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Sunday, December 3

The Smallness Of Big Brands

Few days ago, on Rashmi Bansal's(the editor of JAM magazine) blog, I had come across a comment by an investment banker(Alok Mehta) on how HLL was doing a promo on Surf Excel...sms the number of stains you can wash away with Surf and Levers will pay Rs.5 lakh towards Mumbai's needy children...On the surface a noble marketing exercise. Beneath it some eye-wash!

The back of the envelope calculations show that HLL and the telecom companies will make more moolah from the promo than the money contributed to the said cause!

1. Lets be very clear what you want to do with your brand. If the intent is to contribute honestly and generously to the cause, you don't need to ride on cheap gimmicks and schemes.
Coming from Levers, on the back of an Effie for Surf and another one for Lifebuoy -'Little Gandhi' campaign, this really is a let downer!

The amount also is so 'chindi'(small) that it is amply clear that this is more promotion than do-good brand work!

2. The other 'Big Brand' that exhibits smallness is 'Times of India'.( I must admit that content wise it's made a comeback lately) For some reason, in this age of participative media where brands(including most media brands) are encouraging a dialogue between the journo and the reader, TOI refuses to give any details on its writers. It also doesn't give out the e-mail ids of the journos so that one can give feed-back!(Unlike say an HT, IE, DNA, etc.)

Let me share another of their recent marketing schemes - an sms feeback on the articles branded - My Times, My Voice(sic)

It's quite evident that sms feedback is another of TOI's tricks to earn more money out of unsuspecting readers! Gimme a break, what intelligent feedback can a reader really give through an sms message...

In an age where consumers(like you and I) seek authenticity, some of the biggest brands reek of smallness! And may I add dishonesty...

Do share your experiences(recent)on the 'smallness of big brands'!


ram said...

I am glad that you have brought this up on corporate marketing ethics. Now about 3 years ago, in a car I was complaining about Laloo and the ilk, thugs in politics to someone I deeply respect also a mentor. He heard me out and said, who do you think is a bigger and more dangerous thief, Dawood Ibrahim, Arun Gawli or Pepsi marketing director. I thought he was kidding. Then he said something that blew my mind. When Pepsi gets Shahruk Khan and Preity Zinta to CONvince you to buy chips, pepsi - do they tell you that each one of them have been paid crores of rupees to say that. Which is a bigger lie. Now at the end a Laloo or a goonda will stop because he is aware that he is being one but what about the hordes of marketing and advertising inauthentic spin. They are not even conscious of the their looting, infact they are actually proud of what they are doing. Now being unconscuous is more dangerous because you will keep doing. Atleast Laloo and Arun Gawli will stop.

This blew my mind and it rang true. What is looting, terrorism, dacoity is conventional defination of that construct. But when the maaya is created of consumption then what happens. In my opinion you have turn the defination of robbery on its head. With all this I dont espouse the Medha Patkar's of the world. I think with their radical stance, they are equally dangerous because of their lack of ability to look at things in a reasoned manner.

Manish said...

ram, a few good men must resist the spin...there is too much of tamasha going on in the media and marketing world...

and a few media groups control it...they control the issues to be discussed ( could be as frivolous as Aishwarya's smooch on D2) over larger , bigger issues.

Then they blame it on TRPs...Of course key-hole TV is more titillating and gossipy!

But for gawd's sake the senior editors and newspersonnel have to be responsible to the country, the youth and the future generation!

In the name of news they are dishing out sleaze, slander, and idiocy to the country!

Even Ekta Kapoor is better coz she doesnt sell bizarreness under the packaging of news!

pooR_Planner said...

You might like my post on 'CGC' at tissue-issues.blogspot.

Anonymous said...

I am appalled to see the comments that are being posted against the campaign. All said and done, they atleast thought of donating something for a noble cause. I would say its better than turning a blind eye to it...and for sure far better than being a critique and finding faults with what companies are doing. Lets go ahead and wash some more...if we cannot donate ourselves !

Anonymous said...

1. there is nothing wrong with donating for a cause, however small the amount! what i feel is dishonest is the manner in which profit will be made by the said brand....by unsuspecting consumers...

2. why should the brand get credit for a donation which essentially comes from the consumers pocket.

ram said...

There are many faces to terrorism or corruption is my point. There is terrorism in language, media, business but the construct of terrorism is defined by gun toting radicals.

I think CGC is powerful enabler of conscioussness. But at some point one requires an editor. Wisdom unfortunately is slower to develop than technology. Experience, knowledge, discernment, thought, reflection and action. Today the stimuli are geared towards immediate action. But even if you tried a child, a seed require nourishment, care, light to grow physically and pyschologically.

The strenght of modern economy is built around looking at all of us as consumption units. And that growth is directly correlated to well being. People are trying to relook that paradigm that embrace modern progress but also thought. There is actually no reason why people should purchase half of what they purchase. I would love to discuss a post on among all the products and service what actually benefits humanity and what price:
1) IPOD, Music system
2) TV
3) Washing Machin
4) Fridge
5) DVD
6) Chocolates
7) pepsi
etc etc

meraj said...

views on sms sounds as hollow as finding a life-partner through speed-dating.

out of the last 5 visits to barista, thrice ive been greeted by 'am sorry, but we've run out of coffee, sir' (on of these occasions was a sunday!). now if you are coffee shop as big as this, you can never run out of coffee!!!

have written a few things on the subject myself...you guys can read this one...

Prashant said...

Hi Manish,

This is with reference to your post on the Surf Excel campaign. As a person who has been closely associated with the campaign and as a fellow blogger, I would like to clarify some misconceptions that people seem to carry about the Surf Excel 10/10 donation drive.

Just to clarify, HLL is not receiving any paybacks from mobile service providers. The SMSs sent by the consumers are charged at the circle rate and at no special rate. As far as revenues from product sales are concerned, this campaign is a very small part of a very large promotion exercise (the Surf Excel 10/10 campaign). HLL could have chosen to spend the money on this campaign instead of going out of its way to invest resources in this campaign.

This campaign is being run in 5 metros in partnership with some very well known NGOs who are doing exemplary work in the field of child education (Udayan in Kolkata, Pratham in Mumbai, Parikrma in Bangalore, Prayas in Delhi and Udavum Karangal in Chennai). This takes the donation amount to 25 laks (not a small amount by any standard)

Alok is right in saying that the cost of running the campaign is much more than 5 lakhs, but he seems to have construed wrongly the spirit of the campaign. It is not about the donation of the said amount. In its own small way, the campaign aims to sensitize these urban conglomerates towards the plight of the millions of underserved children. Radio and SMS were used as means to achieve the said end.

Also, HLL does undertake huge CSR initiatives around its factories. Infact all management trainess have to undertake a compulsory stint where they live and work in the remotest of villages.

Please visit www.hll.com to know more about the same.

Do write to me at prashant.jain@unilever.com for any other queries regarding the campaign

REF: Alok Mehta said...
HLL is all over the town and its FM channels with its "Mumbai dhoyega, Mumbai jeetega" campaign, where users have to sms the no. of stains / spots they could remove using HLL's detregent and the "score" is added to a fund that can go upto Rs. 5 lacs to be used to help Mumbai's needy children. No doubt HLL will be more than compensated for its 5 lacs - from the paybacks received from mobile service provider, leave alone the actual product sales. The cost of promotion on FM itself wil be more than 5 lacs. I'm sure a corporate the size of HLL can afford to give away 5 lacs to needy [ corporate social responsibility - thats another discussion topic altogether] without a sms campaign etc.

Manish said...

thanks prashant for all the details and info. It puts things into perspective. I hope Alok also reads this...

It's just that when the environment is so degenrate with un-fair practices that often the isolated goodness also comes for flak.

I agree 25 lacs is a lot of money.
And HLL's effort is honest.

However, CSR is a delicate subject. And when the hype of mass media advertising over-shadows the inherent cause led thinking, it sends different signals. And people/ consumers( including me) react the way they do!

Thanks again for the info and the perspective! cheers