Friday, March 25, 2011

Advertising is so 2000. Let's build a community.

While Accenture, IBM and CapGemini blasted their ads, the traditional response of the Indian IT marketer has been that we target a very small base of organizations, so ads would be overkill. When we first started discussing this, back in the early part of the last decade, we assumed that when the firms were bigger they would end up having to advertise, as one-to-one would become unwieldy.

One of the strong followers of the tight, community building strategy has been Cognizant. And I’ve been wondering whether now that they are a “big” company they will move towards a more traditional strategy, with ads and fanfare. The news on the NASSCOM street is that they are sticking to their traditional approach, even as they target aggressive growth on a big base. Why?

Answer is simple - the evolution of community technologies is enabling the effective scaling of one to one communication. Ok, it’s really one-to-many but technology sophistication allows mass customization to the degree that it is almost personal. And the responses can be really one-to-one. Cognizant calls their system Cognizant 2.0 which integrates the Cognizant view for all their clients and employees. Other IT systems have similar tools that look remarkably like Facebook in their functionality. And then there are commercially available products like Salesforce’s Chatter and former Wipro Vice Chairman, Vivek Paul’s Kinetic Glue. What these tools do is that if you have a pretty good idea of your customers and prospects, you can connect with them, directly. No need for advertising.

The success of the community approach is more labour intensive than ad blasts. But that plays in favour of firms from emerging countries which are rich in talent but poor in capital. Will more firms across the B2B spectrum adopt community cultivation as their marketing strategy?

Infosys New Visual Identity - 5 Quick Takes

I was associated with Infosys from 1998 to 2003. My last position there was as the global brand manager, so I am not an unbiased observer. I mention this up front so you get an idea of the lens through which I view this change.

  1. We did, a decade ago, evaluate whether a logotype was sufficient or a visual element was required. At the time it was decided that the logotype was just fine and all that was required was a bit of refurbishment. So the serifs were removed to give it a more contemporary look, and the tagline font was changed. The new logo unit, while shying away from a full-fledged visual element, has a digital rainbow unit included. While it does add some vibrancy, the eventual purpose of a visual unit is to be a standalone mnemonic and this umm, digital rainbow, is not distinctive enough or unique enough to easily achieve that.
  2. The logo, as it appears on www.infosys.com drops the tagline. “Powered by intellect. Driven by values.” Let me confess that I wasn’t exactly a fan of that line. I thought it was too inward-focused and not customer-centric. But it was something that expressed the values of the firm, and which the founders were attached to. I do hope that dropping it does not signify a departure from what this stands for.
  3. “Building tomorrow’s enterprise”. Well, it is customer-centric. And it does set a charter for the organization which they can build out. And certainly everyone wants to future-proof their organizations. But the manifestohttp://www.infosys.com/building-tomorrows-enterprise/Documents/building-tomorrows-enterprise.pdf seems to be more of a compilation of all the latest technology trends. Again, everyone wants to do these things. But in positioning, it is also important to state what you will NOT do. As a company “building tomorrow’s enterprise” which “old-fashioned” technologies or ideas or verticals will you drop? Else it seems too much like slapping delicious icing on a slightly-aging cake.
  4. A dramatic change in identity is justified only when it is accompanied by significant organizational change. (When we considered this earlier it was in the run-up to the NASDAQ listing.) There were murmurs in the media that such an exercise is being contemplated at Infosys. If yes, then this change is great timing. If not, it might be an expensive distraction at a time when a lot of focus is required to build the “Infosys of tomorrow”!
  5. “Win in the Flat World”, the previous theme was very catchy at the time it was introduced, being based on Tom Friedman’s bestseller, The World is Flat. It has outlived its usefulness, yes. But does the new theme capture our imagination in the same way? I think not.

While it’s good that Infosys is focusing on its marketing engine, I do want to refer to my last post, which highlights that marketing expenses when not accompanied by a new category rarely deliver ROI.

I loved my stint at Infosys, learnt a lot, and have great respect for my former colleagues and the founders. I am commenting on what has been made public, but that may be just the visible part of the iceberg and perhaps, behind the scenese there’s lots more. Infosys is an honourable company and deserves to build the enterprise of tomorrow.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tata Nano - Fizz or Fizzle?

I love the ABCD model of analyzing a product.

A - stands for Added Value.

Definitely the NANO scores very high here, in terms of functionality for a 2-wheeler owner. Comfort from the elements, ability to transport 4 adults.

B - behavioral change

This refers to the changes required to use the product. Since NANO targeted 2-wheeler owners, this is a big change. They have to pay more for fuel, and can’t zip around the way they used to on a bike. In cities, bikes are actually faster than cars. But here’s the biggest behavioral change - they need to learn how to drive a car! That requires time, money, and effort - not always easy to find. And perhaps, some potential buyers feel that it is too late to learn driving? (Yes, anecdotal, but we all know folks who buy a car and never learn to drive, relying on drivers and spouses)

C - Complexity

The product is quite simple and scores high here too.

D - Diffusion

This is where everyone can see you using the product and therefore gets inspired to buy one too. Cars tend to do pretty well on diffusion - you see a person zipping around in a fancy car and you’d like one too. On the other hand if you see a car breaking down or, as in the case of NANO, going up in flames, you wouldn’t want to buy one. Thanks to the internet and mobile phones it is very easy now to diffuse both positive and negative images.

Now all the above are assuming that the primary market is a 2-wheeler owner seeking to buy a car. If we move it to any person in the market for a small car ie students, first-time car-buyers, second-car owners, second-hand car upgrades, the ABCD model changes a bit.

A - Added Value - Price becomes the big differentiator, and it’s always a very compelling one. Unlike in the case of a 2-wheeler owner where price was actually considered a bit steep and financing became a problem, if we look at this new, larger audience, price is a big positive

B - Behavioral Change - None required. These are people who are either using a car or who are determined to learn.

C & D remain the same.

Given this, Tata NANO should probably invest in building relationships with Driving Schools and offering weekend driving lessons. Or perhaps just reposition to target a broader market.

I wrote this post because I think this model is useful for analyzing the market-worthiness of a range of products. Product Marketers can fix the value, complexity and diffusion aspects. But behavioral change, that’s not in our control. Like they say you can take a horse to the water but you can’t make him drink! One of the business phenomenons of our times - Apple - is built on exactly that premise - the product should be intuitive to use.

The ABCD model was taught in a workshop conducted by David Bell of Harvard Business School.

Jessie Paul is the CEO of Paul Writer a marketing-focused firm offering advisory, training and community. She is the author of No Money Marketing which distills her learnings across a decade in the IT industry in roles such as CMO - Wipro IT, Global Brand Manager - Infosys and Head - Marketing, iGATE Global.