Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mirror Mirror on the wall, Who is the best marketer of them all??? My answer might well surprise you

So ... this has been quite a hiatus ... and it is good to be back in writing and ranting mode again. For the benefit of those who wondered and pondered my absence (not many as I have precious 2 followers – and yes one of them is my cousin) I went back to school and now armed with an MBA ... am ready and raring to torment you with my musings.

I take this opportunity to thank all folks from the IVEY EMBA Winter 2011 class, who with their wealth of experience and knowledge have contributed immensely to make this experience fruitful and fun. Kudos to a fabulous class and a wonderful faculty at IVEY... you all have been absolutely BRILLIANT!!!

The past couple of years has been witness to a whole lot of strategic marketing initiatives from the usual suspects ... Levers - doing a great job in continuing with the fun and risque theme for Axe and upping the ante

P&G - Strategic and solid with that hint of humour and irreverence of Old Spice. The doyen of all brands ... Coke celebrating its 125th year in myriad ways and Pepsi going back to what it knows best ... building brands outside of the carbonated beverages segment.

Whilst above organizations garner all the laurels, a category of marketers toil away making their mark, in probably the most commoditized business of all - 'The business of money' i.e. BANKING. Money is Money ... anywhere anytime, and yet these highly disciplined, focussed, deliberate, strategic marketers with financial institutions have been able to impart a level of differentiation and unique positioning for each of their bank brands and their financial offerings. When juxtaposed against the recent economic meltdown ... not to mention the current that we are in the midst off...these marketers deserve accolades. And this does beg the question - Why????

In an era of IP infringement (Apple v/s Samsung…not to mention the Apple stores in China), big brand blowouts … Toyota and Honda losing their brand lustre, the long term marketing strategy and coherence that marketing teams of financial institutions have adhered to … is commendable. If only their brethren in the financial / trading divisions were as disciplined, the world would have been saved from the financial meltdown. Increasingly, marketers bereft of long term strategic thinking are resorting to short term tactical initiatives backed by great story telling (thanks to some very creative agencies and thought shops) and painting these successes as strategy. Brand sustainability and relevance are sacrificed for short term fillip in terms of market share …or should I say … ‘Shelf Space’.

Traditional marketing is dead…long live marketing. Today, marketing is a harmonious mix of technology, customer experience, compelling propositions / positioning and seamless execution across channels (on-line and in-store, as customer is increasingly channel agnostic) and media. No one embodies this new marketing age and embraces it as much as folks in financial marketing roles. Their ability to leverage technology to know more customers, more about customers in terms of analysis, outreach / delivery and analytics is astounding. The financial marketers fusion of technology and traditional strategic marketing perspective stressing upon segmentation, positioning and frequency has led to some marketing gems, both in terms of statements as well as ownership colour and visuals eg. Red – Scotiabank, Green – TD such as…

1) Chase

a. The unique Blue Hexagon encompassing a square

2) Scotiabank

a. Colour – Red

b. Positioning statement - You are richer than you think

3) TD

a. Colour – Green

b. The leather single seat sofa (for want of a better word)

c. Statement – Open 7 days a week

4) RBC

a. Colour – Blue & Gold

Needless to say that marketing teams at banks / financial institutions are at the forefront of marketing as it morphs from the traditional 4P’s to the modern 5 W’s and 1 H

Who – Who is the customer that buys?

What – What does the customer buy?

When – When do they buy?

Where –Where do they want to transact?

Why – Why do they want to transact?

How – How does the customer use the product

For these marketers the lure of Cannes is dull when compared to the lucre what a new credit card customer brings. And to all those in the field of financial marketing … Kudos to you all and keep up the great work!!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Co-marketing is the future

With an increasing number of brands shouting out for the customers "wallet" it is critical that brands seek out complementary brand partners to work with and reach out the the customer in unison.

With budgets - limited, media options - abound and the customers span of attention so fleeting, brands have to reach out and engage customers when and where they least expect. Pure Consumer Electronics brands like Sony should seek out opportunities to tie-up with stand alone White Goods brands like Whirlpool. The core to this partnership should be an unselfish drive of their customers to the other thru CRM, Co-marketing and co-sale promotion exercises.

What makes this tie-up logical is that there are few households out there that have or would like to have their entire Consumer Electronics & White Goods from the same brand. More over with Sony and Whirlpool being established brands recommending the other, the tie-up from the customers perspective is impartial. These tie-ups can also help in competing against other brands present in both these business verticals namely Samsung / LG.

Marketing managers at the Consumer Electronics should be vying to tie-up on a worldwide basis with IKEA to showcase their line of TV's and home electronics as part of IKEA's home / room display. For the simple reason that home electronics is ingrained in the consumers as part of a room / house layout. Tie-ups such as these can span industries. eg. Courier companies tying up with car manufacturers in the quest for a greener form of transport or Airline brands partnering with Hotel chains (not thru loyalty points) but a direct tie-up proposition. The tie-up between Apple and Nike ... is a great example of co-branding and partnering that has to be emulated by a host of other brands out there, for the future will belong to brands that show the customer value beyond itself.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Apple - From Slipstream to Mainstream & the challenge ahead

The past decade has seen the transformation of the Apple brand from riding the slipstream of the major CE giants to being at the forefront of the industry. The seeds of this transformation was set in Apple DNA more than a decade ago as Apple launched its retail initiative with its own chain of stores.

The retail initiative not only allowed Apple the perfect canvass to paint its own narrative of evolution of the CE business, but also provided total control of the consumer experience. This was critical to the success of its products ... from iTunes,iPod, iMac to the most recent iPhone.

Core to the success of Apple was the organization's belief in branding at a time when CE industry worldwide transitioned from analog to digital. The branding initiative and Apple's manic attention to design and customer experience were key factors that allowed the brand to catapult from the slipstream to mainstream and in fact lead the CE industry in innovation in terms of customer interface & branding...something that other industry titans forgot.

The challenge for Apple begins now... as staying on top is greater challenge than catching up. This means a transition from the "Windows" mocking ads to that being an industry leader and a visionary. And backing it up with consistent cutting edge product / service launches that are paradigm shifts without sacrificing the core elements of customer experience...not to mention an increased focus on branding that is mainstream COOL and NOT niche in its approach.

Will this quest for mainstream COOL lead to another disruptive invention / brand from Apple ... OR will it result in the launch of whole new distinct brand from Apple? Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The transition of Brand Ownership and its Democratization

The advent of the Internet and social networking era has seen the subtle transition of Brand Ownership from the organization to the customer. As it currently stands, organizations only notionally own the brands, the intrinsic brand value is dictated by the customer not to mention ... Brand ownership. This transfer of brand ownership is the "Democratization of the Brand"

Branding initiatives and strategy can no longer be dictated by brand managers "inside-out" of an organization. Instead, it is dictated by the customer and in an "outside-in" perspective. Brand positioning statements and promises have to be crafted from a customers perspective of what the brand can do for them and not from a organizations stand-point. Brands that recognize this will craft, believe and implement brand statements that genuinely embrace the power the customer in this new era. Case in point NIKE and its statement "Just Do It". The statement transcends time and truly lends itself to various executions from an advertising / communications perspective...and at the same time empowers the customer to own and craft their own story with the storied brand.