Common Sense In Marketing (… contd.)

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Alright, the pill’s working now… so Shalini and Shashank here’s my side.

Now we all know what’s the real objective of all the branding and marketing exercises. As Shalini puts it, to help people connect with the company. I agree.. branding is important and maybe I expressed my views a little too strongly by saying it’s an utter waste. What I really want to say is, too much of it is a waste but branding or marketing should not be the focus of any company that is trying to increase sales. Trying to win the market from an established brand is just too much effort and money if you resort to marketing and branding. I suggest innovation and invention and it is only this which can help you break into an already mature or captured market.

There are always gaps and some unsatisfied needs of customers, which with targeted market research and intelligent analysis you can identify and fill with your products. The tip I am giving here is to become the market leader not just increase profit. Now take Apple (my favorite brand), despite the big players of the mobile phone industry, viz. Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola occupying the largest market share, it’s Apple which keeps 30% of the total revenue generated by mobile phone sales. Can you beat that? I mean Nokia and others have been around for a decade but Apple makes the most and you are probably going to tell me it’s the Brand Image of Apple. Well, my question is what is the brand image then, is it the “White Apple”? Now, this is how I see it. While Nokia and Ericsson have been upping the bar by increasing the number of pixels and improving other similar mutimedia features and HTC being a pioneer in touchscreen phones, Apple focused on functionality.

My Analysis of the iPhone’s Success

Most people didn’t care too much about 8-10 MP cameras or high-end stylus operations. They just wanted to get things done, you know – make a few calls, use the internet to find something or check mails (not to forget social networking sites) without causing too much strain on the eye. This calls for a bigger screen and an enhanced GUI, well Apple answers with their iPhone. They were the first to feature Accelerometer and a touchscreen which should work the way as we want it to work. You don’t want to pull out your stylus all the time and you don’t want to select unwanted options while using the touchscreen which means the screen should understand the movement of the human fingers and should be comfortably big to move them too. Simple, isn’t it? Aren’t these the most fundamental requirements of an interactive mobile phone? Add to this the super efficient App Store so people looking for advanced functions can pay and download what they really need. No pressure! That’s what allows Apple to charge a premium for their products and makes them a successful brand – “innovation from customer perspective“. Everything else automatically falls into line. Now all your advertising and marketing campaigns are not just telling how cool you are or how long you have been a leader in the industry. They are telling “WHY” – why you should buy iPhone and how it can improve your relationship with technology. This is all that a Brand should really be meant for, to tell the customer what the company can do for you that others cannot. So I see brand image as nothing but the overall representation of how a company has upheld its commitment to provide innovative products (or services).

Conclusion

Shalini and Shashank, marketing is not redundant because it is through effective marketing only that you can communicate to your customers. In this dog-eat-dog world, marketing is an essential tool to stay ahead of the competition but here’s the line. It is not the primary function of a company which it has today become for so many but a support function. Marketing is the glitter on the package and though it may help sell the package initially what really matters is the usefulness of the package. So concentrating on the package is way more essential than wrapping it up in glossy paper.

Harsh

P.SThis started off as a reply to the comments of my friends, Shalini and Shashank, on the previous post Common Sense In Marketing but it turned out to be lengthy enough for a new post. Besides, a post has been long due.

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Common Sense In Marketing

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The idea for this post struck me when I saw the CNBC logo flashing and rotating with a narration in the background “CNBC is my religion“. Now, this logo flashing skid is the worst part of the whole marketing clip. The clip starts by flashing people who are successful and in their different ways are always thinking over subjects that could boost their success further. There is a deep voice narrating how they always come up with new ideas and make the right decision every time, it makes me believe that they really have some heightened form of sixth sense. Now, as the clip ends with the flashing logo, the message delivered is “CNBC is my religion“. Nooo… you’ve just showed people who are intelligent and successful biz owners … you’ve just explained in the last 40 seconds how they have been relying on their sixth sense for everything related to their business. Now just capitalize on that… say “CNBC – My sixth sense” or “CNBC – My Inner Voice” or a similar line which is in agreement with the clip’s idea. The cool tag line “CNBC is my religion” goes more with a target audience that is passionate about sport, movie or fashion, but your audience isn’t cricket fans or movie fans or die-hard fashion followers. They are intellectual, smart people who are always counting, always calculating. So give them that image … with a stupid tag line as “… my religion” you spoil that great idea you just planted in my brain. I had just started listening but now I don’t want to ’cause really¬† “CNBC is not my religion” but I would have happily bought “CNBC as my advisor“.

Corporations tend to spend a lot on brand building and marketing campaigns. Money that could have well be used for research and product development or improving customer service is wasted on learning new marketing tactics, devising marketing strategies that attract the public and can create a buzz. Ultimately the product does not sell to your expectations and the whole buzz just fizzes out because what really mattered to the customer was functionality. But still your marketing campaign director would point out that it was only due to the marketing efforts that you were able to break through so many customers. In reality though, if the product was designed for the audience and not the brand, despite a low buzz you’d have achieved significantly higher sales. Brand may pull me into a store and even make me buy the stuff but if I am not able to use it to my needs I might just avoid the brand. On the other side a product that I might buy for cheap and comes from a not so big brand but serves my purpose well, is durable it will automatically build a brand. What I am talking of is repeat sell, which should be the objective of every brand. You want to get new customers but not at the cost of losing you already have. People who have already bought services/ products from us are more likely to buy again than new ones. Apparently, customer acquisition is more expensive than customer retention and the latter is much more rewarding.

I realize what I am talking is archaic and completely out of sync with what the current marketing pundits have to say. But I think the whole marketing part is highly overrated, what one needs is “Common Sense In Marketing” which I am told often is not very common. I worked for Bionicturtle.com for a few months and thought of many ways that could attract more visitors on the site. Not that it was my role, but due to a small exposure to market research I have always been thinking like that. Now, David (founder of Bionicturtle.com) was very sensible with his approach and avoided the many pitfalls with marketing. He always said, you don’t want to do too much logo designing, marketing and branding to promote your product. What you can do is you can improvise with the resources already at hand to improve your customer’s experience and that will matter in the long run. I completely agree to his viewpoint and realize that filling in the gaps in your current solution is much more worthy of spending those dollars than trying to animate logos and focus on aesthetical elements of the site while all your customers really care is for the content (which is the functional element of the whole business). I later realized that there was no marketing technique using SEO, link building or fancy logos that got him customers but it was the word-of-mouth marketing. Slow and steady but rewarding nevertheless. I strongly believe your growth is much more even and consistent if you invest in your customers than in your marketing strategies and that’s what David did.

So, the point is that rather than going out to find the perfect brand image that sells your products or services you can build a brand around what you already have. By this I mean, the assets you already have, the goals you want to achieve and the kind of employees you already have. For example, if you are a research firm or a consultancy you have to bring out the idea of usefulness of your research, the many ways in which it can add value to the clients’ existing knowledge base. What you can also add to the brand is the expertise of your employees. Give them a page on your site, feature their achievements and how they have completed challenging project successfully. This way you wouldn’t have to fit your company into a new image and align your goals in line with it. Instead, the brand would be supporting your business ideas, objectives and products. Rather than customizing your company to fit into a brand image I think it makes more sense to integrate the brand¬† into the overall fabric of your company’s operations so it speaks and promotes what you do, how you do and how well you do it. With this approach in marketing, you will realize that your brand is immensely scalable to envelope the future products and sell them effectively to your target customers.