Posts Tagged ‘marketing communications’

Empowerment and co-creation – Entering new markets with a long established brand

From personal experience, the biggest frustration with being a cog in the remote outpost of a global behemoth that actually has to implement or execute the marketing, advertising or branding strategy in the field is tussling with the brand’s identity. Clausewitz has said,

It may be of interest to future generals to realize that one makes plans to fit the circumstances, and does not try to create circumstances to fit plans.

When I was a member of the Asia Pacific new products introduction (NPI) team for India at Hewlett Packard, we had themes that were developed by HQ (Palo Alto) for each region that would then be used in each country. That year’s theme was “HP Rocks the World”.

Here is a bad photo of the 3D version of the logo we received as high quality TIFF files and sample marketing collateral designed and sent to us in the field. ‘In the field’ for a company the size of HP meant the various countries in the APAC region.

From regional MarCom HQ in Singapore, I received implementation ideas through the listserv for country NPI coordinators, for example Malaysia had the speakers drive onto the stage on Harley Davidson’s wearing black leather jackets with the logo emblazoned in living colour across the back and other such dramatic concepts. I was horrified. I knew it wouldn’t work at all in India. Here, HP was perceived as a corporate MNC – a global brandname, a Fortune 100, a ’10 Most admired companies to work for’ (in 1996) with all that that entailed in the Indian corporate environment. Our audience of VARs, dealers and distributors just wouldn’t get it if I did something along the same vein, they’d think HP had lost it’s mind. It just wasn’t done.

So my compromise solution (I would have preferred a more appropriate theme altogether) was the most sober implementation of the theme that I could conceive – to create a 3D representation of the logo, using a real electric guitar as the main focal point and echo the rainbow colours along specially made table cloths. I’ll write again on the design brief because that was an exercise in tight budgetary control, widely divergent venues and maximum flexibility in itself.

Coming back to the point, I’d like to put forth the concept that when entering a new market, especially one in another culture, it makes more sense to empower the executors of your brand and messaging strategy to adapt to the nuances of the customer’s preferences than to enforce strictly the corporate identity guidelines traditionally used to protect the brand’s identity.

And this where the concepts derived from the blogosphere – that markets are conversations become important – ask your cogs in the field about their specific markets, they talk to your customers, they know what would work there. Co-create with them your strategies, adapt and tweak them for each market, within the umbrella identity of your global brand. Maintain the flexibility to localize, be willing to let go absolute control to allow your audience to create their own brand experience.

All of these things are not new ideas anymore, they’ve been brought up in so many ways in the news, in blogs, in conversations. If products can be designed to enable the users to create their own experience, can’t the message/brand identity be designed to evolve into each market’s experience?

Social enterprises and the target audience for their value propositions

It struck me while browsing through some ‘design for social impact’ product websites recently that while their focus might be on the poor, their communication and messaging was geared towards the Western or top of the pyramid audience.  I’d rather not link to nor name names, select your favourite cookstove/solar lantern/water purifier social enterprise and look at it from the point of view of their intended customers – the erstwhile poor in the developing world.

Their marketing communications tend to look and feel no different from that of the big name charitable organizations – big eyed brown child seeking your help to drink water/study/eat food etc.

Whats the problem, you say, these are well meant start ups and they need all the help we can give them to get these wonderful life changing products out to make that better world for the 99% er 90%, whatever?

The problem comes down to the value propositions that these organizations identify as being critical for their target audience.

“Cooking with cow dung gives Mrs Rajarani terrible hacking coughs everyday, SupercleanCookStove helps ensure her lungs are healthy enough to do all the housework”*

“Kerosene emits enough noxious fumes to equal smoking 2 packs of filthy cigarettes a day, our CleanFreshBriteLite takes over the burden of keeping encroaching darkness away”*

et cetera

Where’s the problem, you continue asking me, these products are well designed modern technology that will help alleviate these side effects?

Agreed, but is the value proposition being made one that resonates with you, dear reader on the broadband internet, browsing their photoshopped website, ready to donate a few extra lamps/stoves/watercoolers or one that will resonate with their intended customer?

Who is the customer? What do they want? What value proposition resonates with them?

And how many entrepreneurs have been frustratedly asking “Why aren’t they putting down good money for this fantastic product of mine?

Because the demand being addressed by these messages is not that of the target audience, who are ultimately the ones for whom these products are made.

Everyday, research shows that the barriers to adoption include:

Improved cookstoves rank poorly on all three dimensions: their benefits are rarely valued highly by customers at the outset, they are expensive, and they require a significant change in lifestyle to be put into use.

Lets start with benefits alone – which is where the topic of identifying the correct value propositions for the target audience comes in. If your messaging and marketing is all about the best selling drill addressing an audience of home improvement contractors but what your actual customers need is a hole in the wall, how will you manage to bridge this gap in communication when you face your customers directly?

By focusing on the value propositions – be they environmental, healthcare related or otherwise – meant for every other stakeholder but the end users aka the customers of the product themselves – organizations may never quite identify nor refine the benefits as they relate to the poor customer, in the context of their lives, and their decision to purchase and use the said products.

To quote an old post about the Tata Group’s approach to low income customers,

Their primary criteria – as a business – for the design and development of this product was to take the concept of the Bottom of the Pyramid as a viable demographic to serve, setting the design criteria and constraints for both the product itself as well as their revenue model and pricing structure accordingly. The fact that it will “do good” or “improve life” is as important but this aspect has not been permitted to overshadow the need for the product to be competitively priced and attractive to the consumer, offering value for their hard earned rupee, even as it prevents their children from suffering from diarrhea.

By taking their BoP customers as seriously as they would any other demographic, they focus on delivering a clearly identified and on target customer value proposition, thus a clearly defined benefit, to the end user. This aspect will show up in their marketing and communications as well.

What strikes me the most is that these are the basics of marketing and strategy, imparted in any MBA program around the world.

*exaggerated to amuse myself