Ambushed!

Ambushed!

Having seen so many brands engage in slugfests, hoardings, television sets, newspapers and other such media might as well be called modern-age battlefields. The latest battle seems to be between two of corporate India’s powerhouses – Procter & Gamble and HUL.

Some people learn only from bad experiences. Proctor & Gamble marketers had one such experience recently. The big launch of P&G’s all new ‘Pantene’ was crushed even before it saw sunlight. This is what happened: P&G came up with the ‘Mystery Shampoo’ teaser campaign, claiming that 80% women say that there’s a mystery shampoo that is better than any other. The teasers went on for over a week without the slightest hint of it being Pantene.

Meanwhile, HUL ambushed the campaign, claiming that Dove is the mystery shampoo before Pantene could reveal its identity.

Pantene reacted swiftly to Dove’s gimmick, and soon launched its own ‘reveal’ campaign. So, we had two shampoos claiming to be the ‘mystery’ shampoo. While Pantene was the genuine ‘mystery’ shampoo as per their plan, Dove was the intruder and hijacker. And quite a successful one too.

A small survey that we conducted (on 31st July, 2010) indicated that more than half of the TG (women between the age of 25 and 35) thought that Dove was actually the mystery shampoo.

Did you know, just like Dove did in India, Sunsilk pretty much ate into the Pantene campaign in Philippines. Nearly 63% people just couldn’t relate Mystery Shampoo to Pantene in Philippines. Talk about a gimmick gone wrong. Twice!

Coming back to the original question, what did P&G learn? Long teaser campaigns give your competition plenty of time to kill your brilliant idea. Vague claims and no hint of your brand in the ad will definitely back fire. What most brand managers fail to do is think through the simple question of how the competition may react.

One should know that this is an age old practice. Going back to the Pepsi Vs. Coca Cola days, when Coke became the ‘official’ sponsor for World Cup 1996 and Pepsi came up with the brilliant ‘Nothing official about it’! Sports have always been a magnet to ambushing: McDonald’s was the official sponsor of the Beijing Olympics. But in the lead-up to the games, KFC used the marketing slogan “I love Beijing”, while Pepsi replaced its usual blue cans with red ones “to show their respect for the year of China”. An ambush times two.

Ambushing seemingly goes deeper than off the shelf consumer goods. Newspapers are another set of victims. DNA, launched in 2005, came up with ‘Speak up. It’s in your DNA.’ campaign. Maharashtra Times ambushed it with a simple mention of their name at the end of the quote. This wasn’t the end of it. Indian Express countered that with, “No one can stop me from speaking up.” Towards the end of the story, though Indian Express and Bennett Coleman were sued by DNA, the damage was already done.

While the back stabbing is amusing, what remains forgotten is the end consumer. It’s not just the advertisers and marketers who decide the fate of a campaign, what truly matters is what the audience takes home. Most people look at the ads and shrug; few actually noticed the on going ‘war’ of words. What they do care about is the ads they see. Coming back to Dove Vs. Pantene, it has left a huge audience nothing short of confused.

So it seems that the objective of this raging war is more directed towards the industry than the consumers. The places where guerilla warfare works: traders (since they are always keen to be a part of the ‘winning team’), employees (who want to be with the cooler company), prospective employees (they want to be with the cooler company too!), and last but not the least, the agencies (the one’s who enjoy the field day). The bosses in the agencies are always smug with them ‘outsmarting’ the other (in attempt to please their international bosses).

All said and done, guerilla marketing has and always will be a favourite amongst FMCGs. Bets are that we haven’t seen the last of ambush campaigns. In the brand-eat-brand world, the rule of the jungle will apply – survival of the smartest, swiftest and strongest.

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Ganna de, Anna

Ganna de, Anna

As I was scanning the pages of a daily, I came across an interesting article. It spoke about a sugarcane juice vendor and the amazing marketing tactics he was deploying to attract customers. And what tactics they were! Surprisingly simple and assuredly effective. Sample these: 1) Participate in sugarcane juice drinking competition and win a TV set. 2) Unlimited sugarcane juice for Rs. 35. 3) One glass free on every five glasses. 4) Unlimited sugarcane juice on monthly coupons of Rs. 240.

My curiosity got the better of me, and I had to pay a visit to the place. The place was quite abuzz with action and customers. The scheme was surely working, and it left me thinking for a while. The sugarcane vendor’s got a genuinely good sales scheme – meaningful to customers. It entices and drives serious up-sell. It makes people pull others along (to get the sixth free glass of juice). His approach is decidedly clear – bereft of confusing or ‘intellectual’ creativity. The creative put up is also very specific: the offer is highlighted upfront, followed with key details all the way up to the point of the ‘conditions apply’.

Honestly, this is how simple and inexpensive marketing can be. Stick to the basics. The first principles work.

The ganna-wala anna surely deserves a humble salute.

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MNIK – Reading between the controversial lines.

Noticed a certain lull in the air of late? Especially after the national mayhem the SRK-Shiv Sena stand-off had created? Now, excuse the cynic within me, but could it have been the biggest marketing ploy to promote a movie?

By now it is established that MNIK opened to full houses across the country. Only a few movies have managed to rival such an opening in recent years. Keeping aside the discussions on how good the movie actually is, one has to admit the role played by the controversy in making the movie a success. The timing was so perfect, wasn’t it? The constant war of words between SRK supporters and Shiv Sena followers provided enough fodder for the media to mark their entire fortnight’s prime time slots. The gullible public was fed 24/7 on sentiments of patriotism and nationalism. It all resulted in the movie becoming a super-hit in only the first few days of its release.

From a marketing standpoint, it seemed like a brilliant strategy. Intentional or otherwise. Without indulging in mainstream advertising, the movie generated massive buzz to drive footfalls to the theatres. From coffee tables to locker rooms to client meetings, the controversy became a part of many a conversations. But what I doff my hat to was the kind of controversy it was. It made the otherwise docile public take a stand. It drove them to the theatres with a carrot of patriotism. I actually overheard a guy saying, “I am not a movie buff and don’t like watching movies. But I am going to the theatre only to defy the Sena diktat.” This is the power of evoked emotions. It all worked well for the movie makers, who rolled their way to the bank.

But what do we see suddenly? Peaceful screenings. Zero protests. Neither has SRK apologized nor has the Sena changed its stance. So, why have the voices (SRK, Shiv Sena, Media, etc.) gone silent all of a sudden? Is it because the controversy has played its part? SRK has gotten a much needed hit and Shiv Sena, the much needed spotlight!

Whatever the case is, the product i.e. MNIK, has sold like hot cakes and is a success. And, it has got nothing much to do with ‘product features’ or, in other words, the content of the movie. Earlier we saw another movie, 3 Idiots, embroiled in the ‘author vs, the producers and directors’ controversy. Miniscule, compared to the MNIK buzz. But it worked. Both the movies are massive hits. Now it only remains to be seen whether it is going to start a trend.

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Aal is well

Aal is well

Over 100 crores in 4 days!

Over 200 crores already!

Poised to become the highest grossing Bollywood movie of all time!

Clearly, the makers of the movie are singing, “aal is well”. Over and over again! The movie, 3 Idiots, is winning over everyone and the audiences are lapping it up as if it was a gift from Santa. And with the great reviews and an amazingly positive word of mouth publicity spreading like wildfire, the movie is only poised for greater glory.

The content was indeed neat, but honestly, in today’s world, is it enough? If it was, we would have had movies like Bolo Raam (heard of it?) doing pretty well, if not blockbustering its way through. But what 3 Idiots had going for it is the brilliant marketing minds behind it. With the promotional tours, the ‘catch me if you can’ Aamir Khan gimmick and the immense PR it generated, it was only one way the movie was going to end up.

And then of course, there was the well-covered controversy about script credits. The media had several field days covering the war of words. It all augured well for the movie, with 3 Idiots doing extremely well in its 3rd week as well. Just shows that being in the news is never a bad thing, whatever are the reasons.

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What an Idea, Sirji!

For long brand managers have come up with creative ideas on how to sell their products. Their marketing strategy has always been about the product benefits and product features. But it is really refreshing to see the way Idea has decided to market its telecom service. It has decided to take up social issues and spread awareness about them and also focus on how communication is making the world a better place. And the Idea sure has worked! Idea has quickly become of the big players in the cellular market.

A case in point can be the latest campaign they undertook on 26th November, 2009. On the anniversary of 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, they announced that all profits made from calls made between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. would be used to buy bullet-proof jackets for the Mumbai Police personnel. The lack of these jackets was responsible for most of the lives lost of police officers on that fateful day the previous year.

We can’t say exactly how much money was raised for the same, but the campaign does give us a good feeling about the brand and makes us want to be associated with the brand.

Seriously, what an idea, Sirji!

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