Many pundits have weighed in on this question – some have taken a pricing view of the brand and said that sponsors and advertisers won’t pull out because of the scandal and the investigation. So the brand is safe. Others have said its image may be a bit tarnished but hey, this is India and life goes on – IPL is now ‘too big to fail’. Some of the great cricketers who speak for the ‘game’ are worried that unless there is a cleaning up of the sleaze around IPL, the IPL avatar of the game will lose its credibility among fans. They also worry that the sleazy associations around the IPL version of cricket can damage the enduring popularity of the game itself. Football and basketball are waiting around the corner for their market share, mind share and time under the sun.
The great imponderable in this is the changing viewpoint and changing attitude of cricket viewing audience and cricket fan. What do the various segments/constituencies/fan groups think and feel about what is going on? Will they continue to watch first of all? Will they participate enthusiastically in cheering various teams and players? Will they continue to willingly perform their part as ‘consumers’ of ‘cricket-ainment’? Will they continue to consume? Or will they stop consuming? If they stop, the hit show could change to a flop show or an also ran show. And then cash cow would run dry or would it?
A critical semiotic analysis of the IPL-cricket brand and its implicit code of engagement with its audience/consumers throws up interesting perspectives. This initial analysis, merits further study and can provide significant direction for the strategic management of the brand. IPL was conceptualized by its creators as a hybrid concept for a country and audience that is very open to hybrids that mix up very different elements into interesting mixes and cocktails. So IPL was a version of the T-20 format of cricket that blended cricket with Bollywood style entertainment and American sports management concepts of league teams owned by business people, with the cheer leaders thrown in for good measure.
So, from the mass Indian audience and fan’s point of view, what is IPL-cricket? Is it a sport, a game viz cricket? The implicit but well understood culture and category code of a sporting fan’s engagement with the sport of his choice is of fair play and that the game is not rigged in any manner. In any sport, the rules of play are well defined, there are rule enforcing policemen viz the umpires and within that framework, the contestants - the top sportsmen, high performers that they are, play to win. So, from a “sport” framework, spot fixing and allied match fixing with the brazen involvement of the underworld and cheating sportsmen are anathema. All sports, everywhere, have their scandal stories when big money is involved, along with the fallen idols. But it is understood that the ‘governors’ of the sport will do what it takes to “clean” up the game of the “sleaze” so that the sports’ fans and sports lovers can enjoy their beloved game without loss of faith or doubt.
Or is IPL-cricket, cricket really? If it is cricket-ainment, then does it belong with other forms of televised entertainment and thus, virtual realities? In the world of entertainment, everything is make-believe anyway. Even ‘reality’ shows are staged and ‘live’ performances are pre-recorded. The audience knows this and aligns their expectations accordingly. In the “entertainment” frame, everything is ‘staged’ and ‘created’ for effect. Why not the matches too? Why not the matches be strategized and co-ordinated to keep the audience guessing and waiting for more, like the script writers do for TV content? And if the sportsmen are akin to actors and stars performing their part in a pre-arranged script, then how does it matter if they cut a side deal for a little bit of spot fixing, for some thrills and extra cash? In a strange way, there is no cheating or dishonesty or problem with the brand, because the brand is delivering what it promised to its audience, viz, entertainment to the max – with sideshows of scandals, controversies et al to add masala and spice to the entertainment. After all, it is showbiz and in showbiz notoriety and infamy sells as much as genuine performance.
Or as a hybrid – that is a mix of both sport and entertainment – like cross-cultural marriages, fusion food and fusion music, does it have its own rules that it should be evaluated against? Then what are those codes and rules of engagement for a hybrid? Clarity of identity and transparency in rules creates simplicity of understanding and consequently trust. That the transplanting of American concepts into the Indian soil creates all sorts of confusion and unanticipated outcomes is clearly evident from the six seasons. Cheer leaders become equivalents of item girls in movies, but when required to perform live in public, need to adopt public behaviors that fit in with Indian cultural standards of modesty in public places. American style free market capitalism in the management of the economics of IPL-Cricket, when transplanted into India’s unregulated or lightly regulated sports market has led to visible and gross excesses of cronyism that gallop unchecked.
In economic terms, clarity brings efficiency via simplicity. The first value add of branding to a marketed product is to create a trust mark that its consumers can rely on to define their expectations so that they can know for sure that they have got their money’s worth. Or as a TV audience, they have got their time’s worth. In a world of consumer choice, when the consumer-audience wields the power of the remote control, clarity in defining the brand’s identity, the category classification that it belongs to and hence the codes/rules of engagement with its consumer become a necessity, not something that can be denied, overlooked or glossed over. Declining viewership ratings may be the first sign of an underlying, fundamental problem which has not been addressed. Hubris will surely lead to downfall in a scenario of consumer choice.
Maybe it’s time the IPL management apart from talking to one another and to the ‘pundits’ actually commissioned a significant study of the consumer, to really understand how the average viewer, the equivalent of the aam-aadmi decodes the identity of IPL-Cricket, calibrates his/her expectations and responds accordingly. This could help address contentious debates around questions such as, will the fan continue to watch, will eyeballs drop, will the sleaze around IPL rub-off onto cricket itself and diminish its appeal and even questions of the ethics and standards that should be defined, to protect the longer term future of both IPL-cricket and cricket itself.
Hamsini Shivakumar is the Co-founder, Leapfrog Strategy Consulting
Recently, Joe Pulizzi wrote a post on the 12 Roles Essential to the Future of Content Marketing. In it, he listed the new roles we need to consider, not only as marketers, but also as people who drive business for our organizations. It’s a reflection of the growing responsibility we have as marketers — and the growing need for us to step up our leadership role.
Look inside first
As Joe pointed out, one of the expanding areas of responsibility is human resources (HR) andinternal marketing. But many companies fall short on doing a good job of communicatingwith their own employees, let alone extending their brand storytelling to those they hope to recruit.
If our primary goal is to own content niches, online and off, then we have to enable employees to help tell our brand story. It’s true, customers have relationships with people, not brands. Thus, content marketing has a tremendous opportunity to ensure that customer-facing staff members understand what makes their company unique.
Employees are more than brand ambassadors; they’re promise keepers. They’re the ones who have to bring to life the promises we make in our content programs, lead-nurturing campaigns, PR efforts, and the brand storytelling efforts we distribute through all marketing channels.
If we thought of supporting HR as a way to recruit the best people to deliver on our brand promises, would we be more proactive in working with them?
In order to have the right people on hand to tell the right brand story, we have to find and hire those “right people.” That means sharing our companies’ value and perspective consistently across all channels — not just to reach customers, but to reach prospective employees, as well. We need to consider the HR perspective when we work on top-of-funnel awareness. The stories that matter to customers also matter to the rock stars we want to recruit, and should include ideas such as culture, leadership, challenge, and growth.
To make this easy, think of the content marketing hourglass (shown above) that Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi describe in their book, “Managing Content Marketing,” as a way to connect with and retain employees. There needs to be a well-thought out process that identifies the right kind of people (personas), defines their potential role within the organization (segmentation), and understands how to nurture them and convert them to employees.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Many employers think of the process of converting a recruit to an employee the same as the conversion of a girlfriend/boyfriend to a wife/husband — once they sign on the dotted line, the romance goes away, and they’re left on their own to deal with everyday life.
Create tangible expressions of your story
Happy, long marriages prevail when both sides understand the importance of communication and teamwork in how they create their story together.
Motorola Solutions serves as an example of how to do it right. In January 2011, Motorola split into two companies — B2B brand Motorola Solutions and consumer-facing Motorola Mobility (which was subsequently purchased by Google). Leadership had prepared for the separation for more than two years — on one Friday, employees went home as employees of one company, and on the following Monday, they returned to two separate businesses.
Over that weekend, Motorola Solutions physically rebranded 30 of its facilities worldwide, so when employees walked in, they saw evidence of their new brand story already coming to life. The company spent the rest of 2011 integrating the brand promise into the culture of the company and helping employees understand how to tell it to the outside world.
It’s not unusual for a company’s story to lack credibility with employees. If your story accurately reflects your company as it stands today, then employees will more easily engage in telling it. And if you’re trying to change the story you tell, then employees will need tangible evidence of that change — recruitment, recognition, rewards — before they begin to believe. Marketing needs to help them feel proud to represent their employers — because we need them to tell our story as a cohesive, unified team.
Protect your investments
Why should a customer do business with a company when even its own employees can’t explain what makes it different? And if the experience that customers have when interacting with your employees doesn’t match up with the stories you are telling, it won’t matter how much you invest in external marketing efforts to project a positive brand image.
We talk about consistency in channels when reaching customers, yet we turn around and talk to employees with a glut of homogeneous messages.
Back to Joe and Robert’s hourglass, I urge the content marketing industry to lead the charge on getting creative about engaging with employees in order to move them from satisfied to brand evangelists. Will a company intranet and an annual town hall meeting cut it? We live in an instant, real-time world, and it may be time to consider enterprise social network tools such as Yammer and Socialcast. Even Google+ supports internal hangouts and allows people to post only within their organizations. Companies that have nontraditional, hard-to-reach employees — like healthcare organizations, oil rig workers, or tech teams — have begun to develop bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, so employees can connect using their mobile device of choice.
Creating alignment is hard work, and it’s time consuming. But it’s critical that we get employees excited about our story. They have to believe it because, ultimately, they’re the ones who will be sharing it.
Now, tell us your story. How do you recruit and engage employees so you can create promise keepers?
Carla Johnson, principal, Type A Communications, and a consultant to theContent Marketing Institute, writes, trains, speaks and works with companies to help them discover their story, then use it as a foundation for their branding, messaging and content marketing initiatives. She's a contributing writer to "Advice From The Top: The Expert Guide to B2B Marketing," as well as Chief Content Officer magazine, CMSwire and other industry and business publications. Follow her on Twitter @carlajohnson.
Published with permission from CMI
ZOOP, the children’s brand of watches from Titan Industries Limited, has joined forces with the Marvel Comics Group, a prominent character-based entertainment companies. Through this association, ZOOP will launch the Iron Man 3 collection that is inspired by the popular character in the Marvel Studio feature, Iron Man 3.
Speaking about the association, Ajoy Chawla, Vice President – Titan & Retail, Titan Industries Limited, said, “To connect with kids it’s important to be a part of their world. ZOOP’s proposition ‘Be Cool’, its many exciting collections and this latest association with Marvel is an attempt to be true to this philosophy. This unique association with global brands like Marvel will present to our little consumers a range of exciting products that are inspired by their favourite Superheroes.” He further added, “We are looking forward to launching the first of these products across India in May 2013.”
“Iron Man, one of Marvel's most iconic character resonates with families and the kids audiences alike. This year, to bring the theatrical experience alive, we have launched an exciting range of products inspired by Iron Man and giving the India fans an amazing opportunity to own products that features their favourite Super Hero”, said Roshini Bakshi, managing director, Consumer Products and Retail, Disney UTV.“We are extremely excited to announce our association with Titan for Marvel Super Heroes collection of watches for our fans in India”, she added
The collection comprises 8 special edition watches for young boys and girls, and is available at all World of Titan outlets, key multi-brand outlets and department stores across the country.
Some brands have started featuring their Brand Ambassador on their packaging as well. Luxor Nano-Clean, the new specialty clean and care brand features Amitabh Bachchan; Sunfeast biscuits used Shah Rukh Khan during the period when he was Brand Ambassador and Luminous Inverters showcases their brand ambassador Sachin Tendulkar on their pack. Lux used their Star’s faces inside the wrapper for their 75 year celebratory special edition variants. One can understand the marketer as business person’s wish to get greater ROI, from the high fees that they pay to big stars, for endorsing their brands. However, does this make sense for the brand, especially at a time when the big stars endorse multiple brands, so much so, that to describe them as ambassador for a specific brand seems a misnomer. How does placing the face of the endorsing Star on the pack focus or enhance brand awareness and brand perception? Is it an effective or ineffective way of achieving brand impact?
In the case of FMCG brands such as Sunfeast, Nanoclean and Lux soaps, it is the growth of modern trade that has made it sensible to place the brand ambassador on pack – as a mnemonic, to aid brand recognition and to connect the shopper ‘moment of truth’ with the brand messaging on TV. In the old days when FMCG brands were asked for at the kirana store and packs were hidden deep inside the store, to be searched out by the sales boy, putting the brand ambassador on pack had very little value. However, in a super market, when the shopper is hesitating between trying out one brand vis-à-vis another on the shelf, the celebrity’s face could be a hook to entice trial towards the endorsed brand. As such, for a brand in the early part of its growth cycle, viz in the first three years of launch, when it is still garnering new users and building its user base, featuring brand ambassadors on pack to stimulate trial is a smart strategy, especially in modern trade. On the other hand, in the kirana store, whether the shopper would say, ‘woh shah rukh wala biscuit dena’ or ‘amitabh wala cleaner dena’ is a moot point. Given the sheer number of brands that Stars endorse and the entertainment value for which consumers watch Stars in ads, that seems doubtful. Even if the consumer were to ask for the “Shahrukh-wala” biscuit, and Sunfeast biscuits were to get a temporary blip in trial levels due to the Star association, it is even more doubtful whether the transferred awareness and salience of the Star will create a lasting awareness, differentiated perception or preference for the brand.
The case of durables such as Luminous inverters is somewhat different from FMCG. While the consumer may have a choice set in his mind when he goes to the dealer outlet, a lot of the search and selection process happens in the outlet. Products and packs are also prominently displayed both outside and inside the outlet. The packaging being a carton is also of a larger size, thus allowing for more prominent display. Keeping these aspects in mind, the presence of the Brand Ambassador on the pack could enable brand recognition and recall at the store.
In the specific case of Luminous, there is likely to be an added benefit of connecting the brand promise of reliability that was seen by the consumer on TV - at the point of purchase – through the presence of Sachin as India’s best known symbol of reliability, who also endorses Luminous inverters. Smart strategy from the Luminous marketing team to join the dots for the consumer and for building the brand. The FMCG brands – Sunfeast biscuits and Luxor Nanoclean have only used the Stars as quality endorsers and attention getters; they have not tried to link the brand’s promise to the celebrities symbolic attributes. And as such get a lesser level of benefit from featuring the celebrity on their packaging.
As of now, only a few brands have adopted this strategy of featuring their Brand Ambassadors on their packaging. Hence could be benefiting from the same. However, considering the number of brands that feature celebrities in their advertising; if more and more brands start featuring them on packs as well, the advantages could wear off quite quickly and easily. First movers do have some time to breathe.
Hamsini Shivakumar is the Co-founder, Leapfrog Strategy Consulting
Sachin's image courtesy Google
Narasimhan Tupil (Nash) is the Marketing Director for SMB, Channel and Alliances for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Group in Asia Pacific & Japan. In this role, his team is responsible for driving thought leadership, sales enablement and demand generation through marketing activities targeted at SMB, Channel and Alliance partners for HP’s Enterprise Group APJ. The Multi-billion dollar Enterprise group portfolio, includes Industry Standard Servers, Business Critical Servers, Storage, Networking and Technology Services business.
His immediate prior roles in HP include being the Chief Marketing Officer for HP Technology Services (TS) APJ business (2009-2012) and India TS General Manager (2008). Nash joined HP, though Digital Equipment Corporation as a Product Manager in 1997 and grew through the ranks within the company through the mergers with Compaq Computer and later with Hewlett Packard. He has a successful track record of driving profitable business growth in a variety of country and regional management roles over many years.
Nash is an Engineer and an MBA with more than two decades of work experience. He has travelled widely across Asia. He lived for many years in Middle-east and Singapore and is currently based in India’s Silicon valley – Bangalore. He has passion for photography, reading and travel.
Can you briefly explain your 3p approach to marketing for our readers?
The classical 4P’s of product, price, place and promotion are very relevant to products. However, when we have to sell a pure service (like Nursing, Consulting, Cloud services) or a product with accompanying services (like airlines, computer) the 4P’s are not enough. As services is all about outcomes and experiences - we have to employ 3 more P’s – People, Process and Proof in the marketing mix. That’s why you will see many IT companies showcase Proof points (Customer testimonials/ Case studies), Hotels & Airlines showcase their process (Star ratings) and people (happy employees) in the ads.
What are few things to keep in mind when marketing to channel partners?
The importance of channel partners can never be understated in business. Many of us know, companies which had great products failing because they could not market through the channels. Partners look for companies, which have a solid brand, high quality & well differentiated products, pricing power, economies of scale, world-wide/ nation-wide reach, responsiveness and good sales training and post-sales service.
Are the rules different for b2b marketing and b2c?
Many rules are common, like product quality, price-value, post-sales support etc. However, there are some important differences too. Consumers typically are fast adopters, have an emotional angle to purchase and usually make their own final decisions. Business customers typically look for longer term relationships, reliability of products, quality of service, more rational looking at total cost of ownership Vs pure initial price and usually make collective decisions. So the respective marketers have to highlight different elements for different sets of customers.
What has been your biggest learning during your professional years?
In over 2 decades of marketing I have marketed everything from Cars to Computers to Cloud. I am and will be a life-long student of marketing. Few key things I learnt are: Good brands take years to build and just days to destroy. So one has to work hard every day to keep it great. Get basics right – quality products, good services, focus on customer value and not just price, differentiate offerings Vs competition, ensure partners have a rational and emotional connect with your company and promote aggressively. And I’ve been very fortunate to work in company like HP for over 15 years, which have defined new categories and markets and innovated ahead of the curve.
What role is digital playing in communication while marketing specifically related to your focus area?
Digital communication is fast and cheap – at the same time it’s abundant and can be ignored by customers if not relevant and too frequent. In my area of channel marketing, we specifically look at 3 things – Relevance, Frequency and Medium of communications. In channel marketing and communications, we do the entire gamut of digital communications from monthly e-newsletters to quarterly webinars to yearly digital conferences. What is most important is relevance - to which segment, what messages you are offering. The rest is just details. We have everything from Partner Portals to Smart Phone apps on product details for partners – everything is digital communications.
Over the years, what is the biggest change that you have seen in b2b marketing and what according to you will be one trend that will define the future of your industry.
In the last 10 years – Internet and Cell phones have changed the way we work, collaborate and communicate. In the future, it’s going to be 4 things - Digital, Mobile, Social and Cloud. HP is leading in many of these fronts. In Printing we are driving the change from analogue to digital, with our PC’s and Wireless Networking products we are driving change in user mobility, with our converged cloud we have helped many customers build cloud based social business in days. We are perhaps the only company which has over a Billion consumer customers in IT Industry – and at the same time have a large %age of Fortune 500 companies as our enterprise customers.
(The views expressed in the interview is of Nash in his individual capacity and not views of HP)
Over the past several years I’ve read, and written, many blogs on the subject of Challenger brands. I thought I’d condense some of what I’ve read into what, I hope, serves as a useful guide for those as fascinated as I am about Challenger brands.
A for Anita Roddick. Founder of The Body Shop and Challenger iconoclast. Anita is widely credited for shaking the conventions of the cosmetic industry by founding a company based on addressing environmental and ethical business issues. Today Transparency and Social Cause marketing are watch-words for business. As early as 1976, Anita saw the untapped potential to make those issues a pillar of her brand identity. True Challenger Lighthouse thinking.
B for Baumgartner. 2012 and an energy drink brand sponsors a man to throw himself from space and parachute back to earth. Only a storied challenger brand like Red Bull would’ve had the balls to do that. With a staggering 35 million views on YouTube, Red Bull Stratos redefined the term content marketing and highlighted there is no ceiling on Red Bull’s Challenger thinking.
C for Chobani. 2005. A shuttered Kraft plant. 5 employees and a family yogurt recipe. Hollywood couldn’t write the Chobani story. While the category incumbents had walked away from Greek yogurt as a “no-win” sector, founder Hamdi Ulukaya’s Challenger thinking lead to explosive growth in a category now valued at $1.5 billion where Chobani owns 17% share, more than double its next competitor.
D for Dyson. An eccentric engineer whose obsession (see I for Idea-Centric) revolutionized the household appliances sector. James Dyson was so obsessed with creating the perfect vacuum design that he experimented with over 5,000 designs before launching the perfect model. That same obsession has lead Dyson to tackle other inefficient designs – and category incumbents – in hand dryers, fans and washing machines. Challenging conventional wisdom – vacuums need a bag and four wheels, dryers need a blade – is what makes Dyson a true Challenger brand.
E for entrepreneurial. Hardly a shock, but many Challengers are founded by serial entrepreneurs. Folks who are keen to forge new paths and eschew the traditional ways of doing business. Branson has famously launched over 300 Virgin companies in his tenure. By acting like entrepreneurs, rather than incumbents, Challengers are able to question conventional wisdom and challenge conventions.
F for folklore. Every Challenger brand has an element of folklore built into its DNA. Some of those are about Challenger brand CEO’s (Branson is dyslexic, Ulukaya and Armancio Ortega are recluses) or about how Challenger brands act (Harley Owners Group rides, Saturn “Homecoming” picnics, Ben & Jerry’s highly-successful efforts at crowdsourcing names)…folklore magnifies the impact the brand has and is a core tenet of Challenger brands.
G for Goliath. In every category there is a metaphorical Goliath. A large, brash, arrogant, entitled brand that is the sworn enemy of the true Challenger. Like the biblical David, Challengers are the champions of the people, using their natural agility to defeat the lumbering category behemoths.
H for Hsieh. Tony Hsieh, CEO of internet phenomenon Zappos, is another Challenger icon. Where many had shrugged off the potential of selling shoes on-line Hsieh saw opportunity. In addition to transforming Zappos into a company acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion, Hsieh created a service culture that is the envy of many. Where other online business’ have slashed customer service to drive profit, Zappos were the 1st to over-invest in customer care which has driven loyalty and referrals. Challenging category norms is why Tony Hsieh is on this list.
I for Idea Centric. Challengers are born from a fixation on an idea versus merely being consumer-centric. Ideas that drive from “What If” versus “Consumers have told us”. A mythical 3rd place between work and home (Starbucks), a car you can rent by the hour (Zipcars), mass-produced high-fashion available almost overnight
J for Judicious Challengers often spring from humble beginnings where cash-flow is monitored obsessively. Challengers must obey’s Michael Porter’s first rule of Strategy “The essence of Strategy is choosing what not to do”. This obsessive fixation on an Idea (see I for Idea-Centric) versus bending to the will of the market means Challengers must always be incredibly judicious in the choices they make.
K for K-Swiss. While Nike, adidas, Converse may be more recognized athletic shoes, K-Swiss has always enjoyed celebrity Challenger status for its irreverent stance and positioning. The first to allow customers to completely customize their shoes, K-Swiss understood personalization before it became mainstream. If you want a flavor for the K-Swiss attitude, check out the hilarious spokesperson Kenny Powers the MFCEO of K-Swiss
L for Lazy. Lazy categories where complacency or fear is rife are classic Challenger opportunities.Perhaps my favourite Challenger quote comes from Sir Richard Branson who said; “I love tackling lazy industries”. From the man who has challenged the music, financial, airline, rail, bridal and space industries, this quote rings incredibly true.
M for Middle-of-the-road. Challenger thinking broaches no middle-of-the-road positioning. The middle of the road is where brands and businesses get killed.
N for Nandos. Quirky South African brand Nandos has redefined the QSR category causing global players like KFC to sit up and take note. With a history of humorous and politically-charged advertising, Nandos highlights that Challengers are unafraid to take on any incumbent – even if that incumbent is the ruling ANC Party and their sponsorship of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.
O for Opportunistic (and Overcommit). The story of Virgin Atlantic serves as a great example of this classic Challenger attitude. The idea formed when Branson was stranded by a cancelled flight in Puerto Rico. Branson essentially began operations with a single leased jet that blew up days before the scheduled launch of the airline. Undeterred Branson pulled money from other Virgin companies and VA went ahead. Years later he was forced to sell Virgin Music to continuing funding an idea that he still passionately believed in. This type of Overcommitment is another hallmark of great Challenger brands.
P for Passion. Not surprisingly passion is a core component of Challenger brands. Often manifest in founders like Branson, Dyson, Hsieh, Dietrich Mateschitz (Red Bull) but, more importantly, Challengers evoke similar passion in their employees and in their fans. Challengers are renowned for delivering service excellence at all touchpoints – think Zappos, Virgin Atlantic, Jet Blue. That doesn’t happen without commitment and passion.
Q for Quirky.com. If innovation and crowdsourcing are the Challenger business priorities of the future, then Challenger brand Quirky.com is leading that charge. The website essentially democratizes the entire innovation cycle by providing a site where innovation and real consumers can interact. Not only can you view inventions but also help improve their design and help determine a market price too. Quirky is bringing Challenger thinking to the classically closed arena of New Product Development.
R for Red Bull. From inception to launching folks from space (see B for Baumgartner) Red Bull is a Challenger brand personified. While other energy drinks took the road of athletic sponsorships, Red Bull became the must-have trendy drink at rave clubs. When others were sponsorsing mainstream sports, Red Bull has been sponsoring Air Races, downhill ice derbies, free running spectaculars and others. Where extreme mental agility meets physical endurance, Challenger Red Bull can be found.
S for Sacrifice. True Challengers realize that, by Overcommiting they are going to alienate some consumers and some markets. Challengers are not, like most brands, trying to be everything to everyone. Southwest Airlines are not for folks who want lavish attention. US cable company AMC has avoided category clichés like RomComs and Celebrity gossip programming, preferring instead to champion some of the most breakthrough (and award garnering) TV programming in recent years with shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men and The Walking Dead. Both have sacrificed easier routes to market but, by sacrificing, they’ve both gotten higher loyalty and fandom than their category peers.
T for Thought-Leadership. Challengers tackle the tough issues within categories. The sacred cows others aren’t comfortable addressing. Not surprising they become the thought leaders in a category. The trailblazers determining where next. Ecological values in cosmetics (The Body Shop), the conversation around periods (ubyKotex), customer service not cost-cutting in the airline industry (Virgin Atlantic). Challenging the conventions and leading the conversations is what Challengers do best.
U for U/X or ubyKotex. Okay, I took a little license here but the ubyKotex campaign by San Francisco agency Organic has turned the tired and out-of-touch feminine hygiene category on its head. No more blue liquid demonstrations, no more girls in white jeans, ubyKotex has been lauded as the first women’s brand to actually talk intelligently to women. An incredible example of Challenger brand thinking that resonates.
V for Volatility (and Virgin). Business today is more volatile and fragile than ever. Brands that continue to operate in traditional models – HMV, Blockbuster,
Woolworths, Borders – are being obliterated with ruthless efficiency. Often by true Challengers – Amazon, Netflix, Spotify. There has never been more impetus to consider Challenger thinking in your business.
W for Waitt. Ted Waitt was one of the founders of iconic Challenger tech firm Gateway. In a market serviced by Dell, H-P and IBM, Gateway famously shipped their computers in spotted boxes designed to look like cows, a head-nod to the company being started in an actual farm in Iowa. Unfortunately Gateway, like many tech firms, was unable to survive the dot-com bust and was acquired by Acer in 2007. For his instinctive understanding of Challenger credo #7 “Use Advertising & PR as a high-leverage asset”, Ted Waitt and Gateway make this list.
X for X-Factor. Why is it that some Challenger brands are ever-lasting and some fizzle and die? Personally, I think those that attain Challenger status and then fade away are missing a vital X-factor. That X-factor is continued commitment to acting like a Challenger. Avis, Pepsi, and I would even add Apple to that list, have all shied away from the Challenger commitment that took them to the top. In doing so, they’ve lost a step.
Y for Y (okay…Why). Cut me some slack here guys. You know how few words and brands start with a Y? Anyway, this is a mantra near and dear to my heart. Challengers look at business through a lens of “Why Not” instead of “Why Would We”. That has a profound effect because it means the seemingly impossible suddenly becomes feasible. No frills airlines (Southwest) Expensive, under-performing motorbikes (Harley-Davidson), Weird tasting beverages (Red Bull). At their heart, questioning conventional thinking is where Challengers shine.
Z for Zara, Zipcar, Zappos. Three iconic business models that have redefined their categories. Zara’s founder is nowthe 3rd richest man in the world. By challenging traditional fashion category practices, he stripped weeks from the “catwalk to the store” cycle creating the “fast fashion” movement. Zipcars success was so profound that Avis recently paid $500 million for the feisty Challenger, hoping to reinvigorate their business. The irony of Avis, a Challenger in its own right, acquiring Zipcars was lost on no-one. Zappos has also seen incredible success. A success that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was keen to capitalize on.
Read this incredible letter by Tony Hsieh on the acquisition to see how fundamental Challenger thinking remains at the company.
I’m sure I’ve left out some favourites, mis-appropriated terms to fit them into my tidy alphabet, missed some key terms.
Weigh in readers. What’s missing from the list above?
I wanted to thank the awesome folks at eatbigfish for their help on this post. The ever stellar Chad Dick was fantastic. If you love Challenger brands, then find more great thinking here or follow them on twitter at @eatbigfishLDN
About the author: An insatiable curiosity is my defining characteristic. Which is probably why I got into advertising over 14 years ago. I know it aint a real job in comparison to say, a fireman or a nuclear physicist but hey. Anyway, along the way I've developed an opinion on a coupla things. This blog allows me to air a few of those opinions and thoughts. I thank you for your visit and welcome your feedback.
There is no escaping the reality that the brand and messaging environment is crowded and cluttered. In today’s era of choice and aggressive marketing, the consumer’s attention and mind space are difficult to attract and retain. It’s a simple fact that the consumer’s attention span and memory are far more limited when compared to the number of options that are fighting to enter. Thus, every marketer feels that their budget is less compared to the challenge at hand and every creative person is pushed to come up with ideas to break clutter. In a market street, there may be 50 hoardings trying to draw the consumer’s attention, during an advertising break in a high TRP program, there could be 25 ads, and on a small section of a shop shelf there may be 10 brands and 25 variants all waiting to be chosen. Getting into the salient set of brands (top 3 brands spontaneously recalled) is make or break for consumer pull. So, here are several proven ways for a brand to stand out amidst the plethora of brands in the category and outside.
Be outrageously provocative, to get talked about
Celebrities are much more comfortable using this strategy to generate controversy and negative attention, usually companies and brands are not. Some daring entrepreneurs have used this approach, in fact courted controversy in order to stand out – think Benetton, Virgin/Richard Branson. Celebrities have staged stunts for PR and media mileage like the fight between Chetan Bhagat and Aamir Khan over the Three Idiots script is an imaginative way to get talked about.
Be extremely relevant or useful to your identified target group
If a consumer has a hair fall problem, worried about acne, shopping for wedding suits or diabetic biscuits, he or she will notice your brand even amidst a lot of clutter. The reason is simple, human attention is directed and focused towards that which is at the forefront of the mind, which is need fulfillment. The takeaway, know your customer and most importantly identify them. Also you need to know what problem or need of theirs you address better than others.
Be one of a kind
Being unique is not easy, but the result in terms of fame is hard to take away. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world and will continue to be that for at least another ten years. The Taj Mahal continues to be one of the seven wonders of the world. The i-Pad although rapidly copied by competitors, still retains its aura of being one of its kind.
Break convention, zag while others are zigging
Vodafone used a small dog, the pug, to symbolize itself and then went on to create the zoo-zoos. When Airtel chose realism and slice of life, Vodafone chose the opposite and stood out. Dove tried to break convention with its ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ but did not stay the course and went back to the formulae of scientific beauty care communication.
Ride on the established fame, of the famous
Sixty percent of advertised brands on television in India use a celebrity for this reason, it is believed to be the ‘fail-safe’ and in some respects, ‘easiest’ way to cut the clutter. After all, the brand only needs to find the funds to buy celebrity endorsement. It need not be unique or provocative or daring or truly path breaking – all of which require far more risk taking and commitment from the leadership.
Choose to run longer format ads
Big brands like Airtel launch new campaigns with 60 sec ads to break clutter and subsequently run 40 or 45 seconds version of the same. Think of their most recent ‘Jo tera hai who mera’ campaign. It is memorable partly because of the jingle and endearing execution elements, but partly also because of the length of the ad, which stood out amongst all the other ads.
Be the highest spender in the category
There is nothing quite like the power of money to buy brand salience. Leader brands in the category often maintain their salience by outspending their competitors – whether for shelf space or air space. Even just ‘good’ campaigns
Finally, all brand and campaign managers need to remember that even legendary figures and icons have a shelf-life, everything that has a shelf-life needs periodic resurrection, re-invention and re-imagining. Even the father of our nation, got a fresh shot at getting the attention of the current generation after Munnabhai.
Hamsini Shivakumar is the Co-founder, Leapfrog Strategy Consulting
Story image courtesy google
Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. announced recently that it capped its best year ever with another record quarterly profit. Korean car manufacturer Hyundai announced another year of record auto sales—double digits over the previous year’s record-breaking sales. South Korean rapper Psy’s video ‘Gangnam Style’ became the first video to hit a billion views on YouTube. LG (formerly known as Lucky Goldstar) has struggled to keep pace with its homeboys, but it still sells millions of Androids in fifty markets around the world.
Korean exports are going crazy successful. Meanwhile, Korea, the country exporting these esteemed brands is best known for kimchee (pickled cabbage) and its annoying northern neighbor.
Does a national brand matter? Yes, and here’s why.
Let’s look at other countries as examples. Italy is known for incredible style and design—so products that emerge from that country, from Gucci to Ferrari, are radiant with the essence of Italy’s national brand.
Famously, Japan transformed their national brand image from being cheap plastic imports to becoming experts in high-end manufacturing, from (albeit now tarnished) Sony to best-selling Toyota.
Switzerland is known for accuracy, which bolsters (or perhaps is the result of) its watch making and banking industries.
Think “German engineering.” “French fashion.” “English weather.”
On a recent branding mission to China, we learned that every child in Chinese elementary school is taught the three Chinese innovations that changed the world: gunpowder, the compass, and movable type (Chinese ancients also invented paper currency). These historic advances give China the foundation for incredible credibility as a potential leader in innovation.
The United States has its own brand, well-recognized for capitalist free enterprise and incredible industrial design. Vis a vis the Apple products in demand the world over, as well as all those 1950s finned cars still motoring the roads in communist Cuba. (You can probably include your own examples, proof of Brand U.S.A.’s resonance and resilience.
Having a national brand matters, because it makes products emerging from that nation more meaningful. It gives them a context, and makes them part of a continuing legacy of quality, design, smarts, whatever. Rather than coming from nowhereland, these products resonate with consumers and become meaningful within the surround of the national brand.
When compared with its Asian rivals (consider that the press covers events in China almost every day), Korea is known more for the hijinks of its Northern rival in North Korea.
If the country of Korea had more national brand luster, not only would products from Hyundai, Samsung, LG have more momentum, but products from other Korean companies would also benefit.
And that’s a story we bet Koreans would love to read.
THINKTOPIA® is an independent, privately owned firm founded in 2002. It has grown into a global brand innovation enterprise that takes pride in also calling itself an “idea engineering” company.
Holidaying over the New Year at Coorg, we were excited by the news that the new Taj Vivanta Madikeri was open. We made the one-hour drive from our cottage to the Taj Vivanta Madikeri, with visions of plush restaurants and lavish buffets were dancing in our heads. And then we were informed by the security guard at the gate that the restaurant wasn’t open to non-residents.
A Vivanta? What we thought was a 5-star? Without a restaurant? Just like the bed-and-breakfasts and “lodges” that mushroom across the countryside? Uh-oh. I never really understood the difference between the Gateway and Vivanta brands, but now I have no idea what to expect when I see the Taj label on a hotel.
I like the Taj hotels where I’ve stayed and I don’t mean to pick on them. But the point of a brand is consistency of experience and creating expectations that you can meet.
Marketers work very hard to “own” a position in people’s heads. An Oberoi connotes luxury. A BMW stands for good engineering. Big Bazaar stands for value for money. Indigo stands for being on time. So when a customer comes in, they come with the expectation that that attribute will be met. Any variation on this parameter creates huge dissonance in the customer’s mind. For example, the howls are always much louder when an Indigo flight is delayed than, say, Air India.
I like the new Cafe Coffee Day position - “sit down” - though I wish they had embarked on this campaign at least three years ago. They’ve understood that for many of their customers Cafe Coffee Day is more about a place to sit down and chat/work/meet than about the quality of the coffee or food.
As we begin 2013, marketers should consider whether (a) their brand stands for something easily identifiable and (b) whether that attribute is relevant to the customer. And once you’ve got that piece organized, ensure that your brand experience is engineered around that one attribute.
Jessie Paul is the CEO of Paul Writer
As a teenager growing up in Africa in the 80’s, I had no idea what an “Apple” was, what a “Macintosh” did or who “Steve Jobs” was…but I sure as hell had seen (via pirated VHS tape) the iconic “1984” commercial from that years Super Bowl. (ref to video at the end of the article)
Apple started my love affair with Challenger brands
It was Challenger brand advertising at its very best. Defiant. Opinionated. Unapologetic.
“1984” and Pepsi’s “Choice of a New Generation” campaign from that era sparked a love affair with Challenger brands that still burns bright.
In 1997 – now at Ogilvy & Mather working on the prestigious IBM account – I have another piece of advertising magic framed on my wall.
The sheer poetic majesty “Think Different” campaign became my yardstick for every piece of IBM copy I reviewed. There was no one on the team who didn’t yearn to write copy like this;
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
To paraphrase Simon Sinek’s brilliant work, this was the perfect articulation for why people buy Apple – and why, certainly in 1997, Apple was the poster child for Challenger brands.
From Challenger to Incumbent
Today Apple is probably the most envied – though not necessarily respected – brand in the world. Steve Jobs has become a posthumous business guru talked about in the same reverent tones as Gandhi, St Jude and Mother Teresa. Apple stores and the Genius Bar have redefined retail. iTunes redefined the commercial music business. In a perverse way, Samsung’s Galaxy S3 parodymerely highlighted the zealotry of iPhone buyers everywhere.
At the time of writing, Apple was trading at $507 (down from a 52 week high of $705) but still had a market cap of $478 billion.
One of the funkiest comparisons I’ve seen is this blog which highlights all the things that Apple is worth more than. All of the prescription drug sales in the US? The entire US aircraft carrier fleet?
That’s no small potatoes.
Why the beef then Hilton?
Challenger brands are an ethos, not a reflection of market share
Many folks mistakenly assume that Challenger brands are only for those trying to become #1. That it is your relative market share that gives you Challenger brand status.
As I’ve written previously, Challenger brands are an ethos, a state of mind. A deliberate strategic decision to act in a certain way. A disciplined manner in how you chose to behave – and, importantly, not behave. It has bugger all to do with you being #2, #5 or #27 in a category.
To that end, there is no reason why Apple can’t still act like the Challenger brand that spawned “1984” and extoled us all to “Think Different”
So where’s the evidence?
If I were to characterize the Apple of old with today’s Apple, I’d say they’ve started to exhibit the type of largesse that typically overwhelms incumbents. That, secure in the slavish devotion of Apple acolytes, they’ve lost sight of what made them one of the original Challengers.
Incrementalism versus Innovation – Apple’s recent launches have been minor modifications versus the traditional big leaps of old. Confident their fans will buy anything new they launch (see Samsung parody) Apple deliberately keeps technology back for their next release. Is there any reason iPad Mini release 1 doesn’t have retina display like all their other tablets? That major iPhone releases seem to happen within shorter and shorter cycles?
Pushing proprietary systems – The new Lightning connector is the best example of this. After a decade of using industry-standard USB and Micro-USB connectors, Apple has introduced a proprietary system for iPhone5 and all future releases. The outcry has understandably been enormous (read the comment section of this TechCrunch blog). Many are, rightly IMHO, calling this a money grab by Apple. An opportunity to spur a new market in peripherals, connectors, docking stations and to eschew industry standards. Ask any Sony consumer how much they liked being locked into a proprietary walled-garden set of technology.
Corporate hubris – The much-publicized Apple Maps debacle– and subsequent apology from Tim Cook – marked a huge mis-step in apple’s famed design. Perhaps more worrying is the vicious patent court battle between Apple and key competitor Samsung which seems more about creating an Apple monopoly (read brilliant synopsis here in Forbes) than anything to do with protecting Apple IP.
When a company stops acting as scrappy upstart and becomes bullying behemoth, then you’ve definitely lost your Challenger creds.
Can Apple become a Challenger again?
Some might argue that it is irrelevant if Apple starts acting like a Challenger brand again. They are debt-free, their pipeline is supposedly robust and their 2012 Christmas performance was decent. So why worry?
The worry is that their competitors – Amazon with Kindle et al and Samsung – are taking a real bite out of them (pun intended). Both are acting in the scrappy Challenger fashion that was formerly the mark of Apple.
A satirical story broke in the days following the Apple/Samsung patent ruling. Supposedly Samsung sent a convoy of trucks to pay the fine in nickels and dimes. The story went viral even though it was blatantly untrue. In my opinion, it went viral because that’s the type of Challenger attitude and gumption that people now ascribe to Samsung…and they see Apple as the bullying incumbent.
For Apple to go from Challenger to Curmudgeon is an enormous change in popular sentiment.
My personal hope is that Apple gets their Challenger mojo back. That the people who brought us “Think Different” can reinvigorate that attitude. The starry-eyed African teenager that still resides in me would love to see it again.
What say you? Is Challenger thinking important or irrelevant in Apple’s future?
About the Author: http://www.hiltonbarbour.com
An insatiable curiosity is my defining characteristic. Which is probably why I got into advertising over 14 years ago. I know it aint a real job in comparison to say, a fireman or a nuclear physicist but hey. Anyway, along the way I've developed an opinion on a coupla things. This blog allows me to air a few of those opinions and thoughts. I thank you for your visit and welcome your feedback.
Reproduced with permission from his blog
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