Marketing Idea No. 140 – Its the “Question”, stupid!

While marketers and consultants spend millions, at times stretching to billions of dollars, to  find the right answer and solution, the truth lies bare – it’s the question, stupid! Ask yourself, are you asking the right questions before looking for the right answers? Do you know what your problem is before you crystallize the solution?

Before going on a wild goose chase of finding a brand positioning for your coveted brain child by paying your ad agency, do you really know what you want to achieve through that brand positioning? Before attending a Tk. 20,000 seminar of some brand consultant turned dean of of so and so business school, did you ask yourself what can you possible learn in 7 hours in a session that you couldn’t find on your own for 7 months? Before getting your hand on that Tk. 30 lac worth research results, do you know what you will do with those results? 

To be simple, are we asking ourselves very few questions? Are we asking the right questions? Are we tired or scared that we don’t know the answers? Is hiring ad agencies or consultants the right way out or the easy way out? 

The “Question” culture is the latest business tool to address the status quo problem of brand builders. If we don’t know what really to know, how can we possible know if its right or not? If the REAL problem is not lying stripped bare in front of us, how would we find a solution worthy of it? 

So start asking questions. Ask yourself. Your boss. Your CEO. Your suppliers. Your customers. Just ask around. Don’t be shy to ask. And don’t be scared if you don’t know the answer. At least you know what to work on.

Marketing Idea No. 139 – How to create a great local cable tv business

For all the debate on “the impact of western culture and satellite channels” in our country, cable TV  has completed its 15th year of purposeful existence in this country. From the tyranny of one state owned channel, we are truly liberated through the power of remote control. And behind this works the suppliers who are working to bring global entertainment closer to us than ever before. They are of course, the small cable TV operators in our country.

 From the clutches of a few big companies, cable TV service providers have really broken free and now mushrooming all over the nation. But like all services related technology, they are also working in a business where there is little, if any, differentiation is taking place. So far the only war that took place was the war of channels – how many channels can each cable tv operator can provide to its subscribers. But that itself has reached a snag as just about all cable operators are providing the same channels in the same way. Quantity is no longer an issue. And these operators are in dire need of finding a new frontier.

If any cable TV operator cant create any significant value innovation, then once the “Local Politics” of blocking new entrant is taken care of, none is stopping the Cable TV operator of one geographical location to hunt in its neighbouring location and take away the subscribers from that region. What can really stop them? So far the only thing that’s stopping them, as mentioned before, is the political hold that that particular cable operator is enjoying in his home area. It would be fool to believe that that hold will last forever.

So the only way to fight this war for cable operators is to continuously offer new and new services in its area. Why limit to cable tv only? Why not use the same infrastructure to provide broadband internet services?

In fact one really unique service that these operators can offer is “recording favorite programs”. Through this service cable TV operators can record any program that is requested by a particular subscriber, store it in its server and show it later on in its own channel where he usually shows  recent movies from DVDs in exchange of a small monthly fee from that particular subscriber. Just think about how beneficial that would be for people who are always afraid of not being able to see the latest episode of his favorite soap opera or TV series due to load shedding or for staying out of house at that time! This kind of video on demand service can really be a win-win situation for the cable operators as well as us subscribers.

But most importantly, this will ensure that they are continuously offering new things that others are not offering and thus minimizing its probability of losing its business to bigger competition.

Marketing Idea No. 138 – How to heal a battered mind

The urban jungle is extending its wings and life in Dhaka will never be the same.  

We are gradually shifting from a single mode, family oriented, 9 to 5 office going life towards a multi-tasking, dual mode (workaholic at office, letting hair lose at party), career focused, focus shifting orientation. As our life becomes more and more hectic, demands for certain products will increase. People will look for comfort and individual space more and more. That means spiritual guidance, authentic and peaceful experience and  de-stressing activity will be more and more in vogue.  

As a part of this shift, we are seeing massage parlors, resorts and Spas opening up last year. But that takes into account the physical and mental torture that we subject ourselves everyday. But the soul beating that we take day in day out is still waiting for healing. There is an increasing need for us to confide on people, to speak our mind in peace and without interruption and learning to address inner peace when the world outside is going crazy. And that is where businesses like spiritual counseling and psychotherapy come in.  

These kind of businesses are in tremendous demand in western countries. But due to lack of awareness and quality personnel there is a vacant spot in our country in this sector. We do have Quantum Method and Silva Method, but they are still very niche and lacks awareness in mass segment. By carefully positioning this fledgling business, by creating the need for such spiritual healing, by inviting spiritual gurus and counselors from abroad to hold sessions and by training our local pool to address these need – the spiritual healing business can expect a big bang boom in the coming days.

Marketing Idea No. 137 – How blogs will change your business

This is a part of an article published in Businessweek magazine

Look past the yakkers, hobbyists, and political mobs. Your customers and rivals are figuring blogs out. Our advice: Catch up…or catch you later

Monday 9:30 a.m. It’s time for a frank talk. And no, it can’t wait. We know, we know: Most of you are sick to death of blogs. Don’t even want to hear about these millions of online journals that link together into a vast network. And yes, there’s plenty out there not to like. Self-obsession, politics of hate, and the same hunger for fame that has people lining up to trade punches on The Jerry Springer Show. Name just about anything that’s sick in our society today, and it’s on parade in the blogs. On lots of them, even the writing stinks
Go ahead and bellyache about blogs. But you cannot afford to close your eyes to them, because they’re simply the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself. And they’re going to shake up just about every business — including yours. It doesn’t matter whether you’re shipping paper clips, pork bellies, or videos of Britney in a bikini, blogs are a phenomenon that you cannot ignore, postpone, or delegate. Given the changes barreling down upon us, blogs are not a business elective. They’re a prerequisite. (And yes, that goes for us, too.)

There’s a little problem, though. Many of you don’t visit blogs — or haven’t since blogs became a sensation in last year’s Presidential race. According to a Pew Research Center Survey, only 27% of Internet users in America now bother to read them. So we’re going to take you into the world of blogs by delivering this story — call it Blogs 101 for businesses — in the style of a blog. We’re even sprinkling it with links. These are underlined words that, when clicked, carry readers of this story’s online version to another Web page. This all may make for a strange experience, but it’s the closest we can come to reaching out from the page, grabbing you by the collar, and shaking you into action.

First, a few numbers. There are some 9 million blogs out there, with 40,000 new ones popping up each day. Some discuss poetry, others constitutional law. And, yes, many are plain silly. “Mommy tells me it may rain today. Oh Yucky Dee Doo,” reads one April Posting. Let’s assume that 99.9% are equally off point. So what? That leaves some 40 new ones every day that could be talking about your business, engaging your employees, or leaking those merger discussions you thought were hush-hush.

Give the paranoids their due. The overwhelming majority of the information the world spews out every day is digital — photos from camera phones, PowerPoint presentations, government filings, billions and billions of e-mails, even digital phone messages. With a couple of clicks, every one of these items can be broadcast into the blogosphere by anyone with an Internet hookup — or even a cell phone. If it’s scandalous, a poisonous e-mail from a CEO, for example, or torture pictures from a prison camp, others link to it in a flash. And here’s the killer: Blog posts linger on the Web forever.

Yet not all the news is scary. Ideas circulate as fast as scandal. Potential customers are out there, sniffing around for deals and partners. While you may be putting it off, you can bet that your competitors are exploring ways to harvest new ideas from blogs, sprinkle ads into them, and yes, find out what you and other competitors are up to.

Tuesday 6:35 a.m. How big are blogs? Try Johannes Gutenberg out for size. His printing press, unveiled in 1440, sparked a publishing boom and an information revolution. Some say it led to the Protestant Reformation and Western democracy. Along the way, societies established the rights and rules of the game for the privileged few who could afford to buy printing presses and grind forests into paper.

The printing press set the model for mass media. A lucky handful owns the publishing machinery and controls the information. Whether at newspapers or global manufacturing giants, they decide what the masses will learn. This elite still holds sway at most companies. You know them. They generally park in sheltered spaces, have longer rides on elevators, and avoid the cafeteria. They keep the secrets safe and coif the company’s message. Then they distribute it — usually on a need-to-know basis — to customers, employees, investors, and the press.

That’s the world of mass media, and the blogs are turning it on its head. Set up a free account at Blogger or other blog services, and you see right away that the cost of publishing has fallen practically to zero. Any dolt with a working computer and an Internet connection can become a blog publisher in the 10 minutes it takes to sign up.

Sure, most blogs are painfully primitive. That’s not the point. They represent power. Look at it this way: In the age of mass media, publications like ours print the news. Sources try to get quoted, but the decision is ours. Ditto with letters to the editor. Now instead of just speaking through us, they can blog. And if they master the ins and outs of this new art — like how to get other bloggers to link to them — they reach a huge audience.

This is just the beginning. Many of the same folks who developed blogs are busy adding features so that bloggers can start up music and video channels and team up on editorial projects. The divide between the publishers and the public is collapsing. This turns mass media upside down. It creates media of the masses.

How does business change when everyone is a potential publisher? A vast new stretch of the information world opens up. For now, it’s a digital hinterland. The laws and norms covering fairness, advertising, and libel? They don’t exist, not yet anyway. But one thing is clear: Companies over the past few centuries have gotten used to shaping their message. Now they’re losing control of it.

Want to get it back? You never will, not entirely. But for a look at what you’re facing, come along for a tour of the blogosphere.

Marketing Idea No. 136 – How To Live Forever

It’s not true that all brands live forever. Products die and compared to that brands definitely have a significantly lower morality rate. But that does not mean just by having a great name, good image and a mouth-able positioning statement – one brand is guaranteed to live forever. No sir!

 One way to fight back the curse of mortality is to become an “Iconic Brand”.

So, what’s an iconic brand?

Iconic brands are those brands that transcend the natural boundaries set by segmentation and value proposition and install itself in the socio-cultural fabric of the society. Simply speaking iconic brands deal with universal truth – truth that goes way beyond the boundary of men and women, east and west, affluent and financially constrained. And also beyond the boundary of time. Since its universally true, it stays true forever. That’s what makes them universally long-lasting and hence iconic.

Nike deals with the universal truth that human spirit will strive to achieve the impossible even at the face of daunting odds against him. Disney believes that there is a child inside all of us, waiting to break free. Apple believes that technology should be humane, beautiful and emotional.

By associating themselves with these immortal traits these brands transcend the normal boundary of branding – targeting – selling into something much bigger. Something as big as a universal truth. And by doing so, they have guaranteed to appeal to everyone from Alaska to Australia. And they have guaranteed a ticket for themselves to live forever.    

Marketing Idea No. 135 – One stop digital film processing and printing shops

Who would have thought that Kodak will fall? Well, that’s the price you pay for not looking over your shoulder. And that’s game, set and match for you when you ignore digital revolution eating at your business.

 After the fall from grace of Kodak, the digital photography business was up for grabs and quite a few players, Canon, Sony and Olympus are cueing up to fight the good fight. But another player who is set to lose out are the film processing & development centers. Back in the golden days these were the triumphant businesses, charging more than Tk. 100 for developing your film. It was so easy. Just take your shots and send them to these centers. And you get your Kodak moments all printed and packaged.

But like Kodak, these photo print shops are in dire straits and running the risk of crashing out of business. To survive that these photo shops need to redefine their business and add value through some other means like digital photo processing. Its actually quite a cumbersome process to take the photos, download them from memory card to a digital storage device, and then take print-outs. The new business can help this whole process by providing one stop service, home service, proving the digital backup for your precious photos, providing temporary photo carrying facility for those who don’t have USB / flash drives. There are quite a few areas where they can add value.

Such centers are already there. But they are not as ubiquitous as the film photography processing centers. May be the old photo shops are still in love with the past to see the digital revolution.

Marketing Idea No. 134 – How to create a fantastic magazine brand

In terms of creating and maintaining good magazines, Bangladesh could have gone places. But currently the whole situation is stuck in a quagmire. 

When the overall book readership is going south in the country, its little surprising that magazine readership is also suffering a free fall. A few factors are also contributing to this

1. The Name – From Anando Dhara to Anando Alo to Anando Binodon, just about all entertainment magazines have similar names, making it really difficult for any one particular magazine to stand out

2. The Differentiation – Almost all of them have similar contents in similar writing style. Nothing is unique. Nothing stands out

3. The “Me-too” problem – Almost all the magazines are cluttered towards that one segment – women. In the recent years we have seen a significant rise in the number of “glam” magazines focusing on different elements of lifestyle.

In this situation, a new magazine can break free and create its own space by doing the following.

1. Target a new segment – How about a magazine for entrepreneurs? How about one for mucho males and metro sexuals? Rather than being an entertainment source (Which is effective for targetting women), magazines can be a source of very relevant information which can make it attractive for that illusive male group

2. Clearly position themselves with a different name. A great example is “Mint” which is a newly launched business paper which is a collaboartion with Wall Street Journal and Hindustan Times. With such an innovative name and great positioning (A breath of fresh air in the cliched business news segment), they have stood out from the rest. 

3. Offer something different. How about a magazine that will change its outlook with the six seasons? That would have a “word of mouth” angle and help to spread word.

Marketing Idea No. 133 – Creating a new music genre to help the aspiring music bands

When band music announced its arrival we all sit up and took notice. When underground music suddenly became the most interesting sound above the ground, we all gathered around and joined in the party. But after a while its all starting to sound the same. One of the main reason is just like product marketing, music marketing has reached a snag in our country.Here’s a solution that might help.

In brand marketing, its an age old that to be the most preferred brand, just create a new category and be the first in it. Don’t be a Cola No. 2, be a Non-cola category No. 1, hence 7 Up was born. Don’t be a computer manufacturer No. 2, create a handheld gadget category and be the number 1 in it. Hence, Palm Pilot was born.

Just like that in music, aspiring bands can create a new genre and be the first in it. By doing that their tune will not only sound different, but they will appeal to a different segment and create a lot of good publicity (Just think about it! The papers will create fascinating stories about a new style of music invented in the country)

History showed us that the bands that has invented new music genre and pioneered in it has reached immortal status. Ray charles was the first to mix gospel music into mainstream. Pink Floyd created psychedelic music genre. Nirvana started the punk and alternative revolution.So by innovating a new genre that is truly our very own, the new music bands can stand apart. Because currently what they are doing is creating a bee-line behind the Blacks and Artcells who enjoyed initial success.

Marketing Idea No. 132- The Unbecoming of “Made In USA”

The country association has always been great brand building tool. As part of a generation that craves for Swiss chocolate, Japanese Hi-fi, American Shoe and Italian clothes – we put our heart and soul in the entrusted seal – “Made In…..”. When we see our gaming console is from Japan, we know we are in trusted hands. When we see our friends use cheap imitations, we empathize with them. The poor chap probably ran out of money.

 Another thing that is closely associated with this “Country association” is patriotism. The nation where these brands are built take immense pride in being world renowned in that sector. That is why lots of brands have taken the patriotic route of positioning themselves, which has always been a sure-fire way of reaching to the mind of the customers. Patriotic spirit is undoubtedly one of the strongest emotions, and by associating themselves with that spirit, the TATA salts and Swatches of the world thought they too are lying very close to audience’s heart.

But outsourcing has thrown in a rather interesting twist in this saga. What if the “Nike”s are no longer made in USA? Would people still crave for Nike when they want to have association with USA-based hip-hop lifestyle? What if Microsoft programs are no longer written in USA but in Bangalore? Would we still believe its simplicity and ubiquity?

There of course is the ancient brand wisdom that products are made in factories but brands are made in the mind of customers. And some might argue that as long as “Nike” is positioned as a maverick lifestyle statement, as long as Nike USA is in charge of marketing, not some manufacturer in China – people will continue to buy in the “Nike” lifestyle and hence Nike.

But unfortunately its not that simple. It might have happened in an uninformed generation. But in a generation as connected as ours, these things will matter. We just know too much. There might be a reason why Nokia is no longer the reliable Nokia as we used to perceive. Because we know its no longer manufactured in a fantastic and unknown facility in developed Europe. Its made right in our doorstep in a factory in a rapidly developing India. There is a reason why we know longer rely in the longevity of Sony batteries, or the elegance of a Barbie doll or the efficiency of a Dell laptop. Because its no longer the authentic “Made in ……”

Therefore the brands whose main strength is country of association (where they come from) and “patriotism”, and those who also outsource their manufacturing, may need a different brand muscle to continue the brand war. 

Marketing Idea No. 131 – Money, money, money

Much has been said about the irrelevancy of formal education. Donald Trump even went as far as making a “Reality TV” show out of it when he lined up one college educated group against another high school drop outs in the second season of the highly successful “The Aprentice” to fight for the suremacy. There is little left in doubt that education is not the cure-all that mommy used to say. Its not the ticket to golden times and money like daddy promised. What is left to decide is what to do about it.

One way out is to inject reality into the education system. And in this regard the two most important reality checks that every starry-eyed graduate face is – money and politics. The case studies and pop quizes just cannot prepare you to this often maligned but integral part of grown up job life – how to earn enough money and how to deal with office politics.

In the last few years, the book that got everybody talking and which also figured in Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today and BusinessWeek bestsellers list is “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter. This book frankly criticized our tendency of not preparing students for the “Money Game”. And it makes a lot of sense. After all, its not much of a debate when we ask which one is important for future generation – learning the phonetics or learning how to earn money.

So all the “hush- hush” about how to earn money is actually making kids of today not only ill-prepared for future, but giving them an idea that this is actually a “Sin” to think about money. But none said reality is easy. And we should learn it the easy way, through books and methods, not on the streets. Hence reality based financial education is a must.

The same goes for business politics. Why not teach them how to play that game? Its not exactly unethical to teach people what they will eventually face and suffer from.

These kind of courses might bring faith of the new generation on the education system. And we can realistically claim – education pays.