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By openly discussing taboo or socially awkward subjects marketers can learn quite a few new insights which might lead to interesting new products and services. Take for example erotica for women. For years it was wrongly assumed that erotica is dominated by men and it was made and marketed primarily for men. But with the sudden explosion of interest over “50 Shades of Grey” series, marketers identified a few interesting consumer insights
1. Demand for erotica was always there among women and it was suppressed as it was not socially acceptable. But by allowing them to download e-books in e-readers, all of a sudden women can read erotica without broadcasting the whole world that they are doing it
2. By making taboo subjects like BDSM hip and acceptable, a global industry around these kind of sexual games and merchandising has sprung up, showing that there has always been need for them among women
3. Also by making books like “50 Shades of Grey” socially acceptable (Any book that is listed in numerous International lists cannot be called “porn” anymore) now women can openly carry, discuss or exhibit items related to the erotica.
Another interesting insight can be learned from watching brick and mortal lingerie retailers. This is a business that makes a lot of sense if its moved online. Lingerie retailers, due to the nature of the product, must keep a huge number of inventories of different colors, sizes, make etc. because that is what the customers want. But by keeping such a large inventory, the cost of business will be huge. That’s why online lingerie stores are doing very well, even in countries like India where Internet connectivity is less than 10% and the country is also conservative in nature. A new site called “Jivame” is growing business rapidly by selling lingerie to Indian women online. And according to them, it not only makes good business sense but also women prefer to buy lingerie online and avoid the embarrassment of doing it in brick and mortal shops.
Keeping in lingerie business, a new kind of lingerie called “Fundawear” is making headlines. Put on a pair of these magic underpants called “Fundawear”, and you’ll be able to feel your lover’s touch from anywhere on the planet. “Fundawear” is a clever combination of a smartphone app and tiny vibrating motors sewn into female lingerie and male underpants. It accomplishes the task of “transferring touch across vast distances” said the project’s technical director, Ben Moir. A clever insight or an idea taken too far? Time will tell.
Tags: Dan cobley, world of physics
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Yes, Newton may have more to do with the world of marketing than some of the misguided brand managers of the world. And yes, its funny how the world of physics can teach us the world of marketing. In fact, Dan Cobley (Marketing Director at Google) has given us some great examples of that. One of them is stated below.
Lets start with physics and a law called “Observer effect”.
In science, the term observer effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on a phenomenon being observed. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner. A commonplace example is checking the pressure in an automobile tire; this is difficult to do without letting out some of the air, thus changing the pressure. This effect can be observed in many domains of physics.
The same measurement principle can be applied in the world of marketing, particularly in the domain of market research. Simply the act of measurement, be it in the Focus Group Discussion or the questions posed through a questionnaire, changes the way human beings will normally behave. While surveyed we behave in a way that is agreeable by mass people, or by the surveyor and often in total contradiction to what we really think or act. In a survey situation we utter our strong commitment to buy environment friendly products while in shops of we actually buy more value for money, non organic options. When we are asked, we act as responsible parents and denounce “junk foods”, while at the same time “junk food” industry is having consistent growth. As a result traditional market research often brings inaccurate results.
A simpler rule of thumb could be measuring what people actually do, not what he thinks, wants or intends to do. And through advancement in technology, such kind of research (i.e. actual monitoring of how web traffic behaves while visiting a website) is becoming more prevalent.
Marketing Idea No. 263: Segmentation: Does it make sense to create a brand for left handed people? February 28, 2013Posted by shahriar amin in Uncategorized.
Someone once said famously that youth is wasted in young people. The thought might hold some merit. But for a marketer the cluelessness of young people is one of the many reason why targeting young people makes a lot of sense.
Research shows that most of our value system, life choices and general view of what kind of brands we would like are formed by the age of seven. Combine that with the fact our brains do not complete forming till the age of around 23-25, it makes sense to target young people. The younger the better.
Young people generally are experimenters and more importantly they are yet to finalize their identity in this world. That’s what makes them ripe for picking by any brand who can create that identity on behalf of them. Brand for them is a way for signaling to the world who they are, internally making them believe that they are being “Different” and “Cool” than others and at the same time give them the passport to fit in. The brands that can balance that delicate act, wins.
But interestingly our obsession with youth is not allowing us to go beyond the traditional model of approaching “Cool people” and “Opinion Leaders”. The world is not full of good looking, popular people. And though it makes sense to create an aspirational presence in front of those “regular kids”, a more potent strategy could have been to create brands that identify with those micro-segments.
That’s why while it makes sense to create brands based on demographic and lifestyle segmentation, there are micro-segments within that which we can approach. How about brands that target introverts only? One out of 3 people in this world are introverts, yet the whole advertising industry is set up for extroverts only. How about brands for left handed people? The entire shopping experience is designed for right handed people. By creating those focused brands for small niches, we can unlock riches that can benefit us.
Let us push the envelope a bit further. How about brands for people who are bullied in school? The social outcast? The horizontally and vertically challenged people?
The numbers may not justify having big presence followed by big bucks, but there are enough to justify a gentle peek.
Marketing Idea No. 262 – A fairy tale concept called “Brand Awareness” February 24, 2013Posted by shahriar amin in Uncategorized.
Some wise marketer once said, if you have nothing new to say, sing a song.
In the spirit of 21st century interpretation, I put a modern twist to this: If you have nothing to say to defend your failed marketing activity, say its for creating awareness.
Creating brand awareness has been the insurance for lame marketing for years and the source of a lot of friction between sales, marketing and finance. When marketing activities fail to generate sales or revenue, its often told its objective was always to create awareness. When advertising often resembles more like an art or a film than a communication with clear selling message, marketers justify it will raise image and awareness. When marketing messages or activities are considered too risky or controversial in nature to damage corporate reputation, marketers justify it as a medium to create word of mouth and awareness. 3 million facebook likes with very limited activities or chances to turn them into sales prospects – all to create awareness. What many people fail to understand that high top of mind awareness is like a wedding promise of staying together in sickness and in health, with no guarantee that its ever going to be like that. Thats all it is: a future promise.
All that being said, awareness does have a space in marketers manual. A high brand awareness usually speaks of potential sales of future as well as a benchmark for new product launch success. However, the way most of marketing budget is used to create awareness is often not the smartest way to go. Its just playing safe or lazy.
Marketing Idea No. 261: The Paradox of Choice February 16, 2013Posted by shahriar amin in Uncategorized.
The mom and pop store near your house maybe someplace you love to shop, but it only carries a limited number of juices. What if you crave for a jackfruit flavor juice? Due to limitation set by space, chances are low to zero to find that particular juice in your mom and pop store.
Contrast that with Internet. Set free from the pain of space limitation, Amazon can carry literally limitless number of book titles. So even if you are interested to buy a book from an obscure author who published a book on impact of theology in 50s, you may still be able to locate and buy it.
Its a game of choices. And although in our mind we are pretty clear which scenario we desire more (which is more choices and more options, hence the second scenario), the truth maybe not as simple as that. Because although we are in love with the idea of choices, we dont like to choose between a wide array of lucrative options. Because choosing is decisionmaking and us human being like nothing more than status quo and comfort zone.
You would not prefer your physician giving you choices A, B and C. You would want him to make decisions on behalf of you or recommend something for you. For the same reason, you would check in IMDB score before buying a DVD, ask for the chef’s choice soup and buy the shoe everyone is wearing. Because someone made the difficult act of choosing from you.
Lets forget shoes and soaps for a moment and come to more pressing life choices. Once upon a time we only had one decison to make – whom to marry. Nowadays we are blessed with freedom and with ever more freedom comes ever more choices – when to marry, which gender to marry, to have children quick or later, to have children before or after marriage, to have children at all, to have career or children or marriage or both or all 3 together. And you would think with more choices our lives will be happier. But the result of such choices is Chinese women are now not looking forward to getting married at all and that poses a significant demographic challenge on China.
We dont like making choices and yet the number of product variants in all categories and number of items super markets are carrying are exploding. Thanks to Internet we feel if we can bombard consumers with a whole catalogue of songs to choose from to download, they will be inclined to purchase more. But that is not the case. In fact in some cases, if someone influences our choice, the outcome is much more desireable. Studies show that if you ask employees to choose to be a part of Provident Fund?Pension savings program sponsored by company, often times they say they want to but opt to use that money for current consumption. On the other hand if you make the choices a bit different and ask employees that unless they state very clearly and actively on paper that they dont want to be part of company sponsored Provident Fund / Pension plan, HR will assume that you want to be part of it. Therefore by framing the choices a bit differently, you can acually nudge people towards a more desireable outcome.
So next time when you go to a HSBC bank ATM booth and after transaction see the choice between “Do you want a paper based receipt of the transaction?” or “No i dont want a paper based receipt” and also you see that the second option is already blinking for you to choose, you will know that HSBC is trying to cut costs on paper and probably reduce environmental damage by influencing your choice.
To sum it up, the explosion of choices are making us worse off in two ways.
1) Too much choice is not liberating. Its paralysing us. With more and more choices to make everyday, we put of decisionmaking as further away from now as possible
2) Even if we make the choice, we dont enjoy the satisfaction that fewer choices would have. Thats why even if you are almost 80% satisfied with the life partner you choose, you always think what if you would have gone for someone else for the 100% satisfaction guaranteed. You think of it as a mistake or a doubtfuol choice. That creates regret. And the regret cuts away from the satisfaction.
Marketing Idea No 260: “Offshoring” and “Outsourcing” Vs. “Onshoring” and “Reshoring” February 2, 2013Posted by shahriar amin in Uncategorized.
Tags: General Electric, Inditex, Lenovo, Offshoring, Onshoring, outsourcing, Reshoring, TATA, ZARA
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Just like 80s brought in merger and acquisitions, 90s brought in digitization and early 21st century brought in outsourcing and offshoring, we are maybe at the dawn of a new era called “Reshoring” and “Onshoring”.
Offshoring means moving work and jobs outside the country where a company is based. It can also involve outsourcing, which means sending work to outside contractors, which can be either home or abroad. For several decades global manufacturers and service companies outsourced their work to low cost suppliers in countries with cheap labour like China and India. General Electric was a pioneer in the field when they set up a big outsourcing center in Bangalore back in 1998. Its a strategy that made sense for a while.
However, 2 trends has changed this whole business paradigm. Firstly, wages in China has been increasing 10-20% a year for the past decade, whereas manufacturing pay in America and Europe has barely changed thanks to cyclical economic activities like recession. Not only wages, but shipping and other transportation costs has been on the rise. Therefore, the whole business case of earning more by sending work to cheap labor destinations no longer makes much economic sense. Also thanks to a lot of major catastrophes like tsunami the global supply chain was disrupted resulting in increase of price for a lot of brands. As a result, businesses are making a u-turn of bringing back job to home countries. Its a process called “Reshoring”.
Until a while back, bringing back job is a PR move by political goverments. But not any more. Well known companies like Google (now doing manufacturing of Nexus in America), General Electric (now making washing machines in USA) and Lenovo (making PCs in America, which at one point in time was perceived unthinkable) are bringing manufacturing jobs back to America. The “Reshoring” trend is not that prevalent yet in Europe, and thats primarily because the European companies didnt jump into this ”Offshoring” bandwagon in the first place like American companies did. In fact companies like Inditex (owner of ZARA brand) showed how by keeping manufacturing very near to home (Portugal, Spain and Egypt) you can control supply chain which can have a great impact on how quickly you respond to changing consumer trends and preferences.
Secondly, the definition of how global companies operate is changing. Companies are now opening manufacturing facilities not based solely on cost and operational efficiency, but depending on the size of a particular market and how closely they want to operate to that market. China has been shifted from a global supplier to a global market. Everyone is trying to open a manufacturing facility in China or India or Brazil because they treat those as the next big frontier markets and staying as close as possible to the market can be a huge source of competitive advantage. General Motors, despite very poor performance in USA and Europe, is still leading over its other two USA based competition FORD and Chrysler because it is the only USA based car company thats doing very well in China thanks a to a very early and strategic decision to be present in that market. This new phenomenon of staying close to your market is called “Onshoring”.
“Offshoring” and “Outsourcing” had significant impact in the way business models shaped up in the last two decades. Only time can tell, if “Onshoring” and “Reshoring” will have that kind of impact.
Marketing Idea No. 259 – The winners and losers of 2013 January 6, 2013Posted by shahriar amin in Uncategorized.
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2002 was a turning point for telephone business when number of mobile phones surpassed number of fixed line telephones. This year a similar feat is going to take place on a slightly different place.
2013 is going to be a year of breaking new grounds. This will be the year when the number of users connecting to internet through mobile devices (smart phone and tablet) will exceed number of users connecting through fixed line (PC and Laptop). And as always when we break new grounds, there will always be a winner and a loser.
Winner: The winner will of course be Apple. They already have 3-4 th of market share in tablet computing and very strongly placed in smart phone market.
Loser: The loser will be PC era giants like Microsoft (Didnt move to mobile operating software), HP (No service business, laptop business not increasing and no presence in mobile market), Dell (Same as HP; if not worse), Nokia (Didnt put internet at the center of their device strategy)
Question Mark: Google and Facebook will continue to face challenges because their revenue comes from advertising and they havent yet cracked up a process how to make money through mobile internet advertising. The biggest question mark of all will be Facebook. This will be a transformational year for Facebook when they either will find a solution to earn money from their massively popular and populated social network platform (and incite the anger of their millions of users in the process). Or, they will forever be the poster boy of Internet 2.0; where high traffic, user and popularity doesnt generally mean high cash. Just ask Twitter.
Recruitment is often seen as the job of Human Resources manager. After all most of us think HR manager is the guy with least amount of work and worry, so if he cant recruit a half-decent guy, whats the point of having an HR manager?
But to get the best out of any recruitment, 3 person needs to be involved.
Person 1 would be the brand guy. The brand owner/manager (it can also be the CEO) should specify in details what the company’s brand values are and what kind of people they should recruit to reflect those values. If the company thrives on fast execution, no point taking “Thinkers” and “Strategiests”. If the company’s core value is service, no point taking introverts.
The second and third person would be the supervisor of the potential recruitee and the HR manager. The supervisor would specify what kind of people he needs through a Job Description and HR manager would then go on the hunt. In this modality, HR’s new role as a business partner is enhanced and HR can tell what kind of person would be best fit for the organizational culture, supervisor is involved so he knows exactly what kind of people would fit into the team and brand custodian is involved so company’s brand positioning is reflected in the company’s day to day activity as well.
Tags: communciation, Introverts, Jim Collins, open offices, Susan Cain, team work, teamwork
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The walls around our office are literally coming apart. The cubicles that forever were the secret breathing spaces of executives are replaced by open office. All this in the name of more teamwork and communication.
Teamwork and communication, of course, can solve a lot of problems. But its not a solution for all of us. In her groundbreaking book “Quiet”, Susan Cain told us that roughly one third people in this world are introverts who function better as individual, not in a team situation. For these introverts, once the walls came down and they are suddenly thrust into this open office, they started to feel like fish out of water.
Therefore we should be careful about these management myths. We assume that teamwork is fundamental to solving business problems. But its been proven that creative people, who in most cases are introverts, work better in quiet places and these people are fundamental in the two most important organizational growth areas of this century – design and innovation. Not only that, its a myth that you need transformational, charishmatic leaders to take organizations further. Rather, the extensive research done by Jim Collins showed that the quiet, unassuming leaders work better to lead organizations because they usually have more patience, cares less about their ego, listens to other people’s input, puts a lot of thought before making decisions and are more analytical in nature.
A hurrah for us introverts!
Marketing Idea No. 256 – Sex Sells. Period. May 30, 2012Posted by shahriar amin in Uncategorized.
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Many board meetings, strategic sessions and brainstorming before, some wise marketer has thought of a simple strategy – take a beautiful, scantily dressed woman out it in the same frame as the product you are trying sell. And voila! You have the attention of every testosterone driven males who are looking for eye candy and every women who are looking for glamour to imitate. There is no denying – sex and glamour sells. It sold millions of cars in the 60s and it continues to sell millions of face wash in the 21st century.
If selling sex, beauty and glamour is the industry standard – at least some people are making it a lot interesting. Let’s consider some of the coolest cats in the business – Abercrombie & Fitch, Calvin Klein and Victoria’s Secret and their prime driver: sex.
But, is it really that simple? Does the beautiful people + sex combo routine really sell? Isn’t it kind of lame?
Sad but true. Outrageous behavior, gorgeous look seasoned with sex, seems to be an ever-effective formula. Seventy years after the first scantily clad woman was featured in advertising (for an automobile advertising) sexual suggestiveness still seems to do the trick every time, regardless of the category. It’s like the Pied Piper. All we can do is follow.
There’s another essential item that goes together with sex. And that’s controversy – the drug that fuels word of mouth.
In December 2003, Abercrombie & Fitch’s Christmas catalogue was withdrawn from the market, only days after its release, because of more than 100 photos ostensibly promoting group sex.
Prices for the catalogue soared on eBay, hitting a high of $150. The forbidden-fruit notoriety seemed to be paying off. Queues in the stores grew, and the cash registers kept buzzing in sync with the Christmas tunes.
Abercrombie & Fitch is not alone in this joy ride. Remember when Calvin Klein’s billboard was banned in Times Square (and made Brook Shields a global icon); when theVatican railed against the United Colors of Benetton’s advertising (and made everyone worried what’s wrong with Benetton); and when Madonna’s “Like a prayer” music video was removed from MTV? What all these had in common was sex and controversy.
As old fashioned as it may sound, the world’s longest-running advertising gimmick is still running strong like the magician’s old hat trick. Sex plus controversy may well equal the world’s most powerful marketing cocktail. The mix guarantees to create a handful of enemies and an army of fans.
The conclusion may be confusing for some and disturbing for many, but we need to face it: Sex sells—even in 2011. And there is nothing out of the box about it. It’s just plain old vanilla.