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!!!

Creating a brand in 4 simple steps (simple, not easy!)

Step 1 is to invent a thing worth making, a story worth telling or a contribution worth talking about.

Step 2 is to design and build it in a way that people will actually benefit from and care about.

Step 3 is the one that gets every brand owner all excited about. This is the step where you tell the story to the right people in the right way.

The last step is the one so often overlooked and ignored: This is the part where you show up, regularly, consistently and generously, year after year, to organize, to lead and to build confidence in the change you are seeking.

Scent Marketing – the world beyond sight and sound.


Wet soil after the first rains. Fresh brewed coffee. Bread baking in the oven. Maa’s chapatis. Freshly bathed babies.

Smells can trigger powerful memories and feelings. And now, marketers are taking advantage of this fact to put their customers in the buying frame of mind. 


The stale air of a pressurized airline cabin isn’t the best smelling space, as every weary traveler knows. Singapore Airlines recognized this over 30 years ago, and was one of the first to develop a custom scent to spray into their hot towels. The floral and citrus fragrance was so popular that the airline gave it a name: Stefan Floridian Waters.


Starbucks sells food too. But ever wondered why you can smell only coffee there? That’s by design.

Dark greens and wooden décor, chalkboard menus, soft music, and the scent of fresh coffee permeates each location.



Movie-theatre popcorn never tastes the same at home. It doesn’t matter that they also sell pizza, nachos, and other foods. Their scent brand is fresh popcorn. Movie attendees will see and hear it being made, too, which adds context to the smell.



Artificial scents like baking bread and chocolates are pumped into stores and malls as they are found to have a strong effect on shoppers’ moods.

Happy people make happy shoppers.



A study done by Nike discovered that they could increase the intent to purchase by 84% through the introduction of scent into their stores.


strategically selects locations for their stores where scents get trapped so that the smell of their fresh cinnamon rolls can linger.

The Three Biggest Desires of a Consumer

magic lampI was watching a gripping Ted Talk the other day – “My failed mission to find God and what I found instead”. It is by an American of Indian Origin – Anjali Kumar.

She had planned to visit a highly revered Spiritual master and asked people to write in with their innermost desires which she promised to convey to him. She was flooded by mails in which people didn’t ask for loads of money or world peace or even immense power.

The three things people asked for (and in this exact order) were:
1. Health
2. Happiness
3. Love

And what are customers after all if not humans with emotions. Don’t you agree?

Why Sorting items by Price is just plain lazy!


Sort by price is the dominant way that shopping online now happens. The cheapest airline ticket or widget or freelancer comes up first, and most people click.

It’s a great shortcut for a programmer, of course, because the price is a number, and it’s easy to sort.

Alphabetical could work even more easily, but it seems less relevant (especially if you’re a fan of Zappos or Zima).

The problem: Just because it’s easy, it doesn’t mean it’s as useful as it appears.

It’s lazy for the consumer. If you can’t take the time to learn about your options, about quality, about side effects, then it seems like buying the cheapest is the way to go–they’re all the same anyway, we think.

And it’s easy for the producer. Nothing is easier to improve than price. It takes no nuance, no long-term thinking, no concern about externalities. Just become more brutal with your suppliers and customers, and cut every corner you can. And then blame the system.

The merchandisers and buyers at Wal-Mart were lazy. They didn’t have to spend much time figuring out if something was better, they were merely focused on price, regardless of what it cost their community in the long run.

We’re part of that system, and if we’re not happy with the way we’re treated, we ought to think about the system we’ve permitted to drive those changes.

What would happen if we insisted on ‘sort by delight’ instead?

What if the airline search engines returned results sorted by a (certainly difficult) score that combined travel time, aircraft quality, reliability, customer service, price and a few other factors? How would that change the experience of flying?

This extends far beyond air travel. We understand that it makes no sense to hire someone merely because they charge the cheapest wage. That we shouldn’t pick a book or a movie or a restaurant simply because it costs the least.

There are differences, and sometimes, those differences are worth what they cost.

‘Worth it’ is a fine goal.

What if, before we rushed to sort at all, we decided what was worth sorting for?

Low price is the last refuge of the marketer who doesn’t care enough to build something worth paying for.

In your experience, how often is the cheapest choice the best choice?

(Excerpted from Seth Godin’s blog)


minion tongue out

Getting someone to switch to you is totally different from getting someone who’s new to the market to start using the solution you offer.

Switching means:

Admitting I was wrong, and, in many cases, leaving behind some of my identity, because my tribe (as I see them) is using what I used to use.

So, if you want to get a BMW motorcycle owner to buy a Harley as his next bike, you have your work cut out for you.

He’s not eager to say, “well, I got emotionally involved with something, but I realized that there’s a better choice so I switched, I was wrong and now I’m right.”

And he’s certainly not looking forward to walking away from his own self-defined circle and enduring the loneliness as he finds a new circle.

Which leads to three things to think about:

  1. If you seek to grow quickly, realize that your best shot is to get in early, before people have made a commitment, built allegiances and started to engage in cognitive dissonance (since I picked this one, it must be good).
  2. If you are marketing to people who will have to switch to engage with you, do it with intention. Your pitch of, “this is very very good” is insufficient. Your pitch of, “you need something in this category” makes no sense, because I’m already buying in that category. Instead, you must spend the time, the effort and the money to teach me new information that allows me to make a new decision. Not that I was wrong before, but that I was under-informed.
  3. Ignore the tribal links at your peril. Without a doubt, “people like us do things like this,” is the most powerful marketing mantra available. Make it true, then share the news.

We invent a status quo every time we settle on something, because we’d rather tell ourselves that we made a good decision than live with the feeling that we didn’t.

(Picked from Seth Godin’s blog)

The Futility of 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.






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:


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.


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.