“Beyond Expectations”

We live in very dynamic environments these days. Come to think of it – each moment of our existence and each activity that we do within those moments, are faster than experienced 10 years ago! Like it or not, our action and reaction times have come to be weighed in nano-seconds! Instant call receiving, responding and forwarding, instant sending and receiving text messages, instant responding browsing and responding on internet and esp. on social media platforms,  instant delivery and service expectations for all the products and services we buy, etc. are just a few examples.

This “nanosecond existence” could be attributed to drastic impact of technology on our lives in the last few years. As a result perhaps, our general attitudes and expectations from life has changed too. We tend to expect “more” in terms of speed, efficiencies, rewards, conversions, etc. Our gadgets continue to deliver better by each passing quarter, exceeding our expectations. Newer silicon chips continue to offer more than you’d perhaps need within your lifetime! Newer cameras offer more megapixel, newer phone models offer more speed, more features, more connectivity options, and what not!

Not surprisingly therefore, we too have come to expect more and more of everything, every time –  something that goes beyond our expectations – so that we’re comfortable in exclaiming “It’s awesome bro!” or “It’s fabulous dude!” or “It’s incredible pal!” or “It’s phenomenal, gal!”. A cursory attention to the conversation of young people , would give you these phrases in abundance.

Likewise, perhaps some of our institutions have also followed suit. Even though it’s not a very new phrase that you hear from them, yet all the regular institutions – schools, colleges, business houses, manufacturing units, marketing firms, etc. have caught on to this more virulently than ever – asking for “instant”; asking for “more”! You would listen to some oft-repeated clichéd phrases frequently in these places:

  • “We want your child to exceed our expectations…”
  • “Your son need to break all records…”
  • “We expect this year’s growth to exceed all records….”
  • “The production must outshine the averages of the past 8 months…”
  • “We must see this launch breaking all past product launches…”
  • “Your sales team’s performance must exceed our expectations…”

No wonder that the hiring process in these institutions too should speak the same language! It’s very common to see the online and offline recruitment postings clearly seek out profiles that look for preferably “extremely talented” or “extremely smart and outgoing” or “ready to exceed target expectations” or “ready to outperform market trends” etc. etc.

One common reason given by Economics pundits for this kind of “more” and “instant” expectations is “growth”. It’s true that we definitely need to keep moving forward, and only thing that seems to keep the momentum intact, is to keep on expecting more each time, and that too faster! In some ways, that’s a natural phenomenon!

However, shouldn’t there be a corollary too? Shouldn’t there be reverse expectations in each sector and scenarios we mentioned above? How many times have we heard a school management telling the parents:

“We don’t expect anything from you; we’d  ensure the best possible ways to transform your child!”

How many times (except in fiction and films) have we heard the companies say:

  • “We’d make sure that you exceed your career expectations here” or
  • “Don’t worry, our offer will exceed your expectations” or
  • “We have exceeded your service expectations”

I’m sure very few of the readers would find these answers practical, because our whole system and existence patterns have been scripted to “expect more” and “promise less”. That’s one way traffic! A customer cannot keep on expecting more and more instantly, unless and until he/she is ready to pay more! Similarly, one cannot keep on expecting more out of any person or service unless there’s a reverse promise too.

Further, this very script goes beyond the laws of nature. If one expects to draw out more and more from a farm-land and that too faster, one has to offer fodder, fertilizer and improvements in farming methods. Likewise, if any company or institution wishes to expect something beyond expectations, then it also needs to first make sure that it’s ready to shell-out something equal in exchange. For example, when a company offers a package that’s little beyond the candidate’s expectations, a reverse process triggers in within the candidate, which encourages him to give out that extra effort every time.

Even the new social media, which has become an inseparable part of our lives, too follows the nature’s democratic laws. Unless one gives in form of “LIKEs”, “Shares” or “Comments” upon any content produced by a fellow user, one cannot build long-term credibility and followers online. One needs to genuinely offer comments, encouragements, references and help first, before one gets reciprocated. This behaviour cuts across people, groups, companies and institutions too.

The future businesses will be increasingly dependent on technology and its characteristics – especially in form of speed, flexibility, quality and quantity expectations of the people who would run them. These people are the ones who have grown with these characteristics, and as such would deliver better when get something first before giving something more in return!

Therefore the next time you come across a situation where you’re on the tip of demanding something beyond ordinary, pause and do your best to first offer something that’s simply beyond the receiver’s expectations – even if it’s just a small honest promise!

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How to measure effectiveness against ad sizes?

  • How do you measure the effectiveness of a print ad – in terms of sizes? I’ve looked at both Nielsen and Gartner for this data, to no avail. I’m hoping that my fellow networkers can shed some light on this topic. If a Client elects to shift from running one full-page print ad to running three separate quarter page ads, repeatedly, what type of results would this typically yield? Question by: Carson Hornsby

An interesting question indeed, and till today I’m yet to find some formally researched numbers or formula that establishes the ad-size to campaign-effectiveness. However, any advertising specialist or media strategist would tell you that the rule of the thumb is: “Make Impact with Size; Gain recall with frequency“.

Following the simplest of communication processes, AIDA (Awareness – Interest – Desire – Action), when any new campaign is launched for the first time, the primary media objective is to first draw attention and impact among the defined target audience for the campaign. Unless attention is drawn memorably, it’s more likely that the Interest in the campaign messages will not be developed.

Therefore, every campaign – whether print type or multimedia type – usually is launched with a bang, drawing attention among the target audience and more! In Print, the IMPACT is ensured through bigger sizes, teasers before the launch day, special operations (covers, peep-ins, or any other means) or a combination of 2-3 modes together.

Next, it’s important to generate and retain interest. Part of this objective is met if the launch ad is impactful. However it’s necessary to sustain the interest level for some time, in order to develop desire. Ways to sustain interest are – interesting creative in terms of copy, visual, delivering same messages in different modes and formats, engaging the audience, etc.

In most cases, due to the shortage of time or money, agencies / advertisers are unable to test out campaign creatives among test audience before release or engage audience in other ways and in other media. Therefore the next best method – that of repeating the same messages in the media – ensures recall plus generates interest in the advertised product / brand.

However due to high media costs in almost every market, multiple repeats are possible only if the ad sizes are reduced in such a way that optimum sizes are maintained to have the repeats throughout the campaign period.

Now to answer your question, assuming your creatives are okay, the campaign effectiveness will surely depend upon impact and recall.

Assuming that you have sufficient budgets, you need to have bigger size print ads for IMPACT – at least during the launch stage. For RECALL, you need to increase the “Opportunity to See” or more simply the frequency of the ads – preferably in reduced sizes, to save on budgets.

However, if your budgets are limited, you should aim to have more frequency through smaller sizes, since it has been proved in the past that even below-average messages get well registered and recalled if they are hammered again and again. In such a case, the IMPACT of the campaign is actually developed by the sheer power of repeats – even if slowly, and definitely, by huge numbers that run for months.

In case you’re forced by a situation to run either one-ad or a 3-ad campaign within the same budget, you should be successful if you go in for the latter, since this would ensure the minimum frequency* required for recall – however small! But then the frequency gained at the cost of minimum size further can also affect the campaign by its noticeability, as well as affect brand image adversely.

*It has been proven by research that 1st insertion of an ad gives impression, 2nd gives registration while the 3rd one gives recall.

(Also Look for Other answers; Also posted as a link under Answers@LinkedIn page)

The Shibumi 7 of Social Media Marketing

Many a social media campaign we see today is either riding on the hype and traffic created by the term “social media” itself, or are in the mode of “testing the waters”.

The reason for this trend has much to do with the limited number of experts in many developing markets of the world. Experts, Specialists and best practices available in some pockets of the emerging economies – India, China, West Africa, etc. – are at best limited compared to the higher needs and demands of these markets. Additionally the social media jargons in circulation sound exciting, but are unable to help meet the simplest of social media requirements of many of the companies operating in these markets.

Social Media strategy for any campaign need not be complicated in design or delivery. Like many other highly successful offline campaigns of the past, online campaigns in general and social media campaigns in particular, could be thought of being designed and driven by the simple principles of Shibumi.

In his book “The Shibumi Strategy”, Matthew May talks about 7 of these concepts, which are a cohesive set of principles to guiding one’s pursuit of excellence, elegant performance and effortless effectiveness in any front. I feel the same concepts could be effectively applied in social media marketing too.

The 7 principles / concepts are: Shizen, Koko, Kanso, Datsuzoku, Yugen, Fukinsei and Hansei. Let’s see how these principles are universal in application in Social Media Marketing (SMM) too.

SHIZEN is the Japanese word that’s closer in meaning to “naturalness”. The idea captured by shizen for life and business is that before taking any action, one needs to look for naturally occurring patterns and rhythms, so that one’s ideas are constructed in a way to fit within these patterns.

In terms of SMM, this translates to “listening” – listen to your prospective target audience, customers and stakeholders; observe the patterns of their aspirations and needs; develop your conclusions and targets based on these needs, and design your framework for the campaign.

KOKO is the Japanese term for “austerity”. Koko suggests that one should refrain from adding what is absolutely not necessary in the first place, while imparting a sense of focus and clarity. Koko emphasizes restraint, exclusion and omission.

In social media marketing – or for that matter, in business – koko translates to setting a clear and focused “primary objective”, which is free from any kind of unnecessary distractions. Many social media campaigns tend to fail, since the marketers fail to encapsulate the core goals of the campaign properly.

KANSO is the Japanese word for “simplicity”. Kanso emphasizes elimination of anything that doesn’t matter, to make enough rooms for anything that does.

In SMM, we often need to follow the “keep it simple, stupid!” cliché to its core! To do this, Kanso principles inspire us to have the understanding to create fresher, cleaner and neater frameworks for social media marketing strategies. A simple, no-frills social media campaign usually brings in unexpected customer responses and viral benefits.

DATSUZOKU means and emphasizes “break-from-routine” or habit, which gives a feeling of unexpected amazement or pleasant surprise.

The social media landscape being extremely crowded, datsuzoku highlights the need for transcending the ordinary and conventional, to develop a tactic or a plan that makes the target groups react in an unexpectedly positive / pleasing way. Needless to say, this requires a the shizen insights of the target groups in conjunction with the seijaku of creativity – essentials for create something fresh and original.

Yugen

YUGEN means “subtlety” in Japanese, which highlights the need to limit information, so that there’s something left for vivid imagination. The principle suggests that when some things are left open for interpretation, the participant observer makes that extra effort to get involved easily by injecting his imagination into it.

Social media being an extremely changing landscape, the chances of getting a target group involved is increasingly becoming more difficult. Therefore applying Yugen principles, if there’s something left for the imagination of the target group – which is subtle & simple yet challenges their minds – it would definitely succeed in wooing their respect and attention in the long run. Examples: quizzes, polls, comments, shares, etc.

FUKINSEI is the Japanese word highlighting “imperfection” or “asymmentry”. Fukensei “conveys the symmetrical harmony and beauty of nature through clearly asymmetrical and incomplete renderings”.

In terms of SMM, Fukinsei recommends that strategies must be built around some amount of imperfections. This will leave the door open for the target groups to get involved in the marketing effort, to supply the missing symmetry and participate in the act of creation. In social media jargon, it’s known as “co-creation” – which has been proved to be extremely successful for many flourishing brands.

HANSEI means “reflection”, which is recommended after every action regularly regardless of the outcome of the action. Hansei is an active discipline performed to better understand the underlying process that led to a specific result.

In SMM as well as in business, the importance of “gap analysis” is an important part of the process. It generates constant “feedback” and insights, which helps in refining the strategy. Hansei in social media strategy is even more important since the “reflection” process is real-time and performed more frequently, as social media itself is “real-time”.

Thus we see that instead of getting lost in the complex process of understanding and then applying social media marketing strategies, all one needs to do is to apply the 7 Shibumi principles actively.

Leave your observations and experiences in applying these principles in your SMM strategies.

Identifying 5 demand classes in India

Marketing in an emerging or a developing market is often an uphill task; particularly if its population and literacy rates are on the negative scale, or the economic data is either of bad quality or is limited to make any meaningful trend analysis.

Thankfully, India as a country is an exception to some extent. Its robust comprehensive census is one of the most respected census operations worldwide, even though the benefits of such a colossal amount of data have been under-utilized for development, by the political system.

Recently I came across some rather interesting facts and / or observations from Rama Bijapurkar, on consumerdemands in India, which are worth noting – especially for developing the foundations of new marketing campaigns:

(image source: insightinstore.com)

  1. India is primarily an “Individually Poor” but “Collectively Rich” country, since proportionally higher consumption takes place at far lower-income levels. Therefore currently “volume” consumption holds more importance than the value consumption – particularly in case of FMCG category and to some extent in case of “fast moving consumer durables”, e.g. mobile phones, footwear, garments, etc.
  2. Indian Consumers could be broadly recognized as 3 broad segments – Premium, Popular and Discount. By volume, these segments roughly represent 10%, 30% and 60% of the population respectively. However, in terms of value, each of these segments are roughly equal to each other.
  3. Thanks to some socialistic trends prevailing till the late eighties and early nineties, the “unorganized sector” and the “unorganized small-scale buyers” have continued to drive consumption to a larger extent. As a result, despite the post-nineties liberalization of Indian economy, the “organized large-scale buyers” – the dream of every retailer – are still far lower than the small-scale unorganized ones.
  4. Indian consumers have successfully bucked the traditional consumption upgrade patterns – i.e. moving from “Popular” products to “Premium Products”. Instead it’s common to see that the premium segment customers gradually “down-trade” to popular products (esp. FMCG), while the popular segment customers, start looking for “premium-quality” products – though not necessarily “premium-priced”. Premium-Popular-Discount segments do not necessarily represent the Rich-Middle-Poor segments respectively.

It’s no surprise then, that the market structure of India is likewise defined in terms of “consumer classes” or groups and not their disposable incomes or other similar metrics. Known as the “Consumer Classes Framework” model developed by NCAER, the 5 broad categories of Indian consumers are:

A)     RICH – consumers of cars, PCs, ACs, etc., particularly the premium and luxury goods.

B)      CONSUMING CLASS – consumers of utility durables and bulk of FMCG products

C)      CLIMBERS – consumers of at least one major durable, and main consumers of popular consumer goods

D)     ASPIRANTS – new consumers / new entrants to consumption; hence have very basic watch, radio, phone, etc.

E)      DESTITUTES – who consume practically nothing; living hand-to-mouth perhaps

Finally it’s also very interesting to note that while any one product might be consumed across multiple classes, the performance price points however within each could be multiple. As a result a Nokia phone might tend to be consumed across the first 4 classes, but each class would have it’s own price points for the brand.

Marketing in India with its myriad layers could be as mysterious as its people, culture and its economy. It’s therefore wise to carefully weigh each available statistic and explore possibilities before taking a campaign decision.

References:

Smart Tips for a Smarter Business in 2012

About a few years ago, I read an interesting post from Guy Kawasaki, which basically was a wish list for students, in order to prepare them for the real world after graduation. At that time, I found the list extremely practical. And now almost 6years after, I feel it’s worth having a look for all of you who are starting fresh again in the New Year.

image (c) one%inspiration

Here’s the full list (in bold) with my take (sometimes on the lighter side) on each of them:

  1. How to talk to your boss. Give solutions instead of problems! After all if your boss had the solutions he’d have been incompetent for his position! Remember Peter Principle?
  2. How to survive a meeting that’s poorly run. Poorly run meetings are characterized by a lot of “passing the buck” deals. The trick is to stay focused and stay out of it! Therefore JUST CHILL and promise you’d never let it happen in your company!
  3. How to run a meeting. I’ve found that the so-called “effective meetings” happen when you lead – and decide to take things further in the next meeting! But of course you should mix the usual ingredients, i.e. Starting and finishing on time, calling only the participants possible, set agenda / objectives and send the “minutes” to all! Make sure however that your invitees do not go the point #2-way!
  4. How to figure out anything on your own. I learned that the way to do this is to find someone (not your boss!) who does this for you – one who enjoys giving you free information. However when in doubt, the 1st rule is “The Boss is always right” and 2nd rule is “If still uncertain, follow Rule#1” Rest is easy!
  5. How to negotiate. Pure first hand advice is: Once you know each party’s goals, go to any extent to make the other party feel that he has won! Just make sure that you don’t lose by doing so!
  6. How to have a conversation. The simplest of all!! Just introduce yourself and let the other parties babble to their fullest! Don’t forget though to ask encouraging questions to keep this going on and on. This is also true for those networking events where you get invited, but soon find that even staying half an hour will be a waste of your precious productive time.
  7. How to explain something in 30 seconds. Guy’s mantra is to use fewest possible words. I used the technique to the best when I commented on my appraisal in 2 words: “It sucks!” I was better placed than the response of 3 words: “You are fired!”
  8. How to write a one-page report. I learned the technique when preparing for short speeches in school: (a) Say what you’re going to say (b) Say it (c) Summarize what you’ve said! Just make sure you start with 12 pt. font and 1.5 line lead!
  9. How to write a 5-sentence email. Most of the heavy Facebook users are perhaps perfect in this. But the best part of it is that the reply is even shorter… 1-2 sentences!
  10. How to get along with co-workers. Again my own experience is: Be a sucker! Not up, but down!
  11. How to use PowerPoint. Guy’s best advice is: 10 slides, 20 minutes, and a 30-point font. The 1st time I tried this, I did it in 30-slides; 20-minutes; 10-points. No points for guessing the outcome!
  12. How to leave a voicemail. Go ahead! Tell your long stories in full! I can promise you the recipient will call you back in no time, to thrash you on the phone. The other option is: Leave a name, say your number twice, Ask for a follow-up place / time. That’s all!!
  13. How to prepare for a living. “Do what you love OR love what you do” Not sure who said it first, but it’s foolproof! Example: You love reading blogs – hence you’re reading this one. Although many of the above is known to you, you still loved reading the same! (Or otherwise you couldn’t have reached this far!

The best thing Guy does is that he removes hype and adds insights in the most uncluttered way possible!

I’d like to add 3 more to the list above, to make it more relevant to our times, this New Year:

  1. How to achieve Multitasking. Doesn’t mean you leave each of your limbs to attend to each point of your task list. It simply means: How to chat in Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc., while listening to your boss’s orders, e-replying to your friends, responding to status updates on multiple platforms, etc. – all in a matter of minutes!
  2. How to be culturally smart. It’s a simple method… just be ready to pose as a trainee/ junior / incompetent / unaware person with your colleagues – senior / junior / boss / reports – and participate in all their stories.
  3. How to get more social. The simplest of all tips, it essentially means making sure you’ve digital footprints in all the top social media platforms, where you generate enough nonsense. My own experience: as long as you talk nonsense in the most sensible manner, you develop meaningful social networks.

Over to you, good people! Wishing all of you a Happy New Year!

6-point framework for Social Media Marketing strategy

Social Media Marketing Strategy is the buzz-phrase of all marketers these days.

However, we recently found out that all the “strategy” related buzz flowing around actually boils down to the TOOLs used – and not the STRATEGY. In a previous post we briefly outlined the 3 foundations on which SMM strategy should be built upon. This post will focus upon developing a framework for developing SMM campaign strategy.

Like any strategy, the framework for SMM campaign can be simply depicted as a closed loop system (see figure).

6-point closed-loop strategy framework

Where are we?

To know this, we need to gain intelligence on our competitors and customers. We need to monitor and listen to the buzz around our industry and category, utilizing independent resources and tools available online.

Secondly, even though social-media knowledge is high among most customers and industries, we still need to assess the current level of social-media readiness of our customer universe. An understanding of this will make a difference in deciding the tools we’d like to employ during the later stages.

Thirdly, we also need to identify our digital assets and our available content, which should give a fair indication of the level of resource allocation needed for our campaign.

Who are with us?

Analysis involved in the above steps will specify the target audience we need to address and their social-technographic profile. We need to identify which social media clusters or combination of these would work for us.

Where do we want to go?

Our Analysis would also give an indication about our realistic Goals / Objectives for the campaign. These objectives must be aligned with the target audience clusters and the metrics we’d employ to monitor / measure our campaign. From this, we’d have targeted and measurable objectives.

While setting objectives we also need to gain a balance between “effectiveness” and ‘impact” of the campaign. Broadly, the objectives could be:

  1. Listening – Researching to gain customer understanding
  2. Talking – Spreading Co. messages
  3. Energising – Powered buzz created by enthusiastic customers
  4. Supporting – Helping customers support each-other
  5. Embracing – Integrating customers into the business (e.g. participating in design process) – though applicable in case any of 4 other objectives has already been met.

How can we go there?

The processes involved in achieving our objectives need to be carefully formulated. The need and current level of social-media readiness will lead to employable tactics from an ever increasing universe of tools available; e.g. blogging, micro-blogging, multimedia sharing, bookmarking, etc. From this we’d get an idea of the share of investments needed out of overall online budgets.

Secondly, we need to integrate the social media tools with other online tools and tactics employed (e.g. SEM, PPC, SEO, SMO, etc.). Monitoring and management of tactics and resources is crucial at this stage. We need to select SM platforms based on tactical effectiveness and architectural fitness.

Are we ready to go?

Once the processes have been formulated, we need to develop SM architecture in order to map out the multiple activity levels. For any SM campaign, the Blog acts as the hub, while the communities (e.e. Facebook, Youtube), forums, outposts (e.g. Twitter) act as the spokes of the structure.

Taken as a whole, the SM architecture acts as an interface of the SM campaign for the target audience, as well as acts as a dashboard to control campaign implementation.

What’s our progress?

Once implemented, we need to constantly monitor the campaign for its effectiveness, based on the metrics set at the 3rd stage and take steps to amend tactics as we go along.

Last but not the least, we must not forget that the above framework has been developed within the 3 foundations of SM campaign planning, discussed in a previous post.

Resources:

Related articles:

How to simplify design, yet maintain functionality?

  • How can you bring simplicity into the design of products – taking out complexity while not compromising capabilities? Question by: Hitesh Parashar;

Well… frankly, I’m not a designer; but I guess any profession involves some kind of “design” – e.g. the day-to-day life is also some sort of “design” formulated by the creator of all! I feel that following approach is quite universal, regardless the field or profession you are in:

1st step – Forget you’re designing!!! Think you’re solving a problem!
2nd step – Once a solution is found, don’t stop… look for more solutions – at least 5 more!
3rd step – Apply logic and reason to see if the solutions are different and address the problem fully
4th step – If yes, see if they’re simple enough for applying in reality, and go ahead!

In daily life, we see problems and try to solve them – not just see if the solution was easy, difficult, looked good or satisfied my peers, etc.

Hence the first step always is to stop thinking you’re designing. Good Designs born out of the Philosophy of “Simplicity”.

Some useful links: Google’s Simplicity; Maeda’s Simplicity; Ikea’s Simplicity;

Also Look for Other answers;

Note: This post was originally created on 3rd April 2009 @09:28 am. It is also posted under Answers@LinkedIn page

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