Month: January 2003

Videsi Sentiments

Videsi Sentiments

"Teel Gul kha, aani good-good bola", said Stephanie in a typical American accent as the audience burst out laughing. About 350 people spent their evening chuckling and giggling, and occasionally applauding, four American women attempting to speak Marathi and Hindi, as they related their experience of staying in Thane. The foursome who are the members of the Group Study Exchange (GSE) programme team from Colorado, were attending an event that was organised by the Rotary Club of Thane to felicitate them. The programme was held on Saturday, January 18, 2003 at the Maa Kripa Banquet Hall.

The GSE programme of The Rotary Foundation is a unique cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for young business and professional men and women (non-Rotarians) between the ages of 25 and 40 and in the early years of their professional lives. The programme provides travel grants for teams to exchange visits between paired areas in different countries. For four to six weeks, team members experience the host country’s institutions and ways of life, observe their own vocations as practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas. For each team member, The Rotary Foundation provides the most economical round-trip air ticket between the home and host countries. Local Rotarians in the host area provide for meals, lodging, and group travel within their district.

This year, the incoming team for Mumbai & Thane comprised of four ladies from Colorado: Sophie Faust, Jacinta "Jacy" Montaya, Stephanie Palm Neves and LaShanta Ratise Smith. The team was led by a German-American professor Hans Peterson. The GSE team arrived in Thane on Wednesday and spent four days staying with five different host families and enjoyed Thane’s hospitality.

Judging by the fascinating accounts that each of them related while on the dais, the group seemed to be delighted with their sojourn in Thane, learning about its people and it’s long cultural, religious and political history.

Jacy, who is an urban planner by profession, was particularly impressed by Thane’s wide roads and well-planned infrastructure. Both Jacy and LaShanta said that they felt more at home in Thane because it seemed so much more spread out like towns in Colorado while Mumbai is similar to New York, both being extremely over crowded. All the five members contended that for the first time since their hectic tour began on January 02, they had found tranquillity – in Thane.

Soft-spoken Stephanie had a twinkle in her eyes as she was keenly observing the people around. A "microenterprise program director", Stephanie said she was interested in environmental issues and had spent her time in Thane mulling over these issues. LaShanta, who is a teacher by profession, also doubles up as an extremely sensitive poet. And she convincingly displayed her talent when she read out one of her own poems at the felicitation programme.

When asked about the differences between the two cultures, they said that at heart, all of us are the same. But certainly there were some basic differences – for instance they had observed that the young Indians are "more united with their parents and their families unlike in the US, where children begin asserting their independence and drift apart from their parents as they grow older"

They were also exited about the women’s empowerment movement that they could witness all over Mumbai and Thane – they said they had missed such a movement in their own country as it happened decades ago. They were happy seeing so many Indian women employed in meaningful jobs and enjoying financial and moral independence.

While in Thane, Area Coordinator Sandeep Kadam and his associates escorted the GSE team to a number of social and educational institutes. They went to the University of Philosophy (TatwaGyan Vidyapeeth), where the group was particularly impressed by the detailed explanation of Hinduism in a specially arranged talk given by Vijay Aagwan. They also visited the Institute of Yoga, Jidd School, JK School, Thane College and Vaze College in Mulund. They were taken around the city to see the various lakes and temples. They enjoyed Baggi rides and boating at Masunda Lake.

The team was unanimous in proclaiming that their stay in Thane was indeed very memorable. They were noticeably pleased with the "extremely high level of hospitality" shown to them by the host families and host clubs at every opportunity. They were also impressed with the amount of joyful service extended by so many selfless individuals to the poor and the needy.

After four weeks of experiencing India, the incoming GSE team will leave for USA on February 01, 2003.   In April 2003, a GSE team of four Indian ladies will be led by a senior Rotarian Arrow Sinha Roy to Colorado.

The Invincible Spirit

The Invincible Spirit

On January 03, 2003, the normally quite and peaceful Golden Swan Club at Yeoor had become a hub of cheers, laughter and ecstasy. About 400 mentally and physically challenged students from all the nine special schools in the Thane were attending the annual New Year celebration organised specially for them by the Rotary Club of Thane. The purpose of the event was to provide children with mental and physical disabilities opportunities for fun, social interaction, skill development and self confidence.

There is no feeling like the feeling you get from watching mentally and physically challenged boys and girls enjoying like normal kids. Most of them seemed to have forgotten that they have any kind of disability. The invincible spirit of these deprived children simply stirs the heart. Consider Pravina, a physically disabled child from Jidd School, who uses crutches to walk. Pravina was participating in the march-past held to honour the chief guest. She was moving very slowly and the entire troupe of children paced forward, leaving her way behind. Soon the salutation was over and the principal of her school Shyamshree Bhosle, asked her to leave the parade. But the child was not to be budged – she had decided that she too would salute like others – so she kept going on, slowly yet determinedly, until she finally gestured towards the chief guest.

Many physically and mentally challenged children also suffer from a weak constitution and as a result cannot tolerate excessive physical exertion. One such girl could not bear the morning heat and fainted. When she regained her consciousness, her teachers tried to persuade her to return home, but she stubborn refused. She stayed back, claiming that she was feeling much better and would not faint again.

The kids were lapping up all the attention they were getting, which they are normally deprived of. Popular TV stars Sudhir Pandey, Gufi Paintal, Yatin Karekar and Suhas Khandke, who had turned up to cheer and support the children, were unanimous in their opinions that it was a great event and that they would cherish the memories of the day. They said that their New Year could not have started off on a better note.

The organisers had arranged for lunch packets and gifts for all the children and while these were being distributed, one could easily tell the gratitude on the face of these otherwise deprived children. Many of these children couldn’t speak, yet they expressed their gratitude through their gestures. Their faces were glowing and they their movements suggested that they wanted to thank everyone who made the event possible.

The staffs of the various participating schools were pleased too. Ashwini Sule from Dilkhush, a pre-vocational/vocational school for MR children, said, "It was a great event. We look forward to such events as it gives our children an opportunity to enjoy". Bhosle from Jidd School praised the event too, "It is a great experience for our students. Rarely do they get to enjoy so freely and thoroughly. It was well organised." Sushma Mandlik from St. John’s felt the same way, while teachers from Kamalini Hearing Impaired School in Thane East said that their students were thrilled to be a part of the event.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German poet, novelist, playwright, and one of the greatest figures in Western literature once said, "If you treat an individual as he is, he will stay as he is, but if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be". Children who are physically or mentally challenged need, more than anything else, to be treated as normal individuals. It’s only then that they can gain the self respect that is so important to their self development. The event provided them a wonderful opportunity to be themselves – nobody was going to judge them or their weaknesses. From this perspective, it was certainly a noble event.

From here to… fraternity

From here to… fraternity

Imagine working for a company where you decide your salary, where you review your boss’s performance, where you could walk in at any time, where there is no dress code. Imagine working for a company where you have complete access to the account books, where it is mandatory to take a vacation. Sounds too good to be true, isn’t it? Yet, this is how a Brazilian company is run.
 
The man behind this radically human way of conducting business is Ricardo Semlar and the company is called Semco. In his book "Maverick", Semler tells how he touched off a chain reaction that transformed a stagnating, old-fashioned company into one of the most dynamic and innovative companies in the world. When Harvard-educated Semler returned to Brazil, he found out that the company his father had founded was in mayhem and on the brink of bankruptcy. The first thing he did was "flattened" the organisation – he trimmed down the hierarchy from twelve levels down to just three levels. Instead of a pyramid, he made a circular organisation where people are cross-trained for multiple jobs, where they rotate jobs every two to three years.

Democracy at its best
Semco, one may say, is the ultimate democratic organisation. Semco’s standard policy is no policy – instead of corporate governance, it advocates self-governance. All employees are treated as mature adults.

Workers set their own production quotas as well as their own wages. Workers have access to the corporate records, and are taught to read financial reports. Profit-sharing is democratic – profits shared are negotiated with workers, who then decide how to split the money. Unions work with management and employees come in when they want to. The workers have a labour union that works in cooperation with the management of the company.

Before people are hired for or promoted to leadership positions, they are interviewed and approved by everyone who must work for them. Every six months, managers are reviewed by workers and results are posted for everyone to see. Not only that – bosses with poor evaluations are actually fired!

Each worker votes on major decisions, such as buying another company or moving a factory. Workers are responsible for their own quality control, eliminating the quality control department.

And look what Semco has got in return for such employee empowerment: A set of highly motivated, quality conscious employees who are driven by their own initiative. The employees are so mature, the management so empathetic and their communication so open that no union is required. Each employee is fully aware of his role in the organisation and is completely committed to company goals. And employee turnover is tending to zero.

In a recent poll of Brazilian college graduates, by a leading Brazilian magazine, Semco was voted as one of the most sought after employers. 25% of men and 13% of women said Semco was the company they most wanted to work. A recent newspaper ad generated 1400 applications, and Semco has gone from 56th to 4th in its industry.

Semler on India
The list of the unusual, innovative initiatives that Ricardo Semler took seems mind-blowing. Yet this "Semco Work Culture" wasn’t a premeditated plan or a strategy. It evolved after many traditional efforts at reviving the company had failed.

In a recent interview with Corporate Dossier (The Economic Times), Semler advised that copying Fortune 500 companies is a bad idea for companies operating in countries like Brazil and India. He encouraged businesses to look for "new architectures" that can be "built around our cultural background."

When asked how should one tackle resistance and go about changing mindsets, Semler replied, "You’ve to remember that the only resistance of any importance comes from the middle managers. About 80 per cent of the company, i.e., everyone who is not a manager or a supervisor, take to this like fish to water, in the sense that it doesn’t take very much to convince people that they should have more freedom to come and go when they want, dress the way they want, spend more time with their kids."

Ricardo ends his book Maverick with these inspiring words, "I hope our story will cause other companies to reconsider themselves and their employees. To forget socialism, capitalism, just-in-time deliveries, salary surveys, and the rest of it, and to concentrate on building organisations that accomplish that most difficult of all challenges: to make people look forward to coming to work in the morning."

At your Convenience: Teleworking

At your Convenience: Teleworking

It’s Monday morning, yet Kingshuk Hazra, an Industry Analyst in Gartner India, does not suffer the blues. Instead, he is looking forward to beginning his work day. All he does is sit on a comfortable chair, plug in his laptop and begin working. In other words, he leaves for office without actually leaving. For individuals like Kingshuk, home is not only where the heart is, but also where the office is.

The information economy has made it possible to work remotely. Since a large element of the value added by any business comes from the processing and management of information, at least some aspects of its operation can now be done independent of geographical location. In the world of digital communications, you are never in the wrong place to do your work. You can access the information you need anywhere – from a remote satellite office or local business centre, from a client’s premises, from home, from a hotel room or whilst on the move in a train or car. This way of working has come to be known as teleworking.

Teleworking is an innovative arrangement that not only saves valuable resources but also leads to increased productivity. For example, with the help of low-cost videoconferencing and data-conferencing from ordinary desktop computers, Teleworking can help to reduce the amount of travel undertaken by people both to work and in the course of work. This way, Teleworking reduces drastically, if not altogether eliminates, the amount of business travel employees undertake, in the process saving time and money.
 
Benefits of Teleworking
While teleworking certainly makes good business sense (saving valuable resources and increasing productivity) it also helps in improving the quality of life of the teleworker. Teleworkers avoid the stress associated with daily-commuting. There is greater flexibility to integrate your work with your home life.

Employees based in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, where it takes anywhere between two to three hours travelling to and from work, would save on hours of productivity by teleworking.

In India, there is tremendous scope for teleworking, especially in the IT industry, thanks to the nature of work involved – coding, software development, data entry, web design, and medical transcription, among others. Writers/editors, financial analysts, stock brokers, management consultants and graphic designers can also become successful teleworkers.

Some categories of workers can benefit immensely from Teleworking. For instance, mothers of young children who cannot remain away from home for long will find teleworking a rather attractive proposition. Similarly, it is a real boon for people suffering from any form of physical disability.

Teleworking is also a great model for small entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals operating SOHOs. Such individuals find obvious benefits in teleworking: saving office rentals, reaching out to a wider, potentially worldwide audience and networking with other self-employed individuals running SOHOs. The Internet presents immense opportunities to do business on a global as well as on a local basis. A well-presented Web site, backed by appropriate payment arrangements and a high standard of response to enquiries and orders, can be the self-employed teleworker’s shop window for attracting potential customers and doing business with them. For a customer doing business across the Internet, it matters not whether you are in a prestige office building or in your office over the garage. What matters is how you present your business and the value it delivers.

What makes a good teleworker?
Self motivation, an ability to work without close supervision and good time-management skills are an absolute must for any teleworker. Good communication skills and being Internet savvy are also pre-requisites. A good teleworker would possess the uncanny ability to cope with conflicting demands of home and work life.

Teleworkers is suited to individuals who are happy working by themselves, without colleagues and companions.

Scope for Teleworking
In India, organisations like Hewlett-Packard, NIIT and Datamatics Technologies have experimented alternate work options like flexi-time, telecommuting and teleworking. For example, Datamatics Technologies passes on data-entry assignments from its international clients to its network of vendors working from home. Datamatics picks and delivers the assignments from the vendor’s doorstep.

Forbes Marshall, Gartner India, Monsanto Chemicals India, India Software Group (a Birla Group IT company), Maars Software are other companies who have experimented with teleworking.

A wordy Competition

A wordy Competition

"Literacy is pivotal to human progress. All agree that the single most important key to development and to poverty alleviation is education", emphasised World Bank President James Wolfensohn on world literacy day in 1999.

A person is considered to be literate if he or she has attained basic skills in reading, writing and math. It has been observed that in spite of attending primary schools, many children in our country are unable to read or write simple text or perform basic math. No wonder, according figures released by UNESCO in 2002, India had about 290 million illiterates in 2000 – this means that almost a third of the world’s one billion illiterate population lives in India.

It is this sorry state of affairs that has driven organisations such as Pratham to take on the mantle of spreading education. The main goal of Pratham is to ensure that every child is in school and is learning well. But Pratham does not believe in creating a parallel system of education. Instead it creates programs to supplement the existing municipal school system.

One such programme, the Balsakhi Remedial Education Programme, is designed to help children who are identified by their class teachers as lagging behind academically. With a little extra help and encouragement, children can make substantial progress in basic math and language skills within two months or less.

The organisation targets municipal school children from Standard II to IV bordering on illiteracy and aims at helping these students achieve literacy and math skills of Standard II level. The Balsakhi – child’s friend – normally works with 20-30 children identified by the school teachers. Balsakhis are usually young girls from the local community with ample enthusiasm for working with children who are sent to schools on the request of the headmasters/principals and they work under the supervision/ guidance of school teachers.

In Thane, Pratham has been working with as many as 50 TMC schools and there is one Balsakhi each for Standard III and IV in each of these 50 schools.

In order to evaluate to effectiveness of the Balsakhi programme, Pratham has now organised a reading competition for children from TMC schools. The competition will comprise of three rounds and the difficulty levels will increase with each successive round. The organisers expect about 5,000 children to participate in the first round which will be held between January 08 and January 18 in all schools where Balsakhis teach.

In the first round, participant students will given a simple passage to read, say, about 7-8 lines. Based on degree of skill, these students will then be divided into three categories: Those who can

– read sentences or paragraph
– read words
– recognise letters

Regardless of their level of skill, all students placed in any of the above categories will be presented a certificate.

For the second round, the top five students from each class and each school will be identified. This round will be held on February 14 at five locations. This time the students will be given ten short passages to read and comprehend. The judges will ask them questions based on the passages to ensure that they have really understood what they read.

The third round will be held on February 28. About fifty students are expected to qualify for this final round. This time, the students won’t be asked to read anything. Instead they will be asked questions based on any one of the five books that would be given to them on the day of the second round. Ten best readers will be selected on the basis of the evaluation by the judges and each of these ten students will be presented with a "Gold Reader" certificate.

Coordinator of Research and Training at Pratham, Madhuri Pai reveals, "The primary objective of the reading competition is to provide an incentive to the laggards – to generate an interest – in an activity that is usually considered boring and cumbersome. With the help of the competition, Pratham will also be able to judge the performance of the Balsakhis and accordingly provide them additional training if required."

Pratham hopes to make this competition an annual feature in Thane and later perhaps extend it to other centres in Maharashtra.

Pai adds, "The response of the citizens of Thane has been extremely encouraging. Since the beginning of our project, we’ve had support pouring in from many Thane residents. But we still need volunteers for the upcoming event."

Readers who wish to make themselves available as volunteers may contact Madhuri Pai on 2534 9358 or Vasant Gogate on 2540 0859 / 2538 3483.

Orchestrate Your Communications

Orchestrate Your Communications

From marketing oriented to market driven
The incredible explosion of technology in the last two decades has, for all practical purposes, shattered the mass market and made many of the traditional techniques of mass marketing obsolete. The era of companies determining the dynamics of selling their products is history. In the marketplace of the 21st century, the driving force is not companies with products to sell but customers controlling what, where, and how they want to buy. Think Internet. Think 24-hour toll-free phone numbers, credit cards, and express delivery services – Consumers are now able to access information on demand and seek out the products and services that interest them.

Not only has technology changed the way consumers make their purchasing decisions, it has also revolutionised how companies market their products to consumers. The customer’s role has become so dominant that companies are shifting their focus from being marketing oriented to being market driven. To successfully communicate with the modern consumer, outdated mass-marketing tactics ought to be replaced with a targeted, customer-focused approach.

Mass Media was for Mass Markets
Mass media (read broadcast) primarily serves the purpose of large advertisers who want to reach the greatest number of eyeballs. In his book Gonzo Marketing, Christopher Locke writes, “Mass media are mass because they are huge. And the way such hugeness is achieved is by appealing to the lowest-common-denominator tastes in terms of programming content. The program, the content is merely a bait to draw the audience. The real show, the real message is the advertising. And advertisers want to lower to common denominator so that they can get everyone possible into the audience.” This, Locke says, is the broadcast model, which worked very well for mass producers wanting to reach out to mass markets.

But as mass markets are increasingly paving way for a multitude of mini-markets, marketing communications is becoming a complex affair. Most marketers know that mass media does not work for micro markets and therefore they are resorting to using other forms of media, in addition to mass media.

In one proprietary study conducted by Leo Burnett a few years ago, consumers identified 102 different media as “advertising” – everything from TV to shopping bags to sponsored community events. The explosive popularity of the Internet has made things even more intricate. Although the Internet reaches an enormous number of people, mass marketing tactics have miserably failed to work on it.

Consistency is the key
Fairfax Cone, Advertising Guru and co-founder of Foote, Cone and Belding once said, “There is no such thing as a Mass Mind. The Mass Audience is made up of individuals, and good advertising is written always from one person to another. When it is aimed at millions it rarely moves anyone.”

His words apply now more than ever before. The sophistication of consumers, proliferation of media vehicles and fragmentation of mass markets has made it extremely difficult for marketers and advertisers to establish and maintain a consistent voice across multiple media. The key words here are “consistent voice across multiple media”.

Inconsistency in communicating marketing messages can, and often does, lead to ineffective and wasted marketing efforts. Adrian Mendonza, VP and Executive Creative Director, Rediffusion DY&R concurs, “I believe that in recent times and in times to come, the increased media choices will crowd, and in fact throttle, the mind. This battering barrage of information is numbing the consumer so much that you can only reach him and create an impact if your message has both these ingredients: a) It is simple b) It is consistent. The message has to be interesting, simple and single-minded in the first place.”

To this, M G Parameshwaran, Executive Director of FCB Ulka, adds, “Having one face, one look and one identity is not all that new as a concept, but with fragmentation of media, proliferation of media vehicles and increased competition, the task to get into mind space of consumers is getting increasingly difficult. Hence the need to have one voice is all the more important today.”

Integrated Marketing Communications
To maintain consistency in fragmented markets and multiple media, marketers need to adopt new and better ways of understanding, reaching and connecting with consumers. Many leading marketing theorists and practitioners now feel hat integrated marketing communications offers the ways and means to achieve these ends.

In the last few years, the concept of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) has been gaining a lot of ground. It has been discussed and debated throughout the world by leading marketing and advertising experts, marketing gurus and academicians. A study of top management and marketing executives in large consumer companies indicated that over 70 percent favoured the concept of integrated marketing communications.

IMC: Definition, Nature and Scope
As defined by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, IMC is a concept of marketing communications planning that recognises the added value of a comprehensive plan. Such a plan evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines – for example, general advertising, direct response, sales promotion and public relations – and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency and maximum impact through seamless integration of discrete messages.

According to Philip Kotler, “Integrated Marketing Communications is a way of looking at the whole marketing process from the viewpoint of the customer.”

A Cohesive Approach
Moving away from definitions, the concept of IMC contends that each component of the marketing mix should work in unison, leveraging the strengths of other components and presenting a consistent set of benefits and images to the customer. This means that IMC requires that all the 4 Ps of marketing, namely Product, Price, Place and Promotion must be planned together to achieve the goal of consistency.

Obviously, such an approach necessitates total coordination of above-the-line and below-the-line communication channels, as well as all other means that may be used to communicate and connect with target audiences. Planning of communication messages must therefore be horizontal and cohesive. Planning, developing, and delivering communication messages need to be interrelated and coordinated, not planned independently and separately from each other. The key to an IMC approach is to be able to select an appropriate combination of marketing communication tools that will achieve the marketing communication objectives set out for a brand. The consequent clarity and consistency of communication maximises the impact of the marketing communications effort.

Internal Mindset
IMC, more than anything is a strategic communications model. It is not just a simple one-look, one-message campaign – rather, IMC is a completely different way of marketing communications. IMC acknowledges that every aspect of a business communicates something to its customers; thus, every action of an organisation is a marketing action as well. Therefore IMC, as a business process, must ingrain itself in every facet of a corporation – it must set right what can be termed as internal mindset. This implies that IMC is not limited solely to the marketing and promotional arms of companies but rather concerns itself with every facet of the business, from top management down to secretarial and support staff. The people in an organisation, along with the products and services offered, project a strong identity of who they are, why they are there, and whose interests they seek to serve. Every aspect of a business communicates something and these indirect messages are among those that IMC seeks to integrate.

Client versus Agency
When it comes to traditional marketing, many clients attempt to integrate the external communications effort themselves. But such clients are left with the significant overhead of running a number of disparate agencies. With a view to becoming IMC-equipped, many large advertising agencies have acquired specialists in other marketing communications disciplines. By working with such agencies, clients need to only brief, manage and monitor one agency as opposed to running a portfolio of different specialists.

But even if an agency is capable of implementing an IMC programme, is it really possible to “integrate” the various media and channels this way?

Sorab Mistry, Chairman of McCann Erickson India, believes that such integration is possible, provided IMC is made an integral part of the initial brand communication strategy. He says, “While an effort to do this is made by some clients, most often than not advertising gets the most attention. All other IMC disciplines are initiated tactically – often on an ad-hoc basis. To add to the problem, due to cost considerations, activities like promotions, merchandising and database marketing are often outsourced to smaller outfits by the client at a much lesser cost – thereby, sacrificing the ‘integration’ aspect of the effort.”

Cost-Effectiveness
Advocates of IMC claim that integrating marketing communications helps clients get efficiencies and economies of scale with design, production and implementation of their communications programme. But practitioners differ somewhat.

Parameshwaran says, “There may not be economies of scale in conceptualising and designing an integrated campaign. In fact we need to not just look at economies of scale but look at what is right for the medium and spend the requisite time and effort to make sure that the message is suitably adapted to the medium concerned.”

Mistry echoes the similar sentiments, “While some economies of scale can be gained, it is important to note that the evaluation of IMC programs should not be on the same parameters as advertising. For example, cost per contact is often significantly higher in IMC programs when compared to advertising. Very often, both client and agency consider IMC as the “cheaper option” to advertising. This obscures the key role that IMC plays in brand communication.”

A Collaborative Strategy
Effective IMC requires coordination on strategy as well as tactics. It is not simply a question of coordinating implementation. Collaboration at the research and planning stage is essential. To be effective, this collaboration requires an understanding of the different roles that different techniques play in the marketing communications process (e.g. promotion might prompt trial but only once public relations has raised awareness).

Mendonza clarifies, “No integrated marketing is possible without a complete bonding of client-agency thinking. And this does not mean just the policy-makers and managers at the client’s end, but also the salesman in the field. Eventually he is the man who is going to clinch the deal. He has to speak the same language. Only then will there be magic in the integrated message.”

Customer-Oriented Approach
The importance of consumer orientation in IMC cannot be sufficiently emphasised. For any marketing communication campaign to be able to produce effective results, it must solidly be anchored on a deep understanding of the consumer.

A key shift that must take place in client organisations is the shift from inside-out thinking to outside-in. Outside-in thinking is integral to IMC for it zooms into the consumer or the publics that are the objectives of any marketing campaign, thinking of the needs and wants of these markets and producing products and services that meet these needs. This is in contrast to inside-out thinking wherein strategic processes are grounded on financial analysis of sales, marketing and profit goals instead of the consumer where they should be based on. In such scenario, first priority is given to manufacturing a product and then finding a market to sell it in. Such outmoded pattern of thinking may not survive in today’s modern world.

To effectively direct messages to, and affect the behaviour of consumers, brand communications programs should incorporate segmentation/aggregation, customer valuation, and database management. An IMC programme uses sophisticated tools for customer management and data mining to:
– Segment and target audiences or individuals and,
– Monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of the campaign.

Technology is playing a key role in enabling this. For example, new media channels allow greater targeting (e.g. One-to-one real time marketing) and interactivity so that a return path of information may be established with customers.

IMC IN PRACTICE
TATA INDIGO
A recent example is the launch campaign of TATA Indigo, the new car from Telco. The launch integrated all the elements of IMC to give one message of ‘Comfort and Luxury’. This message and the visual of the ‘Arm Chair’ was used in a variety of media vehicles, including newspapers, magazines, TV, outdoor, merchandising, mailers, website, event design, brochures and even invitation card to the launch event. Parameshwaran, whose agency was behind the IMC campaign, emphasises, “Coordinating the entire campaign called for a lot of effort, since you had to use the key elements of the message and adapt it to the medium concerned. The arm chair may look very nice in press ad, but how will look on stage, or on a banner ad on the website? But overall the integration has had a tremendous effect on the brand Tata Indigo. No one got a message from any source that was not aligned to the strategy of comfort and luxury.”
DAIKIN AIRCONDITIONERS
McCann Erickson India has used IMC for General Motors and the launch of Virgin Atlantic. Philips Similarly, Rediffusion DY&R’s campaign for Daikin Air-conditioners is also on the lines of IMC. Mendonza explains, “The message of ‘complete silence’ has been taken across not only press, TV, outdoor, retail and website advertising, it is even used by dealers and sales personnel in the field. They sell the Air-conditioners on a technology platform which single-mindedly translates into it being more silent than other Air-conditioners.” And the result has been very encouraging – the IMC campaign is doing wonders for the product on the sales front – this despite of Daikin being about 20% more expensive than other air-conditioners in its class and not once resorting to promotions, discounts etc.
INGREDIENTS OF SUCCESS
So what are the ingredients of a successful IMC programme? Mendonza thinks the answer lies in simplicity. He says, “The message has to be interesting, simple and single-minded in the first place. This is easier said than done. (That is why there are such few really good campaigns doing the rounds.) Most products and services today, have the same offering. So you can only occupy the consumer’s mind-space if you offer that same thing in a totally refreshing way. Getting to that ‘refreshing way’ itself takes tremendous common sense, hard work and smart thinking. So it only follows that once you find that way, you own it. And you can only own it if you are focussed and integrated with your message across all media. Otherwise, there is too much noise and clutter happening out there to get even halfway across to the consumer’s mind.”


Resistance to IMC
While the logic of IMC appeals to most marketing practitioners, there are many who resist integrating their communications efforts.

Inertia
The first and foremost reason for resistance is inertia or refusal to change – any attempt to change the so called “tried and tested” recipe tends to encounter resistance. IMC requires a complete re-structuring of the mindset towards marketing communications – both at the client side and the agency side. For most managers, this is a difficult task to embark upon.

Nothing New
Most clients and agencies think that IMC is simply old wine in a new bottle – that the use of multiple communications tactics, coordinated campaign themes, and consistent graphic or corporate identity has always been employed. But Mistry is quick to point out the flaw with this kind of thinking, “This may be true to some extent. But as I mentioned above, more often than not, IMC plans are worked out more on an ad hoc basis and not as an integral part of brand communication. Mere use of the communication discipline does not make a campaign integrated.”

According to Parameshwaran, brands for have attempted to integrate the look and feel across media for a long time. But the last five years has seen the emergence of many new media opportunities, Internet, Events, Product-placements, etc. So the task has become a lot more complex. It is this increasing complexity that calls for a holistic and synergistic approach towards marketing communications.

Complex Planning
Complex planning is another deterrent. The integrated marketer can select from more than 20 tools, from advertising to in-store merchandising to promotion to public relations to database marketing to the Internet. This often requires detailed and long-term planning at both the client and agency levels.

Marketing is often viewed as cost, rather than investment. This tactical – rather than strategic – perspective works against planning and preparation, which is the foundation of IMC. Planning helps in deciding the communications strategy that ultimately helps in optimising the marketing spends. Parameshwaran says, “A marketer who wants to use the various tools of IMC has to be clear what is needed to reach the target consumer and what is the time and money available to do the job. There is no point in doing what we call a ‘GangaJal’ IMC, a little bit of everything. It is better to focus efforts, if the target audience can be reached through one or two media and the budget is limited.”

Lack of Initiative
Many clients blame the agencies for not initiating IMC. Kotler writes, “Most agencies have not done a good job of putting together all the different teams and organisations involved with a communications campaign.” To this Mistry adds, “Agencies themselves have not given adequate focus to IMC. It is often treated as an appendage to the mainline agency. While agencies need to invest more into IMC – in terms of people, tools & research – it is also necessary to educate clients on IMC thinking. Even if agencies do not have the wherewithal to handle the entire gamut of media involved – they could outsource the implementation to specialist outfits – it is important for the dominant agency to be involved in developing the IMC programme.

Accountability
Accountability or the problem of accurately measuring the effectiveness of the various disciplines used also discourages clients from using IMC. The client always wants the highest possible ROI on every buck he spends. Lack of guidelines to evaluate the IMC programme is also an impediment to IMC programmes.

Parameshwaran feels, “A marketer needs to have some form of measuring the impact of each of the IMC tools and also factor in that they always work in tandem. Like: What is the number of unique visitors to the website, how many people came to the event etc. need to be tracked? But the metrics need to be different from the classic, cost per thousand. At an overall level the marketer needs to see the value of an IMC programme and the synergistic effect of the various media on the brand. And that calls for a ‘gestalt’ view of the role of marketing communication, a view that is a lot more than just numbers and figures.”

But Mistry disagrees. “The issue of accountability is often misunderstood due to a lack of guidelines to evaluate an IMC program. Agencies need to develop tools for this. Given the fact that clients have started investing in IMC tools to measure effectiveness will follow”, he says.

Wrapping up
IMC is not a management fad, but is a fundamental and marked shift in thinking and practice of marketing communications by clients and advertising agencies. A quick market scan proves that IMC is being taken seriously and is being practised by a significant group of marketing communications practitioners. The primary value that agencies see with IMC is the consistency, impact, and continuity which an integrated programme provides.

The critical issue concerning IMC is that of evaluation and measurement of integrated programmes. Part of the difficulty is that traditionally advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing, and the public relations disciplines have developed separate and distinct measurement approaches. The measurement of integrated programs which can estimate the synergy between elements is a totally new field which remains relatively undeveloped.

IMC is a new approach to marketing communications planning being driven by technology, customers, consumers, and by organisational desire to efficiently allocate finite marketing resources. IMC is still an emerging discipline. We are living in a period of transition between the historical product-driven outbound marketing systems and the new information-driven, interactive, consumer focused marketplace of the twenty-first century.

References/Notes

1. B&W Paper: Integrated Marketing Communications – Back to the Future? by Paul Noble; Noble Ink, July 20022. Re-intermediating the Media Plan by Michael Goldberg; Brandchannel.com

3. What is Integrated Marketing Communications, Currents, Volume 17; Tucker-Knapp Inc

4. Revisiting the Concept of Integrated Marketing Communications: Contrasting Perceptions between Marketers and Advertising Agency Executive; Department of Commerce, Massey University, Auckland WORKING PAPER SERIES No. 98.08

5. Integrated Marketing Communications: Pulling it Together and Making it Work by Schultz, D.E., Tannenbaum, S.I., & Lauterborn, R.F. (1992). NTC Business Books

6. IMC and the Future of Marketing by Jerome Kliatchko, European Association of Communication Agencies, 2001

7. Contemporary Advertising, Arens and Bovee, IRVIN, 1994

8. Marketing Management (11th Edition), Kotler Philip, Pearson Education, 2002