Marketing Idea No. 279: The Changing Face of Asian Women

There are two ways to see the world. By travelling or by watching Hollywood movies.

Its probably fair to say some of our world view has actually been shaped by Hollywood movies. Its also fair to say, most of it is as distorted as a Chinese acrobat routine.

There are countless movies depicting Asian women as this timid creature who is compliant and dutiful, who lives for her husband, whose boundary is defined by her societal obligations and familial traditions and whose joy is her children’s joy. But scratch beneath those surfaces and you will see a murmur of discontent, a desire to self-express and choose, to love herself, to pay extra for beauty products because it’s a necessity and not a guilty pleasure, to apply a different kind of motherhood that ensures the life she had, her children would not. In fact its a country in Asia, Thailand, which is often called the most gender progressive country in the world.

This opens up astonishing new insights and opportunities which brands can tap into. Take for example, the notion of looking younger. A lot of time holding on to youth is shown as a sign of vanity for the rich, insecure, idle woman. But during research it was found that 64% woman in China thinks looking young is important in getting a job and doing well in that job. South Korea has the highest ratio of Cosmetic Surgery in the world (74 cases out of 10,000 people per year). Out of the top 8 nations in the world with highest Cosmetic Surgery ratio, 6 of them are Asian. Looking at other aspects of life like “Love”. 63% women who was interviewed during that same research across China to Indonesia believes in love at first sight. Hence the adoption rate of speed dating and apps like “Tinder” will continue to explode in this part of the world. It can be assumed that with such adoption of modernity, traditional values like wearing a “Hijab” (A religious head covering for Muslim women) will go down. But actually the trend of wearing a “Hijab” and the perception of “Hijab” being a style accessory is on the up.

So brands need to shift from their two dimensional understanding of women where they assume its either all pink, flowery and beautiful or all tradition, family and conservativeness. The modern Asian women is a complex fusion of a lot of dimensions and she is a work in progress.

Marketing Idea No. 278: Technology. If you can’t beat it, embrace it

The technology industry has often been a source of envy for other industries. They are dynamic, exciting, full of exciting start up stories, has the power to change the world and in the process earn a lot of money for shareholders. To compete with that, other industries did what any smart organization would do. They understood that since you can’t beat them or be them; embrace them.

MasterCard has always been an “also ran” to VISA, with less global presence and $8.3 billion revenue, compared to VISA’s $11.8 billion. Credit card is a tricky business because at the end of the day a credit card company is nothing but a payment processing company; a middleman between consumers, merchants and issuing banks. When you are just a coordinating payment processor, not to mention the highly regulated nature of the category, how can you add value and differentiate yourself?

To do that, MasterCard decided to reinvent themselves as a technology company. Like Google, they created an in house innovation house called MasterCard Labs. Also they are betting big on its digital wallet business competing head on with Google there.

MasterCard is not alone in this game. Jeans companies are also embracing technology. Wrangler recently launched a denim that moisturizes your legs. Levi’s launched “Liquid Shaping Technology” denim which allows better fitting. Heineken created a limited “Cool Can Edition” where the ink of the can reacts with the chilled temperature of refrigerator to change the can design. In fact the world is embracing its first “Smart Gun” where the gun wont fire if you are not wearing a special watch which triggers the gun switch.

This is smart thinking. Rather than getting swept by technology, adopt it.

Marketing Idea No. 277: Cause and Effect, baby!

Instead of doing simple observation, case study or survey based research, scientists all over the world spend millions of dollars to do “Experiments”. And there is a reason behind that. Sometimes its just easy to establish that two phenomenon are inter-related. What is difficult to establish is out of the two; which is the cause and which is the effect. That’s what experiments can do.

There is a concept called “Swimmers Body Illusion”. Professional swimmers dont have perfect body because they train extensively. Rather they are good swimmers because of their physique. Lets take the case of swim demon Michael Phelps. A man’s arm span equals his height but in his case it’s 6’7″-three inches more than his height. Naturally his arms work as powerful propulsive paddles, giving him a clear edge over others. His lower body, interestingly, is shorter than that of an average man of his height. His relatively short legs result in less drag or resistance. In short, Phelps has an upper body of a 6’8″ person but his lower body seems to be of someone who is only 5’10”, which also make the perfect plane in water.

London business school is not the best school at producing  the best talents. Maybe, the most talented individuals choose to study there. What’s the cause and what’s the effect? Who knows for sure?

Without this illusion, half the advertising campaign in the world will not work. Through the attractive models used in cosmetics branding, many women tend to believe by using those cosmetics they would also be like those super models. But actually its because these models are like that which is why they are chosen to advertise those beauty products. What is the cause? And what is the effect?


Marketing Idea No. 276: How to use Magic Kingdom to manipulate Middle Kingdom

It’s a cliché that for long term sustainability of your business, you have to focus on young people. Some companies like Disney have developed whole new meaning for that cliché. They define young as toddlers and they define market creation for their Disneyland and merchandise business as creating English language Kindergarten school.


Learning English is seen as a ticket to better life in China these days and that market is growing at 12% per annum. Since opening its first branch in Shanghai in 2008, Disney has used mermaids, ducks, mice and other Disney icons to teach 2 year olds English at a tuition fee of $1800 which is no small sum at all. The footnote benefit of course is these toddlers will not only consume Disney benefits for years to come. As of now it’s a risky venture, since it opens Disney up to more counterfeit toys of their expensive merchandise. And costly too, since they already have more than 20 schools and plans to double that number in a year.


But there is no denying of the sheer audacity and ingenuity of this long term strategy.


Marketing Idea No. 275: Elementary, like Sherlock Homes

It seems the whole world is going crazy with the question: How did Sherlock homes fake his own suicide in the popular BBC series “Sherlock”? Now, it seems is an appropriate time to learn from the super sleuth a thing or two about branding.


One of the tricky parts of building a powerful brand is creating a verbal and visual identity that is unique and compelling at the same time. In that measure, the creation of Sherlock Homes the brand excels in all levels. The “bowler hat wearing shadow with smoking pipe” and the “221 B Baker Street” address are some of the most recognizable visual icons in entertainment industry. Moreover, through words and catch phrases like “Deduction” and “Elementary, My Dear Watson”; it also created a unique verbal identity that can easily build on the lure of Sherlock brand.


However like every brand that has to go through a period of refreshing after existing for a 100 years, Sherlock Homes also transformed for the digital generation. And what a transformation that was!


First, the new Sherlock Homes is more contemporary and lives in modern day London and has more real life, mundane problems to deal with. The pace of the show is break neck, not the leisurely detective stories that we come to expect, which is partly because of refining this show more as an action thriller rather than the traditional “Whodunnit” and also because the attention-deficit Millennials are the target audience for this, not the nostalgia seeking oldies. The new Sherlock is dark, flawed and moody, a sort of Dark Knight-ish anti-hero. Nowadays, he fights terrorism, not hounds in a dark, foggy water body. And with Watson, he is defining the 21st century bromance, which is not only about binge drinking or trading midlife crisis secrets.


But the biggest trick that the creators used to make this show a global phenomenon is building hype at the same time limiting supply; a classic marketing trick. Every season has 3-4 episodes and even the seasons come after every alternate years. Compare that with the typical American series which runs every year and  has 12-23 episodes every year. By limiting the supply, they keep the fans craving for more. And then of course ending last season (Two years ago) with the mother of all cliff hangers where Sherlock committed suicide in broad daylight only the audience finding out in last frame that he is still alive and then creating a two years gap; you can imagine the buzz in the internet and forums; which only got bigger and louder with passing time. As of now, the unveiling of Sherlock Season 3 in BBC One on January 2, 2014 has truly become a global mega event.


But none of this of course would happen if you didn’t have an outstanding actor like Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead. This again stays true to the age-world marketing wisdom: you may have the best marketing trick in the world, but it always come down to how good your product actually is.


Marketing Idea No. 274: The Big-Daddy of all technology megatrends

Although 2013 will probably be more remembered for making words like “Selfies” and “Sexting” in to mainstream as well as new found interest in “Twerking”, the megatrends that are shaping up the future has nothing to do with that. It has more to do with “Predictive computing or analytics”.


In short, predictive analytics is all about capturing consumer data through multiple touch-points and vehicles, analyzing them to get key consumer insight, predict what consumers want even when they themselves are not aware of them at times and presenting attractive value propositions in front of them in exactly the customized way that he or she wants in the right time and place.


There are companies who are already doing that, and none does it better than Target, the retail giant. Target stores each transaction and piece of consumer data under a “Guest ID” for each consumer and then their group of statisticians go through those data to try and predict what you might be interested to buy next, so that they can send you coupons for those customized offers.


One of the most successful experiments they have ever done is by going through consumer purchase history, to predict which of the consumers are pregnant. Pregnant women are a gold mine. The new parents are willing to spend a lot more that your regular “Joe” and hence the source of target for everyone from P&G to baby food giants. That’s why Target found this ingenious way of targeting women even before childbirth (Preferably even before second trimester) to create undivided attention and lifelong loyalty. The process does have its setbacks, as a lot of women don’t want the world to know that they are pregnant. However, the project was deemed very successful in Target.


To support this “Predictive Analytics/Computing” mega trend, there are four trends which will also be massive in coming years.


  1. Mobile: It maybe a cliché, but it’s a      billion dollar cliché. In future, everything will move to mobile. So the      business who will dominate mobile (Microsoft, please note), will dominate      the future
  2. Sensor: More and more items will have      sensors that will capture consumer data: from camera to watch to glass to      your innocuous looking TV in bedroom. Hence, smart gadgets (i.e. Smart TV,      Camera, furniture) and wearable electronics (i.e. Smart watch, Good Glass      etc.) are going to be a big thing in no time.
  3. Cloud computing: With such massive      capture of data, will come the question: how to store them. Enter cloud      computing.
  4. Big Data: The billions of terabytes of      data are worthless unless there are companies who can crunch them to make      actionable insights from them.

Marketing Idea No. 273: Look sideways

In a world where we are always asked to be focused, keep our heads down and “eye on the ball”, sometimes the best thing we can do is to look sideways. Best not to do while standing in a men’s latrine though.

Take social problems for example. There are thousands of NGOs in the worlds spending millions of dollars against a range of social problems like global warming, hunger, poverty, sanitation etc. But despite the presence of regulatory bodies, smart minds and a large war chest, the best we can show for these problems in incremental improvement. In short, the spread of the problem over the years out weigh the incremental solutions provided.

That’s why Micheal Porter suggested that maybe the best way to have sustainable solution of social problems is not by social organizations, but by business organizations who have a profit motive. Its counter intuitive and quite controversial. But it also makes sense. As economic human animal, what makes a large problem (Which we think as other people’s problem that doesn’t bother us) seems do-able and relevant is finding a strategy which helps us to gain something out of it. Hence it should be less “charity” and “social marketing”. Its also not your typical “Corporate Social Responsibility” which organizations do out of obligation, not out of business objective.

Same principle applies in business ventures like health food. A lot of money and focus has gone into making health food appear “Healthy”, where the prevailing assumption is we all like to be healthy. The problem with making health conscious decisions is that it looks more “fun” thinking about it than actually doing it. That’s why, health food is still very much a micro-niche segment. This is where health foods can learn from its nemesis, Fast Food. Fast foods live by the code of bringing comfort and pleasure in everyday life. So by looking at how fast food companies do that and applying them in their health food marketing, health foods can finally break into mainstream. A few healthier options who have gone mainstream like “Vitamin Water” and “Innocent”  have both done so by making healthier options looking “Cool”.

And they are both owned by Coca Cola, so I guess there is no shortage of “sinful marketing experience” there!!!