Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Marketing the NGO: How to add the Trust factor to organized philanthropy

A few months back, I ended up giving a small donation to an NGO, which went into the critical care of a child admitted in a local hospital in Bangalore. The NGO had brought detailed documents about the child and credentials from the hospital to establish a sense of confidence and trust when I donated the money. 

Of late, however, I have seen far too many NGOs not taking this critical initiative to establish that trust factor with the customer. They will call from some obscure number from Delhi or some other place. They will have a shoddy looking website with messages that aim more at emotionalizing you than establishing trust or confidence. Above all, there is no mechanism for a donor to cross verify the credentials of the organization from a trust worthy third party.

Governments can play a major role in this. Every NGO which is working towards raising funds for such causes should have a unique number verifiable from a website owned by the Government. Every quarter the financial statements of such organizations should be made available at this website for donors and public to see and verify. 

No brand can survive without Trust and it holds true of even Non Government Organizations as much as corporate brands. Organized philanthropy is still in its nascent stage. A timely Government intervention will pave a way for a great philanthropic nation.    

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Testimonial Marketing: B2C borrows a leaf from B2B Marketing

In the world of Marketing, B2C is like the King of all. Always preaching everyone about all the tricks up its sleeves. Even recruitment of marketing professionals is heavily influenced by FMCG and other B2C segments.

But of late, even the B2C has begun to take a leaf or two from the B2B marketing book. The latest advertisements of Cars where real owners endorse the car are a testimonial to this. But testimonials have been a long relied-upon tool of marketing in the B2B space. Here only the truth sells and fantasy has almost no place. The biggest of such exercises was seen by Maggi Noodles which got its brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan to spend time with real customers and even got their photos printed on their packs.  

Frugal marketing is very popular in B2B and testimonial marketing in B2C is a pointer to the type of marketing practices now being followed by giants. Celebrities are costly and they may not add value if you go wrong with the matching of your brand personality and that of the brand ambassador. But in the case of testimonials, you cannot go wrong with the match, since they are the real customers. Of course, as usual, the story telling and other fundamentals of ad making still hold good.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Google Cloud Marketing: Tackling a Psychological barrier to Cloud Computing Adoption

All the barriers to cloud computing are not merely technology related. Google's video here takes you to a bit of human history and addresses CIOs and CTOs on how human evolution is based on giving up control to get greater control. Watch this video to see how Google does this beautifully using human history and right analogies to drive home the point. Also a great stuff for education institutions on how they can start collaborating from within. I hope the Indian universities are taking note of this.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Review sites and Online Reputation Management: The new SEO Marriage?

No matter what Google does to discourage bad use of Internet, the SEO professionals find a way to circumvent it. After Google Panda and Penguin updates, one was assuming a cleaner and healthier use of the Net. However, the changed algorithm somehow now gives such a heavy weightage to consumer review sites that, many companies are using it as a bait to improve their online reputation.

Sites like mouthshut.com, consumercomplaints.in, complaintsboard.com are now being misused by SEO spammers to improve the online reputation of their clients. Many companies have been able to successfully push the negative remarks about their brands to the 2nd and 3rd pages of Google. They pose like a real customer of the brand and start posting positive comments about the brand, some time in such length and detail that it becomes apparent that it is too good to be true.

This raises a bigger question: have the consumer and product review sites fallen prey to the over enthusiastic SEO professionals? If so, how will they continue to maintain their position in the market as a neutral platform to raise genuine consumer enquiries?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Marketing India to INDIANS: Why FDI is over rated?

Much has been said about bringing FDI to India. Every other rating agency, the economists and advocates of reform keep talking about it. It is as if FDI is synonymous with Reform. There are pitches ( sales pitches!) done to foreign investors and Govt. spends big money organizing investors meet to get FDI flowing in the country. 

However, I hardly hear the same buzz about getting Indians to invest in India. Alright, you may say, where else would the Indians invest, right? Unlike foreign investors, very few Indians have options to invest abroad. Except the top operators like Tatas, Reliance, others hardly invest abroad. But that's not the point. What about millions of Indians who are eager to invest but do not know the way to evaluate opportunities or are afraid of red tapism and the investment climate in general. If we tap into this part of the population, we can easily deal with investment and jobs problem at once.     

That brings us to the idea of "marketing India to Indians". I am not against FDI. However, what we promote ( like the http://www.investindia.gov.in/ ) to foreign investors about investing in India and creates confidence, why can't we do it for Indians as well? There is an urgent need for the Government to create that confidence among the many sleeping tigers of India who have the money and willingness but are neither aware of the opportunities or are afraid of the complexities of getting started.

The Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and his junior counterpart Jyotiraditya Scindia should travel and hold conferences across India making a sales pitch to new investors showing them new opportunities and giving them the means and ways of accomplishing their dreams. This should be complemented with efforts from the States. That would surely take care of the black money also to a certain extent. If we are confident enough to invest in India, then surely the foreigners would be so. Then all the so-called reformists can stop talking about FDI as a single point panacea for investments.   

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Tata Nano Case Study - Missing the Invisible "P"

Tata Nano is now a case study across Business Institutes and Conferences. It's worth taking a look at what went wrong with a car that was threatening to clog the Indian roads.

In short, the marketers at Nano failed to understand their customers. That's a lot to say, given that the group has such hold on marketing and customer orientation. They thought Price ( one of the Ps of Marketing) is going to drive the product. However, what other "P" ( read PERCEPTION) this good old Price "P" is going to create is something that the marketers failed to gauge. Result: an over-hyped  product that fails to understand its TG and ends up delivering a non-desirable product.

Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid is often confused with low cost or low quality products. Contrary to that, people at the bottom of the pyramid have the maximum desire quotient. They are the ones who make the rags-to-riches story. A car is an item of luxury for them and they would not want to compromise with their dreams. Infact Ratan Tata was found saying that the Nano car had got the stigma of "car for the poor". Though personally I think he owes an apology to all the poor people because of this statement, from a marketing point of view, the strategy of making a car for the Aam Aadmi did not work out. The perception of buying less than the desirable created a strong barrier for adoption.

Tata Nano has implications for many a start ups who are now aiming at producing goods and services for the bottom of the pyramid. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why E-Commerce companies need Google Plus One? 4 easy steps to get started

Like it OR Hate it. Google Plus is here to stay. If you value SEO, then its a given that you should value Google Plus for its immediate impact on SERPs.

Instead of ranting on how it has not picked up waves among people, its better to focus on how a marketer in an e-commerce company can make use of it. 4 quick steps would help.

  1. Create a Google Plus page & post regularly. 
  2. Place Google Plus button on your site. It should be placed wherever there is an image and an opportunity for users to plus it. 
  3. Communicate: This is slightly a hard part. As it has not picked up yet among the masses, it is essential to communicate the existence of Google Plus page to your employees ( most of them will have a Gmail ID) with a request to plus the page. 
  4. Spread it everywhere: Place the link of the page on your Twitter account, Facebook page or any other social media community and also on your newsletter. 

Google Plus impacts SERPs in the customized search front. So if I have plused a product, my friend who is looking for a similar product online is likely to see the same on his SERPs. This benefits all e-commerce companies, as peer influence has the strongest influence on buying habits of people. So if you care about SEO, you better get started with Google Plus right away. This is also a boon for budget constrained marketers to get more relevant traffic to the site. The conversion can also be expected to be better as it works like a "recommendation" from a friend.

PS: Ensure the Google Plus page is updated regularly, as an un-updated page looks pretty ugly.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Google Plus gives tough competition to Twitter Brand Page on SERPs

It appears like the new algorithm of Google, the Google Panda, is pretty complex. Companies are experiencing a change in the order of results especially related to Twitter and Google Plus brand pages. Twitter has been around for ages now and Plus is still a kiddo trying hard to climb the ladder of social media acceptance.

But, the SERPs have a different story to tell. Some brands can now see their twitter brand page on the 2nd page of Google SERP whereas a Plus page started merely a few weeks ago ( and updated in-frequently) is suddenly on the 1st page.

This is going to seriously hurt the credibility of Google if it is not rectified. Looks like Google Panda has a long way to go. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sex Education in India: A case of Marketing Revamp for a proper Re-Introduction

If you are still blaming those uncanny politicians for banning sex education in India, think again. The issue has moved beyond realms of biology and moved into the core area of Marketing.

For the uninitiated, let me say a few words about Marketing to set things in perspective. Marketing is the holy grail of Management (or even Governance as in State matters) that aims to meet the needs of the society at any point of time with relevant products, services and ideas.

You must be wondering why I am getting into defining Marketing. This was just to eliminate that ubiquitous feeling among people that marketing is about telling lies and selling more.

Now what has "Sex Education" got to do with Marketing? Lots, to say the least. First of all, Sex Education is a bundle of ideas (product) that has its own target audience living in India. Sex Education was conceived with an idea to educate and thereby protect the interest of children who would develop life skills eventually. Thus Sex Education becomes the product and the school, college & children become the TG ( Target Group).

The Children of Today

Now, comes the tricky part. The syllabus or the content of the Sex Education was totally modeled on the U.S. education system. U.S. as we all know has always nurtured a totally different (and drastic) approach and ethos abut sex. The societal values depict the same.

In U.S., sex education is imparted with an objective to "just" protect children from having an unhealthy sex and lead a sexually satisfactory life.

However, in India, the approach to sex ( though is changing) has always been towards abstinence from sex till marriage. Thus the need of the Indian society from sex education is to propagate this widely held belief that is being imparted from one to the next generation. Children today are already being exposed to a huge media pourings of explicit sexuality. Children today pick up things easy and fast from various sources. However they are not geared up to rightly interpret them. The burden falls on the parents and the teachers.

The Indian Value System: 
As already mentioned, knowing Indian value system and the cultural context plays an important role in devising suitable ways of imparting sex education in India. So Piya Sarcar, the founder and CEO of TeachAIDS, has developed an interactive software to educate children about HIV in a way that's sensitive to the country's cultural mores. ( Ref: Technology Review). She kept a tab on the cultural responses to each and everything that went into her design and measured it against the local cultural ethos to ensure acceptability. As a result, even States who banned sex education have approved and distributed her software. 

This is a perfect case of Marketing gone wrong and right ( by Sorcar) !! There is still a case for re-introducing sex education in India, if the team handling the project does a careful analysis of the needs of Indian society and then carefully positions it in a way that is acceptable to the society. So what can the Govt. do about it? Here is a pointer, 
  • Consult parents, students, child psychiatrists and culture experts before finalizing on the syllabus and its intonation
  • Test these across India for suitability with each and every language and cultural specific requirements
  • Show it to select group of parents, teachers and students to get their feedback and fine tune the syllabus and methods of delivery so it fits into the cultural framework of India
  • Assure all the stakeholders of the care that has been taken this time around and how it will benefit the children. 
In fact, as a first step, the schools and colleges should educate parents with sex education and how they can deal with their children on the subject. This will make parents sensitive to the challenges faced by educators.

Hopefully, we will soon see a re-introduction of the subject in schools with a clear objective delivered within the cultural framework.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Re-Draft SOPA: But Protect Freedom of Expression

At the outset, let me state that I am all in favour of Freedom of Expression whether it is Internet or Offline. However, I do have my reservations on a total opposition to an Act like SOPA ( Stop Online Piracy Act) or similar bills / laws of other countries. 

Even a rented house where a prostitution is going on is liable for penalty. The owner cannot close his eyes and say that he is innocent and cannot control what is happening in the house even if it is illegal. As a principal of the house, he is responsible for what goes on inside the house. Digital Space by contrast is very vast but in principle is pretty similar to a rented house. Each post on FB and Google is a rented space. They cannot keep benefiting from the content and then stay immune from the negative consequences of the content. Today, the bill may have been mooted because one section of the society is affected. The same can happen to any other section and they are bound to feel offended. Freedom of Expression should not be confused with Freedom to Malign. 

SOPA or other Acts aimed at regulating the net are a daring attempt to regulate an almost infinite digital space, by and large considered as almost impossible to regulate. The way citizens have responsibility to live a law abiding life, even netizens have the similar duty and are responsible in creating a congenial atmosphere for a healthy internet. 

Sooner or later, these Internet giants will have to devise smart technological ways of putting an end to illegal or vulgar content on the site. As more and more citizens including children hop on to the net, the policy maker's intention cannot be ignored in its spirit. SOPA should be re-drafted to create a congenial way of dealing with this ever increasing mis-use of the Internet platform. If it happens, I hope the Internet companies will be taken into confidence and the net result will be a consensual and inclusive Bill.