Which shampoo has won the mystery stakes?

Ramanujam Sridhar (Does anyone care?).
SHASHI ASHIWAL

What's in it for the consumer really? Now, that's the real mystery!

Hindustan Unilever and Procter & Gamble are at it again. They remind me of the protagonists in that infamous test series that India played with Australia Down Under. They seem to be as feisty as Harbhajan Singh or as sullen and morose as Andrew Symonds was a few years ago, as they kept going at each other and the media often got into the contest to complicate things and muddy the waters even more. This seems to be happening all too often with these two companies as well. Some time ago Rin and Tide Naturals had fought the detergent war with a comparative commercial and even went to court on which cleaned whiter. I often wonder what happens to people in these two companies when they get promoted. How does their job description change? Well, my guess is from washing clothes, they graduate to washing hair! That is precisely what has happened as now it is the shampoo brands that are scrapping. Let's take a look at the latest provocation. The mystery unfolds It all started with a teaser campaign with the line µA Mystery Shampoo. 80% women say is better than anything else'. It was a high-profile multimedia effort using hoardings, TV and today's darling - the social network. Actors Katrina Kaif, Neha Dhupia and Shilpa Shetty were crowing on social network sites about how good the shampoo is, and posted their transformed looks on various sites, and how happy they were to sign on this brand as endorsers, and how soon the mystery would be out. I am sure the client and the agency must have preened and patted themselves on the back for these ³honest testimonials' from these celebrities. After all, we know how truthful actors are about everything including age and relationships! The competition (read HUL) did not seem unduly impressed or fazed. Of course, a basic research on Google (where would we be without it) would reveal that a similar mystery campaign was launched in 2008 in the US for Pantene and also the competitive action and strategies. In any case what happened was swift, dramatic and unfortunate for P&G. Before the big reveal of the Pantene announcement, presumably slated for August 1, HUL took over hoardings, newspapers and TV with its messaging: ³There's no mystery Dove is the no.1 shampoo´.

it is hardly relevant that it was the sponsor for the 1999 cricket World Cup in England. One of the earliest manifestations of action like this that tickled watchers of advertising was the conflict between Hertz and Avis. half the number of people to handle them and half the locations? Right. In any case I had certainly no way of discriminating between bits and bytes then and certainly not even now but certainly there was no doubt as to which of the two ads had the sharper bite. Apple with its ³Welcome IBM´ ad when the giant had entered the personal computing space had given the impression that here was a leader welcoming healthy competition for the benefit of the human race! Hardly! Pepsi has taken potshots at Coke regularly whether it is the MC Hammer ad or the now redone ad of Coke and Pepsi salesmen. ³What would you say in your advertising if you had half the number of cars. The days of HMT are sadly gone and seem destined never to return as today. A frame of reference It does make sense for smaller players to have a frame of reference. and certainly not half the competitors in business whether it was in the past. competition presents itself from the unlikeliest of nooks and corners and continues to perplex. your ash-trays are cleaner! And then they had an endearing question at the end of the ad asking ³Who's perfect?´ Certainly no one is perfect. today in the present. Dominic Cork. Even if your office is a hole in the wall. and taken them on without fear of the consequences and actually benefited. shampoo and eggs do have an affinity and a connect! The trouble with competition One of the sad realities of business is that there are always competitors.2 (with its campaign ³because we try harder´). or tomorrow in the future.The thunder of the mystery seems to have been stolen and there was no mystery as to on whose face the egg was. Of course. I certainly do remember what happened in my early days in advertising in the computer category. So there is no denying the fact that having a competitive frame of reference and comparing . Zenith Computers (or so I think) ran a campaign listing its features in a full page ad. It did seem a marketing coup of sorts till Hertz got into the act by asking. the car rental companies in the US. or so it claimed. the No. it might help to say you are ³opposite the Empire State Building´. leaving half a page ad free for any of the competitors who could match them. 1 car rental company then. often irate customer. And the same strategy has worked for smaller brands such as Apple and Pepsi that have eyeballed their larger. After all. Pepsi used celebrities such as Sachin Tendulkar. Remember Pepsi's campaign during the 1996 cricket World Cup in India? After losing the sponsorship bid in India to Coke its arch rival. not the no. came up with an ad and features that were far superior.2 company that had made a virtue of being No. Hertz being the market leader by far was bursting at the seams with customers (lucky them) and often could not even afford to clean the cars before handing it over to a waiting. It was asking for trouble as HCL (again writing from memory). Avis. wished to capitalise on this and ran a campaign that said ³our ash-trays are cleaner´. And despite my memory being a bit dodgy. stuffy and old in the bargain. as aggressive a company as one is likely to find. Courtney Walsh and the umpire Dicky Bird in saying µNothing official about it' and in the process making the sponsor sound officious. more influential and better established rivals.

and. in testing whether all this really makes an impact on the market place. Do customers really care which the mystery shampoo is? This campaign reminds me of a lot of advertising that is aimed for the benefit of the creative director in the other agency. for him to notice and compliment in the pub when the rivals do bump into each other. if you ask me! . It might make sense where the audience is young and discerning like Apple's customers and fan club may be. This perhaps is not as bizarre. What is the great opportunity for engagement in paid celebrities saying they have tested the product and find it good? They better find it good. I often wonder if we are missing an important point. if they paid me several crores. of course. given the abundance of my hair I am not the target customer. Social media is all about engaging the customer in dialogue. by having too long a gestation period for the teaser campaign and replicating something that they had done globally. But does it help all brands. Despite all this talk about social media. well-established players can help smaller brands if helped by smart execution and nimble on-the-ground action.themselves to larger. It is about something much more lasting. but it would make sense for these companies that spend so much time having a go at each other. but I think often companies miss the point. I might even drink castor oil and quickly wash it down with whisky off camera! What about the consumer? When Symonds and Harbhajan behaved in their self-indulgent. we had a largely biased and interested media on both sides adding fuel to the fire. It is like Shah Rukh Khan saying it is safe for him to drink Pepsi when he is the brand ambassador. insensitive way. Building market share and loyalty with the customer is not only about taking potshots at the competition. Well. But does it do anything for the consumer? A mystery. they spared little thought for lovers of the game the world over. scoring brownie points and getting reams of editorial in social media sites. I think multinational companies need to rethink their strategies of replicating and borrowing from other markets in today's Internet age. across categories and where customers are not necessarily young and on the ball? Learning from the mystery So what happened in the case of the mystery shampoo? HUL and its agency can certainly pat themselves on the back for capitalising on some obvious Zenith-like gaps that P&G had provided for them. But do shampoo users care a fig? Of course.

First. are well suited to explain and highlight these seemingly obvious truths to your flock. . Mr Alai. accept my congratulations for winning the election to become the President of the Advertising Agencies' Association of India (AAAI). I am sure you must be relieved that the last month is behind you. I do not see it as an indication that people like a real rabble-rouser. I believe that as a finance man of considerable experience and standing. The Elections: While I have always been a very public votary of consensus in the choice of those who would occupy honorary industry positions. It seeks to create and nurture something that could be called ³built to last´. And if you wonder why I am stating the obvious. I shall make bold to set out a possible agenda for you and your team. The Abby award Dear Mr President.up call for the AAAI and the advertising industry. A good business pre-supposes a vision and a mission. Advertising business Advertising is a business. I do not see it as a vote for the manner in which your opponent conducted his campaign. the wafer-thin majority you got is a reflection of the mood prevalent in the advertising industry.To the President. it is because the manner in which the advertising industry conducts its business raises doubts in many minds if they understand that it is indeed a business. And finally it seeks to be seen in a favourable light by all its stakeholders. AAAI An open letter to the new head of the Advertising Agencies' Association of India. you. It seeks to provide benefit to all those interested parties who make up the industry. I see it as an indicator of the validity of several points that were raised by Mr Goyal in his very systematic poll campaign. As a well-wisher of the advertising industry and one who has had occasion to know about the running of the AAAI from rather close quarters. I see it as a wake.

. Initiate some steps to help them train their staff to become professionally competent in the best of what global agencies have access to. The fact that they might not have the reach and clout of their larger counterparts must make you walk that extra mile towards them. The major portion of the money is the client's. Please do make the time to meet them and listen to them. but when some people thousands of miles away thought it was the right thing to do for everyone in every country). Kolkata. please explain the importance of earning a decent profit margin (no. You might want to tell your media agency members (who were unbundled not because they chose to. Why re-invent the wheel. and they should never forget this. Some people actually felt that the AAAI had managed to swing a fantastic deal for itself. The Abby Awards I really thought the merger of the interests of the AAAI and the AdClub Bombay. or do not know the virtues of cash management. which took the message of the AAAI to Delhi. what with its award being considerably smaller than the Abby. Hyderabad. Something tells me that they are feeling a little left out these days. and I know that at least one past president of the AdClub berated the present President of the Ad Club Bombay for having ³sold out´ to the AAAI. Bangalore and Chennai. You will be pleasantly surprised to experience the warmth of their response to your initiative. there is life beyond the realm of the big agencies and in a democratically elected set-up the problems of the smallest agency need to be addressed with the same urgency and gravity as those of the bigger agencies.To the smaller agencies you could hold workshops on how to manage money (you were requested to do this by a past-president more than eight years ago) and the virtue of realising that a rather minuscule portion of the considerable money that flows through them really belongs to them. India. nor because they were even consulted. Mr Alai? Maybe you could replicate it in your own unique style. it is not a set of bad words) that could help them attract talent from good management institutes and provide professional services that would match those of the management consultants who have effectively usurped the strategic role of the professional advertising agencies today. a malaise that puts them in a very sorry state of affairs. and then media's. that while they might enjoy their new-found independence and money power. To the larger agencies (by whatever nomenclature they might be called today). the client deserves a coordinated strategy where brand management and media planning are inexorably entwined. I think many smaller agencies either forget this. beyond Mumbai and Delhi A past-president once referred to the AAAI as the AAA of M (Advertising Agencies Association of Mumbai) and proceeded to organise a series of reach-out programmes in his term. when it came to awards for creative excellence was something that was not just unavoidable but also positively desirable. Small Agencies Yes.

this should be done before the ³call for entries´ goes out this year-end. and the conduct of the judging procedure therein. Nagesh.I had taken the stand that considering the events that led to the merger. The industry never needed it more than it does today. To try and make sure that advertising agencies regain their place inside the chamber of the CEOs of advertising companies. you are short-changing the industry and its representatives. and my source is normally impeccable. a former President of the AAAI told me that the MoU which was signed by the AAAI and the Ad Club with regard to the Abby awards effectively gave the entire rights of setting the rules and regulations that govern India's biggest and most prestigious award for creative excellence in advertising. and have that talk. That. I wish you well. This is your moment where you could convert these many challenges into opportunities. reduced the AAAI to the role of a mere event manager. to quote a very wise former President of the AAAI. though that might be a daunting task in itself. Mr Alai. I recall a conversation where a senior advertising person said that the cut-throat practices that are making the people who run this industry look like a bunch of shysters could be resolved if just 10 honest men sat around a table and decided that things just had to change. instead of coming out and firmly taking any real action against anyone. its own image lies in tatters. . but if this is true. Best practices While the advertising industry plays a very important role in our economy and does a rather commendable job of building brands and the image of many manufacturers and service providers. in effect. And even that function is further outsourced to a real event manager. This will involve some hard talking and some leading by example. We must realise that the entries for the awards come from the members of the AAAI and if your association does not have at least equal control over the entire process. I will not dwell on matters I have already publicly commented upon. that MoU needs to be revisited in your term and a modicum of equality and equity should be restored urgently. That. and with an open mind and then act swiftly and decisively. To bring together a divided house that has surely not forgotten that they still belong to one family. In fact. Mr President. we often talk about converting challenges into opportunities. to the Advertising Club Bombay. but this is the time when you must make the industry look inwards and realise the folly of its ways in certain affairs. means that people can continue to make a mockery of the judging process of the Abby awards and you and your team can only stand by. wring your hands and whine. To listen carefully. the President of the Ad Club had done what he had to do. Both these are not impossible. Mr President. Mr Alai. I sincerely advise you to look for these 10 honest men. I have not seen the MoU. To take our partners like the advertisers and the media into your confidence and carry them with you as you embark on what could be the most momentous year in your life and that of the industry. Just a few days ago. Sd.

000 employees. there are lots of twists and turns with both smooth and bumpy patches along the way. Looking back at nearly a quarter century. innovation. Over the . headquartered in Canada. led by Co-CEO Jim Balsillie and President and Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis.rim. the site of Research In Motion Ltd." reminisce the founders in the foreword to BlackBerry: The Inside Story of Research in Motion by Rod McQueen (www. the founders acknowledge that theirs has been an entrepreneurial tale of initiative. The home of RIM is Waterloo. selling about 37 million devices. the author describes. an hour west of Toronto. risk and reward. launched the BlackBerry smartphone in 1999. "As can be expected on such a corporate journey. These are among the `Fast Facts' you would find in www. Ontario. first settled in the nineteenth century by Mennonites who came for the fertile land and can still be seen driving their horse-drawn buggies on rural roads. a university city of about a lakh.An incurable optimist. (Ramesh Narayan is a communications consultant. and clocking about $15 billion in revenues in 2010 fiscal.com. Growing from a student start-up. hard work. skill.) Count on the other person blinking BlackBerry: The Inside Story of Research in Motion Rod McQueen Founded in 1984.hachetteindia. RIM is now an international corporation with over 12.com).

Do your best. Balsillie is a chartered accountant with a Harvard MBA. He notes that in the entire history of the country only a handful of Canadian manufacturing firms have achieved anything approaching sustained success as a global brand. like those in most other increasingly urban areas in North America. people are important. and they're all one body of interrelationships. representing more than 90 per cent by value. Most competitors cannot maintain a similar concentration. and Nortel Networks in the 20th century. Too many entrepreneurs focus on traditional sectors rather than knowledge-based ideas. manufacturing firms in the region.com . operational excellence. and customer satisfaction are the fundamentals. The secret formula of the business.Ferguson in the 19th century and Bata. he feels. You have the rolling waves here. You just aim and hold on and tweak where you can. Yet. go to bed. according to Lazaridis. GLOBAL BRAND By far the biggest of the fourteen publicly traded local hi-tech firms is RIM. EXECUTION CONCENTRATION RIM shipped its 75 millionth BlackBerry in 2009.blogspot. he is positive that smartphones can replace many of the functions now carried out by the laptop computer. reads another of Balsillie's counsels in the book. nestled with a helpfully silent BlackBerry. in Balsillie's view. "You're surfing these waves but you are not in control. Magna. have gone through boom-bust cycles." WILD RIDE OF SURFERS Unlike Lazaridis who left university to start the company. you have to understand that they're separate but not. Examples mentioned include Massey. However." Innovation. And. as for the future wave. live for the day. informs McQueen. and wave by wave by wave. he adds. Murali BookPeek. to Lazaridis. continues Balsillie. loosely coupled set of rolling waves over here. Bombardier. A book you may want to read.years. "BlackBerry is the first Canadian brand of the new millennium to have the same kind of commanding international presence as those giants of yesteryear. the latter sees the duo's work in the competitive world as one of the wild rides of surfers. D. and do it again tomorrow. you are definitely not in control. and you have a set here. he visualises. It's like a beach which has got three or four series of waves. is 5 per cent strategy and 95 per cent execution. but then you sort of have a semi.

supply them with products. the authors counsel." The authors note that. write Robert East.' where agencies such as Tremor and BzzAgent recruit consumers. Helpful reference. George Silverman (2001). Malcolm Wright and Marc Vanhuele in Consumer Behaviour: Applications in marketing (www. Chasing ideas . and ask them to advise their friends about this merchandise.Understanding WOM Consumer-generated media (CGM) on the Internet . Even if it is impossible to detect the minority that criticises the main brand. whose book The Tipping Point gives instances of mass changes via WOM. Examples cited include: Malcolm Gladwell (2000).sagepublications. discussion groups and emailing . in the flurry of enthusiasm for WOM. and argues that WOM is often spontaneous and uncontrollable. the authors suggest. it may still be possible to deal with common complains by communicating with all customers.such as blogs. `direct WOM.com).' has renewed interest in WOM among ad agencies. Another practical suggestion is that suppliers can use their customer databases to direct information to groups who could be critical. market research organisations. and businesses. and Rosen (2000). often called `buzz. They add that Internet advice. who suggests that the speed of WOM can help to put a product ahead of competitors. Studies show that about one-fifth of negative advice relates to the communicator's main brand. "The term `viral marketing' has been coined to describe campaigns where copy is spontaneously propagated by Internet users and we have even seen the emergence of a new medium. Companies can facilitate comment on the Internet by providing websites where users can express their views. who speaks of the need to identify and use the more influential consumers or hubs. pundits have come forward to suggest how it works.has produced a form of influence very similar to WOM (word-of-mouth).

observation. not every such bit can lead to a story idea. Whether one is on the staff of a publication or a freelancer. `an entry in the daily logbook of a newspaper or magazine office' may tell you what your assignments for the day are.particularly for features .com).The idea of writing for the media can be an enticing one." Some of these are brainstorming. and dictate the questions one asks of different sources. experience. For example. experiences. you also have to be able to turn that curiosity into something tangible and focused. ideas are important because they set the particular angle from which a story may be told.' Even for writers whose work is allocated to them. but media writing has to begin with an idea. and hears about. from what she or he sees. The idea must work for the market. scanning news and ads. Murali Giving the poor a voice . a collective debate among the editorial staff may assign ideas to reporters and feature writers. and beat reporters may find their ideas `lodged in long conversations with sources. "Writers use a variety of means to tease out an idea from the complexity of information and thoughts they are exposed to every day. "For an idea to turn into a story it must be more than something that causes a flash of interest . or in records they have been following over time. the author observes. the media process facilitates things. much of the time the onus of finding new ideas ." It is not enough to be curious and alert. "For the lone roving correspondent. staff meeting discussions may outline plans for forthcoming issues of the publication. D. and idea webs. At times.oup.is on the writer. reads." While every thread we follow is likely to lead to an interesting bit of information. ideas are generated from the field. Raman notes. Well presented. says Usha Raman in Writing for the Media (www.

the best communication cannot succeed in changing the situation. however. and perhaps the modest web presence. He reasons that everywhere in the world. they do not habitually lead campaigns for a fundamental transformation of the system.sagepublications. the microlocal radio station. upon which activists will concentrate will be the small scale newspaper. "It is social action that gives people confidence and organisation. therefore. Occasionally.com)." The natural media. argues Colin Sparks in Globalization. the large-scale media may not play any central role in giving the poor a voice to articulate their grievances.Do communication and media have a role in improving the lot of the world's poor? Yes. and it is integral to building a social movement. the voices of the poor will be heard. Sparks explains. it is only when the poor are organised and confident can the problems be addressed. the author concedes. the main broadcasters and newspapers are deeply implicated in the existing power structure. Erudite discussion . On its own." The author is of the view that. The media have a central role in the process because finding a public voice is one of the ways in which both confidence and organisation can be built. "While they may play some role in exposing this or that abuse of the system. Development and the Mass Media (www. at least at the outset. perhaps. but usually as individuals responding to agendas set elsewhere. for.

first Executive Director of the Sierra Club. Not only has its very nature evolved. leading to the publication of 20 titles in the series. and pick the cover and layout using the various themes the sites provide. make a presentation to clients. anyone can publish a coffee table-like book within a matter of days. the coffee table book has undergone a dramatic change. with the passage of time. The users get the flexibility to upload their own photos and text. Canvera and Snapfish. and the fact that they're heavy means they're not meant to be portable. design a product brochure or even write a bedtime story book for children. David R. is credited with saying that a coffee table book must have ³a page size big enough to carry a given image's dynamic. Given today's hectic lifestyle.Passage into publishing Web sites such as Picsquare. make a dedication to that special someone. Online revolution With Web sites such as Picsquare. its novelty has worn off. They're meant to entertain. Brower's This is the American Earth. the US-based environmental organisation. Brower. Canvera suggests using these books as a means to preserve memories. published in 1960. It's all entirely customisable. using a special online service. However. without waiting for the approval of a publisher.. and you picture a bulky hardcover filled with interesting photos and some text. These sites let one design and print their own coffee table book. create a portfolio. was the first coffee table book and was a huge success. without waiting for the approval of a publisher. but it is also being used by the average person as a means of getting their work noticed. Canvera and Snapfish now enable people to publish coffee tablelike books within a matter of days. apart from being affordable and quick.´ That sums up quite clearly what its aim used to be. . Books as you would like them! Ketaki Bhojnagarwalla T hink coffee table books.

Getting published Canvera has a photo editing software that one can download and use to design their book. depending on their size. That brings it to under a week. Depending on the number of orders. So you can rest assured that your publication will be as private as you want it to be. The concept of the coffee table book as hard-bound and bulky is changing now.Coffee table books are now being called µphoto books'. Many companies include colour correction as part of the package. Glo Colour . material used. Picsquare photo books are priced in the range of Rs 499-699. ³Our offices are based in Bangalore but all the work is conducted online. which use HP Printers Indigo printers for its photo books (which prints up to 2. Picsquare offers only two sizes. being a non-Web based company. prices its products per page.000 sheets per hour). with the largest size of 12´x18´ being Rs 70. Snapfish. a range of paper options will be offered. for superior results. of course. Photo books can take anything from a few hours to a few days to print. Eliminating geography The fact that anyone in India can go online and create their personal photo books in a jiffy has effectively eliminated borders. The industry accounts for about 70-80 per cent of the market for photo books. Edward Fernando. According to Kartik Jain from Picsquare. and we will then make the photo book according to the customer's specifications. a Chennai-based company. has one of the largest paper options by far. and are the latest phenomenon to hit today's tech-savvy world. Usually. For example. Companies such as Picsquare lets users directly access photos from Flickr or Picasa. kind of cover and so on. For customers who do not want to upload photos on the Web site. implies increased portability and therefore. with companies such as Canvera marketing their products as µcompact' and µlightweight'. has a wider range of photo books. Photo books have made their biggest impact in the wedding industry. at 24. The number of pages remains constant. with prices ranging from Rs 199-1. This. stocking as many as 25 varieties at any given time. Picsquare takes about 1-3 days to process and 2-4 days to deliver. Glo Colour Labs. Most companies may not even have access to the photos uploaded on their Web site as it is done through a separate user account. although in some cases you only get matte and glossy options. Photo books are taking off as an independent form of publishing that is a growing market in India. Prices differ based on the size. Currently. and therefore made it more accessible. it takes between 24 and 48 hours to deliver the product. They also give users the option of using their own software. and then use them for the photo books. that does not mean that the customer's intellectual property rights are sacrificed. they have an option of sending a CD to us.499. so that the book is light. where photo albums were replaced by wedding books. Glo Colour Labs. but the price increase depends on dimensions. Although photo books do not require certification by a publisher before they are printed. on the other hand. It recommends that the total number of pages not exceed 50. greater outreach.´ Glo Colour Labs is an exception.

Some booksellers abroad do display titles by self-published authors. but it does give you the freedom to completely design your own publication. Undermining publishers? Given the apparent easiness of printing a photo book. Landmark. Himanshu Chakrawarti. ³Our success comes from the personal interaction we offer the customer.´ While photo books are easy to print. says.´ Depending on the kind of service one wants from their printer. the options are readily available.Labs. It's interesting to note how photo books are brewing something of a mini-revolution in publishing. they may not be as accessible as published titles because of lack of circulation. Granted that creating your own photo book may not have the same impact as a traditional coffee table book. it's no holds barred for people who want to make an effective presentation of their work. says. ³The biggest drawback of self-publishing is the lack of an organised distribution channel. Chakrawarti says. CEO. it is apparent that photo books are becoming increasingly popular in India. ³We haven't taken a call on the issue. whether for business or pleasure. the question of competition with publishers does arise. and need to decide whether it makes business sense. Gautam Padmanabhan.´ Despite some downside. . Westland Books.´ When asked whether Landmark would undertake selling of self-published photo books. The need for approval being entirely eliminated. states. COO. ³Self-publishing is a niche segment in the industry.

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