Marketing Idea No. 151 – A Branded Doll and the Doll culture

While Barbie doll is a cultural icon that stands the test of time, its also a testament of a foregone marketing opportunity on our part.  

If any country in the world that needs to be known for its doll-culture it should be us. The females of the society are born and brought up with the 1 feet tall playmates by their side. Not only that, the rituals of one doll getting married to another one is also our unique invention, and a socializing tool that kids use.   

Considering these facts, its baffling to see not a single iconic doll or branded dolls in the country.  In the west, Barbie is not only a plaything but a role model for young girls. That’s why as the Barbies of yesteryears showed tendency of getting all dressed up as the only source of amusement and aspiration, after women starting to join workforce, we see barbies also showing unity in that process. Now we see the Doctor Barbie, the Model Barbie, the Lifeguard Barbie and many many more. In this way Barbie not only stayed relevant to girls of all decades, but also stayed as a pop-culture icon that projects the aspirations of the fairer sex in the patriarchal society.  

Remember the success of Meena? Why cant that be replicated on a more commercial space? The dolls of our country is beautiful, but found scattered in all market places. So its not a question of product. It’s a question of creating a unique doll brand, sort out the distribution and create an aspirational and amusing doll culture that will not only earn profits but also help in the ongoing female liberation movement. Who will take that initiative?

Marketing Idea No. 150 – How Political Marketing Can Learn from Consumer Marketing

Written by John Quelch 

For all the coverage of the Presidential primaries, only half of eligible voters will likely cast ballots in November. While 20% of U.S. adults are political junkies, the rest can’t spare the time, don’t think their vote will matter, see no important differences among the candidates, or are turned off by the electoral process and candidates’ campaign tactics. They are the “vanishing voters” of U.S. politics.

There are five structural reasons why this is the case.

First, in U.S. general elections, voters usually see only two viable candidates on the ballot. That’s one reason turnout is low. In any other product category, there are many more choices. As a result, consumer interest – and consumption – is higher.

Second, in representative democracies, the consumer has to live with the majority decision. That also dampens enthusiasm. Not so in commerce. You can buy or own whichever brand, or suite of brands, you wish.

Third, in U.S. politics, citizens vote on a specified date once every two, four or six years. Maybe they have to register in advance, wait in line at the polling station, and use an out-of-date polling machine to do so. The commercial marketplace is much more convenient. Consumers can cast their votes at millions of points-of-purchase every day.

Fourth, some politicians understand that Branding 101 requires the development of a distinctive, appealing message, delivered consistently over time. But politicians can’t win by targeting a single niche segment. They have to win a majority on election day, and doing so often means parsing words, trying to have it both ways, and allegedly flip-flopping on issues. In addition, the winner-takes-all system often leads candidates to desperate tactics such as negative advertising to tear down their opponents rather than promoting their own virtues. Citizens can be forgiven for being cynical.

A final reason for consumer indifference to politics may be the effectiveness of commercial marketing. Most consumers have stronger relationships with brands like Starbucks (the “third place” after home and work) than with their elected representatives or the umbrella political brands, Democrat or Republican.

Yet there are reasons for hope. Citizen interest in this year’s primaries is high because there is no obvious winner and genuinely different candidates are competing on both sides. The Internet has greatly increased the opportunity for non-establishment, underfunded candidates to develop viable grass-roots campaigns. Voter questions and candidate answers in town meetings are now the standard. In other words, this year’s election process so far seems more open and democratic than ever.

Around $20 per vote will be spent on political advertising in this year’s presidential campaign. By commercial standards, and given the importance of the purchase decision, that doesn’t seem high.

What’s needed in politics is not less marketing but better marketing: focusing on current and emerging customer needs, developing product and service solutions, informing interested citizens about them and making them easily accessible. I remember Leonard Marsh, one of the three founders of Snapple, explaining the brand’s success: “We never thought of ourselves as any better than our customers.” Politicians need to view citizens not as occasional voters, donors and taxpayers but as their customers.

What do you think?

Marketing Idea No. 149 – New spaces in furniture marketing

While I was buying furniture for my apartment, it struck me – how difficult this whole exercise is turning out to be! And the reason behind that was, I was looking for something that is not there in the market.

So what was I looking for? Basically I was looking for something different that would stand out. And while standing on the pavements of the furniture market and looking at the same stuff stacked one atop the other, over and over again in each and every shop….i knew that’s not gonna happen.

In the past, all the value addition and differentiation has taken place in the high price furniture for the upper end of the population. But while we are forced to live in similar looking apartments because of the space crisis in the city, two things are essential for us to make that house a home, custom made by us to make it live-able for us. One is the color and the other is the furniture. While in recent past, there has been much development in the paint sector ( People can now customize the look of their rooms), furniture is one area where personalization and customization is absent.

Is there one brand that specializes in making small furniture for small family for small apartments? As more and more apartments are getting squeezed into a cramped space, isn’t it obvious that we will need much smaller furniture? How about furniture for senior citizens? Because of their physical stature, isn’t it obvious that they need special kind of furniture? How about furniture for young and trendy? How about furniture for physically handicapped? Furniture brands have long been vocal about reducing profit margin and price – stickiness. But what they should really be doing is looking for value addition by observing what customers really need.

There is obviously a lot of space out there for any new furniture brands to move into. It’s a matter of picking the right strategy and making it work.

Marketing Idea No. 148 – The Truth about Service is Out There

“Quality” and “Service” has been the aspirin of the mediocre marketers for a long time. Whenever asked exactly why customers should trust and prefer their brand over the others, they usually come up with the above two lame excuses – its either quality or service or both. But quality is given. And friendly service is expected. Where is the “Wow” factor? Even more importantly, if every product sells quality and service, where is the differentiation? Whats the big deal about your business? 

Lets dig deep into what is conventionally known as customer service. Why is it there? From name itself, it should be clear that it serves the best interest of customer. At least it should. But reality is, customer service is seen as a way of safeguarding company’s interest so that company can keep getting the money that they are earning from that customer by somehow making the customers concerns go away for the time being. So by its DNA itself, this is not customer service. Its COMPANY SERVICE. 

Lets think of something radical. 

The Acid Test of the customer service unit can be that is it helping your customer to save money, even at the expense of your company money. When you walk into a restaurant, the waiter annoyingly points out the most expensive things in the menu as the best food of the house, not the ones that will seem tasty and less costly. When you try to return a sold item, the service rep immediately points out the company of policy of non-refunding after “7 days”, instead of really taking an active interest in looking what really can be done to solve that customers problems. 

All these because its not customer service. Its company service. 

If you walk into Pizza hut with your wife, order for a medium size pizza and your waiter kindly points out that rather than ordering a medium size pizza you can actually order two individual pan pizza and thus save money – now that’s WOW. That’s CUSTOMER service. And in so doing you are guaranteeing 2 things  

  1. You are differentiating your service from other services
  2. You are creating a major recommendation value as the grateful customer will utter this story  many times to many people and thus ensuring that the money you lost from that individual transaction seem like peanut compared to the image and business that you gained

  So remember the acid test. Are you saving money on behalf of your customer by taking that money away from your company’s pocket?  

Marketing Idea No. 147 – The Art of Greatness

Ask yourself, is your product great? Or is it just good enough?

Don’t just be good. Be great. The world is full of good enoughs. Do yourself and us a favor and don’t increase the list.

There is a good enough film opening up everyday in the theater. But there is only 1 film that holds the distinction of earning the highest number of Oscars and the highest grossing film of all time. And that’s Titanic.

There is a good enough coffee shop every corner. But there is only one coffee shop for which everyone walks for 3 blocks just to pay extra money for a really tasty coffee. And that’s Starbucks.

Music players ain the market are dime a dozen. But there is only one player that gets you emotionally satisfied and proud like none other. And that’s I-Pod. So if you put in that extra effort to make the journey from good to being great, that will always pay.

According to management guru Jim Collins, by following 3 simple principles EVERYONE can be great. And these are

1. Find out in what you can be the best in the world and in what you can never be

2. Find out what drives your economic engine, your business

3. Find out what are you passionate about

Sounds simple? Then why don’t you give it a try? The world is in need of greatness, not good enough-ness.

Marketing Idea No. 146 – Filtering the Blogosphere through a search engine for blogs

Understanding and accepting that Internet is the next frontier, believing and proposing that blogging is here to stay- what should be the logical next step?

A search engine for blogs in Internet.

What Google did for webpages, someone needs to do that exclusively for blogs. Because right now there are just too many blogs in the blogosphere and someone needs to filter out the garbage to present the right thing  to the right audience. Google can make a move, with a different brand. We need a different search engine tool and architecture for this. The key idea is – exclusivity and focus. We need an exclusive search engine for blogs, not one for both web pages and blogs.

And thats the next big thing in Internet.

Marketing Idea No. 145 – Dont be a One Hit Wonder

Why does Pakistan showcase a bunch of fast bowlers (Remember Mohammad Zahid? How about Kabir khan?) who all promised so much for a brief time and then passed into cricketing blackhole? Why does so many bands fail to reproduce a single hit after going platinum in their debut album? Why does so many fantastic child actors (i.e. Mickey Rooney, Macaulay Culkin) did not materialize their childhood promises and forever stayed as child actors who did not shine in adulthood?

Thats because they are one hit wonders. They had their 15 minutes of fame and then burnt into ashes, never to be found again. They are one trick pony, who did not become what they are destined to be for not adding value to their glittering career. And chances are your brand is like them. Because in branding, standing still in glory is never an option.

Your brand can be like WordPerfect, who once rode the waves of success but did nothing to hold on to that success and then Microsoft moved in for the kill. Your brand could be like IBM, who thought mainframes will stay forever and they are the king of mainframes. At least they should be credited as they have sold their computer business and moved into servicing. Your brand could be like Kodak, who thought as long as there are memories there will be a Kodak moment. They were arrogant enough to think that their “one wonder” will last forever. So instead of putting their earning from camera into finding the next “Wow” product, they enjoyed the sunshine from the throne. And alas! They were de-throned.  

Moral of the story : If your wonderful product is earning heaps of money, funnel that money into finding the next wonderful product. Dont be a one trick pony.