5 Simple Truths to optimize your digital marketing

Truth is ot there

Over the last few post-recession years, Digital Marketing has gained immense respect. More and more businesses, whether or not prepared, are more inclined than ever to adopt digital marketing strategies. In some these cases, it’s more common to see businesses jumping into the Digital wave, just because “others are also doing so”.

It can be argued that these businesses are more likely to be eluded in their endeavors. A quick check into their efforts often reveal that most of these businesses fail to capture the simple truths of digital marketing.

The truths are driven by common sense, yet prove to be solid foundations for doing digital business. Here we go…

Truth #1 : Marketing Methods stay constant; Means vary.

Before you embark on your “digital strategy” stop and think: What would you have done to market your goods or services, if online / digital world was not there? More likely, you’d have still mapped your customers, addressed their needs / wants in a language they listened to, and delivered through a channel which they were familiar / comfortable with (not just media, but on ground channels too).

Well, the good news is that in Digital world, Technology has made it easier to do all the above, in lesser amount of time, and greater efficiencies. The only things that have changed are:

  1. The additional blue-screen window shops – i.e. the PC, Mobile, Tablets, etc. through which customers interface with the digital “properties” – to do your selling, and
  2. Plenty of real time technologies (in hardware & software) to convince your customers or make yourself heard.

If done well, your conversion rates have more chances to improve through digital efforts. So the Marketing rules are the same; processes and technologies differ.

Truth #2 : Website needs the respect of a Showroom

Many brick & mortar businesses, esp. the ones which are new entrants in the Digital world, often are myopic about the roles a website is supposed to perform – e.g. whether it’s information dissemination, or ensuring “online presence” only, or offering product experience, prestige / reputation management, e-Commerce. or even all of these together.

A website is almost an online equivalent of your retail showroom. Therefore, similar to the development of a brick & mortar showroom, there could be thousand different ways to develop an online showroom. As such a website needs similar kind of attention, if not more. The bonus is that once done, a website could go beyond the scope of retail showrooms, by aggregating endorsements or user experiences, which improve the image of the corporate brand.

Truth #3 : Free Experience leads to free Customers

A retail showroom can’t survive if it fails to attract customers. A higher store footfall increases chances of increasing customer conversions. And an important driver of footfall, is the window dressing. Many customers love “window shopping”. They love to spend time in front of the massively decorated shop windows, get interested in the products displayed, and consider exploring them inside – in terms of variety in designs, quality, as well as affordability.

The same is true for online / digital marketing. Many seasoned brick & mortar businesses often realize very late that it’s very important to generate high traffic for a majority of the website pages, organically. And, one of the simplest methods to do so, is to have a free rewards based activity on the website which would not only engage prospects with the products / brand, but also motivate them to revisit the site a number of times.

I came across a few stationery design services, whose websites maintain high page visits by just offering a few free templates. With the tools available on the site itself, any visitor can use them to create his own design – absolutely free! The templates are changed every few months; so the interest level is kept alive.

Truth #4 : Engagement is directly proportional to Acceptance

A visit to any jewelry showroom often reveals the depth of engagement the sales officers establish with their customers. It’s expected, because of it being a high-involvement category. Interesting to note however, design choice is very subjective; and so is the price one pays for it! Knowing this, the sales officers keep the customers engaged enough to keep their interests alive, which eventually translates into a sale.

The same is true for digital marketing, even though it may or may not involve a high-involvement category. Once of the important aspects of digital strategy is to develop myriad methods to keep the prospects engaged with the brand. Even though social media plays a major role in this, the website too have immense potential to keep visitors engaged, and navigate from page to page. Simple layouts, easy navigation, bold shapes, and overall a wider canvas often attract non-prospects to take interest.

More the interest generated on these pages, more is the engagement, and more is the possibility of adoption, when a product is offered.

Truth #5: “The only thing that’s changed is everything”.

One important truth about Marketing is that over time, consumers change, the domain change, products get updated, and even brands change, to make in order to be more relevant.

In many instances small businesses that keenly adopt digital marketing, considering it as a passport to higher business growth, fall short in their endeavors. They fail to recognize that every aspect of Digital Marketing is on a constant roller coaster ride to Change – esp. since technology changes every 3-6 months. Therefore, it’s important to take note of changing trends routinely, and plan in advance for the next 12-24 months.

This is perhaps where an offline retail showroom differs from an online one! While it’s okay to continue with the look-n-feel and presentation of offline retail for even 2 years, an online showcase may become obsolete in just 1-2 months! Therefore one needs to routinely keep on changing the looks, content, presentation, products, pages, etc. Each and every element of digital marketing is on a beta – always!

Keep Fresh! Keep Relevant! Keep changing… everything! And follow these five simple truths in your digital marketing.


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.


How the Luxury concept developed

Super Luxury and sporty Bentley Coupe in Dublin @ The Four Seasons Hotel - Wonderful handmade car! Jan 2010

A recent article in the Indian Business magazine Businessworld, started me thinking on the concept of “Luxury” – the perception and reality of it.

“Luxury” as a concept has been prevailing in societies since the beginning of the civilization itself. Ancient societies including that of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and India, had clear-cut definitions of social classes, which barred one class from accessing the privileges of the other class.

For example, for Egyptian pharaohs, the very concept of luxury meant high pomp and splendor while living and then carrying it over to afterlife. As a result highly sophisticated and costly techniques were developed to preserve their bodies, which perceptually “guaranteed” the survival of the soul. Mummification, Pyramids, Tombs etc. resulted. The tombs were designed to safeguard their royal status and their journeys in afterlife. Needless to add, none of their followers, including their close confidantes could even dream of such luxury.

When subsequent classical societies were founded upon the debris of conflicts and wars, the military might of the victorious groups fuelled a certain kind of sophistication and opulence that generated heated debates and ideological wars. These debates helped further define the “exclusivity” of “luxury” – by arguing on decisions regarding wealth distribution and on the notions of “practical utility” and “waste”. Imperial societies of Rome, French, Japan and England are best examples.

During the early 19th century the above concept of Luxury started getting liberalized – as in “Luxury as a means of economic growth” or “Luxury as a legitimate means of gaining living standards”. The 20th century saw the disappearance of “social stratification”, from which “Luxury” concept took its birth. Further, increasing spending power, industrialization and globalization, resulted in making Luxury a “choice”, for those who have can now “afford” it. One of the most important aspects of Luxury products – the “culture” built around its place of birth – hence, is slowly disappearing.

This last piece of development has actually diluted the concept of Luxury – equating it with an offer in which is available in any product or service category at a premium price. As a result of rising income and affordability levels in societies of BRIC countries and Africa, many of the brands and product categories which were previously perceived as “Luxury” have all of a sudden become available to a large mass of customers. The primary perceived value gained by these customers is “prestige”. Armani, BMW, Mont Blanc, Dior, Burberry labels, Hermes, Chanel, etc. perhaps are good examples of this. These brands are “premium, but attainable”, and have been described as “Luxury for the masses” or masstige, by Michael J. Silverstein

Therefore, even though Luxury has the general perception of Exclusivity, the current trend towards luxury goods and retailing in India could be primarily labeled at best as “Masstige Retailing”.

Further Reads:

How to Brief a marcom consultant

Often, when it comes to advertising / marcom briefing, the attitude and approach displayed by a few senior managers / leaders, is amazing!

A couple of years ago, I came across a very senior person from a leading Co from the services sector, who wished to promote one of the services offered by the company thru social media. The service itself, I was told, has been running for quite some time, but has not been adopted by customers to the Co’s expected levels till then.

In absence of a clear and concise brief, I asked a few historical questions related to the project, e.g. its current usage, awareness, adoption, etc., core problems being faced with the service, the company’s past efforts to increase adoption rates, PLUS why did the company feel social media was the right way to solve the problem.

The response I got, just amazed me! He expected these answers to be coming from me!

Now, in a normal set-up, every marcom consultant usually comes up with insights gained through some sort of research, based on a hypothesis floated by the client. However in this case, the response made me feel strongly that the client didn’t have any support feedback mechanism in place while launching the service! Isn’t it largely a waste of his marketing budgets?

While briefing for any marcom campaign, follow the FIVE basic requirements: 

1)      What’s the marketing PROBLEM you’re facing? – In fact, without a proper understanding of your marketing problem, you’ll be directionless about the need-gap areas of your marketing program. Identifying need gap areas will lead you to the next question.

2)      What’s the OBJECTIVE of your marcom campaign? – Without a clear-cut objective, you should not approach any consultant / agency. Otherwise, there’ll be a general tendency for them to respond with an objective definition that suits their understanding of the project, and not necessarily yours.

3)      Who’s your core TARGET for the campaign? Who are the influencers? – Often many marketers fail to define this, or consider that “all” groups within their product usage segments are their core targets. This is a flawed way of marketing communication. Your core target actually drives your brand’s personality to some extent. The influencers feed in to the ecosystem in which your brand’s personality survives. Hence you need to be extra careful!

4)      What’s the proposed DOMAIN of your marcom campaign? – The geographic / psychographic / usage / or any other segment domains defines the playing field for your marcom campaign. The clearer the domain is, the more effective is your investment.

5)      What’s the RESULT you’re expecting after the campaign is over? – Try to clearly specify the result you wish to achieve, if possible in numbers. When not possible in numbers, try to establish a qualitative factor that would decide the campaign effectiveness.

If you’re planning to invest in a campaign, without having a clear knowledge of the above factors, your investments stand to be ineffectively utilized or lost! And yes, DO NOT propose a solution to your problem while briefing, even if you know that’s the correct one! If you do wish to still, give enough details on THE REASONS behind your assumed solution(s).

3 Essentials of Effective Co-Branding

One of the most visible tool of marketing we see today – esp. on an offline level – is Co-Branding. Whether it is for penetrating the market, extending the brand or for gaining a global foothold, we see that more and more brands are employing co-branding in their marketing activities.

There are four forms forms of Co-branding that co-exist within the marketer’s arsenal today – Ingredient, Same-company, Joint venture and Multiple sponsor Co-branding – and all of these are powerful to introduce the products / services of one company to the core loyal customers of another. In simple terms, one brand’s aura level is utilized by another brand to promote itself.

No matter whichever brand you’re working with or the categories you are involved in, there are always pretty many options and ways of devising co-branded activities.

The most important requirement of co-branding is “connection” within the brand pairs. For example, if you’re co-branding with a Bank, you need to see whether the elements of the bank’s brand personality, values, promise, benefit, etc., MATCH with that of the brand you wish to do co-branding with. Without a common platform of connection – and that should be very strong and understood easily and recognized well by the customers stakeholders.

Second most important requirement is “target”. For each co-branding activity, the target audience need to be defined very carefully – not just the demographics, but more importantly the psychographics. If for example, a retail outlet’s overall focus is upon mid-aged customers who wish to look good, feel confident and have decent spending power, it would be a nice idea to look for a co-brand which focuses upon the “young-at-heart” liberated audience. Some of the best examples of target based co-branding are found within mobile phones categories.

Third most important requirement is “Benefit realization”. You need to consider and ensure that the target customer for both the pairing brands have some common platform of interest. This platform need NOT be something which is blatant and utility oriented, e.g. An Oil company co-branding with the most popular bank in the city / country. This platform should rather essentially be looking at meeting some common need areas that promote long lasting relationship between the pairing brands. E.g. a bank taking the initiative with a local cab company, to help the senior and retired citizens travel within the city, go shopping and get banking services, comfortably.

Remember, to some extent, co-branding is risky too! Slightest negative swing in any of the partners, might affect both the partners adversely. Hence if you ensure that at least the above 3 factors are well attended while choosing a co-brand, I feel you’d definitely have a successful co-branding campaign.

More on co-branding:

  1. Wei-Lun Chang, “Roadmap of Co-branding Positions and Strategies,” Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, Vol. 15, Sept 2009.
  2. The Pros and Cons of Co-Branding
  3. The ins and Out of Co-branding (Strategies)
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