21 January 2015

10 years that have changed the world of Activation.

10 years ago when a brand had a moment of truth with a consumer through activation, it was just that – a single moment of truth. And that was the big challenge at the time, justifying the cost per contact as marketing spend worth doing. It was an uphill task to compare the numbers delivered by mass media like TV, Radio and Press and compare that to the superior quality of contact delivered by activation and direct consumer contact.

Over the past few years, it has all changed and the key drivers for the change have been technology, digital media, Social media & mobile amplification.

Technology has allowed and facilitated unique and engaging quality of contact with consumers. Ever changing and developing technologies are making life rather interesting for consumers.

Digital Amplification has now made it possible to intensively engage with consumers through permission marketing post the initial activation contact. This was typically done through voice calls earlier but was expensive, tedious and intrusive. Digital marketing allowed us to reach consumers repeatedly post-activation and build stronger brand-consumer relationships.

Social Media Amplification has been a match made in heaven for activation to be amplified to audiences beyond those present at the immediate activation location. This allows for greater width and length in the activation reach. Thereby making each activation rupee spent far more effective and justifiable.

And finally, what may prove to be the biggest game-changer of all, the impact of Mobile Amplification on activation. The one ‘thing’ the consumer has with him at all time and thus at the point of activation is the mobile. This lends itself as a unique opportunity to not only drive greater width and length of the activation reach but also push greater activation depth. Activation depth is the ability to engage with the same consumer repeatedly over a period of time. Mobile Amplification combines all of the above and drives greater activation width, length and depth!

It’s been a long time coming, but in the next 10 years, Activation is where it’s at.

Atul S. Nath is the Founder; Managing Director of Candid Marketing, founded in 1995. You can follow atul’s musings on twitter @atuln

17 November 2014

Experiential. Digital. Activate! If you throw peanuts, you get monkeys.

I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years and like many in our industry, I am sick and tired of having to justify the value activation and events deliver! It’s true that many clients not only get it, but also get it enough to reap the benefits of the results. But many other clients don't.

By many a yardstick, our business is the toughest business in the marketing communication gamut… yeah, yeah, everyone thinks they have a tough life but seriously, from a business perspective, running an activation/events business is pretty damn tough. If you were to analyze our business with Michael Porter’s 5-forces model, you’d pretty much decide to shut down the agency and open a kirana store. Everyone who can put pressure on the agency, and many can, to get their pound of flesh does.

Agencies and the industry are unable to invest heavily in key elements like quality of people (creative, strategy, planning, technology), creative resources, technology, SAFETY, vendor development, quality of materials, training of temporary manpower…. the list is endless.

Unfortunately, what is playing out is a sad game of short termism that is leading to deep long term damage to the industry. With the almighty squeeze that the 5 forces are playing out on agencies in the business, its becoming harder and harder for agencies to invest in what’s good for the business and for clients’ brands.

In such a scenario, the stakeholder who should support and bolster the agency is the client; because it's the client whose brand and asset is at stake and who stands to gain the most from the agency thriving and delivering better results. Many clients, unfortunately, are looking at quick gains to get the most out of their money NOW, rather than looking at investing in the agency and its resources to be able to get value for their brand in the medium term.

How can clients help activation/event agencies?

First, develop ‘non-short-term’ relationships with agencies, and make some level of financial commitment to such relationships. Such commitments allow the agency to have a medium term view and invest in resources that would then contribute positively to clients’ brand building.

Second, Instead of calling for multi-agency pitches, which is counter productive because agencies are investing in pitching rather than the process of building clients’ brands. Trust in your agency’s ability, give them more information and ‘gyaan’ about the brand, and make them a strategic partner. It will pay back in dollops!

Third, respect intellectual property of the agency. Just because an idea has no physical form does not mean it belongs to nobody. If your agency does not have the ability to execute the idea you have presented, “buy” the idea and get another agency to execute it (if you like). Investing in intellectual property develops stronger relationships and develops the industry at large.

Fourth, pay fairly for the value you are getting. Negotiation and driving value is all very well, but no agency or business is going to take on projects that make a loss. If the client is going to beat the price down, the difference will show in quality, for sure. You may get a great value deal 1 time out 10 but you will end up paying for it the other 9 times.

HELP us help you, I say to all clients, help us to deliver better, deliver more, deliver faster for your brands.

Atul S. Nath is the Founder; Managing Director of Candid Marketing, founded in 1995. You can follow atul’s musings on twitter @atuln

13 October 2014

Experiential Marketing in the Mobile age

“I hear and I forget…I see and I remember…I experience and I understand.”
- Confucius

Sample this – Johaan, a regular 23-year-old, wakes up in the morning to the sound of the radio alarm on his smartphone. On his way to work, the mobile again updates him on the mails waiting for him while outdoor communication, from various brands, vies for his attention. At work the PC is his gateway to the world, assisting him on all ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ needs. There is a blurred line between official and unofficial anyway!

On a typical evening his attention is divided between the television screen, the conversations on the phone (he doesn't call it his mobile or cellphone cause he’s never used a landline!), as well as the Internet through his laptop.

The unresolved question now is Рhow does a marketer activate him effectively? (communication is pass̩, marketing is all about activating consumers now), he who is pressed for time and space-of-mind and does not devote himself completely to one medium of communication?

Against the Indian population of 1.25 billion, there are over 800 million mobile connections. It is estimated that of these, 92 million are active mobile social users – that more than the population of Germany!

Just like the real world provides an opportunity for marketers to sell to consumers and activate consumers, just the same the Internet and mobile world provides an opportunity to sell and activate. The key to the connect on-ground and on the mobile is the experience. In such a scenario, experiential marketing is assuming more importance for brand to create a connect with the youth. Experiential marketing focuses on providing touch points to a consumer that are personal and encourage two-way dialogue. The mobile phone is unique in its ability to be both – personal and provide engagement.

Along with the newfound self-confidence that young India has in itself, consumers are smarter and have unprecedented access to information and data. Advertisers have long used the approach of one-size fits all within a demographic segment, and relied heavily on creating generic mass media messaging. But they are now learning that they need to be more attuned to the demands and desires of specific target audiences.

The plethora of marketing directed at young consumers has invariably made them develop a shield towards marketing related communication and a shorter attention span. The world and all our screens are one giant advertising communication billboard today and not all of it is interesting and very little of it is intelligent and targeted. If a marketer does not manage to capture the consumer’s imagination quickly, and bring them into the inner-circle of activation, he may never get a second chance with the same consumer.

The new iOS and Mac Yosemite OS have the ability for a user to work seamlessly or consume media across Apple devices on a document or email or anything one may be doing. All one has to do is flick between devices and keep working or consuming media, marketing and activation must keep pace with this to seek and keep loyal consumers.
Consumers are living their lives across physical and cyber worlds seamlessly, seeking information, evaluating purchase options and then finally making brand decisions. Consumers don't think in terms of the stores, malls, traditional trade, modern trade, mobile, internet, PC, tablet etc etc. Its all one huge hotch potch to them and that's what we have to jump into and talk to them and activate them for our brand.

Brand Activation agencies are in an enviable position of owning the last mile for our clients’ brands, few other brand custodians understand the consumer better at the moment of truth. Now, if the agency can layer on to this an ability to understand the mobile behaviour and world of the consumer…..

Atul S. Nath is the Founder; Managing Director of Candid Marketing, founded in 1995. You can follow atul’s musings on twitter @atuln

07 September 2014

Top 10 joys of being Johaan's father (just about 75+ days into being one)

....in no particular order

1. Getting him to go to sleep when he is particularly restless, patience, a lot walking around, humming, rocking. And then finally he's asleep.

2. He's asleep, almost. He opens his eyes. Looks straight at my face. Seems to be reassured. Goes back to sleep.

3. Papa and Mama holding him.

4. Watching Ruch feed him, such a loving experience for both Johaan's mama and Johaan.

5. Burping him after his feed multiple times a day, slow and steady.

6. Walking up to stand next to his cot, his eyes are wandering, focussing on nothing. He looks at me, looks away, looks at me again. Smiles, laughs.

7. The first selfie with both of us in United jerseys!

8. Having him lie down on my chest and holding his little fingers.

9. Falling asleep along with him.

10. Massaging and bathing him in the morning, especially if he is well fed, Such a joy and he loves it!

10 May 2013

We're gonna miss you when you're gone

It was the moment we dreaded for years, we knew we would miss him.

It was a regular Wednesday morning, 8th of May 2013. Was about to turn into the kind of day I had been dreading for over a decade. Rumours had been rife from the night before, but i like many other United supporters were hoping against hope.

Finally, in the afternoon on that day, it was official - he was leaving and life as we knew it would never be the same again.

Thank you, Sir Alex. 

I owe you more than I can ever express. So many moments of joy and contentment, tears, heart-wrenching moments, leaps of delights, belief where none logically should have existed.

My own little tribute to you.

05 April 2011

28 Saal Baad

I must admit i was a late-bloomer in the 2011 Cricket World Cup campaign.

More out of 'not wanting to tempt fate' than lack of belief. And to add to that I was put off with the massive hype create by the media. It was almost as if all we had to do was show up and we would win the world cup !

It all started quite nicely when we beat Bangaldesh convincingly, it was big deal since we'd lost to them in the last world cup (the less said about 2007 the better!).

I was in Bangalore, coincidentally, the day of the India-England game so planned to go see the game at the stadium.... ended up being a nerve-wracking game. India was well on top for a good part of the game with Sachin scoring a brilliant century.... but then we played some pretty ordinary cricket with slack bowling and fielding and let England cruise to a winning position..... and then came the back-lash with Zaheer Khan bowling a superb second spell.... the crowd got into it too. Suddenly we were in a position to win. Ended up being a nail biting TIE!

With that game, suddenly i was interested in the world cup.

Ever since the momentous win 1983, I had followed India (much like millions of Indians) through heart-breaking world cup campaigns.....

1987, the first world cup in India, I went to see India beat Australia at the Ferozshah Kotla... only for the team to come undone in the semi-final against England at the Wankhede.
1992, the world cup down under where India really came undone and the highlight was beating Pakistan (that was to become a repeating and solitary highlight of subsequent world cups)
1996, the world cup back to India and the heady world cup quarter-final win against Pakistan in Bangalore... I was in Bangalore that day but had our IIMB convocation the same day... followed by the terrible terrible loss to Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens....
1999, the world cup back in England... while we did beat Pakistan but for me the highlight was watching Sachin Tendulkar scoring a century against Kenya. Having just returned from India after his father passed away... he raised his arms and looked up to the heavens with tears in his eyes. Poignant moment. And then we went on to lose to Australia.
2003, so close and yet so so far. We were well beaten by a far superior Australian team. The highlight was the beating of Pakistan again. I will never forget Sachin beating the living daylights out of Shoaib Akhtar.
2007, India never showed up for the world cup, well actually I wish they hadn't!

And then came 2011... the world cup back in India and was likely to be Sachin's last. What a travesty it would be if he were to retire without winning a world cup.

India lost to South Africa and stumbled a little bit against Holland, Ireland and West Indies but got through to the quarter finals...... up against the "mighty" Australians. 3 Times defending World Champions.

This match was to show the first real signs in this world cup that this team were potential world champions.

Over the past few years, we had done some unthinkable stuff against the best, both home and away. No. 1 ranking in both test and one-days, won the T20 world cup too.... but the 2011 world cup campaign had been luke-warm at best.

Playing Australia in Ahmedabad changed all that, suddenly there was belief that these guys could go all the way.... Yuvraj, Sachin, Gambhir took care of that. With Pakistan winning the following day, it set up the biggest cricket match in world cricket. possibly the biggest match-up in world sport......

Mohali was the center of the sub-continent, maybe even the world for that one day when India played Pakistan in the world cup semi-final. India played out of their skins and Pakistan helped by dropping Sachin 10 times ! We celebrated like we'd won the world cup.... but the magic was in the fact that we were back in the world cup final for a third time and the dream was well within grasp now.

The world cup final comes around once in four years, say that to yourself once again, once in four years and your country will probably be in it just 3 or 4 times in your LIFETIME. thats how special that day is. India vs Sri Lanka at the Wankhede in Bombay, doesnt get much bigger than that ! the first half went well and we restricted Sri Lanka to a decent enough chase-able score. The whole of the nation couldnt wait to see Sachin and Sehwag lead the chase and annihilate SL. (In the break we watched Manchester United come back from 0-2 down to beat West Ham 3-2 with a Rooney hat-trick, that was a good omen for sure).

To say it started badly would be mild, Sachin and Sehwag gone in no time, the stadium silent, a country gone quiet. We sat in the room, some quiet, some abusing, some ready to go home. I'm thinking to myself - is this the day the young boys will come of age and win this for india?

And so it was... Gambhir, Virat, Yuvraj and Dhoni delivered for India.... if you didn't see it, i cant explain the feeling to you and if you did see it, i dont need to. Still get a tingle down my spine when i think of it. World Champions again, 28 saal baad.

All over the country, people poured out onto the streets to celebrate.... dancing on the street.... high 5s everywhere....

10 October 2010

The Bungee

Before going on this trip to Africa, I had DECIDED that i would do the bungee jump.... in the end, that was what pulled me through.

Signing on the dotted line for the indemnity against 'damages'... not that i'd be around to claim anything !
walking down the bridge to the platform with my heart beating furiously and then having to wait there for 20 minutes before my turn.... more than enough time to back out. But it had to be done.

It was quite the experience... un-bloody-believable... very few thoughts before... just petrified, i'm so scared of heights anyway.... but during was unspeakable.... all the blood just rushed to my head and hands and i could see the water and rocks rushing at me... incredible.... and then the jerk of the bungee.... 2-3 times... body going everywhere... zero control. outstanding.

Would i do it again? ummm yes i would, i think.

The Bridge... long walk to the platform
As Ready as i'll ever be

Don't look down. Whatever you do, don't look down


Eyes open and enjoy it. Wow

Just hanging out, waiting to be picked up
The long walk / climb back up

Its time for Africa!

The Africa trip was conceived (of all the places) in Arunachal, on the banks of the Brahmaputra.

So we decided the next river would have to be the mighty Zambezi. A bunch of us got together and convinced Vaibhav Kala to put together a river trip for us on the Zambezi and bung in a safari leg too - in the Masai Mara.

What an amazing trip it turned out to be! The short (seemed like it was a whole day long) flight from Lusaka to Livingstone in a 10-seater plane where you could open the windows!
Pretty much everyone on that flight threw up their lunch, i was busy passing out airsickness bags, thank god i didnt need one!

As we flew closer to Livingstone, the aerial views of the Victoria falls were simply breathtaking, pictures look brilliant but the real thing was spectacular.

The walk in front of the falls was something you could feel as much as see, the roar of the falls could be felt inside your body and the mist all over your face!

Soon after, Ruch and i did the Gorge swing together, which was very very scary for me and the only way i got through it was because of her. Even more importantly, it took the edge off my fear and i was able to do the bungee jump later the same afternoon.

The Bungee was a highlight in itself.... separate blogpost for that !

The hectic, activity-ridden day was followed by the calm, relaxing and soothing upriver cruise on the Zambezi river. Beer and sunset with friends, life couldn't be better.

The following day we went for, what I thought was the scariest experience of the entire trip - a dip in the Devil's Pool.

The pool is formed right above the lip of the Victoria falls with a sheer drop of 885 meters on the other side. and yet it is completely safe (or so we were told)

The 2-day rafting was quite spectacular, the first of which was the single most exhilarating day of rafting I have ever done - and naturally the hardest and most exhausting too.

That amazing night of sleep on the beach in a sleeping bag under the stars was one to remember, i woke up in the middle of the night and my eyes opened to a sky full of stars - a carpet of stars in the sky. a spectacular sight indeed!

The 2nd leg of the trip was to the Masai Mara, which all but beat the first leg of rafting !
all the days merged into one of unbelievable sightings of Lions, Cheetahs, Rhinos, Giraffes, Zebras, Elephants, Hippos, Deer etc etc

And that too at such close quarters that some were scarily touching distance!

The trip ended (or so we thought) with a meal at Carnivore where we tried some exotic meats...

On a whim and a fancy, some of us decided to extend our trip by 3 days and go to Mombasa!
Was just the relaxing, unwinding relaxation we needed after the hectic rafting and safari 'holiday' we had just experienced.....

27 April 2010

Old Trafford is my real home.

It was in 1983 that i started supporting Manchester United. Today, I went to watch them live at my REAL home, in Old Trafford. I've been to the stadium before but not to watch a game, this was different.

I went all by myself, took the train up from London (Thames Ditton actually). Left at 5.30 AM, 5 hour journey. Well worth it. The match was against Tottenham Hotspur (a london club), so there were loads of Spurs fans on the train with me. Once in Manchester, and even more so at Old Trafford, I felt well at home amongst the multitude of red shirts... ready for the game, one we had to win to stay in the title race.

I went across to the ticket office to collect my ticket and on the way back towards the stadium saw Sir Bobby Charlton step out of his car right in front of me. I would NOT believe my eyes, stunned. Just stepped up along with 10 odd supporters and said hello. He stopped and shook hands with me and others, signed some autographs. What a moment. I had to sit down and settle myself. Unbelievable.

Went into the stadium a good hour before the game and took my seat, it was right behind the United bench... the players came out for their warmup and they were right there, almost in touching distance. This was turning out to be quite the day......

Soon after, the teams came out. Followed by god himself, Sir Alex. I felt a glow inside me, so special a moment.

I watched most of the game in a trance, managed to take a few photos. but watching the game was far more important.

All the others around me were season ticket holders and obviously knew each other well. They weren't really sure whether the stranger (me) was worth their time, just a tourist, or a supporter or what. By the end of the game, we were celebrating goals and hugging... amazing.

It was the kind of time you just dont want to end... i wanted it to go and on and on... i could have spent the rest of my life there... i guess thats why its my real home.

First glimpse of the stadium, from a distance 

Luckiest moment of my life, 'bumped' into Sir Bobby and shook hands with him. dreams are made of this.
The holy trinity of United. Best. Law. Charlton.

This photo is NOT zoomed in. Thats how close to them I was. Macheda, Evra. Giggs.
Watching Giggs' (and Scholes') movement off the ball was the highlight
Again, not on zoom, so close to god. Sir Alex
Comfortable, at home.
Last glimpse, time to leave home again.