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Running for eyeballs

What is it about the movie on the ‘Flying Sikh’ that has made it a magnet for several brands?

Bhaag Milkha BhaagAlthough Bhaag Milkha Bhaag released last Friday, the buzz surrounding it intensified much earlier, courtesy the brands associated with it. The movie depicts the real life story of athlete Milkha Singh and was not only considered the most eagerly awaited movie of the year, but has also successfully caught the interests of various brands going by the number of associations it has generated.

In what seems to have become a trend, almost all brands associated with the movie have used footages from the movie to show how the story connects with their brand’s proposition. Another common thread is the strategy of connecting with the audience on an emotional level.

Some of the brands that have associated with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB) include Amul, Getit Infomedia, Birla Sun Life, Jabong.com, Omron, Adidas and Royal Enfield.

So, what is it about the ‘biopic’ of Milkha Singh that has worked as a magnet for the brands? The answer, to a great extent, lies in the movie’s story and cast. Besides having youth icon Farhan Akhtar playing the lead role, the movie is an inspirational story of a real life athlete who has done the nation proud. In that respect, it is one of the few true-life sports personality’s ‘struggle-to-success’ story that has been churned out by Bollywood.

For Birla Sun Life Insurance, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag resonated with the brand’s philosophy of being prepared for life’s uncertainties. In fact, this is the first time the brand has associated with a movie.

Ajay Kakar, chief marketing officer, Aditya Birla Group Financial Services says the reason for the association with the movie was its portrayal of Milkha Singh not as a sports person but as a person, who throughout life has faced different kinds of uncertainties and hardships. Bur rather than getting discouraged, he chose to fight back.

“This movie is bang on to create self realisation among masses about the role insurance can play in their lives. This is yet another opportunity for us to create the realisation. Even in our earlier ad with cricketer Yuvraj Singh, we have always called him the brand’s philosophy ambassador,” says Kakar. However, he quickly stresses, “We are not associating with the movie but the inspirational story.”

Considering sports is all about trying to give out the best performance, Getit Infomedia came on board with the theme ‘Winners Search for the best’, which is what the brand claims to offer through its wide services.

Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, which owns the brand Amul, took an even more interesting route. The brand didn’t need to resort to a product placement, considering its core product – milk – was instrumental in kick-starting Milkha Singh’s career. Apparently, Singh ran his first cross country race, soon after joining the army, for a cup of milk, making the movie a perfect match for Amul.

For Amul, the film association was planned and coordinated by Lodestar UM Brand Experience, along with BMB’s production house, Viacom 18. The campaign has used radio and social media as well. Incidentally, in the past, Amul has associated with Hollywood movies – The Amazing Spiderman and Man of Steel.

Then there is OMRON, a technology brand whose association with the movie was largely influenced by the fact that Farhan Akhtar was playing the lead role. Akhtar has been the brand’s ambassador for the last two years. However, the brand, like Birla Sun Life, found the movie’s inspirational tale in sync with the brand’s philosophy and vision.

Takuichi Shimizu, president, OMRON Management Centre of India, says the whole campaign aims to create brand awareness and recognition. “Just as Milkha inspired the future generations by becoming the first athlete to represent India in the Olympics with grit and conviction, OMRON also has been introducing many first of its kind innovations in the world of technology, touching and inspiring millions of lives in healthcare and industrial automation domains,” Shimizu says. This is the brand’s first movie partnership in India.

Associated support

Almost all brands have relied heavily on the digital platform to promote the association established via television commercials.

Royal Enfield has started a contest titled ‘2 Legends. 1 Odyssey’ on its website, where users can send in stories of their personal Odyssey containing elements of perseverance, passion and sacrifice, much like those experienced by the movie’s character, Milkha Singh. The winner will walk away with the same Royal Enfield bike used by Akhtar in the movie.

Similarly, to promote its exclusive sports merchandise for men and women, Jabong.com has been running a contest on Facebook and Twitter, with the winners getting an opportunity to win couple movie tickets and music CDs. In the blogging sphere, the lifestyle brand has asked bloggers to write on “How to be fashionable while working out” on their blog. The best ones stand a chance to win music CDs, couple movie tickets and vouchers from the brand.

Speaking about what made the brand partner with the movie, Manu Kumar Jain, co-founder, Jabong.com says the idea was to keep up with the changing trends in fashion and emulate styles brought in by the latest Bollywood movies. This is the brand’s second film association, the first being Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani, which was released some time ago, for which the brand received tremendous response.

While OMRON’s TVC campaign will end this week, its online and outdoor campaign will continue till the end of July. On the digital front, the brand is promoting BMB’s association through interesting contests on Facebook, Twitter and other online portals.

Realising that insurance is not an impulse category, Birla Sun Life does not expect a sudden increase in its client base. “However, the more examples I give you, the chances are you will move to the category and decide to buy insurance. And then, there is a chance that you will choose this brand. Our strategy has been the emotional connect,” Kaker points out. The brand’s TV campaign will conclude this week. The campaign is also spread across radio, cinemas and via internal and external activations.

Interestingly, Getit is also carrying out a ‘Meet the Stars’ contest internally, where Getit’s high performing sales team will get a chance to meet and interact with the movie’s cast.

Going by the interest of brands, this synergy to associate with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag will only increase in the coming days, given that the movie is already being perceived as a hit.

(Published in afaqs! on July 15, 2013)

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For brands like us, the future is digital: Amol Dhillon, VP, strategy & planning, Woodland

Amol DhillonWoodland has come a long way, from creating its own niche market as an outdoor adventure product company to its current expansion to outdoor gears and personal care products. The Canada-headquartered, 21-year-old brand now has 500 exclusive stores and 500 in-store set ups in India. Woodland clocked a turnover of Rs 850 crore last year, out of which 20 per cent was from exports. This year, it is expected to cross Rs 1100 crore in revenues. 

afaqs! spoke to Amol Dhillon, vice-president, strategy and planning at Woodlands to know more about the brand’s journey and expansion plans in India.

Q. Woodland is a brand focused on adventure and outdoor. Was creating a market for the product an expensive proposition when it was launched in India?

Around 1991-92, the Indian market was opening up. We saw a gap in the adventure category in India, and a lot of disconnect between the pricing of shoes in India and the West. We had to start from scratch. 

In the first five years, a lot of money was pumped in to build the brand as well as awareness and create a strong distribution system. Over a period of time, when you open your own exclusive store, the brand will make an impression. There was no doubt in our mind that the category would grow big. 

We positioned the brand for the age group of 18-24 years, who would be more open and rebellious by nature, and have always been consistent in our positioning and communication. Despite our footwear being priced two to three times more than other shoe brands in the Indian market, we have done well. Woodland’s products are really made to last and that’s our USP. Our revenue has seen huge incremental growth of 25-30 per cent year on year.

Q. How did you tackle the price conscious mindset, especially when you ventured into the Tier 3 and 4 cities and towns?

Till 2000, we had a strong presence in major metros and mini metros. But then, we noticed a shift in geographical locations. It was a time when a lot of malls started coming up across the country. The purchasing power in smaller towns was increasing, too. While our stores are evenly concentrated in Mumbai and Delhi, growth had to come from Tier 3 and 4 towns. 

While it was risky, we entered Tier 3 and 4 towns as other brands were also entering them. Other brands, targeting similar consumers, support and compliment your brand and create retention in youth. The buying pattern has also changed. Today, the youth are brand conscious and want to buy branded products. They are not price sensitive.

Q. Your communication has a western flavour. Since you have presence in smaller towns/cities (which have 30 per cent of Woodland stores), does the communication strategy change there?

Our communication has consistently followed the international campaign. We have never customised it to local language. 

Considering outdoor is still at a nascent stage in India, we are trying to build communities around outdoor/adventure sports and create real life ambassadors in them. These are the faces we are trying to bring in. Although we understand that celebrities bring in glamour and attention to a brand, we are a serious adventure company and prefer not to dilute our brand equity. We want real, genuine people to endorse our brands. We might eventually extend this to print and television commercials. However, we are open to film product promotions, if they help our brand. We are also participating in a lot of rock and music shows such as Sunburn and NH7 festival.

Q. There are many big and established brands in personal care categories. How do you propose to break into this category and differentiate yourself?

We initially offered leather jackets at our stores. By 1996, we got full-fledged into apparel. We then found there was a need for cargo pants, which was more functional. We are now providing personal care products and outdoor gear like solar-charged backpacks and outdoor cameras. 
We believe these categories are a natural fit for the brand. We are not looking at huge revenues from these categories but the intention is to make them available under one roof.

Q. Will shoes continue to occupy the centre stage in Woodland outlets?

Yes. Seventy per cent of our revenues come from footwear. While the other products’ range will compliment the brand, the focus will continue to be footwear and accessories.

Q. How has Woodland equipped itself to engage its target group in the digital media?

In 2008, we felt the need to get into the digital space. It was picking up in the West. We started with our Facebook page. Today, we are present across social media platforms including Pinterest and Foursquare, among others. Our Facebook page boasts of over 2.5 million fans and is the 8th highest engaged Facebook page. We also have a personalised YouTube channel, where we invite people to upload their adventure videos. This helps us engage with the relevant audience.

For brands like us, the future is digital. We sponsor many outdoor activities and expeditions and ask adventure enthusiasts to blog about their experiences. People are glued to these stories, as they not only help them but inspire them. We get feedbacks to increase the frequency of these blogs.

We have a mountain of content which we get from our divisions, R&D studios, customers and adventure enthusiasts, and a lot of these stories are weaved around the brand.

(This interview was published in afaqs! on June 27, 2013)

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“If I could go back in life, I would have left Mudra in 1993” – AG Krishnamurthy, founder of Mudra

AGK talks about his autobiography, advertising and taking calculated risks.
AGK talks about his autobiography, advertising and taking calculated risks.

Advertising veteran and architect of Mudra, A G Krishnamurthy aka AGK, is no stranger when it comes to penning his thoughts. With six English books to his credit (he has 12 publications in Telugu), AGK’s autobiography ‘If you can dream…’ was recently released. Published originally in Telugu (in September, 2012), the book was released in Ahmedabad, a place AGK describes as his ‘karma bhoomi’. AGK is based in Hyderabad.

According to AGK, the reason for putting his life in words came after a lot of pressure from Hyderabad-based Emesco Books publisher Vijaykumar (who has published AGK’s previous books in the Telugu version since 2005).

afaqs! caught up with AGK for an insight about his autobiography.

Q. Change or be the change. How much do you relate to this, especially in view of the fact that Mudra was started in Ahmedabad because you felt like a misfit in the advertising fraternity in Mumbai? Also, do you feel advertising has become less sophisticated and more colloquial?

I strongly believe we must be the change we talk of. Most of the country’s problems today are because we want change, but we are not THE change we talk about.

Mudra had brought about a number of changes in the then advertising scene of the country. To begin with, while all the known national agencies were headquartered in Mumbai, we chose a regional city to be our headquarters. The kind of people we recruited; the nature of business we sought and nurtured; the kind of advertising we believed in and created; the kind of organisation, ethos and culture we built and nourished, they all were truly unknown at the time and formed a paradigm shift.

Advertising is definitely more colloquial today, representing the lifestyle and attitude of the young generation. This generation is hardly formal; it is casual, colloquial and the agent of change. I believe there is nothing wrong in advertising becoming colloquial. It can still be dignified and sophisticated. Way back in the 1980s and ’90s, we produced a large body of advertising which was colloquial, like ‘Hamko Binnies Mangta’. The work was stylish and dignified.

Q. Your book was first published in Telugu. How did people react to the Telugu version?

Very good. The book received excellent reviews and good sales. These were the reasons that propelled me to write the English version.

Q. Which is your favourite part in the book?

There are several – my first meeting with Dhirubhai, Vimal Fashion Shows and the Mudra story. But if I were to choose one, it would certainly be the Mudra Story because creating Mudra was THE defining moment in my life.

Q. It is difficult to quit a comfortable, secure job for something you want to explore, especially with a dependent family. What went on in your mind during those days? What is your advice to others who want to take a risk but are hesitant?

Without innovation, there is no progress. Without risk, there is no innovation. I strongly advise people to explore new frontiers. However, before doing so, develop a deep understanding of the subject and measure the pros and cons. Build a safety net and keep a Plan B in place, in case Plan A doesn’t work.

Both the times when I left secure jobs to try the unknown, I was not insecure. I knew I was risking comfort and security, but I had to, because I had full faith in what I was doing. Before Mudra was founded, I was managing the advertising department at Reliance for four years, which was like a mini advertising agency. This department became Mudra on March 25, 1980. So, I knew what it takes to run an advertising agency.

Similarly, before I left the job in the Archaeological Survey of India, Hyderabad, I was too dejected in my career. I just had to try something new and different. Here again, I chose a job where I had the necessary skill set. Therefore, it is crucial for any one taking a risk to have the necessary skills in the chosen field. In other words, it should be a calculated risk.

Q. In the chapter Dhirubhai and Friends, you mention how your work had to not only impress Dhirubhai but also his friends. How did you manage to walk the tightrope and how did you keep yourself motivated?

This was the time of true enlightenment for me, which stood in good stead for the rest of my life. The enlightenment was – if people don’t like you, chances are they don’t like your work as well. It is as simple as this. Before my encounter with Dhirubhai’s friends in Reliance Textiles, I had a totally different belief system. It was – good work sells automatically, by itself. I picked up this insight during the years spent at Shilpi. However, once I moved to Reliance in 1976 and encountered so many close friends of Dhirubhai, who had diverse beliefs, personalities and a say in Vimal’s brand communications, it became truly a bare essential for me to somehow ‘manage’ them. The strategy I employed was to become their ‘friend’. 

Possibly, I was the only person who was friendly with several camps at the same time. As I look back, I think this strategy worked wonders. I have followed this ever since. Even in Mudra, I had no camps. I belonged to the whole organisation and every one belonged to me.

Q. Are there any professional regrets (referring to Kersey Katrak’s offer of Dazzle to Mudra, which you refused and regretted)?

No major ones, though Kersey would have speeded up my learning process.

Q. You had the opportunity to be part of Reliance’s media efforts. Why didn’t you foray into it?

I have always been a creative person and a communicator. The finest moments in my life were always when I created a robust brand strategy, guided my team to a great television commercial or when my columns/books were published. This is the case even today. No other discipline interests me.

Q. If you could live your professional life once again, what would you do differently?

If I could go back in life, I would have left Mudra in 1993, after MICA was started. By 1989, Mudra became the third largest agency and by 1993, the dream of starting a post graduate school in communications was realised. That would have been the right time to quit Mudra. If that happened, I would have had 10 more years at my disposal to try something new and more exciting. But truly, no regrets. Life has been generous to me. I have been writing columns, publishing books and building more brands, after leaving Mudra in 2003.

(This article appeared in afaqs! on June 24, 2013)

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IndusInd: Banking on numbers

The bank has launched a full-fledged campaign around its new service, ‘My account, my number’, which enables customers to choose their account numbers.

While a large majority of people are intimidated by maths, most of them love numbers, especially if it happens to be a lucky number – be it the favourite vehicle number plate, house number, phone number or even the date of birth. Based on this insight, IndusInd Bank has launched a full-fledged campaign that promotes its unique proposition in the sector – My account, my number. Unfurled two weeks ago, the new service offers an account number of the customer’s choice. In other words, the customer can choose 10 out of the 12 digits that form the account number.

Banking is a sector where the basic processes leave consumers with little choice. Acknowledging this, IndusInd has slowly been building its value-added services around the Responsive Innovation theme, which began three years ago. The current campaign is an extension of this theme.

Mohit GanjuMohit Ganju, head, marketing and communication, IndusInd Bank, says that under the Responsive Innovation theme, the bank has been offering services that are not only innovative but also fairly relatable and usable, for the last three years. The ‘My account, my number’ service was launched with the same guiding principle, he adds.

“Love for numbers is predominantly an Indian consumer insight and cuts across different strata of society. It may be because of superstition, numerology or someone’s belief in a lucky number. Besides, bank account numbers are not easy to remember. So, while we were looking at creating a new product and service, we hit upon this idea (My account, my number),” Ganju says.

He adds that unlike other categories, in banking, customers don’t get to choose anything when they enrol in a bank. “So we decided to start this service, where customers can choose the number of their liking,” he says.

Sumant KathpaliaAccording to Sumant Kathpalia, head, consumer banking, IndusInd Bank, the ‘My Account, my number’ service was created after an extensive consumer research that found a need-gap. 
While the campaign kick-started last week, the initial response has been quite heartening. In fact, two of the most popular requests for bank account were date of birth and mobile number, as they are easier to remember, Ganju reveals. A few have also opted for lucky numbers.

Conceptualised by R K Swamy BBDO, the television commercial for the service features actor Sharman Joshi, who links everything to his lucky number, including selection of his trousers to appreciating the exam scores of his son. When he visits IndusInd Bank, he is overjoyed at being given a choice of his account number.

The campaign’s media spend is about Rs 15 crore. Joshi was chosen as he has not been overexposed in the ad space and will not overshadow the brand, Ganju says. “Sharman has an endearing personality and we thought he would do justice to the character we wanted to create,” he explains.

Interestingly, unlike the “youth-centric” approach taken by brands across categories, IndusInd’s campaign is targeted at people, who are existing bank account holders and entrenched in the banking space. “We are not looking at 21-year-olds or first job holders. Our services are targeted at people who are above 30, have experience in the category, who will understand the unique value proposition offered by us,” says Ganju. Fortunately, the number fetish transcends all demographics.

Besides TV and select multiplexes, the campaign will be extensively spread across digital and outdoor, especially airports. Ganju informs that the brand has invested a lot on its digital campaign for the first time. With the help of Dynamis Partners, IndusInd has created a Facebook app that engages with the user. “It is an interesting app, where users can generate their lucky number by sharing their name and date of birth.” Ganju says the app was properly tested in the market and will be rolled out soon. The brand’s other social media agency is Webchutney.

IndusInd Bank began operations in 1994. Currently, it has close to 900 ATMs and over 500 branches spread across the country, with added offices in London and Dubai. In order to differentiate itself from other banks, the brand began the Responsive Innovation services and products three years ago, which has helped the brand to not only to attract more users but also ensured significant jump in its customer acquisition. While the bank’s customer base was about 20 lakh as on June 30, 2009, its current customer base stands at about 37 lakh.

Some of these innovative features include ‘Choice Money ATM’, which was launched in 2011, where a user, irrespective of whether he is IndusInd’s customer, can choose the denomination of notes to withdraw money from its ATMs. Ganju says that the impact of this innovation was the bank received 60 per cent usage of this service in the first month of the launch itself. Currently, about 70 per cent of all transactions in all its ATMs are taking place using this service.

‘Check on Cheque’ is a technology-driven initiative that provides copies of the cheque issued in a statement cycle on the reverse side of the physical statement, and also sends it online. To ensure that the signature of the cheque is protected, the signed area is covered. The idea behind this innovation is that customers needn’t keep records of single cheques.

Also, to ensure that IndusInd customers are not inconvenienced by the IVR procedure when they call the bank, under ‘Direct Connect’, when the customers call from their registered number, they are directly connected to the agent.

The ‘Cash-on-mobile’ feature, which records fairly decent usage, enables IndusInd customers to transfer money through their mobile banking app. The person who receives the money can then withdraw the money from IndusInd’s ATM, after undergoing security procedures, without the card. Finally, in the ‘Quick Redeem’ service on credit cards, the points can be redeemed either via cash or through frequent flier miles points. The insight behind this service was that many people are lethargic in redeeming their reward points.

(Published in afaqs! on June 13, 2013)

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“Taproot and Webchutney bring in almost 100 non-Japanese clients” – Rohit Ohri, executive chairman, Dentsu India Grou

Rohit Ohri Pic/afaqs.com
Rohit Ohri Pic/afaqs.com

Dentsu India Group, the Japanese owned advertising and communications agency, has been in the news for action of all kinds. Two years ago, it was because Rohit Ohri quit JWT after more than two decades to take over as the Dentsu boss in India. Then, last August, it took a majority in India’s hottest new creative agency, Taproot. And last week it was because it had picked up an 80 per cent share in digital agency Webchutney.

afaqs! speaks to Rohit Ohri, executive chairman, Dentsu India Group, about his priorities and what drives him.

Q. About the Webchutney acquisition: where does digital stand in Dentsu’s scheme of things?

We have always talked of Dentsu as an integrated communications solution company. Part of this necessitated that we have a very strong digital capability. 

I have been looking at various partners who could help us do this scale-up. Webchutney stood out on the basis of the quality of the work, the cultural fit and the two leaders of the company (Sidharth Rao and Sudesh Samaria). 

Digital is a core capability that we need to have, and so I thought, let’s go with the best.

Q. What will you do with Blue Slate Media (Webchutney’s subsidiary content company)? Sell it off?

We are trying to understand what is core and non-core. We will take a call in about four-five months.

Q. When Dentsu bought out Sandeep Goyal’s stake in early 2011, it lost the bulk of the top management. How will you ensure that doesn’t happen?

When you buy a 100 per cent stake, as in the Sandeep Goyal case, it’s clear that you are parting ways with the person whose stake you are acquiring. 

The most important thing is that the key people in Taproot and Webchutney, who created those companies, are still holding significant part of the stake, which means they are working to grow that to the next level. It is also part of our contract that they have to be with the organisation for a specific period.

Q. To change subjects, why do you have four agencies carrying the Dentsu name? It’s confusing.

We have done this because these agencies handle competitive businesses. In categories like automotive or electronics, there is a significant conflict of interest. To manage that we have created separate agencies so that client confidentiality is maintained. That, for us, is the most important thing. 

They are in separate locations, with separate management, finance, backend and frontend. At no point do these agencies meet in terms of sharing of resources or infrastructure. It’s not the question of Chinese walls; these are concrete walls and there is no way information can travel from one agency to another.

Q. Dentsu continues to be identified as a Japanese ad agency with Japanese clients. How successful have you been in changing that?

In 2012, as a group, 60 per cent of our business came from Japanese clients. In 2013, 60 per cent of our business will come from non-Japanese clients and 40 per cent from Japanese clients. That is a very significant shift in a single year. 

Some part of this shift has been organic and some, inorganic. The inorganic bit is the acquisition of Taproot and Webchutney which bring in a huge base of almost 100 non-Japanese clients. Even the Dentsu agencies have picked up a significant number of local or global clients such as the Max Group, TVS, NourishCo and Akzo Nobel.

Having said that, it is immaterial whether the client is Japanese or Indian. We want to be known as the best agency for integrated communications in India, not the best Japanese agency for integrated communications.

Q. You were with JWT for many years. Looking back how do you compare your experience in the two organisations?

JWT is an absolutely fantastic agency. It’s an agency I have grown up in as an advertising professional. A lot of what I am today has been shaped by JWT. The difference between JWT and Dentsu is, obviously, the position I am in. 

In JWT, even though I was heading their largest branch, I was reporting to the India head and who in turn was reporting to the regional head and so on. The hierarchy was very thick and, even at that level, there were many people. 

In Dentsu, the fact that I head the whole group and being the chairman of the holding company, gives me a whole different scale, perspective and width of operation that I didn’t have earlier. 

The acquisition of Taproot and Webchutney were the two things that I had very high on my list. And, thanks to Aegis, we also have access to a whole host of other skills and capabilities that we didn’t have earlier. In the next two or three years, if Dentsu gets it right, it could be big contender to being a mega player in India.

Q. When you look at Dentsu’s future in India, what worries you?

One of the big challenges we have is that, unlike in the western world, we do not have many aligned clients. A lot of our clients are local or have been acquired in a specific region or a specific country. So, we don’t have the permanence that a global relationship gives to an agency like JWT’s with a Nestle or a Ford. That gives a lot of security to an agency. 

But it’s also a great opportunity, as it keeps our fighter instinct intact. We work hard to please our clients since they are with us in India because they have chosen to be. It gives Dentsu the cutting edge. 

The next aspect of it is, what is the future of communication going to be and how we are going to talk to the next generation of consumers, who are younger and have a whole different paradigm of engagement with brands. For us, it is a very important part to get right. 

However, the best thing is that Dentsu is the first agency network to have been created in the post digital era. All the other mega networks were fully formed before the digital era, which gives us the last mover advantage. As a result, we know what to build and what not to. 

In many parts of the world, we will be building the network around the strengths of the Aegis network (which Dentsu bought in mid-2012). There are many brands within the Dentsu Group now, but each of them has specific skill and capability. We are getting these brands to work together as a network and collaborate with each other in the best interest of the client. And, that’s what will make Dentsu the network of future.

(Published in afaqs! on May 31, 2013)

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Flipkart comes into fashion

The e-commerce portal announces its entry into the realm of fashion and lifestyle with a new TVC campaign. Will it succeed?

Flipkart ad 2The child-adults are back. This time they are here to announce Flipkart’s entry into the fashion and lifestyle category. India’s most prominent e-commerce player actually entered this space a few months ago. The formal announcement comes only now, however.

Fashion has a new address’ – an extension of its previous punchline, ‘Shopping has a new address’ – the campaign comprises three TVCs. The films, namely ‘Hospital’, ‘Office’ and ‘Carnatic’, show in the brand’s typically quirky style how people like to exhibit their style no matter what the occasion. So, you have a carnatic musician dressed as a hip hop artiste to perform at a conservative, formal concert. And then there is a junior doctor dressed in colourful, fashionable attire doing the rounds of the hospital.

According to Kartik Iyer, CEO and co-founder of Happy Creative Services, the Bengaluru agency that has created Flipkart’s advertising since inception, the insight was that when it comes to fashion, people want to show off their purchase immediately, often overlooking whether it is appropriate or not. The continued use of children playing adults is from a brand identity perspective. “They have become the point of identity for the brand, which was the whole point,” Iyer explains. The campaign appears in print, outdoor and digital too.

flipkart ad 3As a teaser to the campaign, the brand ran a ‘Guess the brand’ contest, creating a fresh Facebook page on April 24. The films sans brand name and logo were put up with a promise of giving away a Samsung Galaxy S4. Nearly 3,000 people participated over three days in a contest which invited people to guess the name of the brand and almost everyone got it right.

Ravi Vohra, senior VP – marketing, admits in a press statement that Flipkart has been late to enter fashion and lifestyle but hopes that it will make up for lost time. “There are challenges given the different nature of this vertical when compared to others. But the trust and superior service credentials we have built in the minds of our customers should be able to help us bridge that gap quickly once they become comfortable with the idea of shopping for lifestyle products on Flipkart.com,” hopes Vora.

Ankit Nagori, VP – retail (lifestyle), Flipkart.com, says that the brand has taken a few initiatives and that some changes will be introduced soon. For one, the website will undergo a design change to make it visually appealing. Secondly, Flipkart intends to set up its brand stores, where customers can directly shop for brands. The e-commerce site claims to have partnered with over 350 clothing and footwear brands.

Will Flipkart be able to switch tracks successfully into a new space where brands like Myntra have established their reputation? Ishita Swarup, CEO and co-founder, 99labels.com, believes that considering Flipkart is well known and trusted, it will be able to do well. While there may be questions about the consumer profile on Flipkart and whether it will match its new desire in apparel, Swarup feels that that should not be a major problem. Flipkart also has the advantage of an extremely strong backend support, she says.

Alok Kejriwal, chief executive officer and co-founder, Games2win, who mentors many start-ups and has a special interest in e-commerce, has his doubts. He feels there is a perception problem with Flipkart. “Flipkart started with books and went on to gadgets. Where does the buck stop? It looks like Flipkart is trying to become Amazon by selling everything but what is going to drive its success in that category? I don’t think it’s easy to learn skills in such a sensitive industry like fashion and lifestyle.” He concludes, “It will be a challenge for Flipkart to make its fashion and lifestyle category aspirational.”

Challenges

Apart from all the usual problems of achieving profitability in e-commerce, some factors are peculiar to this category. Swarup points out the issue of size, which is yet to be tackled, apart the quality of garment. “Size is an issue across the world. In India too we don’t have a standard size. So, a medium size in one brand may not be the same in another,” she says. She feels that the try and buy service offered by some portals is not economically viable in the long run. That’s where technology can come to the aid with virtual tryouts. She see that happening in the course of a year.

(Published in afaqs! on May 8, 2013)

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redBus to drive offline with TV campaign

After clocking Rs 600 crore in online bus ticket sales last year, it’s targeting the Rs 1,000 crore mark this year. To get there, it’s advertising offline in a big way starting with a TV campaign.

redbus_logoAfter six years of rapidly growing the business of selling luxury bus seats, redBus.in is about to launch its first offline advertising campaign. The campaign comprises three television commercials. The message is summed up in its punch line – ‘When you gotta go, you gotta go’. The brand will also promote the campaign extensively on the digital front through social media plus display and banner ads.

LK Gupta, chief marketing officer, redBusredBus’ chief marketing officer, LK Gupta, who held the same position at LG Electronics until recently, explains that the brand spent its initial years building the backbone of the business. This was done by providing software solutions to bus operators and computerising the booking process. The brand had been concept-selling to the operators, showing the inventory to consumers and organising the whole category for the last five years. However, the bulk of the consumers still book their bus tickets offline, through booking agents. The next phase, therefore, is to attract them.

“The initial transactions on the site happened through net-savvy people. But the category will grow only when we educate consumers about the merit of booking tickets online: that it is simple, secure and offers a wide range of choices,” Gupta states.

The luxury bus ticketing is a $3 billion market in India of which barely 10 percent comes from online. Apart from raising awareness, the second objective is to increase the traffic on the site. “We expect a pretty healthy increase post the campaign,” Gupta says, adding that as the leader in the category, the idea is to grow the business pie rather than market share. Looking at other e-commerce businesses, which have undertaken TV campaigns, Gupta expects the web traffic to grow by three to four times. At present, the portal receives on an average 3 million people every month and sells about 30,000 seats per day. The average bus ticket sale is over Rs 500.

While offline, the brand has to contend with booking agents as its biggest competitors, the online story is quite different. redBus occupies 60 per cent of the market share in the category and even the services offered by makemytrip or ibibo are powered by redBus (the brand offers its seat inventory). As for the few other independent portals, who are offering similar service, redBus is not worried.

The campaign will run for two months and is aimed to coincide with the vacation season. The campaign has been conceputalised and created by Lowe Lintas & Partners, which was appointed a month-and-a-half ago. The advertising will be focused on South and West India, where the Bengaluru-based redBus first turned its attention, and where luxury bus travel is well developed.

Since the TVCs will be shown in regional channels as well, redBus has got around the language problem by using minimal dialogue. “We debated quite a lot on this and decided to include only a few simple words. We are targeting those people who are online but don’t book tickets online. They have basic familiarity with English so, there shouldn’t be a problem in understanding the films,” Gupta points out.

Apart from booking private luxury buses, redBus also manages seat inventory for the state roadways corporations of Karnataka, Goa, Bihar and Rajasthan. redBus also offers cash on delivery service in 25 cities, where customers can either book online or call to book. However, this facility is not widely popular and constitutes less than 10 per cent of the business. Gupta says this is because the brand hasn’t promoted this feature enough.

Besides booking tickets, the website also offers tips from passengers, passengers’ rating of buses on various parameters, among other features. In February, this year, the brand launched its android app through which people could book bus tickets. Gupta claims that among the travel sites in the country, redBus’s app is the highest downloaded app. “We are getting a healthy transaction with about 2 lakh downloads till now,” he reveals.

Bengaluru-based Pilani Soft Labs (PSL), which owns redBus.in, was set up in 2006 with the backing of three investors – SeedFund, Inventus Capital and Helion Venture Partner. The company has a presence in 24 states with 26 offices and is associated with over 1,000 operators.

(This article appeared on afaqs! on May 6, 2013)

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