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Brand interruptions

November 24, 2013 Leave a comment

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Radio is back in our lives. Or at least my life.

With commutes to work in the car being a part of the daily routine listening to radio is my preferred way to pass time.

And I am appalled at what I hear on the radio here in Nairobi. Or at least the way the programs are constructed.

To my mind, fundamentally, the radio comprises of 2 elements. Music and News.

Different radio channels do different kinds of music. So one can choose what one wants to listen to and then choose the music.

News tends to be uniform across the channels and it takes usually 3 forms. There is general news, which includes politics, sports business and the ilk. There is traffic news. And lastly there is entertainment ‘gossip’ news. Quite a simple formula really and in nearly every country I have listened to radio this pretty much is what one hears.

The RJ’s primary role then is one of anchoring the music. Introduce the songs, talk about it, invite call ins etc.

In some countries the RJ may decide to talk about a topic that could be of relevance to the demographic that the station targets and engage the listener. But at the core of his/her job is the music.

What I hear often in Nairobi is, literally, 2 independent channels in one.

There is the songs which play every few minutes.

There is the yakking by the RJs completely disconnected to the music. Most of it has to do with relationships in all its variants. And there’s a fair bit of sport. But the music is completely incidental. Rarely do they refer to the tracks. They often behave like the music did not even exist.

I just find the experience rather jarring and prefer to switch off the radio than the toing and froing between 2 disconnected activities.

I see many brands behaving in this schizoid manner.

There’s a lot of activity being put out but seldom does one connect with the next one and each is viewed in isolation. A visiting friend I was talking to last evening was talking about his brand advertising by saying how sometimes they advertising in English, sometimes in the local language. Sometimes a celebrity is used. Sometimes it is a song. It is like each campaign is created to solve the specific problem at hand with little regard to what happened previously. Imagine if you were the brand’s consumer. You’d be left wondering what in the world was going on.

Clearly brand communications don’t need to be similar or the same. There has to be a core that is retained through every communications.

For example: What does a British doctor have to do with India-Pakistan partition?

The answer is Google.

First see this: Dr Who

Then see this: Reunion

You just got to say ‘ So clever’. And that is what you feel after every Google communication/ad. If not there is an aberration taking place right there. (Ok I am simplifying big time to make my point!!)

I see those as brand interruptions. They create a burr, and using marketing jargon, create ‘dissonance’.

These don’t have to be ads of course. Yesterday someone I follow tweeted about a shabby coffee outlet at the airport. This from a brand that does classy/good looking outlets everywhere else. It clearly caused enough of an impact for him to tweet about it.

Good, strong brands have a well articulated core and then ensure that nothing that is put out deviates from communicating that core. Be it a retail outlet, a promotion or even a radio ad.

Till that happens it’s going to be an RJ talking about hair weaves right after ‘Walk of life’.!!

 

Attn bergs : Zucker and Sand..How to take on Google and generate millions of $ revenues.

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Short post as I am on holiday, and have limited network access..

We have seen 2 explosions in the cyber world in 2011.

e-commerce : This has hit stratospheric levels this year. From when the term made its debut a few years ago, some data I have seen suggests that this year over 1 bn$ worth of goods and services were traded just on cyber Monday.

Social Media : This year we saw Google make a huge push on to this space with G+ and they are pulling all their punches to make it a big success. Facebook’s responding with updates, modifications etc to stave them off.

An advantage Google has is their search engine. From what I understand, G+ data will be added to Google search results and perhaps end up giving brands better results with them ending up higher on search results.

There’s also growing research that suggests that consumers shopping on-line use social media to enquire of their friends before shopping. I have myself seen friends enquiring of others wrt brands they are in the market for.

Today Facebook’s Search function is completely under utilised. You can use it only to search for Names of pages..be it of people or brands. ie Your search result will only show you names of those who have pages.

My suggestion to the Bergs is to use that Search to search through people’s status updates as well. That way if I am looking for a specific brand the results will throw up updates of my friends who have mentioned that brand and I can see what they have to say.

This way my search in Facebook tells me what my friends are saying about something I am interested in.

It could be a product I want to buy, it could be a holiday spot I am scouting or even an ongoing event. My results get me immediately to what the opinions already out there are, and I can follow up with specific targeted Qs to the friend who’s said something useful.

The social media community is more trusted, richer etc and the search results are immediately useful and relevant.

So the next level of Search is to find out what my friends are saying about something I am searching.

Facebook knows what my friends are saying. They just need to add Search to it and they have immediately got to the next level of Search. And takes on Google in its weak spot as Google searches in the ‘white spaces’.

If I am a brand I want to be present when friends are talking about me or my category. Where better than when a Search is taking place amongst conversations and status updates.

Facebook looking for additional revenues has these Search results to be sold using targeted key words ads like Adwords.

So that’s my Santa present to Mark and Sheryl, if they are not thinking along those lines already..

May also solve the Yahoo problem..just saying.

 

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One difference between Unilever and Google

September 8, 2011 1 comment

Many, many years ago I worked on the Unilever business and learnt a little bit about the way they work. ( I hope I am outside the statute of limitations wrt sharing what I learnt. It was 20 years ago!!)

Specifically bringing a new product to market.

It all starts off with someone somewhere unearthing an opportunity eg in some focus group a stray comment that ‘ today school uniforms are mostly blue so who needs a detergent that washes white as snow’.

A smart person will pick that up and say ‘why don’t we launch a product that keeps blue blue?’

Many months of R&D activity will ensue and finally they will have created a product that keeps blue clothes blue.

Then it moves along to market testing of various types from sizing to concept testing.

Finally, when they have everything right a test market is chosen. This is an important part of the process and a market that represents the national market and can be isolated from a media stand point is chosen.

Then the product goes into test launch. Parameters studied and then the product is launched. Or not.

That extremely simplistically speaking, is the Unilever (and P&G and Colgate and Nestle and pretty much any FMCG) process.

Now let’s turn to Google. Specifically Google+.

This is one product whose launch/test pilot is very recent and I watched pretty closely.

Firstly their product was launched with an eye on competition viz Facebook.

Some of the obvious areas they focused on were

It is odd to have someone’s b’day party picture, next to an article on the US economy next to one about the fires in Texas. So let’s create circles for people to focus their broadcast/reception.

Why limit connectivity to text. So let’s Huddle over a video chat.

And so on.

They followed their process to arrive at a product they were happy with.

So far, to my mind, Unilever and Google have followed a scientific, well thought out process to get to a product they were happy with.

Now they diverge.

To launch Google+, Google chose a nifty idea of limited distribution creating huge interest and desire. Remember Gmail did the same thing.

But in execution terms they went after power users. So those who got on to Google+ first were the techies.

So initially the Google+ stream was full off stuff to do with Google+.

The next level of entrants were the social media folks who talked about social media and the cool stuff they were doing.

Not to forget that invites were still being distributed rather sparingly.

Somehow someone who didn’t fit in the above groups got an invite and posted a bunch of animated gifs of cats. That didn’t go down well and seemed extremely out of place given everything else going on in the stream.

The stream has reverted to being a whole lot of left brain driven activity.

I don’t know Google+’s plans and how they plan to roll this out but I was struck with the stark difference between the test market approach of Google compared to most marketers.

For eg : I don’t know that P&G launching a shampoo would test market it amongst salons before launching to the public.

I understand that in the tech fraternity there is a practise of launching the beta to a bunch of techies to power use it before a release. This, I believe, is to iron out any bugs before the end user gets it.

But Google+ is less of a tech product and more of a mass brand. I wonder if they couldn’t have taken a leaf out of a marketer’s book and launched the product that represented their end customer segment a bit more.

So still do selective invites but distribute amongst teenagers, moms, grandfathers, geeks, social media hogs etc.. Stratified in some proportion to users. They do have the contact and demographic details of these folks from Gmail. If that is construed as invasion of privacy, creative ways to reach this lot is just a click away.

By doing this they get a wide variety of people to use the product. Watch them use it. Learn how the different segments are playing with it. Course correct and launch widely a product that has been tested by different segments.

I repeat that I don’t know Google’s marketing strategy and they are better marketers than I can hope to be, so there will be good reasons for them to do what they do.

From an outsider’s POV I found the difference in the go to market strategy between Unilever and Google rather striking. So this blog…

How technology has evolved…

April 10, 2010 3 comments

Many, many years ago when IVRs were gaining in popularity in call centres a colleague of mine related this story to me..

He had called the helpline of the bank that never sleeps.

Went through the menu of press 1 for a, 2 for b, 4 for f etc. And press 0 if you want to speak to the operator. Let me digress for a minute, but I think 99% of the time I call, I have to press 0. Maybe I am special, that the system cannot deal with my queries?

Back to my friend. Sure he needed to speak to a customer service officer.

But all our officers are busy, would you like to hold or call back in a while.

The poor guy fell for it and decided to log off and dial back in a while.

When he called back he was exactly in the same situation as earlier. The Customer service officers were still busy, and he could wait or dial back later.

This time he decided to wait.

I kid you not, he waited, or at least that’s what he said, he was on hold for over 20 minutes. Through the entire period he listened to sales messages from the bank, adding to his irritation.

After the 20 minute wait, he was informed that due to the inconvenience caused he had been pre approved for a personal loan at a discounted rate.

And to get that loan he had to call the bank on their number which was the number he’d been holding on for the last 20 minutes!!!

Technology huh?

Now that story is nearly 10 years old. Probably technology has evolved.

All I know is that I am still pressing 0 to talk to a customer service officer.

Fast forward to last week.

If you read my last blog, you’d know I was in Tokyo.

And guess what, Google decided that I speak Japanese. I would love to but beyond hello and thank you I am lost.

The search results were all in Japanese, with not a word in English. After struggling with it for a bit, I finally turned to one of 3 colleagues in the office who can speak English and Japanese to change the setting.

This week in China, and now I need to speak Mandarin to work on Google.

I think I read somewhere that  they are a very technology strong company and have some very bright people who rely on it to improve our experience with their services. But I would think this is an easy problem to solve.

Now I am not a technology guy, really, but I would have a program written that identifies multiple visits from the same IP address.  Some would be self selected like Gmail or Google reader. Some are server automated, like search results. All my program would have to do, is to give language preference to self selected login based ones.

To take my Japan example, I was on Gmail and Google reader, from the same log in. The system should have recognized that I am using English for the other two, and served English results for Search.

And of course instances where this view is not available, make the language selection nice and easy with large, visible buttons. Sometimes size does matter!

I think that opens huge advertising opportunities for brands trying to target international visitors to a market. International brands, international restaurants etc come to mind.

Or am I being too simple?

Branding in China

Here’s a rather educative article about China’s branding challenge. But reaches some odd conclusions.

Firstly let’s look at what it says.

Using Huawei’s example it talks about China has companies that have significant market share in the category in which they operate. But they are not well known to the consumer.

A couple of reasons it mentions include

1. Intense competition at home and weak IP protection means that there are low/no margins to invest in brand building

2. The Chinese companies are focused on b2b ie they sell to other businesses

The article references marketing razzle dazzle like those of Nike and Google.

And that is kind of where I believe the article loses its plot and is stuck in archaic thinking.

Firstly if a company like Huawei sells to other businesses and all those companies know of and regard it well then it is achieving its purpose. It doesn’t need Nike style campaigns talking to me. They may be smart in focusing their attention on the people who really need to know and think highly of them.

Secondly Google’s razzle dazzle is quite different from Nike’s. Nike’s was ‘top-down’. Make a product that is not uniquely differentiated and imbue it with great brand values and back it with a superlative campaign consistently.

Google started with a great product. And they built their brand bottom up. I don’t recall any great ads from Google, save some clever recruitment ads. Their brand was built through Word of Mouth and PR.

Which leads me across the Himalayas to India. Another great factory. But of services. It is an identical situation as China. Large companies facing intense competition at home engaged in services to other large companies.

Yet we know Infosys, Tata and Wipro as big brands. No marketing razzle dazzle.

High quality service with outstanding use of PR and Word of Mouth.

Many years ago I was having a chat with Nandan Nilekani (yes name dropping!!) when he was at Infosys and I at Ogilvy. He sneered, and he can sneer well, at the old fashioned way of building brands through ads. He told me then, that Infosys didn’t believe in advertising as the route to build brands. Fast forward and anyone in the IT services business knows that Infosys is one of the most powerful brands in that market place.

Jump across to Acer. After years of being a supplier to other PC manufacturers, Acer decided to go out on its own. Today it is the No 2 PC manufacturer in the world. Again no marketing razzle dazzle. Good product. great distribution. Low prices and huge dollops of PR.

The point of this post, and yes there is one, is my angst that there is such a wide spread belief that the way to build a strong brand is through some fantastic advertising campaign. That is so passe.

Brands like Acer, Infosys, Google and I would say Huawei are striking examples of bringing new thinking to this space.

And China is getting there. Slowly. But they are.

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Predicting attrition

So Google is now using their mathematical prowess to determine employees most likely to quit. Amazing.

Pulling out data from performance review, promotion and pay rise data they are trying to predice employees most likely to quit.

While I find that mind blowing in itself, a little nugget there says that employees are most likely to quit becuase they feel under used. This seems to have changed from a few years ago when employees quit because they felt un appreciated.

Wonder if it is a Google thing where employees are more inner driven ie how they feel about themselves, than other companies where employees may be outer driven ie what the boss/peers say about them. Or is it a evolution of employee psyche? If so bosses better watch out.

Engage and challenge your staff. That is more likely to keep them, than a pat on the back!

This article from WSJ has details on the Google plan.

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