Sunday, August 30, 2009

Emergency Contraceptive Pills , are they being marketed too well???

The topic which I will touch upon today is something which marketers would generally avoid discussing .... the ethical angle in marketing. We one could also call it the dark side of marketing .....

Marketing is very powerful and quoting what was told to spiderman "With great power comes great responsibility" :)

We marketers should also be fully aware of the responsibility which comes along with yielding such a powerful force on consumers. The case in point is the aggressive promotion of emergency contraceptive pills which is happening in the country currently.

The fact that they have been made into OTC (over the counter) drugs by which it means that they can be sold without a doctor's prescription and companies can directly communicate to consumers is one which has lead to the issue. The two companies , ipill of Cipla and unwanted-72 by Mankind Pharama ltd are promoting their brands through aggressive ads which can be seen on many TV channels during peak hours and this has lead to....

..a spike in the sale of these pills in many cities across the country, like this report from Lucknow says that there has been a 40% spike in the sales of these pills over the last six months and the increased usage has been seen in the 16-35 age group, report.

There has been a lot of media reports on the side-effects that these pills and how this promotion is increasing the rampant use of the product. This report in Indian express shares the increased and indiscriminate use of these pills by teenagers , report.

There has been public discontent about the content and frequency of these ads too, like this report in times of India tells us, report.

The negative fall-out of this sort of all out ad-campaign would be an indiscriminate use of these pills (seen as a substitute for other means of preventing pregnancy), leading to two other problems, one this could lead to reduced usage of condoms by their partners, increasing the chances of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted disease and the second more complex problem would be the one linked to the continuous usage of these pills leading to long term problems with women in terms disturbed menstrual cycles and problems in conceiving. Though many of the side-effects are mentioned along with the product but .............

Just to reinforce my point , I will quote directly from Marketing Guru Seth Godin's Blog post "Is Marketing Evil?"

"Marketing is beautiful when it persuades people to get a polio vaccine or wash their hands before doing surgery. Marketing is powerful when it sells a product to someone who discovers more joy or more productivity because he bought it.....
Marketing has more reach, with more speed, than it has ever had before. With less money, you can have more impact than anyone could have imagined just ten years ago. The question, one I hope you'll ask yourself, is what are you going to do with that impact?

........Just because you can market something doesn't mean you should."

This debate can be extended to the sale of many products like cigarettes, liquor, fairness creams and cola drinks. But maybe somewhere we should be able to a line ???? Not sure if many of you would agree with this line of thought..............

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Changes in Indian Ad Sphere- Tata Tea, CondomCondom and Anil Ambani Group's Media Campaign

Typically one sees the role of advertisements in persuading the consumer to buy a product or a service, but this, though a dominant view is in many ways a limited view also, because the advertisements is a form of communication which can be used to even to promote an idea or just inform people and we can see many examples of this in the Indian market today.

Most of what we see on TV sets today falls into the pure-selling end of the spectrum and the obvious is not what would interest people, but here are the exceptions ....

In the recent past we have seen ads being used to promote ideas and inducing change in habits like the one on usage of condom , by BBC world service trust . I had written earlier about the campaign too (link) and the website also shares the impact of the ads, quite an interesting read, link . Similarly there is the Bell Bajao Campaign against domestic violence.

The recent campaigns of Tata tea "Jaagoo Re Campaign" falls somewhere in between the pure-selling and 100% philanthropy. They have a series of ads, which started with issue of increasing awareness among youth towards voting, to the latest one against corruption in the country. Now though these campaigns are not directly about the tea, but the product also makes an entry into the ad, though at a later stage.

The third category of ads, like the one being used by the Anil Ambani Group, where they have made use of large press ads to question the issue of costs involved in developing Krishna Godawari (KG) gas basin by RIL. Through these ads they are trying to share their side of the story with the common man and somehow also bring him into the equation. These kinds of campaigns have been done in the past , when companies have felt the need to share their perspective with common man, as was done by the Private Airline operators in the country some time back.

Though these kind of ads form a very small part of the ad world but I think they show the versatility of the purpose of advertisements.....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Regional Brands in India gaining over the larger brands??

In many product categories one can see the emergence of very strong regional brands at the number two or three slots. In last decade or so we have seen these regional players taking the fight to the more experienced marketing companies. These small and medium brands have been giving sleepless nights to their multinational counter parts , be it a Cavinkare or Jyothi laboratories in the south , or a Ghadi detergent in UP or Wagh Bakri tea in the west . The sluggishness of slowdown only adds to the growth of these smaller players.

The thought was actually triggered by the recent success achieved by santoor in becoming the number three player in the highly competitive soap market, though even Godrej's No1 is also claiming the number three slot in the market according to some reports. A recent report also shows that HUL has been losing market share in the shampoo market to companies like Dabur. And from almost nowhere Anchor toothpaste has also emerged as the number three player in the highly competitive toothpaste market which has deeply entrenched players like colgate...

Other strong regional brands are,Ahmedabad-based Paras Pharmaceuticals, North-based Surya foods with its Priya brand of biscuits, Emani.....

India in my understanding would predominantly be a market of regional brands, because the regional differences within the markets is too great to be catered to by a single national brand, though the phenomenon is yet to manifest itself fully due to the lack of economies of scale at these levels, but in the future as these regional markets mature so would brands catering to them.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Social Media, A Good Video

For most of us who believe in social media the video is a reinforcement , but there are obviously a huge number which still would like to believe it is a fad or a bubble(for more on the debate check out the comments on the video on youtube, comments).

In India we are still a few years behind, so maybe it gives us a glimpse how the future would be has been indicated by the TCS web 2.0 survey...

Saw the video on John Battelle's blog...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Negative fall-outs of technology

I think most if us have a difficulty in appreciating, both negative as well as positive sides of a given situation, if we are positive then it will be all positive and the same other way...

I realised this yesterday when I was talking to group of senior Bank officials of a reputed bank. They were lamenting the fact that though there are many benefits from technology like core-banking and computerisation and the customer has gained enormous amount of convenience because of the advent of ATMs and net banking , this according to them is happening at a cost. The cost is the loss of one-to-one interaction with the customer. To quote what one of the senior managers said "Today a customer can close an account at the click of a button and I might come to know about it much later". In the earlier days, if the customer wanted to close the account he would have come to the branch and spend time , and thus providing a opportunity for the banker to retain the customer. And maybe in a situation of close personal interaction chances of one identifying and solving a problem at much ealier stage is much easier.

This is not the first time that I hearing such a fear being expressed, this was also said by senior railway officials about the increasing acceptance of Internet based ticketing.

This concern is mainly from the organization's end , which fears that technology might over a period of time convert their customers into mere numbers, but on the other end many customers are becoming uneasy with this lack of human interaction. Maybe this is one the reasons why many erstwhile pure-play companies like and are coming up with physical offices and interaction point where one can go a actually talk to a person....

Monday, August 17, 2009

Twitter Updates 17.08.09

Friday, August 14, 2009

Swine Flu, Festival Season and Indian Market

This year's festival season is going to be a tough one for companies which bank on it for a large chunk of their sales . This includes the durable and automobile companies. The festival season starts early with Onam and Ganesha festival in early September. This year there are multitude of factors which are impacting the festive mood of consumers, one obviously is the slowdown and bad monsoons, combined with these two is the latest - Swine Flu . Mumbai and Pune have already seen a drop in restaurant sales and Malls seeing a drop of upto 50% in walk ins and sales. A few cartoons and hoardings which I have seen in the last few days which sort of sums up the mood of the nation,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Sale Occasion - Independence Day

Over the last few years we seem to have developed a mini-discount season during Independence day period. I think the credit for identifying this as a occasion for sale should go to the Future Group's Big Bazaar which decided to use the occasion to organize sale during this period a few years back. Now other have caught-up with the idea so much so that even local retailers have also started their own sales during this period.

A Shopping bonanza for consumer and the fact that it does not revolve around something alien to us like, Mother's Day or Father's Day...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Monsoons and the Indian Market

Monsoons is a reality of Indian market, a good proportion of the growth of the Indian economy is still dependent on how adequate the rainfall is across the country. But as with many other things we tend to take the monsoons for granted and it is only when we have a drought hanging over the country that we start talking and discussing about it as is apparent from the recent news items on weak rains and impact on FMCG revival, impact on the stock market ,and the FM lowering the economy's growth to 6 plus from 7%.

The linkage of good monsoons and Indian market is because of another reality which we keep ignoring and about which I have written about earlier also, it is the rural market. link to my earlier posts on rural marketing.

The rural economy is heavily dependent on monsoons and many companies are dependent directly for their sales from the rural markets (more than 50% for FMCG and durables), and with an inadequate monsoons the rural consumption falls and so does their overall sales. There are many more whose sales are indirectly dependent...

And the urban consumers is dependent on the farmer for his of pulses and cereals..... as some one told us that the farmer is a better marketer than his urban counter part as we depend more him for our daily needs than he does on us!!!!! And with sowing down by 20% the prices are bound to climb higher in the coming days with toor dal touching the feared 100/- mark.... the impact would be more pronounced on the monthly budget soon.

The sad part is that we tend to draw up plans to combat the impact of bad monsoons the year we have a problem and when the rains are back to normal the next year we forget and go on with life. This year it is seen as more important as a weak monsoons might extend the slowdown...

Another write-up in NY times of the same issue, link

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Jaipur Block Printing

On our recent trip to Jaipur we had a chance to see the demonstration of block printing in Jaipur - Sangnerie Print.
It is a traditional handmade product and has a huge market in India and abroad. The person here shows how a single
print is done. My search on the net could not find any good websites promoting the handicraft....

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

TCS Generation Web 2.0 Trends

The results of TCS Generation Web 2.0 Trends a nation wide survey covering 12 cities and over 14K kids 12-18 years old is just out. There has been a lot of coverage on the results of the survey, the summary of the findings are there on their website, link.

I thought will try and look at some of the finds and draw out implications for marketers. The survey covered kids from 12-18 , some of whom are already buying products and services but in the next 5-10 years these are the kids who will form the nucleus of the society, so the survey provides good pointers to the marketer on what he should focus on from the communications perspective.

The survey covers four areas, information access, social networking preferences, future education mindset and career interests and youth and technology. I will focus on the first two aspects that is information access and social networking preferences,

The first finding of the survey that google is the most preferred source of information does not come as a surprise, followed by print and TV. Though the trend in mini-metros is still more towards TV , but I think this will change in a very short period of time. Implications galore for all marketers, having a website is not sufficient , ignore SEO marketing techniques at your own risk, presence on google is going to make-or-mar your brand and company.

Internet access through mobile is maximum in Kolkatta (24%), and with mobile becoming indispensable , we would see its usage increasing and mobiles have to integrated into all communication campaigns and the current one-off attempts are not going to be sufficient.

Blogging is also catching up very fast, Bangalore named blogging capital of India with 66% students being part of it. Monitoring of blogs and reactions on them which are being done in the developed market need to replicated in the country, both to understand the consumers and safeguard your interest in the marketplace.

Social networking sites like orkut and facebook are quiet popular, and the question is do you watch the reactions and questions raised by your consumers on the various communities on your brand which have been started by consumers themselves on these sites??

There are many more insights which the report brings out, which should ring a warning bell in the minds of Indian marketers into the future they are walking into, the consumer in 2020 is going to have media consumption habits which are going to be radically different from what we see today....

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Indian Market Through Photos 1

I have thinking about this idea for some time now, got the chance to implement it today. There are many things about our markets which cannot be written on, but a

First two photos are about how water is sold in open plastic packets

Next is the concept of shared-auto

Last is a typical small retailer , even today close to 95% of retail happens through mom-n-pop stores


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