Monthly Archives: May 2008

Social Media Marketing/ DM 2.0

There’s a very interesting post I read at WATBlog, interesting because while I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve not been able to put my finger on it correctly. Harshil, in his article has, and while he’s not answered his questions by way of solutions, the issues that have been raised are quite fundamental.

To summarise, it’s mostly about the ‘abuse’ of social media, by treating the platform as well as the communication on it, as commodities. The current usage, if i read it right, is that a brand manager knows he has got a filtered audience thanks to say, a common interest, but the way he communicates to them, is just another rendition of what he does through say, dm. Which essentially means branded spam. And that doesn’t bode well for social media, definitely not in the long term.

I agree, wholeheartedly. But I also feel that it speaks a lot about the times we live in. In this age, when attention spans are in a downward spiral, how many brand guys are willing to look at a long term view of brand equity? If buzz is the buzzword, is it a sustainable thing? Or is it seen as something which has to be milked for all its worth?

Most companies have a very ROI way of looking at marketing. I’m not being judgemental here, in some cases it might be even justified. To simplify lets look at two scenarios – an old product and a new product. In the case of a new product, how many stakeholders would be willing to buy the story of a social media marketing strategy whose tangible returns are in question? In the case of an old product, the immediate question would be why bother with these fads when we have TV, print and Outdoor. Oh, you are digitally passionate? Fine, adapt it for some Orkut Shorkut also.

The ideal scenario is when Social media marketing, and internet in general, would stop getting treated as another item in the adaptation checklist of a marketing campaign. because its not for campaigns, its for the brand and will span not just many campaigns, but perhaps many stages of its lifecycle also. When you have a group of passionate users (of a generic service, not even a brand) in say the ‘adventure’ space (that was mentioned in the Harshil’s post), the idea should not be to send a one way communication to them. Stop thinking of it as a messaging service, instead get them to share experiences, be a facilitator for their treks, provide free gear, get feedback, improve the product, become an active participating member in the community, figure out the long tails, make customised products for specific interests, make them feel so damn good about the product that they take ownership, become evangelists, and even recommend it to friends of their who may not even have made it to their social media group. Yes, every brand guy should ideally look at tangible gains, but are you willing to let go first, and learn some patience?

Let me also add an uncomfortable angle to this, the human one. How many brand guys would think of being married to the brand beyond say, 5 years? (and thats optimistic). So, what looks better on the resume? A measurable short term activity that yielded a quantifiable response, or a strategic long term activity thats still in nascent stages?

until next time, socialising ain’t easy

The Cybernauts

Was reading a book a few weeks back – The Cybergypsies by Indra Sinha, which was a kind of autobiographical take on the early days of the internet, thats starting around the mid eighties. Its a tale of the early cybernauts, their addiction to the internet and how their real and virtual lives fought each other for attention and threatened to engulf each other.
It took me back to the turn of the century, my early days online, when the net of Indra Sinha was well on its way to becoming the worldwide web it is today. It reminded me of the a/c internet cafes, visits to which were not so frequent because of the steep costs, and the dimly lit computer labs in the university which had only the unreliable vsnl connection.The days of IRC and chats with unknown angels and merlins and superboys, the arcade games, the imaginary worlds created among friends across geographies, in a way, it was almost the kind of life the early cybernauts led.
And when you were asked what exactly you spent hours in front of a computer for, you really couldn’t explain what made it so worthwhile. The days of usa.net and eudoramail and theglobe.com, names which have bitten cyberdust quite a whileback. I still have a friend from those days, almost a decade of only virtual friendship, well, almost, since she sent me flowers for my wedding :)
And then came the initial days of blogging, and friends made on rediffblogs, people whom I did not know really, but with whom i shared thoughts, and rants. And, that, i guess where virtuality started ending and reality started taking over. There were blog meets and the imaginary worlds created carefully gave way to the cafes of the real world.
It took a turn with orkut and co, where the networks were used to get in touch with people you already knew in your real life. And these days, on twitter, i meet a few who i used to know during the rediff days, but gone are the days of anonymity, for my linkedin profile would readily tell people who i was in the real world.
i miss those days, because there was only communication and a conversation among equals then. No virtual celebrities, no social media experts, no snobs, everything was virtual, your imagination and thoughts were the only thing that mattered, virtuality was a shell you could retreat to when the real world became too unbearable. Its different now, virtuality and reality are too enmeshed, and as with everything else in the world, behind every virtual interaction, there is a real intention. This must be Cybernauts 2.0

until next time, really virtual

India Still Shining

I’d written a post earlier on local sites. Happened to come across another one yesterday. Its called indiashines.com.

To summarise what the PR note had to say about the site, the need gap identified is a social network plus site which understands the “diverse language, cultural and regional requirements” needs and one that’s therefore customised to Indian needs. Hmm, so what all does it offer? The typical social networking offering of connecting with friends and family and sharing photos, videos etc along with privacy tools, a classifieds (including jobs), options to customize home pages with regional weather, photos, jobs, maps and news. And of course, how can anyone not have blogs? :) They’re saying exactly what you’re thinking – “YouTube, Blogger, Gmail, Craigslist, Flickr, Monster.com combined with the Weather Channel on one website” and localised. And wait, recommend it to friends, and you’ll get a rupee per friend.

Few small things that I thought were well done –  it automatically took me to a Bangalore page, but with the option to change my city, and thats quite a lot of cities thats listed there. The weather, the map, the profiles are all bangalore. They have done a very decent job on the news, by taking feeds from sites as varied as Techtree, the Hindu, Exchange4Media, HospitalityBizIndia and all Bangalore specific news. All of these worked for Agartala too, so its a pretty good job.

The photos, music and videos are a bit dicey- though it changes with cities, the content somehow doesnt match. eg. Tamil movie trailers in Agartala. The classifieds and ‘deals’ haven’t been worked on yet because irrespective of city, apun sirf Mumbai dikhayega!! Thats on the homepage, though. Once inside, it shows local content.

The community part is very interesting. A small digression, I was able to navigate inside quite easily even without logging in, and that includes browsing profiles. Thankfully, I wasn’t allowed to judge whether they were hot or not (yup, its prominently displayed in the profile) without logging in. The layout and items inside (testimonials, upcoming birthdays etc) reminds me a lot of Orkut. But hey, they even have a ‘Poke me’ button. But wait, its not just all ‘Add to shopping cart’ from other sites eg. something very interesting i noticed – imagine your blogger account being connected to Orkut and posts coming in the newsfeed in your profile? Thats something these guys have done. Very interesting.

Now, while you have groups, the listings and ratings feature in Yahoo Local is not to be found here. But a mashup of this and Yahoo Local (hey, no harm in thinking of possibilities) would create that locality based social networking phenomenon that I’d want to see. Who do you think has better chances at getting there first (humour me, just assume they want to), the above mentioned entities or Tolmolbol?

until next time, tol mol aur bol :)

Peer Pressure?

Yesterday, Contentsutra carried a story about Times Business launching a professional networking site called Peer Power. The post also mentioned that the new site wouldn’t be leveraging Times Jobs.

Like I commented there, I’m still trying to understand why they are (seemingly) adamant about not leveraging their existing properties in print, on a new media platform. I look at Times Matrimonial vs Simply Marry, Times Ascent vs Times Jobs vs (now) Peer Power, Times Property vs Magic Bricks, and i wonder.

As Nikhil had replied to my comment there, I’m not even thinking of sales teams… a bit of branding, yes, but not just that. I see a lot of content that the different properties have, I also see the equity they have managed to create, and then I don’t see them leveraging it enough on the www. I somehow can’t agree to the differentiated target audience logic, because even given the ‘Metromonial site’ tag that Simply Marry has, the very fact that the group advertises the net properties heavily on print means that a large proportion of the TG can still be found among the publications’ readers.

For me, its more of a long term strategy thing. While newspaper readership in India is not going to end in quite a while, new media is definitely on the rise, and the Times Group is in a perfect position to utilise all the properties offline as a bridge to enter the web, simply because it has all the relevant content. So, why do both Times Ascent and Times Jobs exist? Why does Times Property have a fair, why not magic bricks? And if they both do, why separate ones?

The only reason I can think of is a kind of valuation game which involves a separation of entities in the two media platforms (BCCL and Times Business Solutions). In that case, having synergies between the two sets of properties would work against them, but that still doesn’t answer Times Jobs vs Peer Power. Or does Shine have anything to do with it?

While on the subject of old and new media, this is a great read. (via this)

until next time, so, where does this entity fit in?

Empty V ?

Despite myself, and despite ‘knowing’ the result, I actually sat down and watched the entire finale of MTV Roadies 5.0!! No, please don’t judge me, even when i say that i was completely engrossed and matched the MC, BC, F*** (for the tasks) that the participants indulged in, much to my wife’s annoyance, i think. Well, to be fair, won’t seeing people kiss an iguana so that someone else can walk away with the prize money make you talk that lingo?

Roadies must definitely be attractive to the target audience for it to spawn a total of five versions.  I remember writing a post a while back on MTV’s customised solutions for brands. Roadies is a perfect fit for Hero Honda, and I’m sure Superstar would have bettered Ibibo’s brand recall at least a little bit. And sometimes the reverse happens too, like the ‘hijacking’ of Youngistan on MTV every morning. Everything from the RJ to the ticker screams MTV, even though its a Pepsi catchphrase.

Meanwhile, this is an interesting point of view on the programming. But I think the programming also shows the evolution of MTV. My first recollection of MTV is a music channel, along with VJ Nonie :) Do i still see music on MTV? Of course, mostly Hindi music, which in itself is a change from the initial English only programming. That, i think is only because it stands for Music Television, for i somehow feel that quite sometime back, MTV changed its core DNA component from music to youth. Maybe, even at the time of origin, music was only the best way to reach out to the youth. And having built a brand like MTV, its really risky to go for a name change.

MTV now is more a huge bunch of reality shows each giving youth a platform for showcasing their talent or 15 minutes of fame, whichever way you see it, and each working on different verticals – Bollywood (superstar), Adventure(?)(Roadies) It makes sense because music is more of a commodity now, available across multiple platforms, easy to replicate. But continuously shifting gears to keep in touch with the target audience, like MTV seems to be doing, is difficult. Which could be the reason why, (at least to me) Channel V’s attempts with Get Gorgeous have not appealed much. That and the fact that their shows are more based on the VJ, the music remains the same. So, other than, say a V on Campus, its just repackaging. Or maybe that works too?

until next time, is reality a musical?

Zemanta Pixie

Fairytale Endings

We hurried, after all it was not everyday that we could listen to a Lord. We didn’t make it early enough because there was already quite a crowd in attendance, most of whom were not pleased to see latecomers trying to squeeze their way in between. The lord came on time, and had his audience spellbound with his anecdotes and immense sense of humour. He promised to autograph every book that his audience had brought, but there was a twist in the tale. The peasants at Landmark wouldn’t let us near unless we’d made a purchase then and there. So we left, with the satisfaction that we at least got to see him.

But that wasn’t the only reason we left early, we had one more audience left, a Prince, no less – Prince Caspian. There’s a reason why i was eagerly waiting for this film. Unlike the modern day children’s tales of magic, this one is absolutely fairytale. Good and evil are clearly defined and there are no greys in between. It takes you back to a time when you would believe in talking animals, magic, witches, wise kings and all the folk who appear in fairytales in all their innocence. Its a completely different world, and as i read somewhere, some things have to be believed to be seen.

until next time, back to reality

3 Storys

I used to visit the place quite regularly when my workplace was around the area, but those were for the executive lunch. Its located off Lavelle road – when coming from MG Road, take the left on to Lavelle Road, and take the right just before the turning towards Airlines Hotel/Corner House.

3 Storys offers three stories of seating options and specilaises in Goan/Mangalorean/Coorgi/Kerala cuisine. The best thing about this place is that its almost ‘Empirical’ in terms of being able to hog multiple dishes, thanks to the adequate portions and value for money.

The top floor is a good option if its not raining, but since it was, we opted for the second floor. The seating is very comfortable on all the floors and has options for largish groups as well as cosy couples :)

We started with a Caldo Verde soup, perhaps the only veg soup I don’t mind having. They make it quite well here and the by-two portion is almost as large as a normal full portion. We wanted to have the Sear Peri Peri but unfortunately, they didn’t have any fish available. That also meant no Kana Rava fry. Inspite of that, there were still plenty of starter options, so we finally settled for a Coorg Fried Chicken, and I’ve bookmarked the Goan Sausages for next time. The Coorgi chicken was delicious and had a distinctive flavor. Now I’m no expert on Coorgi cuisine so i dont know if it was a Coorgi flavor, but whatever it was, it was awesome.

For the main course, we ordered Malabar Erachi Chops and Brown Chicken Stew and to go with it one plate of Idiappam and one plate of Appam. There are lots of options for seafood lovers. even if you aren’t (like me), phikar not, because the options available, that too from multiple cusines will make you wish you had a larger appetite. We also ordered one Malabar Porotta (yup, we spell it that way there :) ) and a plate of Sannas. We’ve always liked the brown stew here, but this time, the Eratchi chops was just leagues ahead. Except for the Sannas (which were a little harder than usual) everything else was just great. I would also recommend the Mutta Porotta (thats Kerala porotta with an egg bullseye on top). There aren’t too many dessert options available though you could try the Bibinca, if you haven’t tasted it before. Anyways, there’s Corner House nearby, and now Mocha too.

Meanwhile, 3 Storys is the place to come to, when you’re in the mood for a different, but value-for -money food experience. All of the above cost us about Rs.600, and thus ends this story. :)

Brand recycles

The concept of product lifecycles is a pretty old one. I’ve read a few articles on brand lifecycles too, like this one. But something I’ve been thinking about recently is the customer lifecycle. I’ve been googling a bit and found a few notes like this and this, but that doesn’t quite say what i had in mind.

The thought came to me when i picked up the latest edition of Outlook Money. This magazine has, for the last year so, exhibited an uncanny ability to give me exactly the kind of stuff I’d been thinking or discussing about say, a week before, and everytime i pick up the magazine, I have this ‘Truman Show’ feeling. :) It means that somehow they’ve been able to understand the needs of the reader completely, and build an extremely good mass customised product. Notice that they have been doing it for at least a couple of years now.

My needs have changed in those years, as have my financial planning, consumption patterns etc. But OM has kept in touch with them correctly. Is it following my life? Okay, lets stop getting personal, is it following the life of the demographic that i fit into, which is also their target audience? If it is, then that’s what i mean by a customer lifecycle, which means that the brand by itself does not have a dna, but follows the needs of the consumer through his life, in the space that the brand operates in – in this case, personal finance.

One advantage I can immediately think of is that the customer’s bonding with the brand will definitely be very high because it never loses relevance. The brand can then decide to either start another version of itself targeting the next generation (Outlook starts a sub brand for the younger set after say, 5 years, when the needs of the original and the new set can be clearly defined and are distinct) or if you’re say a Beverages brand or Apparel brand then you create sub categories (like you already have Coke Lite). So in a sense, the brand gets recycled all the time in an avtar thats always relevant.

Do you have any more examples like Outlook? Do you feel there’s potential for some brands to work this way?

Meanwhile, there’s this excellent brand tag experiment being done. I thought I’ll replicate it here at first, but since people answering me here are too less, it really didn’t make sense. But do try it out here.

until next time, recycle anyway

So, whats the big picture?

A long time back, I’d written a post on Reliance’s (the Anil version) plans and how they could end up making one huge value proposition. At the time of writing that post, there was an entity called BigFlicks. Though that sounded like a cricket shot description, its actually a DVD rental and video download service, which has since been renamed as BigFlix.

The competition in the space, other than the quite well known Seventymm, can be seen here. The reason for this renewed interest is the TVC that i have been seeing for the last couple of days. You can take a look here. Its quite a well made TVC which spoofs a few English & Hindi movies like OSO, Saanwariya and Matrix, and did manage to make me laugh. :)

Meanwhile, this is a post from long ago, that showed very well why an entity in the same space  – Madhouse (which has since been acquired by Seventymm. This is a story on the possible acquisition of Seventymm by Reliance) was funded.

While i understand the logic there, I am not sure if the competition has been defined amply. I, for one, no longer see the local DVD rental shop as competition. I see a whole bunch of rock-bottom-priced Moser Baer DVDs. Once i buy them, I don’t have to return them ever, and the cost is so low that I can even buy a movie which I’m not very sure about. And their distribution is quite good since I’ve seen them everywhere from Planet M and Landmark to Foodworld and Spar. Now, one argument would be that MB doesn’t have all the titles, but given this aggressive pricing and the response its getting, its only a matter of time before the other players have to match up.

So which need gap of mine is a DVD rental store going to satisfy. Or have i missed something totally here?

until next time, maybe I’m not thinking big enough

Value for money

A term that is bandied about a lot these days, especially since we live in an era of consumer monsters, who insist on getting every paise’s worth. But i remember the time when two of the words were used differently, and remember the generation which worked hard to make us understand the value of money. That generation lived most of their life before liberalisation, and are yet to come to terms with the plethora of choices that are now on offer.

It hit me a few days back, when I was sitting in a desserts joint working my way through a chocolate mound, and saw a man, perhaps in his early sixties looking into the shop, and for a fleeting second, at me. The melancholic look said it all. The look of a man, who has perhaps spent an entire working life making sure that his family was well provided for, that his kids got a good education, and they had a home they could call their own, and while doing all these, mostly missed out on things that he’d like to have done.

And now, when the kids are all grown up, and he finally has the time, he realises the world has changed, and the value of money has been drastically altered, and that the plans he might have made are rendered useless, thanks to the prices and the amount of people who are capable of and willing to pay a premium for the same services. People, like his own children, who work hard to make sure they earn enough to pay the premium, and end up not having enough time for the people who kickstarted their lives.

Long ago, when he gave up that new shirt piece, so that his child could have a new toy, could he have imagined that one day, his child could buy shirts from brands he thought would never see in India, but not have time to remember the toy his father had once bought for him? Could he have imagined this was the way it would all turn out to be? And after he looks at me through the window that separates our worlds, i look at myself, and wonder whether it’ll all work out the way we plan, or will we also be unable to comprehend the lives we bring out into the world?


until next time, values