Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chocolate never felt this good before - repositioning a brand with style

Piyush Pandey, the Executive Chairman and National Creative Director of Ogilvy India has redefined Indian advertising in more ways than one. But in the midst of all his achievements, awards and accolades, there is a commercial from the nineties which can make you feel good like nothing can. Well, almost nothing. See it if you don't believe me.

If Hindi as a language is not your strong point, watch this one. Though I guess the original version is always better, which is Hindi in this case.

Pandey repositioned Cadbury chocolates as an impulse buy for adults. Not a mean feat considering the fact that chocolates and children were synonymous in most Indian households back in the nineties. In the early days of globalization, lack of variety and the popularity of Indian sweets relegated chocolates for the kids in the family. The ad shown above, which is my all time favorite and a series of ads based on the same strategy changed the way Indians looked at chocolates. And Cadbury expanded its target profile by leaps and bounds. When it comes to the parent brand, it is not surprising that Cadbury India has stuck with Ogilvy & Mather for ages, despite the prevalent fickleness in most agency-client relationships.

Apart from making you smile, another striking quality of the above ad is the lack of celebrities. Pandey doesn't believe in spending money on celebs as is quite evident from the best of his work. I have worked with clients like Colgate and Cadbury who would have gasped in horror at the mere idea. They had a point. Some of their brands were built with a certain celebrity in mind and the brand personality matched perfectly. They had the currency, the resources and the contacts. Who was I to complain? Though I still think it is unecessary provided you have a great idea.

Well, Piyush Pandey had it. The "great idea". He did magic with a brand and made it acceptable to a larger population. In India, that means a perceptible increase in sales figures. So everybody from the agency, the marketing and sales department and the consumers are happy. How many brands can say that with confidence?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How smart is your phone?

Smart phones are the answer to an advertiser's prayer. Each application you download and each site you visit become part of your profile information. Which in turn helps companies target specific products and services to an interested set of consumers. The recent New York Times article on how smart phones are being used to generate user profiles can be found at

Spielberg's Minority Report doesn't seem like that much of a stretch of imagination now, does it? The mall scene is one of my favorites in the movie. So here's a peek.

Obviously, this raises questions about privacy. But it is a gold-mine for any advertiser on any part of planet Earth. The more data they procure, the more focused their ad spend becomes. Which of course translates to a greater ROI. Like it or not, consumer profiling from smartphones is here to stay. As for the interactive ads and the eye-scans bugging Tom Cruise as depicted in the above scene...well, let's just say that nothing is impossible.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Social Media - What are the rules?

Image Credit: Fred Cavazza

Click on image to enlarge

On March 1 2009, Skittles gave up their corporate website and replaced it with user-generated content from social websites like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and You Tube. The result: more than 600,000 fans on facebook, zillions of blog posts and in short, a frenzy amongst netizens or as I call them, "the web-connected". People who are constantly in touch with the virtual world. Just type in skittles social media on Google and you will be bombarded with information on the campaign. The approach is detailed out with screen shots and charts, the pros and cons are discussed in excruciating details and the campaign is praised and shot down in equal measure.

The Result:

Brand Presence - Unprecedented. Check out any of the blogs that come up on your google search. The world "skittles" have more mention than the financial crisis, says one post.

Numbers - Short term sales are likely to be impacted but like in all fads, long-term gains are debatable.

Drawback - Lack of monitoring has resulted in brand abuse in some cases and irrelevant references to the brand in others.

The last point is not very desirable, right? Social Media when used randomly can prove to be fatal for a brand because you don't pay for it so you can't monitor it. It is unearned brand talk and like most things "unearned", quite "uncontrollable" as well.

Television channels seem to have a somewhat handle on the problem. For e.g., when you watch a news program on CNN, they give you the opportunity to blog, email, twitter or facebook it. Then they screen the comments in real-time and only the relevant ones show up on your TV. I prefer the lack of abusive or inane content. Also, if you want the audiences' point of view on a particular subject, opinion polling is a cakewalk. No phone calls, no jammed lines. Just the touch of a button on the screen of your phone or computer.

As with all emerging media, there are no set rules yet and the applications are mind-boggling but instead of dumping the conventional media altogether, it makes sense to use both. Every brand has its unique personality. After all, it wouldn't be very nice if all your facebook page had was comments from other people. You want to say stuff about yourself too!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Crunch on it!

Click on image to enlarge
Market Research agencies. Most clients are obssessed with them and most creative directors couldn't care less about them. Welcome to the nightmare that is account management.

Having said that, I must say I am with the creative team on this one. The amount of money spent on analysis, re-analysis, focus groups and dissection of basic human emotions could very well feed a small country.
Here's an example from when I worked with a well-known confectionery brand in Mumbai, India. The product was a candy worth 1 Indian Rupee (which roughly translates to 2 US cents). We were part of a team doing a television spot worth much much more. (Sorry, the amount is confidential). Three scripts were finalized.

Storyboards were sketched and developed into roughly animated videos, which were handed over to the "research agency" to test. Focus groups were based on the core target group and a huge amount of money was spent. Again, the amount is confidential. On the day of the presentation of the final result, the research agency walked into the conference room armed with the latest laptops and loads of findings. Client and agency waited for the final verdict.

Much was said about the "state of one's mind" while chewing a hard candy vis-a-vis a softer one. The "crunch factor" in the candy was scrutinized. The eating technique was discussed with figures and charts. Did people suck and then bite or bite and then chew the pieces or did they just go on sucking till the candy melted in their mouth? The creative was classified into sections based on certain parameters, few of them quite vague and the audience response even more so. More charts and figures followed.

The client chose the script with the most ratings. The spot was made. Another bout of research followed. Also known as the post production testing. The spot did okay. Client was happy. The spot was released on national television.

Last I heard, we are going back to the drawing board because the client's marketing department has done some research which has gone on to show how our brand proposition is all wrong. Gotta start from scratch, guys!