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September 22, 2012

RSVP, WOMBAT and other popular terms in advertising, media studies

RSVP (Respondez Sil Vous Plait – French). RSVP is usually mentioned at the end of an invitation for a function/invite. If are attending the function you are supposed to say "yes I am coming”. Depending on the number of responses suitable arrangements are made for the guests. So If RSVP is written do say if you are going or not. Keeping silent to RSVP is seen as a major Gaffe (mistake)!

WOMBAT - Word of mouth is the best advertising technique: It is often said that advertising is the most fun that one can have with one’s clothes on. So it is not surprising that advertising is entertaining and at the same time it could be misleading. Advertising is taken with a pinch of salt as it tends to glorify the pluses and gloss over the minuses. Like my good friend KVS Krishna Mohan said “it is very difficult not to be a hero in your own story”.

So claims in advertisements not taken very seriously. So it is important that we cultivate WOMBAT. Word of mouth from our friends, relatives and colleagues is seen as more reliable. After all our friends do not have any ulterior motives in recommending a product that she/he does not like himself/herself. So it is very necessary that the companies cultivate positive word of mouth.

Only three things unavoidable in the world: And they are Death, taxes and advertising. We are bombarded by advertising. So the catch and mice game goes on. The customers try to be as much away from advertising as possible and the advertisers want to catch them at all possible times and at all possible places.  

Man biting dog: Frequently cited in media studies. Dog biting man is not news rather it is the other way round. So when a copy of an advertisement is written it has to bite. It should have that element of surprise and intrigue. Otherwise the reader/viewer would be saying “Yawn! How boring, tell me another thing!”

The head line “No Mamata for CPM in West Bengal” is a very good example. Mamta Banerjee is the maverick TMC leader who ended the very long 34 year CPM rule in West Bengal. Mamata is Hindi/Bengali means Love. So the word Mamta became a very good tool for a clever headline. Similarly Jayalalitha the AIDMK leader who defeated M. Karunanidhi of the DMK prompted one news reporter to pen the headline “Jayalalitha shows no Karuna” Karuna in Sanskrit/Tamil means mercy. The thumping win of AIDMK over DMK was cleverly captured in the headline.

Winking at a girl in darkness: Trying to market a product without advertising is like winking at a girl in darkness. A girl should be winked in broad daylight. Winking in day light could result in plethora of responses ranging from a spectrum of responses including total ignorance to a similar winking by the girl. But this has to be done in broad daylight. Winking in darkness is a futile exercise as it is not even noticed.

September 15, 2012

Business and Superstitions

Superstitions like these are widely prevalent in all spheres of life. Cricketers are especially known to be a very superstitious lot.  Sachin Tendulkar always wears his left pad first. Steve Waugh used to carry a red handkerchief given to him by his grandfather in his left pocket.
 Businessmen are also extremely superstitious. And among businessmen, Hindi film producers take the cake. Rakesh Roshan has always had the names of his movies starting with the letter K. Be it Kaho Na Pyar Hai which released in 2000 and made his son Hrithik Roshan a superstar or his latest production Kites, which turned out to be a massive flop.

Like Roshan, Karan Johar of Dharma Productions, also developed a 'K' fixation, after his first film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai became a huge hit. He has since given up on that and his last directorial venture was called My Name is Khan.

 Apart from Hindi films, stock market investors are also an extremely superstitious lot.  Stock market investors in various parts of the world do not like eclipses. Copenhagen Business School's Gabriele Lepori examined 362 eclipses visible anywhere in the world between 1928 and 2008 — seen by the superstitious as bad omens — and matched them against four American stock indices and  discovered a small but persistent set of effects: eclipses correlate with lower-than-average stock returns.

Businessmen also have personal superstitions. Indian businessmen are known to make visits to Tirupati (or other big temples) before they do a big deal. Then there is also the aversion of 'big business' to have anything connected with number 13. 'Some 80 percent of high-rise buildings around the world lack a 13th floor, airports a 13th gate, and planes a 13th aisle...Larry Ellison tweeted to his entourage that there may not be an Oracle version 13'.

Superstition also impacts company revenues. Take the case of the Shradh period in India, during which it is considered inauspicious to make new purchases. So the sales of consumer durables like televisions, refrigerators, washing machines etc, as well as car sales, go down. Companies have to woo buyers by offering discounts. Similarly, in the United States, 'paraskevidekatriaphobia' or the fear of Friday the 13th pulls down sales by a billion dollars because people don't like to buy new stuff on that day.

Experts are of the opinion that marriage insurance in India hasn't taken off due to superstition. The logic being, if I insure the wedding, something bad is going to happen.

While superstition does impact revenues, companies can use superstition to create new business opportunities as well. Take the case of diamond engagement rings. Over the years, a superstition has developed that these rings need to be worth at least 'two months' salary'.

As Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich write in Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes and How to Correct, 'It's a completely ridiculous figure — a ring should cost no more than you can afford...Diamond merchants, you see, understand that by leading people to start with a dollar figure equal to two months' salary, they almost certainly guarantee more money for their industry. Why's that? Because people who might have spent less for a ring will have been programmed to think that two months' pay is the point below which they are cheapskates (and what man wants his fiancee to think that?)'.

The other superstition (some would say tradition) about an engagement ring is that it has to be worn on the left hand. 'De Beers has recently begun advertising diamond rings for single professional women, by trying to introduce a new social convention: whereas traditional engagement rings are for the left hand, these single-woman rings are 'right-hand rings', there are many wealthy women who are not engaged, and who might nonetheless like a diamond ring', says Geoffrey Miller, a professor of evolutionary psychology as well as the author of Spent - Sex, Evolution, And Consumer Behaviour.

Jennifer Wang in the article titled Turn Superstition into Marketing Gold, written for, quotes Lauren Block, a professor of marketing. 'Block referred to a study in which Taiwanese consumers often paid more for a package of three tennis balls than four, because the number four is considered ill-omened. In Mandarin Chinese, the pronunciation of 'four' is similar to that of 'dead'.'

But why are businesses and businessmen so superstitious? Wang quotes Stuart Vyse, a professor of psychology, to explain: 'In the business world, there is a tremendous amount of randomness in the market and people seek ways to gain control over these events, even though they can't...What you wear that day, the coffee that you drink —these things can't affect the outcome of the day's business, but people engage in this (behaviour) to feel like they've done every possible thing to manage the outcome'.
Source: Businessmen and superstition written by

‘Superstitious’ BCCI scrap the new Indian jersey – A marketing lesson for NIKE

On 16th of August, an all-new Team India jersey was revealed in Mumbai with several Indian team members turning up for the occasion. Yuvraj, Dhoni, Kohli, Irfan, Sehwag, etc all smiled and modeled in the brand new look for T20s.

“Lots of research has gone into it. I don’t know whether the research will result in extra runs but we will definitely feel more comfortable,” Dhoni joked on the occasion.

“When I wear the India colours I have to give my best. The jersey also has the colour of the national flag on it … makes it very special.” – Virender Sehwag

“Pretty stylish. Colour and design are eye-catching,” – Virat Kohli
The tri-colour running from the shoulders on to the sleeves, stood out as the most prominent feature of this new jersey. Despite contrary opinions on the new kit, the fans were enthusiastic to see the team in this look.

But BCCI has told Nike, the official kit maker, to provide the older version of the jersey which the Indian team wore at the 2011 World Cup due to ‘superstition’. BCCI President N Srinivasan is known to be superstitious and this may have led to the decision to not change the ‘winning jersey’. India will be participating in the ICC T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka wearing the same blue jersey they donned against New Zealand in the recently concluded series.

Marketers need to be tuned into the minds of the customers and adapt continuously otherwise they would find themselves in the same predicament as NIKE. Nike spent lot of money only to discover that the consumer is not willing to try out his product and that too for reasons not connected with the product. The decision not to use are based on the emotional connect rather than on the rational connect. Once emotions come into the picture even a marketing juggernaut like NIKE is helpless. It has to bow down and eat humble pie. .

Source: ‘Superstitious’ BCCI scrap the new Indian jersey dated Sep 13 2012
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September 10, 2012

Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) - the new Avataar!

Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) is back and it is nice to see the debonair and suave Amitabh Bachchan guiding the gawky, sometimes terribly insensitive and awestruck contestants through their paces in the hot seat.
One contestant in her nervousness referred to his goatee as a Bengali flower and it almost threw Amitabh off guard. Amitabh being the street smart performer that he is parried the quip effortlessly and carried on with the show with aplomb.

But the way the show is being conducted has changed and changed drastically. Amitabh takes on issues like women empowerment and waxes eloquently. I wonder if KBC the right forum for such issues. KBC is a fun filled jackpot laced with tension and drama and let’s keep it that way.

Amitabh is pouring on the glycerin and KBC is like a tear jerking soap. The effort of a lady who overcomes all odds to come to the hot seat is great theatre but Amitabhji the veneer is wearing off! And some of his cues are not being taken up.

Amitabh was at his best when it came to his tribute to a legend – Rajesh Khanna.  Amitabh very magnanimously commented that Rajesh Khanna was the best and the most idolized and mobbed film star ever and expectantly looked at the contestant. The contestant looked on.

A trifle disappointed Amitabh said that he and Rajesh Khanna acted in many blockbusters including Anand. He may be expected that the contestant would ask him about the famous dialogue of Rajesh Khanna in the movie Anand. Again the contestant did not pick up the cue and with a resigned look Amitabh carried on with the show.

It would be very interesting to find out if the show would get good TRPs this time around or would it be an also run.  

September 01, 2012

Colours in Marketing!

Image credit: The Logo Company

Colours are exciting. Life without Colours would be very drab. We experience the world in Colour - Man is the only species that can see Colours. All other species see the world in black and white.

Thus it is not surprising that colours play a very significant role in the field of marketing. Most of the products and their packaging would be in the primary colours - Red, green and blue or a combinations of these three primary colours. Coca-Cola is predominantly red and Pepsi is blue and green is a Colour that symbolizes agriculture and is now the latest buzz is green field marketing or green marketing.

One other Colour that is very prominent in yellow. Yellow, Green and red are the colours that are used in traffic signals. Why these three colours? These are the colours that are attractive and visible from a distance. Precisely the reason why the golden arches of the McDonald are yellow. Yellow because they have to attract the travelers’ attention from long distance and induce them to stop.

Kodak too is heavily yellow. But as a marketer one needs to be careful about colours. Yellow is a very sacred colour in India. It is associated with the sun god.  

Colours have different symbolism in  different cultures. In South India white is seen as a sacred colour and white coloured clothes are worn for marriages and for holy occasions. But in the western part of India white is the colour of mourning.

I had worked in Ethiopia and once I wore a white flowing kutra pyjama to a college function. I was surprised at the reaction that I got. Many of my Ethiopian colleagues expressed their regret. I was shocked. On enquiry to my surprise I came to know that Ethiopians have the same custom as in the western part of India. White is for mourning. Talk of similarities of culture across the continents!

Similarly one needs to understand a culture before we try to assimilate ourselves into that culture. One US based company sent its senior executives to do business in Taiwan. The executives got off the plane wearing green caps. They conducted the entire day’s business wearing the green caps. Later that evening they returned to their Taiwanese hotel. The hotel manager almost fainted when he saw his US guests wearing green caps. He was laughing his head off. The crest fallen US business men were sheepish when they were told that in Taiwan wearing green hats by men signifies that the wearer’s wife has been unfaithful – unknowingly the US businessmen were going around the town proudly proclaiming that their wives have been unfaithful.

For the typical Taiwanese it made no sense at all. He could understand infidelity but why make a hue and cry about it. The behaviour of the US businessmen had left the Taiwanese stumped and bemused. Read more about colors in marketing at &