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What’s the most HUMAN thing about Branding?

More HumanBY RUCHI AHUJA / February 10 2017

To give myself some fresh breeze, I oft-times discuss fashion, trends, brands and colors with my unplenty-20, super bright colleagues. It is mighty educating to know how teens and young adults process brands. Here’s what they do. They fill themselves with every little detail about the ones they sport – From the founders of these brands to the lives they live and how! And, not to miss, these very many details are influential factors in the ‘trying’ decision.

It’s the STORY behind the label.

And, the way stories build and maneuver brands is only evolving as an essential marketing tool – a weapon, if I may say. Our websites now move with a background score that stealthily projects a story, our news is less information and definitely more stories! In the highly connected and data-linked media forms, each story goes a long way – and, let’s face it, we all have a massive appetite for story feeds in every form they come in.

Personally, as a writer, stories have been a fodder to me and as a branding communications creator – stories are the ‘real’ work. Right now, we are a like a summation of stories (as against what seems truer – its not DATA, darling!).

Story-telling goes as far back to the caves. Kids have always reveled in it. You know your history if you remember the stories. Even the religion, you follow. So, why this sudden emphasis when it’s not even remotely new?

The answer lies in the rise of the social media living, and the current marketing trend – Human to Human (#H2H). The concept of B2B or B2C or B2X is fast dissolving. A story – after all, can only be told by a human, to a human!

When you want to sell me something, tell me what I can fathom without effort, ‘coz here I am dealing with a thousand clickables a day, mostly, randomly! A story, however, might be interesting. Make it refreshing though and a spoon of compassion would work just fine!

Besides, ‘Human to Human’ sounds pretty tantalizing, doesn’t it?

We, The People of India, Love #RepublicDay Chutti!

Republic DayBY RUCHI AHUJA    /    JANUARY 25 2017

It’s in the air! You can conveniently be unaware about what time of the year it is and yet get it right a week prior! It is when you see kids of all sizes sifting through the cars stuck in Delhi’s traffic queues knocking your panes, to sell the paper tricolor. Oh, didn’t we just start with January and the Republic Day is already upon us – it makes you check the date on your phone in spite of working on multiple #RepublicDay specific branding communications. Irony!

There is a far greater irony, though. With an exception of the goose-bumpy pride, you might feel while watching (if you bother, that is) the flawless rhythmic parade by men in olives; a primary concern to the majority of us remains whether 26th of January falls on a weekday or do we miss a chutti?! ‘Course, it matters. Who doesn’t like a chutti and the ever so ‘bigger’ sales that come with it?

However, oddly enough this year it did not occur to me, for two reasons – a. I have been a little pensive lately and, b. my niece started actively attending school (her well-articulated questions can pull daggers to your belief systems and understanding about understanding). Do you also feel that compared to the Independence Day, the precise significance of this national holiday is not very well grasped by most folks? How many of us can truly tell the two days apart in terms of their importance in our lives?

What must a Republic day mean to Gen Alpha, or for that matter to a Millennial?

Revering the Republic Day might have a greater attribute of time-relevance today, esp. for the young minds. Born into a free world yet unable to breathe freedom in a wholesome measure has left most rational citizens in a hiatus of sorts. Like a just-out-of-college-colleague mentioned to me that she finds it outrageous that what she would wear to work should be governed by how she might be commuting to work. There’s more and more non-adherence and this-is-who-I-am attitude is pretty fundamental to the changing avatar of India. The current generation has nothing left of the ‘ruled upon’ traces the previous generations, sub-consciously lived with. In fact, the best use-case to grasp this definitive shift in mindset and approach is that of our very own PM #Modi. As the first PM born in Independent India, in fact, in a Republic Indian state (Born on 17 September 1950), he certainly shows the grit and dogma-free approach in getting things rolling. The making of a true republic seems more like a WIP now, more than ever.

The way we stand up or at least voice up for what’s right and what ought to be is far more pronounced not only in the parlance of social media but also in the mental framework of the youth. They have an opinion, one that is not founded on prejudices. The gender bias, the socio-economic divide, religion-based split and various other infinitesimal parameters that disintegrate the very fabric of our co-existence are out rightly resented. To be a badass is the mandate and isn’t that super cool?

Just the way we cherish our birthdays with fervor every passing year, we, the youth have to HAVE TO treasure this day with more reverence. It represents our emergence more than any other day! It is what made ‘us’-> ‘We, The People of India’ and made our country a ‘SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC’ Republic! Our Constitution lent the adjectives to the exact kind of freedom we deserved. It’s all up there in the Preamble – let’s wish upon a falling star tonight that we must see those words take a real visible shape in our day. And more importantly, let’s be the change we want to see.

Happy 68th Republic Day (Chutti), fellas!

SPOILER ALERT! There is a special floater at the #RepublicDayParade this time! Guess what, the I&B ministry’s floater will be demonstrating the Benefits of Demonetization and Digital India. Hail #Modi!


oemBY RUCHI AHUJA    /    OCTOBER 07 2016Just how much we love our festivals! The hustle of the festive season doesn’t seem to get marred by the looming war tensions. All the brands are riding the unmistakable high tide, flooding our social feeds with offers more alluring than those of their opponents. And, here we are, being treated with ads more creative, more engaging and certainly more offer-laden than the previous year.

Apparently, we’re talking only B2C here.
Q: Why can’t a strong digital presence really benefit folks like OEMs (keeping their drab image aside for the moment)?

A: Perhaps, because, the conversions are not apparent, the buying cycles take forever (unlike one click buy on Amazon), an entire hierarchy is involved in purchase decisions and more importantly buying is largely planned, not impulsive, in nature.

But aren’t we missing something, 2016 is well past its prime and B2B is still so lean on this digital wave? Will the real manufacturers ever stand up?

Hush! They are on the next wave.
The truth: 2016 saw a marked departure from the earlier stand of most Manufacturing firms – big and small – that, digital marketing doesn’t concern them. B2B, although a late entrant is fast catching up with the digital race, unlike yesteryears! Here’s how Carrier did it.
OEMs cannot be in the oblivion when the entire generation is only available online.

Fact Facing: Research says that today’s business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57% of the purchase process completes!

As they go about doing their groundwork, you perhaps don’t figure in that opinion forming, learning or knowledge building phase if you aren’t available in the context of these phases, digitally. And therefore, you cannot influence.

The argument is clear – Whether you are an OEM, a Manufacturer or a B2B – you ought to be digitally moving. Running perhaps.

Here are the real benefits that amply explain how much your digital presence can help.

1.Get Noticed: A visit to most manufacturing companies’ websites is hard on the eye. They seem stuck in a time period. It is herculean to navigate. Precisely why most of your competitors don’t care much, you should. And, get people to check you out with ease. Conversions are a byproduct.

2. Showcase: You might be one on the biggest manufacturers of electronics components, spare parts, or appliances. Today, it is crucial that your website speaks the same. Use a good design to highlight your strengths and demonstrate the grandeur. No hard selling required.

3. Engage: As a manufacturer, you have the expertise as well as the domain knowledge. Share it. Most people come looking for it and end up contacting you; armed with the knowledge you fed them on. Helping helps.

4. Move visually: Your manufacturing facility may be working with the finest of the processes, how will that ever impress a new client or even an existing one? If you got it, flaunt it. Make a detailed video sharing more about your history, vision, processes and strengths. It just gets the viewers to trust you more.

With the tidal changes fast approaching, we might witness businesses talking to businesses more digitally and more creatively. Smart. Sauvé. Now.
Imagine, makers in India actually living up to the hotness of Make in India campaign. All I can say is ‘Amen’!

blog_03_image_v02BY RUCHI AHUJA  /  CORPORATE BRANDINGBajaj Avenger hasn’t been your regular advertiser, lately. Not for their godly ‘greatness’, read, Feel Like God (F.L.G.) campaigns. But because they have been high on corporate chivalry at the time where other brands invest in staying on top of rivalry. It’s bold! It’s now. If you haven’t seen Avenger’s brotherhood commercial marking 11th September, I suggest you watch it here.

So, what’s the deal about putting so much clout on your competition in a video you spent a fortune to make?

The low hanging fruits, the most obvious gains are the SM shares, likes, and appreciation from friends, foes and everyone in the middle – all at once! Astonishingly, the pluses outweigh the plausible crosses.

Q – If I follow this strategy – God forbid, won’t I be driving away the traffic/attention to my competitor?

Uh, maybe!
But then your TG ain’t dumb to not know about your competitor(s), right?
Given the ‘Aur Dikhao’ times we live in, these guys are versed with the offering everywhere else. Ought to. And yet right now, they are here with you – so, let’s win them over.

Check out what this exercise can do to your content –

Adds Versatility, for you aren’t just harping about what you got.

Makes you respect-worthy (read, trustworthy), you acknowledge the competition, this fearlessness begets rewards.

Creates fresh avenues – When you’re open, you create a space for any kind of engagement!
Important note for start-ups, here: What if, your competitor pivots or you happen to acquire it or maybe, vice versa.
The cue: A little friendship goes a long way.

Equalizing adds to you – As is in this case, Royal Enfield is more revered as a brand in the cruiser bikes segment; as an equal, you get positioned right there… get it? You just got to be smart to draw parallels with the ‘right’ name.

Did I forget to mention goodwill in the first place? Let’s also put it there, and call it Brand Image.

Makes me wonder what if Pepsi and Coke get into a space like this. Claws! It’s unimaginable. Generally, will such an exercise be a good idea for FMCGs, where loyalty doesn’t have to beat a price tag? Not sure. Apple Vs Samsung sounds better to me, interesting by all means(wink!)

With inclusiveness and brotherhood, it’s getting pretty warm here. Such unconventional acts only go on to corroborate that there is enough space for everybody and a little love.

Disruptive anybody?

What makes a pair of jeans disruptive?

blog_02_imageBY RUCHI AHUJA   /   BRAND IDENTITYSunday would not have been as eventful except for that one name which commands opinion from every Indian epiglottis worth a vibration…. Ramdev – The deliverer of masses and the wrath gatherer of everyone who doesn’t swear by his magic.

He announced his plans to make Patanjali Jeans. Everyone gawked. Understandably. The blue of jeans and the glaring saffron the Baba adorns don’t make a pleasing combination. Pepe can’t tango with Patanjali. But hey, haven’t we stomached crossovers from (now) smaller brands than the enterprise that Patanjali is? Case in point – The good old Dettol’s venture into dishwashing.

What doesn’t seem to go out the window is how most otherwise sensible folks get irked over the grand stretch that India’s biggest success story is displaying. I have been at a loss to figure what most of my friends hate – his popularity, his guts, the mass appeal or the cheapness of the products? To each his own; Patanjali is a must-do case study for anybody who needs to so much as even think business.

Coming back to the jeans… why am I not surprised? I was when he announced the noodles. Until it became amply apparent to me – this is purely substitution model of business. How about a normalizing nutritional value of Desi Guavas to that of Washington Apples? With billion unwavering ears at your disposal, the Guavas are gone!

I rest the case and want to witness the Great Indian Denim see some blue of the sky – Seething auburn would be awkward, even for the diehard followers, I guess. It would be so much more exciting to see if this creates a Colgate in the Denim industry! Disruptive that Saffron has been.

Will I try one? Not until it matches my shade card.

Content BandImage

How Kingly Content Really Is?

Precisely 20 years ago, Bill Gates, in ‘96, declared ‘Content is King’, and the trappings of the way we communicate, project, present, read, write and consume information went into a trance. Not sure, if he had any clue about what content would mean to us in these times of an-app-for-whatever-you-can-think-of & IoT!
Kingly or otherwise, content is what everybody stays immensely curious about. What exactly do we mean by ‘content’, more specifically ‘good content’.

Before, we settle for a ‘content’ full answer, let’s understand what 97.5% of our brethren think about what’s ‘content’.

So, what’s content really?
– A meme that reached your phone from 4 different whatsapp groups this noon.
– That emo video where a gentleman stands up for a poor kid.
– The promotional ‘matter’ on the flyers young lads hand you down, outside new     stores.
– A mere term used alongside ‘marketing’ to put a blanket on whatever gets     published.
– An ad in the mag a promotional video, a brochure or a testimonial

Answer: All of the above.

However, it would be wrong to assume that all good content is good content. Think about Big Boss, for instance!

We do live in the time of immense upheavals in generation and delivery of content and a whole lot of it is really good, innovative and incredibly original.

What’s the differentiator?
It takes, time, money and effort to make it so-like it is for anything else where you seek quality!

And, what usually stops great content from happening?

The ‘factory’ that our industry has become. Let’s be honest, are we not guilty of assuming that our audience needs a constant feed? For, if I don’t my competitor will acquire their attention!

There goes all the rush. And, rushed content. Crammed. Crushed. Copied. But voila! Sent just in time.
Reality Check: It is afterall-Unsought. And, Unsolicited.

Do we have a way out?
Not until we rake in a revolution of sorts.

We need to stop pretending that content created is equal to content consumed. This is a business where we need to sell, that makes it crucial for us to understand what our audience needs. To begin with, let’s learn to respect them, and respect their intellect.

How about putting right love into a single great piece than pushing out innuendoes of mere scroll-pasts…. We aren’t here to keep them occupied, are we? We want these folks to read, absorb, cherish and act-let’s give them ample reasons to do all of these.