Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Junior should not attach with Chyawan should not attach with Granules

That's a rather strange title to begin with. But not stranger than Dabur's strategy. I happened to see a full-page ad for Dabur ChyawanJunior

Chyawanprash has always associated with Dabur. Chyawanprash is not a Dabur brand though; it's an old recipe based on Indian scriptures. And therefore many other players in the market use the name in branding their products. You have Baidyanath Chyawanprash, Himani Sona Chandi Chyawanprash, etc.

What is Chyawanprash? A dark, brownish/blackish paste-like mixture of edible herbs in specified quantities. What's the benefit? Many benefits. It is said to provide one with many nutrients for one's over-all health. Okay, is there any problem with the product? Not really, just that children/youngsters don't find it tasty enough or good-looking enough to consume.

So, what did Dabur do? Converted the ugly looking, odd tasting paste into liquid (especially milk) soluble granules. So of course, the idea is children could have it with milk. But wait a minute. What do children have with milk? Complan, Horlicks, Bournvita... What do these brands do? They also help in growth and developing intelligence. And they taste great. Suddenly the product (Chyawanprash) which stood as a distinct category is now in direct competition with global brands and on their turf. The battle would be interesting.

So, what could be the future of Chyawanprash granules? More specifically, now that Dabur has branded it ChyawanJunior and described the product as Chyawanprash Granules, what could be said about the strategy?
  1. In the first instance, on hearing or seeing the name ChyawanJunior, one would think that it's a special Chyawanprash for youngsters.
  2. On a little more thought, one who has tasted Chyawanprash could get sceptical of the taste of the new product. One can say that Chyawanprash tastes the way it does because it is made of certain types of herbs. Now if the taste has changed, there's a question: has the mixture changed too? And if the mixture has changed, will it be still be so effective? How is it that Chyawanprash paste suddenly gets converted into granules? The credibility about the effectiveness of the new product could be doubtful.
  3. For the ones who've never ever tasted Chyawanprash in life, it is immaterial whether the product is called Chyawan or not. It could as easily be called something else.
  4. So, is ChyawanJunior a 'cool' name? The first part of the name might not sound as cool to the youngsters.
  5. The name Chyawan also succeeds in confusing coz apart from products of other players with similar brand names, Dabur itself has Chyawanprash, Chyawanprakash, Chyawanshakti and now, ChyawanJunior!
It seems that Dabur could be worried about low acceptability of Chyawanprash paste among the youngsters of today. While repositioning was an option, Dabur chose the path of product innovation. It developed a new form of Chyawanprash. However, for the new form it chose to leverage on the name of the earlier product. If the earlier product was low on acceptability or was on its way down in terms of sales, then making the new product ride on former's name might not yield result. And even if the earlier products were doing well and Dabur needed to increase the market, the riding on the former's name might not yield a great deal since it might be perceived as just another variant instead of a different product altogether.

Dabur and other players in the market seem to have lost an important opportunity to create a new category.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Temptations also = Noise

Media is full of clutter. In other words, noise. You could easily feel tired after watching a 150-minute movie filled with 60 minutes of advertisements.

Noise comes in various forms. Source could be internal or external. I narrate two events from yesterday.
In the afternoon I attended a cousin's engagement ceremony. People and family members were meeting after a long time. An entertainment outfit was paid a handsome sum and assigned the function of entertaining the guests. Songs were played and jokes were cracked so loud that it was virtually impossible to talk. Would have given headache even to the man sitting in the last row.

We didn't need an entertainment outfit in actuality. Plain talking could've been far more refreshing.
Got back home at 3:30pm and slept for a while. In the evening, I went grocery shopping. I walked into Crossword also for a while. I checked some books there. Was tempted to buy Jack Trout'sSimplicityBrands and Branding (a compilation of articles published by ET), Umberto Eco's Kant and the Platypus: Essays on Language and Cognition, & Seth Godin's Tribes. I picked up all of them at once. And instantly I realized how many books have I bought but haven't read; they are all queued up.

To think of all the books I've yet to read makes me feel so dizzy now. Visits to bookstores are filled with an immense attempt to stay focused, to resist buying more books; at the end I walk out tired in a way.
It's easy to blame external factors for noise. But really tough to control our own temptations.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

If God lies in the details, the big have to go invariably

Almost all advertising agencies seem to accept the importance of brand engagement in the current scenario. Last few years have been full of talk about the long tail and niche marketing. There are two points in this:
  1. Under the pretext of offering choice, big retail formats developed. However, this 'choice' made retail brands, not the brands that were retailed. The 'experience of shopping' became better but not the experience of buying a particular brand.
  2. Focus on brand engagement seems to counter the above point. It is an attempt to make 'buying a particular brand' experiential.
From small stores, we moved to big stores (for many reasons). We are moving back in the direction where small is again getting prominence. Online facilitates the small. Brand engagement at the ground level does the same.

That apart, from anecdotal evidence, the folks in smaller stores (armed with the awareness of the importance of customer service, personal relationships, etc.) do seem to do better. They understand their wares better than hired employees who are always looking to 'sell'; who, in their attempt to 'sell more', often ignore the means by which selling happens i.e. knowing the wares.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Change can scare you, even a positive one

My friend works with me. He is younger than I am. He isn't paid a hell lot. And he often feels that he is better than others in office. He asked me if he should put in a request for a raise or hint at it indirectly. I couldn't advice one way or the other. For, not letting him ask would be unjustifiable. And telling him about the possibility of a negative or a harsh reply would be discouraging.

He shared his ideas about his future. He feels if he had an MBA to his name, he would be far better off. He feels he should seek admission in an Australian University, study and come back and earn some good money. But he isn't so sure about the plan; to put it rightly, he isn't sure about the consequences.

He says he feels stuck in the current situation. He wants to get out but he doesn't quite know how to. And the ways he does know of, he isn't so sure about them. What should he do? Tough situation. And a pretty common one too.

The reality is that you are scared of change, especially when you can't foresee the results. However, history suggests that even the greatest amount of planning and exercises in foreseeing can't ensure positive results. On the other hand, results have often been achieved with spur-of-the-moment planning.

The key is to realize that change can cut both ways. And the fun always lies in doing. When in doubt, feeling stuck, just do it. If nothing else, it would be time well spent, rather invested. Though might seem risky, you could learn something precious.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The bane of boredom through repetition

It happened yesterday. My colleague - let me call him C1 - had a few questions for us regarding a brand we handle (and which now landed in his lap). While addressing his queries, another colleague (C2) and I happened to mentioned the word 'positioning' in our answers. And this person C1 gave such an exasperated expression as if it has now become blasphemous to use this term.

The episode brings out a critical element. Boredom. Boredom treats everything with disdain. So if you've watched a lot of TV and the same ad a lot many times, you might get bored. End of the game. You might want to experience some other kind of entertainment. If you stay with someone day in and day out, you might get bored. So you seek company of someone else.

However, it's important to understand what we get bored with. You can get bored with TV but you definitely want entertainment in another form. Entertainment is a fundamental need, a concept; TV just brings it alive in one form. Companionship is a need; being with different people just fulfils it in different ways.

Language, whether in business or in general life, goes through phases of boredom. Therefore, every now and then, some new words hold sway. There are certain words which are 'in' and some which are 'not'. But it's important to understand that words are only carriers/expressions of concepts or fundamental ideas. I think 'Positioning' is a fundamental concept in communication, marketing, business and life. Whatever word or framework you choose to express that concept, it doesn't matter.

What are you bored with? Are you giving up on something precious just because you are getting bored? Think about it.

HR's (stale) new agenda?

Going through Business Line yesterday, I came across an article 'HR's new agenda - Reflections on what HR needs to do in a world that’s changing rapidly'. It said,
While we created engagement models that gave our employees all that they did not ask for, we do not seem to have built enough of a relationship to deliver bad news in these tough times.
Focus on the second part of the statement. Deliver bad news? The context, I assume, was employee retrenchment (it could be cutting salaries as well et al). My question, can we build a relationship to deliver bad news? And if retrenchment is what we are talking about, then no relationship is enough to deliver bad news. If you want to have a relationship, have one of sharing. Can you, as Business Managers (not just as HR Managers), anticipate the possible miseries caused by retrenchment? Can you thereby ensure that employees stay in their jobs by parting with a bit of your salaries or by asking your Top Management to part with theirs and share some responsibilities? Or best of all, can you and the Top Management simply admit that your way of running businesses was incorrect? Can you then think of something innovative which negates the bad news and, thereby helps you not declare the bad new at all?
Now, coming to the first part of the sentence. Engagement models that gave our employees all that they did not ask for... If that's the case then the Top Management and HR Managers need to go out first for handling their customers (employees are customers, aren't they, for buying into your dreams?) in such a shabby manner.

If HR's new agenda continues to be as stale and surgical as what the above statement implies, I doubt whether the people setting this agenda will be required in the coming times.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

From isolation to isolation to isolation; draw the wind shields down

While at office, listen to no one but the boss. Such anxiety to complete stuff that I tend to do nothing but only that I've been ordered to.

So flustered at the end of the day, that while driving back, invariably the wind shields are pulled up and the music switched on so I can 'entertain' myself. The whole day is divided into parts which do nothing but move me from one 'isolation' to another.

While keeping the window shields down does help us stay away from certain elements, entertain ourselves and so on, it is an act of isolation. Keep the windows down. Let some noise in. As my friend said rightly, "You feel involved. As if you are a part of the happenings around." Some times it's a good thing.

Disrupted by Emails!

I keep gmail on till the time I'm in office. When I'm at my desk, keep checking it every now and then, perhaps every 10 minutes! And even while I'm doing that I realize that my concentration's getting disrupted. Not just that I'm pretty sure it tires me, makes me anxious. Can't I do that twice or thrice in a day? In fact, most often when I check I do not see any fresh mails. And yet after knowing this for quite some time, I continue to do it every day. A high cost I pay trying to keep abreast with my emails.

For a better understanding of what I mean, refer Seth Godin's article 'The high cost of now'.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Discussing Maggi Soup on Social Media

Lately, I've read a lot about social media and their importance in marketing and building brands. Watching an ad for Maggi Soup on the TV just a while back, I questioned, "What would social media do for a product category like that?" Conversations dominate social media. Do people talk and build communities around Maggi Soup? I doubt. But do people connect through talking about bikes? Of course, endless conversations can follow.

For brands in certain product categories (especially FMCG), mass media could continue to play an important role. But what if mass media lose out to social media? That could bring to light the insignificance of these product categories like Maggi Soups and keep the sanctity of TV programming intact for purists :) like me.

Problem of Attrition. Flip. Burden of Layoffs.

Same coin. The moment the picture starts looking rosy, companies go overboard hiring, thinking about milking the situation. The moment the situation gets murky, companies try reversing all their decisions. Result: layoffs.

Apparently the problem might seem embedded in the market dynamics. I feel the problem stems out of the greed of the top management in every corporation. Why can't the top management, and even the tier below, cut their multi-million dollar salaries (how much does one need to live a comfortable life) and share with the ones whom they plan to lay off? There could be other alternatives too. Infosys didn't cut jobs; it asked some of its employees to voluntarily serve for a social cause for a year and in turn receive half the salary. Now that's caring. That's innovative. That's being responsible.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sponsored Links = Unsolicited Sales Calls?

My colleague typed in a few words in Google Search. The first three results were highlighted with pink background; they were sponsored links. In other words, paid. I was standing nearby. He told me he never clicks on those links. Even I did the same for a very long time. Perhaps even now I do that on many occasions; I don't click on sponsored links.

Somewhere, many users of Google Search feel that brands or websites with sponsored links are pushing their services/wares. So, like we avoid unsolicited credit card sales calls, many users avoid clicking the sponsored links.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Subway for Indigestion

My colleague told me it feels great when one has a great pot. I couldn't agree more. He said, on Monday he didn't go to office (in Delhi) simply coz he had such a bad stomach. Immense pressure but no release.

Here's my suggestion. I follow it quite often and I gave it to him too. Once in a while, may be once a week, one should have a Subway Salad! It will do the trick for you and you'll feel amazing in the morning. There's a lot of lettuce in there and that's one of the best natural laxatives. Painless too.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Activation = Interview

It just occurred to me. Brands advertise. Candidates send in their resumes. Brands claim. Resumes also claim. How do you verify the claims? Experience. Or in other words, interview.

Interview helps in verifying the claims of the candidate. Activation helps potential customers interview the brand. In short, test the brand promise.

Have you got your brand interviewed?