A marketing primer for Indians

Are you currently interested in marketing products? Then this primer is for you.

You may enjoy marketing products that customers are already interested in. You may have done your homework and identified the need for a product. Marketing a product in which there customer interest is fine, but where is the challenge? The real challenge is in creating customer interest where there is none. Often, the key is to fabricate a need that the customer is comfortable with. In this way it becomes possible to market unnecessary products, old products packaged as new products, and inferior products as things to be desired.

1) Repurposing an existing product:

This one takes a bit of creativity, but that is part of the game, isn’t it? Take for example chewable antacid tablets. The cheapest antacids consist of calcium carbonate, essentially the same compound present in limestone. From high school chemistry, you know that calcium carbonate reacts with hydrochloric acid to give out calcium chloride, carbon dioxide, and water. It is a cheap and effective way to neutralize acid in the stomach. But marketing an antacid as only an antacid doesn’t give you a marketing edge. You need to sell it as something else.

The easy way to repurpose an calcium carbonate antacid is to market it as an effective source of dietary calcium. Now, you’ve got two uses for the same product, when there was essentially one. You’ve created a new market with your existing product.

2) Creating a market for an inferior product:

Suppose your company is in the business of making plastic straws. What happens if your manufacturing department messes up the specifications for the straws. You could throw them out and start over again. Or if you’re good at marketing, then you could try to sell them as inexpensive disposable stirrers for coffee and tea. You’ve taken the initiative and marketed an inferior product as something that it was not originally meant to be used for.

Let me give you another example. Desi dairymen are notorious for adding water to milk, or rather milk to water before distributing to customers. When confronted with the truth, they usually protest or blame it on ‘the rains’. That is the wrong business model, since it puts the business on the defensive. A way to create a market for milky water is to market it as “diet milk” to appeal to an affluent, health and weight-conscious segment of the market. Don’t laugh it off. These tricks work. How many people actually have the capability to make informed decisions about what they purchase?

3) Creating a market for an unnecessary product:

It is one thing to create a market for an unknown, product for which there is a tangible need. It is completely another to fabricate a need. Fabricating needs are deceptively easy. A celebrated example is the amplifier knob in This is Spinal Tap that goes up to eleven instead of the standard calibration based on the ten system. Think about it: do you really need ten devices that perform redundant functions? Sure, you do, because the advertisement tells  you so. The used-car salesman uses knowledge of psychology to pitch unnecessary products to great effect, but you can train yourself in this art too.

A good way to market an unnecessary product is to point out the inferiority of an existing one with which the customer is familiar. Say for example, you want to market the edible flesh of sea scallops to vegetarians. How would you go about it? One way would be to create an image of scallops as a “new and improved” version of something the vegetarian customer is familiar with. You could go about by saying that scallops are the milder, more flavorful version of radishes or that they are the diced potatoes of the sea. By building a bridge to something the customer is familiar with, you’ve taken a first step in passing off an unnecessary product as something that is an improvement.

Here, I’ve given you three challenging scenarios, but this list isn’t exhaustive. You may call this sort of marketing deceitful, but I call it creative. It is also more common than you think. One day, I believe that the Great Indian Civil War will start over the eternal chakri versus murukku question: essentially a pointless debate over one snack-food called two different names by people from different parts of India. If people can do it to themselves, corporations have every right to do it to them too. After all corporations are people too.

And if you’re still confused, answer this question: why is selling a whole-wheat Mexican tortilla as a desi chapati wrong if you can satisfy the customer? They both taste equally disgusting out of the plastic wrapper.

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

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New products that every Indian needs!

I am as lazy as the next person, so when Telesky Shopping Network comes on and the TV remote isn’t within foot-length, I sit there and watch the commercials touting products with religious and cultural overtones. In previous posts, I’ve come up my own versions of Rudraksh and Nazar Suraksha, but these products only augment existing ones. What we really need are innovative products that can be marketed to desis with disposable incomes.

Now, I’d like to present a few product ideas that won’t need much marketing. I’m pretty confident that these sell themselves. I don’t know why you would be reading my blog if you have any money to invest. But, if you do please drop me a line and we can work out licensing of these products.

1) Soul-purifying Deodorant:

Tired of the nasty odors that cling to your soul as you go through the day cheating, stealing, and lying to others? Well, you’ve come to the right place then! Atmasaaf™ roll-on soul-purifying deodorant will purify your soul with one application to the armpits  after your daily bath. Long-lasting protection with our proven formula fights evil auras and bad karma for up to 24 hours. No need for costly and time-consuming daily mantras, vaastu, or visits to holy sites. You’ve taken care of your atomic smells, not deal with your atmic ones.

Available with a fragrance consisting of the combination of the proven soul-cleansing ingredients of pancha gabya or milk, curd, ghee, cow urine, and cow dung.

2) Vedic Dentistry:

Fed up with the twice-daily chore  of flossing and brushing? Bills to the dentist piling up when you fail to pay attention to your molars? You too can obviate the need for proper dental hygiene using Vedic Dentistry, a concept we have trademarked as the Sanskrit-sounding Daantestree™.

Just as dipping in the Ganga is known to wash away a lifetime of transgressions, gargling with our patented mouthwash whenever you have a toothache, unwanted plague buildup, or gingivitis will  get rid of dental problems. Your breath may smell like rotting flowers and corpses floating in the Ganges, but you should be safe in the knowledge that “your teeth will last as long as you fast ™”!

3) Extrasolar  Astrology:

Traditional Vedic astrology or Jyotish-vidya gives you only nine grahas or “planets” including the sun and Rahu and Ketu, which frankly are so-called “celestial positions” which no one really understands. Even with the recent demotion of Pluto from planetary status, we think it is still unfair to customers not to have additional planets to chose from. At least 450 extrasolar planets have been identified and all of these impact your life. Did you know that marital discord is the result of TrES-3 in the fourth quadrant?  What we offer now is the ability to predict your future accurately based on accurate charts using these extrasolar planets. Now, for a limited time, avail of these services included in our Extrastrology™ package for the introductory price of 101.01 USD.

Please note that our charts can be interpreted only by our trained astrologers and scientists who are now independent consultants. Act now and for a limited time you’ll get both a CD and a printout of your own accurate chart!

Postscript: I came up with two out of these three ideas on Twitter, but I felt that I needed to expand to include a full-fledged advertising campaign. I’m hoping to make this a regular series too.

On another note, if you liked my last post on corporate lingo, check out LEB’s post on what a manager says and what he or she means.

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

A desi take on corporate English

Do you use any of the terms below? I know I use many of them, but  I thought it would be fun to poke fun at the way we talk and write in a professional environment.

  1. Business casual: Explain this to me please. A collared shirt is “casual”. Now, add a man with a stick riding a horse and a 90 dollar price-tag. You now have “business casual”.
  2. Stakeholders: Is anyone physically holding a stake? Avoid this term unless you are in the business of supplying stakes to vampire-killers.
  3. Complimentary: Just call it a booby prize instead. Complimentary is a patronizing euphemism for minor frills that the client has already paid for, such as complimentary nuts with a 1000 dollar registration fee.
  4. Different timezones: This is usually a valid reason to miss a teleconference. India needs different timezones. We usually miss or are late for meetings, but this would give us a consistent excuse.
  5. Great men think alike: What a meaningless meme! Idiots think alike too. How else would you explain the Holocaust? The only reason to say “great men think alike” in a corporate setting is to steal credit for an idea.
  6. Leverage: Unless you lift heavy objects with a crowbar, you should not use leverage at work. Use “exploit” “bribe” or “blackmail”.
  7. Living document: You almost expect a living document to start flapping. Always keep a can of insecticide in your office. Spray anyone holding one.
  8. Moving forward: Moving forward, moving forward will not be necessary. Smart people will just use future tense. Now you decide.
  9. Networking: Something we are all expected to do, but which isn’t fun at all if you forget to bring your needle and thread.
  10. Office climate control: Air-conditioning controls temperature.  If you’re going to call it climate control there should at least be a monsoon setting.
  11. Season change: At any time of the year when someone says they have a cold, you should feign sympathy and say that it is due to season change. This is the polite yet uninterested answer.
  12. Testimonial: This one is unavoidable these days, I’m afraid. Ten years ago it was enough to tell someone that he or she was a good person. Now everyone expects a testimonial on Orkut or Linkedin.
  13. Witch-hunt: The use of this term in everyday conversation is unfortunate. Usually used in the search for a scape-goat. On a related note, I’m really glad we don’t use “bride-burning” idiomatically in India.
  14. Work-life balance: Whoever came up with work-life balance made sure both were distinct and that one came before the other.
  15. Turnkey solutions: If you use this unfortunate phrase make sure you leave out the “n” in the first word and that you just call it a typo.

Disclaimer: I’ve posted many of these on Twitter. This living document is a joke of course. My intention is not to offend anyone here, and the thoughts here are solely my own. Moving forward I hope to leverage existing synergies to create even sillier posts!

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban