Thursday, March 7, 2019

Consumer Insights 101 Part 2: Simple Tricks to Cracking Consumer Immersions

Hello people! Continuing our journey into the murky waters of inexact science of consumer insights; here is my 2nd post on the topic. Also, as promised I am doing 1 every month (I started this in Feb just never managed to finish it & maybe I will do 2 in March)

I personally find doing qualitative research or groups is relatively easier than doing one on one consumer immersions. For those who are hearing this term for the first time; it’s a fancy word for consumer home visits where you get someone to recruit consumers for you and you go and talk to them by yourself. In the beginning you can also request for a moderator to know how its done or accompany someone else who has done a few of them. Eventually however, you will have to find your own rhythm & way of doing them. For me, it is also what I love about being a FMCG marketer most – the joy of talking to the consumers.

Unlike popular belief, I am a socially awkward person and hence talking to strangers doesn’t come easy to me at all. So, when I was a newly minted ABM; the thought of immersions was not only daunting it was also something I was convinced I could never be good at. I would listen to people around me telling stories of very insightful and interesting immersions and I would be filled with awe on how they managed them. Eventually, I sort of got into the groove as they say and have never looked back. What worked for me was well a fat load of help of course; but also, my inherent inquisitiveness about what made people do what they did.

Well, I can’t promise if this post will make it easier for anyone reading it, but it shall hopefully give you enough tips till you find your own way to do it. So, the following is my blueprint of how to do a consumer immersion (good, bad or ugly is a judgement I leave to you😊):

1. Form a hypothesis: it may sound like something you would do only when you can prove or disprove it quantitatively. However, it is very useful to form hypothesis even while doing immersions because as you meet more and more consumers you will be able to see a pattern and that will help you make better decisions in the absence of full fledged quantitative research all the time. Now its important to know what type of hypothesis one should form for immersions – they have to be around behavioural patterns and not exact or restrictive. An example of a good hypothesis is XYZ brand’s consumers are heavily influenced by celebrities or that peer recommendation is very important for my brand or that abc are the key influencers for my brand. What one definitely can’t be a hypothesis is stuff like on an average the consumers buy 4 packs; she watches prime time TV. These are prime examples of what is best left to syndicated research/quantitative exercises to answer.

What these hypotheses help in doing is structuring your own thoughts when you talk to consumers a then you can veer your conversation to either prove or disprove your null hypothesis. Some people also call this as defining the objective of the immersions. I prefer calling it hypothesis. Also, even when you don’t want to deep dive into a specific direction and want to just acquaint yourself with the consumer its useful to put down hypothesis like he/she thinks x about my brand; he/she has seen all my ads etc. It helps one structure the discussion better and eventually also put a method to the madness that unstructured talking can be.

2. Define your recruitment criteria well: basis your hypothesis, know who you want to meet and very specifically define them. For e.g. if you want to understand lapser behaviour on your brand then as the recruiter to look for people who were users of your brand but have stopped using it in the last 3 months/6 months. Or if you want to understand barriers to your brands then get aware not trialists recruited. Of course, please choose a definition that is easy to recruit & there are enough representation for such recruitment. For e.g. to say the consumer must have a smart phone is ok; is an active social media consumer is ok; but to say recruit someone with a smart phone who has Facebook, Instagram & YouTube apps on their phone is not.

3. Make a rough discussion guide: as a beginner, a bit of preparation doesn’t hurt. Do make a list of the type of questions you will ask the consumer. Please don’t treat it like a questionnaire that you have to go in order & tick mark each question but essentially as a guide for you to navigate your conversation around. Of course, the person will deviate and will go in different directions so please don’t become a prisoner to your own discussion guide. Be flexible but being structured helps.

4. Make him/her comfortable: its true that you are meeting the consumer for a specific purpose but much like a conversation between colleagues, new people we meet in life some effort needs to be made to break ice. They are as nervous as you and in fact are continuously feeling judged because in their minds you will be making an opinion on their life choices. Start with introducing yourself, talking a little about what do you do – don’t tell them where you work but stuff like you work for a market research company and just want to talk to them to understand their lifestyle. There are no right or wrong answers and you just want to talk. I find peppering the interview with personal anecdotes helps in putting the person as ease. If there are kids in the house or elders (mother in law or someone else who looks interested in what is happening) include them in the conversation. I have found is very helpful in making the consumers talk. In fact, one of my most insightful immersion was when my consumer’s teenage daughter joined her and talked about what modernity meant to her, her expectations from her mom etc.

5. Don’t judge: after a few tips on what to do I think its also important we cover a few don’ts. The most important one for me is not to judge. Don’t let your personal ideologies and perceptions surface when you are talking to a consumer. You are there to know what he/she thinks, what are their realities, what are their motivators. This exercise is not about making a difference in their lives or expressing your POV. I have made this mistake once or twice and have seen some people who have accompanied me on immersions also being judgemental about what the consumer is saying so much so that it shows on their face & body language. For example, if you go and meet a lower income group consumer in a smaller town in India, male domination comes up as a way of life and while you personally may like it or not its not your place to have an opinion about it. Your role in that moment is to understand what role such a social structure play in decision making, family structures, wants and desires. And there will be many other such instances. For e.g. enough and more consumers don’t care about expiry dates. Please don’t gasp when they tell you that. Make a silent note in your notepad.
6. Don’t lead: you will meet consumers who will not be articulate and those who will not talk enough. In these situations, my recco would be to try different approaches to make them talk but don’t lead their answers. Don’t give them multiple choices from what you already know and then ask them to choose because they will choose one, but it will not make you any wiser about your consumers than before you started. It would be better to cut short the interview instead. What I have found useful in these situations is also to at least find out their media habits, daily routines and repertoire across categories because these are facts which most consumers will share. They may just not be able to talk about a brand, product well.


Beyond this just talk. Home visits are what I still love marketing as much as I do. Every visit has been an eye opener. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration but for me this is where I see societal transformation. New trends, new beliefs, new lifestyle, new social structures all come alive in a more concrete way than any amount of information & numbers present all around you. Get over your initial anxiety and you will come your consumers because you will see them in their world. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Consumer Insights 101: Knowing the person before the consumer

Hello hello.......... Happy 2019 to everyone. Wishing for lots of goodness for everyone. I didn't keep up my promise of one blog entry every month last year but I am hoping I am going to be better this year. 

This year I plan to focus on the 'not so exact science' part of marketing. As Dumbledore told Harry in the Half Blood Prince - we shall be leaving the firm foundation of fact and journeying together through the murky marshes of memory into the thickets of wildest guesswork. Consumer insights is pretty much like that. There are of course concrete quantitative proofs of what works for your consumers but we shall not focus on that part here. My entire focus in this piece will be to outline what is an insight and how to get there (at least eventually). 

Let me begin by putting down some caveats. This, as said above is my personal experience with delving deep into the realms of a person’s motivations, triggers & aspirations. There can be (in fact, definitely is) a better way for this journey. It is as the topic suggest – insights 101 so may be basic for some people. And lastly, while I firmly believe that basics of marketing transcend categories & segments & industries; this piece will be most useful for mass categories.

In our world, consumer insights may be the most abused & hence loosely used term. Simply put an insight is the why of a behaviour and not the what. For e.g. choosing a fixed deposit over a mutual fund as a saving instrument is a ‘what’ while need for security & surety is the ‘why’ behind making this decision. Taking an example closer home would be buying an antibacterial handwash for the kids is the ‘what’ driven by the need to keep children away from all evils of the world. It sounds extremely simple when its put down like this and also very intuitive. But to unearth a new insight is not only difficult sometimes its impossible because insights much like needs are simple & universally true. But finding an insight is just the first step. The key is to marry the insight with your brand’s promise. As I said, insights are universally true & are hence largely brand or category agnostic. One needs to find a way to convert them into triggers for your brand choice.

The following are my few tips to assimilate all the consumer information/knowledge you have into culling insights. I call it culling because much like data analytics it’s a step by step process (at least in the beginning) and when done methodologically brings better results.

1.       Know her/him before what she/he buys: one of the first things I was taught while writing my first concept was to define who am I talking about. And as would be normal for a newly minted ABM, I started rattling everything I knew about her. Women in the age of 30-44; SEC AB, living in Metros & top 35 cities (back then I didn’t even make it slicker by saying big urban centres); married; first greys (I used to work on hair colours then) and then just to complete the psychographic element I threw in bits like she is conscious about her looks & is looking for a natural fitting in look. This is when the person who initiated me into the world of consumer insight looked at me and said – but who is she? And then he taught me the most invaluable lesson of it all. Learn enough about her/him that you can talk about them in first person and describe them as you will describe your own family of friends. A typical description would be something like Anjali (I just like this name) lives in Andheri. She is married to Rahul for the last 10 years. They have 2 girls who they both love immensely. Anjali is a proud & competitive mom. Her girls & their upbringing takes precedence over everything else in her life. She herself was brought up in a conservative family where she wasn’t allowed to study beyond graduation & couldn’t work after marriage. She wants a different world for her daughters. She wants to create an open environment in the house so that the girls grow up with confidence & ambition. She continuously invests in herself to be updated to ensure she can create this world for them. Some of the new things she has learnt & experimented with are Cornflakes, liquid handwash, ready to cook pasta, online shopping for clothes & toys and western clothes for herself so that she can look like a modern mother.
I am sure this sounds super fuzzy and subjective and mostly not scalable. For this moment, I would request you to stay with this example and assume that this makes sense and has my 13 years of experience certification behind it. As we move along the rest of the points we will see how its actually scientific, data driven & is a large enough segment for brands to target & base their decisions on. 
Also, a watch out here – demographics & the size of the segment & everything of the sorts is super important and a MUST HAVE but only for the insights part there is merit in becoming a little less left brained.

2.       Immerse yourself culturally in her/his life: now that you know who these people are and can almost see their lives as much as you see yours; immerse yourself in their culture. Now, you may believe that coming from the same region, religion, country, language et al you know the culture well. Don’t fall in that trap. Even if everything matched to the T – you can never know their culture as well as them because culture is unique to a set of individuals and unless you are immediate family you will not know it. Culture for me includes everything that influences these people – region, religion, communities, entertainment, media & KOLs.
Let’s continue our journey with Anjali. Let me draw up two different scenarios for you here. Scenario 1 – Anjali is an avid Bollywood fan who believes in the make believe world of cinema. She watches most popular shows on TV and does follow up viewing on Hotstar for episodes she misses. She is very religious and ensure everyone in her family goes to the temple regularly & daily prayers are a must in the house. All festivals are celebrated with the extended family where everything is done from scratch by her.
Scenario 2 – Anjali finds TV & most of Bollywood tiresome. So, she only listens to radio/music channels for new music and is an avid consumer of news & sports. She is not big on religion and only the big festivals are celebrated in the house. However, all community activities are very important for her & she actively participates in them. She is the one who organises local community get togethers, teaches cooking to young girls in her society & also helps the ones who are uneducated with some daily chores like online payments etc.
Any of these 2 scenarios or a combination of both is a fair possibility and will lead to very different triggers & influencers for the TG & as a result on their motivations and decision making.

3.       Find out her/his entire basket before narrowing down to your category/brand: let’s now find our way to figuring out them as a consumer/buyer once we know who they are. I personally find category led questions are best answered through quantitative research and the intuitiveness when speaking to consumers about your own category or brand is not always accurate. This is only & only because (as is usually human nature & all of us are guilty of it) of our own knowledge about our category & brands. In this case ignorance truly is bliss. When we know nothing about the drivers of the brands or categories we listen to what consumers are saying without biases and without categorising every response in a pre-defined insight/usage/need segment.  Hence, get to know the entire purchase basket. What do they use in their kitchen, bathrooms, floors, brands of clothes they wear, where do they shop for all of these things, variants they use, does this basket differ by season, months of the year, time of the month et al. What are the brands/products they buy without ever rethinking their decision? What are the categories they decide about in the store? What are the new categories they have tried because their kids recommended them or another mother or someone in the family. What are the categories/brands they have changed in the past because the price increased. Check on their knowledge of prices for all the products they use. Basically, know their entire basket & then find your way to your own category & brand.

4.       Find trends: now that you have equipped yourself with all the knowledge, treat every consumer immersion like a data point and use all of them together to find trends. They will be inexact and qualitative yes. But they will definitely be far more textured & will help build knowledge nodes in your brain which will make you understand a consumer much like you understand yourself. Your consumer will become intuitive for you much as your friends & family are. It will also help you read your quantitative researches better. For example, lets pick up a U&A (Usage & Attitude Study). It is the most exhaustive consumer study you can do for your category & brand. Armed with all the knowledge about your consumers helps you understand the U&A, various segments, need states (both functional & emotional) much better. The kind of trends you can easily spot when you meet enough consumers will be things like – price sensitivity & at what point does it change, propensity to change brands frequently, disposition towards upcoming trends like naturals, feminism, urbanisation, globalisation, influencers set – celebrities, sports stars, peers or experts and the list is endless.
Let’s continue seeing this from Anjali’s POV. So, suppose we have met 20 Anjalis so far and they are mostly the scenario 2 Anjalis. The things we can predict about future Anjalis we meet will be things like – performance is important for her (sports viewer), she places a premium on information & hence will be predisposed to knowing more about her brands than just watching an ad (watches news), peers will be a big influence in her life (community focus). She seeks brands & experiences that make her a better parent & definitely a more modern woman.  
Now let’s pick her basket of products (and suppose these are often repeated across the 20 Anjalis we have met). Say she buys Goodknight, Lux soap, Surf detergent, Big Bazar shopper, Tata tea, Maruti Swift, Titan Raga Watch. If I was to read this list my understanding of her motivations will be on the lines of – she values Indian brands, trust is very important for her (common amongst all brands listed above), value for money is important to her (mid priced brands), technology & modernity is important within the Indian trustworthy brands (Swift, Goodknight, Titan Raga etc.)
And once you have met enough consumers, worked on different categories/brands within a category these trends will help you in instinctively getting the consumer. This doesn’t mean that the consumer will not spring surprises. In fact, one of the things I love about my job is that I have never walked out of a consumer immersion saying it was boring & I knew everything. I always learn something new & add it to my list of things I will find trends with.

5.       Find a method to rank everything: now this is the tricky bit & will need some hand holding initially. If not hand holding then definitely trial & error. One trick is to marry all your understanding with quantitative proof in the beginning and then you will be able to extend it easily. Remember what I said in the beginning – the job as a marketer is to convert insights in triggers for your brand. To be able to do that you need to be able to rank the motivators in order of priority in your consumers life. In Anjali’s life for example, parenting will always be her biggest motivator. So anything that can appeal to her need to be a better & more equipped mother will do well. Please note here that parenting is category & brand agnostic but can be used as a lever for different categories easily.


Hopefully, we have travelled a bit into the murky waters of inexact science & enjoying them much like how we loved the unknown in our childhood. Till next time. Happy 2019 to all once again!!!! 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Innovation 101: What does it mean to innovate in FMCG

Its been a while since I wrote & apologies for that. Clearly I couldn’t keep up the discipline of writing at least once every month (much like my diet). 

What prompted me to write today was actually the Maven Meet - IIM Indore - Mumbai campus’s marketing event. It was a one day event with 8 speakers including me and the theme of the event was Disrupt or Die. Each one of us had picked up a trending topic within innovation to show how innovation is the only step forward. The event made me realise I haven’t covered Innovation at all on this platform so far. So here we go - Innovation 101!!!

During the course of this post; I will try and cover two fundamental things about Innovation:

1. Renovation vs Innovation
2. When to Innovate

Before I start, putting out a caveat - these are my experiences & views about innovation and may not be 100% relevant for all categories and companies. So be like goblin forged metal - imbibe only what makes you stronger (apologies to the non Harry Potter fans reading this). 

My entire post has an underlying assumption - the company/brand is conscious about ROI & success. There are outlier brands/companies - those who must not be named. They are the dark forces who only innovate to make life difficult for competition without caring about ROI now or anytime in foreseeable future. So I am not going to look at such outliers. 

Renovation vs Innovation

Simply put anything you do which is new on the base business is called renovation and when you introduce a new variant/sub brand/benefit et al its call an innovation. But its not so simple and hence lets try & understand the objective of each. 

Renovation is something that makes your current promise or as I call it the current core benefit either more relevant to your non buyers to increase trial or induces brand loyalty that results in either higher frequency of purchase or higher consumption (or both) amongst your current users. 

I am consciously making a bold & a controversial statement. Most marketers will tell you any initiative should do both but I truly think that its “mithya” and hence does not exist. Lets see why I believe in this so strongly. 

When you renovate you can take one of the following actions:

a) Make your product better 
b) Change something that is not liked in your product (cited as a reason for lapsage)
c) Make better claims on your product because of either a product improvement or new testing or some new technology that allows you to make new claims without changing the product substantially 
d) Change benefit or add benefits to your promise

Now think about it - while some of these actions can appeal more to both your users & non users - your analysis & consequent actions need to come from pushing one trigger. 

Lets use an example here. Suppose there is brand of child nutrition that promises immunity as a benefit (completely fictional & I dont know if any brand does). The non users may not be buying it today because of the following three reasons (in no particular order): 
1. They dont trust/like the brand
2. They like their current brand & dont think they need to switch 
3. They dont buy into immunity as a benefit - whatever may be their reason

And similarly the users of the brand buy it because:
1. Immunity is important to them 
2. They trust/like the brand
3. Their child eats it without any fuss etc. 

Now lets go back to the 5 levers one can pull for renovation: 

a) Improving your product say its flavour- this can only make your current buyers appreciate your product & use it more often. A non buyer has rejected immunity/brand & not the product because she hasn’t even tried it. Also someone who has lapsed will rarely come back to you on a promise of a better product. Product improvement can reduce future lapsage. 
b) Change something that is not liked in the product say its ability to mix with water without forming lumps - this will make current users to buy you more often. A non user will not start feeding her child immunity boosting nutrition just because its now easy to mix.
c) Make better claims on your product - your current buyers buy you because they like you, believe your promise & are happy with it. They will not start feeding their child more because you have 2 times better immunity booster. But for non users this could be a reason to start buying you. If they had credibility issues with immunity claim maybe this convinces them to try you 
d) Change/add benefits - say the brand says immunity + brain development. In my opinion it will attract new users more than increasing consumption amongst current users because mental development will bring in new users. In fact, changing or altering promise on a large base business needs to be done with extreme caution because you need to be sure that your current consumers are not rejecting you because of whatever change you are doing. 

Hence all testing for renovation has to have one of the two KPIs. Either win among current users on PI or win among new users on PI while maintaining parity among current users. 

Innovation is something that expands your brand’s consumer base or usage because of a new promise or benefit. An innovation can use one of the following routes:

a) Leverage new benefit segments that are adjacent or complimentary to your core benefit 
b) Leverage different sensorials essentially fragrances, ingredients, flavours etc. 
c) Appeal to a new TG/user group 
d) Leverage a new usage ocassion
e) Ride on a prevalent trend/seasonality/current event that is important in a consumer’s life
f) Create an absolutely never heard before benefit 
g) Makes current consumer habit/usafe easier through convenience

Lets look at an example of each through the lens of the immunity child nutrition brand. 

a) Leverage new benefit segments: the brand could launch a new range/variant for height gain, weight gain, better digestive system or any other benefit relevant to parents with kids in that age group. 
b) Leverage different sensorials essentially fragrances, ingredients, flavours etc. - create exciting flavours like chocolate or use ingredients like almonds
c) Appeal to a new TG/user group - create a separate range/variant for older kids whose need for immunity is different
d) Leverage a new usage ocassion - create a different variant for night consumption or when the kid has just finished some physical activity
e) Ride on a prevalent trend/seasonality/current event that is important in a consumer’s life - Monsoon variant or winter variant because the needs for immunity are different. 
f) Create an absolutely never heard before benefit - Am being creative here but say you had a product that could build immunity from allergies 
g) Makes current consumer habit/usage easier through convenience - ready to drink packs, single use packs hence no need to measure etc

Now coming to some tough ones with no right or wrong answer and depends on the companies philosophy more than anything else but I am going to still slot it where I personally feel it should be slotted.

LUPs - should it be innovation or renovation? One could argue it can be both. For me its renovation because it makes your current benefit more appealing/relevant to non users  - basically breaking affordability barrier. 

New News Changes - stuff like packaging change, form, shape, colour - I personally think it can be both depending on the nature of change. If packaging change makes the product easier to use or more convenient it is an innovation. On the other hand if its just to do something new & get noticed & improve shelf throw its renovation. For e.g. dosage control caps on any bottle is an innovation while new bottle shape is a renovation. 

Now the question on when should one innovate - basically what are the checks one must have in place before embarking on the journey of innovation. Even if competition is out innovating you; first look inside - assess the following and then look at innovation as your growth engine. 

Assumption: there is a large enough base business for the brand & you are looking at innovation to drive incremental growth. 

1. Health of your base business: if there is any trouble in that paradise - drop everything and see what can turn it around. Unless the conclusion is that the base business category/your product offering in that caregory is doomed and the only way to grow is to quickly build other pillars. 

2. Weigh your moneybags: here two things need to be checked. Firstly, is your base business sufficiently funded for the time period you are looking at. And secondly, assessing how much money will it take to make your innovation a success (according to your own KPIs) and whether you can afford it because there is some money you have to burn before the awareness to trial ratios start kicking in & create a snowball effect. You need to have the burn money before you innovate

3. Aukat: this again is twofold. Firstly, the brand’s/company’s ability to distribute the innovation. Indian retail space reality is very simple “jab hoga to bikega” - no consumer will go hunting for your innovation shop to shop - unless you can make yourself available in category weighted outlets it is impossible for you to succeed. Secondly, do you have the courage, money & will to sustain innovations - because innovations need nurturing. Its like having a baby - its very different from a dog who starts being your companion from day 1. Babies need to be nurtured till they are 2 or 3 and can talk and play with you. (Am not saying dogs don't need to be nurtured but they do give ROI on nurturing faster).

If you have all three - then be a good marketer and design an innovation (whether incremental or disruptive) that will step change your growth curve. 

As I said, these are my opinions and happy to answer any questions or debate any point. 



Hopefully I shall go back to once a month routine. Till then happy selling :) 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Books that have shaped my school of marketing

Hello people. I am trying to keep my promise of doing at least 1 post in a month although I am super delayed on this one. Let me try and be punctual and deliver on promised timelines in the future. The genesis of this post is a conversation I had last week at the lunch table with some colleagues who were trashing Kotler and saying how it was a waste of time & how it didn't help them to learn anything at all that has aided them in delivering on their jobs. I of course disagreed because I personally am a big fan of Kotler. I know a lot of you will be scoffing right now and may not read the rest of the post at all because of this. But honestly, step back once and think - did Kotler not make all of us know 4Ps of marketing inside out. We all have evolved our thinking on the 4Ps and in fact have moved into more evolved models of 5Ps and 7Cs and all of that. But the first time we all understood what does marketing mean is through Kotler and often enough we all resort to jargon from that book only. So yes, I am a big Kotler fan. But then I came across the below listed books - some recommended by people I respect in the field & some just because I happened to read them. So hopefully, you will find the list useful and will read some (if not all) of them. Since it is my blog I can set the rules and hence my only rule if you pick up any of the books to read is to read them fully and not the synopsis. The beauty of the books resides in the details & the examples & sometimes just the way some expressions are used to say the most obvious & mundane things making your eyes go wide.

1. How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don't Know by Byron Sharp: famously known as the red book of marketing has to at some point of time become your marketing bible. And while writing this I realised that the red book may not refer to just the cover of the book but also the analogy to the field of astrology in India followed by the 'laal kitaab"  - coincidence? Maybe! So How Brands Grow..... the book has 2 simple rules which it goes to explain through the pages (I am para phrasing here of course) - make your brand more available on the shelf & in people's minds. Brands grow only and only when you manage to do these two things. The book also kicks up a big controversy about sharply defined target audience, creating value through niches and how all of it is a misnomer. The biggest myth this book aims at breaking is about brand distinction & is it more important to create emotional connect with the consumer of create consistent memory structures which make the brand distinctive in the consumers mind. All of this may seem outrageous for those who have not read the book but trust me once you read the book, run the numbers on your own brands it is an eye opening exercise. Byron Sharp & his institute have dedicated themselves to proving their theories with actual numbers and those are water tight. In the long run, brands that run behind penetration and at wide audience win.

2. Practice of Marketing; Science or Superstition by Shyamal Ghose: this is one of those nondescript books that most people have not heard about and few have read. Or rather I should say in my limited sample set of people I discuss marketing books with; its not a known book and hence I am very glad that I chanced upon it. The story behind this is actually funny. I was supposed to attend a strategy training by Shyamal Ghosh so I read up on him and then bought the book so that I at least know what is school of thought in marketing is - the nerd that I used to be! On hindsight, I am glad I bought it and read it. His book outlines how marketing will win when it becomes an exact science and he describes it using models. He details the scientific models of looking at data in the most simplistic language making people like me who inherently were not data savvy grasp the concept easily. This book I think should definitely be read by all newly minted brand managers just to be able to envisage all marketing models that can help you decipher your brands better

3. The End of Advertising as We Know It by Sergio Zyman: I have to admit that this book is a bit outdated now as the advertising and media world have changed substantially since I read this book. But if one wants to understand when to use which media and what should the messaging be like then this is a good book to turn towards. I would still recommend this book in the new age world of digital media to really just get the basics right. It also of course appeals to my firm right brain belief in the power of advertising - it needs to sell and the art and everything fuzzy about it as just by products.

4. Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille: if you want to understand how human brains work and what drives them then this is the book to turn to. It is not essentially a marketing focussed book per se. In fact, I came across this when I was reading on the concept of nostalgence related to fragrances. The fragrance expert on my brand brought up this book and talked about the reptile brain. The concept fascinated me and then I read the book. I think it is one of the better written books on consumer motivations and how they emanate from fundamental belief systems and memory structures - language, history & most importantly culture that one grows up in. Intuitively it seems consumer behaviour 101 but the way the brain is described and then different cultural symbols that can be used to appeal to the Culture Codes. One of my all time favourites.

5. Nudge by Casss Sunstein & Richard Thaler: This one definitely is not a marketing book. In fact it is one of the better books written on behavioural economics and this work truly nudged Thaler towards his Nobel Prize. Why I recommend Nudge for marketing is because I think if one wants to understand & in turn impact behaviour change for their TG then this is the book to read. It uses examples of healthcare, anti smoking campaigns and what makes people change their behaviour. It outlines how people make choices and at what points in the process can you impact it. What part of the brain should these interventions appeal to for being impactful and eventually how to make it into a habit. Lately, I have found more answers in this book than others that I have read over the years. It is also one of those books I have read over & again to design my concepts & campaigns.

These are just a few of my favourite ones and in no way an exhaustive list. There are loads more to read and eventually to design your own school of thought in marketing. Marketing irrespective of how scientific it gets & how much analytics can lead to decisions; is a gut feel and only when you have educated yourself enough can you develop one of your own. I have diligently invested in reading, understanding, debating, discarding & eventually imbibing what makes sense to me. Hoping that whoever reads these books can fall in love with them as I did. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Making Ads Part 3 - AD (After development)

I have been meaning to write this for a while now but then life took over & then this took a backseat. I needed a break from my craft as I have fondly started calling marketing. Well, this is the closest I will be able to call myself creative. So, I decided to take refuge in my second favourite passion - travel!!! This post comes to you from Japan. I am currently at this moment on my way from Osaka to Hiroshima - from modernity to history is what I am choosing to call this journey. It is also the sort of contrast I enjoy in storytelling & advertising. 

Till now on our journey of making ads we have covered the science behind making ads & how to nail a brief. From the release of the brief till you actually decide on the script & then shoot it there is a long period. I call it the dramatic pause. How all performing arts have this moment when you wait with your breath held for something big & dramatic to happen. This is the time the creative team is taking to come up with the brilliant script that will overwhelm you. 

This post is about how to marry whatever we have done in part 1 & part 2 with the actual creative work for bringing out at ad/campaign that works. Now first thing to be convinced about individually and sadly no one will be able to change your mind if you believe otherwise is that advertising’s sole purpose is to sell. It will sell better if its memorable & can break clutter but its purpose is still to sell. Its purpose is not to entertain or win awards. Well if awards is the purpose then the brief should be different and yes maybe once in a lifetime you will hit the jackpot and make advertising that will do both. I have not seen many & hence I will focus on what is the usual order - ads need to increase sales. Of course the route to more sales is better brand recall, better brand association, better brand love & eventually building propensity for trail. 

So where do we start with this part of ad making - After Development (AD). Ensure that the script/campaign is presented by the creative themselves in a meeting. Please do not get scripts or creatives emailed to you. So much is lost in translation when you read something on your own. The tone & the visualisatio  is completely lost when seen on a computer screen. Its like reading a book & making your own assumptions about what is the character like till someone else actually tells them your POV. This part of the process is also where your right brain needs to take over your left brain. You need to become a consumer. As Dumbledore tells Harry in the 6th book - from now on we will leave the known & venture into guesswork. Appreciating a script is pretty much like that. For every brief written millions of scripts can be written and you will never be able to tell which is better even on hindsight because you will choose only one and move forward. 

I will however try & outline some of the things that can help you make a better choice - its not fool proof but then most things in marketing are not. Unlike potion making that is exact; marketing is a field of magic that needs individuality & judgement (apologies to the non Harry Potter fans - I can’t help but draw analogies from there - I promise the post still makes complete sense. It may lack the fun for you :p)

1. Put yourself in the TGs shoes: evaluate the script/campaign as your TG will. You should know your TG inside out and when you hear he script/campaign think about what she/he will think about it. This is often easier said than done. This is where pop culture & mass entertainment comes to our rescue. Look around yourself for trends that the consumer is responding positively to & then see if your script/campaign comfirms to it. Here, be a little cautious. While it needs to confirm to the mass trends - it cannot sit in the center of it. It needs to sit just a tiny bit outside of it to be perceived as interesting & new. Eventually leading to breaking clutter. Example if you are showing a conventional husband wife relationship; it cannot depict a submissive - you are my lord wife. There needs to be a new age bend to it. 

2. Remember the brief: even if the script blows your mind; if it does not deliver to the brief - do not proceed. Ask the creative team the question - how does it deliver to the brief? We are all guilty of choosing the story over the logic & in a few & rare cases the punt also pays off. But more often than not, one winds up with a piece of creative that is great; overwhelmingly good but does little to do what it was supposed to - increase sales. 

3. Confirmity to brand codes: the script needs to sit within the brand world you have curated & carefully nurtured over years of existence. For a new brand this would be the world you need to weave & be clear about before you look at the creative. The brand world determines the creative language & not vice versa. Example if you are a brand based on the vibrancy of youth & everything it brings with itself - college life, need for new experiences, need for edginess all leading to a bit of flippancy or volatility 
(E.g. Fast Track); talking about changing the world & youth is the power of tomorrow (E.g. Tata Tea) is not being true to your brand world and even if its the trend & is being adopted across categories & pop culture - do not accept it. 

4. Brand is a part of the story: This is where you & your creative team will differ the most. But this is where you come in as the custodian of the brand. Your brand needs to be a part of the story. The ad should not be complete without the role your brand has to play in it. For example in the Asian Paints (har ghar kuch kehta hai) ad; the story is not complete without Asian Paints at all. Your brand needs to be the phoenix feather wand in Harry Potter - the story is not complete without it. A large part of this is aided by your brief & the brand world you create but the rest is the job of the creative. And yes sometimes your brand uniquely may not fit into the story but at least the category needs to. In large, highly penetrated categories with multiple brands straddling the same benefit segment to have the brand uniquely play a role in the story is unrealistic. But yes the category & most importantly the benefit segment definitely needs to. For example fresh breath needs to be integral to a toothpaste ad even if its not Close up. 

5. Let your heart respond: once you have done the first four its time to let the right brain take over. If the script/campaign does not speak to your heart then its not the right script. It needs to appeal to you as a creative piece of work much like a book or a movie or a song or a video or a TV show. And it doesn’t need to be just emotional - it needs to just be something that instinctively appeals to your right brain - could be emotional, funny, nostalgic, dramatic, shocking et al

With this I finish my discourse on ad making. There is a whole lot to be done as you move from here to actual production & releasing it. That part mostly is the operational bit of ad making. I personally love it - Pre-bids, treatment notes, PPMs, offlines et al. But I am not sure if anyone is interested enough to want to go through 
that process in detail. If there are people who want to know, leave a comment and if there is a quorum; we shall take you through that process as well. 

P.s. Apologies for typos if any - its been written on the phone in small print on a train. So please excuse. 


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Designing Pack Price Architecture (PPA) through Conjoint


Part 3/3 from Jayant - insightful piece on Price Pack Architecture to optimise portfolios. From whatever I've seen, this is one of the most effective parts of the Revenue Growth toolkit.

Designing Pack Price Architecture (PPA) through Conjoint

Most consumer decisions are made within the influence of several factors – price, competitive marketing efforts (media and trade promotions), brand significance, share of mind/shelf in the shop/retail, new innovative launches etc. So how can a researcher decide on a methodology that allows us to study the impact of these variables when optimizing a brand portfolio.
Price Pack Architecture is important to ensure that each SKU in a brand portfolio is aiding in maximizing volume and value for the parent brand (with least cannibalization). Since each SKU would differ slightly in its offering (size, price, flavor etc.), it needs to be understood what impact does it have on the business by changing or introducing new SKUs or brands in the portfolio.
Conjoint is one of the most commonly used research tools to study the impact of different PPA scenarios, e.g.
·       what would happen if we change the size (grams) of one of our SKUs?
·       Does a 10-cookie pack cannibalize my own 5 cookie pack or take from competition?
·       Does reducing price by $1 hep increase volumes enough to bring more revenue?

How it works?
Collecting data – The exercise is simple – each respondent is shown a series of scenarios with different brands and SKUs at different price points. These SKUs and price points vary for each scenario. We may show some brands and SKUs in some screen and not show in another. The same SKU can have a variation of price points (generally defined as +10% or +5% of base price).
Then for each scenario the respondent is asked to choose an option they would most likely buy (assuming this were a real purchase). To make the scenario true to reality we sometimes also offer an option of “none/buy something else” to allow the respondent an option to reject all options in a scenario. Below is a screen to illustrate a survey screen. Generally, a respondent is exposed to 10-15 such screens depending on the number of brands/SKUs we are testing.


Interpreting the output –



        Price sensitivity analysis is done to determine Optimal price points: Below is an example of a price sensitivity analysis – it shows that if everything in the market were to remain constant, how would our brands value and volume sales change if we alter the price. The slope of this curve is called price elasticity (i.e. the change in value/volume sales if we change the price by 1 unit). Brand managers desire to have price in-elastic products (i.e. very small price elasticity ~0). A low-price elasticity would indicate that the brand doesn’t lose sales as we increase price.



The price range to play in would be the region between two break points i.e. the points where there is a biggest drop in sales when price is changed



        Forecasting volumes in different scenarios – we can create scenarios and predict the volume/value sales changes. E.g. look at the example below –
        The portfolio mix with an addition of small pack (4 cookie) in Choco Crème leads to an overall 6% and 4% growth in volume and revenue respectively of the portfolio
        However, this portfolio mix leads to 7% decrease in both volume and revenue respectively for the Vanilla variants





Running different permutation and combination of such scenarios will then help estimate gain/loss to portfolio, thus deciding an optimal portfolio. We can also create scenarios where the competition prices and launches can be presumed to predict different “what if” scenarios.

KPIs for Brand Health Tracker: Reading BHT Metrics


Here's part 2/3 from Jayant - some basics in tracking your brands health

KPIs for Brand Health Tracker: Reading BHT Metrics

As a marketer tracking sales helps understand your market standing. But it doesn’t answer ‘why” your sales are the way they are. You may enjoy a large share but an undesirable brand strength or vice versa. Hence it is important to measure the health and equity of a brand in the market.

Brand health trackers are the mostly used “research tool” to track (hence the name tracker) and measure the standing of brand and its competitors in the market. It is a standard report that is generated on a consistent frequency. This frequency may vary from industry to industry (e.g. it’s important for CPG brands to measure key brand health metrics on monthly or even weekly basis).
Each such iteration is generally called a wave, so you read movements of key brand health metrics wave on wave. E.g. If we do brand health tracking twice a year, then you have two waves a year. 
Generally, in practice you wish to see movements of data for last 2 to 4 waves depending how far back in history to you wish to go.
In this short write up we will go through some of these key brand health metrics and analysis, which you should know as a brand manager –

Brand Funnels: As shown below, this funnels helps us understand how good the brand is doing at all aspects of customer decision making process. E.g. below graph shows us that our brand is performing poorly on translating consideration to trial and making sure we are the Most Often Used Brand (MOUB). Other brands are performing better at these aspects.
·       Awareness – The union of unaided and aided recall gives us ‘awareness’. Being low on this indicated that the brand needs to increase share of voice in the media/communications – more campaigns and communications to help improve the awareness of the brand
o   We ask “which brands are you aware of”, followed by an open-end text box. %age of respondents mentioning the brand gives us “unaided recall” of the brand
o   After which we can show a list of brands and ask “which ones of these brands are you aware of”, %age of respondents mentioning the brand gives us “aided recall” of the brand
·       Consideration – Within the brands that the respondent is aware of, it is the percentage of respondents who say they have considered purchasing/using the brand in the past Being low on this indicates our positioning or offering isn’t right i.e. consumers do not think of us as a valid choice to fulfill their needs
·       Trial – Within the brands that the respondent has considered, it is the percentage of respondents who say they have purchased/used the brand in the past Low on this generally indicates that our availability or price is an issue. Because what is
·       Usage – Within the brands that the respondent has tried, it is the percentage of respondents who say they are currently using the brand (in case of categories like confectionary, services like restaurant, hotels etc. we ask if they have used it in recently e.g. last 1 week/month etc.)
·       Most often used brand (MOUB or BUMO, Brand used most often) – Within the brands that the respondent is currently using, it is the percentage of respondents who say that the brand is their most often used brand.
Very important: For consideration, trial, usage and MOUB we generally ask respondents to not think beyond 3 months for CPG brands and up to a year for high involvement categories like cars, appliances, hotels, vacations etc.

Share of Heart/ Share of Mind: The Share of our brand versus other brands in the unaided awareness is sometimes termed as “share of mind”. Similarly, the share of our brand versus other brands for MOUB is often referred to as “share of heart”.
Likelihood to used again – Sometime, post the funnel questions, we ask respondent how likely are they to continue using their MOUB. This metric is asked on a 5/7 or 10-point scale. The percentage of respondent answering the top score or top 2 scores are reported as the loyalty metric.  
NPS – In the service sector (e.g. hospitality, telecom, software etc.) there is standard metric used called Net Promoter Score (NPS). Respondents are asked how likely are they to recommend a brand. This is asked for our and competitor brand on a 11-point scale (0 to 10). Percentage of respondents giving top 3 ratings are called promoters and bottom and bottom 6 ratings (0 to 5) are called detractors. Promoters % minus detractor % gives us the NPS score. There are other ways to calculate this and it is a topic that warrants a detailed discussion. So, till then we will pause here.
Brand Imagery: This is the second most important part of a brand health tracker. For each brand that the respondent is aware of OR have used in the past, we ask to rate the brands on different attributes.

Attribute List: Below are some examples of attributes that a brand can track –
This brand's products taste great
This brand Helps me be independent
This brand has packaging I like
This brand helps me to keep doing the things I love
This brand comes in Flavors I Like
This is a brand I trust
This brand is widely available
This brand’s products offer good value for money
This brand is Easy to find in the store
This brand’s products are of high quality
I enjoy watching the ads from this brand
This brand brings new and innovative products
This is a brand I love
Is a premium brand
This Is a brand I want to be seen using
Is an inspiring brand
This Is a popular brand
The brand is a leader in the market
This brand's products have a texture I like
This brand's products are different from other brands
Is on sale often
This brand is recommended by my friends and family

Some themes of attributes are –

Functional Benefits (price, value, ease of use etc,)
Brand positioning (emotional in nature e.g. trust, brand for me, scientific, cool, modern etc.)
Category Leadership
Recommendations/ Endorsements (reco by friend, reco by expert, reco by salesperson)
Packaging
Product
Products 
Retail Availability
Advertising


Owned versus Opportunities: When comparing the brands across different attributes, you will notice attributes which our brand is the strongest versus competitive brands. These are ‘owned’ attributes, some attributes may be owned by competition as well. There is also a low hanging fruit – attributes which are not owned by any brand – i.e. all brands have a low rating on these attributes. These low hanging fruits and competition owned attributes are the opportunities for our brand to act on.
Ad/Message Recall: Sometimes brands wish to measure Ad recall along with brand health tracker. The most common ad recall metric is –  Rate of Recall: Percentage of respondents who mentioned they recall seeing an ad by the brand. This again can be asked as aided and unaided, just like the awareness metric. We also follow up this question by asking where do they recall seeing the ad – TV, print, POS, radio etc.
Purchase/Usage behavior: Brand health trackers also allow opportunity to ask behavioral and usage data. This is done especially for categories with growing distribution in the markets. Asking respondents where (point of purchase), when (how frequently) and how much (quantity) of product do they purchase.
Some Guidance tips:
·       Target population: This is important, because it will decide ‘who” will answer your brand health tracker questionnaire. Going beyond your target population will give us bad or useless data. e.g. the target for Horlicks would be Moms of kids aged 2 to 10 year old kids, from socio economic class A. B and C. these moms should be using or willing to use nutritional supplements for their kids.
·       Rolling data Versus Stand in Time: We measure brand health metrics either per wave, or we combine data for past waves to reduce any sample bias i.e. sudden jumps and movements (this is called rolling data e.g. past 3 waves rolled as one reading)
·       Brand Power: many research providers have their own trademark methodologies to give one single score brand equity score/measure.
·       Social Media: This is one aspect that warrants a special discussion. Generally, the social media indicators are ahead of its time than overall market, as early adopters are the first ones to talk about the brand or product online versus others. Also, social media analysis complements a tracker, it is still far away from replacing the traditional brand health tracker.