Month: January 2006

When Dreams Come True

When Dreams Come True

According to a Japanese proverb, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare”. But when vision meets action, then dreams become reality. One such dream-come-true story started fifty years ago in Thane, when a visionary woman decided to take upon her the mantle of setting up a school that will provide holistic education to its students. Vimalatai Karve, as we all know her, set up the Saraswati Vidya Mandir Trust’s Pre-primary, Primary and Secondary school in 1955.

The school began its golden jubilee celebrations early last year with the screening of the highly acclaimed Marathi film Shwaas and continued to organise many meaningful programmes throughout the year. Last week saw the culmination of the fifty-year celebrations with significant programmes organised by the pre-primary section of the school. On January 8, 2006, the school organised a fun fair for its little children, where stalls were put up by parents of the pre-primary students as well as ex-students of the pre-primary section, who now study in the school’s secondary section. These secondary section students were rather enterprising. One group put up a stall for Chinese Bhel after learning the technique from a restaurateur friend. As expected, their stuff was a major sell out. Another group offered Henna designs, where many little girls had their tiny hands decorated with beautiful patterns. The little children played numerous games, ate what wanted and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

On January 11, the school organised a blood donation camp in association with the Red Cross Society, which was inaugurated by B G Chitale, a trustee of the school. Rohini Rasal, principal of the pre-primary section said, “Vimalatai has never been in favour of collecting money in the form of charity or donation, which is often the case when such events are organised. So we decided that we will collect something that we can easily give back to the society. That’s why we decided to organise a blood donation camp.” The school urged students to request their parents and elders to participate in the camp in large numbers as it was organised on a public holiday. About 50 blood bags of 350 ml each were collected. The blood donation camp also served to create awareness among the little ones about what real “giving” means. Rasal praised Sameer Pethe, father of Senior KG student Kranti, for his excellent efforts in organising the blood donation camp. In fact according to Rasal, parents of pre-primary students are very enthusiastic and always contribute to the school’s activities in some or the other way.

On 12 January, an exhibition of learning aids was put up by the school with the help of the parents. Once again, most exhibits were created by parents. The learning aids focussed on Mathematics and Languages as the school believes that the earlier the basic concepts are taught, the better it is because these concepts are universal and are therefore helpful in understanding other subjects too.

On 14 January, a theme-based cultural programme called Sneha Sammellan was presented by the children. The theme was “relationships” and using songs and dance sequences, the children learnt about relationships that they share with their parents, siblings, teachers, friends, the environment, the country of their residence and so on. The theme carried on to the next day when teachers and parents participated. A group of teachers presented a dance sequence that had earlier won the first prize at the dance competition organised by Sanskruti Kala Darpan, a Mumbai-based organisation.

On this final day of the golden jubilee celebrations, the Chief Guest was none other than the much respected Vimalatai Karve, now all of 85 years. As expected, when she spoke, she offered pearls of wisdom. Addressing parents and teachers, she said, “Don’t worry too much about your children’s academic performance. What we all need to strive for is how to bring up our children to become good human beings and responsible citizens. Values are more important than mere scores in exams. Our country can progress only when children understand their responsibility and act in the best interest of the society.”

Vimalatai Karve’s dream school has come a long way since it was set up, but the basic principles of Karve remain intact. The school now has a gym for men and women, an activity room, a computer, a well-equipped sports ground and many more facilities for the overall development of its students – but it still strives for grooming its students to become self-reliant and wherever possible, encourages self-learning. On behalf of all her students, present and former, we salute the indomitable spirit of this woman who dared to make her dreams come true.

A global brand is bleached with the culture of the respective country

A global brand is bleached with the culture of the respective country

[Dr Michael Dorsch is the associate professor of Department of Marketing, University of Business and Behavioural Science, Clemson, USA. Dr. Dorsch’s work has appeared in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Financial Planning, Journal of Professional Service Marketing, and various national proceedings.]

1. How has marketing evolved over the last decade and how is it different from the marketing that was practised in the 1980s and 1990s?
Michael DorschMarketing has experienced quite a bit of change over the past two decades. During the 1980s, marketing witnessed increasing and vigorous interest in several areas including services marketing, relationship marketing, brand equity, and pricing. Prior to this time, marketing efforts focused primarily on physical goods and on marketing transactions. In addition, during the 1990s and 2000s, marketing experienced a renewed interest in the use of technology for strategic marketing decision-making; thus the notion of marketing engineering was born. Furthermore, the introduction and growth of the Internet has fuelled marketing interest in employing technology in reaching and serving customers. The past two decades have also witnessed increased attention on marketing in a global context. Technological advancements along with social and political changes have resulted in an enhanced interest in appealing to a global marketplace. More recently, the marketing discipline is beginning to place a renewed emphasis on the customer with the notion of customer relationship management and customer equity.

2. Can you emphasise the role of technology in shaping marketing thought in the 21st century?
Technology will continue to play an important role in shaping marketing practices during the 21st century. Technology refers to both expertise/knowledge and the tools (e.g., equipment and machinery) needed to accomplish marketing activities. Consequently, reliance on the role of technology will extend beyond the machinery to include attention to how the technology may be employed by both customers and businesses to make more informed decisions. I expect that businesses will use some technology to further develop their organisational learning systems. For instance, some technology is likely to be used to help businesses learn more about the market (e.g., customers, competition, and other environmental factors) in order to make more informed and timely marketing decisions (e.g., web blogs, discussion groups, customer loyalty programs, decision support systems and so on). Other technology will be used to deliver the marketing plan (e.g., e-commerce, tracking tools for monitoring the distribution of products, the use of web cookies to store information about customer preferences) and regulate the marketing plan (e.g. customer relationship programmes). Still other technologies will be used by customers, who are likely to increasingly rely on the Internet to search product information, make purchases, track their expenditures, and so on. It is also likely that consumers will increasingly rely on technology to communicate with others and to become informed of local, regional, national, and global events.

Both businesses and consumers are likely to place great importance on learning the benefits of certain types of marketing transactions, their ease of usability, and their security and privacy characteristics. Moreover, an increasing reliance on technology will require both businesses and consumers to change their marketing-related behaviours. In some instances, the behavioural changes will be minor and easily adapted. In other instances, businesses and consumers will be required to make more significant changes in their shopping/purchasing behaviours, which is likely to slow the acceptance of technology.

3. Considering the current trends, what will be the shape of marketing in the next 10 years? What will be the major forces that will drive marketing efforts in the next decade?
Given the rate of change that is occurring worldwide, it is difficult to confidently describe the shape of marketing during the next ten years. However, a few trends seem likely. In particular, the world is expected to continue to change at a fast rate in a number of environmental areas such as the technological, social, political factors. These changes are expected to significantly influence marketing activities used to appeal to the ever- changing marketplace. Moreover, the world is becoming smaller as it is easier and quicker to learn about and experience other societies. Correspondingly, it is likely that consumers in the future are likely to exhibit more global awareness (i.e., diversity). Furthermore, information is also increasing at an increasing rate, which means that data are becoming more readily available and may be acquired and processed more quickly (e.g., in real time). This trend has important implications for businesses and consumers. Businesses, for example, will need to develop more effective and efficient methods for managing their organisational learning systems (e.g., data bases). In addition, the increasing availability of information to consumers indicates that consumers are likely to become more knowledgeable about the products that they purchase and more discriminating in their choices. As consumers become more sophisticated customers, their standard of living is also likely to increase and they will be more interested in the quality of the experience rather than focusing attention on the quality of materials (e.g., products) used to create the experience. As a consequence, it is likely that experiential marketing may become increasingly important approach to serving the market.

4. How has globalisation affected marketing practices of Multinational companies? How are multinational firms dealing with the growth of emerging countries like India and China?
Globalisation is likely to have a very significant impact on the marketing practices of multinational companies, especially in terms of effectively serving diverse markets. More specifically, many countries are not at the same level of economic development, which is likely to influence the type of market offerings desired by each country. Likewise, differences in the cultural practices of each country will influence the marketing practices. Accordingly, the marketing activities that are successful in one country may not be successful in another country. Similarly, the political and legal environments also influence marketing practices. As a result, MNCs that are interested in serving emerging countries like India and China are advised to become intimately knowledgeable about the countries before formally entering market. Recognising that learning about a country before formally entering it may take considerable time and money, MNCs may benefit from developing strategic alliances with companies already serving the countries or, possibly, the country’s government itself. In this way, the MNC may make use of the existing knowledge of its strategic partner to help become established in the country that it wishes to enter. The use of strategic alliances is likely to become an increasingly common practice among MNCs.

Once a multinational firm decides to enter a new country it must carefully weigh its decisions to utilise a single marketing strategy to be applied to all countries it services or to develop unique marketing strategies that appeal to particular countries. While the first approach, i.e., a globa
l marketing strategy, is likely to be less expensive – to be successful the global brand must symbolise common desires and practices across the countries to which it applies. With the latter approach, individual brands would be created that emphasise and match more closely those unique desires of individual countries. However, the development of marketing plans that closely match the uniqueness of each country is likely to be very expensive, as unique marketing plans would need to be developed. At issue is whether the incremental costs of serving each of several countries are offset by the incremental revenue/profit realised from the incremental increase in demand. The decision of whether to use a global marketing strategy or a set of individualised marketing strategies depends on the similarities of countries being served. The more similar the countries are in terms of their environmental factors (e.g., cultural, economic, political, and technological), the more likely that a global marketing strategy will be successful. In contrast, when the countries are more diverse, country-specific marketing strategies are likely to be more effective.

5. What are the characteristics of a global brand? How does a marketer build such a brand? What challenges does he face in the process?
Most research on branding and brand equity has focused attention on branding within a single country. The notion of a global brand is relatively new and research on the creation of global brands appears to be in its infancy. Nevertheless, it may be possible to offer some insights into the development of a global brand by drawing on existing knowledge about branding. A brand is basically the name that a company assigns to one of its product offerings. The value of the brand name to the customer, which has been referred to as customer-based brand equity, depends on the type of associations that customer evokes about the company’s product offering when the brand name is mentioned.

Businesses may help customers develop strong positive associations for their brand names through promotional efforts, including favourable customer word-of-mouth communication (i.e., buzz marketing) and ensuring favourable customer experiences related to the purchase, use, and disposition of the product. From this perspective, it may be argued that the creation of a global brand requires businesses to develop a set of similar and consistent positive associations (opinions and beliefs) that connect the customer to the brand of a particular company, irregardless of the country in which the product is offered. Consequently, the development of a consistent set of customer opinions and beliefs about the brand is likely to be based on a common set of characteristics and/or experiences that are desired by each country. In this regard, a global brand may be described as being based on a set of associations that are shared across countries.

One advantage associated with a global brand is that it communicates to a common set of customer expectations that is not altered by country effects. For instance, customer expectations of a “McDonalds experience” is the same, regardless of whether they visit a McDonald’s in the US or India. Correspondingly, companies that are interested in building a global brand may need to downplay the unique characteristics and experiences associated with a single country. In this regard, it may be argued that a global brand is bleached of the uniqueness associated with the culture of a specific country.

The bleaching of a brand of those characteristics that are unique to a particular country represents a potential disadvantage associated with a global brand. Even though, customers desire consistent expectations when using a product, they also enjoy variety. Thus, bleaching a brand of country-specific associations inhibits the uniqueness of experience desired by many customers. For example, many US tourists prefer eating at McDonalds when travelling in other countries simply because they expect the dining experience to be similar to that enjoyed in the States. Similarly, many other US tourists tend to avoid McDonalds for the same reason. When travelling outside of the US, these customers seek unique experiences that are not readily available within the US and thus avoid those businesses that resemble those in the States.

6. What are the chief behavioural differences between consumers in India and those in the US? Are there any similarities? How can MNC’s from both countries manage dissimilarities in cultures while exploiting similarities between consumers of the two nations?
I am unable to provide informed opinions about the similarities/dissimilarities between US and Indian consumers or about actions that MNC may take to efficiently and effectively target consumers in each country. However, from a very general perspective, it is very likely that people, regardless of culture, have similar basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, protection, and so on. In addition, it is likely that people, in general, have a desire to be respected, to take care of family, make effective use of their resources (money, time, labour), and to self-actualise (i.e., achieve their potential and to make a difference). As a result, MNCs increase their chances of success by recognising common benefits (or improvements) sought by their consumers, regardless of culture, and then adjusting their marketing efforts (i.e., price, promotion, distribution, and product form/packaging) to match the unique circumstances of each culture. The uniqueness of a country may be attributed to many factors including geographical climate and terrain, distinctions in the cultural philosophies that guide the behaviours of a country’s inhabitants, the political climate of the country, and so on. The process is analogous to the concept of mass customisation, whereby the basic market offering is similar across cultures, but the specifics of the market offer are customized to the unique circumstances of each country.

7. What, according to you, are the strengths and weaknesses of the “Made in India” tag? What best practices would you suggest to Indian companies that wish to become internationally competitive?
This is a difficult question to answer for two reasons. First, I am unsure of the image that India has within the US. In addition, research on Country-of-Origin issues has produced mixed results. Some research indicates that the use of “Made in” labels have influenced consumer perceptions and purchase behaviours, whereas other research indicates that no relationship exists. More recent research suggests that “Made in” labels become more important when consumers are not very knowledgeable about the product and little other product related information is available. In contrast, “Made in” labels appear to be less effective when other product information is available to the consumer. In addition, the effectiveness of “Made in” labels appears to be influenced by the type of market offering. When using “Made in” labels to evaluate market offerings, consumers oftentimes base their assessments on their perceptions of the country itself. In these instances, consumers use their perceptions of a country to determine whether the manufacturing country is likely to produce a high quality form of the product. Whether a country is truly capable of manufacturing a high quality product is oftentimes less relevant then the consumer’s perception of the country’s capability. These perceptions may be derived from a number of sources including the consumer’s personal experience, experiences of others, or stereotypes created through the media. Consequently, a country’s products are more likely to be favourably received by consumers if the consumers believe that the country has the technological capabilities and expertise to manufacture the market offerings.

Automation is needed to manage complexity in marketing

Automation is needed to manage complexity in marketing

[Bruce Brown is managing director of Unica Corporation’s Asia Pacific operations.He oversees Unica’s sales, marketing, and business development throughout the region.]

1. Can you shed some light on critical changes that are taking place in the marketing arena?

As the business environment becomes complex, firms are operating under tighter internal and external constraints than ever before. For example, on the one hand we have multiplicity of communication channels leading to a need for higher spend in these areas. On the other hand, businesses are increasingly demanding higher and higher accountability from the marketing spend.

The major forces that have contributed to this increase in marketing complexity are:
a. Product Proliferation

Marketers today have to deal with massive product proliferation and it’s not just the sheer number of products in each product category but the different models of the same product, giving customers an almost infinite number of options. For example, in the US alone, there are about 8000 digital camera model that consumers can choose from, making the job of the brand manager rather difficult. Such a clutter on the shelf space means that marketers must work much harder to become the preferred product for the customer.

b. Multiplicity of marketing communication channels
Unlike in the past, when there were limited options to reach out, consumers of today are bombarded with marketing messages through television commercials, mailings, web sites, email, billboards, and more. The number of messages each consumer receives has grown dramatically in just the last two decades. In 1985 it was estimated that the average consumer was exposed to 650 marketing messages every day. Today it is more than 8,000. This is due in part to the increased number of channels marketers and consumers can use. For example, traditional media has become extremely fragmented. In other words, there are more and more TV and radio stations, magazines, and newspapers in the world. In 1960 there were 5.7 average TV channels in each home, and a total of 4,400 radio stations and 8,400 magazines. By 2004, those numbers had grown to 82.4 channels, 13,500 radio stations and 17,300 magazines. In the 1980s, 80 per cent of an average marketer’s target audience could be reached with one 30-second, off-peak television ad. Today, accomplishing the same reach often requires literally hundreds of prime-time commercials. In addition to this traditional media phenomenon, new media have emerged and multiplied. The most recognisable examples include web sites, SMS and email. There are many others, such as dynamic point of sale promotions and in-store kiosks. These new media further clutter a consumer’s daily life with marketing messages. The challenge this clutter poses to marketers is obvious: getting a message to register with consumers is incredibly difficult.

c. Growing consumer expectation
The growing number of marketing messages is driving consumers to take steps to control how marketers interact with them. This is done in part through the adoption of new technologies that filter marketing messages, especially from new media. The most well-known examples are SPAM filters and web pop-up ad blockers. But tools are emerging that impact more traditional media, as well. Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), such as those sold under the TiVo brand, allow consumers to eliminate TV commercials when viewing their favourite programmes. Today DVRs are at a much lower adoption rate than SPAM and pop-up blockers (roughly 15 per cent as compared to over 50 per cent according to a recent survey), but it is clear that the desire to control advertising exposure is a growing trend. In addition to adopting new technologies, consumers are demanding that marketers adhere to new standards of behaviour that put consumers in the driver’s seat when it comes to determining when and how to send messages. Clearly articulated privacy policies and “opt-out” choices are now a required practice of any company seeking a genuine and positive relationship with its customers. As a result of both these new technologies and practices, marketers today must not only identify the right target for their message and plan a strategy to get through the clutter, but also consider whether that message will actually reach its intended target.

d. Regulatory constraints
Marketers now have to comply with more regulations than ever before. Some of these regulations, such as do-not-call (DNC) lists, strict anti-spam laws and the EU’s Data Protection directives are related to the clutter of marketing messages and consumers’ desire for greater control and privacy. The effects of this type of legislation are widespread. According to a recent survey, over half of marketers reported that such legislation will impact their direct marketing programmes more in the next two years than in the previous two. No matter what the nature of the regulation, the fact is that marketers have new process issues to consider.

e. Marketing is being made more accountable
Gone are the days when you spent half you money on marketing without knowing whether it worked or it didn’t. The increasing market complexity is continuously putting pressure on companies’ profit margins and as a result departmental budgets within each enterprise. Marketing is no exception. Marketing budgets are being scrutinised by top management and marketers are required to account for their investments and demonstrate, with hard numbers, the returns they are getting. In other words, not only are marketers being asked to do more with less, but they must justify decisions and investments.

That’s the reason why marketers have to move from handling by spreadsheets or handling marketing activities manually to some sort of system that automates that process – 1000s of different contacts that need to be tailored. You can’t do it manually. You need to do it fast, to be able to turn around that do that – contact the customer quickly is impossible if you do it manually.

2. You talked about proliferation of products. What about parity of products?
You’ve raised a very good point. The product orientation does not differentiate you from your competitors anymore. You see, there is just too much out there and therefore you will have to focus on what the customer wants. This trend of moving away from product focus to customer focus is most evident in the retail banking sector where you now have segment managers, not product managers.

Take the case of OCBC bank in Singapore – they are increasing adopting EBM – where instead of making similar offers to a “segment” which may comprise of a 100,000 customers, what they do is monitoring specific events, transaction or things that the customer does – and they have 100 of business rules that are in place. For instance if a customer’s average quarterly balance crosses a certain threshold, it triggers some kind of communication. Similarly when the average account balance suddenly deviates, it triggers a service call from the bank to explore what this deviation might mean to the customer. The principle here is to “win the customer at the moment he needs the service”. Of course this requires a lot of training on the front office on what to say and what not to say

3. What is the role of new and emerging technologies in transforming the way marketing is
done today?

Technology has enabled the real shift to what we call “addressable marketing”. In the past, most of the emphasis was really about brand marketing or awareness marketing. Organisations have realised that they need to focus on their customer base. As a result, we need marketing to be more able and more accountable. We want it to be able to the return on investment on all activities. So the focus is now shifting to addressable marketing, which means targeting the customers with something that is likely to be more relevant to them. This is possible because you’ve done the analysis and you’ve looked at their propensity to buy something. In addressable marketing, we use technology to measure whether the customer responded, to which campaign did he or she respond, how long did he take to respond and so on and so forth. Having done the homework, you contact them through technology channels like SMS or email. You may even ask them how, at what time and where they want to be contacted. When you contact your customers in the way they wish to be contacted and with an offer that excites them, you are no more bothering them and invading their privacy. In fact you are providing them with a service. So technology is helping companies become more customer-centric. It is really enabling marketing to do more, and measure it tangibly.

4. What is Enterprise Marketing Management?
Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) is software that helps marketers reduce costs, boost productivity and grow revenue across brand, interactive and direct marketing operations. EMM consists of customer analytics for understanding and anticipating customer behaviour; interaction and campaign management for implementing and executing timely, consistent communications across customer touch points; lead management to ensure leads are delivered and acted upon; and marketing resource management (MRM) for managing budgets, creative production, marketing content, and other resources. Individually or as an integrated solution, these capabilities reduce time-to-market through automation, improve customer strategies and targeting through analytics, and prove the value of marketing through closed-loop measurement and reporting.

EMM provides support for customer analysis, demand generation and strategic planning and resource management. Additionally, a complete EMM offering provides the ability to measure the performance, profitability and bottom-line impact of marketing efforts. Customer analysis includes capabilities such as data mining and predictive modelling, which provide a richer, deeper understanding of customers across all interaction touch points. It also gives organisations the ability to monitor and track segment behaviour and trends over time thereby enabling better targeting and increasing the likelihood of response to specific marketing activities. Demand generation solutions focus on acquiring, retaining and growing customer value. Strategic planning and process management solutions, sometimes called Marketing Resource Management (MRM) or Marketing Operations Management (MOM), help marketers create plans, coordinate the execution of those plans and analyse the results. These solutions streamline processes and centrally store marketing information such that marketers can quickly and easily see how their marketing efforts and plans are progressing – from tradeshows, advertising campaigns, direct mail, events, and more. By using these capabilities, marketers are able to measure the performance of all their marketing efforts, assess their profitability and bottom-line impact and optimise their investments and operations. In addition to customer analysis, demand generation, strategic planning and process management, a complete EMM solution must provide the ability to measure the performance, profitability and overall impact of all marketing efforts.

5. What according to you is the single biggest requirement that an organisation must take into consideration when adopting EMM?
A pre-requisite for doing a successful marketing automation campaign management is making sure that you develop the analytical skills. I see a lot of organisations who haven’t gained that expertise. Analytical capabilities help the marketer to customise the offer to an individual by revealing what the customer might want at various times. Such information will enable you make offers that are relevant and therefore more attractive. If you’re setting out on this path, you have to make sure that you have this capability whether you develop it in house or outsource it.

6. Using examples, can you elucidate the advantages of EMM over traditional marketing approaches?
EMM technology helps marketers bring together disparate parts of marketing; planning, designing, executing and analysing. By automating and supporting each of these areas, EMM lets executives, marketing managers, analysts, field marketers, creative designers, achieve increased effectiveness, efficiency and accountability. Here are a few examples that describe EMM in practice in planning, designing, executing and analysing.

Planning with EMM: A major retailer of electronic goods recently purchased and implemented an EMM solution to streamline and manage marketing processes and track overall marketing effectiveness. Using EMM, they are automating marketing planning, managing marketing project workflows, facilitating collaboration, optimising assets, and most importantly, notifying and alerting marketers of changes in their marketing programmes and key performance indicators (KPIs) giving the marketers greater control over the outcome of these initiatives. As a result of using EMM, this organisation has increased visibility into all marketing initiatives, improved marketing velocity and productivity and has been able to enforce best practices and processes across the organisation, resulting in significant cost savings and increased revenue.

Designing with EMM: A large resort real estate company and ski resort operator that uses EMM to identify previous guests for a specific resort who have a high likelihood of revisiting the resort from mid January to the end of April – when ski vacation bookings are slow. Individuals likely to respond were included in a targeted multi-wave "come back" campaign. The results showed that the people the models predicted would visit during this period responded to offers and booked at a rate roughly 133 per cent above those included but not identified by the models. Additionally, the booking rate was 5 per cent with an 8.5 per cent increase in skier revenue, and an increase of 3.5 per cent in actual skier visits.

Executing with EMM: A leading specialty retailer uses EMM to execute a targeted email communication to all individuals who have made an entertainment purchase online within a specific time period. Email content is dynamically selected for each individual. With EMM in place, this communication runs every Tuesday without manual intervention. In terms of results there are consistent weekly click-through rates as well as a distinct increase in customer profitability and loyalty.

Analysing with EMM: A US-based mortgage division of a diversified European financial services provider was able to minimise losses when it quickly identified a significant increase in mortgage holder attrition, using EMM technology. After further investigation, the company determined that monthly programmes targeted at mortgage holders were not effective in retaining customers. With mortgage rates changing almost weekly, the organisation needed to respond faster to competitive market conditions to maintain its customer base. By
leveraging templates, analytics, and automation found in their EMM solution, the organisation was able to rapidly execute more effective marketing programmes in order to combat competitive pressures and decrease attrition.

Playing a long Innings

Playing a long Innings

History of our planet proves that adapting to change is the only way to survive. Those who do not or cannot adapt, become extinct. This is true of human beings, animals and even brands. Brands that do not change disappear from the marketplace… and the consumer’s mind. While many brands have survived for a long time, in the recent years the pace of change has increased manifold and consequently the time available to respond to the changes has shrunk considerably. The problem with many of us is that we think of future as faraway. The future is here. It’s not some event that will take place five, 10 or 20 years from now. It is something that is as close as tomorrow. The pace of change in the recent years has shortened the distance between yesterday, today and tomorrow.

In preparing your brands to survive into the future, it might help to look to the past and learn from it. The first real "brands" began to emerge at around the same time as marketing began emerging as a serious business management discipline way back in the late 19th and early 20th century. By the mid-1900s, marketing had already established itself as a central business function and the four Ps became the tactical tools of marketers. Over the next 30-40 years, the strategic development of marketing as a business function has evolved constantly to adapt to continuous and discontinuous market changes. Concepts such as segmentation, differentiation and competitive advantage emerged and proved extremely useful to marketers in successfully introducing and establishing brands.

But things have been different in the last decade or so. Technology and product breakthroughs, discovery of newer markets (and stagnation of older ones), rising incomes, and telecom and media proliferation require newer and innovative marketing approaches. Because the time to react to competition is shorter than ever before and there is little, if any, scope for blunders. While earlier, a brand could get away with some slip ups, the consumers of today are unforgiving and punish brands that do not live up to their promise by shifting their loyalties to other brands. No wonder so many brands of yesteryears have just disappeared from the shelves. It seems like only yesterday when cars in India meant Ambassador and Premier Padmini; shoes meant Bata; cooking oil meant Dalda or Postman, and colour TVs meant BPL or Videocon. Most of these brands are nowhere close to their positions 10 years ago. Some of them have completely disappeared.

On the other hand, there have been brands that have stood the test of time. Changing consumer preferences, cultural transformation, substitute products, economic recessions, technological obsolescence and many such problems notwithstanding, these brands have been quick to adapt to the ever-changing market dynamics and consumer demand, and grown consistently. These brands have shown what is known as brand resilience.

What is Brand Resilience?

In the year 2000, Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan rose like the proverbial phoenix. After a long hiatus from Bollywood and a disastrous shot at going corporate that left him bankrupt, Bachchan came back with a vengeance. Today he has not only paid off his debts, but is the busiest star in the film industry, delivering more hits in the year than any other star and has endorsed/is endorsing more than 20 brands. He was also voted as star of the millennium in an online poll by BBC. Brand Amitabh Bachchan is a great example of a brand that possesses resilience.

Brands like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Levi’s, Harley-Davidson, Rolex, Kodak, Nikon, Sony as well as home-grown brands like Thums Up, The Times of India, Parachute, Onida and Amul are resilient brands as they have all been around for many decades during which markets and consumers have both changed beyond recognition. Many of these brands have survived recessionary trends and adverse market conditions and yet have managed to retain their leadership positions in their markets. In fact, many of the world’s top 100 brands are over 100 years old.

The quest for brand resilience

Brand resilience can be compared with a healthy person with strong immunity. A healthy person fights of diseases by practising healthy habits like eating right, following an exercise regime, maintaining hygiene and consulting a doctor when sickness strikes. Similarly, a brand builds resilience by following sound marketing practises, maintaining a fresh appeal, and reinventing itself to remain relevant. Here are a few suggestions on how to build strong, resilient brands.

Survival of the quickest
Brand that don’t respond promptly to a challenge often perish just as brands that are quick to respond get brownie points from the consumer in the form of loyalty. In 1995, when Sony launched PlayStation, the first CD-based video game console, Nintendo and Sega were both unprepared and took time to react. They paid heavily for their sluggishness by losing market to a new entrant like Sony. Today, PlayStation is the market leader by far and also the cash cow for Sony. Nokia, on the other hand, was quick to respond to Sony-Ericsson’s camera phones. Although Sony-Ericsson’s phones became a hit, Nokia launched its own versions of camera phone quickly, ensuring that its market leadership remained intact.

Maintain Consumer Connect
Resilient brands acknowledge that consumers of different generations have different values and ideologies. These brands also know that consumer preferences evolve over time. Liril and Colgate are FMCG brands that have been around for decades and have successfully connected with the consumers of many successive generations. The recent repositioning of Liril (with Aloe Vera) is a case in point. Adding sex appeal to the brand and introducing a male character in its advertising is a marked shift from the age old “waterfall” premise that Liril was associated with.

Remain Loyal to Core Value Proposition
Resilient brands have a personality with which consumers identify them. Sony has always stood for sharp, leading edge technology. The recent repositioning notwithstanding, Liril still stands for freshness. Coca-Cola has quenched thirst for over 100 years and its Thanda Matlab Coca Cola campaign only reiterates that proposition. Colgate means strong teeth, fresh breath. Mercedes still stands for top class and BMW for pioneering engineering. Brands build resilience by taking a stance and sticking to it. They remain loyal their original values and their consumers remain loyal to them.

Kodak Brand’s Resilience From Building Strong Brands by David Aaker

The Kodak Instant Camera (introduced in 1976 to compete with Polaroid) had captured one-third of the instant camera market after one year. However, the company was forced to discontinue the product in 1986 after a successful patent encroachment suit by Polaroid. Kodak’s forced withdrawal of a product from a market it virtually owned is about as bad as it gets. Many brands would have been irrevocably tainted by such a calamity. The fact that Kodak survived this debacle is a tribute to its innate brand strength and to its handling of a painful situation. Every camera owner was invited to return their Kodak Instant Camera in exchange for either a Kodak Disk Camera and film, fifty dollars’ worth of other Kodak products, or a share of Kodak stock. Kodak thus used the incident and the surrounding communication opportunities to reinforce Kodak associations and to support the Disk Camera.

From Building Strong Brands by David Aaker

Why bother about resilience?

Because resilience pays rich dividends in the following ways:  

Provides Longevity
This one is the most apparent benefit. Resilience implies staying power, which translates into l
ongevity. As mentioned earlier, resilient brands survive many generations of human life. Indeed, some have been around for a couple of hundred years. The Times of India was established in 1838. After 168 years, it is the largest selling English daily in the world. That it’s published from India, a country where English is not a native language, tells a lot about the resilience of the brands.

Helps in tiding over adversities
Brands that are resilient are better prepared to survive an unforeseen eventuality, both internal and external to the company. Kartikeya Kompella, business head of a leading DM agency in Chennai says, " Tough times don’t last but tough brands do." In 1982, when other car manufacturers around the world suffered disastrous sales, Mercedes continued to do well and often sold up to 50 per cent more than other European competitors.

Offers scope for market leverage
Resilient brands can try experiments in the market that could be too risky for other brands. In April 1985, when Coca Cola repositioned its flagship brand as New Coke, which was not well received by the market in spite of blind tests showing that New Coke tasted better than Pepsi and earlier Coke. There were protests by a section of Coke fans and Pepsi took advantage of the situation by taking digs at Coke. Coca Cola’s sales had begun to dwindle and the company was forced to reintroduce the old formula drink, which it called Coca Cola Classic. By the end of the year, Classic Coke was substantially outselling both New Coke and Pepsi, putting the company back into the number-one position, which it has enjoyed ever since. Coca Cola got away with its experimentation because the brand was resilient.

Survives onslaught of competition
A brand that has been around for years and has kept its promise with the consumer can often fight even heavyweight competition. Think about Thums Up, which was bought over by Coca Cola on its re-entry to India. Between the mega battle of Pepsi and Coke, Thums Up was grossly ignored by its new owners. In spite of this neglect, Thums Up outperformed both Coca Cola and Pepsi to remain market leader and forced Coke’s management to take the brand seriously.

Sometimes, brands only pretend to be resilient but are not. In times of crisis, such brands often try and take refuge in advertising but usually fail. In A New Brand World, Scott Bedbury points out that no amount of advertising can build or save a shallow brand. “Advertising is the megaphone, not the message,” he says. Many of you will recall that BPL was one of the top three colour TV brands in India in the early 1990s. When crisis struck in the form of entry of Korean Brands, even Amitabh Bachchan’s endorsement could not save BPL TVs from perishing. Cadbury on the other hand used Amitabh effectively to counter the serious threat from the “worm” controversy and is today back to the top. Cadbury was resilient; BPL was not.

Conclusion

It is wise to know that resilience is not infinite. The advantages of possessing brand resilience are many. But that does not mean that strong brands cannot falter and fall by the wayside. Even resilience has an expiry date. But the good news is that brands can get this date extended substantially by remaining loyal to their original value proposition and by being true to their consumers.

The Making of Squash Champions

The Making of Squash Champions

Last week about 30 children from the city participated in the Second Annual Squash Training Camp organised by the Squash Rackets Association of Thane (SRAT). Held at the squash courts of Hirandandani Estate in Thane, the camp was organised in an effort to promote the game of squash in the city. Already there are many budding squash champs residing in the city, some of them top seeded in the respective age groups. But, in spite of the growing popularity of the sport, there are very few avenues for the players to progress in the game. Most players have to depend on their parents for sponsorships to participate in the championships. Even though parents do their bit, it is beyond most of them to be able to afford the fees and other expenses like travel and accommodation for the competitions regularly. This is a major deterrent to the development of the sport as also the enthusiasm of the players.

The making of Squash Champions

SRAT, which was formed last year with the objective of promoting the game, has applied for registration with the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI), the only authority which is in charge of rated championships and players ratings. By becoming affiliated to the SRFI, the SRAT may now be able to organise its own rated championships.

Besides, it will also be able to protect the children of Thane from being sidelined by children sponsored by wealthy clubs and associations.

In fact it has been the experience of many that the ratings of children are rigged. Such causes cannot be taken by individuals. Rajesh Kutti, the secretary of SRAT, said, "SRAT’s single minded purpose is to work for the cause of squash in Thane. Talented children should not be deprived of the opportunities simply because of lack of facilities or the lack of sponsorships". SRAT plans to identify and sponsor players from the various age groups in Thane.

Sunil Verma, the official coach of Jindal Steel Squash Academy, has played an important role in promoting the sport in Thane. The camp too is his brainchild. He believes that such camps are needed to create awareness about the sport and to spot new talents.

Besides promoting the sport, the camp also offered the children an opportunity to explore something new. Seven-year old Aishwarya Bhattacharya "thoroughly enjoyed" her participation in the camp. Rajan Anand, father of six-year old Mansimran said, "My son is a bit of an introvert. But participating in this camp has changed him and he is now enjoying mixing around with other children." Suraj Sharma, father of eight-year-old Siddharth felt that the camp is a great opportunity to utilise the facilities (courts), which can’t be used unless there are enough people who know how to play the sport. With more than a dozen courts spread across the city, including those in Dadoji Konddev Stadium, such camps can indeed go a long way towards strengthening squash in Thane. With initiatives such as these, it’s only a matter of time when international champions will emerge from our beloved city.

Soul Curry

Soul Curry

The 19th century English Composer Frederick Delius said, "Music is an outburst of the soul." Last week hundreds of music lovers from Thane experienced this outburst first hand. Like in the past, the 12th Padmashree Nataraj Gopikrishna Mahotsav held last Friday and Saturday at the Gadkari Rangayatan was an absolute treat for lovers of Indian classical music. Right from the start, the energy of the show touched the soul of those present. The inaugural performance was a Kathak performance by Sonia Parchure. The conventional Kathak performance tends to follow a progression in tempo from slow to fast, ending with a dramatic climax and finishing in a statuesque pose. Each time she ended a dance sequence in the dramatic climax that is the hallmark of Kathak, the audience broke into a deafening applause. The perfect synchronicity between the musical beats and the dancer’s steps gave an impression of an invisible connection between the musicians’ fingers and the dancer’s ghungroos (ankle bracelets) even as "once-more" requests for the tukdas and todas echoed in the auditorium.

Later, a jugalbandi (duet) between two stalwarts, namely Pandit Mukundraj Deo (Tabla) and Pandit Bhavani Shankar (Pakhwaj) stole the show. Before starting the jugalbandi, Pt Deo said, "We don’t have the benefit of a single rehearsal before the show and so whatever we will offer today is akin to a fresh recipe that has never been tried before. I can assure you that just like in the case of food you will enjoy freshness of the spontaneity of our recipe a lot more than staleness that comes from endless rehearsals preceding the show." True to his promise, what followed was a giant of a performance where both he and Pt Bhavani Shankar mesmerised the audiences with their mastery of the instruments. There were so many in the audience who were literally at the edge of their seats, humming wah-wahs in spite the show going on way past midnight. In the cool winter night, the show was indeed like a fresh, hot curry for the soul.