Thursday, October 7, 2010


Ten lessons to learn from marketers who have either given the world some best-selling brands, or have failed miserably in their efforts...

The latest SMS joke doing rounds goes something like this: The teacher told the class, “Introduce yourself and say what does your dad do?” When his turn came, a boy stood up and said without battling an eyelid, “Sir, my dad works as a male stripper in a night club.” Lost for words, the teacher gestured him to sit down but later confronted him, “Well, there are subtle ways of putting it, and aren’t you ashamed of what your dad does for a living?” The boy replied, “Sir, actually I made that up in the class. Honestly, he works for the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee and I was too embarrassed to reveal his real occupation!” So who do you think will take the crown to head the Hall of Infamy once the year ends, considering all the news about the CWG 2010 that has been doing the rounds? [There is no prize for guessing the right answer.] The logic is simple: Authorities have been wrongly marketing the state of affairs with anything and everything to do with the Games. But moving away from disgraced marketers and disappointments, let us talk about those who are star marketers, and why...

So what if I am queen of kitsch?
Let’s get quizzical. Who declares that AB junior is a better actor than his Paa? Who claims that ‘there is nothing natural about Amitji’ or, that poor Salman Khan is being repeatedly used by his girlfriends for climbing up the career graph? Which brand stands for brashness, crudeness, and unsophistication, but to whom, Prabhu Chawla (from Aaj Tak) admits that much against his own wishes, “I have to invite you to Seedhi Baat since the audience demands it”? One of the top business magazines had included Rakhi Sawant in its list of best marketers of 2009. The fa├žade is carefully cultivated by Rakhi.

Lesson #1 to become a star marketer: Be uniquely relevant to your target audience.

Of vision and Dreams...
Henry Ford’s dream was to build a car for the masses, constructed by the best men, using the best material and having the simplest of designs. It was to be priced low so that every one with a moderately good salary could afford it. This dream sums up his marketing philosophy and the spirit of the Ford brand. First to introduce the assembly line in 1914 and mass produce cars, he made them affordable for all. A technological genius, he followed his passion and became the force behind an industry of unprecedented size and wealth that in only a few decades permanently changed the economic and social character of USA. A few years short of a century later, another great visionary, Ratan Tata, dreamt of a Nano and brought it to fruition.

Lesson #2: Dream big, live it, and enact it.

The first family of organised retailing
Kishore Biyani has changed the way we Indians shop. Focussing on decoding the Indian consumer, his singular goal is to respond to the needs of the Indian masses. He says that he knows only one way of attaining LSD – Laxmi Saraswati and Durga (goddesses of wealth, knowledge and emotional well being, and power) – by following the consumer way. The `10,000 crore plus Future Group is perhaps the only successful company in organised retailing in India today. Biyani has an uncanny and profound understanding of the Indian consumers.

Lesson #3: Consumer focus is the key; rest will follow.

I am the change agent!
Barack Obama relied on nouveau marketing tactics like online contribution through his electorate friendly website, mobile messaging to connect with his voters, and so on. He adroitly packaged himself as a product, selling hope and change to fellow countrymen. His catchphrase, ‘Change you can believe in’, struck the right chord in a country that had lost faith in the establishment and was looking for a saviour. Obama came as a relief, as a trustworthy alternative, produced and packaged very slickly.

Lesson #4: Connect well with your customers.

Hum hein Chulbul Pandey!
The successful Dabbang actually signals the thumping return of the delightful subgenre, the unapologetic mainstream masala flick. Salman fills the gap of being ‘man of muscle’, but not necessarily the conventional hero incarnate. He has positioned himself as Bollywood’s premier action hero. The dream combo – soft face, tough body (reminding you of Dharmendra of the ‘70s) – compels the women to ogle at him and men envy his rippling muscles bursting through the seams of his shirt. Now, everybody does not necessarily dig at We are family. There is life outside the multiplexes.

Lesson #5: Bridge the need gap existing in the market.

I am young, I am the future
During the General Elections of 2009, the heritage party promised the usual – stability, secularism, good governance. However, what was new and unique to the Congress’s marketing strategy was Rahul Gandhi who brought the youth in the mainstream of politics. He infused sincerity, positivity, and freshness in the Party’s plans. RG, the brand, represents youth, dynamism, and new-age thinking. He easily connects with the masses, has charisma, transparency, down to earth demeanour, and a relentless focus on galvanising youth. Still evolving, it is to be seen if he will have his Obama moment in 2014. He is still perfecting the art of marketing.

Lesson #6: Cultivate new segments as per your strengths.

Badshah of marketing
SRK is worth `1,500 crore. He has the sharp vision of a businessman. At the core of the casual exterior exists a canny entrepreneur, who is quick to spot an opportunity and get cracking at it. He has the requisite skills to run businesses that he does, the qualities that meet the job specifications for becoming a CEO and capabilities of an inspirational leadership. He has successfully helped launch new products and brands in relatively untested markets. With a strikingly clear vision and great ambition, he is a great researcher, a coach and a player, and a meticulous manager – traits that make him a quintessential marketer.

Lesson #7: Use your strengths to full advantage.

Mr. Perfectionist?
Aamir Khan, knows how to influence masses. He made people change their hairstyle and bulk up after Ghajini, become more empathetic towards children with learning disorder after Taare Zameen Par, and even rethink the Indian education system with its warts and all after 3 Idiots. His last four releases have collected `600 crore at the box-office. Raju Hirani calls him a marketing monster. Aamir the marketer is even more precious than Aamir the actor. His big success is in running a production company which has cent percent record of super hits – three out of three.

Lesson #8: A better mousetrap needs marketing too.

A check list should consist of not merely Do’s but also Don’ts. Let’s therefore also narrate some entries from the Hall of Infamy.

I am Lalit Modi AKA IPL
There would not have been an IPL without Lalit Modi choreographing it. However, he became too sure of his invincibility & piled up one fatal mistake after another. He caught up with his nemesis when the fantasised immunity cover crumbled with the govt. unleashing its wrath on him. He built the IPL to a $4 billion-plus level, but on the way razed his own equity to ground.

Lesson #9: A megalomaniac marketer bites the dust.

Crash landing is a real possibility
Paramount Airways was the poster boy of Indian aviation. While others were immersed in red ink, it was awash with profit. But the promoter M. Thiagrajan failed to do his arithmetic right. Driven perhaps more by passion and integrity, not logic, he failed to appreciate the fact that airline business is a great money guzzler. He failed to honour his commitments. A good product got grounded even before it could start gaining heights.

Lesson #10: A successful marketer has to be an astute businessman too.