Friday, November 28, 2008

IMC Journal | Part 5.1

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sometimes even a moment can make a difference, so it’s no surprise that the world (have I told you about the frog-in-well existence of MBAs?) has changed, quite dramatically, since my last blog entry.

Since then the IMC presentation is done and dusted… ImagiNation didn’t quite fly high, if marks are the metric – but then the problem with numbers/statistics, in the words of the much maligned blabbermouth Sidhu, is that “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital!” – so even though the other team was ‘Infite’ly ahead this time, I’m proud to have put up a good show… also when the project came up and the 30-person-a-team bombshell hit us, I had a smirk on my face that said “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” – at the end of the project all I have is a wry smile as the joke’s on the few of the 30 who put in their all.

Also got back the ‘not-so-sinister’ mid-term paper that I had talked about… the questions were good, my performance to put it in a word - abysmal … hey bhagwan – izzat rakhna final exam mein … kripa karna prabhu! Like the Cycle aggarbatti advertisement goes, ‘everyone has a reason to pray’ and entire NM is praying for some relief with exams starting this Monday and classes and the zillionth (mindless?) presentations ending today evening – talk about management! Anyway time to get started with the real journal entry – time is the essence here... and we’re knockin’ on heaven’s doors!
The fifth lecture was the class where we analysed two cases – the Guinness Brand Marketing case and the P&G case interesting titled “Don’t shout, Listen”. This day was also the day that Fahrenheit 2008 was on in full force and Team ImagiNation’s campaign culminated in the event we held in the evening during Mad Ads.

Aah Guinness! Lovely black stout Irish brew. Had no idea that it was 2 ½ CENTURIES old brand though I am in love with the rich creamy smooth concoction. Another matter that I can’t afford it at 400 bucks a glass at the ITC last time I checked. But the taste from my last UK vacation lingers on… (digressing again – but the Indian copy Haywards Black is garbage) and thus was really happy to have analysed a case that actually I could connect with.
According to the case, Guinness is an old, established, global brand that had a loyal mature user group. The problem was that the identity of the brand had become its constraint i.e. the brand DNA had become its restricting factor and led to its undoing in new markets. The demographic in Ireland was changing and the youth preferred light beer to the stout Guinness. Clearly its old positioning wasn’t clicking with the new customers and the company’s revival strategy revolved around creating new experiences by creating fresh customer touchpoints.

This concept was talked about in the book “The Experience Economy” written in 1999 by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. The book says that “Businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, they argue, and that memory itself becomes the product - the "experience". More advanced experience businesses can begin charging for the value of the "transformation" that an experience offers, e.g. as education offerings might do if they were able to participate in the value that is created by the educated individual. This, they argue, is a natural progression in the value added by the business over and above its inputs.” Wikipedia  (yes the gyaan is not original) adds that: “Although the concept of the experience economy was born in the business field, it has crossed its frontiers to urban planners, tourism, architecture and other fields.”

Thus ‘experience economy’ is also considered as main underpinning for customer experience management wherein “all businesses are theatres and the customer is the product”. Guinness treaded a similar path when they created the awesome Guiness Storehouse (Note to myself: put it in on my 100 places to visit before I die!). With this Guinness went on to create an experience for the customer that it hoped would create a memory and hence the customer would become a “product” of their experience.

“Guinness as a brand is all about community. It’s all about bringing people together and sharing stories,” according to Ralph Ardill, Director of marketing of Imagination Ltd. (rings a bell? ) who designed the place. This was an attempt to build on the core DNA of the brand.
The Storehouse, which was designed to be futuristic from inside and traditional outside (aimed at both the existing as well as the new customers), was created with the intention of developing a cult culture where likeminded individuals could hang out together and share experiences. Also, Guinness concentrated on consumption of the brew rather than production (not how Guinness was brewed) even though the Storehouse looked like a traditional brewery from outside.

The company also created symbolism through the pebble – this is a good example of atypical branding. The pebble was a conversation piece and helped the company build mindshare as it forced the customer to think – to be curious – and to leave with a souvenir – creating an aura around the brand. Thus Guinness had successfully created a destination brand with a memorabilia. Similar example of a destination brand can be found all over the British isles – for instance the Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford – the home of the best football team in the world: Manchester United (Glory glory Man Utd.) and the Wimbledon Museum – the Mecca of tennis. Hard Rock Café and Planted Hollywood are a couple of more instances of destination brands.
An interesting thing common to all destination brands is that all of these “Torment the Customer” i.e. they are all aspirational brands. By way of its location, the Storehouse too is only accessible to those who visit Dublin making the faithful perceive that it is their ‘personal, exclusive’ experience and thus it adds aura to the brand. (There was actually a HBR paper titled “Torment your customer, they’ll love it” – well the iPhone did it very recently and they were quite successful and Microsoft has been doing it with their planned obsolescence strategy. Harry Potter did it in the UK to small kids when the pre-release hype about shortage made young kids wait in a queue all night long to grab a copy… talk about Business Ethics!)

The core learnings from the case are:
1. Resurrecting a brand with a new segment of customers – within repositioning adopting a dual strategy to cater to the existing as well as the new customers using a common medium (the Storehouse).
2. It was a matter of survival due to brand decline.
3. Declince of PLC necessitated keeping existing customers and also attempting to develop new customers.
4. Consumption experience created a destination brand.
5. Took elements from the original identity and filtered it into creating a “legacy” with some “change” – namely destination brand creation, the conversation piece: the pebble and an aspirational experience.
At this point, I disappeared to participate in the Gas-o-meter event and enjoyed doing what many say I do well… gave gas! Alas Ajay A. & Co. beat us to the title – we were blown away by their gas!

The other case was also interesting, and what P&G did as per this case was that it turned the internet into a device for listening to customers and for experimenting with brands. Thus the site helped P & G to enlist and empower the customer and eventually enslave him. It created 3 websites with 3 different intentions:
1. was a case of thematic branding that made the customers bond with the product – it was more of an enlisting strategy than an empowering strategy.
2. was about mass customization and was purely an empowering strategy – unlike in the case of, P&G disassociated itself and its logos from the sire as the site offered user driven experience over which the company had no control – a wrong (unqualified) customer choice could go on to tarnish the company’s brand equity. So there was a risk avoided of the P&G brand being compromised and hence the disassociation of branding. (A similar brand disassociation strategy is followed by the Taj Hotels Group in India where the Taj Hotel being a 5 star is disassociated from their economy hotel cousin brand, the Ginger Hotel). Also the customized product offering allowed P&G to charge a premium and it had free customer generated R&D and product design to boot!
3. was again an empowering strategy that helped P&G gain customer insight through the website which acted a “quasi focus group”. This helped the company pickup specific messages and words and help the company in developing a focused targeting strategy.
Therefore by creating these websites P&G had a free internet based laboratory for future product development as well a medium for personal customer communication that allowed customers to use the site as an evaluation tool giving the company invaluable firsthand consumer feedback.