Category Archives: Marketing

Voice SMS – wrong audience?

The Airtel Voice SMS ad (below) is now being regularly aired on most Indian TV channels.

I found it surprising that Airtel seems to be targeting this service at the middle or the top layers of the socio-economic pyramid. Given the general perception that those in the ‘Base of the Pyramid‘ are more likely to need and use voice-based features on mobile phones, I’d have thought Airtel would go after the BoP audience (probably in addition to other segments). It’d be interesting to test this service with BoP users and see whether they’d take to it.

On another note…

Is this also an attempt at changing the typical Indian phone usage behaviour — the innate unwillingness to use voice mail on phones (I’ve heard various theories on this one, will save that for a different post)? It’s still early days, but I still don’t see any sign of a dramatic change in that behaviour!

Also, I realized there is a basic usability issue with the way one has to record the voice message. To send a voice message, one has to dial * and then the number.  Which means, I can’t use the “Contacts” on my phone to send a voice message!! And given how dependent we are now on our Contacts, this is so unusable!

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New age marketing

HDFC Standard Life Insurance has created a ‘Responsibility Quotient’ application on Facebook, I’m guessing one of (if not the first) time a major Indian business entity is taking to the social networking platform for marketing and brand building.

The ‘application’ is nothing but a contest-quiz, which if you happen to win, your parents get to fly to Paris for a vacation! Cool, eh? I think the whole thing’s a decent idea considering it reinforces the concept behind one of their recent products, a ‘Unit Linked Savings Plan’, that’s apparently “a plan ideal for young professionals”.

Event report (Understanding the Logic of Consumer India)

Here’s my post-event summarization & ramblings on last week’s TiE event, Understanding the Logic of Consumer India:

But, before that, a random observation during tea-break: Majority of the glasses that were used for drinking water, had around 20% of drinking water remaining in each of the glasses (sorry, wasn’t carrying my camera with me that day)! On the sustainability side, that’s around 20% of the drinking water that the five-star hotel buys going to a waste. And on the business side, the hotel is spending 20% more than they should be!

Anyways, onto the event notes:

  • Thankfully it wasn’t a powerpoint-presentation oriented event. It was an informal, open discussion facilitated by Vinita Bali. The topics that were discussed ranged from…predictable questions like, why she wrote the book, “We’re like that only!”…to interesting debates around…do businesses (especially entrepreneurs, given the fact it was a TiE event) really need to understand what their consumers’ needs are before going-to-market (this question did become a strong point of discussion among several in the audience)…to how do you know whether “that” is really the consumer’s need…to how one should spend time observing consumers at the point-of-sale/usage…to whether Reliance has got their retail business model correct or not (?), etc.
  • Scarcity & Abundance: I forget whether it was Vinita or Rama who made a very subtle, yet powerful & interesting point about how Indians are fundamentally oriented towards (or come from) scarcity rather than abundance. The context to this discussion was around the need for competition in the market, without which a business can pretty much do whatever it wishes (without taking into account consumers’ needs) and many times, get away with it.
    Vinita/Rama made the point that Indians have traditionally been shy of competition because there is a tendency to believe that, if there is competition, then one’s share of the pie is at stake. And that comes from the cultural background where Indians are so oriented towards scarcity rather than abundance…meaning, there’s this nagging worry/feeling that…what’s there, isn’t enough for everyone.
  • Do businesses really need to understand consumer’s needs: A question was put forth about why businesses don’t want to, don’t like to spend too much time/effort/money on understanding the consumer’s needs. Several people had varied (also, weird) responses to that.
    My take (or hypothesis):

    1. Most of the folks who run businesses are usually the left-brain-thinking, logic-oriented folks. That doesn’t mean they don’t use their right-side at all…it’s probably relatively underutilized when it comes to making business decisions.
      And, why that’s significant is…understanding & decoding consumer’s needs, I think, requires a considerable amount of right-brain-thinking (in addition to the left-brain as well)….which they would much rather not deal with, because it seems to be so “hard to get”.
      And that’s probably why the general attitude towards end-user research has been of “Let’s-do-it-when-we-have-the-time-and-money”. Thankfully, not all clients think that way and people like me do end up putting our right-brain-thinking to good use.
    2. The other side of the coin: Researchers haven’t done a good (enough) job of translating research findings into tangible/measurable business recommendations or solutions. World-over, there seems to be (in my experience) an innate skepticism that research just ends up in a report that one files away, hardly ever to use one’s business decisions. So, researchers need to start talking business and the language of business to be able to really deliver the value that research often promises.
  • While making a point during the discussion, one of the women in the audience talked about a conversation she once had with the store manager of one of the large (departmental/lifestyle) stores in Bangalore. The store manager said that only 40% of the store was allocated to women’s products and almost 60% was for men! The logic being that, women don’t actually buy as much as they spend so much time at the store!!!
  • On a related note…and this I don’t recall so clearly…there was also a point about how some (traditional) business practices & approaches are so different in different parts of the world. In India, the conventional approach to pricing coffee would be to charge more for coffee with sugar (‘coz you’re having to spend on more sugar). But in the west, the practice is to charge more for diet drinks!
  • Unlike most other TiE events (in Bangalore) that I’ve attended, this seemed to have the least participation from the techie crowd. There seemed to be several CEOs and heads of small-medium-enterprises in the crowd. Does it indicate the lack of interest among the techies about creating user-centered products & services? I guess that’s too harsh a conclusion to draw, but this phenomena didn’t seem like something to not make note of.
  • The discussion (especially between the audience and the panelists) kept going back to the unresolved issue about connectivity to the new Bangalore airport that’s coming up in March 2008. One had to be there to experience the irritation, anger, frustration and complete resignation about the state of (infrastructure) affairs, surrounding the connectivity to the new airport.
    Of course, Rama did touch upon the fact that there are people who actually get to benefit from such poor connectivity or infrastructure, the cellphone companies to start with. If you aren’t getting to the airport on time or are even avoiding the travel, chances are you’re using the good ol’ phone to communicate with your business associates or your near & dear ones! Interesting.

Reading between the lanes…

Found this awesome advertising campaign on TheCityFix. Ads (including the below pictures) originally posted here.

Billboard-zoomed-out

Billboard-zoomed-in

With traffic jams becoming a harsh reality (nightmare?) of urban life, it would be interesting to explore what services could be offered to (at the very least) minimize the poor user experience for the commuters who’re stuck in never-ending traffic jams?

I’ve personally experienced that listening to the Radio/Music or catching up with friends/colleagues on the phone (while you’re stuck in a jam) are couple of ways of minimizing the stress. What keeps you going?

Buy online to avoid embarassment

Heard about this online startup based out of India (from Plugged.in), ShopImagine. Their claim to fame — “India’s largest luxury lingerie selection”.

Their About Us page says –

“Of all of the complaints that men and women have about buying lingerie, the embarrassment of having to go into a store and buy sexy undergarments that would otherwise be kept private is the number one complaint. At shopimagine.in you can buy babydolls, teddies, camisoles, corsets, bustiers, clubwear, sexy bras and panties in the comfort of your own home at any time of day or night.”

I can understand men having to deal with this embarrassment, but it is rather surprising that women (apparently) feel the same way.

Also, the models used seemed to be all non-Indians and I’m now really curious:

  1. Was this intentional? Or was it more of convenience, as in, using the catalogs of the companies that these guys source from rather than having to organize an exclusive photo-shoot in India with local models?
  2. Does it make a difference to the target audience (both men and women)? Does it influence their purchasing behaviour at all (either ways)?
  3. And, is there an “aspirational” aspect to this at all (like the “Fair & Lovely” phenomena)?

Thoughts?

    Back from the break

    Well, it wasn’t quite a “break”, but nevertheless…we’re now back to blogging after a long gap. Lots to catch up on and lots to share. Will try and do that over the next few weeks (“try” being the operative word).

    Anyways, here’s an ad for Reliance (one of India’s largest mobile service providers)’s promotion for their mobile blog service. This ad has been playing across literally every TV channel for the last several weeks, to the point of irritation (almost)!

    But why I’m blogging about it is the huge publicity/promotion that blogging, as a concept/phenomena/culture, is getting thanks to these ads! It will be interesting to see how this ad impacts or increases the overall blogging trend in India over a period of time (assuming the ad does work, of course).

    “Before Mummy finds one”

    A banner ad on Facebook for SimplyMarry.com, a mirror of what’s part of day-to-day life/culture in most parts of India…(I especially like the use of the word “Mummy”)!

    Simply-Marry