I am currently conducting sessions on ‘Introduction to Marketing’ at ITM for the Executive MBA course. The PPT’s below are the slides I have used there.
Credits: I have borrowed content and concepts from Marketing Gurus. I have collated the thoughts, added some of my own and have put together these slides for the sake of the classroom sessions. Thanks to all the Marketing gurus who have taught me and still continue to teach me.
Why do FMCG companies survive every single downturn and come out on top? Is it purely because an average consumer cannot ‘NOT buy toothpaste’ but can cut down on his eating out?
A simple question, which has a very complex underlying principle behind it!
That actually leads to the second question: Have today’s corporations understood the fundamental difference between Production concept & Marketing Concept?
For the uninitiated, Production Concept is ‘You can have any colour you want so long as it is black’. The classic line from Mr. Ford when he rolled out his assembly line Model T. We have progressed far beyond that to have product teams which will gauge the consumer requirement and comes out with products which will suit the customer ‘best’ without rocking the apple cart too much on the assembly line. Simply put, marketing concept has customer inputs in terms of needs and plugs them with offerings.
So what is the reason for today’s perils? Especially the ones of the economic kind?
The last few decades have seen the emergence of a key entity in every corporation. Finance! With this function at the helm, every organization is focusing more and more on investors, investor relations and shareholder value. Great idea! But somewhere this strikes an imbalance (at least in my mind) with respect to the raison d’etre of a ‘going concern’. Agreed everyone is in business to make money. But money doesn’t grow in trees. And for all those who thought it did, we have the results to see. Bad loans! Bad loans packaged as assets and sold to some unsuspecting customers (investors)! Asset (even if non-existent) re-packaged and sold to insurance companies and voila! No asset! No investor! No value! Just jingle mails and worldwide economic downturn. (Though this sounds like a ‘rare emotional outburst’, I believe there is a grain of truth in the above paragraph)
Going back to the question about Marketing & Production concept, I believe a sweeping generalization would point to a simple ‘No’. Here’s why!
So long as an organization is looking at only the books and not the consumer, peril is staring from right behind their necks.
You can make cars, toothpastes, gold ornaments, provide mobile telephony or stitch footwear on the road. Customer comes first. LUMP IT! No two ways about it. If you are worried only about your books and your investors, you can find a good chef, cook them fine and then count bars. Be my guest! In the same vein, FMCG firms, which focus more on the fundamentals of the marketing concept – of looking at the customer – is the real ‘going concern’ and have always been the bell weather stock of every single market in the world.
Complexity of offerings
The man on the road is a simple guy. More complex your offering to understand and more difficult the usability, less successful your product / offering is. This is very typical of many industries of today. Again FMCG scores here. There will always be the ‘vanilla’ offering which is the chasis for products, product extensions and brand extensions. But the offering is very simple. A toothpaste is a toothpaste is a toothpaste. Though the paste becomes a gel handling an ‘inherent need’ to provide freshness, the fundamental job is to keep the dental combination clean. Simplicity is key! And it comes only from a customer facing function. Not that looks internally.
Broadening the pie
Looking internally narrows the focus of the organization. Remember the footwear soldiers who were sent to an island where no one wears footwear story? Though it is meant to change the mindset of the sales guy, here’s my take on it. The company that will send the man to the island with no footwear habit is looking at the customer. The one who is bothered only about their books will probably look at it as an expense.
Any corporation which looks at growing, must grow the size of the pie, unless you want to run into ‘competition commission’ and its equivalents. Agreed that it costs, but is it a cost really? Aren’t they investments, which will reap returns later? Agreed, one needs to be prudent with investments, but if there is only production concept, then such requirements of capital would be considered costs and if there is a marketing concept prevalent in a corporation, such an investment would either prove to be worthwhile or leave a failed marketer.
If you disagree, let’s have a friendly chat!
Looking beyond this (and probably the next) quarter
Marketing concept also widens your scope of time. An organization that looks internally ends up looking no further than this quarter or the next. Best case, the end of the year for the sake of annual reports and P&L statements. Organizations where the marketing function rules roost, ends up surviving longer than the ones which look at the books and no beyond! Coke, Levers, P&G and closer home, the Tatas & Birlas and someone from my home state, Sundarams. They have survived the test of time and have remained sustainably profitable over prolonged periods despite the many setbacks purely because they have taken ample care of their customers. They may have had rough patches, but have always been able to get back on feet like the Incredible Hulk, dusting themselves off to see another day, month, year, decade et al.
Does this mean that they don’t show profits every quarter? No way! They do. They may not show as much as the top profitable company in that quarter. But they are predictable. Slow, but certainly sure. Haven’t we read the rabbit & tortoise story folks?
So where do we look when we need solutions? Internally or externally? Who runs an organisation? What are the priorities?
It may not be the panacea for all ails that our world is facing today. Starting from large corporations to small ones, the fundamental thought should be at looking at customer needs. And so long as that is maintained, which will be from customer facing entities like Sales & Marketing, Customer Services & Products functions, the performance of the organization in the longer run will more often than not be met with success.
So a quick question to all the CEOs.
While Sales by virtue of being a revenue function has its share of the limelight, do you still consider Marketing & Customer Services to be a support function?
It is heartening to see that recruiters pore through piles of resumes to come up with that brilliant match of what the functional head has in mind.
I want 15 years of relevant experience in Oil & Gas Industry of which, preferably 5 years in senior management position
It is understandable if such a requirement is for specific function. Say, Medical Researcher. I can’t think of a medical research professional getting into the construction industry. Similarly, a fund manager will be a fund manager and the number of industries that would require a fund manager would probably be a handful.
But functions like HR? Sales? Marketing? Finance? I think it is time to wake up and smell the coffee!
By getting people only from within the industry for generic functions, India Inc is only making goats out of idiots. A professional who has done the same job for 15 years would not come to your organisation and create wonders! He will probably, purely by virtue of having been in a different organisations, bring in some process changes at best! That’s it.
For example, a marketing professional with loads of experience in the logistics industry (courier services), can bring in phenomenal amount of knowledge in FMCG or consumer durables. He (pardon me being ‘male chauvenistic’. It is easier to think this way!) would’ve seen completely different points of view which can be put to great use in Durables. After all, we are talking of a country which specializes in ‘jugaad’ and uses washing machines to make lassi. The key here is, ‘the consumer is the same and the wallet that each industry is fighting for has limited money and the fight is pretty much in the open’.
This is true even in some B2B companies. Guys selling oil machinery will not be recruited by a company that makes OEM engines for cooling towers! They would want ‘relevant experience’! Let’s face it! What they want is the pie from competition. No one seems to be interested in increasing the size of the pie!
By getting sales professionals from within the industry, the contacts will come along of course. But that would mean that you are just poaching business from competition and not getting new customers to your existing base or not even thinking of new things to do within or outside the existing business. While competitive information / contacts is important, it would prove to be a ‘short-term’ solution but would wither away in a few years time!
By doing this, the human mind gets tuned to think and do the same thing over and over again which leads to lack of great product ideas / creative ideas / solutions not coming out from many industries.
For example; a marketing professional has to understand the industry, gain working knowledge about the industry, understand the consumer and use his / her existing marketing skills to good use! Voila! Very similar for Finance professionals too. They need to understand the industry and the tricks of the trade will come with the understanding of the trade.
The search for ‘Relevant experience’ is an easy way out which will only create hordes of pigeons. Same set of people circulating within the industry is safe, but may not lead to progress. Radical ideas come from people who are from outside the industry. There are a few names that are passionate about an industry and have re-invented it over and over again. But great ideas have come from people who have jumped industries too. David Ogilvy for one! He was a kitchen equipment salesman. He turned around to become the biggest name in advertising!
I find this to be a very ‘Asian’ phenomenon. I know of European & American friends who have studied legal and are working in a financial services company in IT department. As bizaare as it may sound, they seem to have found their calling in a different industry in a different role. But in Asia, we would settle for nothing less than pigeons.
I am reminded of this great song… (A different situation, but similar perspective)
How long will our industry keep our eyes, ears and mind closed towards attracting new talent into our industries?
Patient: Doctor! I have severe toothache Doctor: Which one? P: Molars, incisors, canines. The whole thing! D: Ah! I can only treat you for your right molar. For the left you have to meet Dr. Blahblah, for the incisors you should meet Dr. Blublu
Aren’t we living in the age of specialists? I won’t be surprised when the above conversation becomes a reality. May be it already is!
Ok! What does all this have to do in a Marketing / Advertising / Communications site?
A seemingly innocuous tweet a few days ago by Mubin Khan triggered a small conversation and hence this post. The conversation is here and had participation from some senior industry professionals.
Conversation on Twitter
My two cents! Marketers are dogged by few issues:
The job of a marketer is not just handling communications. They have many other issues which are unique to each industry.
The job of ‘integrated communications’ which was once given to ‘one consultant’ has now become fragmented
The few who can afford to be and still are integrated communications consultants are too big for many marketers to afford.
What does this lead to?
Marketers are trying to ‘in-source’ many of the activities and are trying to handle the ‘single message’ by pulling strings with many specialists.
In the process, marketers tend to spend a lot of bandwidth trying to keep the one-ness of the communication pieces and find themselves at unease in handling the other pieces required for organisation growth
Specialists come armed with ‘specific knowledge’ which probably is best for that particular vehicle (say SEM / SEO) and almost thrust it down the marketer’s throat leading to further fragmentation of communication.
It is true that we need to have specialists who know more and more of less and less. But there is something called the overall health, which is always at the doorstep of peril. In the process of treating the right molar, the overall health of the patient shall not get compromised. We are heading there, pretty much!
When computing started, there was a central processor and thin / dumb clients. With the PC revolution, we had ‘intelligence’ transferred to the computer you were working on. The central servers retained / enhanced their intelligence, but were of limited use. And today is the age of cloud computing! Although the intelligence has now been distributed to the servers, the clients and the entire network, but still we operate from a client – a single window. At one level, it looks like we’ve come a full circle.
Maybe that’s something the advertising industry needs to learn from! It is great to have intelligence distributed and specialised across various media vehicles and marketing tools. But agencies (I’d rather use the term consultant-executors) must be willing to provide a single window to operate from. Any solution that is required can be achieved from the same window.
Even if there are specialist agencies as separate entities, the services can still be offered under a single banner. This would ensure that ‘Integrated Communications’ is achieved without taxing the marketer’s bandwidth. That’s precisely what the agencies of the 90s used to do. The marketers loved it!
Few agencies have taken to that direction, but the problem is ‘it is few’.
Going a full circle and providing a single window for integrated marketing communications would certainly bring back the friendly neighbourhood marketer’s love.
An erstwhile ‘Grade II Obese’ man is now within the ‘normal weight range’, thanks (not just) to Twitter.
Ok. What is the connection between an Obese Man having reduced to ‘normal weight range’ and social media? Little do we realise the power of community building, cause marketing, social media and a huge mash up of all these three! Here goes the story!
Big Loser #bglsr
Around February 2011, a gentleman who goes by the twitter handle @b50 and is a twitter celebrity of sorts, probably felt that he had to lose weight and required motivation and started a movement called Big Loser (Twitter hashtag #bglsr). It is a movement where one sponsors another for weight-loss. By sponsor, it means that the person who sponsors will pay a pre-decided amount (say Rs.10) for every kilo of weight lost by the person who is being sponsored.
On February 1, 2012, the first edition of #bglsr closed with 28 contributors donating over Rs.1 lakh for a charity. Impressive because some donations came from people who have never met each other before!
The Social Media angle
The entire movement in my eyes is an awesome Marketing effort. Knowingly or unknowingly, the Big Loser movement seems to have touched every nerve with the right pressure and has built an online community only through social media!
There was a purpose. A purpose that everyone could identify themselves with! Healthy living married with charity. This is almost like Lagaan which mashed up Love, patriotism & cricket! Couldn’t get any better. Having identified the purpose and having put it out in the open, the role that the community builder (@b50 & his gang @chhavi, @sashg & @aalaap) had to play was just to channelize the energy. Regular offline meetings / tweet-ups were held and each person amongst the coordinators had a distinct role to play. And the best part was the role that each participant had to play. They all knew their roles and it was sufficiently made clear… only through twitter and the website built for this purpose (www.bigloserindia.com).
Participants were motivated to update their data online. An application to track how much weight has been lost was built and could be accessed through Twitter credentials.
At its peak, the number of participants soared beyond thousands and averaged about 4-5 tweets every second carrying the #bglsr tag. People started tweeting about their morning walks and hash tagged #bglsr. The momentum was achieved. Spiralled / Viralled whatever you call it, what started as a germ of a thought had become a community movement and had followings from across the world.
A key point to be noted is that the only offline support that this movement received was through the bit of press coverage that they had. What was impressive is the fact that they got coverage from Forbes apart from Hindustan Times, DNA & Mumbai Mirror!
A tally of Rs.104,750/- as donations to charities designated by the organisers.
Some people who ‘sponsored’ haven’t met the people they were sponsoring. Either there was a sense of belief on the amount of weight lost or they just went by images of ‘before & after’. This was a strong message in terms of community building. The belief that was blindly placed on the ‘bigloser’ was nothing less than awesome.
A successful community which is now on its way to starting ‘season 2’ a la the TV series’ of now.
Clear vision on the events, sub-events, groups, the roles that each one had to play and a meaningful purpose that needs to be chased!
As @b50 says, “We didn’t have to monitor the number of people who joined the movement. The usage of the hashtag wasn’t restricted and was free flowing. But what mattered was the result. Healthy people and a healthy amount to support a good cause!”
Warning: Long post. Very close to my heart and hence…
By this time everyone who had anything to say must have already said it. In this quick-fire world, people tweet their entire blog posts / thoughts as 140 characters. I didn’t participate much in such discussions, but I still have a few things to say. I think I should’ve been quicker, but hey! Better now than never! This is not someone’s wedding that I shall speak up in the stipulated time or hold my peace!
Yes, I am talking about the ToI Vs Hindu fight which is all over the place now!
First, a bit of history.
The Hindu has been having its own struggles for quite a while. Having handled the some brands from that stable (albeit briefly), I believe that they had way too many issues to fight against and TOI was not even in the radar then. Back then, people used to read Hindu publications to improve their English. Many a south Indian has been able to manage cracking CAT and other related exams by reading Hindu editorials apart from their other reading material. Hindu held the pride of place there. Over time, with the advent of technology, the human laziness crept in somewhere. Hindu was at one point filled with spelling errors, grammatical blunders and what not! But the paper still had some integrity left in it. Although at some point it became a bit of anti-establishment, some point it became a Congress stooge. At least, that was the impression that I was left with. With the brand pretty close to my heart, I did feel a bit odd when my own intellect questioned a lot of stuff from The Hindu press.
Things got worse with the family linen being washed in public. Between N Ram, Malini Parthasarathy & the entire editorial board there was a huge family problem which was very publicly fought. The worst part was the open letters by the members of the board which got published in all rival newspapers. Open letters got a new meaning altogether!
Editorial instability, lack of direction, family feud dogged The Hindu. No amount of fresh ‘layout’ changes could help. After all, the content started taking a beating. The Hindu is a serious newspaper and is supposed to remain so. That was its strength. And that was a strength which was losing its power with all the hullaballoo around the senior management & family.
But The Hindu is a tradition. Coffee & this newspaper is a must combination for all locations where the paper was available and given a choice, I would go back to it even today. Sadly, The Hindu doesn’t publish in Mumbai. And even if it did, would it have the same charm? I don’t have the answer.
TOI is not a serious newspaper. At least in my mind! It is a frivolous, bordering on yellow journalism kind of a publication. Front page news yesterday was ‘Bus Driver mowing down people’ replete with pictures. The paper thrives on scams, death & bollywood.
While it is true that Scams are important to be highlighted, deaths to be announced & Bollywood to be covered, the publication lacks the editorial strength. The Op-ed pieces there are good, but somewhere the line of seriousness is always crossed. Breaking News is key!
Can it be blamed? Chicken & egg story. They will claim that they provide what is read by the man on the road. If Bollywood claims it, we can pardon it. But a newspaper cannot do that. My opinion of course!
And when TOI entered the Madras market, they tried to change the culture. Page 3 happened. I never knew till TOI & DC entered the Madras market that such low neckline, short skirt, LBD toting PYTs roam around the streets of Chennai till these papers started publishing pictures of them in big sizes!
I read somewhere that you can win over a country not by wars, but by infiltrating (read polluting) their culture. TOI & DC did exactly that in my opinion. Hindu’s page 3 was about the city. I think it still is. The page 3 used to cover information about the city, changes happening, things of value and things that matter. Boring shit it was. TOI and DC made it glamorous. Partly visible bosoms, neatly waxed legs, funky jewelery! Whoa! Tamilians buy gold jewelery. Seriously! Oxidised Silver was made fashion by these papers! There obviously was a clash of sensibilities.
Hindu still sells largest in TN. South Indians are boring people. They believe in smaller scams which are not of national interest. Worried more about Mullaiperiyar than Chikni Chameli and Hrithik Roshan’s shaved chest (Do South Indian men shave their bodies?). And more worried about their exams (or their ward’s exams) than the name of Beti B.
TOI called it boring. TOI called it yawn worthy. TOI called it sleepy! And how!
Sleeping Lion woke up. After nearly 2 months. War footing for Hindu is 2 months of time! They didn’t do it quickly. They made TOI spend all their money and then came up with this campaign.
Now folks here are my two cents.
a. TOI & DC cater to a different market. Not the serious ‘news’ reader. They believe in volumes and started a price war by selling a year’s subscription for 99 bucks. Everyone bought it because one month’s newspaper at the raddhiwala will fetch Rs.8/9 per kilo. Good investment. Their news was also of that kind. With a pinch of salt, the average householder let the paper enter his household. Period.
b. Hindu didn’t reduce the rates. Held on and still holding on. Of course, they need to really whip up their editorial team and screw the s&*% out of them to get a good newspaper going. But they cater to serious newsreaders. Hindu WAS the opinion maker in the south. They need to get that position back if they need to be in serious business.
c. The campaign from both is frivolous. TOI poked fun at a serious newspaper calling it boring. Hindu responded with a ‘screw you’ kind of campaign by calling TOI what they are… frivolous. Tit for tat! As an aside TOI’s launch campaign was also frivolous. Day in life of Chennai was replete with films, fist fights, water fights and a folk song based on a film song. JWT (and Senthil) won awards and accolades, but little did they realize that they were setting the tone albeit unconsciously for the future. And this was just one of those occasions when the big brother of Chennai publishing industry tapped on the head and said ‘shut up’.
d. You can’t change TOI. The Hindu should not change from its ‘old’. The last few years are but a blip in a tradition which The Hindu should remember and hold on to. Else the brand will face a slow but eventual death.
e. Fond hope that the new CEO Arun Anant would bring in some change. He has a huge challenge in hand. Feuding family, bad ‘recent’ history, outgoing strongman, new editorial board being called ‘inexperienced’ very publicly by family members. Feces has already hit the roof. Clean-up is not going to be easy. I sincerely hope he is given a free hand to take things to a logical direction.
Just a couple of points about the TOI Vs Hindu campaigns
1. TOI took a bold step. To call seriousness a.k.a boring the way they did. Very cheeky. Appreciable campaign and ran it for quite a while in the TN markets. Good media usage and viral potential which was also exploited well.
2. However, biased as it may sound, I liked the Hindu campaign very well. To hit where it hurts most. The readers. The Hindu campaign did show some steel by calling the bluff on the reader rather than on the newspaper. To call them ‘dumb’ requires a lot of guts. To say ‘Read the other newspapers and you will also become dumb’ is not an easy task.
I remember seeing home videos of American idiots who didn’t know the difference between Iran or Pakistan, Sikhs or Muslims, couldn’t point Washington in their own map, but wanted to bomb Iran because they have WMD. Because Bush said so!
The Hindu campaign is a great take-off from there and I guess puts the message across not so softly or subtly!
After all, all is fair in love and war. There obviously is no love here
Here are the slides for my classroom lecture sessions at ITM on Marketing Strategy – sessions 4 & 5. These slides cover Place / Distribution strategies, logistics, BCG & GE Matrices & PLC strategies. Do share your comments & thoughts. Thanks to all the researchers for helping me with this class sessions. Great learning for me & enjoying it every moment. The next 3 sessions are case study tear-aparts. Will be fun going through them too!
Christmas day was not a holiday. The third session of two lectures at ITM, Mumbai on Marketing Strategy was on Sunday, 25-December-2011. Topics included Pricing Strategies, Promotion Strategies and Marketing Warfare. Thanks to SlideShare, the PPT is available for view / download. Thanks to all the researchers, this presentation was possible. Please share your comments / views.
I have just about started taking classes for a batch of Executive MBA students in Mumbai. The course would be over 6 sessions and today was the first session.
I had covered ‘Introduction to Marketing Strategy’ and ‘STP – Segmentation, Targeting & Positioning’.
Uploading the presentation here. Hope you find it useful.
Thanks to McGraw Hill. They were kind enough to give me access to the instructor’s module of their text book.
Marketing Strategy by Walker, Mullins, Boyd, Larreche.
I have also borrowed liberally from Mr. Kotler
After all, isn’t he still the first word in Marketing?
Here’s the presentation. I will upload each of my sessions subsequently. As and when it happens.