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.