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April 29, 2010

Best marketing practices - By Indian companies

Nirma Girl
Best marketing practices: In marketing, India has always been looking at the West or East for Inspiration. Best Marketing  practices are available where Indian companies have excelled.

Nirma detergent powder: the David who took on the goliath and won hands down. Nirma was seen as a cheap detergent by the leader Surf who dismissed it off saying it had cheap ingredients and harms the hands of the user. Surf ignored the onslaught of Nirma at its own peril. By the time HLL realized its mistake and introduced Wheel, the damage had already been done. Nirma was well entrenched and commanded a decent market share.

Velvet shampoo: Innovated the concept of sachets in the early seventies. Sachets opened the flood gates of consumption in the rural India where the aspiration were high but they were not matched by equally high disposable incomes. Even in this category HLL had to eat the humble pie by introducing similar products paradoxically at an even more cheaper price of 1 rupee or even at 50 paisa.

Jugaad: a means of transportation in north India, made of wooden planks and old jeep parts, also known as kuddukka and pietereda. It’s India’s cheapest personalized four-wheeler. The only thing the Jugaad has in common with any other vehicle with similar functionality are, its four wheels.

A common sight on the pot-holed roads beyond Ghaziabad and near Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh, the Jugaad is the lifeline for everyone from sugar cane traders to entire families. Resembling an aggregation of leftover automobile parts, it’s little more than a diesel pump engine strapped on to a wooden quadricycle. Usually, it can be seen carrying up to 35 people, or huge loads of cane from nearby fields to local sugar factories.

Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation: (GCMMF) is India's largest food products marketing organization. It is a state level apex body of milk cooperatives in Gujarat. With 2.79 million producer members it is the biggest cooperative society in the world. And it has a foot print in 13,328 village societies.

The brand, marketed by GCMMF is AMUL which has become an iconic Indian brand and GCMMF runs one of the world’s most enduring, long lasting and topical OOH campaign in the world. The AMUL girl has become world famous and its hoardings have become a part of Indian culture.

Indica and Nano: The TATA group has many firsts to its credit. The introduction of its first mass produced passenger car, code named  ‘mint’ later popularly as Indica created ripples in the Indian automobile market. Indica is a classic case of bench marking.

The Indica had the roominess of an Ambassador, the styling of a Fiat, the price of a Maruti and was a diesel driven car. It had all the plus points of all its competitors.

But what Tatas did in 2008 January took the breath away of the automobile majors throughout the world. It introduced the world’s cheapest car at 2,500 US Dollars. The industry doyens who predicted an utter failure for the Nano had to eat humble pie. In spite of initial hick ups, the Nano is chugging along and is set to become the beacon light of what Innovative Indian entrepreneurs can do, if they make up their minds.

Incidentally the names choosen Indica and Nano themselves are excellent examples of clear thought processess. Indica stands for Indianness and Nano stands for minute technology or the small car at the cheapest price in the world. Way to go TATAS!

Common sense is not very common

As customers and as consumers we come in touch and interact with different types of sales people and service providers. Most of the services provided leave a very bad taste in the mouth. Can these interactions be made better by using a little bit of commonsense? Let us see

Most of the shop keepers and small time vendors give a bill or an invoice which very boldly says “goods once sold will not be taken back under any circumstance". Even national level retail chains are very unhappy about returns and exchanges. They offer exchanges but put lots of pre conditions on the customer - the customer has to come only between 1200 hours to 1400 hours, they can only exchange in kind and cash will not be refunded.

Using common sense it becomes very clear that customers have to be pandered and pleased at all times. It is better to take back the goods and immediately offer to return the money. In USA there is an no question asking policy. The employees are instructed not to ask as to why the merchandise is being returned.

Next to buying a house Indians consider buying a car as the most important buying decision of their life. The entire family would troop into a car showroom and pour over the brochures and laboriously study all the fine print, discuss threadbare and finally after lots of hesitation and uncertainty would choose a vehicle.

What happens next is in many cases a true horror story. The mechanic would handle the New car roughly and would slam the doors and would screech the car to a halt before the hapless family. Even foot mats are given not given free.

The family would drive the car to the neatest temple and perform the puja and become spiritually happy but financially sad (one has to give a minimum of 500/- rupees to the pujari- Arrey yaar hum bhe to ex car ke owner bun gaye!).

Using common sense how the entire situation can be handled in a professional way. The mechanic drives the car wearing gloves. He drives the car in a gentle way and treats the car very respectfully. The car owner gets free foot mats, free key chain. But that is not everything. When the family steps into the car they are in for one more surprise. The car is driven to an area where the pujari is ready (employee of the dealer). The Pujari places 4 pieces of lemon below the wheels of the car and performs the puja and wishes the family. The total cost to the dealer – less than 100 rupees per car.

The family goes home happily. They are overjoyed. This is where the CRM practices of the company can kick in. They can collect the personal details like the birthdays of the entire family and send them greeting cards. The annual anniversary of the car can be remembered and the family can be sent a nice greeting card.

“If the small things of life can be managed well, the big things will get managed by themselves” Take care to manage the small things well.

April 27, 2010

Oh God Shave Me! (Consumer Behaviour)

The most interesting thing about consumers is no one can exactly predict how they will behave or how they don’t behave.

Sample the following:
  1. Why is that women have not taken kindly or enthusiastically to machines that can automatically knead the chapatti or poori dough? 
  2. Why is that an obviously convenient product like a cream that does not allow hair to grow on a man’s face become a successful product? (only 1 out of 100 surveyed men wanted to buy but not for the intended product use)
  3. Why is that during Deepavali time demand for I litre paints (usually customers buy paint in 20 litre cans) goes up in the state of Maharashtra?
  4. Why do products with names like Pantene, Hero Puch or Chik Shampoo do not sell well inspite of being excellent products?
  5. Why is that antacid sells more in Gujarat than any other state in India?
  6. Why does Glycodin (a cough syrup) sells well in shops near student hostels?
  7. Why is that small washing machines sell very well in Punjab?
  8. Why that is Tractors In India are very spacious and roomier than tractors in USA and other developed countries?
The answers for the above are very enlightening:
  1.  Kneading of dough is an intensely emotional experience for the lady. It is like to giving birth to a baby. Very painful but at the same time very satisfying. That is why women can’t give a convincing answer for their preference to the traditional method of making dough by hand.
  2. Shaving of the beard again is a very intense manly activity. It is very assuring for a man to be reminded that he is a man albeit in a very painful way. All the time smooth beard is very feminine. The only man who wanted to buy the product wanted to use the product to remove underarm hair permanently.
  3. The cattle loving farmers use the 1 litre paint to decorate the horns of their cows and buffaloes. This was encashed by Asian paints which introduced exclusive paints for painting the horns of livestock.
  4. These words have very negative meanings; the first is a woman’s under garment, the second sounds like fresh vomit and the third means semen in Marathi!
  5. Antacid is not used for curing acidity rather to make very soft and fluffy Dokla.
  6. Glycodin is a very cheap and easy way of getting intoxicated. That is why the label tells the users not to drink and drive.
  7. The small washing machines are used to make tonnes and tonnes of lassi for customers (The resident detergent adds to the taste?)
  8. In USA a tractor is a tractor – it is used to irrigate the fields. In India a tractor is more than a tractor, it is a rural vehicle. It carries the family to the market and to social gathering like a marriage and is the lifeline that connects the village to the nearest town.
Keeping all this in mind it is a very brave man who can confidently say that he knows  the exact behavior of his customers. Well.....well his customers will teach him a lesson that he will not forget in a life time. Ask Rahul Bajaj. He will only very eagerly tell you the story of customers who happily deserted the company and made Bajaj Chetek what it is today – a dodo.

April 26, 2010

Concepts in Marketing

Concepts are like appetizers. They whet the appetite for the main meal. But a fine balance has to be maintained. If the appetizers are not interesting enough the main meal will not be consumed heartily. And if the appetizers are too good the main meal is not consumed at all.

Keeping the above in mind I would walk the tight rope carefully. The aim is to inform and excite the reader to get more information.

Missionary selling: is a concept that comes from pharmaceutical marketing. It is said that religion is not marketed directly and missionaries take the indirect route to interest the people to take up their religion. The same is followed in Pharma marketing. The medical representative counsels the doctor. The doctor in turn  prescribes the medicine and the patient buys the same from the medical shop. As the sale is transacted indirectly formulations marketing is termed as missionary selling.

Canned presentation: also comes from Pharma marketing. In Formulations/Pharma marketing the medical representative plays a very submissive role in the selling process. The buyer (the prescribing doctors sees himself as a know all) is pressed for time and gives very little time for the medical representative. As the time is very short the medical representative practice their pitch to the last T and present it in rapid fire fashion in the shortest time possible. So any presentation that is totally pre rehearsed and presented in the shortest time is called a canned presentation.

Traffic light selling: In the modern world people are pressed for time. We hardly have time for anything. At the same time the chaotic life that we lead makes us spend time on things that we hate for example traffic snares and jams. But a marketer finds a silver lining in every cloud. Umpteen tiny entrepreneurs can be seen at every traffic light peddling wares that include books, newspapers, magazines, mosquito eradicating tennis bats etc. Their Unique selling proposition – a bored customer who laps up the products as he/she has nothing else to do.

Leaking bucket: A concept taken from hard core selling. It was believed that there are more customers than products available and that the company would keep on getting orders or sales inspite of bad service and disgruntled customers. The concept believes that old customers who buy the product get dissatisfied and move away only to be replaced with eager new customers who take the place of the old customers. Just like a leaking bucket where new water keeps on replacing old water which keeps flowing out.

Funnel theory: For this concept I give credit to my first boss, Mr. Ravindranath, RSM, Indian Communications Network Limited. This concept says that the funnel is broadest at the top and narrowest at the bottom. If a sales person has to get 5 orders per month consistently he or she has to see that the prospective or cold customers have to be many more at the top of the funnel.

25 Cold customers will whistle down to 20 warm customers, 20 warm customers in turn will result in 15 hot customers and 15 hot customers will become 10 eager to buy customers. Out of these 10 eager to buy customers 5 orders can be finalized. The beauty of this concept is that if one wants a sale of 5 machines in June the seeds of sale of that month have to be laid in the months of March. April and May.

April 25, 2010

Best advertisements

It is said that only three things are definite in this world. Two of them are death and taxes. And the third one is advertising. We are continuously bombarded with advertisements. Then came in thick and fast. Some of them are almost like the sleight of hand of the magician. we don't even know that we have been stung by an subliminal advertisement. Many find advertisements to be a big drag a waste of time,  simply put a pain. Many other disagree and call them "the maximum fun one can have with their clothes on!" 

It is very difficult to pick up five best advertisements when you have  a list that run into more than a hundred.  But I would bite the bullet. To make things simple I would pick up 5 best advertisements from India.

1. The best advertisement that I can think of is the "Liril" advertisement that was created by Alyque Padamsee for HLL. I remember sneaking into the cinema hall in the seventies and breathlessly waiting for the wildly exhilarating Liril Ad. The girl in the bikini, the locale and the music meant that for  more than two generations liril girl was the ideal wet girl. (pun unintended). Padamsee explains that the five minutes that a Lady of the house gets when she is bathing is the only private time she gets in the entire day. The ad made her feel special. 10 out of 10 Padamsee!. 

Incidentally when one watches the later liril ads the girls have become more and more prudent and they started  wearing more and more clothes. A mirror of the present society - we have become a nation of hypocrites. If the Liril ad is to be made today I am sure the liril girl will be wearing a six yard saree.  

2. The second best advertisement that symbolized the coming of age of Indian advertising is the ad that was made for "Bajaj Scooters". Hamara Bajaj stood the test of time and regularly tops the list of the best advertisement that were made in India. The most impressive thing about Hamara Bajaj was the not so subtle message saying that India is Bajaj and having a Bajaj scooter is the most patriotic thing. And Bajaj was the most secular of the products that was available.

Sadly for a product that was so prided that it was offered as dowry, Bajaj scooter fell in bad ways. The scooter was very old fashioned, it had to be bent and cajoled and then KICK started to life. So boring!. Bajaj  did and could not anticipate the changing tastes of the customers. Recently Bajaj scooter was given not so decent burial by a tearful Rahul Bajaj. Sorry to see you go Bajaj Chetak- you were our darling. The burial of Bajaj Chetak is a reminder that nothing is constant and that companies should keep up with time and not be bogged down by Marketing Myopia. A classic case of falling in love with your product and not keeping track of changing  needs of the customer. 

Sorry guys could only cover two of the best. The next three best in the next sunday posting.  

April 24, 2010

Here comes my first blog posting

Here comes  my excited entry into the world of blogging. So far I have limited myself to popular articles in news papers, souvenirs, journals both popular  and academic. As a voracious reader it was always tempting to put forward you own point of view but found it very cumbersome to write and then mail and wait patiently for the editors (gods) to relent and publish your piece.

Thanks to technology and blogging things have become easy. I picked up a field that is close to my heart - Marketing. Marketing has been my passion, my area of specialization. Marketing was the area where I cut my teeth. It was marketing that taught all the things of life and made me what I am today.

It was the passion for marketing that drove me to teaching. I felt that there were lots of things that can be shared. I find that my journey into academics and teaching to be great fun and a very enriching learning experience.

The blog posting will have around 500 words and there will a posting every day. I made a mental promise to myself  to be prompt and post on each and every day. The sequence of topics that would be posted is

Monday: Posting would be about 5 latest concepts of marketing that will be useful  for students, professionals attending interviews. Also great fun for people who want to know the latest concepts in marketing.

Tuesday: Posting would be on consumer behaviour. This would be all about why consumers behave the way they behave or do not behave the way they are supposed to

Wednesday:  posting would be about a topic that is very close to my heart - Common sense. Common sense is something everyone knows and understands but common sense is not very common. Posting would enlighten about common sense marketing practices that could go  a long way in creating a competitive advantage.

Thursday: Posting would be about best marketing practices of companies from around the world. It would be about cutting edge marketing practices that made a company iconic and made them symbolic of an entire country a la coke (USA)

Friday: posting would be about controversies. Marketing controversies that have rocked the world and made to the headlines.

Saturday: Posting would be devoted to the best marketing reads, classic books, classic articles, classic videos and movies that a marketing buff  should not miss.

Sunday: posting would be  about the best advertisements and the worst advertisements that have been hitting us. The selection of advertisements could be from print, television, radio, web based or from OOH.

All in all  I would like to share what I have with others and I want your suggestions and feedback in making this a lively and a happening blog. Please drop your feedback to me on my e-mail.