If Starbucks came to India ..

Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on September 12, 2009

I am a fan of Starbucks. A die-hard fan. As a kid, I remember climbing up on the bar stool, returning the smile to the lady on the other side and asking for a tall latte. They always gave me a free cookie! As a teen, I remember sitting in the corner with a borrowed book from British Council, sipping my cappuccino. The place was always warm, friendly and had a homely feel to it.

Its been six years and I live in India now. There are no Starbucks outlets here. But, there has always been a doubt in my mind. Would Starbucks work in India?

The Indian consumer

The Indian consumer is not pampered. He chooses from options given to him. No customization allowed. Most of the brands have now become me-too and the population is starved for a decent differentiator.

There is a rise of young crowd who belong to the nouveau riche segment. They are being exposed to foreign brands and will definitely want to be part of it when the brand is available here. High on awareness, the crowd is ready and all geared up for the foreign brands.

So, here’s my view of the Indian buying pattern:coffee-cup-cupper

1. Brand

2. Price

3. Value

4. Variety

5. Service

The CCD advantage

It is a place filled with coffee and conversations. Young people, colors and a lot of noise characterize every outlet. Friendships come alive here. The menu is standard and so are prices. It is an inexpensive place to “hang-out.”

CCD merely provides a nice, ambient platform to meet. It helps the young crowd express themselves. The biggest differentiator of CCD is the price. They bundle fun and coffee at an unbelievable price. It’s a mass product.

Starbucks in India

We definitely lack a nice upscale chain of coffee shops. Probably the CCD crowd will stick on, but this will attract the growing crowd who hunt every corner for a different coffee outlet.

Also, Starbucks with all its customization possibilities, warm service and options that are alien to the Indian consumer, they will love it.

One big problem would be price. To create evangelists in India, the pricing may be a problem. If they retain the same pricing, they will definitely begin with a bang. But, they should restrict themselves to the metros and not more than 4 to 5 outlets in the country. No way, can they capture a larger crowd. Starbucks will manage to be another café-at-the-Taj and not a product that becomes a part of everybody life.

In spite of everything, I am sure there are a LOT of people here who would love to stop for a coffee before /after work to enjoy the cuppa, ideate, brainstorm and more. Well, we are talking about a company which enjoys higher sales per sq. foot than McD and also cares enough to provide health insutrance to all its employees (YES !! even part-time).

I think this is the right time for Starbucks to enter India. Crowd with the right outlook for coffee culture is growing big.

I want them in India. Do you?

I live in India now. There are no Starbucks outlets here. But, there has always been a doubt in my mind if it would work?
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Branding & Religion

Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on September 8, 2009

When rituals and superstitions have been leveraged by advertising and branding companies, a question popped into my mind. Is there any correlation between branding and religion? Is there any lesson to be learnt from religion for branding?

Think about this. Religion creates devotees. Staunch believers who do not question any aspect and follow it. Admirers. This makes me believe that there is some element that religion has instilled in us, which results in heartfelt devotion and complete admiration. What if branding recognized that element and nurtured it to create evangelists.

A large green field. Over 11000 people watching anxiously. Another 11 million watching from their television sets with the same anxiousness. Irrespective of religion, the mass prays for the same cause. Two men in blue with bats. Ten men around the field waiting and hoping desperately. One man runs down the crease and bowls. The man in blue strikes the ball, swings his bat and the ball goes flying out of the crease. Euphoria everywhere. Satisfied that their prayers are answered, the masses rejoice.

This is Indian cricket. I live in India and I believe that the biggest brand created, cared for and nurtured here is cricket. Cricket is a religion. Ever wondered why all advertisements for the Indian cricket always ALWAYS has people praying in it? Here’s why:

india cricket team

A research was once conducted to find out the activities in the brain while being exposed to images that form part of religion. The audience was primarily men and they flashed images of bible, rosary, sports teams, and more. One part of the brain lit up when images of religion was flashed. The SAME part of the brain lit up when exposed to images of brands they considered real close.

By portraying images of people praying and relating it to the Indian cricket team, brings people closer to being admirers. This automatically pushes the brand up in the mind.

Are there any more brands in the Indian context that can generate the same activity? Talk to me!

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Rituals & branding

Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on September 3, 2009

When my black cat came back safe after running out of home on Friday the 13th, I touched wood.

This may sound bizarre to probably most of us, but believe it or not superstitions form a big part of our lives. We shun away from the number 13, blame everything on the glass that broke in the morning and try not to spill milk. There are so many rituals performed everyday that it has integrated with our daily lives and become a habit. Ever wondered why most people get out of bed from the right side or why they use a particular pen for important meetings?

Impact of rituals on branding

These rituals are viewed as opportunities mGuinnessBeerany times. Marketers take advantage of an incident/practice and give it a meaning and a reason to continue. Imagine after a hard day’s work you go to the pub. All you want is cold beer and NOW. You order for Guinness and the wait for the foamy head to settle seems worth it. Ever wondered why? Guinness was once facing major loses because the consumers were not willing to wait ten minutes for their beer. So they turned tables and rolled out campaigns like:

“Good things come to those who wait”

“It takes 119.53 seconds to pour the perfect pint”

A “right” way to pour a Guinness was invented and led to the birth of a ritual. This actually helped to establish an emotional connection with the consumers and suddenly the wait was worth it!

Marketers sometimes create a reason to go on following the practice or they begin a whole new action that becomes popular and stands out from other brands. This is very similar to brand personality. Life is either breathed into a brand by giving it a personality or the persona evolves and is then strengthened.

Corona’s success is a case of an accidental ritual. Two decades ago, a bartender sliced a lime and popped it into the neck of a Corona to see if the others would follow suit. Other bartenders not only followed suit, but this ritual helped Corona overtake Heineken in the U.S. market.

Rituals work on the brain

Why are we talking about rituals in a blog on branding? Brands that have a ritual attached to them have a magnetic capacity. They stick to the consumers and this increases the brand recall. We tend to remember stories better. Our brain processes links much faster than independent elements. When a brand has many links attached to it, even if we come across an independent link, we automatically are reminded of the entire chain which leads to the brand and many times stimulate purchase. A small toy car with an M on it will remind us of a big red arched M -McD – burger & fries – cheese – you are probably on your way to the nearest McD now!

More on religion & branding coming up.

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Emotional vs Rational

Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on August 27, 2009

Emotions impact decisions. – Agreed

Emotions exercise a greater impact on decisions than rational thinking. – ?!

I know a lot of people are vigorously shaking their heads now. How can that be? I bought my Toyota last week after a lot of thinking. It was a very rational decision. My ipod nano was a necessity. I need it for my work outs every morning. I just had to buy the new shoes. My old ones were killing my feet.

So, the sleek design of the car, scent of fresh leather when you open the door, the magnetic aura that is wrapped around you when you sit behind the wheel did not aid to your decision making at all?

What about the increase in your “coolness quotient” thanks to the ipod nano. You feel like a true gizmo freak by owning the latest techie fads, irrespective of their requirement. Also, the shoes looked so pretty on Angelina’s feet. Im sure they would look just as good on mine.

This is what happens in the brain. Needs arise – emotions take over – rational justifications are formulated to reduce guilt. Most of the brain is dominated by automatic processes rather than deliberate thinking. A lot of what happens in the brain is emotional, not cognitive (Buyology).

I came across a very interesting concept known as mirroring neurons. Imagine a secluded beach. The sea is deep blue and is sparkling with the rays almost touching the water. The sand is a mixture of brown and white. There is a pleasant freshness in the air which you have been longing for. There is a gentle breeze blowing across your body and you do not want to leave the beach. You are content with the scenic beauty.

Im sure you have a far away look in your eyes yearning to atleast catch a glimpse of this wonderland.

Imagine finger nails scratching on a black board… screeeeeeeeeeechhhh…. Did you just wince? I am sure you did.

These neurons send signals to the brain which helps us experience what the other person is feeling. This is why, a lot of FMCG advertisements use celebrities. Its the best case scenario.Brain_by_moutoin

“She” uses this soap and is very beautiful. Though all our rationality points toward it being a money-making gimmick by advertisers, the signals are already sent to the brain. BEWARE!

More on neuromarketing coming up soon!

Luxury in recession

Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on August 22, 2009

The world is facing an economic downturn. And, yet I receive messages from Ralph Lauren about their new collection. The biggies still hold fashion shows and are doing well for themselves. Is there a layer of consumers who are unaffected by the financial crisis?

Guy Richards post on Why brands increase price in an economic downturn explains the strategy behind this. But what about consumer behavior? Do people really pay more during a recession? Will it work? How do they advertise during this period?

This came up during my discussion with luxury marketers in India:

Recession has had a huge effect on the affordable luxury. This is the time when the line between true luxury and affordable luxury widens. Consumers who have $10 million in assets are recession-proof and they continue to spend as planned. This has affected brands like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein who have slipped from their true luxury status. Brands like Louis Vuitton and Prada continue their production like ever before.

Companies are also employing the “targeting luxury” strategy. It’s the strategy being employed by Maurice Lacroix as it provides watches as giveaways to corporate executives it meets in the course of its promotions, such as the Time Machine campaign and the brand’s deal as the “official watch” of the Indianapolis 500.

Also, some brands continue to do what they are best at – appeal to the refined taste and matching egos of the upscale consumer.

Beside all these company-specific strategies, what all of them have done is:

– Cut out the advertising budget.
– Spend more in the engagement experience. Allow the up-scale to feel rather than see / hear.

    Hard to believe, sounds weird, but its true! They still spend.

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    The Starbucks Experience

    Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on August 20, 2009

    You wake up in the morning. Another boring day. You get out of home all dressed to go to work. On the way, you stop at the regular coffee-house. “Morning John.. the usual please.” You are greeted by a warm smile and a couple of minutes later, you have your tall latte de-fatted soy milk sugar free cold with whip and vanilla.

    A touch of warmth and kindness is a beautiful way to begin a day. And this is what the Starbucks partners (a.k.a employees) strive to create. “The Starbucks Experience”, authored by Joseph A. Michelli is a book on principles for turning businesses from ordinary into extraordinary using Starbucks as a base model.

    If you d0 not understand the branding language, here are some facts that can make you go ga-ga-

    If you had invested $10000 in the Starbucks IPO on the Nasdaq in 1992, your investment would have been worth approximately $650,000 two years ago.

    What struck me as awesome was the fact that the principles are simple and not some of the management gibberish we study, in every B school. They can be employed in real life too. They are results-oriented and can be deceptively powerful when employed:starbucks

    • Make it your own
    • Everything matters
    • Surprise and delight
    • Embrace resistance
    • Leave your mark

    Simple strategies that can facilitate a huge turn-around. Try it out and do write back.

    Enjoy your latte!

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    Epitome of innovation

    Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on August 18, 2009

    Remember that stylish metal bin which you bought in 1990s. That bin which was placed under your Billy bookcase. Here’s something very interesting about it: Kamprad wanted to sell the bins for 10$ while they were being sold in the high street for 40$. This stumped the IKEA team as they were not able to find a supplier who could manufacture them at less than 20$. Kamprad led his team into the IKEA kitchen and pointed to an industrial can of tomato soup. The next thing we know, the soup manufacturer agreed to make stylish bins that could be sold for 10$.

    What about Skopa? The plastic hardwearing chair in your garden. The one which has witnessed many quiet moments and many cups of coffee. To align it with IKEA’s low cost business model, they struck a deal with a factory that made plastic bowls and buckets.

    Not surprised yet? Read on ..

    8-17-ikea catalog1

    • A sofa is made from a shopping trolley.
    • A table is made from some skis.
    • Table legs are made by a window factory.
    • Bed headboards are made by a door factory.
    • Cushion covers are made from shirts.
    • A chair is made from a tomato tin can.
    • A tea light holder is made from an electricity pylon.
    • A photo frame is made from some rubber car tires.

    It sure takes a lot to design a stylish piece of furniture. But, it takes way more than that to design the same piece which can sell for 15$ and be a part of everybody / anybody’s home.

    To the 11 in-house product managers at IKEA- Respect!

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    Brand personality

    Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on August 13, 2009

    What do you do, when you have over 200 related products to be branded? All of them have to be recognised independent of each other. 5 of the 200 are very popular and are leading products in the market. The corporate brand has not gained much importance as of now and that has to be strengthened too. All this has to be done in 6 months.

    Now, the biggest challenge of all: The target audience is very low on literacy.

    So, there goes all strategies to build a brand through social media and online advertising. No technology-driven advertising. It’s got to be traditional advertising.

    I was going through blogs and articles on building brand personalities, when I came across some very interesting statistics on popular personality attributes:

    • Innovative (45%)
    • Professional (41%)
    • Responsive (36%)
    • Caring (32%)
    • Reliable (27%)
    • Customer focused (27%)
    • Trustworthy (23%)
    • Service oriented (18%)

    ps: If anybody have worked on a similar account and can help, please do write back.

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    I got bitten !!!!

    Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on August 12, 2009

    lovemarkA philosophy that sounds so simple and yet tough to follow. Love and respect. This book is all about a revolutionary way to move businesses. It completely attacks the conventional mannerisms of business-houses.

    “Brands are running out of juice.” They are everywhere and are cluttered. All advertising agencies are trying to break this clutter by coming up with points of differentiation for all.

    Result: We end up getting sucked into this game of creativity and make purchases without a reason.

    But, there’s got to be a solution to this and Lovemarks provides the route to a brand’s successful future. If we treat a brand with love and respect, it becomes powerful and gains loyalty. Loyalty beyond reason by its consumer due to unconditional love delivered by the brand.

    I read this book two weeks ago and thought to myself, “It sure looks good on paper. It might not work.” So I gave it a shot. For two weeks, I have been making an effort to treat all brands I handle with love and look at them as something more than a mere account.

    New ideas to enhance the brand value has been flowing throughout and also ended up getting a lot of work done! Next milestone is to read the sequel to this book: The Lovemarks effect – Winning in the consumer revolution.

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    Women consumers

    Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on August 10, 2009

    The toughest subject that I have studied till date is consumer behavior. The subject holds prime importance in my career and I am still stumped. One particular lecture that keeps coming back to me is “women as consumers.” Apparently women as consumers have a very low decision making capability and I didn’t quite agree with that.

    Yesterday, I got the chance to put that to test practically. I took my mother shopping at a clearance sale outlet for domestic clothing.


    She picked 5 sarees seeking my constant approval.

    The next process of rejection began by discarding everything that merely sounded a little expensive.

    And then, her mind plays twenty-questions looking for answers within.

    • Am I spending too much?

    • Is this required?

    • Is it expensive?

    • Will the colors suit me?

    • Is the material ok? … and more

    Assurance, assurance and re-assurance. That’s what they all want. She wanted me to tell her that her choices are perfect and she needs them. At first, I refused to reply and asked her to take her own decisions. She was stuck and couldn’t move forward. Subtly, I added, “I think they look good.” That did it. Five minutes from then, we were paying the bill.

    Many people argue that the above process is common among the middle-aged and not the young crowd. I was actually privy to the following conversation.

    A young girl, aged 22 / 23 at Planet Sports on the phone: “Should I buy this pair of tracks? Do you think I really need it? I don’t know… It sounds too expensive. I know I need it but do you think I can do without it?” She left the store. Came back in half hour and bought the pair of tracks!

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