Text Advertising

If you ever thought that texting has been revolutionized by those umpteen emojis and add-ons that Whatsapp and other similar apps offer, you’re right. But if you ever thought that it has revolutionized “communication” per se, you might want to check out the following series of Starbucks ads:




The “Conversation Films” ad series that Starbucks has recently dished out hit the spot in terms of social connect with the viewers. The abstract components that shape most of our intimate conversations have been brought to focus with an immaculate and, surprisingly, simple ad showcasing the inherent weaknesses and emotional vacuum in text-based conversations.

An important social message that resonates with Starbucks’ brand concept of a social hangout forms the crux of the ad series. The visual minimization, voiceovers with natural background sounds matched with apt pauses coupled with the most impressive part:  the screen going blank with the voiceovers continuing their talk; Starbucks should be lauded for such a simple and yet powerful brand recall strategy.

And it isn’t just Starbucks that has come up with such text-based commercials. There seems to be an upward trend towards many brands adopting this advertising approach. Do check out the following:  Google’s classic “Parisian Love” and Honda’s more recent PSAs against texting and driving.

Dwell on the impact of these ads and we see a positive connotation attached with Starbucks and subtly negative and unsettling one with that of Honda. Where Honda also intended to drive home a social message that depicted social responsibility on their part, the level of brand recall seemed to be distant from what they seemed to target. Close repeated analysis of Starbucks v/s Honda ads brings forth the importance of undercurrents that need to go with the ad theme. They need to be impactful, but of course, have to be synergized with the brand and the message they would like to portray. Summing up the difference: Which ad would you like to watch again? Starbucks’ or Honda’s?

The Google ad leaves us asking for more creativity and impact factor. It’s swift, simple, tries to be exhaustive in terms of utilities offered by Google, but again, could’ve done a better job, we believe. Google, though, has come out with great Google search commercials in the recent past (Google Search: Anarkali) but since we are analyzing text-based commercials, it just didn’t hold that a firm ground in this particular ad theme.

And we see how the trend has shifted from typographical commercials to text-based ones with a smooth transition from a narration basis to a two-way communicational setting in parallel with the onslaught of texting in the recent years: A Starbucks 2008 Presidential election ad, tempting coffee lovers to exchange their vote for a free beverage.

Starbucks has clearly been riding on a smart trend-adaptation strategy with respect to its correctly positioned advertisements. It’ll be interesting to keep a tab on their upcoming ads for trend analysis.

And do watch this space for more text-based commercials from different brands.

Nitisha Tomar is a PGP1 Student (2014-16) in IIM Ahmedabad


ATL v BTL Marketing

The presence of a vast and diverse consumer market – with different aspirations, needs, methods, preferences, etc. – necessitates a vast portfolio of products that can cater to specific segments. A consequence of this is that as each segment behaves and responds differently to marketing, there has to be a different set of tactics for each product in the market. These tactics have been clubbed into three different buckets, on the basis of how the information is disseminated to the customer.

As a marketer, this poses a huge dilemma because there now exists three varying sets of tactics for my plan. The important questions are – How does one make the split between the three sets of tactics? What underlying factors contribute to the split and why?

To understand this better, let us take the example of a Hindustan Unilever’s (HUL) promotional strategies for three brands of the same product line – Surf, Rin& Wheel.

Each of these products represents a different segment and consequently have warranted a different promotional strategy.

Analysis of these strategies give us some insights on the key factors influencing the split of the marketing tactics:

  • Decision Influencers – For the higher segment of customers, the decision influencers have now turned to the internet while the rural market is heavily influenced by word-of-mouth publicity. This difference in decision influencing processes implies that there is a need for a larger mass reach with ATL marketing for some brands (Surf), as opposed to a larger need for personalized selling with BTL marketing in others (Wheel)
  • Access to mass media – The target customer’s access to mass media is a key factor. Marketers realized that since a large portion of their target customers do not have frequent access to mass media, they have a larger portion of their campaign with BTL tactics. A prime example of this is a missed-call campaign floated for Wheel in 2011 which became a roaring success for the brand in UP and Bihar.2On the contrary, Surf enjoys the maximum amount of airtime amongst the three brands.
  • Product Positioning–The positioning of the product plays a large role in determining how your promotional tactics will shape up. In this example, Surf was positioned for the urbane customers who were looking for top-of-the-line products. Consequently, their innovative campaigns such as “DaagAccheHain” and “ZiddiDaag Removal” warranted a mass reach.
  • Price sensitivity – Price sensitivity is another critical consideration. In a highly cross-elastic market, there is a need to undercut on expenses at every level to stay competitive. BTL marketing typically costs lower than ATL and therefore is preferred by marketers in extremely competitive scenarios.

Rin v. Tide and Wheel v. Nirma typically sees lower ATL marketing than Surf because of the price sensitive nature of their markets

  • Stage in Life-cycle – Typically, marketers focus on ATL marketing at the nascent stages of the product life-cycle. There is a tapering off of ATL as the product matures.
  • Knowledge Disseminated to Customer– Typically, ATL marketing is required when the customer is to be educated in a new feature. An example is when Surf launched their “Bucket Wash”, a move away from the traditional scrub wash. This required a dedicated campaign to educate the customer on the benefits of this new feature.

While all these factors influence one set of tactics over another, it is important to note that simply using one set of tactics will be detrimental to the entire campaign. In our example too, Wheel has had Salman Khan as an ambassador while Surf has been creative with its roadshows. Thus, an ideal marketing decision should weigh these factors and come up with the right balance (TTL) campaign to maximise the success of the campaign.




Empathizing with the Digital Marketer

Too much information to relay, innumerable ways of story-telling, desperation of breaking the clutter, apprehension of negative perception is a small list of many factors that brands put rigorous thinking into to become digitally relevant. Because in today’s world, the term “digital relevance” has become synonymous to “relevance”. It has transformed the traditional B2B and B2C world into a C2C world with immense power to the consumer to interpret & spread the brand in a way the companies may have no control over. So how is it that Oreo & Maggi have established themselves so well when big brands like Rahul Gandhi & Mcdonalds have #McFailed in the same scene?


The first step that marketers need to follow. UNDERSTAND. This understanding is essential to three elements. Where to implement, what to implement and for whom the implementation is done is the foundation of all communication.  For ex, Facebook with all its features, is more communicative & interactive and hence a better medium for sharing vibrant inputs capable for arousing interest.  On the other hand Twitter is more about conciseness and communication of information, and is an ideal medium that facilitates high degree of peer to peer interaction. When it comes to understanding one’s own brand, look at Volvo. They knew exactly what their brand stood for. Safety& Smoothness meant for larger vehicles was how they had positioned themselves which made the “Epic Split” memorable. Lastly, understand the consumer. As a facilitator of change and a symbol of new thinking, BJP and Narendra Modi understood what void in the consumers mind they were filling and delivered it consistently across all platforms to conquer the 2014 elections.

Once you’ve understood them, ASSOCIATE. More and more companies are now working with Twitter to identify upcoming trends among consumers to gain their share of voice and associate. Cadbury Oreo had a specialized team working on dynamic social media operations during the Super Bowl. Amul, albeit mostly traditional, comes up with brilliant links with day to day events that not only arouse interest but increase connect. As soon as Suarez performed an “Italian bite” this world cup, Brand like Snickers and Dominos rushed to become a part of it, and with considerable success.

Now, ENGAGE. Everybody likes personalization. And only the brands that can “mass personalize” themselves will win. See Maggi. After having conquered the “2-minute proposition”, Maggi knew the brand now belonged to the consumers. It had entwined itself in the culture of the country. And thus it started interacting with consumers directly. For new ideas, new variants. Kitkat, recently, sent a box ffKitkat Dark to a consumer’s home who mentioned on Twitter, how she was craving for it. Kitkat identified a potential focal point and ensured that they own it. Later, the same consumer, retweeted this incident thrice. So, Engage.

Finally, TRANSFORM. In future, only the loved brands would survive. And that will only happen, if the brand evolves with the consumer. Something Microsoft couldn’t do, but Old Spice did. From moving to “Make-Love-Not-War” from the earlier tawdry proposition, something Axe has done and gained worldwide appreciation. Only then can the Brand really stand the digital test of time. Only then will it be able to permanently make an emotional position for itself. Afterall, “emotions are loyalty beyond a reason”, and the brands that thrive in the future will be based on emotion, not reason.

Shishir (aka Shirshir) is a PGP1 student (2014-16) at IIM Ahmedabad

CocaCola – The New Rural Brand

Coca-Cola India is betting big on the rural markets and has recast its distribution strategy to get more people to sample its beverages, especially in the rural region. Venkatesh Kini, President of Coca-Cola India & South West Asia, talks about the new launches and the company’s strategy to focus on ‘Made in India and Made for India’ products.

Are you looking at making Coca-Cola your largest brand?

The way we approach it is that we pick a focus brand, drive it to leadership and then it continues to grow. In the past two-three years, we have been focusing on Coca Cola and it has been the fastest growing brand for us.

What becomes our largest brand depends on the consumers. The brand was launched nationally only in 1998 and is a relatively new brand. In some parts of the country, it still has not been tasted. So, sampling is the best strategy to grow the brand.


What strategies has the company put in place for sampling?

Our bottling arm Hindustan Coca-Cola has introduced fountain machines on trucks and they take it to haats, melas and other such gatherings, and serve Coca Cola or our other beverages in a cup at Rs. 5 and it works very well, as there are rarely any permanent shop in these gatherings. These are some of the kind of innovations we are doing to increase the availability of our brands, especially in the rural regions.

Will rural markets be the key focus for future growth?

Rural markets have been growing faster than urban areas. That’s because a lot of inflationary pressures have hurt the urban middle class more while in the rural regions, there was a good monsoon last year. Also, some government schemes also benefited them. So, demand continues to be buoyant in the rural markets. We have restructured the entire distribution system to make it efficient to serve the smallest of villages and enable expansion of our distribution system, and there is a dramatic improvement in increasing the reach.

There has been talk about you expanding into dairy-based products as well as launching an energy product. Could you share details?

On the dairy front, we have this product called Maaza Milky Delite.

We have already piloted it in Kolkata and have received positive response. We are now looking at scaling it up. With more awareness, changes in consumption patterns, we are looking at some zero calorie innovations.

We have a number of zero calorie products in our portfolio worldwide, so we have a lot of products to choose from. We will be introducing a couple of products in India soon.

Do you have a roadmap for the products you will launch this year?

We are working on the combination of ‘made in India and made for India’, products. Maaza Milky Delite is completely local, unique and made in India. Similarly, the Minute Maid pulpy orange, which is a hugely successful brand from China.

When it went global, it was one of the first from an emerging market like China and we hope we could do it from India some day.

But we imported it into India, and it has been very successful in the orange flavour segment. But even if a product is successful in several countries, we have to pilot it in India and adapt it to the local taste, and it requires development, pilot and testing.

They were here!

“What if I fall?”, Tim cried.

Maerlyn laughed. “Sooner or later, we all do.”

  • Stephen King, The Wind Through the Keyhole

These are one of those bitter-truth phrases, that fall is inevitable. And there have been some falls in the last couple of months, which serve as interesting examples of products and brands in marketing case studies in the decline phase of the Product Life Cycle.

This brand was the trigger for this article – HMT Watches. As the government decided to bring down curtains on one of India’s iconic brands, the HMT brand of watches met with its “death”. The “time keeper to the nation” was anyway not doing much of business and the Gen Ys and the Millennials may not have even heard of it. Bureaucratic interference, stiff competition, technological changes in the market, an outdated positioning and failure to rebrand and reinvent itself cumulatively took a toll on this brand of watches, which was at one point of time a near monopoly in the Indian watches market.

Remember those cathode ray TVs (CRTs)? The heavy, box-like things with an ugly-looking projection at its rear, the top of the TV being used by the innovative Indian mind to keep photo frames or a trophy won by a kid or a plastic flower vase? Yes, those CRTs are going to become museum pieces soon. With more and more customers opting for the sleek, flat LCD, LED and smart TVs, the CRTs do not find many takers these days. And as price differentials between the LCD and cathode ray TVs narrow faster, industry experts feel that the CRTs are hurtling down the PLC curve in the decline phase and might become extinct in two years or so.

Telegram – a word that was almost a synonym for bad news than good about 30 years ago became history in July 2013. Another government operated communications technology, the telegram outlived its utility as emails and mobile phones became ubiquitous. The telegram had its own codes for some of the most commonly used messages and played an important role during the days of British rule and thereafter till about early 90s when telephones became more commonplace. A nostalgic article in one of the newspapers highlighted that the charges for telegrams were revised by the government in May 2011 after 60 years!!!

Going back a decade, another electronic communication gadget that had a very short product life cycle was the pager. Pagers started in India in 1995, peaked by 1998 and by 2002 they were nearly wiped out of existence. The pager was perhaps the first wireless communication technology. Paging was one-way communication and obviously did not stand chance when mobile phones became more common and cheaper to use.

We might witness obituaries of some or the other product, brand or technology in the coming days, sooner than later. Times, they are changing fast!

Aashish Argade | FPM 2 | Niche 2014

Axe Signature

A good example of using marketing concepts to tackle falling market share is provided Axe.


Axe started losing market share around 2 years ago when Fogg[1] first appeared on the scene. Fogg by Vini Chemicals- which positioned itself directly against the gas-deodorant Axe- created a segment in between the deodorant and the perfume segments. The liquid nature of the efflux gave consumers an impression that less quantity of Fogg could be used to achieve the same results as Axe. Fogg was also backed by a strong distribution system. Further, the special nozzle of Axe was perceived to be susceptible to breaking and by sticking to a basic design, Fogg alleviated this psychological cost for the customer as well. Axe was positioned as a teenager’s deo to “Get Girls”. Fogg also targeted the same segment but with a different need – economy. The “sexiness” proposition of Axe in the slightly older male segment was quickly appropriated by Wild Stone and Axe was soon left stranded in the market place – by this we mean, dropped to third in market share –not a place which HUL would have liked to be in.

Back to the Basics

To win in this market place, Axe needed the following

  1. A revaluation of the Target Group (TG)
  2. Remove Points of Differentiation of the competition
  3. Increase value to customer
  4. Increase usage of Axe
    1. Increase usage frequency
    2. Increase usage occasions
    3. Revaluation of TG

Axe needed to shift their user image away from the scrawny clueless teenage boy who got girls using Axe to something more refined. Why? With the power of hindsight, one could argue that the user image shown by Axe in its ads was not a very generous. In this segment, maybe the self-image of the target segment changed from being a needy teenager to a more confident young male who needed deo to supplement an already existing persona. Other successful ads such as the Nivea ads[2], the Fogg ads[3] and the Wild Stone ads seem to suggest this.

In a way the “Get Girls” position has almost been reduced to a hygiene factor in the deo industry today. “Confidence in oneself” seems to be the new catchphrase. But can Axe abandon the TG it had been espousing so far? Probably not, hence, it needed to come back in a new avatar- the Axe Signature for the recalibrated TG definition.

  1. Remove Points of Differentiation

The packaging and advertisement design are strikingly similar to “Fogg Black” signalling an attempt at making these a point of parity and then leveraging Axe’s brand equity with the customer to drive sales (A customer looking at both Fogg black and Axe Signature with similar packaging and advertisement may prefer Axe simply because it is a bigger and better known brand)

  1. Increase value to Customer

The fact that the target segment of deos implicitly looks at economy is hinted at in the Fogg ad. {The protagonist in the ad asks – Kitna Chalega} But Axe, we believe, has correctly identified that it is not economy but Value that the customer looks at.

Value= Benefit received/Price Paid

Whereas Fogg proclaimed its value to be that the bottle of deo lasted longer, an allied but hidden need was that the deo itself, once applied, needs to last longer. This might be a more pressing need to the customer and this value proposition could be an entry point. Hence the “Don’t Fade Away” proposition of Axe Signature.

  1. Increase usage of Axe

On the other hand, deo which does not last long after being applied could be combated by simply  increasing the usage frequency and introducing new occasions of use for the deo. But a customer could not reasonably be expected to carry deo around. Well not in its current form anyway. Hence, the Axe Bullet- a mini pocket version – currently offered for free with Axe. If customers change their behaviour to actually find it useful to carry around, Axe may go ahead with it as a product line in itself. In the Axe bullet ads however, the character portrayed is closer to the original Axe Guy – a kind of nice, helpless idiot for whom things go constantly wrong. This signals that Axe understands that as a brand, it cannot overnight run away from its scrawny teenager heritage.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnWOmfcu2n4

[2] Nivea ad – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMpBm6tbBD0

[3] Fogg ad – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fULAnbc8fhY