A surprising lesson in pricing

Robert Cialdini quotes two delightful anecdotes on pricing in his book “Influence”:

  1. A man opened a Native Indian Jewelry store in Arizona, USA. It was targeted to the tourists who thronged the area. There was a range of turquoise which was not moving off the shelves, even though they were of good quality. The shop owner tried every sales trick he knew. He had to leave town on a business trip. In exasperation, he left a note to the head
    saleswoman – “everything in this display case, price 1/2”. When he came back, to his relief, the entire stock was sold.

    But but but.

    There was a catch. The head saleswoman had actually misunderstood the instruction and instead of pricing the jewelry at half the price, she had priced them at double the cost!
  2. A man referred a close friend to a jewelry store owner who he happened to know very well. The friend wanted a ring for her girlfriend. Keeping in mind that the this gentleman has come with the reference of someone he knows so well, he showed him the ring but quoted only half the price – instead of $500, he asked for only $250. The man’s face fell and he backed away from the deal because he wanted something “really nice” for his intended bride.

    The next day, the jeweler realised the mistake he has done. He invited the man again to his store and showed a similar ring and quoted the regular price of $500. But then added that since he has come with a good reference and it’s a wedding gift, he will drop the price to $250.

    Guess what happened now?

    The man was overjoyed to get the deal.

What’s your learning from this? Do your customers buy your product only for its functional value? Can premium pricing also play a part in why they choose it?

Thinking of placing your product in Movies? Here is a shockingly effective tactic.

Remember that dominos scene in the movie ‘Phir Hera Pheri’? Or the Mountain Dew scene in ‘Zindagi na Milegi Dobara’?

While in the first movie, Paresh Rawal carries the Domino’s Pizza box throughout the scene and the scene ends with him plugging in the 30 minute delivery or free promise of the brand.

On the other hand, Hrithik Roshan simply signs a form, takes a gulp from a bottle of Mountain Dew and says to his 2 friends – I will see you outside. The bottle is visible for barely a second or two.

Which product placement do you think would be more effective?

If your answer is Domino’s, your view would be in line with the overriding belief of product placement practitioners. And you would be wrong!

In reality, it’s the more subtle the placement, the more effective it would be.

Yes, more prominent placement can lead to more recognition and recall of the brand, but it doesn’t lead to better sales.

This is borne out by a study done in the USA on product placements done in a hit comedy sitcom Seinfeld.

Shoppers who had watched the sitcom were observed. And it turned out that the more prominent brands on the series led to 27% of the audience buying them. While the subtly placed brands ended up being bought by 47% of the audience.

Surprised? Don’t be. This stems from the basic human truth – nobody likes to be sold to. And the moment we spot an overt effort to sell to us, we switch off our mind.

Do tell me your views in the comments.

Genius? Or Devious?

Toy stores in USA hit upon this method to boost sales after the peak of Christmas season. Read on and decide if it was a stroke of genius or downright deviousness.

Imagine this. You have exhausted the toy budget for your little son at the Festive Season. Naturally, you are pretty smug that you won’t need to make another trip to the toy store anytime soon.

This is the challenge that toy stores in USA were grappling with – a sudden slump in sales post Christmas. Their solution: They advertised the hell out of a new toy and got kids crazy for it. Parents ended up promising the kids that they will get that particular toy for them. But when they reached the store, they are told that the toy has sold out. Out of sheer guilt, they buy something of same value or perhaps even more. The kid is happy… for now.

A few weeks later comes another ad that the toy is now back in stores. The kid sees the ad and pesters the parent – “you promised”, “you promised”. The parent, not wanting to seem like a person who don’t keep their commitments trudge back to the toy store to buy the toy, instantly doubling the store’s turnover per customer.

The tactic not only leverages the strategy of artificially created shortages, but also exploit the human psychology of keeping promises (especially to loved ones).

Genius? Or Devious? What do you think?

A mind blowing fact about communication

I am reading the book ‘Influence’ by Robert Cialdini. In the first chapter itself he has knocked my socks off. Quoting a small passage from the first chapter. Read till the end:

“A well-known principle of human behaviour says that when we ask someone to do us a favour, we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do. Langer demonstrated this unsurprising fact by asking a small favour of people waiting in line to use a library’s copying machine: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” The effectiveness of this request-plus-reason was nearly total: 94 percent of people let her skip ahead of them in line.

Compare this success rate to the results when she made the request only: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” Under those circumstances, only 60 percent complied. At first glance, it appears the crucial difference between the two request was the additional information provided by the words because I am in a rush.

However, a third type of request showed this was not the case. It seems it was not the whole series of words but the first one, because, that made the difference. Instead of including a real reason for compliance, Langer’s third type of request used the word because and then, adding nothing new, merely restated the obvious: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?” The result was again nearly all (93 percent agreed), even though no real reason, no new information was added to justify their compliance.”

Amazing isn’t it? So, will this new information change the way you make requests? Can it have any impact on your brand’s communication? Do leave a comment.

Here’s a tried and tested way to get your brand noticed…


Don’t be surprised. Even if your brand is successful and your audience has certain set expectations, it pays to surprise them once in a while to delight them and keep your competition at bay.

About a decade back, Kleenex partnered with Facebook to provide care kits to people who were down with flu or cold. They simply searched Facebook for status updates where the users reported feeling sick. Then they used their connections to find out their mailing address, and hand delivered a Get-well-soon Kleenex Kit, complete with boxes of tissues. Do you think the audience ever expected it? Do you think they will ever forget the brand from then on? In fact, all those who received the kits flooded FB with messages about this gesture.

Closer home, HUL used this out of the box strategy at the last Maha Kumbh Mela at Haridwar.

They integrated their brand Lifebuoy in their roti maker to create not just a surprising reminder, but a perfectly timed one too.

According to me, the most legendary surprise was this recruitment ad by google:

Google is known for their quirky communication, but this recruitment ad still beat the heck out of everyone. But those who understood it and had the skill to decode it arrived at the recruitment page of the company. Quite ingenious, since Google is not interested in your formal education, but only what you can actually do.

So, is your brand surprising your customers enough to keep them interested?

How brands paid tribute to Gandhi

Tactical advertising based on special occasions is a great opportunity to take your brand further. But very few manage to do it right.

Here are a few brands who got it absolutely right on Gandhi Jayanti. Has your brand done something phenomenal too? Do share.


Fevicol is always at the forefront of memorable advertising.


This is what their sister brand did. Another winner!


Indigo. They kept it simple and stark while remaining within their brand parameters. Perfect way to build the brand.

Greater Mumbai Police

Who would have thought that a government organisation could get this creative!


This Bangalore based food and grocery delivery company added value to the day by this relevant social message


Tilt your screen to see it from below… and Voila!


The height of simplicity, this didn’t even need the brand name. For me this is the winner.

So which one is YOUR favourite? Do share!

Is Modi the Greatest Marketing success story of our times?


In January this year, Modi won the Philip Kotler Marketing Award. It later came to light that it was actually conferred by a shady Aligarh based organisation and the BJP website had to pull down the mention of the award after the controversy.

But the fact remains that Modi is the first politician Brand we know who has truly harnessed the power of Marketing. He has in fact, made the competition (read opposition) look like a deer fawn caught in front of headlights.

Let’s see how:

  1. Effective positioning:

In the run-up to the 2014 elections, he tapped into the widespread disaffection with the corruption and listless administration of the previous congress government. He positioned his government as a clean, responsive and development oriented alternative which catapulted him to power.

After 5 years of rule now, he has some notable successes to his credit (RERA, Digitalisation of government services, Electrification of Villages, Building of Toilets under Swachh Bharat Yojana to name some).
But there have been some failures too.
1. Start-up India has been a non-starter.
2. Smart Cities have also not been able to get off the ground.
3. The Make In India Initiative has been bogged down by the slower pace of Industrial growth compared to earlier years.
4. Clean Ganga has had little or no effect on the pollution levels of the river.
5. Corruption is far from over as demonstrated by the Rafaele controversy.
6. The return of black money from Swiss Banks still remains a pipe dream.
7. Perhaps his biggest failure has been Demonetisation which didn’t achieve a single objective he himself laid out when he announced it. To make matters worse, according to reports, it resulted in untold misery for farmers, small traders and economically marginalised people which they are yet to fully recover from.
So what does a brand do in such a situation? It repositions itself on a new platform. Modi is not mentioning any of his pet schemes and projects in his speeches. He is not even focussing on development this time around. He has instead reverted to the core legacy of his brand – Nationalism and Hindutva. And peppered it with a liberal dose of competition bashing.

2. Use of Social Media: In 2014, Modi didn’t just seize Social Media, he owned it. It helped that the other political parties in India were too laid back and set in their ways. Besides, FB and Twitter had not yet fully woken up to the potential for misuse of their platforms. For the first time perhaps, Indians came face to face with “bots”, “fake news” and “trolls”. Be that as it may, Modi did show his savvy to harness the social media platforms.
This time around, both platforms have been more vigilant against misuse. And the opposition, especially the Congress has a more professional approach to Social Media. All said and done, BJP still retains the pole position on the digital platform (Pro BJP pages accounted for 70% of the political adspend as per the latest data)

3. PR: Appointing the US based APCO as the PR firm was a wise move on the part of Modi. APCO has a wide experience in setting and changing narratives in elections and project the right image of presidential candidates. The campaign’s recent success was changing the narrative of “chowkidar chor hai” to “main bhi chowkidar”.

4. Use of Marketing Technology: Some of his innovations have created a lot of buzz – Selfie with Namo where you could take selfie with an image of Modi and the Hologram Trucks which roamed the countryside in 2014 projecting Modi’s 3D video of election speech. Add to that the Modi Biopic which is soon to be released, a modi web series by Eros Now and of course the Namo TV (the first TV dedicated to a single leader anywhere in the world).

5. Branding: His biggest masterstroke was to carefully brand himself as tea seller to gain empathy. He then went on to neatly turn individual units of his campaign into brands – Chai pe charcha, Main bhi Chowkidar, Namo Again,

6. Exploiting emotions, not facts: A mistake most marketers make is to focus solely on facts, completely forgetting that humans do not make decisions basis facts. Modi has turned appealing to emotions into a fine art. Look at some of the slogans of his campaign: Ab ki baar Modi Sarkar, Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas, Modi hai to mumkin hai, Har Har Modi Ghar Ghar Modi, Saaf niyat Sahi Vikas, Congress Mukt Bharat and the most famous of them all – achhe din aane wale hain

His decision to never take a press conference or unscripted interview is also a part of that grand strategy.

7. Use of merchandise: There was a time when we as kids used to mill around a stray congress vehicle to get our hands on a free badge. Well, badges are passe now. It’s branded mugs, t shirts, hoodies, key chains, fridge magnets, pens and exam warrior notebooks! Sold through merchandise vans and also online.

There are a lot of tips that marketers can take away from Modi and his marketing and PR team on how to manage a mega brand. If Modi comes back with majority again, it will be a further stamp on the effectiveness of his marketing initiatives.

(Please do leave a comment on the blogpost to give your feedback)

Why the hell did Zomato advertise on porn sites! Here’s why :)

In 2015, Zomato executed a brilliant out of the box strategy by running ads on popular porn websites like Pornhub. Sounds outlandish, right? Wait, there was a solid method to the madness.

Let’s look at some statistics.

  1. India ranks third in the world when it comes to porn viewership. (In 2017, porn consumption in India reportedly rose by 75 percent when mobile data rates dropped, mostly in tier-2 and 3 towns)
  2. India has the second largest internet users [1]worldwide.
  3. Data from Pornhub[2] reveal that India, home to the website’s fourth-largest audience by country, logged the biggest increase in its mobile traffic share in recent years, jumping up over 121% from 2013 to 2017.
  4. The CPC (Cost Per Click) is insanely low compared to social media platforms

CPC- An internet advertising model used to direct traffic to websites(app installs) , in which an advertiser(Zomato) pays a publisher(Pornhub) when the ad is clicked.


So did it work?

After a week of running this campaign Zomato released some statistics and insights on their naughty experiment.

  1. People in Delhi NCR clicked on these banners the most on desktops, at an average click-through rate (CTR) of 0.12% while Bangalore came a close second with an average CTR of 0.11%. The campaign average CTR so far is at 0.22%.
  2. To be more precise , the highest number of clicks in Delhi came from around the Hauz Khas area. The last time I checked, this is where IIT-Delhi was situated. ( just saying. Lol)
  3. In Bangalore, Koramangala was hands down the naughtiest part of town, while in Mumbai, Powai gets down and dirty the most.
  4. The BBW/Big Beautiful Wraps ad was our best performing desktop ad (no surprises there); the “Hot Sticky Mess” and “Hot Singles” ads also did really well.

7 Valentine’s Day Marketing Ideas for small businesses

If you’ve lived through the 80’s you’ll remember how Valentine’s Day started in India. It was Archie’s who spotted an opportunity to sell their cards. And within a short span of time, it became a buzzword among the young and not so young people. This inspite of, or may be because of the protests and harassments by religious fanatics.

The bottomline is, that if you have a product or service that caters to the younger demographic, you can’t ignore the marketing opportunity of Valentine’s Day.

Here are 7 ideas to get your heart beating faster.

  1. Send some love on mail.

    A love themed email is the perfect way to talk to your captive audience. Make sure your subject line is enticing enough. And if you have a special offer, all the better. Take a look at this email campaign by Uber.

  2. Run a campaign for User Generated Content

    Ask your audience to send in their love stories or terrible date stories. Write a few on your own to get them started. And give some incentive as free gifts or lucky prizes. Spend some thought on how exactly will you decide the winner. Or it can be as simple as what The Body Shop did – simply asked their instagram followers to send them pictures of blowing a kiss to a friend.

    body shop

  3. Partner with another small business

    You can create a USP for yourself and draw customers to your brand by partnering with complementary brands. If you’re a salon, you could partner with a spa. If you’re a florist, you could partner with baker. If you’re a garments shop, partner with an accessories brand. You get the gist, don’t you? This will offer convenience to people while at the same time making your offering holistic and distinct.

  4. Love themed polls

    TwitterSnapchatFacebook, and Instagram support polls. These are a fun way to boost engagement with your audience. You can use visuals to the maximum effect. And the best part is the simplicity – your audience doesn’t need to do much other than to select one of two options.

    You can make it more relevant by integrating your product in the poll. For example, ask them whether they would prefer a wine or a chocolate on V Day.

  5. Add romantic flair to your Social Media Profile pictures and Cover Photos

    Get your audience into the spirit of things by adding unique masks, animation, profile frames and stickers on your social media profile pictures. You can also take it a step further and offer unique stickers to your audience and encourage them to share them with you, like what Tiffany did here.

  6. Run 2 for 1 deals

    Since VDay is primarily about couples, how about running a smart Buy One, Get One campaign to push sales into new territories? This need not be limited to just products. Just make sure that it does not feel like a generic BOGO offer.

  7. Pin your heart on a social cause

    If you want to take the concept of love beyond romantic love, how about supporting a local charity or NGO? Select one that can add some value back to your brand. And then create awareness about your support. For example – Asian Adventures, a wildlife tourism company supports Wildlife Trust of India, an NGO that works for conservation.

I hope you’re not sitting out on this opportunity of spreading love and boosting sales at the same time!

Get the maximum bang for your buck with these Easy, Out-of-the-box ideas for Diwali Greetings.

diya on riverIt’s that time of the year again. When people mass delete the greetings that land up and choke their WhatsApp and other social media.

Are a small company that doesn’t have a small fortune to burn on gifts for your potential customers? Do you wish to increase awareness about your brand of product or service on a shoestring budget this Diwali? Then you simply need to make your Diwali Greeting stand out.

Here are some things you can do:

  1. CREATE IMPACT EVEN WITH ZERO BUDGET: Create a 1 minute (or less) video of yourself speaking to the camera in your Diwali finery. You could experiment with the background to reflect what you do or simply keep it festive. This will come across as a sincere greeting straight from the heart. Sure, it might take a bit of trial and error, but the end result could be something to be proud of. Tip: Try and add value to your message, like this one here by Prakash Iyer – a noted author and coach. This will make your message memorable even after Diwali is long gone.
  2. DO NOT SEND IT ON DIWALI: Shocked? Surprised? Don’t be. The day of Diwali is the worst day to send your Diwali Greetings. Everyone is busy either with preparing for Diwali or mass deleting the impersonal greetings that they get that day. Send it a day or two before Diwali. Trust me, it still counts. And will be remembered.
  3. WHAT NOT TO DO: Do not. I repeat Do NOT turn your Diwali Greeting into an opportunity to hard-sell your company or brand. It goes against the whole intention of festive greetings. You don’t want to be remembered as a sneaky salesman, do you? You can keep your message close to what you do, by all means, like in the video above. But DO NOT SELL.
  4. TOOLS YOU CAN USE: The phone in your pocket comes with what you need to add some spit and polish to your video. You can download Viva Video, FilmoraGo or Power Director Video Editor Apps and try your hand at adding music, effects, supers, your logo and some smart editing to your video.

Have fun! And wish you a joyous Diwali!!!