Marketing Idea No. 241 – What Masterchef can teach us about consumer behavior

The fun in cooking has always been on the other side of the table – on that side where we used to sit and eat a sumptious looking dish. But then came Masterchef. And cooking all of a sudden has become the epitome of new age hippy lifestyle. Everyone who is a “suit” wants to wear the apron. And why not? Cooking is hip.

We have been exposed to two drastically different style of Masterchef. One being the Australian version and the other the American version. Lets bite into both.

Masterchef Australia is the anti-thesis of everything we come to know of Reality TV. No biting comments. No harsh judges. No back biting. There seems to be an illogical amount of good feeling and camradarie between the contestants and judges. When one person wins, the other person smiles. We are definitely not exposed to this kind of reality tv. And the interesting part is, despite going against the conventional wisdom about reality tv, such absence of drama and fighting does not strip the program of its popularity. In fact, the ratings are through the roof. 

Then comes Gordon Ramsey and Masterchef USA and our belief in the vicious drama of reality tv is restored. Here everything is dramatic and fast. The judges look like they have an agenda against humanity. The participants lives are highlighted to create a false sense of attachment between audience and them, something which American Idol has mastered season after season. Its tailor made for typical americans who wants drama, and have such attention deficit disorder that they can never wait for good things to unfold in its own pace (ref: Any summer blockbuster in Hollywood).  Their is enough backbiting to keep people engrossed. This is definitely reality tv program for the people for whom there has to be a break in every game after every 12-15 minutes (Ref: Baseball, Basketball, American Football) so that they receive instant gratification. They want it fast. They want it right now. And if they cant afford to wait, they will just take credit/loan to own it. 

So next time you watch a reality tv program or a soap opera; think about what it tells you about the consumer behavior of that country.

Marketing Idea No. 240 – Corporate Social Responsibility: A new kind of half truth

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has replaced value creation as the new buzzword of the board room. What corporations would like to say is that they engage in CSR activities for the greater benefit of the community. But why they actually do it is to create a favorable public image to please regulators, lobbyists and other stakeholders. CSR is not charity or social marketing. It always makes business sense. In doing CSR, the primary objective of organization is not doing the welfare of community but to provide welfare of the brand, with a secondary objective of providing welfare to the community.

But this is a win win situation for the short term. Because eventually general mass would understand that this new love for community is just lip service. Organizations main objective was always to maximize shareholder value, not wasting money by creating parks.

But that is so 20th century! In 21st century brands should make it a point to actively try to do better things for community without having a hidden agenda, because that is the only way they will win back general public and remove the “big, bad corporation” image. What companies should never do is hide behind half-truths like CSR. The underlying fault of CSR as a tool was very clear in the strange and curious case of Enron, the Texan energy company that not only brought itself down but also one of the largest accounting firms at that time, Arthur Andersen. Enron was the blue-eyed boy of corporate philanthropy and gave away millions in charity donations to charity organizations and won several awards for its corporate social responsibility work, including a climate protection award from the EPA and a corporate conscience award from the Council on Economic Priorities. In 2001, the world of Enron came crashing down under massive debts after it was revealed that CEO Jeffrey Skilling, who was jailed for 24 years, had orchestrated a giant fraud and a massive corporate ethics scandal. Corporate social responsibility activists and media pounced on Enron and held Enron as sort of poster boy for corporate fraud. How quickly things changed! As Joel Bakan wrote in The Corporation, “Enron’s story suggests, at a minimum, that skepticism about corporate social responsibility is well warranted.” After that fall from grace, Enron never really recovered from the bad publicity as its supposed socially responsible activities became irrelevant since its very existence proved to be a fraud.