Tag Archives: marketing


Is it mere reaction? Or is it smart advertising?

Trace a relationship between the following:

Kitkat and iPhone

Super Bowl XLVII and Oreo

Snickers and Luis Suarez (The footballer)

Denny’s Diner and Scandal (TV Series)

NissanUK and Royal Baby (Kate & William’s child)

Don’t Google now. Making it convenient for you:


(Super Bowl XLVII’s now infamous blackout)



Didn’t social media marketing assume a new level of significance? I’ll tell you what’s different about this particular trend of “reacting” to an event, grabbing the context and “advertising” one’s own brand.

The 2013 Super Bowl blackout was a 34-minute hiatus. While the world groaned and viewers turned to their phones to respond to texts or check out Facebook, Twitter; Oreo delighted everyone with the tweet (shown above). With 10,000 retweets in 1 hour, this economically cheap mode of advertising scored better than Oreo’s actual Super Bowl ad, which ran to millions of dollars!

How did it happen in 34 minutes: The approval from the communications team, strategist, content editor etc.?

This is when we realize the fiercely smart planning for opportunistic advertisement by Oreo that night.

There was a 15-person social media team ready for any response to any event that could happened in the Super Bowl game that night. What luck! The advertisers, copywriters demonstrated agility during that 34-minute blackout window and the tweet served as the tipping point of a trend called: Reactvertising.

One may call it a form of social listening; a way of presenting your brand as one that is cognizant of world happenings or exhibiting intelligent creativity to further brand recall. These ads are reactive: the response time is a few minutes after the event they’re capitalizing on takes place. It’s a whole exciting face of social media marketing as brands feel alive, running in motion with world trends and closer to consumers’ worlds.

One of my friends, a copywriter in Hyderabad posted this as a reaction to Flipkart’s Big Billion Day fiasco:


And one of the most adorable ones is NASA’s tweet during the 2014 Oscars:


But then, there are those who pushed it too far:


Leveraging an event has a lot to do with the context of the event itself. No one gets severely affected if an iPhone bends (at least not physically, mental sour is subjective) but you cannot leverage on Hurricane Sandy and Cairo riots. Brand recall? Oh yes, but a really negative connotation to it. Not done.

Taking a dig on this trend that can oscillate between the hyper-reactive and the acceptable-reactive part of advertising, the advertising agency, John st. has come up with a hilarious video:

A personal touch, food for thought:

Sometimes we should prevent ourselves from getting subdued by the thick jargon of Kotler and view the world of marketing by analyzing such undercurrents around us.

Marketing/ advertising seems more fun then.

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


The Institutional Angle in Marketing

A lot has been written, read, discussed and debated about how companies like CavinKare created an entire segment of consumers at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP), with innovations in product, packaging, promotion and pricing, especially in the FMCG sector. Several MNCs like Hindustan Unilever and established players tried to do the catching up game, but have not been very successful, or are forced to cater to the BoP segment at a loss simply to maintain a presence in the segment.

A paper by Angeli and Jaiswal (2013) analyses the reasons behind the not-so-successful attempts by the FMCG MNCs and interprets the findings based on institutional theory. MNCs are typically considered to have a competitive advantage by means of their presence and experience across various geographies. At the same time, MNCs also have to contend with their “foreignness” since quite often the corporate headquarters are situated in countries that are far from the markets where the game unfolds. MNCs are affected by “institutional dualism” as they try to gain internal as well as external legitimacy. Internal legitimacy refers to the company’s subunits conforming to the rules and regulations laid down by the parent company. External legitimacy refers to the responsibility of the company towards the society in which it operates.

Citing an example, the paper quotes a senior official of an MNC, stating that the MNC had to adhere to certain norms in manufacturing shampoos. While the domestic company used some cheap compounds for fragrances, to keep costs low, the MNC could not use the same since the corporate policy prohibited the use of those compounds for environmental reasons. As a consequence, the MNC could not come out with shampoos of the preferred fragrance and lost market share to the domestic company.

The paper is an engrossing and thought-provoking read. It highlights several interesting examples and focusses on the impact of the institutional paradigm on a company’s performance in the market, particularly the BoP segment. However, for this article we restrict to the internal legitimacy angle.

The dichotomy in this case is very clear. When a company’s subunit is adhering to its internal policies and being internally legitimate, it loses out on market share. The options that a marketer has in such situations are clear – lose market share or lose internal legitimacy.

Let us assume that the MNC’s subunit tries to breakaway with internal norms and, to continue with the cited example, starts using the banned compounds for achieving the required fragrances in the shampoos. It might so happen that the cheap compounds result in profitability and the subunit finds it tempting to use the same compound for shampoos meant for other segments. Soon, the compounds banned by the parent company, may be used across the shampoos category which could add a little to the profitability and also to market share.

It’s quite possible that media and social activism might one day bring out the fact the company is using harmful compounds in its products. Even as the company might then try to fight negative publicity, it would not have any logic to counter the fact. This would severely hurt its brand image, and might also give rise to suspicion about its brands in other categories. There is a strong possibility that consumers might switch to other brands and the company in question will lose market share. The loss in market share in segments where the company had a strong presence and image, would result in higher losses than a smaller dent in profitability that would arise by cross-subsidizing the brands in BoP segment.

Marketers are fully aware of the costs associated with attempts at short-term gains that might be detrimental in the long run. And it is precisely for resisting the gains-at-any-cost that institutions are put in place. While marketers ought to appreciate the limits imposed by institutional postures of internal and external legitimacy, evaluating a company purely in terms of profitability and market share might not always be right.

The writer of this article wishes to thank Prof. Anand Kumar Jaiswal, Professor in Marketing area at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad for encouragement. The research paper referred to in this article:

Angeli, F., Jaiswal, A.K., Competitive Dynamics between MNCs and Domestic Companies at the Base of the Pyramid: An Institutional Perspective, Long Range Planning (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lrp.2013.08.010

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