Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Green Marketing

An idea which has come of age is that of ‘Green Marketing’. This consists of the marketing of products which are environmentally friendly. The scope of this includes not only the communication process which needs to be specially focussed on promoting the product as being environmentally friendly, but also the necessary product and process modification so as to actually make the product ‘Green’. Today, awareness about global warming and eco consciousness is at an all time high. With the massive deforestation of the rain forests and the rapidly eroding greenery in our cities and countryside the eco systems of our neighbourhoods are changing for the worse. Under such circumstances, ‘Green Marketing’ is a way for companies to at least partially follow a ‘blue ocean strategy’.
To quote an example, consider the case of electronic component manufacturers in India who are a part of a global supply chain. They are suppliers to various companies in Europe and America, where it is now illegal to have electronic items which have certain levels of hazardous chemicals. The electronic product manufacturers are governed by directives like RoHS which stands for Restriction of use of certain Hazardous Chemicals. This law which came into effect on 1st July 2006 prohibits any electronic product to be sold in the market which fails to comply with the standards as described in the RoHS directive. In an industry that is dependent on the assembly of components sourced effectively by the diverse supply base, these laws have implications which are far flung. These and other such laws also offer a unique opportunity for companies to gain competitive advantages over others by being the first to organize the supply chain to be able to cope with the requirements. Many Indian electronic component manufacturers, who previously found themselves in a tough position wrung by all the proverbial five forces described by Michael Porter, in the wake of stiff price competition from Chinese manufacturers, have used this opportunity to find themselves a ‘blue ocean’ to regain their market competence.
‘Green Marketing’ is essentially a way to create a point of differentiation for one’s products. Companies which can successfully brand themselves as a ‘Green’ company and at the same time successfully integrate their supply chains to cope with the requirements of producing a ‘Green’ product can gain a sustainable competitive advantage in the market place of the near future. This will require significant investment in research of both product development and supply chain integration and also in effective communication strategy. An example of this would be the investments made by Toyota Corporation in the hybrid cars division.
Unlike many horizon planning strategies which are followed by companies, where the investments in research for the future may not always be passed on to current customers, the scope and scale of investment required for ‘Green’ products may necessitate such a measure. Successful ‘Green’ marketers will be those who will be able to identify the opportunity costs involved and avoid making the current generation of customers bear the costs for those of the future; although it might be in the interest of the current generation of customers in the long run to do so!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Decision Maker

The famous economist Adam Smith once noted “having money gives one the ability to ‘command’ other’s labour”. This is a succinct way of explaining purchasing power and is very relevant for anyone who is trying to chart a career in marketing. Why? The answer is simple; marketing works best when those who you are marketing to, have the purchasing power, i.e. the ability to command your labour in exchange for their money.
But for marketers, is it sufficient to target those that have the money, to make a sale? Again, the ‘invisible hand’ theoretician had wise words for us. He warned us not to ignore the thrifty housewife’s contribution to the economy as she compares prices at a local store. For instance in India and most other countries of the world, men are the income earning members of the family and have the control over the expenditure of this income. But it is not difficult to observe that the majority of what the household spends on is decided by the women. So, as a marketer it makes more sense to catch the attention of the women and thereby influence those who have the control over the strings of the purse, rather than the men who may be the purse bearers. This need to capture the decision maker’s attention is a refinement over the traditional target audience definition which marketers identify while developing their strategy. If the traditional market segmentation is done based on demographic variables like age, gender, income bracket etc, the emphasis on targeting decision makers requires the marketer to create a special value proposition to those who may not be the end users, but rather the key influencers in the buying process.
Examples of this can be seen in the advertising schedules of many products and services. Advertisements for Star Cruise vacations are actually broadcast on channels like Cartoon Network and Pogo to catch the attention of children who then influence their parents to go on these vacations. The creative for a medicinal product which aids in the reduction of male pattern baldness actually addresses the woman, negotiating with her to purchase the medicine for her husband!
This emphasis on the decision maker also necessitates a different approach to the metrics of media plan. From a traditional Opportunity to See (OTS) measure of exposure to the target market segment, marketers are now moving towards more experiential marketing platforms. The experience which the decision maker has of the product or service becomes of paramount importance and media planners now look for Opportunity to Experience (OTE) components before deciding on the marketing plans.
For example, when Financial Times (FT), position themselves as a paper read by the CEOs, by organizing symposiums of global leaders, they are essentially conveying to their advertisers that the ‘Decision Makers’ are reading their paper and endorsing it; and hence add more value to their product. Gone are the days when the circulation and readership numbers of the newspaper, among target demographic audience could have helped attract more advertisers. If ICICI bank uses the catch line that they are ‘the most preferred bank’ among younger corporate decision makers, it is because they want other such people with high disposable incomes to bank with them.
And thus the value of the ‘Decision Maker’ is the critical variable in a marketer’s formula. Market research firms like AC-Nielsen ORG MARG now provide companies (like ICICI bank) with a Decision Maker’s Survey (DMS) to aid them in identifying the ideal channels for communicating to the ‘Decision Makers’ directly!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Private Labels

Private label pose the biggest threats to branded FMCG businesses. The normal margin structure in a typical FMCG supply chain today is as follows. The margin for the carry and forwarder (C&F) is ranges from 1 - 4%. That of a stockist ranges from 4 - 9% and that of the retailer ranges from around 8 – 17%. Also as the channel of distribution has gained prominence in the consumer’s mind due to pervasiveness of their reach, the retailer increasingly calls the shots. In such an environment, consumers increasingly face the pinch of higher prices. Hence, the best way for the retailer to add value to the consumer would be to remove the price burden he bears. The solution – creation of private labels. This makes good economic sense too as is indicated by the following table

Just as an indicator one can observe, that private label business of Wal-Mart is USD 126 billion. This figure is greater than that of the total sales revenue of NestlĂ©’s which is considered as the largest FMCG manufacturer brand in terms of sales.

"Dissolve like Sugar in Milk" ... Ideas for FMCG

What is important today in terms of branding in FMCG products? With the clutter of products on display and available for consumption, there is increasingly a trend of consumer indifference towards your product. When the product life cycle is also very short, what becomes important is creating a sustainable brand. One solution for this can be explained with this story.

Legend says that when the Parsi immigrants from Iran landed in Gujarat, India many centuries ago, they approached the local King to seek permission to stay in his country. The King who was not very keen on letting foreigners to settle in his land showed the Parsi leader a bowl of milk filled to the brim and said that like this, there was no space for more people. The Parsi leader not to be outdone mixed some sugar into the milk and told the King that his people would dissolve into the society like the sugar and while remaining invisible, sweeten the whole experience!

Similar to this, what is required to help reduce consumer irritability towards FMCG products is that they need to become less in your face, but at the same time be give the consumer a sweet experience!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Beginning of Idea Architecture...

Idea Architecture by Anand Rao (Me!)

"Branding the Zeitgeist" - Trends and implications for branding in future markets

The word Zeitgeist means “Spirit of the Age”. It is the adjective representative of the cultural ethos of the generation and is used to express a world view which is prevalent at a particular period of socio-cultural progression. It is an illustration of what is popular within the social context and deemed as popular culture. Brands are amongst the best symbols of the generation and branding as a faculty has also been an integral part of the creation of a generation’s identity. This has had a profound impact on the emphasis of marketers in their branding efforts. The method of marketing to a specific generation is affecting the way we promote and sell products and services. Each generation has its own characteristics and these are leveraged by marking these targets by marketers. Branding efforts for each generation is unique in its essence, and are so designed to not only suit a particular market niche but also in their wake create a market by means of contributing to the popular culture of the generation. Consumer behaviour which is a study of how, what, when and why people buy is also significantly influenced by the zeitgeist. The practices of studying trends always focus on understanding the shifts in preferences in consumer behaviour and seek to maximize the impact by pre-empting them. Each generation has created its own unique trait when it comes to consumer behaviour and marketing has always had to adapt to these changes.
Popular culture has been represented in the art of the generation and this is the focus of this paper. From painting and graffiti to comic books and music; design has evolved in parallel with the generations and with advance in technology has now moved into the virtual space with the boom of the global animation industry.

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