Automobile Communication – It is all so easy and so shallow


So youth is the new consumer for every possible category including the automobiles. All the new compact cars that are being launched are supposedly addressing this new consumer.

Toyota Liva TVC had ticked all the boxes as far as communication to the youth is concerned. Of course the communication left many confused – was it a commercial for a car or for a mobile phone with a host of apps.

And the latest from Hyundai Eon. Must have been one very complicated brief and then even more complicated creative thinking to come up with the big idea to address youth – We got to have a song with kickass lyrics which address the mindset of youth (I want it now). Then take the car for a spin and have people admire it (traditional stuff when it comes to automobile or bikes communication – seen it so many times in past couple of decades… Hero Honda or rather Hero Motocorp was a master at it). Now comes the most crucial piece.. which would have been laboured over by the planning, servicing and the client – The “kind” of people and situations to connote youth. And we have an award-winning commercial which so connects with the youth.

Seriously?

Somehow all the brands… whether it is Hyundai Eon or Toyota Live (I wont include Honda Brio in this because I could not understand the commercial) or Nokia think that the youth of today is extremely shallow. In my past posts I have written enough about it  but still when i see commercials like the one under discussion… it gets me here again..

I have a very young team working with me whose average age is probably 23/24. I look at them and then I look at all these TVCs and it makes me wonder… is this bunch of young an exception or all the brands are getting it wrong. This young crowd is materialistic.. sure.. but the fact is that they are working and are very committed at what they do (probably lot more than me at their age). It is the money that they earn by working hard and smart is the money that is then spent on gadgets and all the accessories. And they want the best.. because they can afford the best and the communication under discussion is sheer wall paper for them.

The breath of fresh air is the commercial for BPTP ( a real estate company in Delhi/NCR). Unfortunately (and they missed a trick here) it is not available on youtube so I can’t give the link. But readers who live in Delhi/NCR would have seen it playing in mulitplexes. Will briefly describe it.

A working girl comes home for holiday. Her grandmother exhorts her to settle down (In India it means get married) because she is 26 now. The girl takes out her phone and tells her granny she has settled and should she show the photographs. There is a shocked look on granny’s face… her parents too (that she got married and didn’t even tell them). But what she shows are the interiors of a house that she has bought! The granny.. not to be outdone.. says that she meant marriage and the girl turns around and says “For security? Oh there is a watchmen for the complex!”

To my mind they have completely done it! broken so many stereotypes in one communication – 26-year-old buying a house and that too a girl (age and gender). Where typically most real estate communication does not address either. And then to top it all… the age-old notion that is set for girls in this country about marriage.

Tackily executed (sure looks very low-budget handy cam kind of commercial) but great on idea.

There is another one and I cant remember if it is Chevrolet Beat or Spark but it is on air currently about a woman doctor who suddenly realizes that it is Raksha Bandhan and drives over to tie rakhi to her brother… again breaks the stereotype of automobile advertising – car driving around for no reason at all (mostly by guys).

I think most brands need to go back to the drawing board and let go of shallow thinking if they really want to communicate and be part of young people’s lives.

Some links to view:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgAFK95qlm4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTH01RVAfy0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xih8sVbI9ww

Is this Automobile advertising?


Wonder how many have seen the Toyota Liva communication and scratched their head to figure if the communication is for a mobile phone or an automobile!

I am sure the strategy planning team had come up with this great idea that the youth today are buying premium segment hatchback and we should connect with the youth. Now connecting with the youth obviously means the entire gamut of social networking (seriously is that all there is to youth today?) So here we have a commercial which has all the logos floating and the guy constantly connected on the mobile phone. Where is the Car?? This commercial actually reminds me of an international commercial I had seen for Samsung Smart TV. Pretty much the same approach but lot more relevant because it was talking about a TV which lets you do lot more apart from viewing your favorite channels.

Then there is this series of commercials for Maruti A Star. Can’t remember the tagline. But there is one commercial of woman dropping a guy off at his home (wow that is an insight! and a complete flip on guys dropping girls home). It doesn’t end there…. she blows the guy a kiss and opens the boot and another guy comes out… hmm any clues on what it means? Has the agency sold this film idea to the client about women emancipation?

There is another in the series about guy giving the woman a lift and she is checking out the car (subtle freudian look of the woman at the automatic gear and the guys hand on the gear knob) and this whole experience probably turns her on so much that she invites him into her home for a cup of coffee (and all of us who have seen this movie “Pyar Ke Side Effects” know what invitation for coffee means! So what is the TVC promoting… give a lift to a girl and the girl will invite the guy into her home??

I completely understand that the consumers for a lot of product categories are getting younger and brands need to connect with them. But are these the connection points? There are enough young people around me and yes social networking and mobile phones are a big part of their lives but you should here them talking about their future and their ambitions. Would be quite a revelation.

Obviously the strategy for both the brands has been done by foggy old strategy planners (someone like me) and have they got their deep-seated desires into the communication.

Oh while on this… there is a Hyundai Verna commercial which is about the guy driving through the streets to hand over a bracelet to his girl friend. Absolutely banal communication. The teasers had raised expectation for a great automobile communication but alas…

Automobiles are about passion and a highly involved buy and it is insulting a consumer’s intelligence to create such tripe.

 

The Maruti Mentality


Long back I had seen a Maruti 800 with the Merc 3 pointed star on the hood. Back then when 800 was still ruling the roost and people were still into buying a small hatchback, it stood for aspiration. When the D segment cars were still very premium and Mitsubishi Lancer made one drool, it made sense to talk about value and stuff.

Gradually the market changed. There were newer brands and the entry point into automobiles changed from 800 to premium compacts. It split the market into two kinds of consumers and mindsets.

First mindset – the Maruti mindset – People who were graduating within the Maruti fold from 800 to Zen or Swift… for them the ease of after sales service, mileage and low maintenance cost mattered a lot. There was an assurance and comfort in buying a Maruti (even a roadside mechanic can repair the car).

Second mindset – First car was not a Maruti or the quick upgrade from the first Maruti was not into Maruti Franchise. For them, the brand and what it delivered in terms of form factor and technology mattered. The mindset believed that all cars are good and low maintenance in the given segment. Speedy zippier cars obviously meant that fuel economy was not a primary concern.

But then a large population has been brought up on Maruti and believe in the benefits of Maruti so when Maruti did the communication about “Whats the mileage?” it really was talking to this large population.

But when over the weekend I saw communication about value and supposedly very high-profile people doing acts of saving on things, it made me wonder. I believe Maruti can see tough times ahead and is trying hard to retain its francise.

The profile of compact cars is changing and in metros it has changed already. The proliferation of i20s, the launch of Volkwagen Polo and entry of Honda and Toyota in the compacts is a sign of things to come. Sooner or later people are going to stop associating compact with everything Maruti stood for and there move from compact to bigger car will not be driven by mileage consideration etc. And that is where Maruti is going to hit a roadblock. Seriously, why would anyone want to buy a Kizashi when there is a Cruze or a Skoda or an Altis or a Civic are available. Brands that have strong equity in premium segment and have worked on building the segment while Maruti was working on Compacts. Schizophrenia is hitting the brand when it shows so-called premium people and the end frame of communication is a range of small cars. What gives?

Automobile advertising at first level is not about everything that happens after the car has been bought. It is about a desire to possess symbols of moving up in life. It is about showcasing “I can now afford luxury” and surely this mindset would not want connotations of fuel economy or maintenance. If I buy a car in excess of 10 lacs (approx US$ 20,000), am I going to worry about the mileage being 12 km/l or 20 km/l? Will I worry if changing the rearview mirror costs 10,ooo? Ok maybe a little concern but it wont be something that would involve changing my buying preference.

Yes Santosh Desai talks about the dhaniya mirchi to be thrown in (coriander and chilli) when buying vegetables but even Santosh will agree that the outlook is changing… specially when all these large retail stores are opening up and people have moved to shopping over there. so even the dhaniya mirchi mindset is changing too…

Here is to a new India where value is about what I get by way of quality stuff for the money I pay and not about Lx or Lxi or Vxi or Zxi. Let every purchase be fully loaded. We have caught up with the world where Airbag is standard fitment and ABS is a given and not comes only in top end. In fact let there be only top end and no bottom end. And there is no bottom end actually. Nano sales that are dropping are not so much the safety concerns but the fact that even a guy who is switching from a two-wheeler to car does not want to associate with a cheap car.

Reclaim your life


Since yesterday I been switching on the tv at 5.30 am in the morning to watch The Ashes (for the cricketically challenged population, it’s the series between Australia & England) and caught the Tata Safari Dicor commercial. It’s not a new one but one done year and half back… “what would you remember when you look back on your life”… Enough probably has been written about the campaign right from the first commercial in 2005. But this commercial linked with the conversation I was having with a friend yesterday. It was about the fact that when we grow old and we look back on our lives… what would we remember? would it be the many deals that made us a success in our professional life… would it be about how much money we made? would it be about how we manipulated at work to rise the corporate ladder? would it be about how many lives we trampled on to reach the top? We both agreed that nope we wont remember any of this… what we would remember would be the moments of joy which were not about professional success and would almost always be centered around the people in our lives… our family… our mother… our father… our wives… our children… our friends (that one friend who made a difference and not 589 people on facebook)… So then why do we chase everything that will not be remembered?

We chase them because we are driven. Driven by what society marks as success symbols. A degree… a job… a car… a house (make that the ‘right address’)… club membership… frequent flyer miles… business class… We are smothered by communication that tells us that if we don’t have any of this, we have not made it. Communication creates the pressure right from the time children become aware and follow what is going on around them. THE PRESSURE TO BELONG. But the point is… belong to what? the environment which promotes spend spend spend…. acquire acquire acquire…

Getting ahead is not about being a better human being. Getting ahead is about how much you got as compared to people around you. You must have the next big thing. The 3D LED TV… iPhone… connected lifestyle… how many followers do you have on twitter… Statistics about how many people would read this blog… Success is not a measure of what difference you have made to lives of people but what all you have…

Brands of today have a larger role to play. In the world of product parity, discounts and freebies, the product would always sell but empathy for the brand and thereby the ability of the brand to step out of the discounts and freebies and be bought for what it stands for would go further and stay lot longer in the consumer’s mind.

The brand should be bought for its beliefs and not the capriciousness it promotes. Of course in some cases… like Tata Safari… it has not been bought because users were reclaiming their lives but it was big and controlled the road.

“Reclaim your life” is a powerful statement and it should be continued because we are moving towards times when we would be craving to reclaim the innocence that has been lost… craving to reclaim the inner beliefs and values which we have let go.

There have been stray thoughts in the past and some new ones which are indicative of the changing Brand view…

AirTel back in 2002/03 about communicate… Asian Paints – “har ghar kuch kehta hai”… powerful communication. They evoked emotions which were not about “buy me now” but went deep into our sub conscious.

Idea Cellular with its continuing communication specially about language not being a barrier, is sending out a message… but is anybody listening in the flood of all the apps that can be used and the handsets peddling out ‘facebook key’?

Tata Tea with its Jago Re raised the consciousness to vote and while it probably did not make a difference in the current Bihar election but the return of Nitish Kumar is a sign that people are fed up of goonda raj…

Any brand which says that it is about pure technology edge or functionality has a very myopic view. Sure they will sell and will keep adding to the top line and bottom line but wont last because the world 5 years from now is going to look for reclaiming the life and it surely wont look at the brands which perpetuated all the reasons why the life was lost in the first place…

Brand evangelism is not a term which sounds good in advertising strategy presentation… it is what every brand needs to aim for. And evangelism is not rooted in the functionality of the product but a bond between the consumer and the brand. Would suggest reading ‘The Primal Brand” by Pat Hanlon.

And a coincidence… while watching cricket, I switched to VH1 classics and The Cranberries song – Zombies was on… and in the context of this blog sounded so apt. It’s just  that the battlefield has shifted…

Another head hangs lowly,
Child is slowly taken.
And the violence caused such silence,
Who are we mistaken?

But you see, it’s not me, it’s not my family.
In your head, in your head they are fighting,
With their tanks and their bombs,
And their bombs and their guns.
In your head, in your head, they are crying…

The first link is worth a watch again

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pMIkREluMQ&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6Q1CHMH3iI&feature=related

No 4 – All about traditional media


The following post is ranked at No 4 by me. Now I am sure there would be many who might not agree with the post or the ranking but with so much happening in media – traditional or new age – more and more I see brands trying very hard to connect with their consumers through every possible option – it can be called a 360 degree surround or it can be spreading yourself too thin… depends on what you are selling.

And the wonderful new feature from wordpress has allowed me to provide links for some more useful articles. They appear at the bottom.

It was only 3 years back I would imagine that the so called traditional media was ruling. Advertising in Print and TV was a must for any campaign. ATL (above the line) used to be the most important component of every campaign. Everything else in the so called 360 surround was BTL. It was not traditional.. it was mainstream and still is. It’s just that the reference points have changed.

Before the advent of electronic mediums, press was really the only mode of communicating with the consumer. There was of course DD but then couple of programs to build the reach and that was it. C&S opened up the choices and became the new media (or can we say non-traditional media? after all DD was traditional). As the channels kept increasing and niche(ing), frequency building was the new media. Less money but bigger continuous bang for the buck.

Radio (Vivid Bharati and SLBC) was traditional and almost extinct too till FM happened. And would Radio be called traditional media now??

Web 2.0 opened up opportunities and suddenly the whole talk is digital. Marketers and planners have embraced it as the new mantra. And pretty much treating it the same way as ‘traditional’ media. If TV was about reach and frequency at 1+, 2+, …, now its SEO, views, clicks…

Our mindset back in the days of traditional media or now in non-traditional media is the same… Driven by numbers… And the actual reason gets buried under numbers…

Media is not about numbers… it is about communities (another buzzword in the new age media). The most watched program on TV or the front page or page 3 of the newspaper were not simply about most views… They were about communities. Discussing the happening daily in a soap, or politics on front page or city news on Page 3, we formed communities. There were people who discussed the soaps and those who did not… Those who did not, watched sports, movies etc.. They also had communities… pretty much the same way we have communities now online…

And like true number crunchers, we will go ahead and start over-analyizing as to which community our brands should be part of…

Media consumers need to take off the blinkers of figures and statistics and understand the communities more deeply… Understand the reason for their existence… understand the reasons why people are part of these communities and then decide how and why a brand entering that space would not be intrusive…

All of us know how irritating the commercial breaks on TV had become (or have become)… We treat the new media in the same manner and audience would just move to the next thing that might happen and make the current hot seller digital .. traditional…

No media is traditional or non traditional, its all about understanding where my audience is and who really consumes my brand… TV would evolve too and IPTV would ensure that it moves on to internet platform or handset in the big way… Now what would it be called then? Non traditionally traditional?

Newspaper is still read with that morning cup of coffee (ok so some read it on their screen… it still is newspaper)… Upteen news channels and web surfing has not made newspapers extinct…. they have evolved and embraced the changes in the environment…

Radio is available on the internet (has been for very long).

So lets stop compartmentalizing traditional and non traditional… Its all a matter of what works for the brand in which market and for what profile of consumer and then create (not adapt) communication for that environment.

Leap of faith


The phrase as described by wikipedia:

A leap of faith, in its most commonly used meaning, is the act of believing in or accepting something intangible or unprovable, or without empirical evidence.[1] It is an act commonly associated with religious belief as many religions consider faith to be an essential element of piety, as well as scientists who take a great leap of faith when a new Idea is thought of, as well as the believing in the unprovable and the theoretical.

Why this post? While talking to someone this morning, the person mentioned this phrase. It’s not like I have heard it for the first time, but it kind of stuck in my head and got me wondering.

The phrase has its origin in religion.. there is even a movie by that title starring Steve Martin and Debra Winger… but that’s not what got me thinking… very unlikely that an atheist would think about faith…

The phrase today is about venturing into the unknown.. to run with an idea… to buy a new product… to buy a new brand… to hire a person. In arranged marriages it is perhaps most pertinent – Two people who hardly know each other decide to get into a relationship of a lifetime because they decide to take the leap (there is another phrase which is used here generally… they decide to take the plunge :P). Somewhere a point comes in that whole process where everything else is kept aside and they just do it.

Strangely enough… when we go ahead and decide to bind our lives “till death do us apart”… why do we spend endless hours on deciding many other things. The research that goes into buying a LCD TV… or rather LED TV… which handset to buy… (though in this case any brand other than Nokia is supposedly a leap of faith… I have a friend and have been telling her to consider  Sony Ericsson Xperia but she is hung up on Nokia!).

Which car to buy… nowadays all cars are pretty much the same if you remove the wrapping that is built around by advertising and paid PR but nope… I have seen the amount of dithering that people do before buying the car. I for one always bought the car I wanted… never thought twice.. never checked through all the auto magazines… never asked people. Maruti 800 to Wagon R to Accent Viva to Xylo… have never regretted the decision.

There are films after films that talk about the toothpaste to buy… the detergent… toilet cleaner… and we have the herd mentality religiously buying the brands and spouting the logic given by advertising… We don’t give a new brand a chance… after all the millions spent by Unilever, P&G and Colgates of the world have to account for something. Is their serious an impact.. using Colgate vs Pepsodent (nope don’t want paid testimonials from Indian Dental Association)

Of course the argument that would be doled out to counter my point would be – “But Samir… we have to spend money to buy these products so it has to be the a well researched decision… buying a car is like lakhs of rupees!” hmm right… for a person who decided on hitching with another person (an investment for a lifetime) is teaching about the value of money which as the saying goes is ‘easy come easy go’…

I think the problem is we get too stuck in the tangibles… black and white… cut and dry… our risk averse nature conditions our mind so much that unless there are enough statistics and more backing a product or a brand… we would not venture forth…

It’s the same when recruiting a person… he should have the right industry experience… he should come for the price I am willing to pay… I don’t want to know about the varied experience he can bring to my industry. I can’t believe what he is promising to deliver… to much of a risk.. what if he fails…

Relationships have a price today.. be it with a brand.. with spouse or a person being hired… and leap of faith is missing… Would Google do another Google? Would Apple to another Apple? Would Nike “Just Do It” now? Nope… because now they all are answerable to the their shareholders.. the bean counters… who are always wary that the leap might turn into a plunge…

No Advertising Bashing


A few days back, one of my friends said that my posts on advertising and marketing usually end up being bashing and kind of mocking. Went to the extent of saying I am getting menopausal! (eh??) So I had decided that I will refrain from commenting on advertising and for past so many days I have avoided… even though the itch was there.

But for past couple of days have seen a continuation of a great campaign going down the chute and of course few other commercials too and figured what the hell… one more post wont hurt.

The campaign under discussion is the new Tata Safari campaign about price. 2005 was the year when the first campaign for Tata Safari was aired – Reclaim your Life. Absolutely awesome and oh so insightful! I actually did one of the things that the campaign exhorted us to do in order to reclaim our lives… No… DID NOT BUY THE SAFFARI! (cant imagine myself driving a truck) but one of the situations from the commercial.

So in the new campaign.. a bunch of guys doing various adventurous guy things – scuba diving, sky diving and then one guy asking the other guy if he is serious about the new pricing of Tata Safari and its followed by the tag line – Reclaim  your Life. Seriously.. what gives? If the guys are already doing all that is depicted in the commercials.. they have already reclaimed their life.. isn’t it? and the whole communication so trivializes such a powerful claim. For 5 years I have been so keen on a Safari just because of the campaign but sanity has prevailed and have not bought one. Great campaign does not make great product. Couple of years back I think, Safari has done another price campaign and it was true to the brand promise… but this campaign sucks big time. Wonder if words like ‘refresh the thought’, ‘surprise’ and ‘edgy’ were part of the creative brief. Alongwith the subtle hint that one wants to go for some crazy shoot.

The other commerical I want to talk about is the Chloromint one.. featuring Salman Khan. Now I might be called a person with no sense of humor but seriously for me.. the commercial sucks big time! I for one, am never gonna have a soft serve in a cone ever again! or even ice cream for that matter… I am all for irreverence but this is carrying it way too far… hum choloromint kyon khate hain should turn into hum choloromint kyon nahin khate hain!

Thats it… I had to write this piece and vent out my feelings. Would stay away from commenting on advertising for a while… There are many more that I can talk about but I have also been told that my posts are too long so keeping the word count under 500 this time 😛