The Futility of Feedback

Feedback

In today’s day and age of rampant tele-marketing, online surveys and retail questionnaires, one would think brand marketers are constantly improving in terms of their proximity to the consumers. Sadly, this is a fallacy. The way many marketers seek consumer data not only yields misleading results, but often adds a negative spin to the campaign objective itself.
There is a well-known restaurant chain that serves grills over a charcoal sigri on the table followed by a buffet spread. Great food, variety and value… eat as much as you like. What more could one possibly want? I’ll tell you what I’d want. I’d want some privacy. I’d want some conversation time with my fellow diners.

Because every now and then one of the waiters will invariably come in to disrupt proceedings, intent on asking questions on my current level of enjoyment, which variety I am liking, my past experiences if any, etc. And just when I’ve politely answered all the questions, another steward will pop up and, like an ace kabaddi player, infringe into my domain and make similar small talk. If by now my answers have taken on a curt, if not exasperated tenor, and the so-called brand ambassadors have retreated somewhat, I should not think that I have won the battle. Along with the bill will come a questionnaire asking me to provide ratings on every minute of time spent inside the restaurant, every section of the buffet and whether I will revisit or refer. Irrespective of whether you filled in the form or not, within the next 48 hours will come a phone call from the telemarketers of the restaurant chain.

If you think this is a stray incident, think again. Upon getting my car serviced, I was accorded a similar treatment. This time, even the person giving the car the final polish, brandished a separate form to sign off on. The call centre got into action within minutes of my driving out, asking if the car felt right. It was not too long before the car manufacturer also unleashed its own set of agents for feedback.

I can understand the first batch of enquiries at the restaurant… it’s a safety measure that could yield course correction in case any condiments were in excess. However, when the repetitive intrusion begins, the consumer realises the diminishing value of encroachment on time, and experiences increasing levels of frustration. Were all these involved processes going to truly yield added value to the consumer? Judging from the mechanical way such ‘surveys’ are administered, much of it is lip service, and it is apparent that the agenda isn’t to disrupt the status quo. Very little attention is usually given to mine such data, reveal a new product idea, propose pricing or positioning adjustments, or cater to unmet demand.

There is no thought given to selecting an occasion when the consumer could be motivated and feel privileged to provide views. The demographic profile of the feedback-seeking agent is often mismatched with the background of the consumer. A customer who has chosen to converse in English, often times is pitted against a feedback agent, who converses in a dialect impossible to follow and who races like an express train!

In a brand’s strategy planning cycle, the initial situational analysis (“Where Are We”), as well as the measurement of post-campaign results (“Are We Getting There”) are heavily dependent on a marketer’s sensitised ear-to-the-ground. It is imperative therefore, that the process of eliciting feedback be viewed on a strategic plane, as it is an important (chosen) touchpoint of brands with consumers who can potentially fortify or erode brand equity.

Marketing isn’t about driving by looking at the rear-view mirror, but about looking through the windshield, fuelling expectations and surging forward to surpass milestones in consumer delight. Every pit-stop in a brand’s journey, even for feedback, is then about maximising the consumer experience with sensitivity and empathy, at a happier meeting point, and charging the batteries for both sides to win.

(This article was published in BW Businessworld issue dated ‘March 20, 2017’ with cover story titled ‘Most Influential Women 2017’. The Author is my ex Boss at RK Swamy/BBDO, Indranil Gupta – he runs BrandNEW Associates Private Limited.)

What happens when you hear evidence contrary to your deeply held opinion?

A) Ignore it?

B) Change your original opinion according to the new evidence?

C) Further strengthen your original opinion?

Read on to know the shocking answer.

 

 

It was Thomas Jefferson who said that an informed electorate is a prerequisite for democracy. Recent research, however, finds that being informed may not be as beneficial as we think. In 2010, political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler had two groups of people read articles about how Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the U.S. invasion. One group then read an article correcting that information: the 2004 Duelfer report, which confirmed that the country had no such weapons. Of conservatives who read only the first article, 34% believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the invasion. But of conservatives who read both, that number climbed to 64%. Contradictory information didn’t change their beliefs; it actually strengthened them.

And you yourself can experience this effect everytime you hear news against the political party you support or Salman Khan (if he happens to be your favourite movie star).

backfire effect selling to the soul

This is called the backfire effect. And it can be seen as the flipside of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias makes you seek out information that agrees with your preexisting beliefs. The backfire effect is what you do when information that doesn’t agree with those beliefs finds you. In both cases, your mind protects you from the pain of being wrong. As Thomas Gilovich wrote in his book How We Know What Isn’t So, “For desired conclusions…it is as if we ask ourselves, ‘Can I believe this?’, but for unpalatable conclusions we ask ‘Must I believe this?'” Learn more about your tendency for bias in the video here.

 

 

 

THE PORTRAYAL OF WOMEN IN INDIAN ADVERTISING.

ads-on-womenWE HAVE COME A LONG WAY… AND HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO

This Woman’s Day, let me take you to a trip down memory lane.

Since the 70s, there have been many iconic ads which have been nothing short of milestones in Indian Advertising. Here are some of them:

THEN

ad21. COME ALIVE: A girl enjoying her bath and prancing around under a waterfall (in Kodaikanal) was a novelty for the Indian audience in the 70s. It was “fresh” to say the least. And life was not the same for the model Karen Lunel after this. Watch it here. The wild exuberance that she portrayed was in equal measure good acting and the fact that the water was freezing cold!

Surf-Excel-Lalitaji2. LALITAJI: While the Liril girl was about self expression, Lalitaji was the smart and assertive avatar of the woman. This ad campaign took on Nirma at their own game and repositioned it as a more costly option and helped Surf gain market share. Watch it here. “Sasti cheez khareedne mein aur achhi cheez khareedne mein fark hota hai…”

Rasana Girl
3. RASNA GIRL: Ankita Jhaveri became the face of Rasna in the 80s. The films were all about what a girl her age would do – playing around, having toys, birthday parties etc. Watch it here. It became a mammoth task to replace Ankita after she had grown up.

NOW

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1. TANISHQ REMARRIAGE AD: 
This ad reflected how a society is moving away from the dogmas of the past. Watch it here. The fact that it was a dusky woman portraying the role
also helped break stereotypes.

il32. LOVE BEYOND THE STEREOTYPES:. This film celebrated homosexuality and it was warm, sensitive and beautiful all the way. Watch it here.

titan-ad_759_fb3. THE WOMAN’S AD FILM WITH A TWIST: This film by Titan radically changes the way you look at a professional woman and her success. Watch it here.

 

Why is it so hard to sell a Corporate Training, an Insurance or a Diet Plan?

no-sign-boards

 

Human beings are terrible at buying these things, simply because it is almost impossible to sell the future.

What we’re good at is the ‘now.’

Right now!

When we buy a stake in the future, what we’re actually buying is how it makes us feel TODAY.

We move up all the imagined benefits and costs of something in the future and experience them now. That’s why it’s hard to stick to a diet (because celery tastes bad today, and we can’t easily experience feeling healthy in ten years). That’s why we make such dumb financial decisions (because it’s so tempting to believe magical stories about tomorrow).

If you want people to be smarter or more active or more generous about their future, you’ll need to figure out how to make the transaction about how it feels right now.

(Seth Godin)

4 Valentine’s Day Campaigns that will knock your socks off

If you’ve had enough of mush yesterday and yet crave for some more love, here are some campaigns to warm your heart. I bet you haven’t seen most of them.

Campaign 1: The Ad council did this brand activation titled #lovehasnolabels. It delivers a powerful message on diversity and inclusion. Watch it here.

Campaign 2: Here is another shade of love. A love that is around us but we tend to ignore. Caratlane opened our eyes to this charming angle. Watch it here.

Campaign 3: Some practical tips to stop being tongue tied on Valentine’s day while hardselling the product. Nestle tied up with Anuja Chauhan and managed this tightrope walk. Watch it here.

Campaign 4: And here is my favourite! MTV delivers a blow to the guts with this superbly conceptualised film. Watch it here.

The two ways to talk to the two different audiences

early-adopters-vs-mass-marketEarly adopters want to buy a different experience than people who identify as the mass market do.

Innovators want something fresh, exciting, new and interesting.

The mass market doesn’t. They want something that works.

It’s worth noting here that you’re only an early adopter sometimes, when you want to be. And you’re only in the mass market by choice as well. It’s an attitude.

The people bringing new ideas to the public are early adopters themselves (because it’s often more thrilling than working in a field that does what it did yesterday), and often default to using words that appeal to people like themselves, as opposed to the group in question.

More rarely, there are a few people with a mass market mindset that are charged with launching something for the early adopters, and they make the opposite mistake, dressing up their innovation as something that’s supposed to feel safe.

When you bring a product or service or innovation to people who like to go first, consider words/images like:

  • New
  • Innovative
  • Pioneer
  • First
  • Now
  • Limited
  • Breakthrough
  • Controversial
  • Technology
  • Brave
  • Few
  • Hot
  • Untested
  • Slice/Dominate/Win
  • Private
  • Dangerous
  • Change
  • Secret

On the other hand, people who aren’t seeking disruption are more likely to respond to:

  • Tested
  • Established
  • Proven
  • Industry-leading
  • Secure
  • Widespread
  • Accepted
  • Easy
  • Discounted
  • Everyone
  • Experienced
  • Certified
  • Highest-rated
  • Efficient
  • Simple
  • Guaranteed
  • Accredited
  • Public

Of course, it’s important that these words be true, that your product, your service and its place in the world match the story you’re telling about it.

Once you see this distinction, it seems so obvious, yet our desire to speak to everyone gets in the way of our words.

(Seth Godin)

A great tool for brand building – Story Telling!

tell-me-a-story-1

If you were fortunate enough to be raised in the pre television days, you would definitely understand the power of story telling. Most probably, your grand father or mom would spend time telling you a story, either in a gathering with other kids, or as they put you to sleep.

GCPL’s Sunil Kataria says – Research shows that we retain facts more readily if they are presented in narrative form. The very act of listening lights up the brain, persuading it to share in the emotions of well-etched characters.

That’s why, great brands fully grasp the importance of good story telling.

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Take this TVC for instance. Fittingly, it is titled – Never underestimate the power of a great story.


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Or consider this TVC for Ericsson Mobile Phones that happened to be the first one to win a gold at Cannes – One Black Coffee Please. You might be interested to know that it was done at an agency called Nexus Equity in 1996, where I cut my teeth as a copywriter.


google-reunion-rain
My favourite of course is the TVC created by O&M. A heartwarming tale of two separated friends, it has been executed on a large canvas. And rightly so, because the brand which is telling this story is none other than Google. It is titled Reunion.


As Seth Godin puts it crisply – people do not buy goods and services, they buy relations, stories and magic.

The good news is, that it can work even if you do not have huge budgets to spend. So, do you think it’s time to put that magic to work for  your brand?

What Donald Trump has taught us about effective communication

trump_donald_40_0.jpgHere are some lessons that Donald Trump’s shocking victory has hammered home again:

  1. Know your target audience and their hidden desires: Trump recognised early on the disaffection and frustration among the White Americans who have grown up with a sense of entitlement.
  2. Offer solutions to problems: His radical solutions that included building a wall on the mexico border and restricting entry to muslims received a groundswell of support.
  3. Tap into the power of Single Minded Proposition: Trump zeroed in on one issue (the private email server fiasco of Hillary) and kept talking about it till it gained a currency of its own. On the other hand, Hillary talked about dozens of his misdemeanors, in the process losing focus. Trump’s tagline “Make America Great Again” resonated even with those who did not really subscribe to his polarising and unsettling approach.
  4. Position your brand as the underdog: In a strategy typically adopted by challenger brands (like Apple in the 80s), he garnered sympathy for himself as a victim of the leader brand (in this case, the establishment). He also positioned the leading brand as the villain by virtually hanging the sign “Crooked Hillary” on her forehead and hammering it again and again till her campaign started bleeding.

Which is the best brand in the world? The answer is shocking!

If you are asked that question, what would you say? Apple? Google? Coke? Microsoft? Virgin?

First, let’s look at what is the definition of a brand – it has a logo, it has customers who buy into its philosophy, it has a revenue stream…

The best brand in the world will logically be a brand that has the biggest turnover and profit, has the highest awareness, has a logo that is the most recognised and has customers in all corners of the world.

Still thinking? Let me remove the suspense.

 

 

It is the catholic church!

(Scroll up and see how it fits the bill)

 

COMMUNICATION THAT TALKS TO YOUR CORE.

The best communication is the one you don’t just read or hear or see, but experience. Don’t you agree?

Here are some brilliant examples of communication that you can never ever forget…

We sometimes forget the cruelty involved in the leather industry. To drill home the point, a store in Bangkok was roped in. People walked in to buy the good looking leather items. But they were in for a shock…

 


 

What a simple idea, isn’t it? And yet so so effective!


 

Want to feel like James Bond… well, here is your chance!


Unbeatable in Impact, the only drawback of campaigns like these is the limited reach. But with the advent of Social Media (especially youtube), even that is taken care of.