Friday, December 31, 2010

9/11 predictions for 2011 Shoaib Qureshy brings out his crystal ball.

Unless you are an Al Qaeda operative in hiding or you are not a regular Aurora reader, and so don’t know what has been happening, it is no secret that the world of the advertising agency has changed dramatically (and not to the agency’s liking) in the last decade. This process will further accelerate as we enter a new decade.

Although I don’t have a crystal ball, based on hundreds of conversations with entrepreneurs, multinational brands, fellow agency practitioners, and having critically looked at the tidal waves taking place abroad within the profession, here are nine predictions for 2011 that are more like a 9/11 warning for people in the agency business:

The emergence of the do it yourself client
The balance of power will shift in favour of the client; be it to save time or costs. Many companies, big or small, can now handle in-house more and more of the work that they formerly expected their agency to do. Although there will always be a market for clients who need help, the point is that they might not need help from a bloated agency that employs old-school tactics; rather they might prefer to go to smaller agencies and so retain greater control. Clients today are much more educated about advertising, activation, PR, media planning, social media, blogging and creating online content and thus can, and are, calling the shots to have things done faster.

The emergence of the jack of one trade agency
The future will be about partnerships between specialised expert agencies rather than the one big box model of the full service agency. The days of Mad Men are gone and big agencies are on the decline. Why? For one thing: massive salaries, overheads and extravagant lifestyles. The full service model ends up driving up expenses and instead of a well oiled machine, creates an environment that often is not cutting edge, but rather too slow-moving for today’s urgency.

The fall from grace of the big agency
According to a recent international study, 52% of CMO’s believe that traditional, large advertising and media agencies are ill-suited to meet future marketing needs. As a result, brands are relying on small set-ups for big ideas. These set-ups are more creative, less siloed and therefore more nimble when it comes to exploring new media and experimentation.

Perhaps the biggest hindrance for the traditional, big advertising and media planning and buying agencies are their senior and mid-level managers who are too pigeon-holed due to the fact that they were born on the wrong side of the new marketing world order. Their media and account management expertise does not necessarily translate well when faced with providing the technology-based marketing solutions demanded by the new consumer.

Two new species of agencies
As advertising agencies continue to subsist on a diminishing set of resources, what will be left of these organisations will fall into two categories: the idea generators (makers) and the idea executors (technicians). This change will apply to all agencies, be they advertising, activation, media, PR, content, etc.

Advertising practices will change
Clients will increasingly question the same old marketing and media plans for every new brand challenge. Although ad spend will slow down due to the recession, political instability and the security situation, activation and digital will gain considerable share at the expense of TV, radio and print. Mobile phones and retail will become increasingly powerful mediums. My guess is that spending on creating websites, online communities, digital marketing and developing HR competence to drive digital and social media is growing, but we don’t know by how much as it is not reported.

Brands’ relationships with TV and media agencies will undergo a structural change
TV will no longer be looked at stereotypically as a medium to merely air commercials. Clients will directly negotiate cross-platform relationships aimed at deeply integrating the brand into the programme content (so viewers cannot fast forward past the message). This will bring the media planning and buying agencies under greater scrutiny, especially from clients who may believe that their media agencies remain old fashioned in their approach by restricting themselves to asking for more media investment every year, rather than keeping tune with the demands of changing times.

Clients will call for a structural change in their media agency in the same way they did a decade ago, by dividing the big agency into separate creative and media agencies. I envision the media agency business will require further client surgery as they continue to take the bulk of the client’s money and yet fail to deliver cutting edge, creative new media thinking to address brand challenges. A new breed of media agencies will emerge; hot shops maybe – I call them ‘creative media agencies’ – that will create TV ideas, content and integration, while the traditional media agency will probably continue to buy as per the creative plan; bringing in buying value not planning value for the client, as they have done for a decade.

Brands will need less advertising and more content
There was a time when brands could hand over their marketing, advertising or PR to their agency and then sit back and approve the so-called magic. The problem is that smarter, faster, cheaper promotion and advertising requires greater participation from the client. Agencies of the future are going to have to hop onto the content train for all kinds of media and solutions.

Agencies will no longer outsource relationships
Agencies have become too accustomed to being the middle man; outsourcing relationships and taking a commission. But when the going gets tough, the middle man gets kicked out. Building relationships and trust cannot be outsourced. Agencies will have to go back to the basics and immerse themselves with the brands they handle and build in-house capabilities to deliver world class executions. The future will also be about evolving from the commission agent role to taking control
of the work.

The shorter term client – agency relationships becomes the norm
The time of the decade old client-agency relationship has gone. Today the relationship lasts on average about three to four years and I see it declining to as low as three to four months and it will be based on key project or campaign contracts. This will be primarily driven by short term pressures on the client (i.e. marketing directors and brand managers) who will want to see an even quicker turnaround in the fortunes of their brands and therefore prefer to keep their options open rather than being stuck in a stale long term relationship with their agency. In their view, this strategy will increase the chances of more creative thinking and therefore a business breakthrough.

Final thought
There is no fun in making predictions about the future without a debate (and honestly, this article took quite some time to write). So if you have made it this far, please do feel free to share your opinion and views on the above.

Shoaib Qureshy is Chief Strategy Officer, Bulls Eye Communications.

First published in the November-December issue of Aurora.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Rise of Engagement marketing

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the “death” of traditional advertising and the rise of engagement marketing. In this post I want to discuss engagement marketing, also known as engagement design, tryvertising, experiential marketing, and guerrilla marketing.

Undeniably, the importance of traditional advertising has diminished as we have gained greater access to what our friends think, via social media. People naturally place more weight on their experiences and their friends’ experience with brands and products than on ads. At the same time, our ability to block advertising is on the rise as well.

So what is a marketer to do to catch the attention of prospects and create a positive ROI on their marketing investments? First, we have to understand why people behave the way they do when it comes to decision making. In Advertising on the Brain it states, people “have an emotional and a physical reaction, before we engage in rational thought.” In other words, we feel first, react second, and think last (sound like anyone you know?). Emotions are the connection between our feelings and our actions. In the same article it says, “It would really come in handy to have a yellow highlighter pen in your brain that says ‘This is important, remember it.’ That’s what emotions are; a yellow highlighter pen in your brain. We can’t make decisions without them because emotions are our brain’s way of signaling importance biochemically.” Bottom line, marketers have to affect people’s emotions in order to get them to act.

Most advertising fails to elicit positive emotions, which proceeds action. Any negative emotion felt, intentional or not, is carried over as a negative towards the brand/product. As example, I often see in my neighborhood an ad on bus benches that states “All work and no play makes Jack a great realtor!” Every time I see it I want to pick up the phone and tell Jack that his ad stinks and he should hire a real marketer instead of trying to do it himself! The problem here is that we all know the phrase from childhood “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” When I read Jack’s ad, I am reminded that he is a “dull boy,” and quite honestly I would never hire anyone who is “all work and no play.” He must be burned out by now, and certainly is not one I’d entrust the purchase or sale of a home to. Maybe he’d fall asleep in the middle of a transaction. This was unintentional eliciting of a negative emotion.

The rise of engagement advertising is simply this – marketers have to be mindful of the emotional reactions that they create, be authentic in creating positive emotional reactions, and make it easy for people to try their brand/product, thus (hopefully!) solidifying the positive emotion that makes them talk about their experience with others.

In Charting A Shift from Communications to Engagements it says, “The new marketing is about creating 360⁰ brand experiences, not messaging. Consumers should buy into to your brand’s ideas, not just your product. Instead of defining ‘Reasons To Believe’, you need to define ‘Reasons To Be.’ “ Brands no longer are “contained in any communication or campaign, but rather is understood through its many touch-points.” Create enough positive touch-points, and you create positive ROI. Of course, creating multiple positive touch-points requires a creative mind. You have to be willing to risk failure, and ideally allow a minimum of three months to test any marketing/advertising ideas to see what works. It takes using your intuition, something women seem to utilize a little better than men, which explains to me why so many more women are in the marketing field than men. No judgment here, just observing the facts. However, as stated in Reinventing the MBA: 4 Reasons to Mix Business With Design Thinking, “An over-reliance on intuition is every bit as limited as management by the numbers.” Really it takes both intuition and analytical thinking to create excellent engagement marketing experiences.

In addition, also stated in the same article, it takes humility and team-building skills as well as a willingness to be “always ready to praise…colleagues and friends.” One of the ways we can utilize the principles of engagement marketing is through the use of “tryvertising.” From Trendwatching, tryvertising is defined as “[incorporating]…’obvious’ activities like handing out product samples, and more subtle, integrated product placements that are part of an experience or solution. It’s everything from new-style sachets containing single servings of liquid products, to hotels partnering with luxury car makers to offer high end model test drives to guests during their stay…The challenge here has always been a certain lack of relevance: there’s no guarantee samples are tried out at the right time, in the right spot, and by the right target audience.

So what about more targeted, more relevant new-style tryvertising? Product placements that become part of the landscape, part of the real world where consumers hang out and certainly don’t mind trying something as long as it makes sense to them?” Read the rest of Trendwatching’s introduction to tryvertising, to know how Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Mini Cooper, IKEA, Nike, Starbucks, HP and other brands are using it. Experiential marketing is another way of saying engagement marketing. As an aside, you may want to join the Experiential Forum, as I did, to join in the conversation about the latest-and-greatest in experiential marketing. In The Last Campaign: How Experiences Are Becoming the New Advertising it states, “65% of U.S. consumers report a digital experience changing their perception about a brand (either positively or negatively) and 97% of that group report that the same experience ultimately influenced whether or not they went on to purchase a product from that brand. In a nutshell, experience matters.

A lot. Of course, brands that were ‘born digital’ intuitively know this. Google and Amazon are pioneering experiential brands. That’s why Amazon continues to pour money into improving its customer service rather than run traditional advertising or marketing campaigns. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said, ‘We are not great advertisers. So we start with customers, figure out what they want, and figure out how to get it to them. Zappos…built its brand the same way, as has Facebook.” Experience matters. A lot.

If you have an amazing engagement campaign, but your retail staff aren’t plentiful enough, don’t know where anything is, or how to help you resolve your problem, it matters. A lot. If your customer service reps don’t know how to handle the frustrated customer and act snotty, it matters. A lot. If your website makes it difficult to find what the person wants and see the price before they put the item in a digital basket, it matters. A lot. As marketers, we often have to step back, look at the entire process and be critical of how it works through the eyes of the customer. It matters. A lot.

Lastly, I want to talk about guerrilla marketing, which is also a form of experiential or engagement marketing. The term guerrilla marketing has become a catch-all phrase for non-traditional marketing, but it really is its own form of disruptive marketing and we have opportunity as marketers to bring it into the world of digital media that we are now in. As stated in Guerrilla Marketing Goes Tweet, “People are focused on social media; they’re walking around with their smartphones and updating their statuses and tweeting. The more we give people opportunities to do that, the more exciting it is, such as creating art at an event where people can save it to their profiles…The more we can incorporate social technology into real-life events, the more people get excited about it.” Marketers should be on the prowl to incorporate promotion of art into their work. After all, art creates positive emotion, which begets action. Not to mention, it helps those who are less business and more creative-minded earn a living. To read more about guerrilla marketing tactics that companies are now using, I recommend the blogs Guerrilla Gorilla and Guerrilla Communication Blog. Google “guerrilla marketing” and you are sure to find much more. I hope this post helped your thinking about creating positive emotional and experiential marketing tactics, resulting in the positive ROI you are looking for.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Brand Activation Process

It is becoming a difficult issue to be evasive about branding. We live, eat and drink brands. Some one has said that brands constitute the organizing mechanism that helps us navigate through each day. We are all branded even though we may not want to agree with that. Brand perceptions are result of mixed stimuli of interactions that an individual has with a given brand. This fact accounts for why brand managers as well as activators must work hard to ensure that the perceptions of various stimuli are resonating with brand’s character, behavior among others.

Brand activation demands that brand managers intensely ignite the passion of a big idea that customer will appreciate in all the processes. Effort must be made to connect the brand emotionally with the clients who eventually ‘owned’ the brand. Brand managers need to create strong believe in the offering through all the stages of brand activation. Brand experiences by the consumers must also create a deep relationship through education, interaction, motivation as well as communication that builds closer rapport.
Brand activation process must evolve and be able to change with time or remain in the present tense as a friend once asserted. Brand activation that will work must listen to and study the client’s preferences per time, the influencing factors in their decision making process.

A great brand activation effort must support, encourages customer awareness of the brand, good knowledge of the brand, promote liking, conviction and eventual purchase and re-purchase. I am also convinced that brand activation process must begin with what the brand stands for and proper identification of who the audience is. Brand activation process must show vividly the step by step guide on what to do at any point in time. It should guide the brand’s communication channels, designs, creativity among many other vital indices. Brand activation is an expression of how a brand will approach brand management activities from within the organization. Be sure that as brand manager, one is looking deeper behind every possibility in the brand and find out vital assets that have relevant consequences for the entire organization or brand. Brand position must be clearly elucidated. Brand activation that is wholly controlled by external consultants is bound to fail because the employees are major actors in making brand activation process successful.

Great brand activation meets with customers demand and challenges. Let me conclude today by saying that when brand activation is done right, the followings can be an advantage.

1. It enhances effectiveness of brand communication
2. It serves as a rational and impactful means to advertising campaign process, design
3. It helps to build strong emotional tie with clients
4. It aids brand’s repurchase.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tug of War Between ATL & BTL


There was a time when Sales as a concept and practice got being considered ineffective and insufficient. The concept with longer relationship with customer gained the importance. Thus, got the  Marketing concept its being. Slowly, this became the integral and most important part of the strategy and the prime tool while devising a plan for revenue generation. The increase in competition, the globalization, economic growth and recession all has played its role and made the process richer and complexer each day. Among the multiple facets that form the wings of this approach, brand promotion is one that too has grown in the ways of implementation and has seen fortuned innovations. 

With the advent of the present century, the existing tug of war between  advertising and sales promotion took a new shape and came the concepts Above - The- Line and Below - The- Line activities (ATL and BTL) widening both scope and intensity of this war.

The ATL or above-the-line propagated traditional marketing channels that strived to reach a mass audience with messages that reinforce a brand communicate general product information or inspire an emotional response.


i.e. ATL focuses on

- Mass Reach

- It creates Brand Awareness

- And has no direct consumer involvement.


It thus has the vehicles like: Print Advertising, Hoardings, Electronic Channels and the Radios.

 While the “Below-the-line” initiatives, by comparison, acted like traditional direct marketing efforts – they aspired to establish targeted relationships between marketers and individual consumers, and offer comparable ease in measurability.


i.e. BTL

 -     is consumer defined . 

 -    It generates Trial.

 -    and has direct consumer involvement.


It thus has vehicles like Events, Road Shows, Dealer level activities, Consumer contacts, Mobiles etc. Sometimes the same vehicles can act as both BTL and ATL activity complementing each other e.g. Dealer Board.

The concept of BTL was however; fresh and resulted though smaller in size was more decipherable. It thus, started making its way in the brand promotion strategies. It started eating the budgets of the ATL activities. From negligible, to size-able. Until the mid of 2008 where in the economy of the world was upbeat, and growth triumphant, this new arena was being welcomed as a forward integration of the concept. With increased fragmentations and demographics along with the growing pressure to promote effectiveness of marketing communication BTL activities was giving the apt answers and so it started prospering. A separate budget started being devoted to it. The world (especially the growing economy started seeing a growth in the BTL along with the ATL budgets. It started complementing the ATL. More recently, agencies and clients had switched to an 'Integrated Communication Approach.' BTL was a common technique used for "touch and feel" products (consumer items where the customer would rely on immediate information rather than previously researched items). BTL techniques ensured recall of the brand while at the same time highlighting the features of the product.

But then came the period of recession. Companies - trying to cut on the expenditure. Amongst the many heads of budget that came into strict revision the promotion, too started being looked as the expenditure rather than the investment. And then came the real tug of war between the two. Should the age old ATL be retained under these tough conditions or the newer approach BTL be considered as the new lease of life. Obviously, the ATL that encompasses a higher budget got a pause for the time being. The BTL with lower per event cost kept the promotional plan rolling in those hours. And the century kept seeing a steady growth in the BTL expenditures over the year. The worry among the media people thus was.... for how long? 

No situation stays forever. So was the case with recession. BTL, which had been constant throughout, kept seeing a steady growth in expenditures. With its unique ability to personalize and customize communication this form of communication started penetrating metros to cities and to rurals. The ATL, which had seen a cut in the past few months, got a lease of life. The BTL that had slowly started replacing the mass media advertising again started seeing it back among the masses. 

 Such recent trends of future has a common term being used by savvy media sales persons i.e. Through The Line approach, which according to some Brand Activation consultants, has been around forever but under a new named coined for media men is called the TTL approach. The TTL approach is where a mix of the two (ATL+BTL) are used to integrate a marketers efforts and optimize returns from these separate investments.

 More recently however the TTL approach had shifted its attention with more weight shifting to the BTL side of the fulcrum. The idea remained to optimize the ROI on marketing budget spent, by focusing ones energy on winning smaller yet more crucial BTL battles than ATL wars which were being raged by Sponsorship and logo positioning crazy big spenders.

 In a nutshell, while Above-the-Line promotions are tailored for a mass audience, BTL promotions are targeted at individuals according to their needs or preferences. While Above-the-Line promotions can establish brand identity, BTL can actually lead to a sale. Above-the-line promotions are also somewhat impossible to measure well, while BTL promotions are highly measurable, giving marketers valuable insights into their return-on-investment.


Now when in near future, the market is expected to still behave better, we expect the budgets being re-vitalized. Especially with a certain soothing of the Political conditions in the country. The study reflects that BTL now gaining its importance would surely form an integral part of the plans but integrated and well coupled with extensive ATL plans. A proper mix i.e. TTL and apt utilization of both the vehicles are expected to form the successful means of promotion in the coming years. But, this would also mean a constant innovation and newness in the approach and extensive brainstorming in store for all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Rural Marketing by P&G India

In the cyberspace, Savita Bhabhi has successfully managed to attract eyeballs. Offline, it could soon be Sangeeta Bhabhi. To be sure, Sangeeta

Bhabhi is no relation to her infamous online character, but an icon created by consumer goods major Procter & Gamble to hardsell its stuff in rural India.

After a two year long push into the hinterland, P&G has come up with a new addition to its marketing strategy in the form of a character called Sangeeta Bhabhi, a dedicated housewife. The personality was conceived to push P&G’s leading brands, Tide and Head & Shoulders as a dual proposition called ‘kamyab jodi’ in rural areas of the country. After much deliberation over the eight to nine categories that P&G operates in, marketers picked the detergent brand Tide and shampoo Head & Shoulders as the focus in this particular rural initiative.

Last March, more than 100 villages in central UP were covered as part of the pilot stage of the ‘kamyab jodi’ initiative. The exercise involved teams narrating Sangeeta Bhabhi’s story, an educated married woman, who highlights the benefits of using the two brands. Sandeep Bansal, country head - Xpanse, the agency handling the particular rural activation, says the particular style was used to communicate the value add proposition of the brands. “Tide is a value added brand priced higher than the regular brands. The challenge was to communicate it to the target audience on the benefits of using a brand superior in quality,” explains Bansal.

Considering that the rural markets has been a battle field with national players like HUL, Dabur and even regional players like Ghari looking to penetrate further, P&G has its task cut out. When contacted, Sumeet Vohra, marketing director, P&G India says that the company’s endeavour has always been to not only improve lives but also continue to touch as many more lives as possible. “Ours is a consumption driven economy and we are cognisant of the importance of the growing rural segment in that context,” says Vohra, adding P&G is constantly evaluating growth opportunities not just in this segment, but across India and will use the right brand portfolio and marketing techniques to do so. The move underscores the point that rural market is important considering rural India comprises 12.2 % of the world population.

Through this initiative, P&G is attempting to generate user trials for both SKU pack size as well as satchets. While Vohra refused to comment on future plans citing company policy, it is understood that after studying the initial response to the pilot programme, the company is planning to roll the initiative further to cover nearly 5,000 villages across the state of UP. Also, to ride on the demand generated from this exercise, P&G is simultaneously beefing up its distribution network to ensure reach and availability of the products. But P&G’s rural march takes on established rivals like Hindustan Unilever that has over the years added to its rural distribution muscle through dedicated programmes like Project Shakti.

Similarly, cigarette major ITC through its echoupal network has been able to create a network to further its FMCG ambition by pushing brands like Superia soaps and shampoos in smaller SKU pack-sizes. Anand Shah, FMCG analyst from Angel Broking says P&G has been a late entrant in the Indian market and it’s only in the last two years that the company is looking to probe further. “The company is playing catch up given that rural markets for categories like shampoos has been a huge growth driver,” says Shah. Surely, P&G’s hoping Sangeeta Bhabhi will tide over the competition. And also keep her head firmly over her shoulders.

Coca-Cola Launched its energy drink

Recently, Coca-Cola launched its energy drink, Burn, in India. Now, as part of the brand’s first on ground activation, the beverage giant has launched the Burn Car – a vehicle designed by ace automobile designer Dilip Chhabria – to conduct sampling of the brand. Actually, Chhabria has worked his magic on a Matiz this time.

Starting this week, three Burn-inspired concept cars will take to the roads in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

Ricardo Fort, vice-president, marketing, Coca-Cola India, says, “Innovation has always been the hallmark of Coca-Cola’s business strategy in India. The distinctive association to design the Burn Cars is yet another affirmation of our endeavour to connect with our consumers.”

Priced at Rs 75 for a 250 ml slim can, the drink is targeted at socially active and adventurous young adults. The car is designed to reflect the brand attributes including masculinity, potency, energy and primal characteristics. The car’s appeal is further accentuated with the presence of Burn’s unique flame iconography on its body. The brand flaunts its potency with the global tag line, ‘Can you take the heat?’.

On the occasion of the unveiling of the Burn Car, Dilip Chhabria says, “The primal, potent, sensual and energetic character of the brand, combined with its unique flame iconography, instantly sparked off a design idea for Burn. Looking at the end result, I am confident that the design of the car will find a special appeal amongst the youth.”

Besides being used for sampling, the car will also be a part of event sponsorships and community based marketing initiatives. While the company has no plans to use TV as of now, it will rely on out of home. Coca-Cola will focus on point of sales promotions at clubs, bars and restaurants to market the product.

Burn is one of the most successful energy drinks from the beverage giant’s global portfolio, with a strong presence in countries including Russia, Ukraine, France, Italy, Great Britain, Austria, Poland, the USA, Australia and South Africa. Burn was first introduced in Europe in the 90’s. Over the years, its presence has expanded to more than76 countries.

In India, the brand will face competition from Red Bull and Cloud 9

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What Is Brand Activation

It's about engaging consumers at an emotional level and driving them to take action.

Brand Activation a relatively new "term" in the industry, there is much debate around the exact definition of Brand Activation. It's pretty simple really; it's all about bringing the spirit of brands to life. The objective of Brand Activation is to make brands active in their markets, building their reputations along with results. Most fundamentally, brand activation contributes in creating trust between the customer, the society and the brand (i.e. company). And trust is one of the key factors to create loyalty between consumers and brands.

"Brand Activation a natural step in the evolution of the Brands"

Brand Activation, is the Marketing/Brand activity that enables the consumers to live the life in the Brand Way.

every brand has a core identity and extended identity. the brand also stands for proposition. You take the brand identity and the proposition and blending those two you develop a brand activity/program in which the consumers get to live their life in the way the brand promises life to be.

Lets have an example to clarify brand activation.

Example can be the LUX beauty contest. Lux is a beauty soap. its proposition is to increase your beauty and the brand personality is the young sucessful beautiful women. the brand idnetifies itself with beautiful celebrities, i.e. film stars like Aishwaria Rai of India. combining all these brand elements you develop and implement Lux beauty contest. you select the most beautiful girl of the nation and she gets her crown from Ash. She wins loads of prizes from LUx, gets her cosmetics and other beauty products courtsey of Lux and lastly she gets selected for the new-face of next upoming film of Yash Chopra as the new debutant. If she really can prove herself then the tinsel-world is all hers and she becomes a STAR.

so you are taking an ordinary girl and making her a star courtsey of Lux. this is Lux Brand Activation. Making one girl live the life in the Lux way while stimulating the aspirations of million other girls, who dreams to be the star. they start to think "if she can be star why not me". Well not every girl who uses Lux becomes star but they strive to be.

at the end of the day, all this is done to increase brand sales, awareness and loyalty.

have a look at some interesting Brand Activations in the recent times