Thursday, February 2, 2017

What Makes A Brand Great Today?

Authenticity is the standout consumer value in 2017. What does 2017 have in store for us as marketers? According to the research reports released by Euromonitor International the one factor that is going to create the maximum impact is ‘authenticity’. If marketers really want to connect with the millennial consumers then they need to work on their authenticity.
What is also important to note is that the Edelman’s Annual Trust Barometer showed a global decline in trust with less than 50% people trusting brands? The bigger the brand the lesser the trust. One of the main reasons for this has been the Internet .It has made consumers very informed and brands need to work hard to establish their authenticity. They need to take specific steps to show consumers that they truly care for them.
The search for authenticity has seen a rise since 2010. According to psychologists some of the key factors why consumers are getting drawn to products that claim ‘authenticity’ were trends like globalization, economic crisis, and technology.
Globalization is making the world uniform with everybody drinking Coca- Cola, eating McDonald’s and wearing Nike. This is making lots of people crave for home made, traditional, authentic stuff. The economic crisis has made people trust less the big and fancy brands and reach out for simple, small-scale things. Technology has now changed the face of everything including our vegetables and fruits. We have genetically modified fruits and veggies today. All this has made people want the same simple stuff once more, which they can trust.
So all marketing campaigns have latched on to the new buzzword and started touting their brand as the most ‘authentic’. Go to a supermarket and you will be flooded with products each one claiming to be the real thing, the most authentic, the genuine one, the number 1, the best, the oldest etc. So much have these words been used and abused that they have lost their appeal and their meaning.
THE RISE OF THE NORMCORE The new generation does not care how loud you as a brand shout out from the rooftop how authentic you are. For them authenticity stands for something totally different. It does not anymore stand for heritage, the originals, and the first ones. Instead they define authentic as brands, which have a mission, brands, which are changing lives, brands that are ethical and honest. It stands for brands, which are innovative.
This has given rise to a new trend labeled by many as ‘normcore marketing’. It is a mash up of ‘normal’ and ‘hardcore’. Gone are the days of glitzy ads showing the glamorous lifestyle. Now what works is a down-to-earth, normal, brand positioning showcasing the ‘normal lifestyle’. It could be considered as retaliation to mass production, technology, airbrushed images, and a craving for handcrafted, homemade, authentic stuff. GAP was one of the first to adapt this trend and came out with its ‘Dress Normal’ campaign. In fashion terminology that would mean embracing ‘sameness’. The attitude of the new consumers is to strive to merge rather than standout, to be similar instead of different. For brands it means ‘mundane’ is what is attracting the new kids on the block. Anti-trends is the new trend. Big brands, glitzy expensive fashion is not appealing anymore, rather it’s all about small, authentic, real, normal stuff. As marketers we need to remodel our goods and market them differently.

 Consumers normally rank a brand on the basis of three attributes Reliable, Respectful, and Real. A brand is considered reliable if it delivers on the promise and is of high quality. It is considered respectful if it treats its consumers with respect and protects their privacy and data. If the brand communicates honestly, and acts with integrity it is considered Real.
So in the recent battle of the FBI vs. Apple, the brand did not budge from its stand and refused to share personal information of the customer with the FBI. Today not just the technology companies but so many others too own so much personal data of the consumers and if they want to be considered as authentic they should not share the data or misuse it.
According to the rankings of Cohn & Wolfe the world’s most authentic brand is Disney, followed by BMW, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple. The other 5 brands that made it to the top 10 were Intel, Audi, Samsung, Adidas, and Lego. In spite of the exploding Galaxy Note 7 the brand seems to have retained its authenticity tag. This is because it has been honest about its mistakes, recalled faulty products and fought hard to win back the trust of the audience.
McDonald’s may not yet have made it to the top 10 most authentic brands but it is working hard towards it. McDonald’s Canada’s ‘Our Food your questions’ campaign has been the most talked about transparency campaigns. It tells the customers to openly ask anything about its products and gives McDonald’s a chance to dispel rumors and stand by its products. The campaign has received more than 40,000 questions and more than 3 million visitors since its launch in 2014. The brand went ahead and even uploaded a video of its beef processing plant to prove that the patties were made from real cows! McDonald’s has been targeted the most with lots of unflattering rumors surrounding it and the company is putting all efforts to build back the trust.
Southwest Airlines in the US has built its brand on the premise of being a low-fare airline. That is the heart of its business model. In order to make the consumers believe that there are no hidden costs or fees the company started a campaign called “Trans-fare-ncy”, where it showed its dedication towards low fares. The people loved it and the campaign garnered not just 5 million likes on its Facebook page but a whole lot of trust from the people.
Food is the least trusted of categories so Panera Bread promised its customers that it would stop using artificial ingredients. It launched a campaign “Food as it should be” where it displayed its menu that listed all the details of the ingredients used, the nutritional information and also an animal welfare report. All this just to show that its food was healthy and safe.
The clothing company Patagonia started a campaign called “How is your clothing made” The aim was to make customers aware of free trade certified factories where workers were paid higher wages. The consumers loved it and liked it not just on Facebook but also with their hearts.
That is how important authenticity has become in today’s world of very aware and informed consumers.
The re-birth of the CMO  The Chief Marketing Officer of the future is no more one whose sole job is to look into the branding and marketing aspects of the brand. Today he is expected to know about all the tools and techniques needed to measure the customer’s voice and understand his buying behavior. If the brand has to do well it is critical that every member in the organization learns to think from the point of view of the customer. It is the CMO’s job to drive that customer –centric mindset within the organization.
The CMO today has to look beyond the traditional methods of marketing and brand building. Today a brand’s reputation and its ability to differentiate itself from competition is the key to survival. In todays dynamic and volatile market points of differentiation get blurred very quickly and if one is not swift and quick to spot the trends one could be wiped out of business in no time. The market is highly disruptive and CMO’s needed to ensure that the brand is always innovating and delighting the customers.
Unilevers has merged the CMO and CSR (corporate social responsibility) roles into one. In many organisations the CMO is spending more on IT than the CIO. Marketing today has become a lot about data and the chief of marketing has to transform accordingly.
In conclusion, if we as marketers want to make our brands great we need to come across as authentic. We need to be transparent in our communications with the consumers. We need to listen closely to them and respond, reform, transform accordingly.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Consumer Maange More!

The times are changing and so is the customer. The culprits are technology and the Internet. Thanks to them, things are changing at breakneck speed for marketers as the Internet and the technological revolution has made the consumer want more and more and there seems to be no stopping. In the early days, it was all about identifying the needs and wants of the consumer and trying to satisfy those needs with the right product. That product was then wrapped around an alluring message highlighting the benefits of the product and how it would change the life of the buyer. That’s all changed now. Today, it’s no more just about the product, its benefits and the branding message; it’s about the ability of the brand to connect with the consumer, to build a lasting relationship with the consumer. And that has become a difficult task for the consumer of today is insatiable and ‘maange more’ before he trusts you with his loyalty. Consumer maange more value Marketing was all about building a brand and giving people value for money. That’s not enough today. The consumer of today wants more than just ‘value for money’. He also wants to know what values you as a brand stand for. More than 80% of consumers believe that a good brand is one which places equal emphasis on both business profits and societal issues. Your brand should stand for a purpose beyond profits. It should have a purpose driven brand story. Responsible consumption is the buzz word today. With our world being plagued with problems like global warming, water scarcity, obesity etc., the consumers are becoming aware of the role companies and brands can play to make the world a better place. By supporting brands with a strong purpose, they feel they are doing their bit too to make the world happier, healthier, greener and cleaner.

Take the case of Kissan. It decided to source sustainably produced tomatoes, which not just differentiated the brand but soon made it the number one ketchup brand in India. The Lifebuoy brand of soap ran a campaign called “Help a Child Reach Five”, which focused on teaching children how to wash their hands correctly as India has the highest number of child deaths due to diarrhea and pneumonia. The brand developed a hand wash which could change its color from white to green in 10 seconds – just the time required to kill most of the germs. Children wait to see the color change, which is not just fun but life saving too! The brand showed its commitment to a purpose, a cause, and was loved for it. Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” campaign went beyond celebrity athletes and urged people to find greatness in everyday people. It struck a chord with the viewers and inspired them. Brands are moving on beyond just showing the benefits of their product. Rin is a good old brand which for decades has promised ‘Chamakti Safedi’. That’s not enough to stay above competition. Rin has gone a step ahead. While clean clothes give you confidence, Rin has gone on and started a Rin Career Academy, training people in key skills which give them confidence. Skills like speaking good English, dressing appropriately for a job, handling an interview. Rin has shown that it is totally committed to building confidence. That’s a purpose which goes beyond profits. Patagonia is a brand that makes money by selling clothes, yet when it launched its ad campaign, it was all about encouraging people to repair their old outdoor garments. The ad provided a lot of tips and tools to help the users fix their own gear. It even offered to buy back gently used garments. Marketers at Patagonia are very clear that it’s the era of unconventional marketing. A brand that can market itself as one supporting a cause, supporting sustainable development would be noticed and liked much more than a brand that made fabulous, yet ‘harmful to the planet and its people’ products. To show how committed it is to its purpose, Patagonia established a $20 million venture fund to invest in socially and environmentally responsible startups. Whole Foods is another brand that has shown that it stands for sustainable development and sensible consumption. It has a concept called “Community Giving Days” where 5% of that day’s net sales are given to local non-profits. All through, consumers have been let down by their governments, their leaders, their NGOs who have failed to bring about a positive change in their lives. These consumers are now looking up at brands who have the power, the money, the creativity to help change this world for the good. These are the B Corps – ‘Benefit Corporations’ – who are going to rule in the future and its their marketing campaigns that the consumers will like, and share and believe in. A purpose-driven brand also has the most positive and motivated employees who are proud to say that they work for a brand that believes in something beyond profits. LRXD is a full service agency but it calls itself the ‘health and happiness advertising agency’ for it took a policy decision to primarily work for brands that helped make life better. Made Movement, an agency founded in 2012, decided it would work for brands that provided jobs to people in the US. Their purpose made them reject work from a lot of big brands, but they say life has never been better for they have a reason to wake up every morning and come to work. According to a 10-year-long study conducted by Millward Brown and Jim Stengel, brands which focused on a higher purpose did not just build the deepest relationships with customers, but also achieved the greatest financial growth in the 10 year period of the study. It’s no more about what you sell; rather, it’s more about what you as a brand and an organization stand for. So give the customer not just a great product but a great product that also does great things and he will be your greatest fan and friend! Customer maange more speed The consumer wants everything now and if you want his loyalty, you need to cope up with his demands. Take for example the purchase behavior of customers. Gone are the days when he would wait for the shop to open and buy. Today, he wants to buy whenever he pleases (thanks to e-commerce) and add to that the fact that he wants his shopping delivered at the soonest. While shopping online, a delivery period of two to three days was acceptable some time back. Now, he wants same-day-delivery. Soon, he would want everything delivered at his doorstep as fast as a pizza. The consumer of today not just shops any time of the day, but is texting and messaging his friends at all hours. Soon, he would want to text and receive texts from companies. A recent survey by Corvisa (a cloud communications provider) found that 77% of consumers were okay with getting text 

messages from companies and in fact liked it if the companies texted them about things like fraud alerts, payment reminders, sales, discounts, promos etc. If you as a marketer can use this tool to engage with your customer, there is no better way to build a long lasting relationship. He texts you like he would a friend and you text him back – that is the speed of communication you should be prepared for. Gone is the concept of ‘contact during office hours only’. If you want to retain your market share, you need to behave just like your customer wants you to or else some other young brand will replace you. Speedy deliveries, speedy text responses will see your profits speeding up! Customer maange more connection Marketing is no more a ‘one-to-many’ style of communication; rather, it’s now all about one-to-one. From being a monologue – where the marketers spoke and the consumers listened – now, it’s a dialogue. The consumer speaks and the marketer is expected to listen and respond if he wants to build a long lasting relationship. Not just that, the customer also likes to be spoken to about things he enjoys. Hence the rise of ‘programmatic advertising’. One ad, however brilliant, will not work any more. Soon, marketers would be expected to customize and make multiple advertisements to suit the tastes of different types of customers, and technology is making it possible to do this. Programmatic buying identifies users and groups them according to the sites they browse and then offers them advertisements and promotional materials of products and services that match their habits and tastes. There is growing evidence that consumers are getting bored and irritated with advertisements that don’t interest them. With the help of technology, now marketers can identify the choices of the target consumers and place their ads in front of only those who are interested in that particular product or service. Brands like Nike, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Kia Automobiles are using programmatic buying to micro-target their audience and send them ads customized to suit their tastes and build better connections with them. The Future As a consequence, the whole environment is changing. A marketer needs to look beyond his marketing campaigns and promotions and focus more on the very tech-savvy consumer and his overall experience vis-à-vis the brand. Be it the online visit experience, the in-store shopping experience, the purchase experience and even the post-purchase experience, he needs to understand the big data, its analysis, interpret the results wisely and make the required changes to help improve these experiences. As marketers, you need to find out who are the social influencers, and try to make them your ‘digital brand ambassadors’. As a vigilant marketer, you also have to keep track of conversations happening on the social media. Thanks to the developments in technology, today’s marketers have a huge amount of data detailing the digital lives of their customers, giving them extraordinary power. They can now run sharply focused campaigns, reach their target audience much more accurately, respond to disgruntled customers with greater speed, get deep and accurate insights into the purchase patterns of their customers. Everybody wants to do good, but then, not everybody can. If you combine your business profits with purpose, you don’t just win a lot of goodwill from your customers, but you also help them satisfy that latent need within them of giving back something to the society, which is very fulfilling and satisfying. Soon, no one would care about the S&P 500 list or the Fortune 500 list; but they would demand a Helping the Unfortunate 500 list, for the latter would be a list of companies who would be making a difference to the planet and not just their balance sheets. So go ahead, use technology to understand your market better, add a purpose to your marketing campaign, unleash your creativity and delight your audience like never before, and give him more than the conventional dose of marketing. Give him a dream and a hope of a better world!

Friday, April 15, 2016

New kids on the block

The new set of consumers is going to be very different from the old set that we as marketers have been used to; and hence reaching out to them is going to be different too. Look around you and you will see a generation that’s growing up in households with no landlines as everybody in the family and outside (even the vegetable vendor) has a mobile. This generation is growing up in schools where most projects and assignments are typed, so they don’t write much with pen and paper. This generation is growing up in a world where ‘instant’ is the buzzword – from food, to movies, to shopping –they want it instantly and they are actually getting it instantly too. This generation values its Internet connections more than anything else. It’s a whole new world, a whole new culture that is emerging.
This generation is going to impact the world in a way no other generation has impacted; and it’s going to influence other people of other generations too.
So it’s imperative that we as marketers understand them well and keep a close eye on them as our survival depends a lot on them.
It wants to do a lot and does not like to be tied down with useless commitments and useless baggage – like EMIs, like annual maintenance contracts etc. Basically, they want to live with no strings attached.
This is a generation that has grown up in an era of huge economic turmoil; they have seen their parents struggle with jobs, money, recession… they are thus very cost-sensitive. Add to this the fact that they are very aware of what is happening around them, as they are constantly connected with each other. They are also huge consumers of media, so they are a very smart generation to deal with. Gen Z is not just very aware, it’s socially conscious too; it’s environmentally conscious too; and it’s going to change the way the world works!
Let’s take a look at how things will change in the future.
We all know the three ‘R’s’ – reuse, recycle, and reduce (if you are from the old school, the 3Rs used to be reading, writing, arithmetic).Well, this is so last generation. The new ‘R’ is Rent! Gen Z takes less pride in ownership, especially when there are better options. Ownership is not just expensive, but can slow you down. So, while the Millennials (generation Y) loved the concept of renting designer-wear, which made startups like ‘Rent the Runway’, ‘Bag, Borrow, Steal’ etc gain huge popularity, the new Gen Z has taken renting to a different level. They want to rent and rent-out everything and anything you can think of.
Why buy a music album when you can stream it instantly? So they prefer to spend on a pro-membership of the site Spotify than buy music!
Why buy a car when you can hire the latest one from Uber?
Why buy a house and spend all your savings when at $200, you can log on to Airbnb and hire a castle somewhere in France!
SnapGoods shows you how to make money by giving your stuff on rent. It allows you to rent high-end items like cameras, musical instruments and the likes. If you have some expensive items, then you can put them on hire too.
Why hire a kennel when you can hire a home to take care of your dog when you are out on a vacation? DogVacay is a site that lets you do just that – it connects you to a home that’s ready to take care of your pet.
Sitting free and want to rent out your free time? TaskRabbit lets you do just that. You could bid to do tasks, ranging from delivery to office-help, and people looking for such services can send you a request and hire you.
Saw a swanky car in your neighbourhood and want to take it for a spin?
Getaround helps you do just that. If you have a great car and will not be using it for some time – maybe you are going on a holiday, or are unwell, or whatever – you could put it up for hire on Getaround and earn some cool bucks. Considering that Getaround had an insurance cover of $1 million from Berkshire Hathaway could help you in putting those gorgeous wheels on hire with a little more peace of mind.
Got spare cash? Put it to good use with the Lending Club, a peer-to-peer network where one can borrow hard cash. It gives you better interest rates than your traditional savings accounts. So why let your money waste in a bank when it can make more money for you at the Lending Club.
Sharing is the way to go. According to The Wall Street Journal, digital music sales on iTunes have declined, and so have the sales of books on Amazon. What it means is that ownership of any form – digital or physical – is on the decline, and new business models need to be put in place quickly. So Apple’s Tunes Radio now streams music. It’s got Beats too into its fold to make streaming even better. Amazon now gives books on rent.
Warby Parker, the iconic online sunglasses and reading glasses’ retailer, has a leasing program where you could change your sunglasses every season. If renting is the new success mantra, then Warby has shown how to do it. Why buy an outlet when you can rent one, or even create one? Buying a shop or retail space is very expensive. So Warby Parker started selling glasses online and – thanks to all the saving – it could sell them at a very low cost. If there were some fussy customers who still wanted to try on their glasses before buying them, Warby Parker found an interesting way to reach them – through ‘pop-up stores’. They hired a school bus and changed the interiors and called it the Warby Parker class-trip. The bus went to the customer when he refused to come to them.
Just one day before the NY Fashion Week, Warby Parker went to the New York public library (the library had no idea what was going to happen) and at a designated time, 30 models – each one carrying bright blue books – entered the library, sat down, opened their books, and started reading – of course, wearing the latest collection of glasses from Warby Parker. Forty editors, who were supposed to cover the New York Fashion Week the next day, had been invited earlier. They went crazy when they saw this and could not stop clicking pictures. Security at the library too went crazy but could not do much as everybody was just sitting and reading.
The new generation has its own rules and you need to bend your rules to suit them, for this new generation of digital nomads will have it no other way. They love their digital gadgets and it’s through these that you can reach them, however you need to connect with them in the way they like – and not many of them like to buy, they like to rent!
They are totally prepared, totally aware, totally connected – much more than any other generation, they want to make a difference; they know that they can make a difference and they are quickly changing the world – and rewriting the rules.

Friday, November 28, 2014

What’s common between Narendra Modi, Sholay, Microsoft and The Beatles?

Narendra Modi is the new star of the political world, whose charisma refuses to fade. He has given hope to not just his nation but the world too. His success run just doesn’t seem to end. However, if you look closely you realize he is not a one-man army. There is another person always next to him, his close confidante who is equally responsible for the thundering success of BJP and Modi. The man is Amit Shah. Together, the duo is creating magic. They are the best partners and their partnership is the secret of their success.

Modi and Shah are the new age Jai and Veeru of Sholay! The iconic film and its unforgettable story of two friends is the best example of what a great partnership can do.  

History is full of examples of great partners. Be it Narendra Modi and Amit Shah or Sherlock Holmes and Watson. It’s the pairs that together have done wonders and achieved great results. Man is a social animal and the smallest possible social unit is a group of two. However, the dynamics of this group has rarely been studied in depth. Numerous success stories have had a pair at the center. Look at the rock band The Beatles. At the heart of this were two extremely talented people John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They were both extremely talented individuals and when they paired up, they helped ignite the hidden fire within each other. As a result, together they produced music, which was a class apart. 
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