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Monday, December 12, 2016

Three books to get you started in adtech space

Online Advertising Technology (adtech) space can be considered going through a consolidation phase. At the same time, it is also one of the domains in which one can expect niche players sprouting up continuously. If you are keen to understand about the domain, here are three books to get you started. Two of them are at an introductory level /holistic overview; third one goes slightly technical.

The Curious Digital Marketer 2.0 published by afaqs!

The Curious Digital Marketer 2.0 is a cool book giving a very high level view of all aspects of digital marketing. Its written by a group of authors from the industry. A very practical guide without much textbook type theories and definitions. It is written in a Q&A format with a good range of questions that will come to a marketer’s mind or someone just starting her career. It touches most aspects of digital marketing (baring any new advances post 2013, the publication year). The coverage ranges 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. Let’s take the first part of the book – display advertising. The questions in this part ranges from tools used to re-targeting to in-stream ads to audience buys.
As I mentioned, all these topics are dealt at a high level rather than going in depth. For example, the topic on re-targeting just stops at explaining what the concept is and doesn’t even talk about the vendors in this space or how a marketer can implement a re-targeting campaign. Another drawback I see is – it’s more India-centric; so someone outside the Indian geography may find few data points irrelevant. The book is also available at a reduced price in eBook format. I think it would have been more beneficial if the authors went a level deeper as well as touch upon topics like programmatic buying.
Overall a good refresher and ready-reckon-er for a digital marketing professional and worth keeping in your personal library! Now that we have a book capturing the essence of entire gamut of digital marketing domain, let’s look into another book going a depth further.

Targeted: How Technology Is Revolutionizing Advertising and the Way Companies Reach Consumers

Targeted by Mike Smith is a lively book covering specifically the online advertising piece from paid search to display to programmatic buying. What makes this book special is that author tries to get behind the details of how relevant ads are shown to an audience. The initial part of the book deals with paid search and specifically how the industry has evolved. I think, the crux of the book starts from the chapter of display advertising and ad networks. Like the chapters on paid search; the author starts with a brief history on how the display advertising industry has evolved over time.
The chapters I liked the most are those on Real Time Bidding. I think, the audience of the book is either those entering the domain or senior folks who wants to understand the concepts and value propositions of various players in the domain. Playing the devil’s advocate – it would have been better if the author concentrated more on the mechanics of advanced online advertising ecosystem rather than keeping a 100 feet height / evolutionary commentary. Overall a good a book and the author has done justice to explain powerful the technology is ingrained into the ecosystem to show the right ad at the right time to the right audience!
Let’s now take the last book for today which goes further in depth in terms of both the content and technical details provided.

Ad Serving Technology: Understand the Marketing Revelation That Commercialized the Internet

Ad Serving Technology by Gregory Cristal is one of the best books I read recently on digital advertising. Not only does this give a holistic overview of the underpinnings of ad tech space; but also gives an overview of the underlying technologies. There aren’t many books and literature on this complex domain makes the book even more attractive. The author does a great job of covering the basics of how display ads get displayed, how a trafficker set up the campaigns, and reporting capabilities.
Just short of 600 pages, the book is roughly divided into four parts. The first one gives a good understanding of how the whole domain of online advertising, vendors, platforms and workflows work. The second part dives into campaign set up and trafficking. Then he discusses about reporting capabilities and analytics available in ad server. Finally, he very briefly discusses about the more complex vendors and topics like programmatic and re-targeting.
As the author rightly comments in the book; the online advertising industry is seeing changes so dramatic that a concept or thought today may not be relevant at all in near future. One personal example I could relate to was Facebook Atlas ad server’s come back. 2.0 version of the ad server has shown some promising capabilities and especially features like a closely knitted integration with Facebook campaigns make it attractive.
Now let’s play a devil’s advocate. One place where I felt the book fell short was its technical depth. I think, by trying to be an ad server agnostic literature; author has failed to give a full picture of set ups. For example, he covers in depth how to track other channels like affiliate, email or search in an ad server from a theoretical perspective; but didn’t show how an actual implementation will work. Another drawback I saw was, he was circling back again and again to the topics discussed already instead of giving more meat. Overall I believe the author has done justice to introduce the beast of ad serving domain in under 600 pages. These are they five things you will learn if you read the book —
  • Overview with some decent depth on online advertising industry
  • How to develop, track and analyze online advertising campaigns
  • How ad trafficking works
  • Reporting capabilities and attribution techniques prevalent in the industry
  • Brief overview of channels, vendors and upcoming (at the time of writing :)) changes in the industry and how it all tie back to an ad server
Two things I wish author could have done even better for reader are a provision of more robust examples covering the technical depth (since that’s what is lacking in most of the literature out there) and reduce theoretical circling in writing
Having said that, this book is a great asset for anyone in the in the industry. Some of the diagrams are very informative and easy to understand. I believe some playing around with ad servers after reading the book will give the reader a strong foundation in this domain to get your hands dirty!
Hope you find the reviews helpful and is looking forward to read them. Have you read any of these, what’s your take on these books…do they highlight the practical aspects of the industry well?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Journey of a brand through its commercials- Surf Excel

Continuing from the discussion we had about the evolution journey of Surf Excel through its commercials; today we will quickly breeze through another brand - Bru Coffee. Bru Instant Coffee product line is yet another successful brand from Hindustan Unilever in India for decades.

Brief History of Bru Coffee

A nice and interactive timeline of Bru is provided in their website. HUL launched its coffee powder under the name Brooke Bond Green Label in 1962. India being a tea nation; at that time perhaps this was the first branded entry by any company into coffee market. This could be the reason why HUL extended the brand of Brook Bond which is the famous tea brand name. The instant coffee market was perhaps born in 1968 with Bru Instant. Since then, Bru product line has seen new introduction, re-branding and pruning of variants. As of today, Bru Coffee is available in for four variants - Bru Gold, Bru Instant, Bru Select and Bru Roast & Ground

Association with filter coffee

I couldn't find any commercials from the seventies for Bru. If you find any, please do share; it will be interesting to watch those advertisements. The oldest Bru ad I could find on the internet is one from late eighties. During the earlier commercials, Bru used the comparison approach (stereotype to create an association in consumer behavior vocabulary) to attract those drinking filter coffee. At that time, coffee was the dominant hot drink perhaps only in the southern part of India. And filter coffee in particular used to be THE choice. So this association was needed during the initial days. Another close association the ad is trying to make is its connection with the traditions of South India (both in terms of visuals and voice overs).

Transition to its own category of instant coffee

Association with filter coffee continued for may be about the entire nineties. Check out the Malayalam Ad. If we forward a bit, the feature based themes were also used in the advertisements. For example, watch the below ad which focuses on how tasty Bru is. The entire voice over goes through new taste and aroma. This is perhaps the transition phase of moving away from the association with filter coffee and of being its own product category. Here is a pan India ad in Hindi that showcases both these themes.


Moving towards slice-of-life themes

Fast forward to 2000's, the brand started using slice-of-life themes with subtle indications of aroma and taste of the coffee. One interesting piece that is clearly evident from the ads during these period is the careful selection of life sequences and target segment -- Young middle class with aspirations. For example, watch the below ad which showcases a new generation daughter trying to introduce to her father, her boy-friend. Though the daughter is not able to put forth the idea of having a meeting; father understand about it after drinking a cup of Coffee. The key ingredient to the success of this campaign is two-fold. Firstly, it gels well with the target audience and secondly the shoot is perfect. For example, all aspects like whether showcasing the brand name, packaging or ingredients of the Coffee is executed perfectly. Earlier theme aspects like aroma and taste are subtly included in the pictuarization.

Happiness Begins with Bru!

A campaign that gave the brand a big boost is the Happiness Begins with Bru. The first commercial in this sequence was again a slice-of-life theme showcasing a day of a young couple; wife announcing that she is pregnant symbolically by giving a small cup of Bru to her husband. Have a watch of the ad. Once again all aspects of the brand is well captured in the video - be the subtlety used for aroma, packaging, taste etc. or the connection with its target audience.

The brand has continued with a similar theme of 'with-bru-comes-a-good-mood' commercials (Ek Cup Bru Aur Mood Ban Jayae). Once again the target segment is kept well under consideration. One sequence showcases a wife having a bad day; yet giving her husband a cup of coffee. After taking a sip and mesmerized by the taste; the husband tries to calm her down by giving a foot massage!). The second sequence follows a similar path of showcasing a young couple's day in which the husband dedicates a song in radio for his wife after having the Bru coffee.

Jingles and Humor

The motivator behind this blog post is one of their long running commercials. One day, I noticed my wife inadvertently singing the jingle while making coffee/during discussions. The ad is the one showcasing 'yet another young couple' in which the wife sings a song about how to make the best coffee! The song is all about teaching her husband how to make the coffee by using two cups, Bru, water, sugar and milk. The jingle is so perfectly recorded that you get tempted to sing it like a song (a special mention needs to be done in making the dubbing across language perfectly)

In the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the brand has used the celebrities Karthi and Kajal Agrawal in a set of commercials ranging from the successful & long aired husband-makes-coffee-for-wife to the latest son-knows-father ad.
Having said that, it doesn't mean the brand had always made successful campaigns; I would consider few flop series were also there. Interestingly these included big celebrities as well. For example, have a look at this ad featuring Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra for Bru Lite Coffee. The whole sequence tries to mimic the above mentioned ad related to Ek Cup Bru Aur Mood Ban Jayae; but the complete focus seems to have been on the celebrities; they even forgot to have a branded coffee mug!

Love is Bru

Come 2016, the brand has gone one step forward with a commercial and tag line - Love is Bru. In the latest and greatest installment, Bru has used a life-of-slice theme. In this, the wife gives more coffee to her successful husband who is under office pressure. He asks her why and she states he is the breadwinner and undergoing lots of sacrifice and stress. The husband returns the favour stating the sacrifices she has done for him and the family can't be matched by anything.

What do you think about this latest advertisement from Bru Coffee and how the brand has evolved…?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Is India ready for a cashless economy?

India’s most radical national-level decision came in last week regarding the demonetization of the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 Notes. There are many near term and long term effects of this decision and many of us are eager to see things unfold. The biggest discussion point was that this move will be a major step towards a cashless economy. Companies like Paytm etc are gung-ho about this move and are preparing themselves for the major surge they expect in terms of cashless transactions. In my opinion, this is surely a big leap but there are many other systemic changes that need to be in place for our nation to go truly cashless.
The Indian love for cash: We as Indians are a big fan of having cash with us. Even if we have a numerous credit cards, debit cards and what not, we would still carry a small bunch of notes. Many of us treat plastic money as a backup for cash and not the other way around. The primary position is still of cash and the secondary of the plastic money. One of the good things about the announcement made by the government was that they are limiting the amount you can withdraw, limiting the cash you have in hand and thereby making you to use your credit and debit cards more often and causing that much needed behavioral change in all of us slowly and silently. This will surely make plastic money move to the primary position and cash to the secondary position.
The network: For the entire monetary system to become cashless, the network of complimentary and supplementary services need to be in place. Let us accept the fact that we are still a nation where few of the merchants either don’t have a facility of taking payments by cards or refuse to accept payments by cards even after having the necessary infrastructure in place for the Indian love of cash or charge use an additional fees for providing you the convenience of paying by card. We still have a lot of petty things we buy from petty shops like milk, flowers, vegetables etc where cash is still the mode of payment. We have a strong retail network and we are still not in a state where we buy things like milk from a supermarket and pay cashless. Merchants refuse cashless transactions primarily because they need cash for rotation, for buying goods and for other business transactions. We still have the sentiment of visible cash being the blessing of Goddess Lakshmi and the invisible cash doesn’t hold any value for us. Unless the network of major merchants are forced to move to cashless mode of transactions, the system around them will continue to be driven by cash. There are many government agencies as well which are still not matured to accept card based payments. This is a major prerequisite for a cashless economy along with a much stronger and faster settlement process.
The cashless apps: I am still not quite convinced on how well we are using the cashless apps like Paytm etc. I know for the fact that they have a large subscriber base, but do they really have the transaction volumes. I myself know many of them who registered on these apps just because they got some discount or other promo and used it once or twice. How many of the registered users actually got converted to regular customers and used such cashless apps repeatedly for every payment they could make through that is the question. The network of the cashless apps have the same problem as that we have for credit cards. There are a selective few merchants who are onboard with this mode of payment and hence cashless apps act as a secondary for credit cards interestingly. Even if many of the merchants are on boarded, the whole pain of both the parties having to transact through an app might be a deterrent. Options like contactless cards or even QR code based payments might need to be looked at.
Technological challenge: Let’s look at reasons why we love to carry cash even with our plastic money. The top reasons would surely be: The shop might have a credit card machine but most of the time it is not working or does not complete the transaction due a system or network glitch, There might not be an ATM where I go and hence let me carry cash, the transaction amounts would be petty and the shop might not accept cards for it, I don’t want to the pay the additional charge for using my card and the list goes on. Few of the people are still wary of using plastic money as they feel it is insecure and can be easily hacked into especially in the online world. For cashless apps, the main challenge would be to get the app work in the toughest of the network and power conditions and also the ease of use. If cashless apps don’t look convincing for anywhere anytime use, then it might still fail to become mainstream mode of payment across the nation. All these reasons conclude to the same point that our backend technological infrastructure needs to be available, reliable and secure for people to be least worried about the mode of payment and encourage cashless transactions.
The common man: The PMJDY scheme was easily the best nationwide scheme implemented as far as I know. Now every citizen has a bank account with an ATM card which has empowered every citizen with the basic necessity of a cashless economy. Although all of them have it, many of them do not know the utility of this and banks need to play a major role in educating every common man on the benefits of the ATM card with them and how they could use it for making transactions. Banks need to facilitate this fully and this will be the most critical step in getting the crucial mass on board the cashless economy. Getting them to use their cards in near term itself would be a big achievement, cashless apps might be a distant target.
The old-youngsters: It might be a lot more easier to bring in the Gen X and Gen Y on board with cashless transactions but we have a majority of the old-youngsters who trust the nation’s oldest bank only, rely on their pensions and use cash for most of their transactions. This is the generation that is still taking baby steps in adopting to technology, many of them still might not be using internet banking, they are still getting used to using smartphones and other electronic devices, they are still unsure of how to download and install an app (Unfortunately many of the greatest apps being built in the Indian startup ecosystem like Uber, Ola, BigBasket etc have high utility for the old-youngsters but are catering to the young-lazy-office goer crowd just because of this technological barrier) and are still scared of using their plastic money. Some of them might get convinced to move to cashless mode of transactions but majority of them will find their own reasons to avoid them and can be on boarded only in the form of compulsion where they are forced to use only cashless mode.
A cashless economy is going to bring in more transparency and ease of doing business. It might also bring more regular streams of incomes for many of the citizens due to the receivables financing based schemes that banks and other financial institutions can implement due to the increased use of plastic money. However, this would also need the same style of implementation like the Aadhaar and Bank linkage for LPG subsidy where over a short period of time every one was forced to take an Aadhaar card and a PMJDY bank account to avail the LPG subsidy and retain only the genuine connections. The same feeling of compulsion and urgency needs to be created to make every citizen embrace the cashless economy, however, the necessary system and infrastructure would be needed before that starts.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

High Impact Presentations by Dale Carnegie Training (Review)

The book How to Win Friends and Influence People introduced me to the legend of Dale Carnegie. I was fortunate enough to attend a second classroom training from Dale Carnegie India Training – this time on making High Impact Presentations. It was a two day program. Having attended many soft skills training in the last ten years, I was little skeptical on the benefits of attending it ; but I wasn’t disappointed. It was an engaging and revealing two days of interaction. I am sure each of the twenty participants had some good takeaways out of it. Since it was a company organized training, all of us knew each other, the challenges we may have etc.; that made me think if it was an open training with unknown fellow participants, the learning taken out may have been a bit better.
High Impact Presentations training by Dale Carnegie is a two day program, in my case there were two facilitators as well. Day 1 was concentrated more on ice breaking, setting up a baseline for each of to compare against, body language, importance of structure, and a bit on group presentations. Day 2 started building on the concepts of Day 1 and focused more on aspects like use of analogies, how to open and close, expressions, and finally doing a review presentation including all the things we learned. The uniqueness of this training was the number opportunities each of the participants got to present, and get it reviewed by both the facilitators and fellow participants.
In total, including group presentations, we would have made around five presentations over the two days, recorded them and got reviewed. Here is a quick takeaway notes from these two days. The fulcrum of the entire training was around three pillars — Structure, Content and Delivery. Focusing on each of these pillars is important. Getting each of these correct ensures a great delivery of the presentation. These may sound text-bookish; believe me, these when put to action during the two days were showing amazing improvements in the presentations and presenters we saw.

How to effectively plan your presentations?

Planning the presentations is as important as delivering the presentations. Before you even start to put together the presentations, one need to understand the audience, their level of understanding about the topic and the purpose of the presentation. For example, the way you structure the presentation will be entirely different if it is a motivational presentation as compared to a technical presentation. Another rule of thumb is to have few key takeaways and messages you want the audience to imbibe in. One of the important takeaways for me (which was re-iterated) is setting the agenda. Most of the effective presentations starts with setting the context, and setting the agenda and expectations in a black board. This not only gives the presenter a pathway; but also to establish a joint ownership of content with the audience. This also helps to keep interest levels and earn respect with the audience. From a delivery stand point of view, utilizing visual aids enhances the credibility of the presenter.

How to effectively structure your presentations?

This is an important section where I learnt a lot. Having an impactful opening is important for any good presentations. This can be done using analogies, asking questions, stating startling facts, compliments or dramatization. This is important to keep the interest level of audience intact as well as keep them engaged. While delivering the meat of the content, it’s always good to simplify things, use examples, and facts to simplify the message. Finally the closing should be as crisp as the opening. It should be simple yet powerful. It’s always good to close your presentation with a lead to action (for example asking for a follow up meeting, or ideas from audience on how they are going to implement the ideas or even asking volunteers to brief their learning). This goes back to the planning stage of understanding what’s the goal of the presentation – is it to persuade, is it inform or is it to share knowledge.

How to engage with the audience?

Preparation is only a part; delivery may be another…but engaging with the audience result in an effective presentation. This starts with building rapport with the audience before even starting the presentation, acknowledging knowledge and comments of audience and body language. Body language doesn’t end at the way you stand – it has a very important role in building an impression, enabling the audience to listen and use of expressions to assert the ideas. From a content perspective two things aid to engaging effectively with your audience – knowing thoroughly and beyond the scope of the presentation and being able to relate to audience, and simplify things depending on their receptiveness. Active listening is another important pillar to engage with audience. Finally, all presenters want the audience to take some action – be it apply whatever they learnt or purchase something. Dale Carnegie has put forth a ‘magic formula’ to help us achieve this. As per this, spend the final 90 seconds thrusting on the incident/experience/evidence for 80 seconds; 5 seconds on an action you want the audience to take and the last 5 seconds on emphasizing the positive benefit she can take out the action.
Let me close the post by mentioning about another key learning I had from the training on handling pressure situations or tough questions. If you are asked a tough question, it’s always better to take a pause, paraphrase the question asked taking out any negativity, acknowledge the question and respond from a positive angle. Here is a quick repository on various techniques to handle objections. I think one shortcoming I saw in the training was not having a focus on your weaknesses. This is more due to the fact that Dale Carnegie Training content believes in enhancing your strengths rather than your weaknesses. Overall, a very good training and I recommend it if you can afford to attend one!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Nawabs Nudes Noodles – A book on Indian Advertising (Review)

Advertising is perhaps the time tested persuasion technique used by sellers in the modern world. In India, use of advertising dates back to at least a century. It’s always interesting to look back and learn how advertising has changes – be its form, theme, message or picturization. Nawabs, Nudes and Noodles by Ambi Parameswaran is a book that does this historical review of how advertising has evolved in the Indian sub continent over the last fifty years.

About Ambi Parameswaran

Ambi is one of the illustrated personalities in the Indian advertising industry, the brain child behind many of the successful brands like Santoor, Digene, Brufene and corporate brands like TCS. He has more than three decades of experience in brand management, doctoral degree, IIM Calcutta alumnus and presently spearheading a consultancy Brand-Building. This book draws lots of examples from his real life clients as well as the agency FCB Ulka with which he was associated most of his career.

Part I How characterization in ads has evolved? (People)

The book is organized into four parts based on the themes used in advertisements across these years. First part focuses on people and deals with how human aspirations were the center theme in commercials. The actual account of advertisement starts with the literature on how masculinity used to be utilized in advertisements of Lifebouy and Colgate. For someone how has seen these ads during the 80s, this is a great journey back to old memories (like the Lifebouy tag line). The book continues with its set of examples of how aspirations and status were used during this period. It’s also interesting how brands change the aspirations among its audience. For example, the move of Raymond from ‘Guide to well dressed man’ to ‘Suiting for the complete man’. The author has taken the approach of giving an account of various examples of how the messaging in advertisements have changed followed by a set of learning on character sketch in commercials. In the ‘People’ section, Ambi has discussed about how the character portray of men, women, kids, teens, old age, relationships etc.
The book also gives interesting accounts of how the advertising industry has adapted itself according to the changing cultures and aspirations; for example regulating policies around what and how to advertise to kids. The book also give insights into some of the everyday chores of media planners, lobbying by the industry, repositioning of products, how changing demographics are studied by practioners and more.

Part II How products has evolved with cultural shifts

The second part of the book focuses on how products, be it staple ones to sophisticated ones has changed and evolved during these years. In this sections brands and products ranging from Amul and cooking oils to Bajaj and bikes are discussed. A great explanation on how various brands used the shifts in culture is also discussed in detail. It is very interesting to read some of the historical events that has played important roles in everyday life. For example, how a product like dalda came into existence; back in late 1930s HUL bought the right to make vanaspati ghee in India, as a cheap substitute to ghee from a Dutch company called Dada. They set up a company called Hindustan Vanaspati Manufacturing Corporation in 1931. Later the name of the product was renamed to Dalda by adding an ‘l’ to become what we all know the product today. Like the previous section, this one also gives ample examples and stories of admen behind successful campaigns.

Part III Advertising services

This section talks about how campaigns have changed over the years while advertising services and experiences. It starts with the example of wedding as a theme and how products ranging from pan parag to suitcases have used it. Later the section discusses about TV reality shows, tourism and job portals. To be honest, it became too wordy and boring with so many examples and narratives once a reader reaches the end of this section; One could also argue that the author has given a plethora of examples.

Part IV On effective ad narratives

This part of the book takes a different angle and discusses how various components of and ad have evolved. Starting from music tracks, audio techniques and more; Ambi discuss about how celebrity endorsements have changed. There is a chapter on how dubbing, lip synching etc are used in the industry.
Later the book discusses about topics like how the notion of obscenity, shooting animals etc have changed; and the evolution of regulatory policies around these. Author closes the book with his thoughts on what could come up in future when advertising industry is concerned. Among the ten thoughts he has discussed, the one that resonated with me the most is that advertising themes are taking more a societal message approach clubbing with a brand’s CSR projects. This enable the brand to capture a place in it audience’ hearts.


I think the biggest drawback of this book is literally its lack of pictures (only few ad campaigns are given as inserts in the middle of the book). It’s very hard for a reader not familiar with the examples discussed to relate with. It would have been a great asset for even those readers who had seen these ads to quickly remember, relate and appreciate the thoughts shared by the author.
The book gives many side boxes that gives an insight into various techniques used in shooting commercials; wish more details and examples were provided. Another challenge I felt is that often the author has drifted between years; it would have been better if he had kept the chronological order in all case studies. Finally, I doubt whether the book has captured all fifty years in its complete sense especially the early years.
Overall a good book for anyone trying to get a better understanding on how Indian advertising and brands have evolved of the last few years.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Skoda Better Made Better Campaign Review

The advertisement that caught my attention off-late is the latest commercials from Skoda Auto India. The campaign is Better Made Better. The campaign includes three ads; all choreographed using slice-of-life themes. The most played ad sequence is the one revolving around a new father handed over his baby at a hospital

Indian Car Industry

Indian car market is one of those text-book type markets ruled by a handful of strong player. It is expected that the top three market players (Maruti, Hyundai and Mahindra & Mahindra) hold more than 70% of the market share. Skoda Auto India is one of the penny-players in the market with less than 0.5% market share.
Though market share is very less, the brand is one of the top list makers in the premium/high end segment. I remember; during the early 2000’s, when Skoda Octavia was first launched – it was one of the biggest aspiring models in the market. In total, Skoda India has five models presently – Fabia, Octavia, Superb, Rapid and Yeti. Though, there are a plethora of complaints around how bad the after sales service is; it is expected that they are improving that part.

Better Made Better

Skoda Better Made Better is the latest campaign from the brand focusing on how car variants have improved, and other service quality improvements. A key component of the campaign messaging is about the brand’s improved service – be it the showrooms or after sales. Four things highlighted as part of the overall campaign are
  • Improved crystalline designs of cars
  • Better and improved showroom experience
  • Four year service guarantee
  • Improved after-sales experience

The all new Skoda Experience

Let’s have a look at one of the ad sequences in this campaign. In this ad, a tensed to-be-father is waiting outside a labor room waiting for a un-eventful labor. The nurse hands over the baby to him and it holds its’ father’s finger. And, the voice over starts – ‘The feeling when something so good becomes even better…..’.Of the 45 seconds of ad sequence, the brand is shown only after 30 seconds. The execution of the ad is good; it takes the usual slice-of-life theme and keeps the viewer’s inquisitiveness in-tact. This type of theme is so over-used by insurance brands, that one may not expect the ad to be about an automobile. Last few frames showcases the crystalline design of cars, the service guarantee and improved showrooms.

Personally, I still don’t get the connection to enhanced quality promise from the brand. Second ad in this campaign include a family dinner during which the child is provided with a sumptuous hot chocolate brownie ice-cream. And the third ad showcases a trekker enjoying the best of the nature. In all these sequences, the brand re-iterates its tag line of Skoda – Simply Clever.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Marketing Attribution - a fact or fad?

These days, digital marketing and analytics is ingrained in every organization’s marketing blood. Every day, a new channel, platform or vendor pops up in this domain providing a niche offering. A digital marketer is daunted with the task of understanding the relevance of each of these channels to include in her marketing strategy. You may think that, once the right channels are identified and included in the plan; everything is set. Unfortunately it’s just the beginning. Considering the fact that each of these channels or vendors report their own conversions metrics; the marketer is faced with the challenge of getting a holistic picture. For example, AdWords may report 100 conversions, Facebook may report 50 conversions and your display vendor may say they drove another 50 conversions; but your sales report will just say you had 75 conversions leaving you in a puzzled situation of why there aren’t 200 conversions (the sum of all vendors’ conversions count). This is exactly the problem of marketing attribution.

What is Marketing Attribution?

Any prospective customer is exposed to a plethora of marketing channels – starting from TV commercials to print advertisements to online media channels. In the attribution world, these are called as touchpoints. For example, an user may have seen a banner ad, searched for something and clicked on a paid search ad before making a purchase. In this scenario, the paid search vendor claims complete credit; but we know a banner ad was shown to the same person before making the purchase and she also had completed an organic search action. Ideally, some credit need not be given to each of these other channels (and paid search doesn’t deserve the complete 100% credit). This is marketing attribution – how the credits are assigned depends on the method used. For example, it could be a completely arbitrary approach or based on some algorithms. Before giving credit to each of the touchpoint, it is ideally to understand the influence they had on the final purchase. For example, the influence by a banner ad may be less compared to the paid search ad or vice versa. It depends on various factors like when these channels were exposed, the time difference between engagement points, the time lapse between the touch point and the final conversion and so on. The ultimate aim of attribution is to help the marketer understand the channels or media that can earn the highest ROI. This is becoming more appealing these days with the advent of niche media channels, and cross-device positioning.

Attribution has become the buzzword in digital marketing world; and so is each and every vendor claiming their offering on attribution. Minimal level of attribution can be achieved with even site side tools like Google Analytics. More sophisticated attribution solutions are provided by full-scale players like Visual IQ, Convertro, Adometry etc. These sophisticated vendors build their attribution solution based on machine learning algorithms. The resources provided in the end gives a good detailed introduction and thoughts on marketing attribution. Let’s quickly have a bird’s eye view of various attribution methods in the industry.

Types of Marketing Attribution

Most of the simple attribution models are based which even to give the credit to – whether the last click or the first click. Last click based attribution was once the de-facto standard. In these the entire credit is given to either the channel which generated the last click or the first click. This can be expanded to the touchpoint considering impressions as well. The second set of attribution models builds on how to assign credit to all the touchpoints in a customer journey. It could be as simple as giving equal credits to all the touchpoints in the customer journey to customized ones like giving more credits to clicks viz. impressions and so on. Algorithm based attribution builds on top of this assigning credits for various touchpoints taking into account multiple factors like time lag, nature of the touchpoint, time lapse between touchpoints and using various statistical methods. Various machine learning algorithms may also be used to attribute the right credit for each touchpoint. Sophisticated attribution market players build on top of this providing other capabilities as well like online-offline media optimization, cross-device attribution and TV-Online-Offline mix.

Techniques used in marketing attribution

As mentioned already, marketing attribution has evolved and become sophisticated these days with niche players entering and existing tools/players trying to add features and capabilities. For example, Google Analytics provide various attribution models like last interaction, first interaction, Model Explorer and so on. Attribution players that offer off-the-shelf solutions uses probabilistic and deterministic methods to derive at the credits. Algorithms used by such tools are sophisticated with various learning components; but the underlying pillars may be basic statistical methods like regression models.
Here are two resources that will help you get started with attribution – IAB Primer and Avinash Kaushik’s blog posts on  this topic.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Getting started with essential tools for your new blog! (Google Analytics, Search Console, GTM, etc.)

Analytics - its everything when it comes to Digital Marketing! If you are setting up a blog or a website, it is important that you set up the analytics and measurement foundation effectively. Usually, Google Analytics and Search Console belong to this arsenal. Considering, we may have to implement multiple tracking tags for various objectives like analytics, A/B testing, advertising and more; its recommended to use a tag manager. Google Tag Manager is a free offering from Google that helps you meet this objective. In this blog post, let's see how to get these three implemented for your new WordPress site!
Implementing Google Tag Manager
    1. If you don't have a Google account, create one as the first step
    2. Login to Tag Manager UI and create a new account
    3. Accept the Terms and Conditions (after reading it of course ;))
    4. You will be shown a GTM container JavaScript tag. This the core and only tag you need to install in your website. In the case of implementing this for a WordPress site, we need to enable one more plugin. Download and install the plugin - Insert Headers and Footers. This plugin enables you to append the tags. You may want to remove the iframe from the code since it's not valid in HTML5 (for more details, read Simo Ahava's blog post)

Implementing Google Analytics using Google Tag Manager
    1. Login to Google Analytics and create a new property and get the tracking ID. All you require now is the ID like UA-XXXX-YY
    2. Go back to Google Tag Manager and select Add New Tag and choose Universal Analytics tag. Since we are implementing the site side analytics tool, the event to be selected is page view. No additional custom or advanced settings are required since we are implementing a basic GA tag. We will later look into installing additional GA tags when we track events or transactions.
    3. Choose the Trigger as All Pages (Page View)

    1. Publish the tag
    2. Visit your website
    3. Go to Google Analytics account and Real Time section. If you are able to see at least one visitor shown, Congratulations! Your set up of Google Analytics using Google Tag Manager for a WordPress site is complete.

Claiming ownership in Google Search Console
Search Console is the offering from Google to understand how fairly your website is doing in search results. Claiming ownership in Search Console is easy and straightforward.
  1. Login to Search Console and add a new property
  2. If you were following along this blog post, unfortunately there are only two methods that will work to claim your ownership -- verifying the website using your domain name provider or adding an HTML tag. Verifying via the domain name provide is the automatic and easiest method. If you choose the second one, go-to the Insert Headers and Footers plugin and add the meta tag provided by Search Console.

Claiming Ownership in Bing Webmaster Tool
Bing Webmaster Tool is similar to Search Console giving insights into how your website is doing in Bing Search results. Since these two are the market leaders, they continue to add/revamp features provided by these tools. It's always a good idea to get a non-Google view of your website's performance.
  1. Login to Bing Webmaster Tool
  2. Click Add Your Site
  3. Since posting an XML may not be possible directly for a WordPress site, we need to follow either of the following two options -- add a meta tag to header or add CNAME to DNS. If you opt the first option, follow the same step as we did for implementing Tag Manager. In case you choose to add the CNAME, follow your domain registrar's requirements. Most of the cases, it would just required to add a CNAME value with host as the alphanumeric provided by Bing Webmasters tool and pointed to verify.bing.com
  4. Once verified, you will be able to see the dashboard in Bing Webmasters; don't worry if you don't see any data yet. It will show up eventually.

Congratulations! You are now up with three important foundations pillars in digital analytics!
Note 1: There is a plugin available for WordPress (https://wordpress.org/plugins/duracelltomi-google-tag-manager/) created by Duracell Tomi to easily implement Google Tag Manager; seems to handle some of the challenges mentioned above; but I haven't used it.
Note 2: You can also use easy to implement plugins like Yoast to connect the website with webmaster tools