Marketing Idea No. 229 – How to keep a secret and deliver on that secret promise like Kate Middleton

April 29 2011, quite appropriately, is all about Kate Middleton’s dress. Yes, of course you can say its about the wedding of the century. You can say its about breathing a new lease of life into an aging monarchy. You can also say its about the marriage of monarchy and common people. But with due respect to monarchy, Diana’s legacy, the wedding, the kiss, the rituals, the millions of viewers and thousands who gathered – its really about Kate Middleton. And its really really about the dress.

So today’s marketing idea of the day quite appropriately comes from none other than Kate Middleton herself. She showed the world how to keep the best kept fashion secret of all time. She showed the world, when you drive the frenzy around a secret product to such gargantuan proportions; you must bring your A+ game and the product must be damn fantastic. Which it was. Its a trait she proudly shares with Apple, another brand like Kate that knows how to keep a secret and deliver it appropriately.

The lesson is simple. Its one thing to have a fantastic secret. Its one thing to create a fantastic PR campaign around it. Its quite another to deliver an equally fantastic product. And if you can do it with an hint of emotional attachment (in this case it came from Kate by choosing Alexander McQueen for whom the public already have a soft corner due to his tragic death); then you just nailed it.

Marketing Idea No. 228 – How to use pricing to create value for customers

Pricing is probably the least used strategy of all. Its given very little importance as a strategic tool and used more as a tactical tool, more like an afterthought, more like the final frontier, more in the domain of Finance or Sales where the sales team, finance team or occasionally CEO states what should be the price of the proposed product and service. And in most cases a competitive pricing or a cost-plus pricing is used.

But by doing that, the strategic value of pricing and how pricing can be used to create value for customers are both often ignored, because neither the Finance team nor the Sales team are focused on strategic direction of the company. Which is why something as simple as including VAT & Tax into your final product pricing makes a lot of value for a customer, but is almost always missed.

The natural tendency of company is to pass any burden on to the customer or the regulatory body. Which is why company always states the unit price of the product separately and then only after customer pays for the product in the sales counter she comes to know the applicable VAT & Tax – as if the company wants to say that this is what i ask of you, dear customer and this is what Government forces you to pay. But a significant more value addition (last time i checked, that is the role of the brand) for a customer from a company’s point of view would be simply to calculate the VAT & Tax of the product, mention it separately in the price tag along with a joint, total price. Therefore if the credit card bill is $32 and 10% tax is applicable on that ($3.2), then the total bill of the customer will be original price $32 + VAT & Tax $3.2 = Total asking price $35.2. Now thats a small helpful touch that will give the customer a total picture, without really incurring any economic cost to the company!

Marketing Idea No. 227 – How to do a brand extension like Abhisekh Bacchan

There are many ways to look at a name. Shakespeare thought its no biggy. After all he felt rose in any other name would smell just as sweet. Some think of it as a shortcut: a shortcut to a goal that can be paved by having a handy name. But almost all think of names as something important enough to spend days, even months deciding it. And considering the life-long impact that names have, it is kind of important. But that is for the name you can choose. What if the name is imposed on you? What to do then?

If you are a star child in a film industry like Bollywood, you would probably think of it as either a blessing or a curse, depending on the actual name itself and what you intend to do with it. But a simple rule of thumb (If ever there can be a rule of thumb for star childs in Bollywood) is in the beginning of your career tagging the name of your famous daddy can be a blessing because it opens doors for you. But in the long run, its a curse because for that tag alone, people will compare you all the time with your famous daddy. And the trick that is needed here is the star child must create an identity of his/her own, which is separate from the famous father/mother.

A fantastic case is Abhisekh Bacchan, son of famous Amitav Bacchan and Esha Deol, daughter of “Dream Girl” Hema Malini. As Amitav has always been considered as an actor’s actor who honed his craft by playing serious, melodramatic, “Angry Man” roles, Abhisek created an identity of his own as a cool dude, very much a flag bearer of the new generation and made his mark in comedy roles. Which is why despite having the biggest baggage of all (the Bacchan name), Abhisekh is very much his own man, his own brand. The same unfortuntaley couldnt happen to Esha Deol, who was always considered as Hema Malini’s daughter. She suffered the same fate as Twinkle Khanna who also like her super star mother Dimple, never really stood out with an identity of her own. The streets of Bollywood are unfortunately wet with the tears of many such star children who couldnt create his/her own identity. 

The lesson to learn from this is that with a brand extension (where we simply take an existing popular brand name and launch a new line of products with that name), in the short run you might get good results but in the long run the extension must have an identity and strength which is different from the parent brand name and also in a way should give something back to the parent brand. Only then can this be mutually beneficial, complementary, sustainable and profitable branding exercise. If the brand extension’s sole purpose is to piggyback on the main brand name all the way without creating a space/identity of its own, then this exercise will be a waste of money in the long run.

Marketing Idea No. 226 – How to use movies to promote your brands

The story of close relationship between brands and cinematography started nearly at the same time as the cinema itself was born—in the beginning of the  movie era, the big companies promoted their products though short clips which were screened before movies. Now it’s not that easy to tell for sure for which product the pioneer ad was created, but according to a range of sources the first filmed advertising for a today’s global brand was shot for Dewar’s Scotch Whisky (1897). Today, connections between filmmaking industry and brands go beyond this simple presence and include a lot of examples such as much discussed product placement, festival sponsorship and opening cinema clubs, cinema-related advertising campaigns, collaboration with filmmakers on commercials, and creating movies under brands’ supervision.

Brands are involved in promotion of nearly every big movie hit—just remember the extensive McDonald’s and Coca-Cola Zero advertising campaigns dedicated to ‘Avatar,’ SKYY, Mercedes-Benz and Maybach involvement in the ‘Sex and the City 2’ advertising, or Audi’s ‘The Tony Stark Innovation Challenge’ to support the launch of ‘Iron Man II’. Those are just a few examples of a multiply promotional projects created to support the new movies’ arrival on the screens. Brands also arrange exclusive parties for movie stars ahead or during the events (just like Grey Goose did this year for Oscar Nominees), release limited-edition products (like Rémy Martin) and sponsor big cinema events (like Renault and Stella Artois to name a few). They also tap highly recognized personalities in the filmmaking business to create unique pieces for promotion of their goods—just like LG invited Ennio Morricone to compose melodies for its smartphones, and Nike, Stella Artois, Gucci, Dior and dozens of other companies had their promotional videos shot by celebrated film directors (we won’t even try to list all the film stars featured in commercials since it would take hours to count all of them).

Сommercials or promotional videos are eventually forgotten and once seen it fades in public’s memory—usually, several weeks after the release no one remembers it. Still there’s a way for brands to make this ties with cinema eternal—for this ‘effect’, they have to not only support the launch of movies, but also be featured in them, and in case the film is a success, the brand will remind about itself every time the piece is watched, now or in 50 years. But it’s very important to be moderate here. Today, just every movie features at least a couple of brand products, and sometimes this presence becomes really annoying—recently, Brandchannel studied the tendency and named the winners of its Brandcameo Product Placement Award 2010, where Apple scooped the first position.

The best examples of product placement are films about brands and companies, or, to be more precious, about people behind them—‘The Social Network’ (Facebook), ‘Love and Other Drugs’ (Pfizer, Prozac) ‘Coco avant Chanel,’ (Chanel), and ‘Pirates of Silicon Valley’ (Apple) are just a few examples. Product placement in movies can become the theme of a full-length film as well—Morgan Spurlock and his ‘POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold’ documentary prove it.

Brands do not only support iconic film festivals, they also celebrate the big players and emerging talents within the industry with their own grants and financial donations. Last September, PUMA in collaboration with Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation announced a launch of a series of PUMA.Creative awards backing social-issue documentary and promote it in the world to raise awareness of a variety of issues, which need public attention.

One of the biggest cinema fans is Jameson, which has been supporting a range of themed campaigns and events for years. Annually, the Irish whisky brand and Empire Magazine arrange a large-scale event, Jameson Empire Awards, which sees a plethora of celebrities honored based on the readers’ choice. The Jameson also invites aspiring filmmakers to make it big and present a 60-second version of a popular movie—the winner is awarded during the event. Earlier this year, Jameson for a second straight year became a sponsor of Film Independent Spirit Awards and gave its inaugural FIND Your Audience prize to the ‘Marwencol’ film.

The brand also pays tribute to iconic movies through its Jameson Cult Film Club, which is “all about watching our favourite cult films at spectacular screenings, staged to transport our members into the film’s universe.” But it is not the only one brand committed to providing best movie watching experience: Grolsch and Stella Artois invite cinema addicts to watch a movie as well. The first of them encourages its fans to become members of the Grolsch & LWLies Presents club,that celebrates taste, artistry, craftsmanship and originality in the best new movies” to be able to get tickets for new films as a present from the brand.

Stella Artois, which builds its advertising on the style and feel of the 60-ies, in December 2009 launched a series of online screenings—‘7 Days 7 Films.’ The brand showed its UK fans 7 old black-and-white cult movies including ‘Masculin feminin’ and ‘Lola’ as part of the one-week online festival

Stella Artois is also a proud sponsor of Cannes International Film Festival, and this connection is highlighted via a plethora of awesome advertising projects. Last year, the brand kicked off a hilarious campaign, revolving around a ‘missing’ invented character Jacques d’Azur, the ‘King of Cannes’—in 2010 the brand was looking for his heir, and now it has announced a global casting for actors who might star as the ‘King’ in his biopic

Some brands also manage to combine old traditions, screenings and fresh air in their movie-related activities. We mentioned three of them—Volkswagen‘s ‘See Film Differently,’ Levi’s ‘Rolling Roadshow’ (which invited fans to “enjoy some classic movies in the places where they were filmed”) and Volvo’s ‘Starlite Urban Drive-in’ campaigns—in the first part of our ‘Brands and the City’ review. Recently, they were joined by SAAB, which now sponsors The Nomad roaming pop-up cinema and aims to tour 150 locations across the UK and screen a variety of movies, “ranging from classics to cult, noir and silent to mainstream guilty pleasure films.” Some brands also become part of cinema history by creating their own movies.

Last summer, Google’s YouTube launched one-of-a-kind experiment called ‘Life in a Day,’ encouraging people from all around the globe participate in creation of a film by documenting their daily routines on July 24, 2010, and send it to the production team. The filmmaking crew got clips from 80,000 users from 192 countries and created a 90-minute a theatrical film based on the footage they received. The finished work, which was executive-produced by acclaimed filmmaker Ridley Scott, debuted at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was screened on YouTube on January 27.

This year, the Sundance Film festival also saw Honda’s latest short-film documentary ‘The Undying Dream’ from the ‘Dream The Impossible’ documentary series, which was launched in January 2009 and now includes eight films by celebrated directors. Philips also tried to be as ‘cinematographic’ as possible with its award-winning ‘Parallel Lines’ project and ‘Tell It Your Way’ competition, which encouraged contestants to create a visual story using the same script—the results of the both initiatives are stunning. LG Portugal also presents short films created for the brand by aspiring and recognized filmmakers—the works are all about LG’s statement and are saying that ‘Good Things Happen’ (so far, the project features three videos).

For the finish note, let’s remember a nice Audi’s campaign dubbed ‘Efficient Films’ where the brand asked users to write a movie description in just a couple of words, in less than 140 characters. 

Now, in the world where most global brands have a very distinct identity and can be easily differentiated from others—for instance, AXE comes out as a ‘hunk,’ Procter & Gamble is a ‘respected man with a good background,’ Dove represents ‘a tender girl with a romantic attitude towards life,’ General Mills might become a ‘solicitous mother’ and so forth,—it’s high time to shoot a movie, where brands will be playing leading roles. Will it be a thriller, horror, comedy or romance? It’s now up to Hollywood to decide.


Marketing Idea No. 225 – Earth Hour and the desire to take issues head on

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. In 2008, Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries/territories participating. Global landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, CN Tower in Toronto, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope. In March 2009, over 4000 cities in 88 countries/territories officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet.

On Saturday 27 March, Earth Hour 2010 became the biggest Earth Hour ever. A record 128 countries and territories joined the global display of climate action. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Asia Pacific to Europe and Africa to the Americas switched off.

And the best things about this initiative is that its not an isolated act, rather the harbinger of a new emerging trend. Its a trend where human beings are slowly but surely becoming more conscious and active about tackling overwhelmingly big social and political issues with their seemingly insignificant resources pulled together. To tell the long story short, we are not skeptic and afraid anymore. We feel with enough small hands put side by side, we can move mountains.

The brand builders looking for an emotional space and connect over and beyond the mere functionalities, take notice.

The best advice for your brand right now is to become a vigilante. If you cant start a movement, try associate with one.

Marketing Idea No. 224 – Shared Value and why this may be the next big marketing philosophy

Micheal Porter, undoubtedly, is a man that had the most influence in business thinking after Peter Drucker. You may doubt the man’s new preaching, but you can never doubt his contributions. After all he is the man that gifted the world the theory of competitive advantage. And he not only limited that to business world, he spread it in geopolitics with his ever-influential “The Competitive Advantage of Nations”, which till date is the benchmark through which we get to know which is country is the next big thing. But all this is so 80s. Its been a quiet few decades for Mr. Porter where he was struggling to come up with something new to trump his competitive advantage theory. Some say, he finally cracked it after 20 years. And this new theory, called “Shared Value”, is what people are calling the biggest new business philosophy for now and coming future.

What is this shared value? Shared value is a type of business thinking and practice where the organizations not only pursue their self interest but also act for the common good of society. Now this should not be confused with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The key difference between CSR and shared value is, CSR is an after thought where companies assume that if they dont invest in CSR there will be growing tension among government, common people, stakeholders and the company management, but shared value starts from the very beginning and is very much instilled in the core day to day practices of company. CSR is more reactive and less fruitful. Ask BP and Enron – two biggest proponents of CSR.

I am assuming after the failure of self interest seeking capitalism in the form of global recession, the world will embrace this kind of responsible capitalism and responsible organizational behavior. Which is why this new theory of Mr. Porter is making a lot of waves. And this kind of business practices are not totally uncommon. GE’s “ecomagination” is a similar business initiative of creating environmentally friendly products which creates $18 billion in annual revenues.

I guess we just have to wait and see how willing organizations are to share their value on a continuous, widespread basis.