Television Advertisements – Clutter breakthrough and Brand Relevance

Before reading this article, just close your eyes zeroing your mind for a moment and recollect three television advertisements. Write down a few details of each of the television advertisements you could recollect.

Of all the numerous advertisements I’ve watched, I could recollect only three advertisements:

  1. The old Nescafe advertisement
  2. The recent Flipkart’s advertisement of office-going children
  3. The JK Cement advertisement

These are the only three advertisements I could recollect instantaneously. It is strange to think that I hardly could recollect any other advertisements.  Now, close your eyes and recollect a few brands.  I recollected a few brand names listed the following:

  1. Dairy Milk (chocolate)
  2. Kellogg’s
  3. Dettol
  4. Coca-Cola
  5. Pepsi
  6. ICICI Bank
  7. Samsung
  8. McDonalds
  9. Ford Figo
  10. Flipkart

Also, if one wants to understand which brands do consumers associate with a category, then we have to ask the consumers to recollect advertisements w.r.t those categories. The above shouldn’t be mixed with this.

Clearly, the top of mind (TOM) set of brands are the above. I read through the list and tried to recollect the last seen advertisement in each of these brands. I could recollect the advertisements of all the above brands. Now, why couldn’t I recollect most of these advertisements in the first question? It is because the first question lacked a context.

This shows that a television advertisement on its own is generally of not much use. But if you provide a context to the consumers, then the television advertisements will help the consumers connect the brand with the context. Consumers going to the shop will subconsciously recognize the brand that they’ve watched it on television.  This means if you are investing in television advertisements, you have to provide sufficient contextual support such as in-shop presence, BTL, distribution etc.

Until now, we spoke about two things: Advertising your product on television and creating a context offline. This helps the consumers connect the brand with the context. But what actually helps the consumer receive your communication in the first place.

To communicate something you need to first command the recipient’s attention

Consumers, as human-beings, switch on and off in various situations based on different factors. One of the key factors that make the consumers decide to switch on or off is Relevance.  A consumer who is about to buy a car will suddenly switch on (becomes attentive) while watching an advertisement of a car. The same consumer 2 years back might be passive and switched off to advertisements of cars.

Also, anything different from routine generally catches the attention of people. For example, the Flipkart advertisement having elderly looking kids. Another example is the use of celebrities. Because consumers become attentive when they look at celebrities, usage of celebrities and other unique elements commands attention.

I’ve put celebrities and unique creative elements under one category because they are good in commanding attention. But they are not enough. Only uniqueness in the creative will help consumers remember the advertisement, but consumers will not remember the brand of the advertisement.

To communicate something you should be relevant to the recipient

The presence of unique elements or celebrities doesn’t make a communication relevant. But the problem is relevance is something that has to come from the consumers. I cannot shout in the media that I am relevant to you, hear me! For example, a consumer considering to buy a car finds the advertisements of cars relevant. Does this mean that to communicate to a target audience I have to wait for the consumers to feel my category relevant to them? No, in such cases you have to build category relevance to the consumers. You have to give them reasons why they have to use the category.

But, how does one build relevance? Relevance is a recurring theme. You build relevance to a category by relating the category to what is relevant to the target audience. For example, if you want to communicate something on conditioners, you have to make consumers relevant to the category. But the category is very nascent and consumers don’t feel a relevance to the category. So, in such cases you build relevance for conditioners by understanding what is relevant (1-level below) to the prospective buyers of the conditioners and connecting that (1 level below relevance) with the category. So, you come up with elements like softened hair, strong roots, etc which are relevant to the consumer and connect that to the category. This is building category relevance for effective communication. The recent TVCs on Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief is also an example of the category relevance.

But what if the category is already a well penetrated category like shampoos or toilet soaps? As the category is already relevant, all brands clutter the consumer confusing him and he switches off to the category. This is where brand relevance comes into play. This means you have to make the consumer feel relevant, not by talking about the category, but by talking about the brand. Here you don’t talk about the category elements like softened hair, but you try to build relevance by distinguishing your brand such as natural, herbal, seeds of some plant etc. You have to give reasons to buy your brand and make your brand relevant. This is the true test of marketers on how well they can create the brand relevance – the brand associations, the aura of the brand, brand values, brand differentiation etc. Consumers have to feel a specific brand in the category relevant to them.

Most television advertisements today fail because they are not relevant to the audience and they failed to build relevance.  The media is so cluttered today that advertisers struggle to draw attention first, and the very few that draw attention fail in being relevant to the target audience. So, television advertisements are an effective tool to build brand awareness and recognition. But it is a difficult task to build brand relevance using TVCs, because consumers are not ready (and too much clutter) to receive the differentiating factors that should make this brand relevant to them.

In my next post, I will write about how to build effective relevance and how we can connect relevance with the consumer decision making process.

No ‘One India’ in Advertising

Not many people would argue about the diversity of the culture in India. This is the country where the language and the taste of water changes every 100 km. The question is – how does this diversity affect the marketers to communicate their products? How does an advertiser look at this diversity? Is there a magic mantra that cuts through all these linguistic and cultural diversity?

Research done by Milward Brown suggests that there is no single mantra in advertising that works for the whole country. There are very few advertisements that worked well across the country. Some of the observations from the research are:

1. Celebrities can be the glue that binds markets

Celebrities can work across markets, but that definitely doesn’t guarantee the success. Using a celebrity reduces the risk of failure of     the advertisement across markets. Particularly in the South, the use of local celebrities is more followed as it is observed that people connect well with the local celebrities. Cricketers can certainly help communicate across the markets. It is true that every Indian lives on Bollywood and Cricket.

2. Children can certainly help

Children can help raise empathy and likingness quotient in the ad. However, an interesting stat is one-third of all the ads that don’t do well have kids in them. So, the mere presence of a child doesn’t increase the likingness of the ad. Generally speaking, it is observed that people tend to be active watching ads of children. Children, if used properly, can help in breaking the clutter.

3. Effect of humour is variable

Humour in India works well when it is based on visuals and music. Humour which is based on regional situations and wit may not do well across the markets. While some of the ads have worked well in some regions, the ads based on regional humour caused some serious trouble to the brand in other markets.

4. Product demonstrations are less likely to do well

Advertisements that focus on product demonstrations are less likely to do well. Differing expectations from advertising are at the root of this difficulty. There are clear differences across regions and town tiers in this regard. South India tends to be driven more by the need for information, as does small-town India.

Regional differences in receiving ads

First, something that all of us (in India) suspected: North is North and South is South, and never the twain shall meet. These two regions show the poorest creative transfer; an ad that does well in the South is unlikely to do well in the North, and viceversa.

Second, the West is a poor receiver of ads from the North. Looking at ads tested in those two regions, only 34 percent of ads that were highly enjoyable in the North did well in the West, while close to half the ads that did well in the West also performed well in the North. Therefore, if we need to prioritize between the two regions, the West provides a better litmus test of likely performance.

Third, the South is neither a borrower nor a lender. Ads that do well in the South transfer poorly to the North, moderately well to the West, and well to the East. Therefore, if the South is relevant for a brand, it must automatically be selected as a test centre.

Fourth, successful ads in the East transfer well to other regions, though within a specific and limited context. To clarify, the East is an important market for relatively few brands and categories, so any principle of travel would apply to this rather specific set of brands. The East also tends to be more critical of advertising compared to other regions. Hence, purely from the perspective of creative transference, strong performance in the East is an indication of good performance in other zones.

Most of the research above is done based on the Link scores, a evaluative tool of advertising by Milward Brown. Whether your objective is to raise awareness, promote trial, develop rational or emotional brand associations, or to convey a very specific message, Link will tell you how your ad will perform.

Thank you.


Linux – fastest growing in the server operating system market

According to the latest Gartner reports in Apr 2011, the worldwide operating system(OS) market revenue is $30.4 billion by the end of 2010. The OS market is divided into two sub-segments: Client OS and Server OS. The Client OSes outperformed the Server OSes as the former grew 9.3 percent, and the latter grew 5.7 percent in 2010. Following are the OS market shares released in April 2011 by the market research firm Gartner:

Microsoft leads the OS market as it is a leader in both client and server OS sub-segments. However, Gartner says that Mac OS is the fastest growing operating system in the Client segment and Linux is the fastest growing in the Server segment, with Red Hat dominating the Linux market. Microsoft leads the server OS market with 48.5% market share followed by Linux at 16.9%. On the other hand UNIX has 38% share but it is dying as a server operating system. Industry experts say that the phenomenon shows that the market has accepted Linux as a viable alternative to UNIX in mission critical environments. It is good to hear that Linux is growing at an 18% growth rate with a 20% share of the server OS segment.

Coming to the smart-phone market, the Linux kernel based Android continues to dominate. Following are the smart-phone OS market shares from Gartner:


The Wall of Blue and The Oreo Togetherness Bus

Cadbury India’s debut in the Rs. 12,000-crore biscuits market with Oreo has been beset with challenges from the start. In March, as the company readied for the launch of its global best-selling Oreo from the Kraft stable, rival Britannia Industries came up with an me-too product called Treat-O, another chocolate-flavoured sandwich cookie. Cadbury India retaliated and sued Britannia for trademark and copyright infringement of intellectual property rights. While the court battle will take its own course, Cadbury India will have to ensure that it makes the right marketing moves in terms of putting together an apt positioning for Oreo to win the final war. The Indian biscuit industry is dominated by major brands such as Parle, Britannia, and Sunfeast. Also, the category has strong regional brands such as PriyaGold in the north, Cremica in the north and west, Dukes in the south and Anmol in the east and north. Currently, Britannia and Parle each command one third of the biscuit market.

Though it has lost its first-mover advantage, Oreo hasn’t refrained from launching a high-decibel marketing campaign. The sandwich biscuit brand, launched with its global ‘Twist, Lick, Dunk’ communication, broke across media, including television, print, outdoor, radio, below-the-line, and digital.

“Oreo’s global positioning is based on moments of togetherness,” says Chandramouli Venkatesan, director – snacking, India and strategy – South Asia Indo China, Cadbury India. Ideated by Interface Communications, the brand’s TV ad features an interplay between a father and son. The son explains the ‘twist, lick, dunk’ ritual of consuming the biscuit. “It’s an interesting way of bonding and so far, this simple insight seem to have worked in favour of our brand,” he adds.

But other biscuit brands have been experimenting with the positioning around the theme of family in the past. Will this approach work for Oreo in the future? According to Venkatesan, there are not many black biscuits in the world and consistency in communication on a global level is important for the brand.

Robby Mathew, national creative director, Interface Communications shares that in the film, the brand is talking to the Indian mother who is on the marketer’s radar. “In future, we will be exploring other relationships seen in the Indian families. We will build the campaign with digital and on-ground activities,” he says. There is a special focus on in-store visibility through a ‘wall of blue’ (racks full of Oreo packs) in kiranas and modern retail. In fact, this helped in initiating more trials for the brand.

Today, every brand toys with the idea of creating a movement and Oreo is no exception. Recently, Cadbury commissioned a survey titled ‘Oreo Togetherness Quotient’, that mapped Indian families’ views on the evolving parent-child relationship in the dynamic Indian society. Conducted by research firm Nielsen across six cities (Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata) in India and comprising of 1819 respondents, the survey reveals that the role of the father in a family cannot be underplayed. The brand is sharing these findings with parents who later are signing up for ‘Oreo togetherness pledge’ by promising to spend more quality time with their children.

Also, as part of an on-ground initiative, ‘Oreo Togetherness Bus’ is currently running across the country, providing a platform for parents and children to catch fun family moments. Stationed at entertainment hubs of the city, the bus is loaded with fun games, photo opportunities, a cookie corner, and more. Anyone can hop into the bus with their kids to have fun, and try their hand at games. The bus is to travel across nine cities. The progress of the activity is being reported on the brand’s Facebook page.

With a competitive price strategy, one wonders if the brand plans to penetrate smaller cities and rural markets in the near future. “Oreo is a universal offering. Success in rural markets will not come easy. First, we will build our brand in urban markets and head there later,” says Venkatesan. Globally, Oreo generates revenues of over US$ one billion annually.

Without getting into numbers, Venkatesan says, “Oreo has big targets to achieve in India. Most importantly, we want to earn respect and stature in the biscuits category.”

Source: Financial Express

A to B and B to A marketing

In marketing, there are two fundamental principles called Attitude to Behaviour (A to B) and Behaviour to Attitude (B to A) marketing.

In A to B marketing, you target and change the attitude of the consumer first, so that the change in the attitude may result in a desired change in the behaviour. For example, you tell the consumer the toothpaste whitens your teeth, so that this attitude may result in the change in behaviour of buying the product. This is what most ATL activities do.

In B to A marketing, you target and change the behaviour of the consumer first, so that the change in the behaviour may result in a desired change in the attitude. For example, the whitening toothpaste gives a promotion of 1+1 free that makes you buy the product. After using the product (behavioural change), you liked it (favourable attitude) and you changed your earlier inimical attitude towards the product. This is what most BTL activities do.


Positioning of a product is how do you intend the consumer to perceive your product. It is to understand where and for what do you want to stand in the consumer’s mind. After segmenting a market and then targeting a consumer, next step will be to position a product within that market. It refers to a place that the product offering occupies in consumers’ minds on important attributes, relative to competing offerings. How new and current items in the product mix are perceived, in the minds of the consumer, therefore re-emphasizing the importance of perception.

With big companies involved in multiple categories, multiple brands, different sets of competitors in each category positioning can become extremely complex. For example, there are mother brands like Dettol, Lifebuoy, Cinthol, Palmolive, etc in the toilet soaps category. If the consumers are increasingly becoming health and hygiene conscious and let us suppose it is observed that there is huge potential in the market. Now, immediately Cinthol cannot launch a variant saying Cinthol Germ Kill, because it doesn’t go with its existing brand positioning (freshness, aroma) within the category and across other categories. May be the alternative is to launch a new brand like ‘Godrej Protekt’ where the brand is positioned towards germ-kill and at the same time to gain the equity it is endorsed by the ‘Godrej’ brand. These things become extremely complex and requires excellent understanding of the markets, categories, consumers, brands, etc. It is not only research, but the marketer has to have the intuition about the workings.

As said, Positioning is more to deal with the perceptions and it spans across different parameters. Positioning can be based on product characteristics, price quality perceptions, usage, culture, geography, symbols, product class, competition. Sometimes you being excellent at something itself becomes your rival of not being able to position yourself as something else. I personally believe that this is one of the most trickiest parts of Marketing and Brand Development. It involves understanding the category, competition, customer attitudes and perceptions, product life cycle, distribution, positioning of different players in different ways, growth and opportunity areas, strengths and weaknesses, finding out the gaps in the positioning and trying to develop a proposition towards developing a perception in the consumer’s mind. Once we develop a position in the consumer’s mind, it is important to monitor the positioning and understand how it has to be shaped in future w.r.t the category stage. This is what I call as Positioning Life Cycle, as your positioning strategies differ a lot based on the category stage.