Marketing Idea No. 199 – Seating Arrangements: Not Checked

Brand gurus have been at it for years now: every little details of your brand interaction matters. Hence we put on the fake smile for our customers during service experience. Meticulous analysis goes on to the CEOs speech for the special event. Agency creatives are on high alert over the designs of that event. Employees are asked to put on their Sunday best and be in their best behavior. I guess we are finally coming to terms with the whole 360 degree thingy.

Well not quite.

Here’s something so trivial, that it slips below the radar all the time.

Have you looked into the seating arrangement?

The seating arrangement of your event speaks volumes about your event. If not anything, it tells the customers whether in your eyes all your customers are same…or do you discriminate. It shows how much you really care about the actual experience of your customers. It tells customers whether your event is any different from the tens and hundreds of events that they have attended this year. It tells customers whether you consider others as “Media”, “Corporate Guests” and “VIP”s or just plain and simply as human beings.

With so much at stake, you should get down from your high horse and start RE-arranging those chairs.

Marketing Idea No. 198 – How Head of HR can help in brand marketing

George Bernard Shaw straightforwardly (if not rightfully) claimed once that youth is wasted on young people. The same can be claimed about Branding and its sole owner up to now….the Brand Manager.

Simply put, branding is too big an issue to be kept solely in the custody of brand manager. Two person should immediately chip in. One is the more obvious one, the Chief Executive Officer. He/she should become the big brand champion to the outside stakeholders.

If CEO is the brand custodian for outside stakeholders, then the HR director should become the brand custodian for internal stakeholder.

Historically, the role of HR director has been quite dubious. What exactly is his role? He doesnt recruit…the line managers do. He doesnt train…the trainers do. He doesnt terminate either….he simply carrries out the execution order.

By transforming the HR directors role as more the brand champion inside the organization, HR director now has a more important role to play inside the organization as well as in the boardroom.

As more and more companies are understanding the significance of internal marketing, the Head of HR should embrace this new role and the challenges that come with it.

Maketing Idea No. 197 – Advertisements for dummies

For years, the conventional wisdom told us not to out-smart the customers. It told us customer is king, and we should succumb to his / her every whim.

What it also meant was putting customer in a sort of super human category, where cognition-wise, he is always at a higher level than the marketer. The smart marketer, therefore, would make smart products and smart communication for its even smarter customers.

But what holds true for product, may not hold true for communication. While it makes sense to make smart products for customers, making smart communication may not always be warranted.

A really controversial rule of thumb could be – make dumb communication when your audience is not so “up there” cognitive capability wise. A case in point could be our largely illiterate audience.

Think about it. Making really creative, intelligent communication for illeterate people is like promoting Oscar winning films among high school teens- it may look politically correct bit will never have the appeal.

Therefore, if your audience is illiterate and wants song and dance routines in advertising, then its the marketers job to stoop down to their level and produce advertisements that appeal to them. This where “connection” is more important than “quality”. This is where marketers / agency’s “aesthetic sense” is less important than the cold hard fact :

“If the audience doesnt get it, it doesnt matter.”

Marketing Idea No. 196 – Are you marketing gravity or evolution?

Newton gets all kinds of credit. They call it the Law of Gravity. They put his picture on pages that profile geniuses. They say he discovered gravity. Nonsense. He just named it.

Everyone ‘believes’ in gravity. And yet, we know virtually nothing about it. We don’t know how gravity waves (if there are any) are transmitted. We can’t block them (anti gravity boots!) and we can’t amplify them and we have no idea how fast they travel. There are very few people doing serious gravity research and development, either. But it’s apparently a law.

Evolution (and one’s confidence or lack of belief thereof), on the other hand, is enough to sway a school board election or get you nominated for federal office. I’ve never met an informed person who doubted the general facts about evolution unless they had an alternative view of the origin of species that they felt emotionally connected to. There are evolution skeptics who would prefer a different story, but no gravity skeptics, even though there’s a lot less science there.

What’s up with that?

There are two reasons that gravity has had so much better marketing than evolution, and both may impact the way you market your product or service as well.

1. If the story of your marketing requires the prospect to abandon a previously believed story, you have a lot of work to do.

Nobody had a seriously described theory of gravity before Newton named it. No one walks around saying that they have a story about why we stick to the earth better than the gravity story. As a result, there was no existing story or worldview to overthrow. Naming something that people already believe in is very smart marketing.

2. If the timeframe of the message of your marketing is longer than the attention span (or lifetime) of the person you are marketing to, you have your work cut out for you as well.

Evolution is really slow. Hard to demonstrate it in real time during a school board meeting. Gravity is instantaneous.

Acupuncture is an interesting case. It’s possible to market acupuncture as, “Western medicine is wrong, this works.” The problem, of course, is that any time you market a product with, “You were wrong,” you have a lot of work to do. It can also be marketed as “This is a great way to supplement your ordinary medical treatments.”

Tactic 1: Try to tell a story that complements an existing story rather than calling it out as false.

Tactic 2: Try to make the ‘proof’ as vivid and immediate as possible. Like an apple falling on your head.

Big ideas often demand a marketing strategy that is a lot more difficult than marketing gravity. Sometimes results do take a long time. Sometimes the consumer has been wrong all along. Sometimes you do need to replace an existing story. I hope you will. But this takes time and patience and resources.

When in doubt, market gravity.

Written by Seth Godin

Marketing idea No. 195 – The Like-ability Factor

I had an employee reporting to me, who is habitually late every morning. And despite repeated assurances, she continued to pursue her way of showing up in the morning, which is late as usual. Not only that, when time came she was vocally reminding me of promoting her. And despite so many supervisory, negative comments that i should have made, “0” is the number of times i actually scolded her. She got her promotion in due time. And next morning, she came 2 hours late as usual.

Why such concilliatory treatment for her, you may ask. And the answer might not surprise you.

Despite her obvious shortcomings, she had one incredible thing going for her, which i called the “Likeability” factor. For her pleasant personality and overall way of handling business, its next to impossible to actually go about the business of scolding her!

Your brand could be, and in my opinion should be, like that girl. So much focus has been given to market share, brand preference, positioning, advertising etc. has been given in the past, that the most important aspect of it all got lost. Its the “like-ability” factor. Give an honest account of yourself. Does the people in general like your brand?

If you are Apple, the answer is yes. Thats what sets this brand apart. Not the super cool product, not the design, not the innovation. Its the like-ability factor. People honestly believe if Apple is a person, he should be the the quarterback of the high school class, the prom king and valedictorian – all rolled into one.

There is a lot to be learned from those person who simply have their own way in life, and still people love them.

Marketing Idea No. 194 – The Upcoming Global Brand Recession

Now, another bubble is hiding in our economy. This bubble represents $4 trillion dollars in S&P market capitalization alone. It’s twice the size of the subprime mortgage market. And it accounts for over one-third of all shareholder value. Credible evidence suggests that financial markets think brands are worth more than the consumers who buy them. The constantly rising valuation of major brands is creating a brand bubble, one that could erase large portions of intangible value in firms and send a shockwave through the global economy.

Of course, this is not to suggest that some stellar brands are not genuinely outperforming the market and setting new standards in customer loyalty and financial performance. But in most cases, these are precisely the brands that serve as examples of what other companies must do to inject value back into their own brands. These are the brands consumers swoon over, tell their friends about, and buy time and time again. These are the brands that drive a company’s stock beyond the estimates of financial experts. These are the brands that create surprise earnings quarter after quarter.

The problem is these stellar brands are becoming fewer in number. In today’s changing consumer climate, exceptional brands are just that — exceptions. Most of the brands lining our supermarket shelves, hanging from department store racks, or touting their superiority on television are experiencing a rapid diminution of perceived value. Consumers are simply falling out of love with a majority of brands they buy.

(Excerpts from the book The Brand Bubble)

Marketing Idea No. 193 – The Self-Help Hotel

When Roots Corporation – a subsidiary of Indian Hotels Limited (which also runs the Taj Group of hotels) ventured into a new concept of self-help hotels called Ginger in 2004, trade pundits were skeptical about its success.

After all, whoever heard of a hotel, where you’d have to do everything yourself: from checking in to ironing your clothes. Ginger had no liveried bellhops asking for tips, instead guests were met by baggage carts with help-yourself signs; ATM style self check-in counters replaced the traditional receptionist; even the mustachioed gatekeeper was missing in action! However, the strategy was perfectly timed.

Ginger’s low cost and Rs.999 tariff plans created a rage among budget travellers, who were in any case reeling under the demand-supply gap in the budget hotels segment. Today, with 14 properties across India, this one’s all gingered up for the future riding on its early mover’s advantage. Predictably, Ginger’s success prompted a host of me-too’s in the segment and a slew of budget hotels started popping out of the woodwork, including Lemon Tree, Peppermint and global players like Berggruen and Best Western.

(Inspired by the writing of Neha Sariya in 4Ps Business & Marketing)