brands like Instagram, Pinterest or Airbnb make for a fascinating read, lesser known examples can give an equally compelling perspective and an insight on how Growth Hacking can actually move the needle. The story of Bilingual Child – an iOS App to teach Spanish for kids – is a recent example. Not content with how their sales were panning out, the team at Bilingual Child went on to delve a bit deeper into the data and discovered a Growth Hack. The result:  they tripled their revenue by adding one button! Read the story here.

Bilingual Child

(Source, Medium. Click on the picture to read the story)

Well, if you have come this far you could be forgiven for thinking that Growth Hacking is majorly applicable to software products or startups. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Amy Webb was having no luck with online dating. So she figured out the system, monitored and measured the impact of her  ‘hacks’ and went about achieving what she set out to do – finding her match. Hear this story of how she went on to hack her online dating life — with frustrating, funny and life-changing results.

Is this Growth Hacking? You bet it is – Amy’s bold and calculated attempt to drive growth in the quantity and the quality of potential matches for her. The core essence of her approach is equally (if not more so) applicable to something like say updating my LinkedIn profile. And that for me is a compelling takeaway from her TED talk.

So the bottom line is clear, irrespective of the field of application – a company, a product or even a person, the ability to delve into data, bring in curiosity and operate with a mix of creativity and an analytical ability has huge implications in driving growth. No wonder then, Growth Hacking is said to be redefining the very mindset of marketing as we know it.

After all, when was the last time you had a name for a discipline that neatly encapsulated the objective and the enabler of the activity in a single breath?  

(Featured Image, Medium’s collection on Growth Hacking, Another great resource on this subject)

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 – 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 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

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:


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.

The IKEA Effect

Betty Crocker learnt it the hard way, but it was arguably one of the first to know it.

It’s a classic case study – a number of years ago Betty Crocker had noticed their consumers feeling a bit guilty to be using its Instant Cake Mixes. Since all they needed to do was add water before putting in the oven in order to make a cake, it gave them a feeling of not working enough to show their love and care for their family. So what did Betty Crocker do? It made the process of cake making a ‘bit more complicated’. Betty Crocker changed its recipe in such a way that it requires the consumer to add an egg as well! Result? The mixes began to get sold like hot cakes! The secret? It was found that the consumers liked the new cake mixes better, because the slightly ‘complicated’ process (of adding an egg) made them feel that they were actually contributing something to the meal.

The insight: Things seem better if you have to work for it. Apparently a name has been coined for this off late and it’s called The IKEA Effect –  essentially it refers to the disproportionate sense of pride and ownership that we feel for objects on which we have lavished our own labor, however intrinsically simple the work, like say assembling a piece of IKEA Furniture.

Dan Ariely from HBS is one of the co-authors of the paper titled by the same name. Following is a 5 mins video of him expounding a bit further on this theory:

Things indeed seem better if you have to work for it. Fantastic Delites – an Australian Snack Foods brand recently used this insight to device a vending machine. The following video shows the concept it greater detail. This was part of their integrated campaign called “How Far Will You Go For Fantastic Delites?”

The IKEA Effect is busy at work in the digital sphere too. Let’s take Pinterest, the online pinboard that lets you organize and share things you love. It’s essentially a social network that is built over the concept of ‘content curation’. The thing here is that the user need not necessarily create her own content like say blogs or portfolios in order to pin it on their boards. All you need to do is:

  • Create and name a Pinboard
  • And just continue your browsing..
  • Should you find any pic/video of interest, just ‘pin’ it on your board

The interesting thing to note here is the process of pinning is devised to hit the sweet spot of being simple enough for anyone to follow and ‘complicated’ enough to elicit your ‘IKEA Effect’. Result? The more you pin, the more your interest, effort and time are vested in the network, making it much more valuable to you (and thereby the advertisers!). exemplifies it even more directly. It is essentially a digital scrap book and social network for kids.

The premise? Simple. Every parent loves her kid’s creations and loves even more to flaunt these to their near and dear –  a sketch, a piece of origami, a painting, a piece of craft – virtually anything that the kids make with their own hands. Enter a fantastic concept that:

  • Gets kids on board a social network in a creative / constructive way
  • Gets parents to help their kids curate the content and share it in the social network

And that’s it! You just let the IKEA Effect lose in a parent-children equation. And the magic unfolds by itself. No wonder it is chronicled by the likes of FastCompany and PSFK and slated to be one of the most potent social networking sites to watch out for.

Any other interesting examples of The IKEA Effect in action?

Pillars of Digital Influence and what it means for G+

As per the recently released report by the Altimeter group, there are 3 pillars of Digital Influence –  Reach, Relevance and Resonance.

(Image Source: Altimeter)

While it’s hugely instructive as a framework, what interests me is that can potentially explain many trends that we see play out in the digital arena today. Let’s take Google +.

Google+ does a great job at building strong foundations given its legacy and thereby straddles 2 of the 3 pillars of Digital Influence:

  • Reach:  G+ rides on a phenomenal user base that Google has built through Gmail
  • Relevance: given that most web journeys start with a search and given the dominant market share that google has in this domain, G+ can naturally syndicate itself through these multiple touch points and hence thereby have the ability to target with relevance (eg: highly targeted ads etc)

That said, there is a critical pillar that G+ is yet to figure out – Resonance. Why?

My hypothesis as follows

First let’s consider 2 obvious facts about social networks and how they scale:

Social Networks Scale with participation: It is known that the worth of a social network increases exponentially with the growth in the user base. In other words, the more friends of mine I see on a particular social network, there are greater chances that I buy into it. In fact that’s precisely why I ‘graduated’ from orkut to facebook a few years ago.

Social Networks scale with time: Secondly, the more time I spend on a social networking site, the more valuable it becomes for me, simply because over the years I would have built a network of friends, interests, groups etc. that I am interested in.

As a corollary to this – given that garnering a critical mass user base becomes the holy grail of any social networking site, it gets all the more elusive progressively for the newer social networking sites  as users find themselves within very high exit barriers.

So what does it mean in the context of Facebook Vs Google+?

Inertia: As facebook users, while I, along with millions of others have built our own social networks over the years and have started creating our own digital footprints, Google+ now asks me for my willingness, time, effort and patience to painstakingly recreate a similar network on Google+! Does this offer any scale for me as a user? Hardly.

The Proposition: Even in terms of its core proposition, G+ offers me a very similar value as a social network as that being offered by facebook and doesn’t offer me anything differentiated (like say Linkedin). Does that entice me as a user? Hardly – unless I want to review it as a techie.

With all the recent news about Google+ over hauling its design of the interface and arguably even doing a great job at that, it doesn’t seem to be moving the needle in the right direction for G+.

It is here, I guess Pinterest has done an extremely smart thing – it offered a new platform for content creation and sharing and not necessarily a new social network. It just rides on the social networking footprint of facebook and focuses on what it does best – pinning!

And that could partly explain why Facebook finds Instagram as a very attractive acquisition – as it sees it more as an opportunity to acquire the ‘most valuable’ user base (most Instagram users are naturally content creators and not mere spectators or joiners) than as an acquisition of a photo-editing and sharing software.

It is really interesting and extremely instructive to see how Mark Z and his aides are mapping out Facebook as a Social By Design edifice strongly predicated on the 3 pillars of Digital Influence. Result: an enhanced social experience for users and value for marketers.