Marketing’s Sleeping Giant

The latest in the advertising news is on how brands are embracing technology in their marketing campaigns. Consumer goods to automobile companies today are embracing new age technologies to improve their customer engagement. Days of fliers and exhibitions are long gone, now it’s emerging technologies that are ruling the roost. Earlier, when one was to hint at the marriage of marketing and technology all eyes were set on digital marketing but today it has moved beyond. Companies are experimenting with artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, holography, near field communications and what not to attract and engage more customers. Technology is no longer the back-bencher but an unbroken bridge between the customer and brand stitching experiences through engagement.

In 2015, Nutralite, in India, set up a holographic darshan (Hindu religious altar) of a paunchy Lord Ganesha in Mumbai. The devotees then were asked to continue visiting the set up for a period of eleven days and perform exercises instead of making offerings, while, the prasad distributed was made of Nutralite products. Having continued the routine for the set days, the devotees were able to witness the reducing paunch and finally six pack abs on the Lord. This campaign resulted in a footfall of 210, 000 and reach of the PR being 8,750,000. You can watch the same here and here. Even though it would be remembered as India’s first 3-D holographic idol, this would not be the first-time holography was used in an Indian marketing campaign. In 2014, Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, used holographic projection to address public as part of his General Election campaign. Recently, we also saw another politician, Jean-Luc Mélenchon of France, use the same for his presidential Election campaign.

Holography is not the only technology marketers are embracing, recently we saw Saatchi and Saatchi come up with two brand new concepts for automotive industry. Saatchi LA came up with a campaign for Toyota Mirai, a thousand plus copies for Facebook were written by IBM Watson to cater to almost every single potential buyer of the car. This was not the first time Saatchi and Toyota collaborated with IBM Watson, in January this year they used Artificial Intelligence to suggest activity merging multiple user interests through an RAV4 ad. From identifying potential customers to understanding their interests and stitching them together to produce meaningful ad copies, Artificial Intelligence through this campaign has proven its potential in marketing communication.

Saatchi and Saatchi at present has a team of Virtual Reality experts working on building VR automotive showrooms. In India last year, during the launch of Hyundai Elantra, potential buyers were given a head mounted device to simulate the experience of being taken on a ride by Shah Rukh Khan while seated inside the car. Infiniti too played the same game last year, a Q50 virtual test drive experience was provided to potential customers using an Oculus Rift. Roping in national heart throbs and providing firsthand experience of the product is a tried and tested tactic, but with Virtual Reality as the facilitator, we are looking at new opportunities.

Today, it’s not just Dr.X who has the power of telekinesis. KFC recently came up with a campaign where it used Brain Computer Interface to engage customers with the brand.  As part of the campaign, volunteers were asked to wear a NeuroSky and concentrate to open a box thereby ‘unlocking the legendary taste of Nashville chicken’. This campaign was at the same time challenging and engaging with a good recall value.

Gone are the days when technology was just a facilitator, now it is becoming mainstream especially in marketing. Technology today is the key to generate awareness, garner interest, invoke desire and initiate action. With the advent of social media and analytics, lead generation is simplified, segmentation is no longer a marketer’s sour grape, spams can intelligently be reduced and each customer intent can be measured and responded to. Stitching seamless customer experiences in unique ways, gathering eyeballs and higher brand recall was every marketers fantasy which now has become a reality. Technology is here to stay and smart brands are to now look for a combination of technology and creativity in the marketing minds they gather.


A Story of Mistaken Identities in the Digital Era

Throughout history, there have been incidents of mistaken identities and people capitalizing on the same. But today, with easy access to news, whether fake or real, things have changed. Especially with the right wings taking over the world and the collective conservative conscience kicking in, to pick fights with a faction is detrimental not only for the perpetrators but also for their namesakes. There is no limit to the abuses and negativity that tweets and comments shower, many a times reasons unknown to the inflicted, due to remote similarity in names or twitter handles. Digital era has shrunk the world, no one can claim ignorance to any major event continents away. News and details are available on ones’ fingertips and all one has to do is filter it against beliefs and post 140 or more characters to be read by the world.

Many a times mistaken identities are accidents, other times it is pure bad luck. One such example is the Isis mobile app- an app that monetized on NFC capabilities of smart devices to make payments.  The mobile app, in 2014, following the gaining notoriety of the terrorist organization ISIS, rebranded itself to Softcard. A similar incident took place in India last week. Following an alleged remark by Snapchat CEO, Evan Speigel, that Snapchat is not meant for poor countries like India and Spain, Indians were enraged and many decided to boycott the app and rate it one star. But Snapdeal, an Indian ecommerce company, faced the brunt. Many frustrated Indians uninstalled Snapdeal app after mistaking it for Snapchat. The same week, India also witnessed one of its celebrities, Sonu Sood, being trolled for a ‘forced religiousness’ remark made by another celebrity Sonu Nigam.  Yet another case in India was in 2016 when a car brand Zica was rebranded as Tiago only weeks after its unveiling, following an outbreak of Zika virus.

Many of these mistaken identities can be taken care of with swift action, just like Softcard. Softcard intervention was timely, else it would have lost much of its online traffic to ISIS website and its twitter handle would have gone for a toss. Tiago rebranding was well thought, but I can only imagine the pain they would have gone through to come up with a new name and carry out rest of the campaigns.

When we could blame the stars for Softcard and Tiago mishaps, Snapdeal and Sonu Sood are victims of blatant mass ignorance. The mass that follows the crowd despite being ignorant of the root cause and implications of any action or reaction. Even when the impact of such ignorance is not long lasting, a few days of sharing the limelight for the wrong reason with the wrong people has its own consequences. A media release denying any association with the culprit is too over the top, it is only wit and humour that could survive the storm. Preaching to selectively deaf ears is a waste of resources, only remedy being the age-old tongue in cheek reply that hits the right place. Because, the digital era has shrunk not only our worlds but also our brains.

To say the least, even when there’s much ado for nothing, there’s definitely more to a name.

The Not So Famous ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Collection

I am a Disney fan not just for the beautiful princess stories but also for the life lessons and laughter it brings along. So, this year when Disney remade the live action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ I had even more reasons to watch it, Emma Watson and IMAX 3-D. Oh, the experience was just splendid and it more that met my expectations.

My story does not end here, I kept reading and came across Disney’s Beauty and the Beast- Hidesign collaboration. And so, the next time I visited a mall and spotted the Hidesign space, I was thrilled. I went in to take a better look at the bags, the embellishments were reminiscent of the Beauty and Beast characters but there was something missing. Or something I might have missed. Except for the article I read, there was no advertisement, cut out or anything of the kind I came across. A complete absence of marketing campaign. Was it deliberate from their part or a dangerous miss out? Hidesign and Disney collaboration might have been massive but it failed to create awareness about the limited edition that could possibly burn a hole in both their profits.

This ordeal made me research on the campaign Hidesign launched, for its Beauty and the Beast collection in India. There were four major tactics that I stumbled upon that too only after knowing where to look. One, a print ad (could be digital too, like a post made on Facebook) featuring the ball scene as a backdrop and the Hidesign bag as a prop. Second, the ongoing exhibition events in malls in Mumbai and Delhi. Third, a video advertisement that was available on Hidesign Facebook page. Fourth, Hidesign Founder-President Dilip Kapur interviews in Indian dailies. The reach of these efforts is quite questionable. Hidesign having uploaded the video on YouTube, garnered just 999 views and despite my relentless playing of various Beauty and the Beast clips and bloopers there were no pre-roll video ads from Hidesign Enchanted series.

There is an intersection of Disney fans and Hidesign patrons, and Hidesign founder is vocal about wanting to tap the wider Disney, youth and adult, audience with the collection. Despite these customers or their spread on social media or their interest in Disney content, both Disney and Hidesign has failed to market the collection effectively. Awareness creation is limited to just two cities (Delhi and Mumbai), Bengaluru is completely in the dark, no stalls, no exhibitions nor effective trade marketing but followers on Facebook wondering ‘why not Bengaluru’. Despite claims of the collection selling 50% more than normal Hidesign collections, it feels that Hidesign has lost a great marketing opportunity that could have given it an edge, a definite opportunity to don a creative hat.

This article has its own flaws, it has no backing of proper market research but only individual experience as a shopper. But, I believe, that is what branding is all about. What if you have a great product but no one to claim that? What if you have your set of consumers but zero awareness among shoppers? After all, customers do not present themselves to a brand, you need to let them know that the brand is there for them.


Before I Wish You a Happy Women’s Day..

How deserving are we of celebrating Women’s day, despite us proving otherwise time and again. We are watching through our veiled eyes, standing behind the curtains, trapped inside the rusted gate hoping to escape these. To bask in the sun, to feel the raindrops, to smell the sweet flowers. Yet we are trapped, denying ourselves of the freedom we deserve, looking ahead only to dream the fresh air.

Busy in our day to day lives, we are many a times taken for granted and the rest of the times taking others for granted. We go on preaching equality but many times look down on fellow women. We condemn dowry but taunt our daughter for the share she is yet to give. We bathe the goddess in milk but drown our own in it. We protest rape but judge the girl next door. We preach against objectifying women but never refrain from victim shaming. We keep saving for our daughter’s marriage but fail in educating her. We fight against violence of any kind but applaud the misery when she is verbally abused on social media for her views. We are afraid to let our daughter step out and equally afraid to let her stand up for her friends. We see a roaring lion in our assertive sons but a wayward girl in an assertive daughter. We appreciate the grace and stature of the Williams but sports are for boys we tell them. We adore Kalpana Chawla but refrain our daughters from taking wings.

Why this hypocrisy? Why do not we ever feel that we need more daughters like Williams and Kalpana? Why are we stopping our daughters from being role models themselves? Why do we teach them that life culminates and ends with marriage and kids? Why do not we dream and let them dream? Why don’t we give them the fire to light and the wings to fly? Why are we ashamed to pay heed to their wise voices? Why do not we celebrate the differences despite the need?

To wear what you want, to marry the person you love, to have an opinion of your own is your choice; just like it is everyone else’s. The way you have your choice, it is not in your right to body shame, to intrude, to abuse or even judge by a look of yours. We are not victims of our circumstances, we are victims of the society each of us make. We are victims of the silence we endured, we are victims of the insults we showered, and we are victims of the praises we forgot to give. We are in search for a perfect world failing to realise that it begins and ends with us.

Wishing You a Happy Women’s Day!



A well set stage, the program is nearing its finale. A small man in his late seventies slowly walks towards the mic. He was wearing a golden yellow kurti, his legs adorning one of the things I love the most, ghungroos. The moment he took the mic the entire audience fell silent, what came next from the revered old man was nothing less than pearls of wisdom. His love for nature, finding God even in the smallest of things transcended us to a different world. Then, he started dancing. His expressions and feet carrying us to a different world. A world where time ceased to exist. He was none other than the living legend Pt. Birju Maharaj.

A year before when I started my Kathak journey, I had not even dreamt of meeting the maestro. It was too far-fetched, how a beginner could meet the legend was my thought. But, this month completing a year of formal training, I had the golden opportunity to meet Maharaj ji and his foremost disciple, Saswati Sen ji whom we fondly call didi.  The two day workshop organized by Samam ran by Maharaj ji’s disciple and my Guru, Murari Sharan Gupta, saw attendance from Kathak enthusiasts across India. To hear Maharaj ji and Saswati ji talk was bliss in itself. His thoughts of finding God even in the smallest of beings and how each moment we live is to the universal rhythm were so thought provoking.

Saswati ji is his disciple for more than four decades now and she swears on the fact that each day with him brings a new learning. She, in her work is as devoted as Maharaj ji and at the beginning of each composition gives due credit to her guru and seeks his advice. Seeing Maharaj ji and Saswati ji dance and teach reminds us there is no end to learning. Together they enacted the smallest of our everyday actions, the way Maharaj ji expressed garland making was the finest of abhinaya I had ever seen. He takes the whole audience to another world with his expressions and only when he finishes is when we realise it was just abhinaya. The legend is legend for a reason, he has seen and experienced the advent and evolution of Kathak from story telling at temples to darbars and now as a well-researched art form. His contributions to Kathak is immeasurable, be it his style of teaching in the most meaningful way or his thumri pieces stitched in contemporary cinema bringing Kathak to the masses.

He laughs like a child, has a twinkle in his eyes and each sentence he speaks is so artistically woven that it lingers around for a while and keeps us thinking. He has aged but his grace has not. His devotion towards dance and Krishna is reflected in every move he makes. He taught us to see Krishna in every direction we look so that our expressions are more subtle, graceful and moreover loving. He is a legend who can dance despite music, he is a guru who can teach without words. Maharaj ji is a living example for the popular phrase Katha kahe so kathak kehlaye and his art of story telling incomparable.

The two days I spent with the maestros were the greatest so far in my Kathak journey. The very minutest yet important details they shared are something no book could provide you with. I am not sure how much I have improved, but am certain that I will try to adopt those fine details in my routine. How far I improve is a test of time; but the thoughts that these two days brought is sure to leave a permanent impact.

Marketing at the time of Demonetisation

Even when this piece is a bit in the past there is no doubt that digital wallets in India are the greatest benefactors of the country’s move to demonetisation. The distress over never ending queues outside banks and ATMs has translated to 7 million transactions worth Rs.120 crore a day for Paytm, India’s leading digital wallet. With shops declining to accept 500 and 1000 denomination notes, India is witnessing a rise in non-cash transactions. The golden era of digital wallets has finally dawned.

The very next day of 500 and 1000 denomination recall Paytm came up with ‘Ab ATM nahi, Paytm karo’. This instant recognition and monetisation of the demonetisation market opportunity helped it cross USD 5 billion GMV sales, four months ahead of its target. The knack and speed with which Paytm responded to the demonetisation drive helped them as well as many others especially the small vendors. The easiness in setting up a Paytm account as well as the speed of carrying out transactions were an instant hit. No hassle of ordering a card swipe machine, zero waiting period and ease of transaction contributed to the fast adoption of this digital wallet. India being the fastest growing smartphone market in the world, the adoption drive was a cakewalk. As of now, there have being no reports of Paytm or any other such e-wallet companies evangelising small vendors but there are reported instances of customers advising vendors to take up e-wallets for transactions. But, Paytm’s marketing strategy is laudable. The morning following demonetization, India woke up to Modi’s smiling face above the catch phrase ‘Ab ATM nahi, Paytm karo’ reminding us of a similar picture promotion of Jio launch. The advertisement at the time went through a short term controversy with people debating over whether Modi endorsed Jio, was it with the permission of the GOI that the telecom provider used its PM’s image, whether it is legal to use the image of the ruling PM to endorse any private company and its offerings and much more. These questions were buried in the sands of time and neither was any notice sent nor action taken against the company. Then, once the day dawned Paytm found its opportunity, it played JIO’s wild card, and after all, nothing happened to the giant. The front page did turn heads and make headlines, Kejriwal’s contempt fueled awareness and we despite living under the largest of rocks got to know that Paytm is out in the market seizing the new found opportunity.

Did it pay off? Yes, it definitely did. How else would it achieve its 5 billion GMV sales, four months ahead of its target? Demonetisation benefits, if any, for the Indian public will only be known in a few years but it was for sure a harbinger of prosperity for the Indian digital wallet and e payment systems. Despite the sales of e-commerce giants like Flipkart and Amazon taking a hit due to loss of CoD for a short while, they are positive about the rise of non-cash payments in the days to come.

As for the digital wallets, Ache din toh aa gaye hain!