Thursday, May 21, 2009

Brand Name: How to name a product

For an initiative that we have undertaken at Congruent, my colleague and I met up with Mr. KR Chandrasekaran (Chandra), COO, Java Green, last weekend. We are building an IT product and sought Chandra's advice on how we should name the product.

After hearing our story and checking out the details, Chandra suggested a framework to work on. Chnadra opined that the brand name should ideally provide cues to what the product is likely to do for customers. This would help in easy association in the minds of customers, esp for brands that may not have a large advtg budget. He gave the example of Fair & Lovely and (at another level) Surf detergent. Surf surfs well (foams well). Of course, there are successful brands with names (like Nike or Accenture) that may have no direct meaning that consumers can associate with but they usually require significant time, effort & money to build.

He suggests that a brand name should preferably have 3 elements to it:

1. Name
2. A Category Descriptor
3. Benefit or tag line

He advised us to use Aaker's model, which provides an useful and practical approach to developing a brand's identity and helps to look at a brand in its entirety. He also strong suggested us to read Building Strong Brands by Mr. David A Aaker. I have added to the same to my wishlist.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Demystifying Twitter

It is almost about three months since I first opened my account with Twitter. I was told by Mr. Dorai Thodla that it is great marketing tool.

So while I opened the account, I watched the video describing how Twitter can be used to keep in touch with your loved ones. Apprise others of what you are doing in mere 140 words, people following could respond to you. It sounded interesting but I was wondering how this tool to be used for marketing purposes is. Anyway, I was reminded of what Naru, whom I consider as my Guru, used to say. He said if you do not understand something, just do the motions and after a while you will comprehend. So, I went along. Used Twitter trying to figure out how it can be used effectively.

While trying to figure out how Twitter is to be used I went through couple of URLs, which I have posted earlier.

In my opinion Twitter is an online message board, micro blog and a social networking site.

Basics of Twitter

The fundamental is Following and Followers. It is simple. Following is a list of people whom you follow and followers are those who follow you. That isn't rocket science, is it? What we need to understand is that when one posts a message, those who follow, will receive the message. Similarly, one will receive the messages in one’s home page from people whom they follow.

So your screen is your message board. Choose the people based on the information you would like to receive and start getting updates.

Please follow the maxim: I scratch your back, you scratch mine. This is the best way to increase your following.

The change

While Twitter, I believe, was meant for personal use (like Orkut, Facebook…), it has fast transformed into a business application. It is being used by individuals and organizations to promote themselves.

This is not to say that Orkut and Facebook are not used for business purposes. Last week, I attended a webinar organized by 20:20 MEDIA, the leading IT PR firm in India and my ex-employer, on Using Facebook for Business. Mr. Dave Evans (evansdave), the author of “Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day" spoke on how to use Facebook for business purposes and provided some examples. But of course, he mentioned that Facebook was more effective in B2C scenario.

I must point out that LinkedIn is the best networking site for B2B.

The challenge

Here is one more tool.

According to a post in Tech Crunch, Twitter has about 1+ million users, with about 3 million messages posted per day.

Of course, I am very confident that the number of users in India at this point of time would be miniscule.

So who is using Twitter in India? Yes, I do. The Hindu Business Line Life had an interesting article last week. It states that Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi and Lalu Prasad Yadav also use Twitter.

I sure think we have a problem of plenty. We have mails, chats, social networking sites. On the other hand, we also have traditional media – TV, Radio, Newspaper... Interestingly, whether personal and professional networking site, there is a Twitter-like facility.

But like a true Web 2.0 tool, Twitter does seem to provide some real time interaction and that too with a live person.

Twitter, in the course of time, may also become a spammer’s delight. Because there are restrictions on how much you can feed into the message box, it is now primarily used to direct traffic to another site – the tiny URL.

Why would I follow or get followed?

The million-dollar question!

Simple, if you want to use Twitter for personal use, just use your address book and invite everyone. Block anyone else. Voila, you have your own Twitter space.

But if you want to use Twitter for professional or business purposes, you have to do bit of introspection. Once, you have decided what you want from Twitter, do a keyword search. Click and verify if you have searched the right person. If yes, click ‘follow’ and soon, your home page becomes their message board.

Please remember, there is no obligation to follow anyone who follows you. Similarly do not assume that because you are following someone, that person would follow you. It is better to be choosy. But if you are in there to win popularity contest, just keep clicking follow and hope others would do too.

I do not know if Twitter is just a fad? Whether it is here to stay? Will it replace other tools we have – website, email, chat or mobile sms?

At this point, it is attracting many. Flow with it, keep experimenting.

And, finally, one more link on 17 ways to use Twitter!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ads of Telecom Service Providers

It all started with the launch of MTS in Chennai. I was quite keen to understand if the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) do differentiate themselves and try to position themselves.

So, once again, I started a discussion with my colleagues. We discussed ads of various TSPs.

Airtel ads:

We started with the leader – Airtel. Airtel has used celebrities and continues to do so. The latest ones are Madhavan-Vidya Balan couple ads. The other ad that captures ones attention is the Lil Kid ad where a boy is reprimanded by mother. For some time now, SRK and Sachin do not seem to be given spots. Other ads which remembered were two kids playing on two sides of a fenced border. AR Rahman setting the Airtel tune was a long running campaign at one point of time.

The models used otherwise resemble people from day-today life. There is a play on emotions and ads are derived from the happenings in life. Suresh Talpade, Madhavan-Vidya Balan and the Lil-kid ads really touch emotions.

Vodafone-Hutch ads:

Before I summarize the ads, please read Sonia’s blog on Zoozoos, the latest brand ambassadors for Vodafone. Zoozoos are the talk of the town.

Whether Hutch or now Vodafone, the ads have always been very creative. Use of the Pug really established the brand. While there is an emotional play, it is more fun to watch the ads. Whether it was the ‘network follows you’ or the ‘always there to help’, the pug always captivated you. I am sure the ads did well for the brand and for Pug as a pet. The demand for pug rose so did the rates.

On the other hand, the Irfan Khan ads were smart.

Vodafone (earlier Hutch) ads were always fun to watch. Emotions were less. Models and more importantly the locations always are sophisticated.

Idea ads:

Idea ads were more idea ads.

Abhishek Bachchan, who is the brand ambassador, uses phone as a medium to solve issues facing the society. “What an idea, Sir Ji” ads are really smart creative. There is not much of personal touch. There was just one Shreya ad and does not look like it had many reruns. I liked the use of cell phone for distance education. It was touching!

BSNL ads:

For a public sector company, BSNL does seem to have pretty ads running. It was surprising when Preity Zinta became the brand ambassador. More so now, as Deepika Padukone promotes the brand. The VAS ads of BSNL are also pretty decent.

There is no emotion; BSNL ads are very functional.

Aircel ads:

After changing so many hands, Aircel at last seems to be a brand that is trying to make itself a serious national player. Dhoni is the brand ambassador. Like Pepsi, Aircel draws heavily on cricket. Dhoni demonstrates what one can do with an Aircel connection – browse, make payments, follow cricket, search…

Nothing more from them yet.

We somehow could not recollect Reliance ads. The one that we did was a young couple traveling to Badrinath and the girl using the phone to let her granny listen to the bells at the temple.

We could recollect Kajol featuring on Tata ads. Of course, now they have the Hello-Hello series running. Quite funny they are.

And of course, the Virgin ads. The ads are very focused and the company seems to know whom they are going after which is the college going

Now the most important part, will I ever change my service provider based on the ads. There is hardly any differentiation in service. I hold Airtel connection. There is constant complaint about the Hutch service but I must say Airtel is as bad. Interestingly, there is an Airtel tower above our office even then there are call drops!

Services and rates are hardly a differentiator.

I wonder what role these ads play. If not to woo at least to retain, I guess. Except for Virgin and MTS, I haven’t seen anyone else who seem to have take value-for-money positioning. But someone like me may never go for Virgin or MTS.

But I maybe wrong on wooing part, at least partially. The number of subscriber base in India is about 300+ million is about 30% of the population. It means that the mobile market has not even crossed the early majority. Indian mobile market is set to grow further. Even if there is a potential market to add another 400 million, it is a huge market which is the rest of early majority and the entire late majority at stake.

I am not sure about services but we are going to see more and more creativity flowing out of TSP war.

Not sure how Number Portability will affect the ads. That is because at least today with the number you possess one can identify your service provider. But with number portability that identity is lost.

Hope in this loss, customers gain!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Services Marketing: Lessons from Sathyam Theater

If there is one thing that can be added to the necessities list for Tamilians, are movies. It is a common knowledge that India churns out the largest number of flicks in the world. Hindi, Telugu and Tamil are the top three contributors.

Many film stars are worshipped like demi-gods (in some cases, temples have been built for stars, especially female actors). Almost all the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu state have had an association with Kollywood.

Wikipedia quotes that there are about 2,800 cinema-halls located in Tamil Nadu. Sathyam tops the list with about 2380 seats.

I have been in Chennai for about 17 years now and have watched movies in some leading theaters in the city. Until about a couple of years back, all theatres were pretty much similar. Theatres were large, may or may not be multiplexes. Devi complex was by far the most famous; Albert was known for its cleanliness (once upon a time), and Sathyam, also, existed. I haven’t watched many movies in Ega or Sangam or other complexes.

I am not sure who is responsible, but Sathyam complex today has become the best theatre in town. In my opinion, it is a visionary and has set the benchmark. The makeover of Sathyam is a perfect Services Marketing case study.

As I said, there was a time when almost all the theatres were similar. There would be huge lines for queues; standing in the queue itself was nothing short of torture. Black-ticketing was rampant. Probably for the first coat of paint, all theatres were in a state of neglect. Toilets’ stench would fight with Director’s efforts for a share of your senses. During interval there would be a huge rush (which is not uncommon for anything in India) for snacks. In the name of snacks, there would be uninviting popcorn priced exorbitantly but served in miniscule portions. The seating would give you pain in the wrong place, insects/rats would be your companion. The sound systems were slightly better than the blaring outputs in Amman temples during Marghazhi month.

Then slowly things changed for many theatres, changed a lot for Sathyam. And in my opinion, Sathyam’s makeover presents a great case study. The focus on 6Ps of Services Marketing presents the directions.

As many would know the four Ps of marketing are – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Some include Packaging. Services’ Marketing has three additional Ps. And these are – People, Physical Evidence and Process.

Let us start from the basics.

1. Product: The basic product that theatres sell is entertainment or movie. Cinema Theatres don’t have much control on the kind of movie produced but definitely have a say in the kind of movies played. Most cinema theatres had rigid schedules which made them reap extraordinary profits when a movie was hit or take a big hit if movie fails at the box office. Sathyam broke this tradition and played more movies and limited the screenings. It created more choices for customers. This way, they also reduced their risk of showing a flop movie for longer duration. Sathyam is also a visionary in adoption of technology. Whether it was in the areas of sound or projection, Sathyam adopts the latest.
2. Price: I must say that Sathyam is not inexpensive but it is not unaffordable, too. I would not like to discuss much about pricing. It might dilute the topic.

3. Place: Sathyam always had an advantage in being centrally located. But it was never a differentiator. Devi, Anand (now defunct), Ega, Sangam…are/were also quite centrally located. What Sathyam has been able to do with the space is notable. It has made approach to the theatre better by ensuring a large car park. Not only that but it also well regulated by professionals. Will discuss people little later. Sathyam is maintained like a five-star deluxe hotel. Please check out the toilets! Car parking, two wheeler parking, entrance, ticket counters, ambience inside, Sathyam resembles an excellent mall. Parking was a problem. On weekends, there is a huge rush to screens and since it is an up market theatre, the crowd usually swings in by four wheelers. Entering into theatre at one point of time was nothing less than struggle. But that is where the proactive intervention from the management comes in. Sathyam has introduced free parking at an annex slightly away from theatre. One can park his/her car and get dropped in an AC mini-bus. I must say, this is customer orientation par excellence.

4. Promotion: The biggest promoter of Sathyam has been the product itself. It has created the best environment for moviegoers. I must here mention that it was the first to bring Internet ticketing. It killed the black-ticket. In marketing, the best form of promotion is Word-of-Mouth and that is what exactly Sathyam has achieved.
5. People: If the facility is maintained no less than a star hotel, the employees conduct themselves like professionals in the airline industry. Smartly dressed, the employees are proactive and ready to assist customers. And at every touch point, parking lots, ticket counters, snack bar, ushers…

6. Physical evidence: Every touch point presents a physical evidence of the customer orientation. It is the best example for an organization which is focused on customers. Internet booking apart, a separate WINDOW ticket to collect tickets booked by Internet. Free car parking is another example. Magic-Hat, the crèche, is another example.
7. Process: The operations is organized and oriented to ensure that I have a good experience. You have to experience it to believe it.

Sathyam is slowly displaying signs of an organization which has consolidated itself as the best theatre in the city and diversifying into adjacent areas. It has recently opened a Blur, a gaming parlor, and ID, an idli-dosa outlet. Mike Besse has been presented for a long time now.

Usually malls accommodate multiplexes. In Sathyam’s case, a theater is adapting into a mall. Whatever be the course, as long as customer orientation is at the core, there is no stopping Sathyam.


1. Sathyam has not paid me to write this piece
2. It has never doled out free tickets to me
3. I have never been treated by them with lovely desserts, pop corns or Coke

But I may be open to all the above going forward. Kidding!

Ecstasy picture sourced from

Twittering: Trying to demystify

Twitter was introduced to me by Mr. Dorai Thodla. I was very excited and opened an account. Founds loads of acquaintances and friends. After initial enthusiasm died, I started thinking how to use Twitter as a marketing tool.

To be honest, I haven't figured out yet. I am trying to demystify it. I am posting here couple of links that I am reading to get a grasp. Hope one finds them useful.

Guide to Twitter as a Tool for Marketing and PR by Lee Odden
Using Twitter as a Marketing Tool by Carlos Granier-PhelpsNewbie's guide to Twitter by Rafe Needleman
How to Use Twitter as a Twool by Guy Kawasaki
How to use Twitter as a marketing tool by FruGal (though this is more from the point of view of promoting your blog)
Twitter as a marketing tool by Alex Barrera (Alex gives reasons as to why or who should use it though he doesn't explain much)
How to Use Twitter As a Marketing Tool by Joan Yankowitz (some good basic info)