Sounds like a brand

An earlier post’s title was reasonably self explanatory -“Convenience & Choices“, but to summarise, I had dwelt on the abundance of choice we have on all fronts these days, and its (inverse) relationship with conscious choice. I’d quoted from a wonderful article on the death of video stores, The enemy of video stores was convenience. The victim of convenience is conscious choice. The post was subjective, and more a consumer/individual perspective, but what does it to the supply side, or specifically, brands?

Would it be fair to say that convenience is an enemy of brands as well? Let me explain. There are ‘brands’ that have been built on the proposition of convenience. Given the internet’s penchant for eliminating middlemen who do not provide its kind of value, and its ability to create convenient interfaces, everything from Google and Amazon downwards is built on the idea of convenience. That’s not what I am talking of. My line of thought is whether convenience (also) leads to a certain kind of commoditisation – it becomes not so much about what I want, but more about how easily I am getting it. So long as the product/service is comparable in terms of price and value proposition, and not necessarily superior, I’d be fine. The premium is on ease and time, and not on the brand/product.  More

The transience of consumption & marketing

Rajesh wrote a very interesting post recently on ownership, and how it would impact brand/marketing/purchase. My own view of ownership has undergone a massive change in the last couple of years, thanks to a combination of factors like increasing life spans, the changing nature of jobs, and the rise of on-demand services. Add to that extreme income disparity, economic flux, and technological advances that have the potential to create obsolescence faster than ever before, and I’m reasonably sure the concept of ownership is up for a revamp.

Rajesh brings up two factors that caused previous generations to value ownership – financial success (trophies) and asset building. If I have to analyse my own motivations in the past, both of these would find a place. If I dig deeper, I also see a couple of others. One would be lack of access on demand. (eg. music/movie CDs, books, even say, photographs) You can see how streaming and cloud storage have changed this. The other subtext I can vaguely discern is ‘control’. A car, home, all lend an air of certainty and being in control. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in middle class India which had quite a lot of experience with scarcity. But in the line of anti fragile thinking, the key skill going forward would be agility rather than trying to retain control. In essence, a whole lot of cases for ownership that no longer seem relevant.  More

Brand Storytelling

Recently, on Netflix, I caught something that I had read about almost a year back – an easter egg of sorts. On my feed, I saw shows ‘watched by Frank Underwood’. For those who haven’t watched House of Cards, that’s the name of the show’s protagonist, played by Kevin Spacey. (fantastically, I’d add) The shows selected seem absolutely true to (his) character, which is manipulative, scheming, and truly Machiavellian!

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What’s on TV? The Internet

The confluence of web and TV has been a topic of discussion for quite sometime now. The initial version of Web TV- with a set top box and keyboard, didn’t work out well, but that hasn’t stopped the next generation from making attempts, and with all the components required for access built into the TV now, things are showing some promise.

Yahoo’s TV widgets, with Flickr, news, finance etc integrated onscreen in Samsung TVs had created quite a stir at the CES 2009 event earlier this year. Yahoo and Intel have also co-developed a range of products that lets users access pages and tools while watching a program – around 20 widgets (scaled down versions) from the NYT to MySpace and Twitter. Yahoo will also release a toolkit for developers to make new content.Yahoo is not the only player here. Netflix has tied up with LG for a new line of broadband high-def TVs with Netflix built in to it. More on that here.  Verismo Networks has a PoD device – VuNow that can stream web content onto your TV without a PC or connections. (via Bangalore Inc) On another front, there are gaming consoles and DVD players etc with built in broadband access abilities.

Meanwhile, the convergence is happening on the reverse direction too. With the net becoming a competition to TV channels as a source of entertainment, the reverse is also happening as a lot of television content is now finding its way into the net, legally. :) Comcast, Time Warner Cable etc are now entering the fray with a two fold objective – to take more content online, and make the TV experience more web like. Closer to home, Star TV had tied up with earlier this year to watch shows online. A couple of months back, the Times Audience Network added Big Adda as a video content partner. More about that here. Hmm, Bigflix + Big Adda?

It is also interesting to see web based entities going beyond their current territories. Portals, like Sulekha creating Web TV. Internet video site Hulu getting into social networking. Will expand on that in a bit.

Meanwhile, television content (shows) have started using social media to add a layer to their interactivity. MTV recently announced plans to launch a show that will also include real-time conversations taken from Facebook and Twitter, allowing users to interact with the show as it airs.  Users will be able to upload videos (their favourites and even self generated ones) through a RockYou application.(via TC) Mad Men’s tryst with Twitter, though fan generated is also a case study.

An interesting concept I came across on TCDelivery Agent, which helps TV networks make use of their content by being an online marketplace for products and merchandise that are seen on television shows. It pays the network a royalty for this. According to the TC article, they have gone step further by checking the index of products scheduled to appear on the show, before the show airs, and then approach the brands concerned to buy an ad package. It seems like a win-win-win concept. With even a partially enabled web on TV, this concept could be easily integrated and made into real time purchases. Absolutely measurable for brands. Imagine saans – bahu saris, wedding costumes and even office and casual wear that can be bought online. The Jassi look, or the more recent Ballika Vadhu look, anyone? 😉

TVLoop, which started out as a Facebook app that allowed users to have view TV show episodes on their profile , has now gotten itself a website of its own.If you comment on an episode of the show on, TVLoop users on Facebook or any other social network can reply directly from their respective site. (via Mashable) The Hulu social network I mentioned earlier encourages Hulu users to connect with one another and share their video preferences. The new features are expected to help Hulu better track viewing preferences, which helps further target ads. It also helps monitor conversations around videos and therefore provides more data on viewer behaviour. In both cases, the key take out is collective feedback – on content, ads served etc. From tweaking storylines and characters to embedding products better, having conversations around them and making purchase decisions easier, there is tremendous potential.

Web on TV, TV on web, web TV and social networking, TV and social networking, at the end of it, the point is about content on demand- across platforms, a rapid increase in interactivity, and the potential to increase the relevance of a product/service to consumers and encourage purchase almost instantly.  In an era when vanilla product placements are becoming increasingly unpopular with viewers, this content integration across platforms could be the kind of tonic that’s needed for a system that currently thrives on sponsored (and usually non related, random) advertising and  insipid product placements. From the other side, the web’s current major advertising mechanism – contextual advertising just got more content to play with, and this could spawn an entire new way of advertising.

As for me, I’m waiting for the time when I can watch the YouTube videos, Flickr photos and Twitter updates and the TV news on the same screen, and then real time reality TV, when I use my Twitter handle to eliminate participants and generally decide their fate 😉

until next time, users, from publishers on the web to broadcast producers

Tata Sky – life after plus

I did wonder what was cooking when Aamir first appeared in the Tata Sky Plus teasers. But in the end, i felt that with this different service (a personal video revorder, that allows you to pause, record and rewind Live TV), and two brand ambassadors, they could’ve really made a great, extended storyline out of the entire thing. Roughly put, approach the ‘centre’ from both Aamir and Gul’s perspectives, and then show them together to give an ‘Ah’ moment to the viewer. I wonder whether the recent Airtel experience scared them away from using the teaser concept for too long, but with two celebrities, they really needn’t have worried.


The TVC storyline was quite decent, and brought out the concept well, though we did have an interesting discussion on whether Gul Panag ended up looking like Freddie Mercury (with the moustache) in ‘ I want to break free’. The ‘landing page’ of existing Tata Sky users also has an interesting conversation between Gul and her friends, which again brings out the features of the service quite well.

Considering that Dish TV now has a 53% market share in the DTH market (via the upgradation strategy is a smart move. The kind of audience that would go in for a DTH service should easily consider upgradation, only, the future of TiVo ( the pioneer of a comparable service in the US market, the biggest difference being ability to forward Live TV – yes, skip ads!! ) is far from rosy, if we go by this report from Wired. Apparently only 3.6 million of the nation’s 36.2 million DVR users go for TiVo, after 11 years of existence. Also, their revenue model is shaky, with advertisers not too interested in the kind of units it offers. But TiVo’s been trying hard, and have ties with Amazon and Netflix, to allow TV users to stream movies and TV shows. Netflix uses postal delivery, online streaming, a set top movie player and HD streaming as methods of didtribution.

In the light of this tie up, it was interesting to see a local tie up made between NDTV Lumiere and BigFlix, by which some titles from NDTV Lumiere’s extensive acquisition list will be available on the bigflix site on download to rent/own options. It’s an addition to BigFlix’s existing portfolio. With BigTV, this is like TiVo having the resources of NetFlix inhouse. Thats BIG. Comparing the net penetration and DTH penetration in India, perhaps BigFlix would expand faster on the DTH tie up route, than a net downloads route.

But yes, if the internet penetration in India shoots up drastically, we can see a different kind of tie ups happening, like the one between MSN and Endemol, for an online interactive show. I also read about a service called Clearleap (via Startup Meme), which delivers videos from numerous sources to the television, thereby expanding consumer options.

With Tata Sky Plus being an upgrade from regular DTH, it will be interesting to see how fast Big counters, and whether it adds a tie up with BigFlix. Tata Sky meanwhile, perhaps needs to scout quickly to figure out a good partner to strengthen its offering.

until next time, watch it