November 28, 2007

Social Messages use more than shock value to reach out

Every now and then, you see a social message being communicated by an NGO or by the police about the ill health of smoking, drinking etc. Most of these messages try to deliver a shock value suggesting impending doom as the only outcome of the activity you are undertaking. . Intelligence, wit and subtlety seem to be lost causes in most of these ad situations.

What we have below are two examples of social messages, which are witty, intelligent, relevant and eye catching. Check them out and if you know other good social ads, drop me a link so that the message can get a little more exposure through this blog.

1) A WWF ad below cleverly uses green paper in a tissue dispenser to indicate harm you are doing to the world with every tissue you use. Fantastic would be an understatement !!

2) Crashed witches were up on poles with this message "Don't drink and drive this Halloween". A very innovative outdoor marketing initiative. Wonder what effect it would have generated if it had been timed with the Harry Potter Book/Movie release - hmmm...

* References - Ads of the World & Frederik Samuel


November 20, 2007

Does marketing feed into strategy? Or is it the other way around?

I was on Seth Godin's blog and noticed his post on Thinking about
and just one line in an otherwise perfect, struck a discordant note.

"One last bit of backward thinking: if you're looking to start an online business, consider finding a great domain and build the business around it, not the other way around."

The key thought behind the post was to emphasize the importance of domain names. Though I don't dispute their importance, it is a stretch to suggest that online businesses should revolve around available domain names ie. search for available domain names and then build businesses around them.

How can one decide business strategy on the basis of marketing elements? Conventional theory suggests that Strategy feeds into Marketing and not the other way around. So I might decide to be in the online auction space and decide to call myself ebay, but will I decide to be an online auction just on the availability of a domain name?

Just assuming businesses are a little more complicated than that.

Nonetheless it is acceptable that entrepreneurs who are exploring opportunities at starting up in the online space, book domain names prior to finalizing their plan (or even start working on it). But booking domain names in the absence of a thought seems like shooting in the dark.

A website needs a lot of ingredients to be successful and the domain name is just one of them.

Let me reiterate, I am not undermining the importance of the domain name. It is equivalent to the brand name of a product in the offline space. Unlike brands in the offline space where the "first moment of truth" could be through packaging, ambience or even tasting the product, an online portal depends on its domain name (it has to be typed or clicked before the portal can be experienced in any way).

The question that begs to be answered is a larger one actually and I thank Seth for instigating this thought. According to this report, more than 47 million .com domain names have been booked already. Hence its highly probable that you are unable to find your ideal domain name.

So, Is the absence of a great domain name the end of the road for your business? Or do trends suggest that there is hope still.

Give me some time to research some trends before I answer that one, the last time I tried to answer it with insufficient research, I faced some serious flak from the blogger community. I apologise to every one of them. In my overenthusiastic attempt to try and see if imperfect domain names will work, and initial research suggesting that it was indeed possible, I wrongly concluded that domain names could be becoming irrelevant. I couldn't have been more wrong and I am thankful to everyone who pointed it out. The domain name is one of the many ingredients for success. A good name always aids success.

I have since taken that post off this blog since I don't believe in it anymore. I am hoping that the next few posts will correct some of the wrong.

So please hold on until my next post. I hope to throw larger clarity on this issue.


November 02, 2007 - Why it could kill Gmail (And why it won't)

What is CoolHotmail? is a site where you can get a unique email id which truly reflects your personality. The email ids could be anything ranging from to (Visit the site for a complete list - some of them are pretty good). It is currently launched in India and many ids are very India specific.

On the face of it, this seems like a good strategy against Gmail and Yahoo. Hotmail could have recaptured the lost email space with this piece of innovative marketing. An almost perfect understanding of the concept of "Cool" and yet not at all. Let me elaborate.

Concept of Cool

Lets first understand the concept of cool from the visual below.

In the above graph, the innovators form a niche market. They actively seek new & innovative brands/products and talk/adopt them. This section is considered very cool and also known to be opinion leaders. The early adopters catch on fast enough and also adopt the brand. The cool factor rubs off on them too. If the brand becomes mass and is adopted by the late majority and the laggards, then it is clearly uncool to possess and show off this brand.

When are you cool?

To state it simply, its when you are different. How can you be different is the next logical question. Simple answer again is when you assert your individuality through what you say, what you do or what you have / possess.

Is being different good enough?
You not only have to be different, but also belong to a relatively niche club. "I listen to rock, not boy bands" is the easiest example. An even better example would be a Harley Davidson owner - I bet he feels way cooler than the rest.

Then there are the cool guys who wouldn't touch an ipod with a 3 foot barge pole. The only reason is that the whole world has one, they like the creative mp3 players and would go against the world to defend their purchase (they defend pretty well and they are a lot cooler)

I have to add that there is a thin line between being cool and being "just different". Not everything that is different makes people want to imitate or aspire for. "Cool" is something everyone wants to be.

Fundamental Philosophies for a Cool Brand

  • The brand has to promise something different
  • Has to give scope for people to assert individuality and yet belong
  • Remain exclusive by making the brand inaccessible (like a Harley that is priced so high that by default it is inaccessible)
  • The easiest way to have a cool brand is when the category itself is so well segmented that its exclusive for everyone. Though not a perfect example, lets consider music genres. Since there are a zillion categories, its easy for everyone to be different, belong to a niche club and feel cool at the same time. This can be sustained by periodic new introductions and for a sustained period of time.
The biggest problem is everyone wants to cash in on their "cool" brand and hence make it more mass, which opens the space for a new brand to be niche, exclusive and hence cool.

So you want to Cash in on a cool brand?
  • Be accessible in all forms - available & financially viable.
  • Make it available and yet seem exclusive. Gmail has used this to good advantage by making registration seem exclusive as it is subject to an invite from an existing member. This will delay the shift in perception from cool to uncool (only delay not stop)
  • Crunch speed of adoption from innovators to laggards by enhancing awareness, word of mouth and PR. This makes everyone seem like they are getting onto something new & different. But the difference between innovators and laggards should not more than 6 months. This principle has been used by Apple on their ipod and iphone series very effectively.

Why could CoolHotmail have been the next big thing?

Its got all the ingredients of a cool brand
  • Expresses individuality and yet gives the opportunity to belong to a niche club
  • A number of segments and options for everyone on the same platform to feel they are different, even if they create a mail id at different points in time

  • In a sense its like the music genre example I stated earlier, so many options that everyone gets individuality and belongs all in the same breath

  • Of course its fundamentally different from other offerings in the market

  • Decent viral - Check it out
One addition I would like to see is the freedom to create your own domain name. For operational reasons, they could have one extension like ishwar@innovativemarketing.mi (where .mi is an extension they own). Then any extension is possible (a .com flexibility will be impossible considering the number of registered companies out there)

Why CoolHotmail will fail?

I hate to say it, but the single most important reason is they called it "Cool". Anything which is called cool can never be cool.

  • 5 GB of space seems less when other mail options have unlimited space
  • Lastly the website features are not different and certainly not great. None of the cool gmail features that we are accustomed to. Nothing to write home about.
  • Too many non targeted ads overtly intruding my space

What do you think? Can hotmail regain lost supremacy?

Update to this post!!

Alexa Rank : 1325 ranked site in India. 3 month reach has dropped by 47%. The anonymous comment left on this post doesn't smell of authenticity.