Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas not so Merry for Walmart!

Wal-Mart said on Tuesday that it would pay at least $352 million, and possibly far more, to settle lawsuits across the country claiming that it forced employees to work off the clock. Several lawyers described it as the largest settlement ever for lawsuits over wage violations.
After years of being embarrassed by lawsuits over its wage practices, the company agreed to settle 63 cases pending in federal and state courts in 42 states. The workers and their lawyers will receive at least $352 million, and the payments could reach $640 million, depending on how many claims affected workers submit.
Union critics of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, saw the settlement as proof of their view that the company achieves its low prices in part by cheating workers. But the company rejected that characterization, saying it had already corrected wage practices that it has long attributed to local managers acting without authority. “Many of these lawsuits were filed years ago, and the allegations are not representative of the company we are today,” Tom Mars, general counsel and executive vice president at Wal-Mart Stores, said.
The settlement — which wipes out all but 12 pending wage-and-hour lawsuits against Wal-Mart — also gives the company a cleaner slate as a new administration enters the White House. President-elect Barack Obama has indicated he will make wage-and-hour enforcement a priority, and groups critical of Wal-Mart suggested that the company had reached the settlement to avoid becoming a target of stepped-up enforcement.
“Wal-Mart is scared with what they’re going to face in an Obama administration,” said David Nassar, of Wal-Mart Watch, a union-financed advocacy group. “You clean up your house before the in-laws come over. That’s what they’re trying to do.”
Wal-Mart officials say that in recent years, they have taken strong steps to reduce wage violations, ordering managers not to demand off-the-clock work and threatening to fire employees who work off the clock or do not take their designated lunch and rest breaks. Wal-Mart has even programmed its cash registers and other equipment to stop working when employees are not on the clock.
Robert Bonsignore, co-counsel in nearly 40 of the cases, said that as a result of the settlement, “Wal-Mart can now say that it has taken action to make its stores a great place to shop and work.” Wal-Mart said it would take a charge of $250 million, or 6 cents a share, in this quarter to help finance the settlement.

Ghajini: Hope the audience dont emulate Aamir and forget the movie in 15mins!

Its christmas eve and party time... Red coloured santa claus caps is a common sight and how could anyone undermine the Christmas Carols...Well in today's world festivals such as christmas have more than just the tradition attached to it.. Infact it is festival time that many business make merry and the Entertainment industry is no exception. Movie releases for festivals are lined up.. Moreover we have seen some of the biggest movies release on festival days - from 'Veer-Zaara on Diwali to Shakespeare in Love on Christmas'!

So this Christmas when you talk about the buzz in the Indian movie scene.. Its undoubtly Aamir Khan's 'Ghajini'.. Ghajini is a remake of a tamil movie staring Surya. It is about this man who loses his capacity to remember anything for more than 15minutes as a result of a tragedy!
The expectations from Ghajini is over the roof, infact more than any Aamir Khan movie till date..

Well, the buzz about the movie has worked to good effect. Infact it has had all the ingredients of a good buzz campaign. Moreover the buzz has created such a hype around the movie, that it has to be exceptionally good, else people would find it unsatisfactory. The reason being that the expectation levels have been raised to such an extent that people now expect something extraordinary. Moreover, Buzz campaigns would be of no use if your product itself isn't good. 

So will the movie live up to its expectations??
Guess we gotta wait n watch.. Coz only time can tell.... :)!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Innovative Insults...

Well in today's world playing the blame game is pretty common and sometimes it results in a argument that would further end up in a verbal abuse!
I was talking to this friends of mine working with a leading MNC in Gurgaon and he told me how people in his workplace vent out their anger. It was interesting how innovative people get when they have to abuse someone else in a very polished manner. So here is a quick sneak preview:
  • Are you always this stupid or are you making a special effort today
  • Brains aren't everything. In fact in your case they're nothing
  • If your face had "Welcome" written on it, it would make a perfect doormat
  • Hi there, I'm a human being! What are you?
  • You should learn from your parents mistakes - try using some birth control!
  • Well, they do say opposites I sincerely hope you meet somebody who is attractive, honest, intelligent, and cultured.
  • You are proof that God has a sense of humor. 
Here comes the best of them all, it was told in an intent of mocking this employee keeping in mind the job market:
  • I heard that you went to the haunted house and they offered you a job
So the next time you think about abusing someone... Be innovative! lolz...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Striking Balance!

Well I was flipping through few old newspaper articles today and I came across this interesting one. It was titled 'Divine Justice'. Thought I shud share it with you people, so here it goes:

God was in the process of creating the universe, and he was explaining to his subordinates "Look everything should be in balance. For every 10 deer there should be a lion. Look here my fellow angels, here is the country of United States. I have blessed them with prosperity and money. But at the same time I have given them insecurity and tension. And here is Africa, I have given them beautiful nature. But at the same time, I have given themclimatic extremes... And here is South America, I have given them lots of forests. But at the same time, I have given them lesser land so that they would have to cut off the forests... So you see fellows, everything should be in balance".
One of the angels asked, "God, what is this beautiful country here?". God said "Ahah....that is the crown prince of all. India. My most precious creation. They have understanding and friendly people. Sparkling streams, serene mountains, A culture which speaks of the great tradition that they live. Technologically brilliant and with a heart of gold. The angel was quiet surprised, "But God you said everything should be in balance".

God replied, "Look at the neighbours I gave them!"

lol.. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Will the Santa Claus story have a makeover this year?

A lot of us in our childhood have recieved gifts from the fictional Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. It was a nice game played in most of the households irrespective of their faith. The story behind the fictional character was that Saint Nicholas in the 11th Century used to distribute gifts and later he was called Santa by children.
A cute lil story for kids.. Parents go shopping weeks in advance to buy gifts for their children. Infact same time last year the festive mood had set in and was in full swing. But this year is a very different from other years.
The economic recession in the world economy seems to have hindered the Christmas preperations. The US market used to filled with toys manufactured in China, and this used to be shopping time for every household. But this year, you would find empty malls, very few shoppers etc; all thanks to the economic condition.
But what about the kids?? Well, many couples in the US have started decided to buy a Christmas Tree with a concocted story about a letter from Santa. In it, he warns kids that he may have to cut back on gifts because many babies were born this year. Hoping that kids would buy into that story. This would then mean that kids have taken the socialist approach, as they seem to know that they have to share toys with other kids around the world.
Well a few might say its exploiting the innocence of children, but atleast it keeps 'The Santa Myth' going and doesnt children being dissapointed and having self-doubts.

Anyways lets all hope things settle down asap and I'd like to wish everyone of you'll a Merry Christmas in advance. Have a fun-filled christmas in your own small way! :) cheerzzz and renkindle the festive spirit!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The CALL that could've resulted in a BRAWL!

Rumour Rumour Rumour Rumour!!!

Well, with all the rumours floating about the mumbai attacks. Including an amazing one about a woman in burkah supposedly open firing in chowpati beach here comes the best of the best.

Pakistan President Ali Asif Zardari claimed that the Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee supposedly called him on last friday night(November 28th) and threatned to declare war on Pakistan. Well as a common man I think this is a great attempt at diverting attention of the whole world away from Pakistan following the attack in Mumbai by Pakistan nationals. Reasons for this would be:
  • The call was from a local Delhi number
  • I havent heard of calls being transfered to the President of any country without verification and other security measures
  • Apparently, Indian itself had found out about this call from the US which has been seeking to lower tensions, and had sent messages to Pakistan assuring it that no such call was made
Well, in the middle of all this, the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked to intervene to stop what the U.S. at that time may have considered a deepening slide in Indo-Pakistan relations leading to war and convey a message to Mr.Mukherjee that the Pakistanis were "extremely worried that they were on a conflict escalation ladder with India which could provoke an all-out war." 

Now a lotta questions are being raised against the credibility of this so called threatening call which was proved to be a hoax later on. 

Do you really think a hoax call was ever made? I still have my doubts.

But yeah whatever it is, it was a good attempt at using rumour as a tool to create a buzz around the world. Intentionally or not this is an attempted PR exercise by Pakistan! :)

Well if your wondering why the rumour dint work! According to me this rumour too had the following components as any rumour:
  • Originality - Well this rumour seemed to have meet this criteria very well
  • Fear - To a certain extent fear was created among locals in Pakistan and the rest of the world about a possible war among the Nuke-enabled countries
  • Status - You could'nt as for a person with a status higher than the President of a country
  • Contacts - Well, the newspapers and media in todays world would take care of this criteria for you in no time.
But it lacked one major criteria
  • Believability - In this case it was a little too much to digest or believe.
So guess now you know why a lotta people are humming "Liar Liar Pants on Fire!"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reliance not so Reliable!

Well I remember watching this teaser that had a red sofa and the words 'see you at home' and after a while thought it was a Reliance Big TV AD... But today as I was attending this lecture on Business Ethics I was taken by surprise to discover that it was a guerilla marketing tactic used by Reliance. Coz folks this was a teaser by Airtel for its Airtel Digital TV which was stolen by Reliance.

For those wondering what I am talking about, here goes:
"Airtel came out with teasers to launch its new Airtel DTH service. The teaser had just a red sofa and it said 'See you at home'. Well it was obviously an attempt to get the audience thinking as to what the product was about, create a buzz about the teaser and then they'd planned to come out with an ad that would feature celebrities like Saif Ali Khan, AR Rehman, Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir, Kareena Kapoor, Madhavan and Vidya Balan. But Reliance had other plans... It literally stole the teaser by taking advantage of the red sofa teaser to release its product 'Big TV'! It came out with an ad that used the same red sofa and the audio which said 'see you at home' and then Big TV completed the AD and touted features such as 200-plus channels, 32 cinema “halls” and digital quality audio and video."

There were a lot of comments on this act by Reliance.. A few called it cheap, a few said they're unethical & even then there were a few so called Reliance patriots who called it a masterstroke by Anil Ambani.

If you thinking that this is poor advertising ethics used by Reliance then it doesn't just end there coz according to Livemint the wall street journal-
If you (Airtel) are going to tease people, we (Big TV) are going to feed their appetite,” said Bobby Pawar, chief creative officer of Mudra Group, which created the Big TV campaign.
Big TV also notes that Airtel had no copyright claims since the teaser ads ran with no brand logo or name.
“It’s an open market and every player is expected to respond to competition. The campaign also gave us an opportunity to make specific claims on the product,” says Sanjay Behl, group head (brand and marketing) of the Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group."

Reliance have actually crashed Airtel's DTH launch party. If such unethical practices continue I seriously have my doubts on the future of Teaser Ads...!!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Brand Obama: The only product that did well due to recession

Obama is President. Well, this is the first time I've followed a US elections closely and the brand Obama has done excellent marketing. He has changed the way elections are done, and has taken canvassing to another level.

For instance, I was watching a program last evening on cnn-ibn which was disecting the Obama victory and drawing Indian parallel's with Mayawati. During this program there was a video clip which showed Obama giving a speech in which he used the words "YES! WE CAN" frequently. What's interesting here was everytime he said "YES!", the crowd would follow-up with a chorus "YES! WE CAN". This speech was intented to pep up the crowd and instill belief that the US can recover from its current financial crisis. Man it seriously has instilled some confidence. Moroever the terms "YES! WE CAN" which in some sorts is a great slogan, has worked wonders for brand Obama. Now that is marketing personified.
Word-of-mouth, Slogans, Market Penetration, Buzz marketing, product bundling, etc etc name any concept in marketing and you'd see a great application in the Obama Story.

Consider the million regular bloggers around the world, you could be rest assured that 9 outta 10 of them would've offered views on Obama. This has resulted in a great word-of-mouth campaign. For those who remember the reception he got when he went to Berlin during his campaign, would agree with me that he literally got a celebrity's welcome! His brand awareness campaign has had amazing market penetration. Even the Coke's and McDonald's of the world took more time to be such a common household name, but Brand Obama has done it all in a matter of few months.

You know all hoopla that goes happens in India when there's an election. How many times has the Indian elections created such a hype that other countries keenly watch and analyse it? I would say none! Or take even the developed countries, the day i heard a few ppl talk about the UK elections was when Tony Blair stepped down and Gordon down took office!

The buzz about brand Obama has grown multiple folds and has done a great job. It has got people talking, writing, following it around the world. I feel marketers around the world should soon start using this as a benchmark to assess the success of their marketing campaign.

As Prof.Ray nicely put it 'Listen; The Obama story is not one that you look for in the annals of inspirational tales, instead its one that must feature in the Marketing textbook of tomorrow. It must stand testimony to the brilliance of a born marketer.'

So folks lets wait and see if Brand Obama lives up to its expectations or creates a widespread Cognitive Dissonance! ;)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Negative word-of-mouth is good???

Word-of-mouth as all of us know is something that no one has control over. Before you realize it, the news would have jumped networks of people and reached the other end of town. Everyone of us talk about a lotta products day in and day out.

Either intentionally or otherwise we talk about stuff from say shoes to music to restaurants to movies etc and offer our opinion to everyone we interact with.

This may be either to help someone else buy, provide knowledge about the product, for self pride, just an intention of sharing, to find common ground or may be even to reduce dissonance. For any company if this is a positive word-of-mouth, then they surely would'nt have any regrets!

What if its negative word-of-mouth?

Well, my answer to this question is based on the book 'Grapevine' by Dave Balter & John Butman. Products as such are never perfect and people accept this fact. A Negative word-of-mouth can be powerful. If the company responds positively to a negative word-of-mouth, it can turn detractors into loyalists. Moreover negative word-of-mouth can bring out the quiet advocates - who can be even more powerful than everyday fans.

For instance, take the Apple iPhone. If you carefully examine it, it does'nt have a few common features such as forwarding of msg's and taking long videos BUT try talking a person(who intends to buy an iPhone) out of the idea of buying a iPhone. Well I'm pretty sure he would give you 10 other reasons to buy the iPhone and may even draw ficticious statistics outta thin air to prove his stance. Moreover the Cult brand status of Apple here is one main reason why people behave so irrationally...!

So your word could be swifter than a bird! ;)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Buzzing the Yahoo way!

Well its been a while since the Yahoo's new product Yahoo Buzz has been around. But how many of us really use it! Has this site dedicated to buzz failed to create a successful buzz about itself? Well before we come to any conclusions regarding that, here are a few observations:
  • The Yahoo Buzz website has tried to do 2 things together: Force people to write and at the same time coerce people to upload or give links to the most interesting videos/music clips/articles that they come across.
Now I feel this was done in an attempt to try and catch up with its leading rival Google, by matching its websites youtube & blogger. In this attempt Yahoo have ended up being a middle-of-the-roader.
  • It has a feature called the iPhone, where the top 5 stories/posted buzz items are displayed in a format that resembles an iPod display and you can navigate similar to that of an iPod.
I feel if Yahoo wanted to make its site innovative and interesting, it should have made the iPod type of display on its homepage itself in the ploy to try and attract more visitors. Moreover not a lot of users would actually scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the iPhone option etc etc. Aint they expecting too much?
  • Similar to Google's Blogger, the Yahoo Buzz has a feature of voting for each post that you read. But they difference here is that in Blogger any annonymous person reading can vote and comment on the posts, whereas in Yahoo Buzz you gotta be a registered user on Yahoo Buzz to even vote!
One cant expect everyone to register on Yahoo Buzz just to vote on another article!! Moreover you cant even post your views on the buzz's that you read!!! Everyone loves giving opinions, Google has capitalised on this behavioural trait whereas Yahoo... seems to have missed a trick here!!!

  • Finally Yahoo has its name attached to the new product, this was surely done in an intent to using its present brand equity to attract surfers to its site.
Well seems a good ploy, but if this this site fails to meet the expectations or needs of the users then I guess it may have a spill over effect on the brand name Yahoo!!!

So guess we gotta wait and watch,
what yahoo does,
to create a buzz,
about the yahoo buzz! :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Microsoft using Teasers!!!

Well Microsoft is using Jerry Seinfeld to sex-up Microsoft with teaser ads. Its going to be a 300million dollar advertising campaign for the Vista OS, and what's more Jerry Seinfeld the stand-up comedian from New York whose more popularly known for lending his voice in the 'Bee Movie', has been roped in for a whopping 10million dollars to star in the ads.

Here Jerry Seinfeld is expected to use his humor appeal to attract the audience to the teaser, moreover in the ad Jerry attempts to draw out some personality from Bill Gates to make him sound 'cool'.

The ad is meant to tease "greater things" expected from the software company.
Well, most importantly the reactions to the teaser which feature typical Seinfeld humor butted against a dry, laconic Gates who plays the straight man, has been a mixed bag from the tech community.

click here to see the teaser ad

Has the teaser been able to get the people talking about it still remains an unanswered question???

So next time around its upto Billy not to be Silly! ;)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

India not yet affected by Viral campaigns???

Well this thought about Indian buzz marketing agencies came to my mind when I was writing an Integrated Marketing Communications exam yesterday. It had this interesting question on the Levis Buzz in the US and as I got back home after the paper I came across a couple of banners based on the same Levis buzz, this forced me to search about buzz marketing in India.

That’s when I came across ‘The Flea’, India’s first non-traditional communication consultancy, in other words India’s first buzz marketing agency. Interestingly they have JUST 8 members who work for the agency!, 5 in India and 1 each in Houston, Brisbane & St Louis. Whats more they’ve handled viral campaigns for more than a handful of big clients and to mention a few of their popular campaigns:

Flea believes the following few simple rules are important to creating a successful viral campaign:

  • Provide Something worth talking about
  • Identify and reach out to influential individuals and communities
  • Provide something worth talking about
  • Identify and reach out to influential individuals and communities
  • Motivate people to pass along the marketing message
  • Make it easy for people to participate in the campaign
  • Have on-line and off-line component
  • Don't have unrealistic expectations about direct sales, but create long-term passionate users.

So the next time u want to create a buzz campaign in India. Remember your buzz can fly like the flea only with ‘The Flea’! ;)