Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Catching ‘em young – The YouTube Mantra

4 minutes, 17 million views and more than 75,000 comments from over 130 countries! Ever wondered the power of viral trend? Indeed it’s the time and age when talent recognition is just a click away.

If you are still thinking what am I talking about - It’s the famous Kolaveri Di song by Anorudh Ravichandran who is none other than son-in-law of Latha Rajanikanth, wife of Super Star Rajanikanth. At the age of 21, he achieved the fame and the fan following which isn’t in store for anyone and everyone. It took him 30 minutes to record the absolutely amazing song and it took just a click to make him eminent! The time has gone when people used to go for auditions, stand in queues for hours and wait to get selected as a contestant in talent shows.

Interestingly enough, YouTube has been a smart one in the online media space to tap the young market and encourage them to show their talent to the world. Recently, I came to know that YouTube is giving partnerships to those who are doing excellent work online. Getting a partnership from one of the biggest video-sharing website is surely a huge recognition. Not everyone is lucky to be picked up by YouTube! You really got to show some talent to get there and woo the audience and get them to subscribe to your videos.

YouTube is selecting creative people across the globe and paying them on a per click basis. They would display adverts in the videos and more the number of hits one gets for a particular video, the more money one can fetch from YouTube reserve. This is a great example of how online media is tapping the talented pool of people from all across the world.

On one hand, YouTube is able to generate a vast amount of traffic to their site and at the same time netizens are encouraged to show their talent across the horizon. Technology is taking over our lives and for the good of course. The shift to the online planet is surely very well visible to everyone by now and people understand how important it is to be visible online and showcase the good work.

My 2c worth!

Below are some great videos by two Youngsters! Have a wonderful time watching …

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How Cocoberry got Social Media completely wrong

It’s remarkable to note the pace at which brands, retailers, companies are getting onto the social media bandwagon. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have become a rage for everyone, be it customer or brands.

Social Media’s popularity has grown manifold over the years and small and large size businesses are equally earmarking separate budgets to increase their presence on social communities. But how much do these businesses understand social media? Here’s one excellent example of how cocoberry - India's First Premium Frozen Yogurt Chain got social media completely wrong.

I recently stepped in to a cocoberry store and found a huge poster on the window pane. It read - Tweet and win yourself free movie tickets in a lucky draw. But guess what? Where did they want us to tweet? – On the receipt of the bill!

I froze like a frozen yogurt for a second and I thought to myself, why would I tweet on the bill? Will I write 140 characters on the bill? Will I count if I exceeded 140 characters? (LoL)

This shows the lack of knowledge these businesses have about social media. Why wouldn’t they let the customers do live tweeting? Why can’t they have lucky draws over twitter? Well these were some questions pouncing in my head while having the frozen yogurt. It’s funny to observe how poorly businesses are trying to compete with the peers, coming with some great ideas to engage their customers with the brand but all in vein as they are getting it wrong without realizing it.

It’s even more interesting to see their twitter page (@Cocoberryfroyo) where they have not taken any pain to follow their sweet customers! Knock-knock cocoberry, you got to wake up before you are kicked out of the social media planet…

The full potential of social media as a marketing platform is yet to be realised and brands and retailers need to work their way up to tap the same. Since the medium is cost-effective, marketers are arguably upbeat about its utility. The phenomenon indeed, has just begun and the best is yet to come.

What do you think? Feel free to post below with comments, suggestions, and even criticism!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Social Media Budgeting

During a recent conversation with some industry peers, it struck me that while social media excited one and all, most remained clueless when it comes to the industry’s appetite to spend and allot dedicate spend budgets for social media activities. This fact intrigued me and I set out to find the silver bullet.

So what is Social Media? For some social media means twitter, blogs etc., while for others it might mean facebook, orkut or simply an online presence. According to Sean Carton, social media is the “technologies that facilitate conversations.” The conversation begins when someone /anyone start it online and its popularity is often defined by the involvement of outside influencers. After getting a sense of what social media is in a nutshell, it is now important to understand how much budget should be allocated for the same.

It’s a myth that social media is free. There is no fixed percentage which is allocated for social media budget but it largely depends on the following factors which helps in deciding how much budget an organization allocate for social media.

First and foremost, it is important to know the awareness and maturity of the marketing head in an organization. Social media budget is part of the marketing budget and unless the marketing head is not mature enough to understand the importance of social media in today’s world then it is difficult to allocate a budget for the same.

On similar lines the awareness and maturity of agency has a major role to play in deciding the budget. Not all agencies are open to change. With the way communication is evolving, the agencies need to change the way they communicate their message to the audience. There are a lot of agencies which still believes in traditional methods of communicating. Although this way of communicating won’t die but a more effective way of sending across the message to millions of people would be a social media platform and agencies need to realize this before it’s too late.

So what happens if the agency is open to change and the marketing head is mature enough to understand social media but there is no awareness and maturity in organizations? Thus, unless the organizations are not open to new tools of communicating, the agencies can’t do much. Hence, a big factor of whether one needs a budget for social media depends on the need/want of the organization to use effective means of communicating.

Last but not the least every industry is unique. There are two types of industries – B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to consumer). It will be interesting to explain this concept with the help of an example.

Example: While Dominos will apply pull strategy and would need social media to reach out to the masses in a more efficacious way, the person providing wheat and flour to Dominos, would not find any worth spending money on the same. So why would he need to allocate budget for social media?

But if Dominos apply push strategy and introduces social media platform for the supplier community, then eventually all businesses will have to move to social media platforms to communicate their message to the masses.

In today’s world where technology is changing every second and competition is trying to outdo you at every step, you want to be ahead of the rat race. Come to think of it, if Dominos is using social media then its competition would also use such platforms to stay ahead of the race.

Thus social media has already changed the way we communicate to each other and the organizations need to realize the importance of the same. Once the basics are understood then only one can think of allocating budgets for such platforms. What do you think?

My 2c Worth!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Richard Branson and his magical wand

Experts believe an innovator is someone who pushes the boundaries of comfort and does things differently. Succinctly put, it’s that someone who has a dream and the passion to translate ideas to execution.

An iconic example of this someone described above is Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, popularly known as Richard Branson. Best known for his company, Virgin Group, this British industrialist launched his first venture at the age of 16 when he published a magazine in the name of Student. It’s interesting to note the reason how the business was started – Branson found the school rules and regulations too demanding and wanted to capitalize on the energy of student activism. While the idea itself was not revolutionary, Branson and his friends decided to give it an edge by tying up with lots of schools and selling advertising space to corporate.

This was just the beginning of a chain of businesses that were to follow – an audio record mail-order business in 1970 and then a chain of record stores (1972) in the name of Virgin Records that later were rebranded to Virgin Megastores. As many believe, Branson hit to fame in the 1980s when he was ramping up the Virgin brand and set up Virgin Atlantic Airways and expanded the Virgin Records music label.

What stands out most about Richard Branson is his acumen to capitalize opportunities and achieve despite all odds – he’s known to suffer with dyslexia and had a poor academic performance as a student. Branson is also known to do things differently and a classic example of this how he operates Virgin Airlines – not taking the typical low-cost route, the group has acted innovate by selling value-added services onboard.

Many other reasons can be attributed to the mighty success achieved by Richard Branson. While he’s famous for his unusual corporate ways and adding ‘personal touch’ to all of the company’s employees, there are multiple instances that validate Branson’s tireless efforts to empower people and their ideas and steer them towards success. He truly works on the fundamental of empowering his employees to ultimately empower the Virgin brand.

To quantify his success, it’s apt to quote here the fact that Branson was adjudged as the 212th richest person in the world according to Forbes' 2009 (Updated 03.10.10) list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of approximately £2.97 billion (US$4.0billion).

With multiple honours and accolades under his belt, Richard Branson is acclaimed for his relentless passion and laser-sharp focus on business and has often stated his dream to make things happen as the real driver of his success. In his own words:

"Sometimes I do wake up in the mornings and feel like I've just had the most incredible dream. I've just dreamt my life."

- Richard Branson

Sunday, March 13, 2011


It’s funny to write about Mumbai and my experience after almost a year when I’m ready to head back home for good but I’m glad that I’m finally happy and willing to write about the city and my stay here J

The journey started with XIC (Xavier Institute of Communications) and that’s where I got a chance to visit Mumbai for the first time ever. Like every new comer to this city, I was shocked to see the amount of people and cabs this city had!! How can I forget the deadly rain? Oh my god, never in my life I have experienced such a rainy season. And it’s all the more difficult to handle it when you hate rains. God only knows how I survived. All thanks to the Bata Chappal which lasted me all through the rainy season (LoL). I still remember, my college mates drenched in the rain even after having umbrellas and rain coats covering them and the endless cribbing about the rains and then attending classes where the temperature was never above 18 degrees! Damn, I’ll miss all of that.

For mumbaikars, this season is supposed to be the best season of the year; for them it’s actually something close to winters. And when all this is combined with Marine drive, its sure is a deadly combination. No matter how much I hated the rain, but that was the time when I enjoyed the sea the most. It felt that the sea was enjoying the season too; it was happy, chirpy, touching the sky with joy. It was amazing to see so many people enjoying away to glory…jogging, talking, walking….No matter how many times I went to that place, I’m still not bored of it and would never be. Sitting at Bandstand, Marine Drive late night is just amazing till the time cops ask you to get the hell out of there (LOL). It’s just so peaceful, with the sound of the waves and the moon shining bright and making the water look like diamonds floating. I’m sure you are already imagining it all J and that is the beauty of this city!

Initially, I used to crib about the city, college and the people around so much that even I doubted at times, if I would stay there for the next minute or not. But it so happened that today I’m unable to digest that I finally have to bid goodbye to this place and my people. I was fortunate enough to make few really good friends and got to know a lot of people around. Not to forget the place I stayed made me feel at home, which makes it all the more difficult for me to say “bye” forever. The life here is much simpler yet fast compared to where I have come from (New Delhi). People are easy going, chilled out. No matter whether there are floods, fire, earthquake, you would find people walking around, working, not afraid of anything that comes their way and taking everything in stride and that is the spirit of the people here which I loved.

As I mentioned before, life of the people here is very fast, just as fast as the local trains of the city! Trust me, even the last local at 1am in the night would be packed with people hanging from the train and heading back home from work! It was an experience to travel by the Mumbai locals. I thought only Delhi buses were crazy but I stand wrong there. The first day I went onto the train, I promised to myself that I would never ever step in the train again. But as they say, Mumbai locals are the heart of the city, I realized the importance of trains after being stuck in jams forever. Practice makes a man perfect and that’s what happened! I travelled long distance in these locals and learnt the art of pushing women badly and getting in and vice versa. Dadar station is the father of all the stations and how I wished the train never stopped there but all in vain. Half the Mumbai women come from the Dadar station. ;) But I’m now looking forward to travel by the Delhi metro! The good part is - atleast delhi metros have doors which shut and there is no chance of being pushed out in the running train.

Mumbai is a city of extremes….on one hand you will find big houses, bungalows, people driving Lamborghini’s, BMW’s of the world and on the other hand you will find people unconscious on the footpaths, doing drugs, huge slums, people without food, clothes, small kids begging for money…and the irony is that not only would the riches travel by their luxurious cars, but would also travel by locals. Mumbai is a mixture of people and so many of them that you can get lost in the crowd. But everyone is so simple and easy going that you would love each moment spent here. I did! J

This one year would be the most memorable year of my life. From partying late nights to sitting next to the sea all the time to night stays at friends to late night Maggie making sessions to having free shots in the club to long college hours to the endless assignments we got, I did it all! And I would miss it all as well L This year has been full of learning for me which I would carry with me all my life. The first ever out-of-home experience has been too good to be true and I can just wish for the time to stop right here.

Someone said it right, the city grows on you and it surely did on me J. It will be hard to part away with Mumbai and all the sweet people I met here but such is life. Life will move on so should I…

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Use of Public Relations by Non-Government Organizations (NGOs): A Case Study Approach

Key aim of this paper is to discuss how an NGO can effectively use Public Relations (PR) activities. Taking a case study approach, this document will outline the issue of Child labour in India and how Child Rights and You (CRY) can use PR activities to better communicate the issue of child rights in the country.

Situational Analysis: India is home to the largest number of child labourers in the world – 17 million continue to suffer even after the the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, was passed as early as 1986. Child labour in general terms means the work for children which harms them or exploits them in some or the other way, either mentally, physically, and morally or by restricting them the right to education. Children according to international conventions are those aged 18 and under.

While various specialized agencies and NGOs continue to aggressively push this message in India, Child Relief and You (CRY) is the most vocal amongst all and hence chosen as a case study for this document.

PR Objectives: To successfully deliver the messages against Child labour, CRY needs to first identify the key objectives (below) that it must achieve through the PR activities.

· Educating the masses in India and helping them understand the true meaning of child labour.

· To ensure both parents and children are aware about Right to Education (RTE) and that children must go to a school and not work instead

· Ensuring that each family has basic rights and the pressure of poverty does not force the child to get into child labour

· Gather support from civic, legal authorities and push them to ban employment below the age of 18

Target Audience: Given the multi-faceted nature of the cause, it’s imminent for CRY to target a variety of groups and ensure activism can be transpired to the grass root levels.

· Firstly, while the onus will be on people who employ children aged 18

· The campaigns will also target people in the community who already support the cause and are willing to help to further spread the message.

· CRY will also target associations and bodies that are in position to fund such campaigns, and

· Lastly, civic and legal bodies that can help to enforce laws to curb the issue

Key Messages: As discussed above, while the campaign is targeted at a host of groups to collectively make the move against this cause a success, the fundamentals and underlying messages remain the same. The broader messages arising from this campaign must include, but not remain limited to:

· There’s an imminent need to look at the children’s issues in their entirety, rather than just focusing on education, child abuse, child labour, health etc.

· The issues of Child labour has a strong connect to the broader issues of caste, livelihood, deprivation-gender etc

· The need for various local communities to come together and find a long term solution to these problems

Strategy & Tactics: While a variety of PR and marketing tools can be implemented, it’s important to for CRY to handpick those that offer a healthy balance between high reach and effectiveness.

Stage 1: Awareness

· Create a website that explains the campaign, its activities and reasons why we must act collectively to eradicate child labour from our country.

· Use of Twitter and Facebook – social media has proved to be an effective PR tool, offering the much desired reach to a large base of users at an effective cost. CRY must use Twitter and Facebook to spread awareness about the issue to large volumes of people.

· Blogs – A blog on Child labour can be used in tandem with the website to reflect on the issues faced by the underprivileged youth of our country and how all of us can help in eradicating this issue. Blogs can also be used to arrange online discussion on the issue and exchange ideas.

Stage 2: Activism

· Celebrate World day against Child labour – The International Labour Organization has declared June 12th as the world day against child labour and this day can be celebrated through organizing rallies and sport events in metropolitan and other key towns in the country. This effort can be coupled with social media tools to spread awareness.

Stage 3: Action

· Take the Oath Campaign – Aim to get at least 5,000 people across each Indian metro to take oath of not employing children as a household help.

· Hold press meets and get local governments to publicly announce their intent to help enforce law.

Evaluation: Following the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) approach, an ideal PR strategy must uses a mix of tools that work in tandem to achieve the desired objectives. In this case, while there are certain tactics that have a wider reach and can help spread the message, others help to create on-ground activism and action. For example, social media tools will be most successful to build awareness about the issue (given their wide reach) and can help to engage proactively with the audience and get comments, suggestions and their thoughts about the issue instantly. On the other hand, tactics like a press meet, sign up by local government and taking oaths help in on-ground, real-time action which social media tools cannot provide. Overall, I expect the campaign to leave a strong impression on people’s mind and help move steps closer to eradicating the issue from India.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Assessment of the Marketing strategy of Micromax Mobile

Micromax Q55 is a phone which was launched to target the female population only. The Micromax Q55 Bling is a dual-SIM (GSM + GSM) phone. The key features of Q55(bling) include its Clamshell type of looks, full QWERTY keypad, SWAROVSKI embossed keys, mirror at the back side of the phone. In addition, the phone also offers Opera Mini, Multi-Messenger, Stereo FM Radio, Facebook, Bluetooth and Music Player thereby making it feature rich. The design and make of the Micromax Q55 Bling phone makes it a good buy for those who want a mix of both beauty and brains.

Micromax launched its Q55 IIFA limited edition handset at the IIFA award function on June 5, 2010 in Sri Lanka. Priced at INR, 5,500 the phone was made available only for a month (from the date of launch) and came loaded with IIFA content including videos of the previous IIFA editions. Micromax joint hands with Dialoge, Sri Lanka’s largest mobile telecommunication service provider to provide customers with a Dialoge sim with every purchase.

The dream of the company was to have a phone chiefly targeted at women and make it feature rich to make it a popular hit within the female community. The big picture was to integrate beauty and technology in one handset. The purpose (in theory) behind launching this phone was to carve out a niche for this product and develop a cult. The method through which it tried to achieve the purpose was through the commercial advertisement featuring Twinkle Khanna.

Having understood the product and the dream in the paragraphs above, below is a critical review of how Micromax failed to keep to the envisaged growth trajectory. Although the phone was embedded with the social networking site facebook but it was never promoted well through facebook and other social networking sites. The Micromax Q55 has groups on facebook which have not been created by the company itself and have miniscule number of fans endorsing the product and the company. Same goes for YouTube; the videos have not been uploaded by the company itself and it’s hard to trace more than just a handful of these videos. Further, Micromax also failed to launch a Twitter handle to communicate with the online audience and form a connect. The only way in which the phone managed to create awareness and buzz in the audience was through the commercial advertisement which featured Twinkle Khanna and the tag line of the phone was “Q55 Bling, it twinkles.” Lastly, the phone is available only in white colour, which leaves the girls with a limited choice. In essence, the company could have created a cult for this handset but failed to do so as it wasn’t promoted very well.

If I were given the chance of being the Head of Corporate Communications at Micromax, I would undertake the following activities to make the gadget a roaring success:

· Promote the phone better through social networking sites , examples: Facebook, twitter, ibibo, orkut.

· Create a facebook fan club for micromax Q55(bling)

· Would have a twitter handle for micromax Q55(bling)

· Upload video/ad commercials on YouTube

· Run series of advertisements rather than having only one ad aired – In addition these series of adverts will also be made available on YouTube.

· Introduce a range of funky colours for the phone than just white.

· Social media applications are no more a choice for any handset provider – while facebook is essential, the company will also aim to integrate other similar social media platforms in the phone.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Should Media Relations be combined with Investor Relations?

Investment relations (IR) is the amalgamation of communications, building relationships and guiding management in taking the final decision. Essentially it is a strategic responsibility to enable effective communication between the company, financial community and the public which finally contributes to company’s securities achieving fair valuation. Usually an IR department or person reports to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or the treasurer. In some organizations, IR is managed by public relations or corporate communications department and is called “financial public relations” or “financial communications”.

The investor relations deal with handling inquiries from shareholders, investors, or anyone interested in company’s stock or financial statements. The IR also has a vital role in crises management such as changes in management, industrial damage etc. Investor relations has the responsibility of managing perceptions of the investors and deals with any information about the company that may affect the stock price or earnings of the company. It is important for the company to attract the investors because they are the only source of capital for the company and increased investor interest leads to increase in the stock price of the company.

An IR department is the only department which has interaction with the stock market. Earnings releases, earnings forecasts, annual and quarterly reports and most press releases, are all part of investor relations and the responsibility of the investor relations officer or department. Previously IR used to just focus on release of financial information but now the trend has changed and almost everything issued by the company is the responsibility of the IR department. This change is partly due to increased regulatory requirement and also because it’s been seen that whatever the company does or would eventually do, will affect the profits or the stock price of the company.

On the other hand, Media relations (MR) refers to working with media in order to disseminate information to the public about an organization’s mission, policies, practices etc. in a credible manner. Working with media on behalf of an organization helps the company to create awareness amongst chosen set of audiences, both small and large set of audiences. Media also encourages two way communications.

The relationship between an organization and news media is very crucial as the story pitched to the media is under their control totally and the journalists will publish the stories which interest their audiences. Media relations services include: Financial and business media, trade media programs, market commentary, online media programs, regional media programs etc.

Looking at these two separate functions (IR and MR) from the purview of them being the subsets of the concept of Public Relations (PR), while there are spaces of commonalities between the two, there are also exist differences.

In terms of the common touch points, both investor and media relations deal with the influencer community that includes the likes of financial/equity analysts, industry analysts, journalists, bloggers etc. Further, both investor and media relations use the same flavour of information to showcase to the influencer community, there are key differences in how this information is served to the two different sets of audience. While the IR department predominantly uses financial data points and strategy to engage with equity analysts and other similar end-users, the Media Relations uses company and product strategy to influence journalists, bloggers, etc.

Further, a revolution is taking place in how organizations are communicating with their audience using social media platforms. While Media Relations has for long pioneered the use of social media to communicate with its respective set of influencer community, the investor relations officers are also actively making use of these tools to enable a two-way communication between the company, the financial community, and other constituents.

In conclusion, while in theory its near-ideal to combine the two PR functions discussed above, there are differences between them that deem organizations to treat them as two separate entities. Maintaining them as separate groups, PR heads can look at using innovative ways of sharing resources within these teams – while this will help curb costs, it’ll also save the team the effort and time taken to train two separate resources on nearly the same aspects of the business.

Many organizations today have successfully adopted this model and are investing in a common pool of resources that function as the backbone to the different PR functions. Clearly, impetus is on maximizing utilization of resources with standardized skills coupled with specialists leading each of the separate units within the PR department.

Decisive Communication Moment

Decisive Communication Moment

“I’m a PC” Campaign – Microsoft’s response to Apple’s “Get a Mac” Campaign

A $300 million advertising campaign was created for Microsoft by ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CPB) named “I’m a PC”. This campaign was designed to challenge the Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign which showed the PC as boring, clunky and stereotype when compared to the cool and intuitive Mac. This campaign by Microsoft had a huge impact on people and eventually there was a tremendous sales growth as compared to the Apple’s sales.

Stage 1: Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign

The “Get a Mac” campaign was created for Apple by the company’s advertising agency TBWA\Media Arts Lab. The campaign became an instant hit because all the series of the ads had a white background with two men, one of which were dressed in casual clothes and introduced himself as Mac (“hello I’m a Mac”) while the other man in formal suit and tie introduces himself as Windows (“And I’m a PC”). The two of them compare the capabilities and attributes of Mac and PC. The PC is portrayed as a formal, polite, stuff, overly concerned with work and frustrated with the more laid back Mac’s abilities.

Apple’s ‘Get a Mac’ campaign is over after one of the most long-lived advertising runs of all time. The campaign which began in the year 2006 was replaced by the Apple’s website with a new “why you’ll love a Mac” campaign, which asks consumers, “Why get a new PC and just upgrade your computer, when you can get a Mac and upgrade your entire computer experience?”

The “Get a Mac” campaign obviously forced Microsoft to challenge the campaign and there it was with a $300 million campaign!

Stage 2: Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” campaign

The “I’m a PC” campaign first began in September 2008. As discussed above, it was designed to challenge the Apple’s campaign. The campaign was created by CPB advertising agency and featured that normal PC users are found everywhere. The 60-second ad features more than 25 different people as PCs compared with Apple's one in all its TV spots. The intent was to demonstrate how PC users are ordinary people. Microsoft proved that people buy products that they see advertised and it increases awareness and they build an emotional connect with the brand or the product.

As soon as the Microsoft “I’m a PC” ad started airing, the Apple’s ad “Get a Mac” just disappeared. Microsoft’s sales were touching the sky as Windows PC was much cheaper than the Mac and also the “Windows. Life without walls” marketing made the people go crazy about the PC. Even netbook sales went up, giving additional uplift to Windows laptop sales.

Unfortunately this campaign faced some serious criticism. It was found that Microsoft's "I'm a PC" advertising campaign was created on a Mac and the celebrity speaker brought in by the software giant were all professed Apple fans. Also the four still images of the campaign posted at Microsoft's press site contained digital fingerprints from Adobe Photoshop being run on Apple computers.

To the above criticism, Microsoft issued a statement saying that almost all campaign workflow, agencies and production houses use a wide variety of software and hardware to create, edit and distribute content, including both Macs and PCs.