Sunday, November 21, 2004

Oops! + Coming up NEXT>

Dear readers: The God of blogging must be preventing me from writing NEXT>
I have been losing the last few posts that answered many of the quetions sent my way.

Let me make a mental note here: I HAVE to give you blogs on:

- Basic Instinct [Aha! No funny eye-gymnastics!]

- The Importance of Being in Context - Consumer Context Planning (tm)

- Seth Saab vs. the MBA

- Broadcast Industry: Where to?

Also, can anyone help me find a great looking (PURPLE-colored!) blog template? I'd love to give you a better look. It's about time NEXT> kicks some designer a**!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Dude, where's your b-equity?

1/ Not Using Your Brand's Full Value?

It's insane how many brand managers just don't turn their brand's equity into maximum profits. It's a COMPLETE, DEAD - WEIGHT - LOSS to the economy. The areas not served by these brands are their domains. They remain unserved, creating gaps in the market.

Underdeveloped economies like those of Pakistan particularly suffer from this.

2/ Leverage the Brand Equity!

What, exactly, is leveraging brand equity? The very simple definition, to me, would be to use the core product in a 100 different ways. Bring about variations in:

  • price
  • points of sales
  • add-ons
  • packaging
  • applications and uses
  • markets served
  • times served
  • a million other things! [Imagination wanted!]

and sell to all the different markets. When you variate, you create a new market. And this age is about creating exciting new markets rapidly. If you don't you are grossly underusing your brand.

I think the Nestlé coffee dispenser is cool: it's got everything from 8 types of coffee, to hot chocolate milk and hot water for tea drinkers. I think Google (the love of my marketing life!) is the prime example. Google uses its PageRank and search technology to create new products everyday: from Froogle, to AdWords, AdSense, and what not. (Google labs are sahksy!)

3/ Wanted: Crazy Lateral Thinkers

Clearly, we need more than folks whose expertise does not range beyond creating ads and "360-degree/ integrated marketing plans." We need product developers. Designers. Category developers.

We need brash, crazy, genius marketers. Smart, self-assured people who can look at the core need they are satisfying (not even the product, unless it's something as godly as PageRank), and ask: Where do I want to go today? And get there.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Needed: Smart Retailing

RETAILING will be the next big employment sector in the marketing industry of Pakistan, or the world over. There are lost efficiencies and profits in this sector, and in industries which could use retailing as an option. It's a loss both ways.

  1. For instance, the retailers need to optimize stores for space and display; i.e. have better merchandising. "Experiential marketing" and merchandising are untapped areas. Without any significant investment the retailers can enhance the shopping experience, and ultimately the sales volume, with merchandising and display that attracts maximum shopper dollars. The methods for this are known, but not applied. Meanwhile, utilizing new theories such as experiential marketing that plays on the senses of touch, sound, smell, taste, and vision will help transform dull and ordinary stores in to ones that customers love! (And this is why I harp on "3 for a great marketer/ brand manager.")
  2. Second, there need to be economies in purchasing (and distribution, but that merits a separate discussion). I once heard about an IT based solution to the same, can anyone point us there again? To be exact, re-ordering, bulk purchasing, and bundling can use some economic sense. AND AN E-SOLUTION. One "industry" which can definitely need this is the meat & groceries industry. Perhaps there is no better application of retailing than in sabzi mandis (vegetable & fruit markets) and meat markets and shops.
  3. We need more NICHE stores. And hyper marts. But niche stores more than anything else.
  4. AND we need solutions for shop (front) display. And catalog marketing. And store management. And store context plan!
  5. And we need extensive research - available on an industry level, not just to certain companies - about consumer shopping behavior, sales patterns, display preferences, color and ambience preferences, etc. I come back to human behavior: how many stores are particular about the music they’re playing? Or NOT playing? And how well does it go with their merchandise?
  6. The typical Pakistani store still has slow- or no-moving stock staling right in front of shoppers' eyes. What that says about the attitude of the sellers and a lack of any retailing suavity is obvious. To get rid of this trash should be the first thing-to-do for most retailers.

Even Wharton is paying attention. The Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative at Wharton School of Business brings together "world class researchers, educators, students, and the global leaders of today’s retail industry."

Do you agree that retailing is neglected and has a major potential for growth? Do you disagree? Comment below, or drop a note at

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Marketing Begins Now - Part 2

Let me preempt the criticism about "stating the obvious" in Marketing Begins Now.

Of course!

"Find a gap and fill it"
Of God's-sake course, Ramla!

"Right Context."... Are you saying of course?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (Your answer goes here.)

Google."... Are you saying of course?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (Your answer goes here.)

The greatest of products today were not obvious to those who took the need for them for granted. This is exactly what is meant by knowing what people really, really need or want (their information to get sorted). And giving them the best offer (Google and its related products), at the right price, on the right time, and within the right context.

And what is context? Keep watching this blog b/c a book's worth of volume can be filled on the critical importance of context. Watch out, especially, for "Consumer Context Planning."

Send your comments to:

3 for a Great Marketer/ Brand Manager - Part 2.2

Know that this is a changed world. These are some facts you must know to understand consumers and avoid ugly surprises:

  • This is the infamous Age of Anxiety. People don't have time. People don't know who they are, what got them here, and where will they be tomorrow.
  • The world is fragmented and divided in as many ways as there are hair on all cats on Earth.
  • People have too many choices. Technology is making choices cheap. And attractive. You are one of the many choices. Be the only one. And the top one.
  • Today's Average Person is standing near the End of History as s/he knows it. That makes life priorities very different. S/He doesn't give your brand a damn. Unless you really, really are doing something for her/him. Everyday.
  • Media is distorting your consumer's psychological profile. Consider the average young woman who is getting beauty and sex tips from Cosmo, fashion inspiration from India, and clothes from China. She has a melting pot of values and choices, and very little dependability on her own civilisation (home civilisation - what is that animal anyway?). How do you market to her? What are the taglines for your latest campaign?
Consider the very funny case of Pakistanis too. They watch Indian movies and use
that lingo in their daily conversation (stuff like, Bolay toh?!) but repel when KFC used a tagline from Munna Bhai MBBS, the wildly popular tragi-comedy from India.

So, the question is:

Where will you be if you didn't have a superior knowledge of consumer psyche?

3 for a Great Marketer/ Brand Manager - Part 2

Superior knowledge of human behavior has always been critical, but it's a matter of life or a quick death in a world where consumers have:

  • individualistic beliefs
  • fragmented lifestyles
  • highly defined and variable choice
  • little to lose if they switch
  • short memories
  • no regrets for botching relationships with brands
If the brand managers of today want to succeed in chaotic times, they have to depend on the principles of order and stability. "Good Old Stuff" is reliable. It's secure. And it shows a method to madness.

It's a backward chain: when you are opening a door of uncertainty, use a certain key.

Knowledge of human behavior (HB) gives a method to the madness of consumer behavior. It opens the door to knowing the consumer. That opens the door to their attitudes and beliefs. That opens the door to knowing their lifestyle, values, habits. That opens the door to them: who are they, what are they doing, and how the hell can you get them to buy your proposition rather than anyone else's?

Marketers who don't get HB right are dead. They can't get in to the minds of the consumers. They don't know what drives them. Why are the holding their job anyway?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

To-do list

This will be my list of to-dos for everyday management and marketing.

1. Use common sense.
2. Do the obviously right thing, because a simple look at the world reveals no one is going the obvious right thing.
3. Be empathetic. Really think hard about what empathy means... and now understand
that you have to empathize everyday, and keep up to pace with the drastically changing life of the consumers.
4. Embrace change.. by initiating it. Humbug book stuff, but hardly ever done!
5. Focus on the basics... cut out the s***. If people want good price, they won't eat or drink your image.
6. Ask THESE questions: what, where, why, when, how, by whom, for whom?

Easy stuff na? Easy to overlook any day....

And Marketing Ends NEXT>

BrandClique is a tiny group of some of Pakistan's very dynamic young marketers. I proposed to my companions, Adil C. of Henkel Arabia in particular, there: "Marketing as we know it will be dead."

Why? How?? This is a dramatic statement!

But I stand by it. This is the reason why, as given to the group:

I'll tell you why I think marketing as we know it will be dead. Very simple - marketing is no longer going to be about what the corporation thinks. From the days of what the seth saab ["Mr Owner"] or the Jewish entrepreneur wanted, we have come to the days of what's happening at the consumer's end, and how (s)he "calls" a brand experience.

The word "call" is from the IT terminology, as in, call a result... call a query. Here it means creating an experience.

If my study of technology and consumer behavior is correct, and I wouldn't think otherwise, then the creation of the brand and its context have rapidly shifted to the consumer's end. The consumer has a complex choice of media and how (s)he attends to it. How easy do you think it is for a marketer to predict whether I am watching a 30-second spot on TV, or immersed in sending and receiving SMS's on my cell?

Each day, it's just getting worse, as there is an asynchronous movement in media, technology, and manufacturers. Simply put, by the time a marketer decides to send out an email campaign, the world is onto SMS. When the manufacturer/advertiser wakes up to SMS, the consumer's onto MMS. By the time we reach there... the consumer is tired, wants a life, and is enjoying out with the family. What do we do? Where do we catch them? And this is the simplest of the question. I'll tell you a little later what are the questions....

Marketers are dead if they don't see things from consumers' perspectives. This problem is global, and the giant is only awakening. My word for it. I'll give you an example. A friend in an agency came up with a product name for a drink:"SAX." It was drawn on the imagery of jazz music, and supposed to elicit classic feelings. The product name ia a sexual pun. It sounded great as the name for a novel, may be. Or an opera. I asked him, tell me, do you think a man or a lady, or a family at a table would say, give me SAX? He said, er, no. Why didn't I think of that?

I state the obvious, but something tells me it's always been about the obvious... Yet in real life, it was never so obvious. I'll cut it short for now with this: marketing as we do it will be dead because we have to adjust to painful levels of speed, quality, and pricing. We also have to take an extremely different perspective. Basically it's just good old marketing, but the technological change factor is so high, it's changing the shape of things. Think of it like an element (hydrogen, carbon) under extreme conditions. It is the same, but it is not the same. Carbon as graphite will be dead. Carbon as diamond will remain.

Marketing Begins Now.

In my first job interview after MBA at a strategic marketing agency (Bulls Eye), I was asked the meaning of marketing.

My answer was: find a gap and fill it! Marketing at the core remains about:

  • knowing what people really need...
  • and gathering the best resources to fulfill the need...
  • with the best possible offer...
  • and then communicating the offer to the right people, at the right time, in the right context
The marketing theory may have evolved the world over, but there are markets where some products are simply missing. For instance, credit schemes including car and home financing, and personal loan schemes have been having a blast in Pakistan. 4 years ago in a banking & finance seminar at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), I remember a fellow graduate student Hisham Ghouri raising the point. While the students huddled to prepare their questions, and speakers droned on about issues in the industry, my colleague puzzled over this:

In Pakistan, a person struggles the better part of their life after education to get a car, a home, and a decent lifestyle. In developed nations, young professionals have access to these facilities shortly after graduation, and can spend the rest of their life focusing on professional achievements (and debt payments! But that's not the point now.)
That day, it was a question that stumped most speakers. Today, these products are rolling in dough, given the high demand gap they are satisfying. Regardless of the risks involved with a credit economy, this is what people needed: a lifestyle. Plus there are other products focused on convenience, such as electronic account management and direct utility bill payments. Why would they not do well?

Marketing begins with knowing what people really need. And giving them that.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Views on The Religious Corporate Leader

Taking a liberal permission from my Orkut friends, here are some of the comments, and my responses:

“Ramla,I find this approach quite fascinating. In the past, Muslim scientists and thinkers were ahead of the rest of the world. I guess since management is a relatively new discipline, there has not been much thought put into its connection with Islam. Yet.
I heard that Faiez Seyyal has also written management books from an Islamic perspective. I haven't read his books yet but am trying to get my hands on them. If you have read his books, what do you think of them? And are your approaches similar?”
Sabaa Ali 11/2/2004

“Dear Saba:
I haven’t read Faiez Seyal, but it’s going on top of my books wish list now.
Your point is exactly mine: why separate religion from life? Business, like every other field of life, needs a guiding philosophy, and a 'way.' And when people use Islam or any other system of faith to define their lives, why won’t they make it a part of their corporate life?
I think the gap exists because of an 'applied religious philosophy for business/ management' approach. Interestingly, many of the corporate leaders already follow it in their personal way, but the teachings are not shared as frequently and as scientifically as, say, Adam Smith’s economic theory.
I want to be one of those to bridge the gap.”
-Ramla A.

“I like it. I voted. You may want to get in touch with the CEO of the Aga Khan University Hospital. He speaks very eloquently on public forums on how Islam can be applied in everyday corporate life, be it business, commercial or personal dealings. He’s worth listening to.”
Jalal Curmally 11/2/2004

“Thanks, Jazak-Allah! I have heard the CEO of Aga Khan, in fact some of what he said inspired me to write this manifesto.
My stance is different from his only in that I am more business-inclined... and make a direct link between the corporate world and Islam. This is a subtle but significant difference. I would take the approach of redefining business studies and biz mgmt in the light of religious philosophy, just as we study it today in the light of Taylor's or Mayo's or Smith's philosophy...
Do tell me what you think.”
-Ramla A.

The Religious Corporate Leader
Click to view.
Update: The proposal was removed after being accepted. It generated the highest number of votes.

Important: Your Comments

Hi readers!


NEXT> by Ramla has generated some positive and interesting response, especially from friends at Orkut. Also, the proposal The Religious Corporate Leader I have posted at has generated quite some interest and wonder. I encourage the readers to post their comments and notes HERE at the end of the blog, and get to know what others are thinking and contributing. This way, your ideas can be helpful to non-orkut members too.

Keep the comments and ideas coming. Thanks!

What lies NEXT> in the future of business?

Monday, November 01, 2004

3 for a Great Marketer/ Brand Manager

Marketers and brand managers, listen up! In the modern world of marketing, you gain a superior edge if you have these three assets:

  1. Superior and sophisticated knowledge of human behavior
  2. Empathy
  3. Ability to apply the knowledge of one field to another to create interesting results (sometimes known as intra-disciplinary learning)

This is simple to the point that it might elicit a "duh!" from you. But the simplest of things are the hardest to stick by. And they are just the right things to do.