Carrefour – Eco friendly supermarket

Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on October 18, 2009

Here’s an eco-friendly supermarket.

One of the global giants has decided to go green. Not only are they being environment conscious, they are also encouraging everybody to stop using plastic. Carrefour released a campaign that has a very simple message. Plastic = Shit. What struck me as different about this was the tone of communication. Simple, straight from the gut talk. Films, which was part of the campaign led the viewers to visit their site. Funny, but everything in here is in Spanish. Either the translate link is also in Spanish or there is no info for non-Spanish people.

About Carrefour

A supermarket that provides an awesome experience. Carrefour used to be a weekly routine during my Dubai days. Young couples doing their routine shopping, hassled mother trolleying around her kids, single men aiming at completing their entire list for a month under one roof, older people trying out one-size-fits-all clothes, girls at the cosmetic counters, all sorts of people can be found here.


There have been other anti-plastic bag initiatives taken earlier. In fact, the Spanish government released a set of rules to ban use of plastic bags by 2015. Latin America had released a 3D animated spot called Revenge that used an emotional appeal for the same cause. But, a supermarket taking it up is different and will probably be well appreciated.

Carrefour reported a loss of 9% in the first quarter of 2009. This initiative might help to become the no:1 choice for supermarkets. Consumers are becoming increasingly environment conscious. Even if a premium is attached to shopping at Carrefour, consumers wouldnt mind paying up if this initiative kicks off well.

Carrefour could probably begin using social media extensively for this. So many communities are already in existence that stand for anti-plastic and environment protection. Engaging in conversation with the communities can probably generate more ideas that can take the initiative to another level.

What they have begun is powerful. If they take it further carefully, it can create wonders. Global giants are considered inhuman. If they care and can make a difference, way to go Carrefour!



Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on October 16, 2009

Recently, I was privy to a conversation that made me cry. “Our client wants to reach out to a larger audience. Lets brand this cap and distribute it via an activation.” By branding, they mean stamping the logo on the cap. There are two words that are misused all the time. Used loosely in conversations. Research and branding.


Branding is like life within a body. Its the soul that gives a character to everybody. This is what differentiates one person from another. Branding helps build a character for a product. It defines even an inanimate object.

Remember that man who walked into your neighbour’s party? The blue-eyed blonde guy with a playful look? – Axe

Or that woman you see jog every morning. She’s fit and definitely looks like a go-getter – Nike

Brand planners possess the power to define the path that the product would take, the role that it will play in its consumers lives. Will the new bath soap end up in the perfectly manicured hands of a beautiful woman and be a part of her hour long bath or will it lie neatly packaged in every normal lodge’s bathroom. Brand managers are like guardians. They grow the brand.

Today, in many advertising agencies the word branding has almost lost its meaning. Merely designing a logo and affixing it to a collateral is NOT branding. What happened to all the thought that is supposed to have gone behind the process of branding. What about the research that should have been conducted prior to any action.


Research. Calling up ten people who belong to the target group and asking them 10 questions is far from research. One part of the world is busy working years to derive one concept. One other group is still basing many advertisements on research conducted in a day or two. Creative routes and stimuli are derived by asking leading questions to maybe five people.

Sad, but true.

Tagged with:

Luxury brands go digital

Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on October 4, 2009

One flagship store at Madison avenue.

One ad in Vogue featuring a supermodel sporting the latest collection.

Another ad in GQ. The rest will be done by the gliterrati.

This was the scene with Luxury brands  till 2004. Luxury brands once believed that minimal advertising is the key to maintaining their truly luxury status. They were sought after and did not do much to reach out to people. An ad in Vogue or GQ served the purpose. Publicity did the trick. The past few years has witnessed a huge change in their style of communicating with the audience.

Luxury brands go digital!

Its true. They are everywhere now. Trying to employ the available cutting edge technology to reach out to more people. Ralph Lauren began the trend by selling online. This yielded good results. Now, we can see other high-end jewellery, electronics, automobile brands go online!

Ralph Lauren introduced their first iPhone application last year. One kick-ass idea! It showcases the collection, features video highlights of the latest runway shows and also gives a peek into the upcoming collection. They have recently released another application – “Make your own rugby” where users are allowed to personalize the rugby/polo shirts and also virtually try them on. Estee Lauder released a similar application where users can upload their pictures and virtually try out the products.

Why become digi-savvy?

For a long long time, the luxury brands did well with their business model of maintaining the uniqueness  by allowing for users to come to them. They were rich and had to be approached. But with increasing consumer  interaction online, they have realised the importance of going digital. Increase in communities online and burst of social media hit them hard. This is the age where companies are fighting for the consumer’s attention. Competition coupled with recession has forced the luxury marketers to look for other options from the traditional business model.

Pros & Cons

The advantage with going digital is that it helps in easier data-mining and targeting. We know where the potential target audience of these brands hang out. Also, a lot of the fashionistas are becoming increasingly tech-savvy. It always helps to be on the lookout.

But, it can also lead to losing the luxury status if rubbed the wrong way.
I think this is an extremely crucial period for these brands. The transition from the traditional business model to something dynamic is a big step. This has to be done very intelligently. Going digital and participating in social media while maintaining the luxury stamp is not easy. We might see a lot of niche brands lose their sheen and up-market status by taking wrong steps.

In fact, a lot of brands are generally not digi-savvy. They are finding it tough to blend in. They do not consider moving online as a natural extension. I think if they have not yet made efforts to move online, they are far behind in the curve. It will be fun to see how many luxury brands optimize the tech world.

Blackberry – the most preferred business phone

Posted in Uncategorized by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on September 26, 2009

What makes blackberry the most preferred business phone?

I was reading a book – Killer Differentiators, that talked about category leadership and first movers’ advantage as one of the strategies to grow a brand. Blackberry was cited as an example for one of the first smart phones developed. This was way back in 1999. It is 2009. Why is it still preferred?

Guaranteed – Its got many useful features that are completely business oriented, but what about other phones that offer equally better features and entertainment too?

They have built their brand around a very strong vision. Perception in the minds of the consumers is built so strong. A Blackberry owner is a true businessman/woman, elegant, sophisticated, rich and busy!


Apparently the sales is not so good this quarter. Profits have gone down, but they have managed to sell 40% more handsets than last year. The competition is building up. The new 3GS iPhone is growing strong and the Google android phones from HTC, Motorola releasing soon are sure to fight. Apple vs Blackberry war has been going on for a while now. This one is my favourite:

Blackberry taking a shot at Apple

Apple’s retaliation

Consumer’s views:

Four years work experience

In my situation, I would simply go for a pda as its a sign of professionalism, seriousness, stature and being associated with those who are claiming responsible positions in the firm, even though I may not have the absolute necessity of having to regularly check my mails.

I have seen many people who own an htc cribbing about it. They have not synchronised outlook to their hand held device as it beeps every now and then and is disturbing.

One year work experience

I would love to own a Blackberry! It gives me an “I am important” feeling. An iPhone makes me look cool. Thats not what I want.

Twenty – two years experience

I have no choice but to use a Blackberry. I simply need it. I dont care much about music / games. I have no time for entertainment. The battery is not good. On my last trip abroad, my Blackberry heated up and exploded. I got it replaced though.

Thirty years experience

I work in a high stress environment with tight deadlines. But, I must admit, I dont know how to use all the features yet. My Blackberry gives me a status symbol. I am a page 3 celebrity and its important that I am in vogue. Sure, it helps me reply to mails the moment I receive them.

Blackberry has become an aspirational brand for the newbies to business, status symbol for the ones in it already. It has created a very high top-of-mind-awareness for itself which is going to be tough to break for any other brand. I phone is still looked at as a coolness device. Blackberry users identify themselves as a layer above. They express no desire outside to look cool. They would rather be the only-business type. It will be fun to watch other players try to break this perception.

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!

Tagged with: ,

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.

Tagged with: ,

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.

    Tagged with:

    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.

    Tagged with:


    Posted in Branding by Abhinaya Chandrasekhar on August 1, 2009

    Recently I wrote a paper for Asia Brand Summit that won the research award. Here is an abstract of the paper.

    A brand is a product that provides functional benefits plus added value that some customers value enough to buy. Ensuring brand clarity and consistency in today’s multi channel world is not only a priority but a necessity. One super power given to marketers to fight this war and win it is “brand”. To use this super power wisely, it becomes necessary to understand the brand essence well. Most of the audiences recognize and accept a product by the brand name than the ingredients. Thus, it is essential to communicate the brand to the audience without diluting its essence. Brand clarity ensures the right essence is communicated. The core brand identity must be depicted by the multi-channels used. Brand consistency is sticking to the main essence and sending out related signals. This creates a strong identity if implemented well.

    In the research paper, to ensure understanding the topic it was broken into 3 parts and a summary of the discussions without the examples are listed below.

    Brand clarity
    In this era where all brands are indulging in line or category extensions, a lot of clarity is being lost in the process. The brand has its own personality and must stick to its individuality. A lot of other characteristics can be added on and give it a holistic view to enter into more categories. But, there have been many brands that have diluted their category and result in confusing the customer.

    Brand consistency

    A brand which is consistent over time and carves an identity for itself is always an asset for life. The soul of the brand should not change. It can adapt itself to this ever-changing world. This consistency is absolutely essential for a brand as this helps to deliver trust and confidence for the consumer as well as clarity of purpose and positioning. Consistency is directly related to reliability.

    Multi channel world

    The world has evolved into a multi channel dimension where there are different communication media used to reach the target customer. The advertising agencies of today design a communication mix that travels through various channels. The word multi channel has a multitude of elements attached to it. The world has started looking beyond the traditional TVC, print, outdoor media. The concept of viral marketing has revolutionized the process of communication. The process of delivering a single, simple, powerful message through all channels of communication is called Integrated Brand Communication.

    In conclusion
    , the main central message to be communicated with the add-on is then framed together. Understanding the role of each channel is extremely important. The target for the channel should be laid down and appropriate messages should be communicated. Misappropriate messages passed through channels will dilute clarity. It is important for campaigns to choose the right media as a lot of bad publicity can be created in case of wrong messages passed, thus ensuring a proper integration of Brand clarity and consistency in a multi channeled world.

    Tagged with: