Rumblings of an MBA mind...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Personal Branding and Measurement

Friday, April 24, 2015 Posted by Vijay , No comments
It's once again the time of personal branding! The concept of personal branding is not new. Way back in the late nineties, Tom Peters coined the concept of personal branding With the advent of a plethora of online channels available, it has become easier, relevant and at the same time tough to build a personal brand today. We know about hundreds of books that speaks about how to project oneself, how to come out as positive and brilliant while discussing with others and so on. Online world has made the concept of personal branding more accessible and important. Personal branding is focused on the value you add to a business (Call it the skills you possess if thinking from the career perspective; showcasing your talent has become easier than never! Today is the time when recruiters are increasing the focus on social media and online channels in their hunt). It is essentially following the same core branding principle - how are you different; what's the promise that you offer?

In brief, the principles you should keep in mind before considering to build your brand are - what do you have to offer, how comfortable or passionate are you about the area that you picked up and how consistent you are with your efforts? We don't have any shortage for the medium we can use to utilize as channels for branding ourselves; what actually matters are the passion and willingness to learn and share the learning. Three channels I recommend you be active in are
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Blog
You may think blogging is not your cup of tea; no worries, new options like LinkedIn posts and event regular tweets are good to start and continue with. As I mentioned in my previous post on how to make your content fly; two key aspects of any content are relevance and share-ability. You can be in any of these channels - LinkedIn, twitter, social bookmarks and you name it - but what matters is how many followers you have, how many are reading and sharing your content; ultimately how many are looking forward to you as the subject matter expert?
As like these online channels, plenty of free tools are available to get a view of how well you are doing as a personal brand. Of course these are based on parameters a software/algorithm can read; so take all with a pinch of salt. I would recommend considering them in a relative sense than an absolute sense.For example, a klout score of 70 is good; but what is more important is how are you keeping up with the score over a period of a month, quarter or a year? Here are two tools that you may want to try out to understand better about your personal brand

Klout measures your influence across various social media channels like twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and so on and rank Klout users accordingly. It gives a score which is a measure of your popularity. Depending on the channel, the criteria could be different for measurement (Example - for twitter, number of followers, re-tweets, favorites could be criteria; in case of LinkedIn, network coverage could be the criteria).

Similar to Klout, this tool is more focused on twitter.It provides with you an analysis of how many followers, history of follower-ship, re-tweets, mentions and so on. The beauty of this tool in my opinion is the demographics details it provides for you to fine tune your branding efforts.

Before you start your journey of building your personal brand, don't forget to read first the article written by Tom Peters on Personal Branding - The Brand Called You)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review : The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments
I had the opportunity to get a copy, read and review the latest book by Guy Kawasaki titled The Art of Social Media. It is co-authored with Peg Fitzpatrick. A short yet practical book written for social media professionals!
The authors don't start with the usual gyaan on why social media is important, where it is going; what are the opportunities for a marketer and so on. The first chapter straightaway goes into the details of how you can make your profile pages in social media better. In essence, the authors opine that the profile page should be likeable, trustworthy and competent. One advice that I liked in this chapter is to have a mantra or tag line for yourself like the ones for companies (For example DIGISTRA: Digital marketing untangled).
The next section of the book concentrates on content. The authors tackle the content piece with two pillars - one on how generate content (not only yours; but utilize others' content) to keep your social media accounts active and the second pillar being how to create effective social media content. Guy Kawasaki provides a list of aggregators, scheduler and websites one can consider to populate the content. When it comes to the second pillar on how to make your content stellar, the authors provide these mantras -
  1. Make the content valuable to readers
  2. Make the content share-able, bold and interesting
  3. Make the content brief. Respect others' time
  4. Make the content visually appealing
  5. Make references while you write the content and be organized while sharing in social media
Later, the authors discuss about improving engagement - How to enable it using tools (like sharing buttons or joining networks), handling comments. A chapter is also dedicated to using social media in promoting events. But I felt most of the tactics discussed were commonly known ones. The last few chapters are dedicated to using platforms like Google Hangout and running twitter chats. A chapter is also dedicated to tips & tricks in using various social media platforms like LinkedIn to slideshare to twitter.

Overall a light and good read on time-tested best practices, tips & tricks in using social media in your digital marketing mix.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Framing effect and marketing communications

Monday, April 20, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments
In the last blog post on heuristic biases in decision making, we discussed about representativeness heuristic. Today let's understand how we can make use of another such heuristics in our communications - Framing effect.
The ‘‘framing effect’’ is observed when the description of options in terms of gains (positive frame) rather than losses (negative frame) elicits systematically different choices (The framing effect and risky decisions: Examining cognitive functions with fMRI, Cleotilde Gonzalez, Jason Dana, Hideya Koshino, Marcel Just). Framing effect is one of the aspects that fundamentally question the ‘Rationality’ school of thought.

It proves that emotions can help play a role in decision-making when information is incomplete or too complex, to serve as at times critical rules of thumb . Once again we can see very interesting applications of framing effect in marketing, selling and organizational behavior. Few of the examples are
We prefer ‘The product is 95% fat free’ to ‘The product consists of 5% fat’
A take-away restaurant offers a free home delivery or a ten per cent discount if you pick up rather than No discount for picking up and suffer a ten per cent fee for delivery.
Another application of framing effect that I have seen is by managers in performance appraisal meetings or an entrepreneur pitching to an investor. Starting with a positive frame primes the audience to be more receptive to the presenter. Framing effects are also widely used in politics especially when it comes to creating buzzwords or sophisticated sounding terms. An example from wikipedia article -
Recent popularization of the term "escalation" to describe an increase in American troop-levels in Iraq. This implies that the United States has deliberately increased the scope of conflict in a provocative manner. It alsoimply that U.S. strategy entails a long-term military presence in Iraq,whereas "surge" framing implies a powerful but brief, transitory increase in intensity.
As part of an experiment, I asked three paired questions that are somewhat relevant in my day-to-day work. While writing marketing messages for our products, we take utmost care in the usage of words. Hence one of the questions I asked was to choose between Software automation reduces testing time by 5% and Software automation reduces testing time to 95%. We make use of this in most of our marketing collateral when writing about results or customer quotes. As expected majority of the respondents choose the second option (60%).
Some of the other questions in the survey and associated results are
Which sounds better?
90% of manufactured units meet quality requirements with the adoption of ISO 9000:2011 [95.7%]
10% of manufactured units don’t meet quality requirements despite the adoption of ISO 9000:2011 [4.3%]
Which sounds better?
Save 1 rupee in buying a mango [30.6%]
Save 12 rupees in buying a dozen of mangoes [69.4%]

Friday, April 17, 2015

Making use of heuristic biases in advertising & brand building

Friday, April 17, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments
Have you heard about heuristic biases? These are essentially biases or traps that we often fall in to while making decisions. I believe Kahneman and Tversky coined these terms to represent the thumb rules we use. Read their 1974 article here. For today, let's understand one of them, representativeness heuristic and two practical applications; one in decision-making and other on how they can be utilized in marketing communications.

Before we start, keep in mind a  general questionnaire survey  showcasing some of the general scenarios in the day-to-day life of a Marketing Manager. Representativeness Heuristic is the fallacy wherein we determine the probability of an occurrence based on our learning from past experiences. It is based on the school of thought that we as normal human beings tend to categorize our lives. A simple example may be that we may think - if a person wears kurtha and white color attire, he must be a politician. Representativeness Heuristic finds many applications in marketing and advertising. A typical example used in marketing is the use of similar packaging by unknown brands or counterfeit products to mimic bestselling products. Few examples are provided in this Yahoo article (The 10 Most Counterfeited Products in America).

Let's now turn our discussion to a scenario we recently tested out. Often a content marketer need to decide between two vendors or channels of promotion for activities and resources she create. For B2C marketers  whose products are slightly techno-gadget oriented, the choices become complex since the audience rely on various channels when it comes to buying a gadget. For example, while buying a product like a premium android smartphone, a lady in the rich segment may rely on a magazine like Linux for You to keep abreast of changing technology whereas when it comes to the final decisionon buying the gadget; she may also rely on Fashion Indie. The protagonist in the scenario is a Marketing Manager trying to understand a promotion analysis report to decide the marketing channel. The scenario and questions are provided here. Though the scenario was given in an incomplete format, the theory behind represntativeness heuristic was clearly evident in  the responses we received. As per the scenario provided, 90% of the potential customers read IEEE journal and 10% read Fashion-Mag. Seven sample descriptions of various potential customers were given. Respondents were asked to identify which magazine each of the seven would be reading in their opinion. If we have to go by the population data, most of them should ideally identify them as reading IEEE magazine since the scenario states 90% of the potential customers read IEEE journal. However the survey results show that 56.7% of the respondents choose Fashion-Mag and 42.3% chose IEEE Journal.

You may ask what does this have to do in marketing & communications? As you may have thought, representativeness heuristic is an underlying concept in consumer behavior and how one make purchases. Packaging, and advertising themes having positive associations in a consumer's mind has a better chance of conversion. One of the success factors of Apple products is the association of Apple with high quality and brand. Similarly a product which had a high impact advertising theme will be more successful than a rival whose advertising theme was mediocre. In other words, a company having a positive brand association stand a better chance in being successful.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sensory Marketing - A new opening for advertisers!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments
In the March 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review, there was an article on sensory marketing (The Science of Sensory Marketing). Though discussed briefly during Marketing classes at IIM, this article made me to think and research a little bit about this topic. Sensory marketing is nothing but making use of five sense creatively to attract consumers for building awareness and making purchases. We  know very well that traditional advertising involving videos make use of visuals as a sense. Similarly radio advertisements use jingles to tap on the hearing sense. Sensory marketing as a domain focuses more on how the product itself can make use of other senses to build acceptance and loyalty.

The concept of sensory marketing aka sensory branding is not new. It has been there for decades. Let's take Lays as an example. Starting from how the name is written in packaging to the touch and feel you get while taking a slice in your hand can be considered well though-out effect of sensory branding. Similar is the example of a themed restaurant. The ambiance along with a perfume the restaurant uses, gives a special feel and attractiveness. Another interesting example provided in the above HBR article is about Dunkin' Donut which used an atomizer to release a coffee aroma whenever its advertising jingle is played in municipal buses. Aradhana Krishna, a professor at University of Michigan is considered to be an expert in sensory marketing provides some more examples and concepts of here. If you have been watching National Geographic's Crowd Control program, Daniel Pink talks about many examples which drives our decisions are controlled especially by making use of touch & feel as a sensation.
Let's take another example - Volkswagen. Volkswagen Sweden created a buzz at a subway for advertising its BlueMotion technologies by converting the steps into a piano! The brand didn't stop there. It created a website - The Fun Theory with many such examples showcases how we can change behaviors.

Research studies have shown that non conscious subtle stimuli can be more powerful than what traditional advertising provides. These techniques may not be perceived by customers as advertising. And since  an experience is created, the brands using these techniques get into consumer's consideration set and also recall is better.

Advent of technology and digital provides marketers more such opportunities to reach consumers with sensory elements. Advertisers are experimenting how to make ad viewing more fun. For example - you may visit a blog talking about cars. A car ad could be shown which produces the sound of a car racing. Another example , once again from Volkswagen in The Times Of India - readers heard an audio advertisement when they unfolded the newspaper! Let's take mobile advertising space; it provides immense opportunities limited only by creativity to try something - How about showing a discount ad every time you win a game; how about you use the gyroscope to make the ad viewing an experience?

What do you think about sensory marketing…?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Five years of existence

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments

I started blogging may be 8 years ago. Since then have tried multiple platforms including blogger, wordpress, and tumblr. Among them, this five year old blog has been the most read one in my list. Last year, started out a new one to write about digital marketing. Due to time constraints and other priorities, I am consolidating it to just this blog. The next few posts will be copying from Digistra. I hope to be regular in blogging here this year. I plan to continue writing about marketing, business and in general. Hope you will continue to enjoy reading and find something useful from here. As usual let me know your valuable feedback and comments!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Humor as an advertising technique

Sunday, April 05, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments
Humor as an advertising theme is a time tested one. The biggest challenge of picking up and executing humorous themes is in its inherent possibility of alienating viewers. For example - though no pun indented, if the advertisement mock at some sector or demographics, it may fail. Curating the ad in the right way will result in attractiveness and better re-call. Humor as a theme has couple of advantages
  • It can attract all if done right
  • The length of ads could be optimized
  • The re-call factor and psychological connection with the brand could be accelerated

Let's consider an example from one of the ads from cricbuzz during the cricket world cup season.

 It's a 24 sec ad which in my opinion has succeeded in implanting 'cricbuzz' as a cricket update app in most of the viewers.  The length is small when compared to other ads; it grabs attention, make the viewer smile , followed by showcasing cricbuzz as THE cricket update ad.

Let's now take the example of Cadbury's Dil Jo Keh Raha Hai Suno ad. Shown in various lengths, this is a good example of how humor can be effectively utilized to catch the attention of a viewer from ad clutter, implant a strong brand message and even make viewers eager to watch it again!. I am sure, irrespective of age and gender, everyone would have smiled while watching the ad. Also, the curator has not taken any pun, exaggeration or sarcasm to give the humorous flavor; instead taken a possible slice of life adaption.

Now, let's shift our focus from TV commercials to Digital world. This year, on April Fool's day, Amazon India decided to play some prank and attract visitors to its website. Once again, a beautiful idea, executed well. Amazon emails and home page showcase something like below -

Did you see it? Did you fell prey for it? Didn't you laugh a bit? Amazon also beautifully utilized this opportunity to introduce of the new launches which I am sure many would have at least visited the individual web pages; if not bought something!

So what do you think about humor as an advertising technique? I believe though emotional themes may have better viewership, I think humorous themes will have a better re-call. 

What do you think?

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Friday Night

Monday, March 23, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments

'7 errors', 'Build failed'

Arun once again witnessed the familiar pop-up window. Yet another precious hour wasted for the same piece of code. He looked around; only very few left in the floor, may be two or three here and there. Then he looked at his watch 9:30PM. It was a Friday night & still he had a couple of documents to review and some mails to be sent. He thought whom should he blame - his manager, his colleagues or himself? Already he had lost his chance to go to a pub with his friends, but he denied the offer saying he had to do his "so called" work. Totally fed-up, he decided to call off the day!

He was a typical bachelor in a metro – staying with friends, long commutes and hotel food. Though it was already half past 10, thankfully he had a couple of choices near his house itself & he decided to go to his favorite. After washing his hands, he found a comfortable seat. Since it was too late, only very few were there having their dinner. Being a south Indian, dosas were his favorite & he was ok even if had them three times a day. He asked the waiter to bring a masala dosa. The waiter looked at him awkwardly -  

Arun read his mind "What the hell do you think yaar?....Its 10:30PM. Nothing is left". The waiter said politely, " No dosa sir". Arun asked what is available & the reply was only meals. He ordered the same. It was cooked in the afternoon itself, but was hot since they used to heat it consistently to have a feel that it is fresh.

When he was about to finish it, a bare-footed boy started approaching him to clean a nearby table. Perhaps of ten years old, he looked very. Arun understood that the boy wanted to clean his table also. The boy started taking the plate that Arun ate. The boy sprinkled some water & started cleaning the table with a cloth he may have been using for the entire day. It was almost torn; that the boy was literally cleaning with his bare hand. 

The boy was new to the hotel & possibly new to his JOB too. Arun thought 'Is this what a boy of this age is supposed to do?'. He compared his childhood to that boy's. He never even took his own plate or cleaned it. His mother gave everything in hand while watching television, reading or playing. It was not even comparable in anyway. He thought to talk to that boy personally. This he wanted earlier also. But every time he skipped it. Today he decided to talk to that boy. But he was in dilemma, what to ask & in which language? Finally he asked the boy in broken Kannada.

Ninna hesaru enu? [What is ur name?]. 

The boy was so perplexed as If Arun was the first outsider to talk to him. He said in a very low voice "Nagaraju". Arun wanted to talk to him more. But he didn’t know Kannada. He continued his talk with Nagaraju in broken Kannada & Tamil. He came to know that the boy was a drop out from third standard. His father, a street sweeper & mother a house maid. He has not seen his father for past 9 months. He no longer comes to their house. Nagaraju, his 2 year old brother & mother stays in a small house along with a family of his uncle. His cousin is also working at the same hotel. His day started 5 AM in the morning, helping others to cut vegetables; from 8, cleaning the tables and end at around 11:30 PM cleaning the plates & vessels. 17 hours X 7 days. Almost like the advertisement 24X7. Even though his slum is near to the hotel, nowadays he stays at the hotel kitchen itself. Arun thought whether he can compare this to his 12 hours job, 5 days a week in an air-conditioned room with no hard labor. That is also incomparable. That is what education; probably a science or engineering education gave Arun. This boy is deprived of even the formal education. Still we say "I was born intelligent; Education ruined me"- what an irony? The boy gets 75-100 rupees a day for all this hard labor. 

"How many days can he continue in this rigour"- Arun thought. The waiters & the cashier started a small smile seeing they talking for a long time. They must have thought "has this person gone mad". Arun wanted to help that boy somehow. But he was reluctant to give him some money to the boy. But finally he handed over a 50 rupee note to that boy. The boy didn’t accept it. The boy said, the hotel owner will give him the money for the day. And now the people around us started really smiling. But still Arun wanted to do something for him. Finally Arun ordered the waiter another meal for the boy and asked him to sit near him. It must be the first time the boy is going to sit in that seat meant for customers. The meal came and boy had it. Arun could sense a relief from hunger and happiness from the boy. When the boy finished his meals, he took his own plate & cleaned the table. No other go. Arun put the 50/- rupees into that boy's half packet. Both were very happy & Arun said bye to him. The boy replied "Tanks". Arun smiled and started walking towards his house & the boy back to the kitchen….

ps: This is 50% fictional piece of writing :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Was my MBA worth it?

Monday, August 18, 2014 Posted by Vijay 2 comments
Note: It has been more than four years since I started this blog. It has been a great experience with nice comments, discussions and of course readership count following a sine wave :) This post may well be the conclusive post to this blog; except that I may update it occasionally. Marketing as a subject captured the most my interest during the days at IIMB and I am planning to continue writing about my learnings and thoughts @ Digistra. Do let me know your valuable comments about it!

Time just flies! It has been more than a year since I graduated from one of the coveted B-Schools of India.I thought its a good time to re-visit and reflect on the ROI generated out of this education. To start with, here are the investments I made to gain this prestigious and envious diploma !

  • 2.5 years (or rather three years) of no weekends, personal life
  • Around 10 Lakhs as tuition fees and other expenses
Fortunately or unfortunately there wasn't any loss of salary since mine was an executive program. Otherwise there would have been another cost bullet above. Today, as I see it, this where I am after MBA and some personal changes -

  • Married
  • Joined a small company
  • Moved my career to marketing domain
  • Thoughts are more inclined in terms of monetary implications (I won't call it money oriented though :P)

If I had not joined the program, I would have saved around 15 Lakhs which I could have very well used for buying an apartment; I would have enjoyed those three years' weekend (or wasted? :)) and kept on cribbing about the software engineer's job!

This is the outside picture anyone can get if they look at me. But the real story can be told only by the person who experience it. Here is a glimpse of that --

  1. First and foremost is the change in thought process -- honestly, I would not have thought about alternative investments and NPVs and optimum solutions about my savings if I had not studied that one core subject - Corporate Finance! 
  2. Similar is the case with my reading stamina. Unless I had gone through the hundreds of HBR cases and articles and readings, I doubt whether I would have ever read a 500 page book on business models and organizational development. 
  3. Courage to experiment. I acquired the courage to do some experiments like - investing in hard-core stock markets (from short-term trading to futures and options) to contemplating the a consulting business to taking classes for kids & even professionals. MBA taught me what matters is trying out; not whether you succeed. The boost in optimism one will have is invaluable.
  4. Moving away from the comfort zone. Whether it is public speaking or trying out new things or networking; the MBA anchored to make those steps.

Of course one can argue that you need not do an MBA, waste time and money to achieve all these. I don't deny; but if you are confident that you can achieve all these yourself; lucky you! you dont need an MBA.

Coming to the core question of any MBA aspirant - did it provide what the newspapers and media boast of? A definite NO; I have to say it's just hype and myths propagated year after year. Of course there were and will be few folks in all MBA batches who get those hyped salary offers and job profiles. Its not because of either brilliance alone or luck alone; but a combination of factors like luck, brilliance, background, timing and so on.

Let me close this post by making a couple of more points. MBA is a sunk investment(Well! that's a jargon). What I meant is you cannot consider the ROI of an MBA or for that matter any education from only the salary that you get post MBA. That's a pinch you have to accept. It's the intellectual stimulation, the network and the holistic thinking ability that you should look forward to. Don't go by the media reports; do an MBA only if you really think it will add value to you (The question Why MBA in SOPs is not just there for the sake of it; consider the SOP as an opportunity to critically think about the choice you are making!).

ALL THE BEST to the MBA ASPIRANTS out there and WISH ALL DREAMS come true for the MBA grads!

Disclaimer - all opinions in this post and blog are just my own and personal!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Book Review: The Curious Digital Marketer 2.0

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 Posted by Vijay , No comments
The Curious Digital Marketer 2.0 - A cool book on Digital Marketing; that's what I will say about this one. A very practical guide without much textbook type theories and definitions. It is very practical in nature. It's written in a Q&A format with a good range of questions that will come to a marketer in the industry or just starting her career. 

It touches almost all aspects of digital marketing from display advertising to analytics to social media marketing. The beauty of this book is that it captures the essence of each channel as questions yet covers the practical aspects of them.

Only drawback I see is - it's more India centric; so someone outside the Indian geography may find few data points irrelevant.I got the most value out of mobile marketing section.The book is also available at a reduced price in ebook format. One area that I thought the book could have done more justice is going into the details of paid marketing and some of the new buzzwords like programatic buying and real time bidding. 

Overall a good refresher and ready-reckoner for a digital marketing professional and worth keeping in your personal library!