Saturday, July 2, 2011

Emotional Branding: Way to the Heart of Next Gen Consumers

Over the past two decades, it has become resoundingly obvious that the world is moving from an industrially driven economy where machines are the heroes toward a people driven economy that puts the consumer on the hot seat. Airplanes are less about transportation vehicles these days, but more about travel organizations that enhances our lives in many ways through their elaborate bonus – point programs. Food is no longer about cooking or chores but about home or lifestyle design and most important sensory experiences. The universities are branded and more or less function as modular knowledge banks focusing on a new kind of flexible, global learning that caters to students all around the globe, both off and on campus, with differing backgrounds and agendas rather than the traditional structured UG and PG programs. To be relevant and to survive, it becomes important that the marketers understand the vast changes afoot and compete differently. Value proposition is changing. Speed has replaced stability; intangible assets have become more valuable than tangible assets. The traditional supply / demand economic models are being completely reevaluated. Corporations have realized that the new market opportunities are based on growing new lines of revenue with innovative ideas. Creativity is overtaking capital as the principal elixir of expansion. In this hypercompetitive marketplace, ideas are a new currency altogether, much more powerful than money. Goods or services alone are no longer enough to attract a new market or even maintain existing clients. It is the emotional element of products and their distribution systems that brings in the key difference between consumers’ final choice and the price they pay. Now when we say emotional, it means how a brand engages consumers on the level of senses and emotions; how a brand is created for people and forges a deeper, lasting connection. Cadbury's Temptations or the Surf Excel’s Daag Acche Hai uses emotional appeal in its TV commercial. Pepsi, another product in the sensory category, uses the feeling of belongingness through reference group appeals. In India, Coke too uses group appeals, which generally involve `groups and activities appealing to the target segment.

Hence, corporations must take definite steps towards building stronger connections and relationships which recognize their customers as partners. Today industry need to bring people the products they desire, exactly when they want them, through venues that are both inspiring and intimately responsive to their needs… well this is the world of emotional branding.... It is a dynamic cocktail of anthropology, imagination, sensory experiences and visionary approach to change. Bernard Arnault of LVMH, the hugely successful luxury group that own Dior, Vuitton and countless prestigious brands, lives by this credo. Given this emotionally driven paradigm, is it fair to say that consumers are thinking more with their heart or gut than with their head when choosing a product? Or that the public wants to be assured of a company’s unequivocal commitment to them? May be yes in both the assumptions. The largely unexplored territory of emotions – including how people feel about corporate world at large is an increasingly crucial part of the buying routine at a time when most products offer the same quality and are in danger of becoming mere commodities in an overcrowded market space.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Brand IPL is back and so are the Super Zoozoos

Greatest sporting extravaganza, Brand IPL is back and so are the Super Zoozoos . In a country with 3 Cs dominating (in order of popularity)- Cricket, Curry and Cinema..people are glued to catch up with all the antics of men in blue. Like all other cricket frenzy Indians, my 12 year old son Anuraag, who is yet to come over with the greatest sporting victories-World Cup 2011, is once again working out his schedules of school & tuition. The date sheet of IPL and the players’ memoirs are on the tips of his fingers… wish the 4th C- Curriculum also occupies some place among the new generation.
IPL, the ultimate brand wagon captures the maximum number of eyeballs in Bharat. Today cricket in general and IPL in particular are vehicle to escape--- to escape from the everyday life with its usual problems. However for the marketer, “passion for the game” is the catchphrase. Nothing excites in India as the game. Cinema in India has taken a back seat since little more than a month and the lull is expected to continue for few more weeks—reason the first C- cricket is the subject of animated discussion at corporate bashes or the kitties alike. It is an icebreaker. The marketing guys love to reap this zeal into their respective brands as well. It is said that in the IPL, everything sells. A quick rewind to recall some of the memorable advertising that punched the screen of World Cup-- the ultimate winners were the brands-Hero Honda, Pepsi, Sony Bravia, Adidas and many more. Few more brands that follow are MSD, Sehwaag, Kohli, the God of cricket, Sachin or Gautam Gambhir (one of the expensive most brand in IPL )

Next in line- the brands that is in question are whether it is Delhi Daredevils or KKR/ CSK or Mumbai Indians/ Rajasthan Royals or RCB? Well my son is lost in thought…..probably many of us !! Time will reveal …

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Logo Change :Is It a Mere Touch Up??

As the saying goes, nothing but change is permanent, change is continuous too in both external and internal environment of a business and there is a dire need for an organization to revamp itself with the changes in the environment. In today’s operating industry, external environment is volatile, competitors are shifting, new brands are approaching, business cycle is unpredictable, consumers are evolving all the way and there is a change in the industry dynamics. It becomes critical for companies to stay contemporary and connected. As logo with its visual illustration seeks to arrest the intrinsic values of the organization it represents, a change in the environment invites a change within the company and resultant change of logo. Corporate identity, specially when manifest in symbol, gives tangibility to the communication strategy adopted by a conglomerate. As a symbol, logo plays an important role in the overall marketing activities of a company and helps organizations in their brand building exercises.

A growing number of Indian companies are repositioning themselves to be relevant in a cutthroat market, a trend set in motion in the recent past by banks such as IDBI Bank, Canara Bank and Axis Bank and business houses like Reebok India, LG India, Dabur and Godrej Industries have gone for a major facelift to reach out to one of the significant customer base- young Indians and give their customers a contemporary feel. Hence to capture the globe-trotting new generation’s attention span which is otherwise growing thinner, the re-designing efforts of telecom powerhouse Airtel and now the Mahindra & Mahindra’s recently announced campaign ‘Rise’ is on the rise

But how far is logo change justified? Is it a mere image touch up or a serious overhaul? Does it impact their customers at all? In the recent past the logo change has become a significant area for business. There’s a lot of brouhaha, acres of newspaper columns and heaps of e-comments over the recent makeover of the Airtel logo. The brand still continues to be Airtel; the only thing they have done is to change their logo; its typeface followed by some new advertising and their signature tune. Customers are not led away by the way an ‘a’ looks on crimson background. Also the paid “ooohhs and aaahhs” of filmstars does not add to the customer experience. As long as they respond to customers promptly, maintain great pricing, have no call drops and their mobile service is of high quality, the story is all over. Infact that is why a customer purchase a service / product. Do people buy more or less Colgate because of the way “CP” is written or because of their prior association with the brand? If Tata were written with lower case “t”, would customers stop buying them? On the global front,whether the customers of Starbucks are equally excited when the lady (logo or the Siren) goes for seductive makeover?
Even a huge cutover from UTI Bank to Axis Bank failed to discourage customers, may be because they had very little choice. Earlier in the mobile space, Hutch became Orange became Vodafone. Sure they crafted the changeover beautifully. And to be fair – the credit goes to the customers. They figured it would be a bigger headache to switch numbers, as MNP was not available in those days and in any case the Hutch/Orange/Vodafone service is as good as anyone else’s. Hence there are many relatable factors which effect and impact Brand choice – the least of which is the way the Logo and symbol looks. Certainly it is recognition, it is an evocative shortcut to such recognition – but it’s rarely worth the effort spent on it. It has much more meaning for its owners than for its audience or customers. Customers are a selfish lot – they will pick and choose what they want, when they have the opportunity. If they figure out rationally or irrationally what they want then a fancy logo, logotype or symbol is hardly going to be a reason for or against purchase.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Anybody listening to the customer?

Blogging after a long begin with, let me put a question.. How do we react to bad customer service?? Press 1 to toss the phone, 2 to yell at ourselves, 3 to pull our hair, 4 to dissolve into tears, 5 to do all of the above or 6 to reach a customer service associate-although it seems exasperatingly polite and jargon-dripping voice from over the phone (usually unable to help) is the face of customer service of the modern times. On top of it, the delicious irony is that to disapprove /condemn an organization on its Facebook page (the most talked about flavour of the season), we have to register our Like for it first.

How has customer service changed in the past decade, that started off with people getting more relaxed with the internet and now moving onto social media where, it would seem, it’s so simple to draw a company’s attention to how it hasn’t paid any attention to its customers. Promptness has become very significant. Earlier the promise of a visit on Saturday has moved on to Saturday between 12-1 p.m. because customers don’t have the time to wait for hours. Earlier there would be somebody at home all day, but the situation is not same now. Thus, most of the service visits are made after 7 p.m. or on the weekends

Customer service campaigners scrutinize mammoth technological revolution in the past decade has changed the expectations of customers drastically. One can now bypass the tedious queues and book railway tickets online and bank and buy through the internet. The flipside is that the barriers have plummeted, several businesses of the same kind have proliferated and customer service has become a hygiene factor. Business houses, these days are investing in technology thinking it will make the customer happy but they are spending only to be in the race of business. And in this process, they are only focusing on customer acquisition and not on retention. A million dollar question that arises now is whether these companies have the back-up systems to manage the load? Customers of today are much more empowered and enabled, thanks to technology but the core driver needs to be sensitive. Speed of response is a necessary component, but that does not call for an automated response. It’s not only hi-tech but a hi-touch that is important today. People want a voice and a business deal is not just sales, but the total experience with the organization. Products have become commoditized and customer service is the major differentiator. The biggest challenge for the senior management is to institutionalize customer relationships..