On Marketing : Using the Fan Base

If your business is the kind that could do well with reviews and references from happy customers, what’s stopping you from leveraging it ? If you are a seller of a service that you are proud about and confident about, would you not stand to benefit from your customers letting others know about what you are selling ? What if you incentivise the happy ones to talk about your product and in return pay them in kind or with a discount ? Think about HOW you could do that. Be creative and also pls DO DO be subtle and classy. Don’t over-preach to a zealous choir.

So if you sell fantastic coffee that blows away an fan of coffee and that guy has 452 friends on FaceBook and 321 on LinkedIn and 112 people follow him on twitter , what’s stopping you from telling the guy “Look Tom, every time you talk about us on your network, I am going to give you a free refill buddy. And do it only till you feel we are selling awesome coffee. Stop it when you don’t FEEL it“.

First off, this is a not one of those fake chirpy creeps on Shopping Network Channel, speaking in a patently fake voice about another shitty vegetable dicer. This is a real living breathing fan.

Second, when your accountant/CFO tut-tut’s and tsk-tsk’s you about silly offers like this,tell him this has way better ROI and AUTHENTICITY than sterile print ads that no one really stops to read anymore. This buzz is far more potent.

Third, this does wonders for your own unit’s morale. I mean, come on. You are selling things ppl are FAN of. Have a thing for. Love. Adore. (Think Apple fans). You aren’t just another tree falling in an empty forest. You will be missed when you are gone.

The free refill is only a polite thank you to the fans.

So first make something that is worth being a fan of and about and then make something up to thank them fans for spreading the word.

Cognitive Tricks to be wary of

One of the best upsides to taking time off from work is the opportunity you get to pursue some of your pet passion projects. My current  time off allowed me to do a ‘deep dive’ (I nicked this word off Jack Welch’ Bio) into a subject I really like : Cognitive bias, a fascinating subset of Social psychology.

What a sad terrible waste it was to spend so much time from 7th standard onwards on deep dives in chemistry, physics and biology, learning arcane stuff we never ever got to apply later in life and missing out on learning a branch of science that is both absorbing and can help so much in our day to day life, since much of our adult life is about living and working with other people in a family and office setting .

Think about it this way : Knowing about Persuasion and Negotiation is wayyy more important and useful than Trigonometry. Here is a terrific summary. Warning : you could lose yourself in there for hours. I wish in school I was tested on THIS instead of THIS!

What got me really interested initially was a book I read called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Cialdini. Do yourself a ‘LifeFavor’ and check this awesome post : The Psychology of Persuasion at Psyblog, one of my favorite blogs on the subject.

So on that note, I suggest there are two cognitive biases you should be aware of right damn now while watching the million ads during this World Cup matches! Or titled combatively :

Why you should not believe in celebrity endorsements on TV (esp for beauty products!)

Why you should be aware of the Halo effect (esp when voting in South India!)

The Texas sharpshooter fallacy is a logical fallacy in which information that has no relationship is interpreted or manipulated until it appears to have meaning. The name comes from a joke about a Texan who fires some shots at the side of a barn, then paints a target centered on the biggest cluster of hits and claims to be a ‘sharpshooter’

When the many many actors and actresses from Bollywood or the players from the Indian Cricket team exhort for us to buy their endorsed product they are counting on you to fall very pliantly into the Texas sharpshooter fallacy. Ash selling L’Oreal : “I am awesome because I use  L’Oreal! Girls, You can be too if you use L’Oreal!”, here L’Oreal claiming their models were all gorgeous and luckily happen to now be famous enough to ensorse the brand! Bachan selling ANYTHING  “I am awesome because I use  X! You can be too if you use X India!” Where do I even begin with the Indian cricket team.

The Halo effect is a cognitive bias whereby the perception of one trait (i.e. a characteristic of a person or object) is influenced by the perception of another trait (or several traits) of that person or object. An example would be judging a good-looking person as more intelligent. N. T. Rama Rao, Jayalalithaa and M. G. Ramachandran are classic examples of voters fooled into the Halo effect and assuming since these people were so good and pure and righteous in the movies, they MUST be that in real life PLUS great administrators and so “Here are the keys to the state treasury!” Not a single one of them can claim an untainted and honorable political legacy.  Why are we southiees esp prone to this stupid fallacy ? Is it the excess rice mushing up our brains ? But then the US and Indian Software and IT engine pretty much runs on  South Indian fuel. So to those sniggering that only us gullible southies are prone to this infection I say two names: Ronld Regan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Look at how Arnold messed up California.

While these two cognitive tricks can fool us in innumerable setting I just you want to focus on it from an angle of a Consumer (buyer,voter).

Just Another Customer: Caveat emptor!


Celebrity Endorsements is BS

Celebrity Endorsements are a fraudIt is a lie told to get the consumer to lower skepticism about the product/service.  Is the cola/chips/detergent/shampoo really better than all its competitors ? Is your hair really that lustrous because you really use that shampoo everyday or because you have the genes and a hair posse Ash ?

Have you seen Bachan Senior ? Is there any product category he won’t attach name to ? If you have the cheque I suspect he’ll endorse seal clubbing. Wait. He did. They did. Hrithik Roshan, Sachin Tendulkar and Shahrukh Khan….Remember the Home Trade ‘More’ campaign ? I love the way TimesOfIndia mocked the phenomenon. Genius.

Look I love Bachan. Is there any movie that captured both the angst and zeitgeist like Deewar did? But when you tell me to buy something I know you personally have never really been a fan of (cement!) you aren’t convincing me about the product but you sure are telling me something about YOU and your character with your faked sincerity and enthusiasm. That those two emotions can be purchased because its on sale. How crass.

Cricket and Bollywood have got so into this phenomenon I think its now reached a saturation threshold. I mean does the campaign really standout when the next 5 ads also have the same guy in it? Marketing experts will roll out reams of focus group and related studies showing how it works. How consumers want to identify with the celebrity and how their shampoo helps them get one step closer to that aspiration however misguided that instinct may be. Reminds me of the classic line from Tyler in Fight Club. ‘Sticking Feathers up your Butt does not make you a Chicken’ Just because you are blind and stumbling into a dark alleyway am I obligated to rob you ? Do ad agencies and companies go down this murky trail because proving genuine product superiority is murkier ? Or maybe impossible because its isnt superior? What about the downside ? 

At least stick to the profession. Ask a basketball pro to endorse basketball shoes. Don’t ask a mutimillionaire actor to endorse cement. Also please don’t get a model to wear a doctor’s coat and pout that I need to but this ‘scientifically proven’ soap/shampoo/paint/toothpaste/bazooka. That’s worse. I think you need to pitch to me with a smarter approach angle or maybe just use the budget in more innovative ways. Don’t tell me that’s impossible. BS. You go the endorsement path because its the laziest way to reach the target demographic. Not because its the smartest or most effective.

Airtel Name Change – Another Wasted Corporate Project

The new Airtel logo and rebranding is underway and the Airtel Marketing juggernaut is in full swing. No doubt they’ll get the job done. There are few thorny issues in this world that don’t go away if you throw enough money at it from a bottomless chest. 300 crore goes a long way anywhere. But to what end ?

I am an Airtel core-customer. That’s right. Core. 8 years. Blackberry services – Check. Mobile. Check. IPTV. Check. Internet. Check. All my media and screen based consumption has its imprint.

Overall I am happy with both their service and with their customer service. While I encounter the odd dolt who can’t speak English in an accent comprehensible anywhere in the solar system, I get my query sorted. eventually.

Now as a customer I don’t understand WHY my company has changed its logo which was well known and VERY well recognized to something which feel a tad cryptic and (gasp) looks like the Vodafone logo that lost a few pixels in a hurricane and got overturned.

Why change it ? Why not use that money (INR 300,000,0000!) to do something more pertinent. I would really like to see the Cost Benefit Analysis Case presented for this one. Some of their outlets are in need of desperate upkeep. The Noida Sector 61 one would be a good one to start off with. Or hire more reps to reduce hold time on their 121 helpline.

This exercise almost feels like the Airtel Marketing Department head and her team were bored and wanted something to do with their bountiful budget.