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Love what Stray Factory is doing in Chennai

19 May

I just submitted couple of my blog entries at “The Great Indian Blog-ologues” conducted by Stray Factor in collaboration with Indie Bloggers.

Never heard of Stray Factory until  today. Actually, there was an article in The Hindu: Group comes up with innovative exercise in collaborative entertainment which I dint take seriously enough. So, I was definitely in for a surprise when I checked out their site.  I was like , “Hey, these guys are doing something interesting and cool !” .

They are into collaborative entertainment (whatever that means but sounds juicy enough to me). But I guess they are more interested in Theatre than other forms of entertainment at this point.Chennai has a vibrant theater culture anyway.  l would really these guys to succeed in whatever plans they have in the future.

Dint like their website though!  Doesnt have enough info or links are not really working. But hey, These guys have started something new and it will take some time to get things moving .

Great stuff, Stray Factory… Keep going!

check out the competition here : http://www.indiblogger.in/blogologues/

Does your Brand have a Brand Song?

18 May

Very few companies have kick ass accessories (Manchester). Many Companies have great tag lines (Nike). Loads of companies have Jingles (AIRTEL). Almost all companies have a recognizable Brand Logos (Apple).  Now ask yourself this question:

How many companies do you know which has a Brand Song?

I got thinking about this during my Organizational Behaviour class last Saturday. Thinking about it for some time, I connected the thought process to the brand I was working with previously – BODYFUELZ. BODYFUELZ has great products & accessories, no tag line and no recognizable brand logo. The name in itself is the brand logo. And it definitely dint have a brand song. Come to think of it, I find very few companies have brand song.

In the lingo of tourism marketing, a nation has a brand song which is used to woo customers both from abroad and domestic. For India, the national anthem is a great brand song. It is one of most loved brand song ever made. The minute you hear the national anthem, a sense of pride swells into your heart. You connect yourself o India. And if you have heard it enough, as foreigner, you would know the Indian anthem anywhere. It’s a beautiful song.

Even, Vande Mataram , though not the national anthem, is a brand song in its own right in connecting it to Brand India ( thank you Lataji & ARR  for taking it to the world)

The big point is this: If a nation of billion people can be moved with a great national anthem, usher in patriotism and loyalty, why can’t an organization have a great brand song?

When are you going to get a brand song for your company and its brand portfolio?

A great brand song:

  • Immediately connects the customer, the employee, the stockholder to the brand and its attributes.
  • It is a great differentiator
  • Will make the customer feel part of an elite group whose products they use which has a kick ass brand song.
  • Builds brand loyalty
  • Gives the customer a sense of pride in owing the product
  • It also gives you a chance to go viral

Brand Song, Social Media, Word of Mouth:

Do you need a Bharth Bala or ARR or Black Eyed Peas to get you a great company Brand Song? Fo-fo… Not at all! You can get a great brand song from your customers. Better still; go ask the whole world to make you a great brand song. Go Open Culture.

All you need to do is to ask them. Nicely.  Politely. And you better be sincere about it.

Here is what you can do:

  1. Create a separate webpage in your website inviting people from all over India/world to contribute to a great brand song. You will have budding artists, visual communication and music students, potential bathroom singers, husbands, housewives, your own customers, someone from Somalia may upload a brand song for you if you give them the opportunity.  This is crowd-sourcing
  2. Ask them to upload their brand song in YouTube and pull it to your website and invite people to vote for the brand song.
  3. Use public relations not advertising to spread the word about this campaign.
  4. Invite famous people (see if you can get ARR or Chitra) to judge the brand song.
  5. Invite comments from other people about the brand song.
  6. Recognize and honour the brand song maker by putting up their name in your website, press releases.
  7. Not many people want money, they want to be respected for they do. Acknowledge them for their effort. You may pay them but see if you can give them a platform to showcase their talents.
  8. Next, short list and give exclusive access to your customers and ask them to choose what the song they like. This is interactivity. No point in having a brand song which your customers hate.

Done? Then, produce the song yourself. Again, you don’t need celebrity artists to make it for you. Go to colleges which run visual communication and media courses and invite students there to make that brand song for you. I know of many engineers working in big software companies who are weekend music makers with their own band dying to get a chance to be part of something like this, so find them and ask them to make it for you. You are not going to pay them a bomb here; instead they will thank you for the opportunity.

Finally, unleash the Idea Virus (as Seth Godin so eloquently puts. Thank You Seth!) :

  • Release your company brand song in your website.
  • Go ape in Youtube/vimeo/metacafe
  • Create ring tones and pass it on to your company employees and customers and request (not ask, mind you) to spread to others. They will. You know why? Because they built that song. You made them part of the process. You recognized their value and contribute. Heck! You even made them feel great!  So, why won’t they spread the song?

Spread the song and the brand name spreads.

Journalists love the juicy stuff and will start writing about your company and what the company has done in newspapers and websites. Treat these journalists with respect. Give them the info what they need.

You are not done yet though.

Go to the bloggers. Ask the bloggers to review the brand song in their posts.

Go for barter system here. Exchange your product or service for their review. And if you tell me that you don’t have anything to give them, stop reading this post, get to your R&D and make a kick ass product and then follow the thoughts above.

Finally, use social media, facebook fanpage, twitter, social bookmarks and take it to greater heights. But like Jeremiah( my mentor cos of who I fell in love with social media ) says – Always have a social media strategy when using these tools.

So, who says you can’t have a Brand Song?

[If you like my thoughts here, i would greatly appreciate it if you spread it around with your twitter/facebook/orkut /linkedin account. Thank You, Very much]

Co Creating Value with your customer. How a Saloon can use social media to build its brand reputation

21 Apr

I was waiting for my turn for a haircut at the regular saloon shop when I started talking to the guy in charge also who happened to be the brother of the owner. We were discussing latest mobile phones, laptops, fitness etc,When I asked him – “Is that computer connected to net?” He replied with an affirmative.  I asked him if his saloon had a website or a facebook fanpage or an orkut community group.  No, his saloon did not have any online presence.

So I ask him – “How many branches you have in this city”.

Reply: 12 branches in Chennai. 3 in Coimbatore.

“What kind of customers do you get here? Age group? “, I ask.

Reply:  Customers come in all age groups.Male and female.

I understand from the cost of basic haircut that the shop reaches out to middle and upper class.

I tell him – Guess what? I can help you expand your business. Grow your customer base, improve sales and more importantly build brand loyalty which will generate word of mouth.  And you don’t have to spend tons of money. Are you interested?

Reply: Absolutely…

I became a Social Media Consultant for him.

Here are the points I discussed with branch head. Maybe you can use it too…

Website:

Start with a simple website. Simple content should suffice. Don’t worry about SEO and SEM. You don’t need that here. First, cover the basics:

About the company, who owns the company, History of the company, what are the services you are offering, prices for each of your services, meet the barber

Let us focus on 2 features:  Services offered and Meet the Barber page

Services offered will have different hairstyles with pictures for the customer to identify each hairstyle. Also, why not a video testimonial of a satisfied customer? Host the video testimonials to a youtube page which will have other similar customers giving you 3 min testi of your services.

Meet Ur Barber Page: Will have the name and profile of the barbers you employ with ratings section. Your customers can rate the barber in an open transparent system. Every month the barber who gets the maximum ratings gets incentive. Thus, you also build morale and a healthy competition which in turn will improve productivity.

The website can also have a page dedicated to latest hairstyle in vogue. Your customers can chose the hairstyle, get the name and when they visit you next time, then can mention the name and get it done.

Let your website also have a space for your customers to submit ideas. This is your UGC (user generated content). This is important. UGC has power. Give your customers power and give them platform to share. That is why you need…

Facebook  Fanpage :

Your facebook fanpage should be integrated to your website so that your customers can connect and collaborate with each other online. Here are the things you can do:

–      Post pics of latest bollywood, Hollywood heros and heroines with their latest haircut. Ask questions and generate interactivity with fans.

Eg: Post in your fanpage wall – Check out Brad Pitt’s latest hairstyle ( post the pic). Kool huh? Who wants this hairstyle? The first 10 people, who wanna have this haircut, comment here and get 10% off.

Or,

Eg : kareena latest haircut ( post the pic) . You can get it done at any of our branches. Just drop a mail with your details to fix an appointment.

Or,

Eg : Our new facial for summer is out. It’s a blend of (this and that). The first 10 who post a comment here get 30% off on this new natural facial.

–      Post videos of your customers in youtube and pull it to fanpage

–      Offer tips on grooming

–      Offer sneak peak and special discounts exclusive to online customers

–      Ask your customers to directly post pics or videos of their fav good/bad hair moment

–      Invite your customers/fans to post ideas, seek advice on hairstyles, good hair maintainance tips etc…

All this will go in building a good brand name and generate word of mouth buzz.

Twitter:

Twitter should be next in agenda. Use the content which you have and post it to twitter. Today, loads of Indians have twitter handle, why not connect with them?

Twitter is important because Search Engines now give importance to social media feeds.

Use blogs: Start a corporate blog. Comment on other blogs which has content on grooming, facials, hairstyles etc…

Write to online local/citi portals to feature you.

There are huge load of things you can do with social media.

( if the reader of this post wants to discuss more ideas, get in touch)

The branch Head then had a big question for me:

“Vikas, how to bring fans or bring customers to facebook fanpage?”

Answer:

Simple! From now, every time you give a bill to a customer, ask him for his name and number, mail id, and ask if he has a facebook, twitter or a blog presence .

Then tell him, this – Sir, we have a facebook fanpage and we have plans to have a website, may I invite you there? Is it ok if I send you an email invitation? You can also give us your ideas on what and how the website should be

If the customer agrees, then later send him a mail. This is Permission Marketing. You are not blasting spam; you are asking the customer his permission.

This is social media at its best and the customer will appreciate it.

Crowd sourcing:

The saloon has all sorts of customers who use their services. Why not run a contest inviting web designs? The best web design will become the official web design and the guy/gal who wins get 3 haircuts free with the name featured in the website.

Some of you who read this may argue , why is that I am going to such lengths in discussing social media for a saloon.

You are obviously missing the point.

The point is – Social Media is not confined to big brands. Social Media is sometime best suited and most effective for small business owners who wanna build big brands.

I am always open to crtizism or better ideas.

You can tweet me @spartanvikas

If you like my post, may I request you to share it in twitter, facebook or Delicious?

Dedication :

I would like to dedicate this post to C.K Prahalad, the pioneer behind the idea of Co Creating Value with the customer. He inspires me to give the best I can give to my customers.

The Man Who Destroyed India’s Wireless Industry

27 Mar

You are looking at the caricature of the man who singlehandedly destroyed India’s mobile wireless industry. Let us thank him for the following :

  • For unleashing corruption and siphon of thousands of crores of money unprecedented  and unheard of  in the history of  Telecom Industry anywhere in the world.
  • For pushing India back by 10 years in 3G technology when cities around the world are ushering  4G.
  • For redfining the definition of bureaucracy bullshit in the most extreme scale possible.

Kudos to the dude …

Note : In case you see merit in my post why not post it in your social networking profiles like facebook,orkut,twitter or any other social book marking sites like digg,delicious or stumble upon ? Awareness leads to healthy and honest opinions and debates and may lead to a change. You do want CHANGE, don’t you ?

1:9:90 Theory of Online Brand Marketing

21 Feb

I was reading a newspaper today when I came across the idea on the 1:9:90 Theory. Not sure who was saying this in the newspaper but I am definitely not going to claim that this theory is mine. I am only going look at it a bit deeper.

The 1:9:90 Theory is simple to understand, profound in thought and difficult to implement. But thou shall reap immense rewards if you execute it.

The Theory says:  Among your consumer group (or target audience if you will):

  • 1 % should create content
  • The content created by the 1 % should engage 9% of your audience and convert them to Brand Evangelist or to use the Facebook phraseology – Fans.
  • This 9% of brand evangelist should then take the content, connect and collaborate with 90% of your target group. Of course, the 90% who will absorb the content is important but marketers in the online space would do great by focusing on finding the 1 % content creators.

These content creators are what, if I may borrow Seth Godin’s terminology –  Tribes.

Find the Tribe:

Seth Godin in his remarkable book Tribes talks about how it is important to find and engage the members of a  Tribe. The Tribe are your diehard fans. He/she is the one who will do what it takes to get and use your product/service ignoring all others in the market. All you ought to do is make space for your fans/core consumers to create content. Democratize your company. Give them the tools. Let them create content. All you have to do is channelize the tribe by being the Leader.

Let the fans create the content, find and touch base with the 9% of the brand evangelists who in turn will share the content with 90% of your target audience.

Your job is to basically find the content creators.

And it isn’t an easy job. But it is definitely better and more effective than creating million dollar advertisements targeting everyone out there and praying to Almighty that someone watches the ads and respond to it.

Finding loyal fans and content creators is tough but it is long lasting, just like true love. Finding true love is not an easy job. But when you find it, engage with that person, nourish the relationship; it becomes bliss and long lasting.

It was exactly this point Geoffrey Moore was trying to tell us in his seminal book Crossing The Chasm.  The book is all about the importance of Early Adopters of technology.

Find the Early Adopters.  Give them the importance they deserve. Give them the tools through which they can play with your product/service. Show them how you value their passion for your products. Then politely ask them to create content for you. Ask them nice and be honest about it and guess what? They will give you the content. And since they are doing it out of passion and love for the product and not you, you will get great viral content.

The word Viral is important. It is word of mouth. It is something you will get by Co-creating value with your customers as C.K Prahald articulate in his books.

Building Brands Online:

Today it is far easier and better to build brands online than using traditional media. It is easier because online activities can help you engage with your audience. It is measurable and accountable.

More importantly it can be used to target the your real serious customers than every tom,dick and harry ( no pun intended of course). When you launch focused advertisements or campaigns the reach is better, ads can be tweaked, mistakes can be made so that old rules are broken and new lessons learnt.

Simply put: The status quo can be challenged.

When you do that, you somehow will manage to create The Purple Cow (I love Seth for what he stands for  … you ought to read his blog). From then on use innovation to sustain and feed the Purple Cow

Digital Marketing Agencies:

The agencies of tomorrow should not be stand alone Advertising and Public Relations companies. Instead they should become an Integrated Digital Solutions companies which should have core team of people who can come with digital strategies and how to use such tools (like me … lol) and people who can create engaging content ( not necessarily award winning creative’s) and solid tech cum web team who can implement your communication ideas in the most optimized way.

Read this awesome blog by Seth Godin on Viral Growth to understand on how important it is to connect with core fans and creating great content

An open letter to HBR team

1 Jan

To,

India Today Group and the HBR team

Extremely sad and shocked at the increase of the price of HBR from Rs.500 to Rs.750! Not sure why this suddenly increase in price. Is it cos of the new design or because it is a double issue or it is New Year?

What is the point in making the new design more accessible to reading when you are making the magazine less accessible for people to buy?

As long as the price was at Rs.500 I used to eagerly wait for the magazine to come out. Cos Rs.500 for me was an opportunity cost in financial planning. Rs.500 was a sacrifice I made for a movie outing with my finance. I used to think – even if I missed a movie with her, that’s fine! I get to read HBR management stuff. She understood.

Now, I can’t give her that reason. I can’t tell her that I sacrificed my time with her for a book which cost Rs.750.

What about the rest of us? What about new managers climbing the corporate ladder who may not have big salary but have big dreams and want to learn management ideas and thoughts from icons of HBR but cant because of the increase in price. Others may get access to HBR cos their HR would be good enough to buy it for them in office. Student’s studying MBA may get access to it from the coll library.

So what happens to the rest of us? Are we to be denied the pleasure of reading HBR?

The Entrepreneur (India edition) is Rs.100. that makes sense. That makes big sense to buy. And the content is good. Not as classy as HBR but good nonetheless.

So here is my big question: Why on earth did you guys raise the price back to Rs. 750?

If you are charging HBR print edition so much, why not give free online access to your articles and archives?

You know what is even more sad? Me not buying HBR won’t make any difference to you. It won’t cause a dent in your brand, sales or the policy you follow.

But hopefully there ought to be more ppl like me out there who will read this blog, nod their head and voice out their concerns as well… That may probably be a wake up call for you guys to rethink your pricing strategy in India.

A Dejetced Big Fan!

Sri Vikas

the accidental Brand Manager

21 Mar

This part of my life was never planned . This part of life of becoming the Brand Manager for BODYFUELZ was as serendipitous as it can come. Becoming a Brand Manager was always part of the plan. Just then I became one a bit too early.

So here I am , Brand Manager of BODYFUELZ. What we do , you ask ? We help some of India’s top sports players, endurance athletes , serious bodybuilders and fitness freaks to reach their fitness goals via performance nutrition.

So we have someone like Sushil Kumar using our highly advanced , bio engineered Aminonutriton products to build lean muscle mass, strength and stamina to reach his peak performance for his game.

We have the Indian Hockey Team use our products like FASTCHARGE and PWRSPORTS to  in their game to build endurance and stamina and prevent fatigue while playing.

We have been helping people develop lean , ripped muscles using our product called MUSCLEMAX .

We enable people in the weight loss program in the most safest , effective manner possible.

And those who connect and buy from us directly either through mail (pmt@bodyfuelz.com), call ( 044-42014141/9884592632) or via facebook community , we give free diet/fitness and nutritional guidance.

Our in-house nutritionist will guide them all round the year.

My Role :

As the Brand Manager I connect with users to help them understand concept of next generation sports nutrition both Online and Offline.

Online –  You can find us here in facebook community –  BODYFUELZ Facebook Community

I believe in the future of social media marrying PR and Viral Marketing .  That is also one of the reasons why i exited from an advertising in industry.

Future  connect :

Starting from now my blog will mirror all that we do in the social media sphere . It would include very precise and practical ideas on building a brand using websites, blogs, rss, social networking, widgets and how to connect that with online PR.

Social Media Chennai Chapter :

I also aim to start a social media group based out of Chennai. A bar-camp – unconference style where i would like to invite brand manager, marketing managers, web designers , chief marketing officers, advertising and public relation executives and the likes.

The agenda would be simple . We will meet to connect and share ideas, best practises, discuss case studies, new trends in the social media sphere and how we can help our clients improve  their reach to their customers.

The only criteria would be that you should be passionate and believer of digital/social media marketing.

Drop in a mail – spartanvikas1983@gmail.com,

call me   – 9884592632

or drop in your comments here and spread the good word.

Look forward to some dynamic response from you guys ..

The Fear of Deflation in Indian Economy

20 Mar

Today’s Economic Times has the screaming article Indian Economy staring at deflation. Is it good news ? in its front page.  Too late .. I have already predicted and reported on this .

On Feb27th of 2009 I had posted a blog  Inflation down to 3.36%. Nothing to be happy about. This blog was posted when 3.36% inflation figures were released by the government.

Is it good news ? Of course not. Why should it be ? Think about it. Deflation arises when less money is chasing more products. So the question now comes – Is it that we Indians have no money to buy ?

On the contrary,Indians have the money to invest. How else would you explain record number of new mobile connections sold ? How else will you explain Mercedes selling more cars in India than in most of the so called “‘mature”, “developed”  markets ? How else can you explain the IPL commercial values involved? How else can you explain DTH connections sold in drones in the last 6 months?

So you see , we can safely say that we Indians have the money to spend. What prevents us from spending a lot ( unlike last year) is the fear factor.

France , America, Britian has millions of job loses reported . France had 3 million out on streets protesting against wage cutes and unemployment. How many such rallies have we seen in India? I will let you answer that question.

First, let us accept the accept that the Indian economy clocked 9% G.D.P last year and it was fueled by entrepreneurship . But, unlike our counterparts ,Indians are largely insulated by the bad economic troubles. But true to our risk averse mind set we are saving our money and too scared to invest or buy in indulgence. Therefore , demand is low.

There are 2 ways at looking at it. Positive and Negative. Taking the current discussion under consideration, we are forced to look at the negative reasons. And negative reasons are very scary indeed.

What can be done ?  Two things – Awarness and Proactive solutions by the government and private companies and banks.

Self Awareness from the people is hard to come by. The government representatives should come out and talk directly to the people instead of just giving out talks in press conference . TV news channels can give a good coverage by inviting top brass to address people directly.

Address the Nation : When was the last the time we actually sat in front of the TV and listened to Presidential speech on the eve of Independence day ? Be honest about it .. But , this is the right time for Ministry of Finance, Planning Commission, RBI head to directly to the people. We should also have business icons and thought leaders like Naryana Mooorthy, Sam Pitroda, Sunil Mittal, Sachin Tendulkar, Dhoni, and writers , celebrities talk directly to the people. The idea is to instil confidence and security to the people.

Go Vernacular : Talking in high jargon filled English is not gonna do the trick. The biggest curse of India is that we have not been able to permeate the growth of the economy to the villages. Few people realise that villages, tier 2 and 3 cities hold the key to super power status of India. They may not be English educated but they have spending power. And like Unilever’s CEO Mr Paul said in a interview , ” We will have to drive people’s habits” . Very True!

But talk to people in their language.

Start spending but in a controlled way . Educate, Empower and set example and spread the word. Be a thought leader yourself. Ask your friends to spend but not in excess. Try to include Indian products in your grocery. This will fuel domestic economy and also in the long term make us a potential market and make it more investor friendly .

Simple things are can go a long way. You dont have to be a Chief Economist to drive change.

Just a thought : We should stop IMF and S&P500 and other agency give investor ratings during recession. Otherwise people are gonna reach such stats and go into a shell and reduce spending and brakes the FDI’s.

Blog surfing at its best – love this site

30 Jan

I am sure most of you guys here are familiar about StumbleUpon. If not, check out their site.

StumbleUpon discovers web sites based on your interests. Whether it’s a web page, photo or video,the personalized recommendation engine learns what you like, and brings you more.

Today I literally stumbled upon a blog surfing site called Condron.us. Coldron is to blogs what StumbleUpon is for websites.  Here is what the makers of Coldron claim about their site

Condron.us is a blog surfing website.
(Basically like channel surfing but for blogs).

If a blog surfer finds a blog that interests them they can stop and read it or bookmark it for future reading.

How does it work:

Condron.us provides bloggers with free exposure to large groups of potential readers by pulling recently updated blogs at random from wordpress and blogspot.

If you are a blogger, journalist, PR executive then you must use condron to index your blogs . The forum in the site helps you connect with fellow bloggers from all around the globe as well!

Great social media tool !

Check out the site for yourself and let me know what you think.

I loved the site from the word go!