Rationally Thinking

Stumbled on an idea? Well, good luck in fitting it through a logical process. Many people like to take the rational approach to make decisions and anything new makes us uncomfortable. So how do you break this down?

A neat website i stumbled on exploits all the logical fallacies that could be thought of. While you may enjoy the varieties, the one i could relate to was the “Texas Sharpshooter”. The fallacy states,” You cherry-picked a data cluster to suit your argument, or found a pattern to fit a presumption”. Now this could have anything to do with marketeers, research folks, business decision makers or even the police i dare say. Let’s figure the first one of the lot. You are in a discussion where the latest customer insight is being torn to pieces. Someone pops up saying that a variant of the new soap is doing well in some of the target markets and hence budgets need to be allocated to achieve more penetration. They drill down the data till it begins to please the quorum. Now there lies a sharpshooter. While the soap variant did do well is some of the markets, it was marketed across several others. The lack of data from other regions is also talking. A change in perspective would show that its not doing well in a majority of the regions. In that case, where does our sharpshooter go? Can he still paint a canvas sitting on a pile of budgets to put out?

Similar cases happen in several other areas. When it comes to creating new products, finalizing on target markets, to may spotting organised crime or figuring out patterns. Sharpshooters are going to be everywhere to give the pattern a voice. Will it be a rational approach or just another subjective take that is coloring decision making? I leave that to you for figuring it out.

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Aspire

To aspire is to simply have a greater ambition or an ultimate goal as per the dictionary definition. Once you have reached a specific level of expertise or stage in your life, you’re quickly looking out for what could be the next best thing. Marketeers too have tapped in to this particular set of our psyche from time to time.

Some of the most popular brands such as Apple, Mercedes, Louis Vuitton and others have successfully created that aspirational brand value for themselves. Brands have typically created an aspirational brand strategy in the following ways:

1. Targetted Advertising: Associating the brand with the nice to have features and showcasing a lifestyle that most people can only aspire to have is one of the key ways. High fashion brands have used super models, while in other cases certain brands have stayed off any celebrities and made the product the hero of their advertisements.

2. Build brand loyalty: One of the key initiatives has to be centered on making the customer aware of how the product can be put in to use everyday. Be it a high-end handbag or an SUV, the advertisement or brand collateral needs to highlight features for using the product for a wider number of applications. That ways they can build brand loyalty and further ensure that their customers recommend the product to others as well.

3. Keep it Simple: Brands need to be careful while positioning the product in the aspirational set since it needs to have a strong customer value proposition to deliver. Customers can clearly see past any over the top promises that are being made during promotions. Hence the message must be simple and yet powerful to drive the messaging across.

Creating a high end lifestyle is just one of the end results of an aspirational brand strategy. However marketeers need to steer clear and get the basics right, lest it turn in to a disaster.

Banking in a Jifi!

First off, this was one of my first Indiblogger meets in Mumbai. I have been blogging since the last 1.5 years, so thought i might as well venture in to the meet and see what’s it all about. Let me put it this way, if you thought bloggers are a bunch of nerds/geeks with awkward social skills, then you are wrong! This meet was a tri-city event and we were patched up with Bangalore and Delhi through a live feed. What’s more, they had Chetan Bhagat in the house who made the session interactive and joked about the upcoming movie Two States which is based on his book.

The event was basically organised to launch a  Kotak Mahindra Bank product called Jifi. Now i have worked in a bank prior to this and i must say they are breaking new ground here. Jifi is targeted towards the millennials and basically for anyone who is social media savvy. The concept is based on social banking. People who sign-up are free of balance woes, as they have no minimum balance requirement. The point i liked is that you earn lucrative interest for money above Rs. 25,000 as the bank automatically creates a term deposit for you. So for someone who doesn’t really care to invest and make their money work, this is a pretty good deal. The social media part is plugged in on Twitter. Basically anyone with this account can run a few activities like balance inquiry, historical statements and others. Some of the bloggers inquired about how safe this could be in case someone withdraws or transfers money from their account. To this Mr. K.V.S Manian (Head of Consumer Banking) replied that the services offered do not include transactions. So for the average user like me, i could tweet to Kotak asking about my balance and i will receive a Direct Message with the details, hence keeping my banking details private. Now, though the service is new in India something similar has been done abroad years back. American Express has a service called AMEX SYNC that lets people buy stuff using Twitter. However, from an Indian perspective this service from Kotak is a first. They also have a Kotak MoneyWatch service thrown in to help people like me track their expenses. Plus the more friends you refer, the more social points you stand to earn. These can be redeemed or transferred to friends later.

Adoption levels for a product like this will depend on how people approach social media in general. Many people are bogged down with privacy concerns, so i reckon it may take a while to catch-on. However for people like me who are pretty much online most of the time and breathe social, this is a pretty cool service to try out. I do hope though that they take care of two-factor authentication on twitter. One of the other issues, they should address is people having different email addresses when they sign up for twitter / facebook / banking.

All in all, this was a good event to be a part of. I met a lot of cool new bloggers and got some solid tips from them. Plus the event was hosted at Cafe Zoe which is one of my favorite places in Lower Parel. Now, let me get back to exploring Jifi !

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PS: Thanks to Indiblogger and other bloggers for re-tweeting and sharing the photo on Twitter 🙂

Facing The Music

Against all odds. That’s what first came to my mind when i had to get down to implementing a lot of things some years back at work. However, it’s just the approach that needs to be changed. Instead of all the odds, i began to think of all the opportunities that i could be on. That minor change in perspective made me believe in pushing myself against all boundaries.

So a deliverable at 7 AM? No problem.

4 hour commute. Can be managed.

Can you work on this aspect (something i’ve never heard of). Sure. {Factor in late nights spent awake in reading about how it really works}

Ad-hoc meeting, I just have to pull you in to this one. Sure, you can count on me.

Among many other such situations, i reveled in the pressure. After all, what is a day worth when you don’t learn something new? I’ve learnt to read up more than my clients do, understand more than the intern can throw at me and deliver more than i possibly could imagine. It’s said that we overestimate ourselves in the short run and underestimate in the long run. In my case, i would say overestimating actually helped me in accomplishing more than i thought was possible. Against all odds, it may have seemed to others. But to me, they were in my favor. Facing the music as many would think. In my head, i was loving the music and finding meaning in the rhythm. Isn’t life itself like that? I sure do believe it is!

 

Why are tech firms buying out smaller start-ups?

Consolidation in the technology space. It’s happening. Much has been said, heard and analysed when it comes to the recent Whatsapp acquisition by Facebook. Valuations were being tossed around and here’s an interesting graphic on whether it was worth $19 billion to start with. That being said, i’m looking at bigger forces at play in the technology space. As textbook economics will tell you, consolidation is a phase that kicks in mature markets when the big players begin to swallow the smaller and more active ones up.

Acquisitions have been happening for quite sometime now. But some of the interesting one’s in recent times have been Google buying Motorola and then selling it off to Lenovo. Microsoft buying out Nokia and they did give in to market pressures by releasing an Android phone just yesterday at the Mobile World Congress’14. Microsoft also bought Skype nearly a year back and killed its own messenger. Software firms have been increasingly snapping up hardware companies. It’s clearly about building capabilities to have more integrated software and hardware. Apple has been doing this for decades with a very closely knit user interface that has been winning customers over for years. Pretty much like them, the other companies are also trying to tightly integrate services to have the customers locked in for longer period of time. Look at Google, that is trying to foray in to nearly every possible nook of our life as it builds its inventory for the internet of things. You’re using maps, gmail, search and docs for starters. As any marketeer will tell you, its always cheaper to retain customers than to go out and acquire new ones.

Here’s a drill-down of what i think about the entire consolidation bit:

1. Customer stickiness: Companies want customers to buy a product and integrate it so tightly that they are unable to breakout.

2. Eat the competition: As start-ups have more breathing room and flexibility for innovation, let them build great products as the big cats will swallow them up to eventually kill the competition if any.

3. M&A industry: Who else is laughing all the way to the bank? Consulting firms. In fact software acquisitions made up nearly half of the deal value in this space as per PwC.

4. Increasing usage: Big tech players are always looking for means to increase usage and as Metcalf’s law says, the value of any network lies in the number of connected users on it. Hence you see why software services have been aggressively merging or finding new ways of driving usage for their platforms.

5. Start-ups don’t always need an IPO: It’s increasingly difficult for a small company to go public and put itself under the scanner. Investors and analysts will slice and dice not only excel spreadsheets but also any single move that key people make. By cashing out and selling themselves to a larger firm, they can avoid all the pain. All of this when they might have not even achieved the vision they started out with.

6. Hide failures better: The chances of a start-up making it big are rather slim. In fact, the odds seem to be against them. Once they have generated enough buzz and got a fancy valuation. The small fish can then afford to dissolve in the system and chances are if they were going to fail, little would anyone get to know about it.

With all of this in place, we can only hope for better products and services. While some of these partnerships may have benefited the firms, what remains to be seen is how innovative they can really get. For now, the entire space has become a playground for many small firms to pitch their products and see how quickly they can go to market or gain more funding. At the end, the customer stands to benefit the most from this!

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*Image source: Flickr (labelled for reuse)

Insight: The New Face of Marketing

I was excited to be a part of the thought leadership event organised by the ITSMA with InformationWeek as the media partner. Knowing that this one was positioned to give out insights on where marketing is headed had me more curious about what was the discussion going to be like. There was a good mix of representatives from several IT firms and its always great to be in a room full of marketeers!

The event started off with a session by Dave Munn, who elaborated on the top priorities for marketeers. Interesting stats shared indicated that only 9% of CEOs actually use marketing data. But, on the whole the perception of marketing has improved for this year as nearly 78% of the audience they survey voted in favor, 20% had the same view and only 2% had a lowered perception. Now, that is the challenge i see whenever i’m talking to any other function. Marketing always needs to emphasize on the value they are driving for other business units/functions. Some of the top priorities for marketeers this year are:

1. Building thought leadership & dissemination of the content created for this

2. Managing brand reputation

3. Aligning sales & marketing

In terms of the budget being allocated for marketing, content creation took the top spot. For digital marketing the priority of allocating monies was: Website, Search, Online Advertising, Online Communities & Social Media. Digital marketing was also one of the key marketing areas that saw an increase in budget allocation. Most of this was taken out of the cuts in sponsorship,  direct mailers, advertising or public shows. A remarkable point was that nearly 25% of the overall marketing budget goes out to external agencies as fees/payments. Dave also listed the 5 mandates for marketing this year:

1. Measure & communicate metrics: Its important for marketing to contribute to business outcomes & provide predictive insight.

2. Become data & technology frontrunners: Invest in skills, build omnichannel marketing, foster the potential of data & analytics and lastly increase awareness with the c-suite.

3. Improve relevance & personalisation for the customer: Track for insights, provide customised marketing and make use of personas. This involves rendering different treatment when you talk to CMOs/CFOs/CIOs.

4. Enable thought leadership selling: Use sales teams to provide insight about client needs, enagagements and discuss challenges with marketing. Marketing also needs to manage & train SME’s to increase the awareness of our offering.

5. Build adaptive culture in marketing: Marketing needs to be proactive & collaborate within the functions. Companies should build a reward based culture to value business contribution from marketing.

The later session by Ramkumar Ramamoorthy was also rich in terms of the takeaways from his experience with the sterling work he has done at Cognizant. The impact of investor and analyst relation teams cannot be discounted. The last session was a panel discussion with key members such as Jyoti Singh (Genpact), Lavanya Jayram (Zensar Technologies), Kulwinder Singh (Synechron) & Sujit Janardanan (Amazon Web Services). Key takeaways from this discussion was about how marketing ROI is being measured (metrics differ everywhere), value being added through marketing (engagement matters on social & business matters in place of leads), investments matter in place of cost as that can be used to justify customer retention value over time.

Overall, i think it was an excellent session as it refreshed some of my own learning to reinforce the same. On the other hand, we picked up some good examples that were good to know and i also bumped in to some people i worked with earlier! All in all the new face of marketing looks good to be worked with in the future 🙂

Flappy Bird Away!

This addictive yet frustrating game had me intrigued since i first saw it mentioned on Twitter. Not on to be left behind, i thought let me check this out. But tap, tap, tap its really hard to get a good score. Most of the time i kept thinking that “Darn, this is so simple.. How can i not crack this?”. That’s precisely where the hitch lies.

Flappy Bird was such a simple game (it kind of reminded me of 8-bit games). There’s a hopeless bird who can’t fly and all you have to do is to keep it flapping away. My best score: 1. Like, seriously! I could never get past the second pole. At times, i was seconds close to throwing my phone in some random corner. Only to pick it up & try all over again. Simplicity is the key to getting users hooked. People tend to think that its so simple, i have to crack this.

What was most surprising was the announcement by Dong Nguyen to take it off the app stores. His reasoning was that the game got him too much attention and he didn’t seem to like it. It’s baffling to note that the game had nearly 50 million downloads and the Vietnamese fellow made close to $50,000 USD a day through the game. Then why pull the plug? I reckon this is just another gimmick. Probably, he wants to keep people guessing what could he be coming with next. I mean, frankly if you have played the game, there really isn’t much you can add on to basic one like that. All you got to do is save the cursed bird who can’t flap. I think Dong is hardly done yet. He has amassed enough media attention to keep people guessing what the next game could be. Like all other trends, i sure hope he beats himself to whatever he come up with. If not, then well we can just pass it off as another trend. Like the harlem shakes or miley at the VMA’s or back in India, the number of times Arvind Kejriwal has threatened
to resign!
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