Thursday, February 28, 2008

The King of Good Times spills beans

Kingfisher CEO, Dr Vijay Mallya on day 1 of the World Effie Festival made everyone wait almost two hours to hear him speak about creating a brand personality, truth is, it was worth the wait.

While The King of Good Times declined to be interviewed by the press after his presentation, Mallya shared the story of Kingfisher's successfull branding in India - the genius behind it, the luck involved - and why branding is sacred to him.

I have to admit I came into this Thought Catalyst session not knowing too much about Kingfisher and Mallya (except that he has been dubbed "the Indian Richard Branson" by the media) so forgive any factual inaccuracies that may appear in this post which I am doing for the benefit of our readers who didn't get to go...

"Selling alcohol or an airline seat is no different from selling consumer goods," Mallya said at the WEF. "You need to understand your consumers". With that in mind, Mallya set about on his task to make Kingfisher beer a success. Before he launched the brand, Mallya had to define who his target audience was and what got them excited - what are their expectations? Hanging around colleges and pubs in Bangalore, he did his own market research by talking to consumers and found out that they thought beer was refreshing, and a summer drink, but not exciting.

"There was no draw, no consumer pull...I looked at the brands out there and none were appealing," he said. So he started building a brand with personality and pushed the idea of selling a lifestyle - The King of Good Times was born.

He did admit that there was a fair bit of luck involved as well, unknown to him at the time was the fact that India had a young demographic and every year millions of Indians reached a drinking age.

To support his idea of selling the Kingfisher lifestyle, the beer became, and still is, a force supporting the local fashion industry. From there, Mallya moved the brand into the direction of sports sponsorships. In India, cricket is a religion but Mallya hardly had the money nor burning desire to sponsor the Indian national team. Instead he went with the West Indian cricket team which according to him was "a better brand fit". The West Indians are known to 'have a good time' on and off the pitch it seems. At the 1995 World Cup, going against his team of marketers who told him that sponsoring the West Indian cricket team (who are more than decent side on the pitch) was a bad idea especially if India were drawn as opponents, Kingfisher sponsored the West Indians. In that same year, Kingfisher became internationally known when the brand sponsored the Benetton F1 team.

Then when Kingfisher asked consumers to choose the name for its new airlines, the vote overwhelmingly swang for Kingfisher to be the name of the airlines. The brand that was born as a beer but pushed as a lifestyle was deemed good enough by consumers for it to seamlessly become an airline brand.

"You won't see consumers naming a plane Heineken," he said.

To make this long story short, the Kingfisher airline brand lived up to the brand promises the lager version was built on - experiencing the good times. The airlines became the first in India to offer personal video screen entertainment to all passengers because "Indians love entertainment". When the competition jumped on the bandwagon, Mallya upped the services to offer 'live' entertainment on the flights - meaning passengers could keep track of the stock market while watching CNBC live or watch the criket live as well.

Anyways this is part of the story on how Mallya became known as The King of Good Times, something he has grown fonder of over the years.

"There's no harm in being a cheap and cheerful brand ambassador rather than paying some Bollywood star to be one," he said.

Mallya went on to talk about more of the brands under his company's umbrella but before i wrap up, let me leave you with some more quotes from him which give an insight into his definition about branding.

"We must talk to the brand. The brand must talk back. There has to be a debate. It can't be a one way traffic where the marketer or creative director decides, no this is the colour for this and this is the something for that. I've seen many make this mistake. Branding is sacred. We brand every brand in our umbrella. We know that in India consumers in the North-East are different from the North or the South for example. We have to tweak our message to fit each market," he said.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New Post: "Because you're worth it"

“Once upon a time a little-set-up was bought over by the Big Daddy .The owners of the little-set-up retired in comfort and lived happily ever after. The End.”

That’s a fairy tale many little companies wish to hear and it’ll most definitely happen - during bed time, that is, in your dreams. And we know also of many well established ad agencies, little ones in the talks with conglomerates Big Daddies, hoping to get taken up picked up.

Last year we held a marketing peer briefing where we invited Jane Hoban from the Body Shop to speak. One of the topics that was brought forth during the Q&A was the acquisition of the UK company by French cosmetics giant L’Oreal.

Hogan gamely replied that it has not affected the values of the company and in fact Body Shop has been trying hard to influence L’Oreal’s policies internally and that its delay in hitting the booming China market was due to - the non-conformity of the motherland’s policies with its own on not testing with animals.

Say no to animal cruelty

Fair enough. Good try.

A few days later I met up with a lady that was familiar with the Mag’s peer briefings because she had been to a couple previously. I asked her about her non-attendance this time and she replied, “After the acquisition, I don’t think I can stand alongside their values any longer.”

So herein lies the question do mergers and acquisitions necessarily work for brands? For any company you wish to create a connect with your target audience. But what if you do well and agree to a merger or nod your heads at being acquired?

Like Lonely Planet to BBC, Hallmark to CNBC, You-Tube to Google, Reebok to Adidas.. and now possibly Yahoo with “the-highest-bidder-wins”.

Have they or will they fare well?

Some are too premature and will need a longer incubation period to see the effects but its seems to be that if you’re the one being eaten, you will insist that nothing will change and it will be for the better. However slowly but surely, intrinsically you’ll start to lose your identity till perfect merger occurs and you’ll be remembered only with a wistful smile and a wave of the hand as your past-fans wax lyrical about your glorified past.

Well I suppose if Body Shop did ask L’Oreal for a comment on a merger they’d probably answer,

"Because you're worth it"

652 million pounds that is.

But as a marketer or even as a consumer… how do you feel when your pal seems to have sold out and moved on to the darker side? Share with us your thoughts.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Mamma Mia!

Some might call this clever, others might call this distasteful – whatever you call it, it certainly gets the eyeballs, practically grabbing them out of their sockets in disbelief as you scream OMG! and point at the pizza box that once contained a yummy tasting Italian treat.

Adrants turned me on to this, shall we say, unique pizza box advertisement. As you can see from the following images, the ad for an extermination company is placed under the pizza so the consumer doesn’t see it until he’s finished with the meal. I think i've seen something similar to this before though but it's still worth a look..

Mamma Mia indeed!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Stand up for the champions

As a proud Manchester United fan, I was left shell shocked by the manner of our 2-1 derby defeat to Citeh – on the 50th anniversary of the Munich Air crash no less – but our local rivals were not the only winners that afternoon as the ‘sponsor-less’ commemorative jerseys worn by the United players seemed to magically spell out AIG every time I looked.

AIG paid in the millions to get their logo on Man U’s jerseys but if brand awareness could be considered the end all and be all of ROI then it was well worth it. As much as I hate how modern football jerseys look these days (with the huge logos of sponsors plastered all over the place), I have grown accustom to it – and the absence of it in Sunday night’s match kept reminding me that something was missing. It seems in my mind that AIG and the English champions go hand in hand – not a bad association to have for a brand. Too bad we played so badly!

Of course I know if I lived in the red half of Manchester then I would be amongst the minority to think so positively about AIG because of events leading up the match. A lot of fans were non-to-happy that AIG managed to get their logo onto a tribute graphic outside of Old Trafford.

Here’s what a Manchester United blog called Red Rants had to say about the whole incident.

I can’t help but cringe at the shallowness underneath it all that’s somehow made it up through the corridors of power that inhabit Old Trafford these days.

Doesn’t the appearance of the AIG logo stink? They got the shirt deal and all that. But it has been made clear everywhere that no one should be allowed to make any commercial gains from the Munich tribute. It is a tragedy that is meant to be beyond petty advertising and attention crabbing whores. It is for the families/players affected by the tragedy and for the fans.

And this is why the presence of the AIG logo, however inconspicuous they intend to make it look, concerns me. It shows a total lack of understanding on not just the part of the owners; we really don’t expect them to know too much, do we? But it is appalling that people like David Gill, who do have some say and understanding of the sentiments of fans, seem to have ignored this detail.

And not just that. How could they even get the words of United Calypso wrong? It’s okay if it was a typist rattling away on his keyboard trying to meet some article deadline. But in full blown panels that occupy the East Stand facade of OT that’s just unforgivable, and terribly negligent. It would certainly be grating for fans entering the premises.

Oh well AIG, I guess you can’t win ‘em all.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The day after…

This year’s Super Bowl provided plenty of drama even without any wardrobe malfunctions. Something like 40 ads were aired that day, all of them watched, not all of them remembered. Which ones did you love, hate or just thought were weird.

The ones I liked and why…

I have to say that as a beginner to the madness that is Super Bowl ads, I was expecting a lot of highly creative work – the cream of American creativity I expected. What I did find was more like the cream of American slapstick humour which I have been desensitised too. That being said, here’s my Super Bowl top 5: -

1) E-Trade ‘baby’ ads – a talking baby giving you financial advice with a funny twist at the end. It’s good because the message is not lost on the humour and you will definitely remember the ad.

2) Pepsi’s Timberlake ad – seeing Justin Timberlake getting thrown around would make anyone smile. But the ad also effectively gets a simple message across – every sip gets you closer to Justin Timberlake mp3s, etc….” Watch for the crotch shot towards the end!

3) T-Mobile’s ‘Hi Chuck’ ad – maybe it’s the fact that I have been a basketball fan since the days of Sir Charles Barkley or Chuck, but I just thought this ad was great. Having him put up-and-comer Dwayne Wade into his T-Mobile’s fave five function showcases the product in a funny but believable light.

4) Audi’s ‘Hood’ ad – spoofing all-time great scenes from famous movies can be a no-no but here Audi is able to tap on the Godfather reference and connect with its target audience.

5) Go Daddy Danica’s exposure ad – this spot didn’t run on Super Bowl because it was rejected for being too crude. But they ran a spot directing viewers to its site where they hosted the ad. It’s funny as hell but you still get the message in the end.

So 97.5 million viewers saw the New York Giants' last-minute win over the New England Patriots making it the most-watched Super Bowl ever and second biggest event in American television history. And it has proven once again to be a TV event where just as many people watch the ads as they do the program.

Of course there were plenty of crap ads out there and to keep this post short I wont go into them – please feel free to comment on which ones you hated though – one thing that was interesting about this year’s Super Bowl was that it featured only one beer ad and four for either soft drinks or flavored water.