As per the physics, a force is the push or pull on an object with mass that causes it to change its velocity. Aristotle famously represented a force as anything that causes an object to undergo “unnatural motion”. But FORCE here is the 5 factor analysis of brand management strategy.
But here in my context the brand management strategy FORCE is an acronym F- Failure, O: Opportunity R- Reasoning C- Challenges, E- Excitement. This FORCE sums up what I had experienced during my stint at d2h taking care of brand communications. The first word F represents failure. You may be surprised why I am starting with failure. Failure is a negative word. For people who see it in a positive way, will remember this famous quote of Thomas Alva Edison, “I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
In Tollywood, there is a movie “Sagarasangamam” (means confluence) directed by Dada Saheb Phalke award winner K. Vishwanath. In one of the interviews with Partha Nemani under, Viswanadhamrutham another legendary director said that Sagarasangamam is a story of a failure narrated successfully. In the opening shot of the movie, the penny less situation and his failure the hero is portrayed by a single shot – his torn chappals thrown by Rickshaw puller, which falls on him.
This is the first analysis of acronym FORCE. Here, I am narrating many incidents where failure was inevitable. Nothing could be done to salvage the same. In brand launch memoirs, just few weeks before the trade launch in Greater Punjab, I had mentioned about the brand creatives for print and TVC. The creatives for the Point of Sale materials which is different from brand launch creatives were finalised and duly approved by the CEO. We went ahead with the production of the same, post his approval. It was excitement all around and every one in the floor liked those creatives. It was a visual of a happy family keeping in mind the target audience with the launch offer, our USPs etc. The creative of POS elements was different from the ATL creatives because trade creatives are basically act as a tool for conversion at retail counters.
One fine day, just before the launch our director visited our office for a review meet. Marketing team usually sits closer to the conference room so all our creatives were at our desk. We have developed a form board standee; a sample of the same was kept near the desk of our Marketing Head. Director was passing by; he saw it. He said one sentence which sent shock waves across the department. Who is that truck driver in the creative?
This just shook the earth below us. I heard many stories about the creatives being rejected, discarded. During my Brand Sansui days from where I shifted to brand Videocon d2h I heard legendary stories of such acts. But this was the first time, I was experiencing it live. Suddenly, a crisis enveloped all of us. It was a situation where we had to swung into action immediately. First was to ask the printer, fabricators to stop the printing of POS elements. It was damage control, fire fighting for all of us. Now it was a race against time. We did all backward calculations. Summoned the agency immediately, to change the visual. Many will feel that this is just a small change of visual. But those who work in agency, brand will know that it much more then that.
Similarly, there had been multiple occasions when in name of options or show something better. We had missed the bus. It was a failure to identity the right creative which will work for us. Some options sound better while narrating but once they are executed it turned out to something else. There have been instances of certain TVCs like the one for HD Quality picture where to establish the HD Set top box was very simple yet powerful. Here again, the opportunity was lost as the management didn’t agreed to concept presented. The feedback was it is very simple, make it more interesting. After few months, we learned that a strikingly similar concept TVC was aired by our competitor TATA Sky. I don’t know whether the copy writer shifted to competitor brands agency or it was just a plain coincidence.
अपयश: नास्ति विकल्प: – Failure is not an option says the wise sages.
Failure doesn’t mean one doesn’t possess talent. It means that he was unable to identify the opportunities presented. He chooses something else instead of that. These instances give us an opportunity to prove ourselves. The opportunity was to prove our mettle. To prove that we can race against time. Many such races I have run, during my tenure at d2h. These races brought out the hidden talent that was somewhere deep inside. Every human being when encounters such situations I am sure he will come out victorious.
The incident before Punjab launch was an eye opener. Now extra caution, few more extra days were added to the project time line for having the cushion. I thought that now after this experience, we started planning better. The launch after few cities became a regular exercise and worked with precision. Since the time gap between two different states launch was very less, I spent many sleepless nights sitting in agency for giving immediate approvals on creative. The most precision job was to develop the subscription package leaflets. We had to change the package leaflets according the state. The regional language channels of the state were the first to be displayed followed by 2nd most spoken language channels.
Our subscription packages varied with each region, there were few channels of a particular language were not available in the base subscription pack but were available as add on. All the subscription packs, add on all had to be mentioned in the subscription leaflet which served as an information brochure for trade, sales and every one alike. These subscription packs had to be laid out differently for each region.
Channel logos being used to depict the channel, the layout become so heavy that even a small correction or minor change in placement sometimes took hours to get saved. The moment we finished with the launch creatives, POS elements of a region we had to immediately jump to another region with no breather. When I look back now after 11 years, I wonder how we did it. But I must say that the agency was very cooperative. The client servicing team, the operators, artwork makers every one worked together day and night.
Without the support of studio staff of our partner agency Publicis Ambience, this mammoth task of creating subscription package leaflets would not have been possible. It was an important POS element. Spending time in agency gave me an opportunity to meet old friends, make new friends. I was also able to convince the agency team about the importance of having respective regional content channels at the beginning. The studio staff understood why the brand was putting emphasis on subscription package leaflet and its presentation. I told them that very soon regional content channels are going to be a big market which no one thought of in 2009. I was able to reason with them the sentiments attached to their own channels. How people perceive their own language. For them the only regional language of importance was Tamil after Hindi. But today, it is the regional content which is making waves.
As I add years with my stint in d2h, I got multiple opportunities to work on challenging assignments after the brand launch. For example, hunt for brand ambassador, digital marketing, press conferences, brand manual, product launch, trade conferences, brand positioning, sponsorships, brand association, market research, case studies, land grab of market, innovations, brand campaigns and many more. Here, I end the discussion on 2nd acronymn of FORCE.
The 3rd factor in FORCE is reasoning. Many felt that there is no reasoning in what we had done. There was a lot of emphasis on the subscription package leaflet. Agency never understood the concept of subscription packaging leaflet in its initial days as I mentioned above. Why regional channels in all languages were given so much importance.
Today every one understands the concept of regional content, market of these regional language but at that time only Tamil was given importance, rest of the south was ignored. In east, only Bengali was given little bit importance. Odia, Assamese was totally ignored. Our focus was on adding the regional channels, and soon we claimed the leadership in regional channels content. We made TVCs for regional active music space channels offered under Value Added Services. The TVCs were in Odia, Bhojpuri, Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi. The market was there but very few identified it. These TVCs along with the leadership in channel offerings helped us in becoming the number 1 player in the market.
I studied in Berhampur, Odisha so I was given the task of identifying the popular face of Odia who can be our brand ambassador. I also spoke to my friends from Kendriya Vidhyalaya Berhampur, they suggested few names including Archita Sahu. Parallelly, our agency suggested Archita Sahu, and we zeroed in her. The content was active music space, so we generally opted for popular faces who have flair for music. For Bengali, it was Prosenjit, Bhojpuri – Manoj Tiwari, Marathi – Sachin Pilgaonkar, Punjabi – Sukhwinder. These five were regional brand ambassadors, for national we had roped in Abhishek Bachchan. Many asked us, why Abhishek. There were certain characteristics that were similar in Videocon d2h and Abhishek. Both were underdogs and challengers for leadership, both are full of potential. Another plus point was, both have a strong legacy.
All the activities that were done with proper reasoning, but the perception was that it was only a gut feel decision. I agree that we didn’t do any scientific analysis of the same. But the decisions proved right in the due course of time. Be it the association of IIFA or with team Kings XI Punjab or subsequently with Mumbai Indians, there are solid reasons to be associated. Franchisee sports like Indian Premier League or International Indian Film Academy Awards were pure entertainment events. These were serious events but the core takeaway is entertainment, pure entertainment. D2h also strives to provide wholesome entertainment in its purest form through its direct to home services. Getting associated with events related to mass entertainment in its purest form is in the DNA of Videocon d2h. It believed in the excellence in field of entertainment, technology.
Videocon d2h, believe in delivering excellence in the field of entertainment and adding variety to entertainment as a whole. Even the listing of Videocon d2h on NASDAQ (VDTH) was a testimony of its global outlook, tremendous growth. The fact that Videocon d2h was the fastest growing DTH service continuously for 30-36 months with highest market share is a proof of continued love and support of the consumers across the country.
There were many challenges ahead of us when we started our journey. Biggest challenge was to establish the brand as a premium service provider. When we started, integrated products along with Satellite Box (Set Top Box) was the focus. But later on, as per the TRAI guidelines, we had to drop the electronic products like CRTs, LCDs and focus only on service portfolio. This was the major challenge as to migrate from a consumer durable mindset to a service brand mindset. Many felt that we will falter, but we took to service marketing as a fish takes to water.
The other challenge was an inexperienced brand team but highly enthusiastic, full of energy. When we started, no one was aware what is digital marketing. We never handled any website till date. The first challenge was to build a brands website. We studied about programming only in school days that too only flow charts. I was tasked with the job of studying the competitor’s website. Along with competitor website, I studied about service brands website also. Then the rough sketch of web pages architecture was designed on power point slides. This was shared with our website developing agency. Together, we worked ironing out minor details. Thus, the first look and feel website was finalised. Later on, as the work load increased on brand front with many campaigns, creatives at ATL and BTL level. I was relieved from digital marketing and given to some one else.
At that point of time, Digital was not the focus but we were aware that it is a growing medium. But our media strategy was more traditional in nature. We extensively used print as a medium to communicate our brand salient features then the electronic media. Outdoor was also used judiciously but the top contributor to our media spends was print. This was yet another key differentiator for d2h. We believed more in print because the category was still evolving.
Most of the primary purchases were still from electronics counters, and for trade offers print was the best bet. Electronic medium especially TV was used extensively for brand building. The category was still in its nascent stage, all competitors were dominating the TV especially TATA Sky. In this scenario, we felt that we should exploit the print media. The print media gave us good returns in terms of subscribers but the challenge to uplift the brand imagery still remained.
They were two reasons, Videocon being the common name in consumer durables was perceived as value for money brand. The imagery of Videocon is so strong that we couldn’t get ourselves dissociated with it. Our subscribers knew that we are the best in technology, services but our brand perception among the intenders was very weak.
The third biggest challenge was to convince team members that we are doing good. Motivation was lacking, there was no training given to us. We learned mostly through self. But in the team, there were very few members who had the zeal for learning. I learned how to use the TAM software (Now BARC), extract reports of our campaigns, study them and present the analysis. Browsing the internet to study about various brand campaigns across the globe and share it with my colleagues.
Many industry reports were accessed, findings were shared with team members. This helped me in drafting speeches, press releases for management. Subsequently, I worked with the research team of IIM Bengaluru to draft the case study of our in-story integration with the movie Sultan starring Salman Khan and Anushka Sharma. Working on the case study for the first time, give me goose bumps as this was the first time in my career that I was working on something so prestigious like this. This is the end of 4th factor challenge in the acronymn FORCE.
In the Bhagwat Geetha’s chapter 18 Moksha-Sanyasa Yoga (The Yoga of Liberation and Renunciation) Lord Sri Krishna says
स्वे स्वे कर्मण्यभिरतः संसिद्धिं लभते नरः।
स्वकर्मनिरतः सिद्धिं यथा विन्दति तच्छृणु।।
Bhagwat Geetha, Chapter 18 Moksha-Sanyasa Yoga, Sholaka – 45
It means – All the people who are the various components that make up society, attain the truest state of perfection when they perform their work while at the same time find great joy and happiness in performing their designated tasks.
He also says,
सहजं कर्म कौन्तेय सदोषमपि न त्यजेत्। सर्वारम्भा हि दोषेण धूमेनाग्निरिवावृताः॥
Bhagwat Geetha, Chapter 18 Moksha-Sanyasa Yoga, Sholaka – 48
It means- A man should never forsake his own tasks, even if he cannot complete them in full perfection, simply because it is a known fact that every (human) endeavour consists of some fault or imperfection just as all fire consists of smoke.
The various tasks assigned to me during my stint in d2h gave me immense sense of happiness, excitement. When certain tasks were initiated by me succeeded, I was happy. The most notable initiation of mine was an innovation in print advertising. One fine day, during the course of discussion with representatives of The Hindu came over to meet me. I was exploring for cost effective innovative solutions as Hindu is perceived to be very expensive, rigid newspaper.
While examining various options, they said that there is a page 2 of cover jacket is available as the other brand has booked only page 1. I asked them to share full details. I was very confident that this will work for brand. To be present in the page 2, a left-hand side page not considered of much value because advertisers prefer early RHP (right hand side page). But what struck me was that the page 2 will be facing the front page of the newspaper. As a bonus, the jacket will be affixed to front page so no question of it getting removed by consumers.
I immediately presented this to my head of the department. He was not convinced. I was determined, I gave him various reasons including the cost benefit analysis, stickiness and visibility. Educated him that this will not be the SNP but GNP (Glazed newsprint) the white shiny one. I reasoned with him that with GNP, the output will be very closer to offset output. I tried to convince him with the logic that our brand colour purple will stand out in GNP. He finally relented after my persistence. I gave him a comparison statement that by advertising on page 2 of jacket. In the comparison, it was found we will be saving around 75% to 85%. He took the proposal to CEO for his cost approval as per the SOP of the company. The CEO immediately approved the same.
I don’t recall the year but it was 14th February, valentine day. The cover of jacket had Cadbury, page 2 Videocon d2h. Once the advertisement was released, every one was amazed at the response, praise that the advertisement received. This strategy was later adopted by all the group brands of Videocon. In fact, parent group Videocon signed an exclusive deal with ABP group for jacket page 2 facing the cover page of newspaper.
There are many such exciting moments like when I got the first ever brand research proposal approved. I will be sharing in detail about these in the coming days when I deal with those chapters of my professional life.