What’s in a name?

छोटे-छोटे काम वाले लोग ऐसा कर सकते हैं। कोई बड़ी कंपनी ऐसा रिस्क नहीं ले सकती है। जिसका करोड़ो का बिजनेस है वह ऐसा काम नहीं करेगा। कोई बड़ी कंपनी कहे कि हम सबसे खराब नमक दे रहे हैं, खाकर तो देखें तो कोई खरीदेगा ? यह छोटे शहरों और छोटी जगहों पर चल सकता है। चला तो ठीक, नहीं चला तो दूसरा नाम रख लेंगे।

Jameel Gulrays
My thoughts on the negative product naming culture prevalent these days was published in Navbharat Times’ edition dated April 3, 2022.

Oral-B Pro-Health’s ‘batteesi’ campaign made my jaw drop

Circa 2013: It was supposedly the most awaited FMCG launch to happen… a challenger that would shake the No 1 brand and run tremors of fear through it… a market shaker who prompted competitors to pre-empt with their challenger launches.

As I watched the ads, my jaw dropped, and it even touched the floor. I was amazed, zapped, stupefied all at once. The first ad I saw was of an inane set of people chewing and eating, with Madhuri Dixit Nene appearing at the end, stating some lines about toothpaste that does everything. Someone who wrote the positioning will undoubtedly get an honourable mention when I teach my students about the ‘E2=0’ principle… which means ‘when you emphasise everything, you emphasise nothing’.

As a proponent of correct language, it also appalled me to hear the repeated use of the word ‘batteesi’. 

In Hindi, the word is common in the context of dentures. A modified phrase ‘batteeson barkaraar’ was used for years to advertise a popular brand while rendering its ’32 intact’ promise in Hindi. For a Hindi speaking person, batteesi is a negative word, most often used for reprimanding, such as ‘batteesi mat dikhao’ (most often used to condemn those who laugh or grin irreverently). In worst cases, ‘batteesi tod denge… or batteesi bahar nikal denge’ is used to threaten someone with dire consequences. 

I wondered why did the brand say, ‘India ki batteesi’.

Then I saw another ad for Oral-B toothbrush, with a jaded Madhuri Dixit Nene mouthing out her ‘Smile Officer’ role with a plasticky smile in tow… at the end, I saw a ‘buy an Oral-B brush and get a toothpaste free offer’. 

Wonder what the client and its agencies were thinking as they set out to launch a superior, anticipated brand in a cut-throat and high loyalty toothpaste market through an offer. If I try hard and give P&G its due, this may be the company’s way of promoting trials. But again, does this reflect how the company has positioned itself in India. Ask anyone who knows the company beyond being just a consumer, and the individual will talk about the company’s products being premium and high market. If that is how they have built their perception across their several brands, why would they want to explore trials through a bundled offer?

All I can say with my professional experience is that this entry strategy of P&G had for sure shaken their competitors. In this case, the competitors must be shaking with uncontrolled laughter, as they need not do anything to protect their interests. P&G had done them a great favour with their launch communication, which passes by like a ship in the dark and tops it with a ‘take it home free’ offer. I hoped once again that marketers and advertisers were more innovative. Anyway, years later, I continue to wonder as Ghalib said, ‘Ya ilaahi ye majra kya hai’.

‘Nigel, Nigel, is that you?’

In the early 90s, British Airways created history with the launch of its cinema commercial.

It was one of the most brilliant and freshest ideas in advertising history. Created by advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, the commercial was a textbook case of media innovation.

Set in a Parisian boulevard, a man and woman were shown embracing each other. And then came the unexpected.

A woman in the cinema audience jumps to her feet and starts shouting to the man on the screen: “Nigel, Nigel, is that you?”

Not until “onscreen Nigel” answers back does the penny drop.

The woman was an actress who was planted in the audience by British Airways. She continued a rather emotional dialogue with Nigel, her lover, who was with another woman on a British Airways romantic break.

The commercial, if it can be called that (it was more like a new type of advertising medium), culminated with the actress storming out of the cinema. Every time that was staged, the audience spontaneously applauded.

The challenge with a cinema commercial is somehow to make sure that it will be recalled after the intense experience of the film. If this one didn’t, nothing could.

More here:

https://www.britishairways.com/100/story/memorable-television-adverts

Media planning in the agency

The workflow or the various stages through which a media plan evolves within an agency differs from agency to agency and also within the agency’s account to account. The variations depend on the size of the problem and the agency’s organization and its relation with its clients. The development of almost all plans must follow a similar pattern, although the stages may be telescoped and considerations made implicit rather than being discussed at meetings.

The initial planning meeting is usually a large one and will see the involvement of senior people working on the account, and possibly the agency management. The account director, his team and creative and media planning people also take part in that meeting. In some cases, the client team may also be present. The purpose of this meeting is to formally evaluate the current progress of the brand and its market, and the plan for the period under review, usually the following financial year. The end product of the meeting should be a draft marketing strategy, which outlines the way the agency feels the brand’s target can best be achieved.

This first draft will then be thrashed out with the client, the agency being represented possibly by the management and certainly by the account team. When approved, the marketing objectives form the basis for both creative and media work.

Media owners, mind your language

Language is the most important means of communication for human beings. It has been, it is, it will be. Besides verbal languages, we have non-verbal languages such as sign language, body language and so on. Without a language, no communication is possible.

When a pharmaceutical company hires a medical representative, it makes sure that the person being hired is conversant with the doctor’s language; because a doctor cannot be convinced by a person who does not speak his language. When an engineering company hires a salesman to sell its equipment, it makes sure that the candidate selected is well-versed in the engineering industry.

How do media houses hire people to sell their advertising space or time? There are two types. One is the owner who does not want to invest in fresh people. Instead, that person looks around and finds a person who has already proved himself in the field. That recruiter is the one who believes in fresh talent (which is really a good thing considering the number of unemployed graduates around).

Unfortunately, the good intentions of the latter don’t go much further because such media owners haven’t recognised the need for professionalism.
They hire fresh graduates and push them into the field with one-line brief: ‘Go and get some ads’. These poor freshers who have had no exposure to marketing and advertising move amongst advertising professionals without any direction. Worse, they don’t even know the language of the advertising agency, media planners or the product managers at the advertises’ office.

They have been told that their job is to get some ads. So, they visit advertising agencies and advertisers and start asking, quite literally, ‘give me some ads’.

Some of the other demands which one often hears from media sellers are:

How about an ad? (just like that).

Give me an ad. My job is at stake (it happens about once a week).

You handle so many products; you must give something to us too.

I saw your ad in X. Why was it not released in our publication or channel? (occurs about once a day )

What should a media owner do to avoid getting himself the image of a “scrounger”?

First, recruit people with a marketing and advertising background. In the case of fresh graduates, please provide them with adequate training in marketing and advertising. It will eliminate to a large extent the re-occurrence of the scenario mentioned earlier. When a media seller makes a fool of himself, it reflects more on the media owner than on the person himself through sheer ignorance.

Media owners must familiarise their representative with the media planning process in an advertising agency; so, when his representative visits an ad agency, he can speak the media planners’ language.

A good media seller, in my opinion, is familiar with inter-media comparisons. He is the one who understands the target audience for his client’s products, understands the nature and seasonal patterns of various products. And above all, he is thoroughly familiar with the singular characteristics of the medium he represents.

Unless media owners understand the need for talking to advertising professionals in their language, they will continue to be in a difficult situation, as most are today.

Divided We Fall

My thoughts on maintaining a safe distance from politics and religion was carried in the article published in The Free Press Journal on November 21, 2021. https://www.freepressjournal.in/weekend/divided-we-fall-when-politics-strainspersonal-relationships

Veteran advertising professional and founder of Katha Kathan Jameel Gulrays has suitably amended Karl Marx’s statement to better fit our current context. He says, “Both religion and politics are the opiate of the people. Both work as drugs that can dumb the mind and make people believe that these two alone can guarantee the future vitality of our nation. They divide people, and yet, we still find ourselves taking the opium every day, hoping that somehow it can do wonders for us and the country.” In reality, Gulrays adds, how a combination of these two drugs is lethal and has the power to do more harm than the most powerful nuclear bombs. “In our country, it is this combination which could destroy us. I have a simple solution, I refuse to discuss these two topics,” he says, on dealing with people with political differences.

Jingle-a-la-la

Jingles are a form of sound branding where the sales pitch is sung to a musical tune. It is pretty popular in our country.
When I was trying to trace back its origin, I found it in Urdu poetry.
Nazeer Akbarabadi wrote various poems on various fruits, sweet meat, etc. to help its sellers sell there wares better.
All these poems were collected by legendary playwright Habeeb Tanveer and was used in his classical play Agra Bazaar.
Here I reproduce a part of his poem titled “Kakdi” to illustrate my point:


क्या प्यारी प्यारी मीठी और पतली पतलियां हैं
गन्ने की पोरियां हैं रेशम की तकलियाँ हैं
फ़रहाद की निगाहें शीरीं की हंसलियां हैं
मजनूँ की सर्द आहें लैला की ऊँगलियाँ हैं
क्या ख़ूब ककड़ियाँ हैं क्या ख़ूब ककड़ियाँ हैं

The lost art of marketing: Mystery Shopper Scheme

Veteran advertising legend Ayaz Peerbhoy had established MAA in 1959. I had joined MAA in 1967. In 1973, we launched Ensor Razor Blade, a TTK product, and during that exercise, I realised that Advertising is the 4th P of Marketing.
His son and my friend Bunty was handling the account, and besides media, he made me handle the promotion schemes for consumers and retailers.
We organised contests for consumers and retailers. Not many in the current generation of advertising professionals would know about “The Mystery Shopper Scheme”. Why is it run amongst retailers to promote a product at the launch?


Mystery Shopping is a process in which a person visits a retail store, restaurant, bank branch, or any such location to measure the quality of customer experience.
Many companies define detailed processes and parameters to ensure that customers have a good experience in their sales locations. Some examples are:
How customers will be greeted
What is the maximum acceptable waiting time
What is the ambience of the place
How many products should be on display, etc.
A Mystery Shopper visits the location pretending to be a customer and carefully notes things they have been asked to measure. The data is reported to the mystery shopping company, who compiles and analyses data gathered from different locations to help their clients measure and improve their customer experience.

But for our Ensor blade campaign, we used a three-pronged marketing plan for our product. Two of them involved the retailers, while one was for the consumer. Spread over 45 days, I was responsible for all three – Mystery Shopper and Display Contest for the retailers and Complete the Slogan Contest for the consumers. I remember travelling from Churchgate to Borivali in the Western suburb, and then again, went about covering all the areas in the Eastern suburb, all in a day. In a way, I covered 36 cities in one city in a day. I say so because the area around a station in Mumbai is a city itself, isn’t it? Phew! It was too much travelling, but the interactions with the people fuelled my energy levels and kept me going.
The Mystery Shopper Scheme was on for about 45 days, and since the product was new, we had given prior intimation to the dealers about the same. That one and a half month were quite crucial because it was a pre-launch activity for Ensor blade. The advertising campaign was to be launched after this period, and in the meanwhile, we got ample time to check the inventory, keep the spirits high for the retailers and build a buzz among the customers.
Sometimes the mystery shopper used to go to the shops to buy a blade. He couldn’t ask for a blade straight away. As a regular customer, he would buy many items before asking for a blade brand. If the shopkeeper gave him an Ensor blade, the mystery shopper would reveal his identity and give him ₹1000 in cash right away as a “loyalty prize.” The mystery shopper had to get an invoice signed and then hand over the money. If the shopkeeper didn’t give Ensor blade to the mystery shopper, then it was the mystery shopper’s job to enlighten the shopkeeper about the ongoing promotional scheme. It used to be a considerable amount in those days. The exercise was to promote and encourage the customers to buy the Ensor blade. It was a mutually beneficial scheme where both the mystery shopper and retailer used to benefit. Both of them stood a chance to get a handsome amount in return.
In the Display Contest, we had given some promotional material to the retailers, and we expected them to display them at their outlet. The jury used to go around the city judging the best retail outlet, and the retailer stood another chance to win a prize.
We also had a contest for the consumers. They had to complete a slogan, and in return, they used to get some goodies. But this one was difficult because I had to liaison with different government departments to ensure that this one was skill-based and had nothing to do with chance. I remember spending long hours at the government offices ensuring that there was no breach of the law, especially for the consumer contest. I had to ensure that this one didn’t fall under the ambit of the Maharashtra Lotteries (Control and Tax) and Prize Competitions (Tax) Act, 1958.
I had implemented this scheme personally in Bombay (as it was called then) because my dear friend Bunty was handling the brand, and he had immense belief in my “marketing talent.”
I can bet that not even 5% of advertising professionals would know about the Marketing Schemes because guys do not think Advertising has anything to do with Marketing. Sadly, Marketing has become more of Sales. Hence, nobody is willing to guarantee the product’s sale as a result of the advertising campaign. We, even today, ensure the achievement of marketing goals, provided the Client doesn’t interfere in our job.