Friday, October 31, 2008

MBAs During Recession : Advice From Gautam Ghosh

Its a great pleasure to present a guest post from Mr Gautam Ghosh on a topic which is currently on the top of the mind of all MBA students who are facing a dull placement season this year.

Gautam Ghosh is an HR Consultant based out of Delhi. An MBA in HR from the prestigious XLRI Jamshedpur, Gautam had an illustrious career in organisations like Deliotte and Touche, Hewlett Packard, Dell and Satyam before venturing into the field of HR Consulting.

An expert in the field of Human Resources Management, Gautam is also an avid blogger. His HR Blog is listed among the top 25 best HR blog by HR World. You can read his blog at and

I am sure that readers of marketing practice will greatly benefit from the insights and advice from Gautam

How to prepare for placements in tough times .

First of all Harish, thanks for giving me this opportunity to write a guest post. As we all know the economic scenario worldwide is yo-yo'ing and is not one for the faint hearted.

When Harish asked me if I could write a post for students who are looking at graduate into a tough job market, I wondered what I could say to these young bright students.

Then it struck me. Placements are a time for marketing yourself, and in this tough market the principles of marketing become relevant more than ever.

So here are a few thoughts:

1. Be a quality product. As any marketer worth his salt will let you know, there is only so much you can do to sell an average product. Being an outstanding product goes a long way to make the marketing easier. That means not just raw intelligence but a lot of emotional quotient also. The ability to build relationships and get things done. The courage to take decisions. All these matter in addition to your ability to analyze numbers and define processes.

2. First generalise then specialise. Brands and marketers live and breathe segmentation. However, as an individual in the brand bazaar it's always better to generalise more and more and then decide on when to specialise. The upsides of specialisation is that during boom times you can command a premium, but the downside is that during a period of slump the generalists are the last to get laid off. Take the decision depending on how much risk you can take

3. Keep developing and evolving - Brands need to continuously develop and be relevant to the context. As a professional that is imperative too. Building skills and keeping an open mindset (to new horizons, mobility etc) is key to developing as a professional.

4. Prove your worth. As the economy slows, people's perception of what you can do would be different than what they would have assumed a year ago. Their risk taking propensity would have reduced, so be prepared to prove your worth before any additional work is given your way. Credibility would have to be earned and not assumed.

5. The start is just the start not the end. I know how stressful placement days can be. I lived through some of the most harrowing days of my life from days 1 to 3 in my campus placement season when 'dream company' after 'dream company' rejected me. Looking back, I can only see what seems obvious now. The first job has little or no bearing on where you are in ten years. The only case where it has a bearing on is you're lucky to join a job which you stick to for decades. Yes even in this day and age. There are some lucky folks like that too.

Gautam Ghosh

Related Post
MBAs During Recession

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Brand Update : Cadbury's Dairy Milk Shots

Dairy milk has launched a new product called Dairy Milk Shots. The product is not a bar chocolate but a candy. The ball shaped candy is milk with chocolate cover. The new variant is being promoted in various television channels

Watch the TVC here : Mann Mein Laddoo

The product is being equated to Laddoo ( an Indian Sweet ) and is being promoted using the tagline " Mann main Laddoo " .

Diary Milk had earlier extended itself into Eclairs. This is another stretch for the brand which is synonymous with Bar Chocolate in India.

Cadbury's Dairy Milk Shots has already been in existence in other parts of the world. The brand is currently priced at Rs 2 for a pack of two shots.

Earlier the rival Nestle's brand Munch had launched a similar kind of product called Munch Pop Chocs.

I personally have negative opinion against too many brand extensions . But in a product category like confectioneries , one is forced to get into various extensions inorder to keep the product in the limelight. Cadbury's Dairy Milk Shots will attract those who want little doses of Chocolate and its a good one to share too.

Related Brand
Cadbury's Dairy Milk

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bio Fresh : Making Fruits and Vegetables Healthy

Brand : Bio Fresh
Company : Blue Saffire Trading Corporation

Brand Analysis Count : 355

Bio Fresh is a new product that has been launched in Kerala recently . Marketing is about meeting needs profitably and successful marketers are able to identify the needs by closely watching the marketing environment. Bio Fresh is such an initiative by a little known company.

Bio Fresh is an organic cleanser which can be used to clean fruits and vegetables. We all are aware that there is an indiscriminate use of pesticides and harmful chemicals on fruits and vegetables . There are cases where fruits like Apple are waxed inorder to preserve it and make it look fresh.

Although there are many incidence of poisoning reported because of this indiscriminate use of harmful chemicals, nothing has been done by government or authorities to check such contamination. Infact India does not have a regulatory and infrastructural framework to check such contamination on vegetable and fruits.

One one hand, doctors and health practitioners exhort public to eat more fruits and vegetables and on the other hand there are growing concern about the harmful chemicals being present on raw fruits and vegetables.

It is in this context that a product like Bio Fresh gains importance. According to the company website and newspaper reports :

" Bio Fresh is an organic cleanser made of extracts from microbes and citric acid which has the ability to clean fruit and vegetables from pesticide and insecticide residues. It is even able to clean the waxing on fruits . The product does not leave any after tastes or residues"

The pesticide and insecticide residues normally cannot be cleaned effectively using running water. The company claims that Bio Fresh can clean fruits and vegetables from such contamination.

The brand is currently available in select cities in Kerala. Bio Fresh is retailing at Rs 79 for 200 ml bottle.
The company has been running some print and visual campaigns in Kerala.

My first impression about this product is highly positive. It really address a common problem faced by households. But that does not guarantee the success of a product.

Although most of the households are aware of the problem of contamination, Bio Fresh has the tough task of convincing the homemakers that this brand is the savior.

The problem I see is that how will Bio Fresh convince the customer that it cleans these fruits and vegetables from pesticides ? The benefit cannot be visually seen by the consumer. Hence convincing the homemaker is not going to be an easy task . For a brand to be able to convince the customer about its benefits, the benefits must be observable.

Although I have not used the product, I feel that the benefits cannot be observed by the consumer. ( I will use it an update on this soon ). And if it is not observable, will the consumer pay and use this brand continuously believing the claims ?

So how can a marketer be able to convince a customer on some intangible un-observable benefits ? The idea will be to tangibilise and make it observable. The brand can use clinical and laboratory tests to prove its efficacy and use those test results to convince the customer.

Using influencers like doctors and health specialists can go a long way in building trust among the consumers. Brands like Colgate and Johnson and Johnson use doctors ( or models posing as doctors) to build the trust for their products. Bio Fresh also need endorsements from such trust -worthy source inorder to break into homemaker's mind.

If the claims are true Bio Fresh is a product that can give lot of homemakers relief specially in households where there are kids .

Friday, October 24, 2008

MBAs during Recession

Lot of readers of this blog are MBA students so I thought I would share my thoughts about the tough times ahead for aspiring management graduates.

This is placement season in most of the business schools and the worried look on the face of my colleagues in placement team confirm the fact that things are not rosy out there. Companies have cut back on their campus visits and jobs are slowly but surely drying up.

I think its time to do some reality check.

All the students who are now sitting for placements this season entered the MBA course when things were nothing but perfect. Last five years was the best period for any professional students.
Irrespective of the size and quality of the school, recruiters came in and took people in bulk. I used to tell the students that this is the right time to enter the job market armed with a management qualification.

Suddenly things are not the same.

Accept the Reality

I would urge my students across the campuses to please accept the fact that times are going to be tough. There is no need to deny the inevitable. We are in a slowdown. There will not be mass recruiters coming in and taking 50 or 100 students at a time.

According to placement co-ordinators, the number of companies visiting the campus may see a 50% drop.

Companies are going to be choosy

Having said that , I don't think that there will not be jobs. There will be lot of jobs. Even during economic slump, corporates need people. But the demand for human resources is going to come down drastically .

So companies are going to be choosy. Earlier during growth period, companies used to recruit in plenty because they were expanding very fast and time was short to pick and choose.
So the HR departments took the " Swim or Sink " approach where they recruited plenty without much scrutiny ( cannot afford to be because demand is huge ) . The idea is that those who can swim will survive and others will move out .

At one point of time, talk of the town was that anybody who can speak well will get a job. But now corporates cannot afford to splurge.

That means there will be less number of jobs and more candidates.

IIMs and top tier 1 business schools may not suffer much but the hit will be taken by the tier 2 and lower level business schools.

So What should MBA students do now ?

I am giving certain thoughts and would urge you to please put in your thoughts too in the comments section.

Be Realistic

Its time to crash- land. Please accept the fact that salaries are going to be low this time. You cannot blame either the college or the industries for doing that . The fact is that most of the corporates are tightening their budgets.

Hence be prepared to work on a reasonable package. I have to emphasis on the term " reasonable " because most of the students have their salary expectations based on the time when they joined . What I learn is that the salaries offered to freshers have come down by 30 %.

Most of the companies are now linking salary to performance ( usual practice !) and hence be realistic in your expectations. So when an offer comes to you with a reasonable salary, accept it. The focus should be on survival.

Start your workout

Its time for the students to have a self- assessment about the skills and knowledge . When the jobs are less and competition is more, you have to be prepared to fight hard to convince the recruiters that you are worth it.

Please accept the fact that No recruiter will take you because you have an MBA degree . They will take you for your skills . If you are able to prove your worth, you will win the job.

So do the following activities :

Be aware
Read business dailies and magazines and prepare notes on the major issue that are haunting global economies .
Brush up your communication skills.
In the past you will be recruited if you have good communication skill. But now you will be rejected if you do not have communication skill. ( Have you understood the difference ? ) .

Know the funda well
Those who tell that theory and practice are different is giving you wrong ideas.
How will a recruiter check whether you work hard ?
He will ask you fundas .
If you cannot answer then it shows that you cannot do your work well. So make sure that you are prepared to face funda questions .

Don't hate sales jobs, start loving it
I teach a course on Sales Management and I know the negative vibes from the students towards sales jobs. But remember that sales jobs are easy to get especially during recession times. If you can prove the recruiter that you can give him good volumes, he cannot resist taking you .
So be open to selling insurance , soaps or beedis whether you are a finance pro or an HR diva ( pun intended)

Even if you lack communication skills, one factor that can land you a job is having the Attitude. But alas no business school teaches how to have that attitude. I have seen many students with funda and communication skills fail because of attitude.

What are those critical soft skills that recruiters look for :

Confidence in yourself. But make sure that you understand the difference between confidence and arrogance.

Ability to do basic work : Recruiters love people who can DO Stuff. So if you can convince them that you love getting dirty on the field to get things done, you can get that dream job.

Clarity of thought : Are you clear about what you are and where you want to be ?

And the most important of all is

Proof /Evidence
Can you give proof that the person that the recruiter is looking for is you. If not then try to get those proofs.
Give recruiters proof that you are hardworking .
Give them proofs that you are a leader .
Give them proofs that you can deliver what is expected out of you.

Evidence can be in the form of awards , accolades, stories , personal reference, project reports , activities etc.
If you do not have proofs or evidence to support your claims then you will have tough time convincing the recruiters.

Its not late , so start building your case with stories and evidences.

All the very best.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Omega : The Choice

Brand : Omega
Company : SMH

Brand Analysis Count : 354

Omega is a leader in the Rs 600 crore luxury watch market in India. The brand which is an aspirational brand has a long history dating back to 1848. The brand had its origin in Switzerland in 1848 when a young man named Louis Brandt started assembling high precision watches.

But it was in 1894 that Omega as a brand was created. The brand and the company went through lot of turmoils through these periods. In 1930 during the depression, the company merged with other watch makers to form SSIH. The merger was to withstand the economic turmoil at that time.

In 1980 , the brand again went in to financial crisis. SSIH then merged with another watchmaker ASUAG to form ASUAG-SSIH. Now ASUAG-SSIH is owned by a private group and the company has been renamed as SMH. SMH owns some of the iconic watch brands like Tissot, Swatch , Longines and Rado.

Omega has been very active in the Indian market for the last four years. The brand was present in the country through imports but now with the government allowing single brand retail formats for foreign brands , Omega is in full swing to tap the Indian market.

Indian market is a unique market for the watch category. I was surprised to find that the penetration of watches among Indians is abysmally low. According to reports the penetration is only 27 %. That means only 27% of Indians own a watch. The total watch industry is around Rs 2500 crores in terms of value.

The market is broadly divided into low, mass market , premium and luxury segments. 85% of the market is for watches below Rs 500.

Although the bulk of the market is at the bottom of the pyramid, the top the line watch market is growing at a rate of 25 - 30 % . Most of the growth is attributed to the economic growth witnessed by India. With new jobs and profiles taking Indians to new heights of luxury, accessories like watches gain importance in the shopping list.

Its in this context that Omega began its aggressive campaigns in India. Now most of the business and lifestyle magazine have atleast one Omega print advertisement.

Omega's marketing practice is heavily depended on Celebrity endorsements. Its a brand that has successfully used celebrities to create differentiation. Its celebrity endorsers contain the who is who of the world. Some of the celebrity who has endorsed Omega are
Cindy Crawford
George Clooney
Michelle Wie
Michael Schumacher
Nicole Kidman
Ellen Macarther
Ian Thorpe
Michael Phelps
Eugene Cernan and
our very own Abhishek Bachchan

But the most celebrated and famous brand ambassador for Omega is James Bond. I think its the first brand that has a brand ambassador in a movie character rather than the actor. Bond has been wearing Omega watches since 1995 with the movie Golden Eye. The association has been strong and Omega celebrates the launch of the Bond movies through events and special editions. In the latest Bond movie , Daniel Craig wears an Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m Co-axial Chronometer with a black dial.

These brand ambassadors give a special touch of luxury to the brand. But Omega is not dependant on any of these brand ambassadors and has a personality of its own. Omega is a classic case of a brand using celebrities to its advantage.

Along with the ads, the brand is also active in connecting to the customers through events. Like any other luxury brands, Omega also sponsors sports events because sports form an important part of lifestyle.

Omega was successful because of the secondary association of its country of origin ( Switzerland). The brand has its strength in quality, brand and its heritage. What has made this brand aspirational is the consistent campaigns with a common theme. The brand is positioned as the preferred choice or the rich and famous.

Omega has a distinct advantage derived out of its heritage and strong brand equity. Since Indian consumers are well connected with the world outside, the brand's campaigns using international iconic stars works well with Indian consumers. The brand has also added a touch of local flavor by adding Abhishek Bachchan to the list.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brand Update : Clinic All Clear

Yesterday when I visited a local shop, I noticed the new Clinic All Clear shampoo sachet. I was quite surprised by the new look of the brand. On close look, I had a feeling that the brand is silently going for a rebranding and repositioning exercise but a very discreet one.

Clinic All Clear brand is the Indian version of 'Clear ' brand which is the global brand from Unilever. By looking at the new packs and logo and the way Clinic All Clear is written on the pack, HUL is slowly rebranding Clinic All Clear as Clear.

As we know Clinic All Clear has couple of line extensions. There is Clinic Plus positioned as a family brand and also a variant for men.

Clinic All Clear is now running a new campaign featuring the brand ambassadors Bipasha and John . You can watch the new commercial at the brand's website :

The new ad reveals the new positioning of the brand. The brand has moved from ' No Dandruff ' to " Soft and Silky Hair " which is a major change in its positioning.

Does it mean that the brand has discarded its core positioning of being an anti-dandruff shampoo ? The faq in the website say that the brand retains its core positioning of no-dandruff but is adding additional benefits of soft and silky hair . In line with the global positioning, the brand now have Vita-Ace that fortify the hair against hair fall .

I think that Clinic All Clear wants to expand the user base to a larger audience . That may be the reason for diluting the anti-dandruff plank.

HUL is also trying to distance Clinic Plus from Clinic All Clear. Clinic is now a standalone brand with the positioning of a Health shampoo.

I think that over a period of time, Clinic All Clear will be rebranded as Clear Shampoo . Right now the typology is such that "Clear " is made prominent and " All Clear " is in a small font size. It may be a precursor to the rebranding.
HUL has been grappling with the problem of too many line extensions and brands and is finding it difficult to get the right positioning for their brands.

Related Brand
Clinic All Clear

Your views are important. Please feel free to comment on the marketing practices of this brand.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Consumer Insight # 6 : Do You Have a Plan B

Last weekend I took my family to a pilgrimage to the famous temple of Guruvayur . I booked the rooms at a decent hotel and was glad that we got rooms during the rush season. We landed at the hotel and greeted by the service staff and all went well in the beginning.

But in the evening the lift ( elevator) of the hotel stopped functioning. We reached the hotel after the tiring visit to the temple only to find that the elevator will not be functional for atleast one hour ( that's what the service staff told us). Our room were at the 4 th floor . I sat there looking perplexed since my old parents and my 4 year old child were to climb all the four floors.

There were also another family at the lobby looking equally worried since they had booked rooms for relatives who were to arrive at the hotel to attend their daughter's wedding . They looked hapless having to ask their guests to climb the stairs to the 4 th and 5 th floors.

The hotel staffs were looking equally helpless and the only action they performed was to ask their guests to climb the stairs.

At the end, we had to climb the stairs and hit the bed with all the exhaustion . We hoped that next day things will be taken care of. But in the morning , I found that still the elevator is not functioning. To much of the dismay, the room service told us that breakfast will be served only at the restaurant in the ground-floor.

This really blew my temper and I had to release all my anger on the reception staff. Then to my surprise, they offered us the Service Lift !!!! Infact the hotel had another lift that is used by the housecleaning department ( commonly known as service lift ) which was working.

They could have offered this to the customers immediately when the main lift stopped working. It could have made all the guests happy but the hotel failed to use it.

The issue here is two fold . The hotel did not have a plan B. They had one elevator and there are always a chance that these kind of problems can arise at any point of time. So in the service delivery process, the management had to forsee these kind of exigencies. If there was a plan B, then the service lift could have been made available on the spot.

Secondly the front office staff was not given enough empowerment to act during such kind of issues. The service script should be prepared in such a manner that the staff could make such kind of decisions to help the customers.

As of now, the hotels in Guruvayur can afford to make such kind of poor customer service since the demand far exceeds the supply . But tide always turns.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Brand Update : Sony Vaio

After the highly popular campaign for Sony Vaio CR range of notebooks ( All Eyes on You ! ) , Vaio has launched a new series of executive laptop Viao Z series. The new series is launched with a new theme " Break the Code ".

Watch the TVC here : Break the Code

Vaio Z is a premium executive notebook with lot of features that makes the product different from the competition. The brand boasts of
Cylinder Form
Isolated Keyboard
Carbon Fibre body
Clear Tough LCD
Light Weight etc

The current campaign is an international campaign imported directly to India although with a minor cosmetic change.
The campaign message is that all laptops are the same so break the code by getting the new Vaio Z.

The campaign for Vaio CR was popular because the visuals and the song was found attractive by the TG. The success of CR range prompted many laptop manufacturers to look at aesthetics and design as a differentiator.
The new campaign is also clutter breaking with a nice song and visuals. The lyrics goes something like this
I am not you and you are not me
I look around and all I see is me
Change the code, break the code
Take the new road

Lyrics Courtesy : Gandalf

The new series is premium priced with a price range of Rs 85000 - Rs 1,25,000.

All laptop manufacturers are faced with the issue of commoditization. So there is a heavy reliance on brand as a source of differentiation. Vaio has to a certain extend has been able to resist the commoditization .

Interestingly the tagline for Vaio is " Closer to You " . But I haven't seen any ad highlighting the positioning of the core brand Vaio. Previous campaigns of Vaio also did not have this tagline.

Related Brand
Sony Vaio

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Brand Update : Medimix

In my earlier post on Medimix, I had commented that this brand has fallen into the trap of sales promotion. A recent sales promotion campaign further reinforced my take on this brand's marketing practice.

The advertisement for this sales promotion goes like this :

In a household setting, suddenly the electricity went off. The homemaker then asks for Medimix to light the candle. The husband is confused and asks how can you light a candle with Medimix. Then came the answer " Now get a Medimix Matchbox free with every Medimix soap ".

Frankly I was as confused as the husband character in the story. Medimix Matchbox ?

Then I frantically searched to check whether the company had diversified into making matchboxes. Then it would have been one of the most outrageous brand extensions ever. But thankfully the company had not yet diversified into making matchboxes.

Now the question is whether it is a wrong strategy of giving matchboxes free with soap. I guess it may not be.

But what happens here is that the matchbox is branded as Medimix and the tvc give more focus to " Medimix Matchbox " and even have a tagline for the matchbox.

Its okay to have Medimix logo in the matchbox but to brand it as Medimix Matchbox is nothing but suicide.

So an ordinary consumer will feel that Medimix has launched matchboxes ? Then what does it mean to Medimix brand ?

Its true that in the current scenario, a brand cannot notch up volumes without sales promotions . But it has to be remembered that sales/consumer promotion is a tactical strategy. In the rush to show impressive volumes marketers mess up the brand by focusing only on consumer promotions.

Is Medimix a soap or a matchbox ?

Related Brand

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Brand Update : India Post

Its more than two years since I posted the critical analysis of India Post. I had criticized about the wastage of immense potential of a service which had unmatched distribution reach across the length and breadth of India.

In 2008, Indian Government had decided to restructure the entire postal department. The restructuring exercise is called Project Arrow. The project aims to make India Post a logistics giant by leveraging the core strengths of the institution. The restructuring is being done in consultation with Mckinsey.

As a part of the restructuring exercise, the institution has redefined its business. According to Professor Theodore Levitt, Every business should ask this fundamental question : What Business are You In ? The answer to this question can throw up lot of opportunities for growth. Narrowly defining the business can create Marketing Myopia which may wipe out the business in the long run.

From just a postal institution , the department has reframed its business to be in the logistics service rather than just a postal service. The move is a significant step in broadening the scope of services that could be handled by this giant.

It is important to reinvent the business definition since the postal service is facing competition which could make its business irrelevant. The e-mail and the rise of affordable private courier services has taken away a significant chunk of profitable business of this institution. Since it is a government department, India Post could'nt change fast to accommodate the changing environment.

In line with the restructuring exercise, the department has also rebranded India Post by launching a new logo. The rebranding was done by O&M.

The new logo retains the signature red color but has made significant changes to the logo. The new logo sports a yellow color which signifies happiness , hope and joy. Red stands for passion. The wings from the old logo has been retained with some modification. The new look brand take Passion, Power and Commitment as the core brand values.

According to the press reports, 50 post offices will be refurbished to make it a new-look hi-fi post offices in the first phase of Project Arrow. The number will be scaled up to 500 post offices in the near future. The new post-offices will be technologically enabled to provide faster service to the customers. A lot of new products have also being created for meeting the new demands of the customer.

It gives me joy to see that the brand has slowly waking up to the new realities. I was surprised to find that India Post was losing almost Rs 1300 crore every year on its operations. This is despite the fact that India Post handles 10 crore Money orders and 17 crore savings accounts with deposits over Rs 5,40,000 crores. The deparment has 1,55,000 post offices out of which 89% is in the rural areas. India Post is the largest postal service in the world.

The government hopes that with this restructuring, India Post will be able to make profits rather than bleed the exchequer .

Related Post
India Post

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dunlop : Always Ahead ?

Corporate Brand : Dunlop

Brand Analysis Count : 353

Dunlop is a failed brand. It was a brand that pioneered automobile tyres . But the brand failed miserably for reasons not of its own making.

Dunlop is a British brand that have a rich heritage and history. The brand has its origin dating back to 1889. Infact the brand is named after John Dunlop who patented the technology for making pneumatic tyres.

The brand has a fragmented ownership across the world. Dunlop tyre is sold in Europe and US by Goodyear. Recently Apollo Tyres acquired the brand in South Africa and the Japanese company Sumitomo is selling this brand in other countries . In India, the brand is owned by the Pawan Ruia Group.

Dunlop set shop in India in 1926. This is the brand that pioneered tires in India. Even after 82 years, the brand is still living in the minds of the Indian consumers.

Dunlop had been ruling the Indian market for a while . Being a pioneer and also being a British brand had its own advantage. After our Independence, the brand continued to thrive. At one point of time, even RP Goenka was on the board of Dunlop India.

But the brand was moving into rough patch. There were strikes and lockouts which hampered the smooth operations and in 1988 Manu Chhabria's Jumbo group acquired the controlling stake in Dunlop India.

The situation in the company went from bad to worse. The company was virtually bankrupt and was referred to the BIFR ( Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction ) in 1997. Much of the company's problem was attributed to the mismanagement .

Dunlop is a heritage brand in the tyre industry . Despite being the pioneer in tyres, the company had invested in developing the Dunlop brand. The brand offered excellent quality tyres and even in a category which belongs to slow-moving consumer goods ( SMCG), Dunlop made customers ask for this specific brand.

The brand started as a cycle tyre then became the generic brand for all tyres be it for commercial or passenger vehicles.
Dunlop was heavily promoted in the media. The brand had the memorable tagline " Dunlop is Dunlop, Always Ahead ".

Another interesting fact about the brand is that , although Dunlop is known for its tyres, the term ' Softness ' comes to my mind when I hear Dunlop . The reason is that the brand is famous for its pillows. The company diversified into manufacturing pillows which was branded as Dunlopillow. The pillow was famous for its softness and still Dunlop brand is associated with softness .

This brand went into trouble not because of marketing problems but for mismanagement of company operations. After a long while, almost ten years since referred to BIFR, the brand found its saviour in a maverick entrepreneur Mr Pawan Ruia who heads the Ruia Group.

Pawan Ruia took over this brand along with another tyre brand Falcon Tyres in 2005. Within a short span of three years, he has managed to turn the company around. According to reports, the company is set to make a notional profit in 2008.

But things are different now. Indian tyre market is crowded with Who is Who. All the major international brands are here fighting it out with Indian brands like MRF, JK and Apollo. The dynamics of the market also has changed.

Dunlop still has its brand equity intact in the consumer's mind. Although the consumers remember this brand, its not enough to make them opt for this brand in the new avataar. That may be the reason why the brand is now concentrating on OEM and other industrial markets.

Dunlop is a sad story of a heritage brand biting the dust. But the silver lining is that the brand is trying to make a comeback.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Best Marketing Practice : Guerrilla Marketing

It has been a long time since I saw a guerrilla marketing action in Indian market. Now I had a chance to witness one.

Guerrilla marketing is a term coined by Conrad Levinson through is best selling book titled Guerrilla Marketing. The term is used to denote the unconventional marketing tactics adopted by firms to outwit the competition. These tactics are generally used by smaller firms using limited budgets against their competitors. The term is derived from the military tactics of guerrilla warfare which uses stealth and unconventional tactics to defeat or unsettle the enemy.

As the term implies, these are tactics ( short term ) and should not be confused with long term strategies.

But guerrilla marketing is practiced by many large firms also. There was lot of instances of Guerrilla marketing or ambush marketing fights between Nike and Adidas, Pepsi and Coke , American Express and Visa in the past.

The context of this post is the fight between two large firms Reliance 's BigTV and Airtel DTH.

DTH stands for Direct- to Home service where the reception of satellite television programmes is made through a personal Digital Dish antenna .Currently the major players in India are Tata Sky, Dish TV, Sun Direct Doordarshan, and now the recent entrant -Reliance's Bigtv.

In the recent past, I was noticing a teaser campaign featuring some funny animals/characters and a red large chair with the line " See you at home ".

Watch the TVC here : See you at home

Later through the press reports, I came to know that this was the teaser campaign for the DTH launch of Airtel.
Then came the BIG surprise.

Now there is another set of commercials featuring the same red chair but with the message " See you at home with digital picture and sound " from Reliance's BigTV.

The ads of Big TV uses the same elements of Airtel's campaign like the color schemes , lines, chair etc. Thus those who have been seeing the tv ads only will think that the teaser campaign was for BigTV rather than Airtel.

Through this move, BigTV virtually took the steam out of Airtel's teasers. Infact it is the teaser who got teased.

Iam not a big fan of teaser campaigns. The fundamental flaw about teasers is that they are terribly expensive . And the success rates of teaser campaigns and the subsequent follow-ups has been negative in the Indian market.
Another drawback for such campaigns is that you are giving lot of time for the competitors to prepare an assault on your launch . The above example is a classic case of the competitor hijacking your teaser campaign .

Some times the teaser campaign build lot of expectation in the market but the follow up campaigns let down on those expectations . The case of Digen Verma is an example of such a teaser failure.

Now what will Airtel do about the teaser campaign. I have noticed the Airtel logo being pasted in the teaser campaigns now. But the entire air -time investment on this teaser campaign has got wasted.
Having said that , teaser campaigns can also be a successful strategy if you
a. Have an entirely new product
b. No competitors
c. Lot of money to waste.

So kudos to Reliance BigTV and the advertising team at Mudra.

Picture source ; Afaqs
Read related report on afaqs here

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Marketing during Recession

The global economy has already moved into recession. Reading business dailies has become akin to watching horror movies. Predictions about job losses and credit crunch makes one nervous about the near future.

Lot of bloodshed happening in United States, the reverberations of problems in the World's largest economy is bound to hurt many countries including India. Much of the problems are happening in the financial sectors but analysts are predicting that consumer markets are going to face the music in the near future.

The next three quarters are going to give marketers sleepless nights. For the past one decade, Indian marketers were facing a vibrant consumer markets which was heavily supported by an aggressive credit market. Banks were luring consumers with loans and prompting them to buy as if the world ends with in one year.

The euphoria is slowly dying down and the credit crunch is going to take a toll on the consumer market also. Housing markets are already facing the heat.

So what should a marketer do in times of recession.

Time to introspect :
Recession is a good period for marketers to take an objective look at their brand portfolio. When there is euphoria, value takes a backseat and consumers indulge. When the time goes tough, consumers tighten their purse strings and value comes to the driving seat.
This is the time to see which brand in your portfolio offers more value to the consumer. If your sales are going down like hell , its the time to re-engineer the brand's value proposition.
Invest in brands
Usually the initial reaction by marketers in respond to recession is to cut marketing cost. On the contrary its time to invest in brands. You will be heard when all others are shutting their marketing mouths . Bargain with the media for the rates and invest in building your brand.

Seth Godin says its an opportunity of a lifetime

Be a paranoid
India is not yet in a recession but this is the time marketers should be paranoid about recession. Only those brands will survive who is prepared for a recession even during the sunny days. So meet your brand managers and ask them what to do when India moves into recession. Have plan B, C D and E ready.
If India does not move into recession, thats a great news. If it does, then your brand will be ready.

Cut Costs
Even if you are selling a premium brand, cut costs like hell. Cut costs and not investments. Invest in your brand, put lot of advertisements but cut cost in media, raw materials etc. Strive to lower your brand's break-even points to new lows.

Partner your stakeholders
You may not be able to survive recession on your own. So partner your stakeholders be it your lenders or customers or employees or your channel partners. Create an ecosystem of trust and kinship and face the downturn together. It will be worth it.

Trade Up or down
Super Luxury brands are often less affected by the downturn. Those who can afford a Merc is not going to buy a Maruti 800. Its those brands aiming at the middleclass who are going to be hit by the downward slide.
So if your brand is somewhere in between super luxury and low-priced, its time to get into the drawing board. Remember Walmart makes more money during the recession than during good-times.

Listen to your customers
Your customers will tell you how to beat recession. Only thing is that you have to ask them. Atleast understand them . So when customers starts tightening their purse, you can do that too. Also they will tell you how much they can pay you. Listen to that and do it.

I agree that its more risky to invest in new products during recession times, if you cannot ,then cut your cost. If your company is the lowest cost producer then you have a better chance of survival.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Kalikkudukka : Catching them Young

Brand : Kalikkudukka
Company : Malayala Manorama

Brand Analysis Count : 352

Kalikkudukka is one of my favorite brands - as a marketer and as a customer. Kalikkudukka is a Malayalam publication for nursery and primary school children. Kalikkudukka is from the Malayala Manorama Group which is one of the largest publishing house in the state of Kerala . The group publishes the largest circulated regional language newspaper in India which is Malayala Manorama.

The group publishes some of the popular publications in the state and also the national news-weekly brand - The Week.

Kalikkudukka is India's largest selling pre-school publication in India. The brand has a circulation of over 1,15,945 copies ( ABC Jan-June 08).

From a parent's point of view , Kalikkudukka is the best product that a pre-schooler can have. The magazine is full of pictures and stories that can keep a child engaged for hours. Till this September, the brand was a publication aimed at pre-schoolers but the brand repositioned itself last month targetting primary school students.
The new Kalikkudukka is following he format approved by Society for Early Learning ( source : company news ) and includes a new section prepared in line with the nursery school syllabus.
The repositioning of this brand is in line with the customer needs. Keralites are too concerned about the education of the kids and I should say that we are too bothered about kid's exam and syllabus. The brand knows this psychology and has changed to suit the customer's needs.

My child is only four year old and she is eager to get this magazine. Parents also get a chance to spent quality time with the kids reading and drawing together . There are songs, stories, quiz, coloring sections, cartoons, action songs, riddles etc. Every section carries pointers to parents and teachers regarding the utility of these items.

What I like most about this publication is the care that the editors has put on the continuity of the content. For example, if the cover of the issue feature an animal lion, then there will be a story about lion, pictures of lion, a song about a lion, coloring picture of lion etc in that issue. This makes sure that the kid is reinforced again and again and he/she is able to identify this animal after reading that issue.

The most challenging issue for any publication marketer is the content. For a pre-school magazine, the challenge is more . But this brand has the backing of a major publishing group and the brand has been able to maintain the standard of the publication.

In a marketing perspective, the brand fills in an important need for a customer. There was a strong need for a pre-school publication for kids during the time this brand was launched.

Although there was lot of coloring and story books for kids, there was no regular weekly type of publication targeting this segment.
Malayala Manorama always had a strategy of looking at filling the publication needs of an individuals' life-stages. The segmentation strategy of this group was life-stage segmentation . Now the group has a publication for every life-stage of a typical Malayalee.

When the publication was launched in 1994, it was instantly well accepted by the parents. The brand also did lot of below-the-line marketing like road shows in schools, sampling and also made teachers recommend this publication to the parents.

More than these marketing efforts, it was the quality of this magazine which propelled it to become highly successful.
Taking inspiration from the success of this magazine, the group launched the English version branded as " Magic Pot " . Magic Pot is a fortnightly and is aimed at the national market. The brand already have crossed the 1 Lakh circulation figures since its launch in 2000.

Kalikkudukka is retailing at Rs 9 per issue and Magic Pot at Rs 12 per issue. These brands are also a stepping stone for kids towards other publications from the group. Typically the kids move from Kalikkudukka to Balarama- another publication from Malayala Manorama targeting older kids ( primary schoolers ).

According to Business Today the pre-school market is estimated to be around $ 985 mn and will be around $ 3426 Mn by 2012. After food, Indians spend maximum for education constituting around 9 % of the total household expenses. It is this willingness of the parents to spent that is driving the success of brands like Kalikkudukka.

The success of any brand lies in loyalty of its core customers. My little child have never seen the ad of Kalikkudukka. But she identifies this brand and demands that she gets this publication every week. To make a 4 year old brand loyal is not a child's play.

Your views on this brand is important and will add lot of value to the readers. Please share your valuable thoughts on this brand as comments.