Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mobility and the saga of Du

Du is the second operator in the GSM mobility space in the UAE. The country has been waiting them for almost an year now to launch their services. They are out with a million dollar marketing campaign for more than 3 months now. This includes those colorful hoardings across the city, those many full page color advertisements in the national newspapers – Arabic and English, kiosks at vantage points and not to mention the many thousands of Du staff in their uniform with a prominent monogram of the logo.

All this multi million dollar spend not withstanding they seem to go nowhere. They are simply not moving, no sign of them starting their service in the near future. Calls to their customer care center gets you the most ambiguous answer like “May be end of December, may be sometime in 2007” or even the mindless “I don’t know”.

They started their brand campaign “Du – Add life to life” about 3-4 months ago. It was a campaign based on water and its importance in a human beings life. This is what a spokesman from Du has said about this campaign “Water brings people together, it comes from inside us, it allows us to travel far, and it expresses itself with power or as a whisper. And of course, it is all around us in our daily life. This is how we see communication and we want to take it further.”.

Two months of teaching me the importance of water in my life?

Enough of it! Now, tell me what you have to offer me, as a mobile service provider.

And then comes the reserve your number campaign. The older operator Etisalat has a ‘050’ code and Du has been allocated ‘055’. Therefore Du has started a campaign asking people to retain their old number (Etisalat number) but with a ‘055’ code. They charge you somewhere ranging from Dh.100 to Dh.4000 depending on the novelty value of the number you want to reserve. And, yes you could use this number whenever Du decide to start its service. And when? God knows!

But how on earth would someone go on to reserve a number without even knowing what Du has to offer? I wouldn’t unless I suffer from a chronic numeric fetish.

There are no signs of Du telling people what they would bring on to the table in terms of service, costs etc. All they want people to do now is to rush to their kiosks or the website to reserve a number.

Very funny!

They have also extended the deadline for reserving numbers by a month. May be no one is reserving. While they started this campaign of theirs in newspapers, they now have started using radio (almost all the radio channels in the UAE, I presume). There is a cheap spot that appears in one of the Hindi FM channels I heard.

My first remark “Du is running out of water”

There are a couple of things I would like to advice Du and its marketing communication partners on.

1. Figure out who you are first. What business are you in? What do you have to offer to the consumer tangibly? What differentiates you from Etisalat?

2. Sort out the ambiguity in the tone and manner of communication – Figure out who your primary target audience is, speak to them in their language. Don't try win everyone on day one. Remember "Rome wasn't built in one day"

3. For gods sake don’t just plaster the walls and newspapers – Think about why you are.

4. Most importantly, don’t fool people anymore. Put a date for the launch of your services and launch it first before you speak further.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A commercial from Lowe, Mumbai

This is a brilliant commercial Lowe, Mumbai has done for Camlin Permanent Markers. Camlin is one of the big stationery brands in India.

It is a simple thought all Indians would be aware of. For Indian women, married women in particular their bangles, the vermillion mark on their forehead and the sacred thread the husband ties around the wife’s neck called the mangalsutra (when a man and woman are married) are three important symbols.

The vermillion mark in particular is supposed to be associated with the life of the husband. They retain these marks as long as their husband is alive. Once they loose their husband they loose these sacred symbols too. In rural India, when the husband passes away the symbols are ceremonially removed from his widow. This process is done by a group of elderly widows in town.

The guys from Lowe, Mumbai have effectively exploited this insight to produce this brilliant commercial.

The story here is simple. Camlin Permanent Marker is after all a permanent marker, indelible. This is a story where the husband has used the marker instead of the traditional vermillion powder, and hence indelible. As mythology has it, as long as a woman doesn’t have the vermillion mark wiped off her forehead, her husband is deemed to be living and has to be living with her.

Brilliant… See it for yourself.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What am I watching now?

It is time for one of the famed BBC comedies, Yes Minister. I bought a boxed set of 3 DVD’s over the weekend.

I remember watching "Yes Minister" as a kid in Doordarshan, the only television channel available in India those days. I particularly loved the character Sir Humphrey played by Nigel Hawthorne. Stiff upper lipped, cynical and the champion of redtape-ism. This character is simply brilliant.

For starters, Yes Minister is a political satire that revolves around 3 three characters (mainly). James Hacker MP. (played by Paul Eddington), who becomes the Cabinet Minister of Administrative Affairs (and later the PM), his Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby (played by Nigel Hawthorne) and his Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley (played by Derek Fowlds). In some episodes there comes a fourth major character Frank Weisel (played by Neil Fitzwiliam), Hackers Political Advisor.

The advantage watching a British comedy is that even in case you don’t understand the English or the humour, you could time your laugh. This is made easy by the sound of people laughing in the background (an integral part of British comedies), one could time his / her laugh based on that. This would limit the embarrassment and make others think you understand and appreciate the British humour.

A good watch either ways, you understand or not!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The bread, butter & jam effect

Recently one of my friends felt cheated by his bank. The result of this feeling, he has stopped transacting with the bank and is doing his best to reach the gospel of the good customer service the bank offers across the UAE.

This bank in question is one of the top banks in the region. I believe, this bank has leadership position when it comes to auto loans. Being one of the oldest banks in the region they also boast a good number of companies being their corporate clients and a good number of influential individual customers.

I was thinking about how long it would take before the public en masse decides to pull out of the bank. I was also thinking about how this would happen.

Obviously this has to be a great snowball effect.

At present it is my friend who is the messiah, assume he manages to convince 50 of his friend's and then the word of mouth spreads, gaining momentum. People would add to my friend's story their own stories and their experience with the bank. Finally there would be a situation when a majority of the banks customers share the same opinion of my friend and pull out of the bank. This can’t happen immediately, for snowballs are not created out of the blue (of course unless they are man made - artificial). It is a process and this process of people (read customers) blacklisting this bank would easily take years before it happens, if at all it would.

For this to happen quickly the bank should do some sloppy work with their corporate customers and their hi-end individual customers (read Platinum customers). This wouldn’t happen in all likelihood as banks normally take special care dealing with these people. Agreed that individuals like you and me join hands to make a corporate but at the end of the day we would also agree that the way the bank treats me and you vis-à-vis our companies is very different.

Hence it is going to be ages before this bank in question is made an outcast by a majority of its customers, unless the bank doesn’t mess up drastically with every customer's monthly statement or some other services they offer.

While thinking about the time this bank would take to be boycotted by public I came up with an analogy.

To understand the anology I have come up with, let us assume every bank has three types of customers (broad based segments)

1. The individual customers
2. The hi-end individual customers (platinum or gold etc.)
3. The corporate customers

The individual customers are like bread.

It is the most essential thing for one to survive. But if one starts to notice that it is getting spoilt, we can afford to pick the spoilt side off and still consume it. And it takes a longer time for the whole loaf to get completely stale.

Likewise if one or some individual customer is dissatisfied or grumpy, the bank can afford to throw him out and still service the rest of the population. It would take a while before this dissatisfaction snowballs to a big issue covering a majority of the individual customers. And another advantage the bank has is that all the customers don’t essentially communicate with each other on a daily basis and hence no big badmouthing happens in a short span. Whereas when it becomes a dissatisfied or a grumpy hi-end or a corporate it becomes a larger issue involving press, PR and new media and hence the effect is immediate.

So I could liken the hi-end and corporate customers to the Jam or Butter that one applies on the bread.

If the Jam or Butter goes stale, the bread loses its taste and at times becomes inconsumable. But people take good care about their Jam or Butter, they refrigerate it or find other means to preserve it.

Hence, whatever my friend does now to blacklist this bank among the general public would mostly go into deaf ears or it might take ages before his efforts bear fruit for him. The best way for him to go about is to find a few Jam or Butter category people and try spoil them, then the effect should be immediate and apparent.

So until this bank's JAM or BUTTER is fresh, they would be under an illusion that all is well with the BREAD.

Business as usual…

Well, the last two weeks of Sir Alfred Hitchcock frenzy comes to an end with today’s review of Psycho.

This means I have finished watching and reviewing all 14 movies from the boxed set of Hitchcock movies I had bought.

Now I shall watch the boxed set again and again. I am going to start my re-viewing process with “Frenzy”.

Psycho (1960)

Actors: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock

Psycho is acclaimed as one of the best Suspense / thriller / horror movies of all time. It is based on a novel by Robert Bloch. Critics rate this as one of the most effective horror movies ever. Movie buffs, critics and film makers still talk highly about the famous “shower murder” scene in the film. Another reason why the “shower murder” sequence is thrilling is because of Bernard Herrmann’s superb background score.

This film is around the Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) aka. Split personality disorder. That is, a person carrying dual personalities in his mind. This disorder makes a person act like two different personalities at times and the person also suffers a memory loss. While the affected person doesn’t know that there are two personalities in him or what the other personality does to him. At the end the dominant of the personalities win resulting in the person losing his own identity or even death of the person.

Marion Crane embezzles $40,000 from her office. She does this to help her struggling boyfriend, Sam (without his knowledge though) and get him marry her soon. While decamping with the cash and on her way to her boyfriend's place she is faced with heavy rains. She decides to stop for the night a nearby motel, at a deserted road which used to be a highway. The owner of the place Norman Bates claims to be living there with his aged mother all alone. She hears the mother telling Norman to keep away from strange women. In a bizarre turn of events Marion is murdered while she is in the shower of her room. It seems that Norman’s mother is the murderer, Norman like a dutiful son clears up the murder scene and wipes of the remains by drowning them in a nearby swamp.

Arbogast, a private detective hired by Marion’s employer also faces the same fate when he goes in search of Norman’s mother to have a word with her about Marion’s disappearance. Fortunately Arbogast speaks to Marion’s sister Lila just before he is murdered about his suspicion on Norman and his mother. Sam and Lila approach the local sheriff for help. The sheriff laughs off at the complaint saying Norman’s mother had died years ago, commiting suicide and Norman was all alone.

Sam & Lila embark on finding the truth. After the usual Hitchcockian moments it is revealed that Norman is suffering from MPD. He takes his mothers identity to kill people who get close to Norman’s identity. And Norman thinks the murders have been committed by his mother and destroys evidence to save her.

An amazing movie and a must watch for all thriller / horror movie lovers.

Trivia: Sir Alfred appears four minutes in to the film. As Marion comes back to her office after meeting her lover Sir Alfred is seen behind the glass door of Marion’s office, wearing a cowboy hat

Monday, November 20, 2006

Vertigo (1958)

Actors: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock

A psychological thriller, it is one of the best movies of Sir Alfred. This is a fantastically designed movie right from the title sequence, where Sir Alfred has used some graphic elements to drive the Vertigo name through the viewers mind.

Given all that, the fact that Vertigo was recognized as a culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant film by the National Film Registry (USA) in 1989 is not at all surprizing. This monumental film had to be restored in 1996 and if you watch it now (like I have) you wouldn’t even believe that this film was made way back in the 50’s.

John Ferguson (aka) Scottie is a San Fransisco detective retires from the force because of an acrophobia (fear of heights) he has developed. While he is contemplating what he should do post retirement, he meets one of his old classmates, Elster. This man is now the husband of the last living heiress of a large business family. The man believes his wife is now being possessed by her great grandmonthers spirit and she is being forced to commit suicide by the spirit.

This man wants Scottie to follow his wife and prevent her from commiting suicide. Scottie reluctantly agrees to trail his wife and even falls in love with her. He manages to rescue Madaleine once from drowning but couldn’t the next time when she climbs on top of a tower to plummet to death, because of his acrophobic tendencies. Because of the death of Madaleine, Scottie becomes mentally depressed for a while.

Later Scottie finds a girl called Judy who resembles Madeleine in every aspect. This is when Sir Alfred’s master directorship comes into play. The story then takes a complete U-turn. It turns out that Elster had hired Judy (who resembled his wife) to kill his Madaleine, threw her body from the top of the tower making Scottie a witness. He makes Scottie the witness by making him first believe about the sprit story and exploiting Scottie’s acrophobic tendencies.

It is amazing to see the way Sir Alfred produces twists and turns to keep you at the edge of your seat throughout the movie. A must watch.

Trivia: Sir Alfred makes his cameo 11 minutes into the film. He is seen walking in the street dressed in a gray suit.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Vertigo will have to wait

A busy last couple of days at office has ensured that my review on Vertigo by Sir Alfred Hitchcock has to wait till this weekend.

I would have this review posted soon.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Rope (1948)

Actors: James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock

I would rate this the best of all Hitchcock movies I have seen till date. A small house, 9 characters, 10 reels of film, minimal or almost zero editing leaving alone the opening establishment shot in the street.

In those days when a reel of film measured up to 10 minutes in running time, this should have been quite a task moving the camera around a small house, filled with characters. There is not a moment when one would feel a jerk in camera movement or the scene progression.

It is believed that Sir Alfred wanted to shoot a play real time and make it a movie, this gave birth to the idea of having a film shot like a play, without any editing. But because of the constraint that one reel of film could only run 10 minutes on screen, Sir Alfred divided his shots into 10 segments and then linked them up on the table. He employed techniques like ending a reel up in a close up shot and then panning off to the next character or close the reel with a pan and start the next one with a close up.

And now the story, two young men kill their friend. They kill because they think superior humans are justified killing their inferior counterparts, just to prove this point. They plan this a perfect murder, meaning they wouldn’t by caught by any chance. They dump the dead man in a chest, put that in the middle of their house and convert it into a dining table for a party. This party is attended by the dead boys parents (his aunt turns up in place of his mother along with his father), his girlfriend, a classmate and their high school master. The whole movie is how they try to cover-up their anxiety and the crime and then finally they are caught by their high school master, the person who implanted the superior humans theory in their minds.

Trivia: Sir Alfred appears during the title of this movie, walking down the road along with a lady

His caricature also appears as a neon sign behind the window of the hall

This was supposed to be a bold movie (at that time) with a very strong homosexual theme, but it is hardly noticeable in the movie.

Sir Alfred shot one segment (reel) a day

He had to re-shoot the last 4-5 segments because he was dissatisfied with the color of the sunset

Hitchcock has been credited both as director and producer of this film

Rope was Sir Alfred’s first movie in color.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hitchcock on leave

I couldn't catch-up with Mr Hitchcock yesterday night because of some unavoidable circumstances.

I would be back with his Rope tomorrow...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The trouble with Harry (1955)

Actors: John Forsythe, Edmund Gwenn, Shirley MacLaine
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock

Considered one of Hitchcock’s unusual films, it is a black comedy. An amazing watch, this film is a little ahead of its time in terms of some of the racy dialogues it contains. It was not a big box office success when it was released.

This film is set in a small town, Vermont. The film follows the quirky residents as they deal with a dead body found in the local mountain side. Everyone thinks they killed Harry (the dead man) and tries to cover up. Finally as they all team up to discuss who killed Harry and who would take the blame, the local doctor announces that Harry died due to a heart attack and was not murdered.

A simple movie set in a small town. I thought this was a brilliant Hitchcock comedy. I was particularly happy that it didn’t have any of Sir Alfred’s favorite spy & espionage elements in it.

Trivia: 20 minutes into the film, Sir Alfred appears walking past the parked limousine of an old man who is looking at paintings

Music composer Bernard Herrmann’s successful collaboration with Sir Alfred started with this film

Torn curtain (1966)

Actors: Paul Newman, Julie Andrews
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock

This is a political thriller by Sir Alfred (it can also be classified as a spy thriller). Though this film is not accepted as a Hitchcock hit, it was a minor box office success.

Michael Armstrong, an young nuclear scientist defects to East Germany. His young fiancée & assistant, Sarah Sherman trails him to East Berlin and confronts him. The twist and turns of the story reveal that Michael is actually no defector but is helping his country to unearth the East German and Soviet nuclear ambitions. Now Michael has to take with him the secret formula of the East German nuclear plan and his fiancée safely out of East Germany with the staci and the police chasing them.

The best scene in this movie is probably the murder of the East German staci by Michael and the farmers wife. Hitchcock rates this as one of his favorite sequences. In this sequence Sir Alfred actually demonstrates how difficult it is to kill a man. One of the best murder sequences I have ever seen.

Trivia: Sir Alfred makes an appearance very early in the film, sitting at the lobby of Hotel d'Angleterre with a blond baby on his lap

This film was produced by Sir Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited)

Topaz (1969)

Actors: Frederick Stafford, Dany Robin, Claude Jade, John Forsythe
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock

One of Sir Alfred’s movies without an American star cast, this movie is full of international actors. With a Czech actor Frederick Stafford in the lead. This is one the many Hitchcock spy thrillers.

A French agent André Devereaux agrees to help his American CIA friends in unearthing a missile program the Cubans are developing with the assistance of the Soviet Union. André’s French superiors are not very happy with his helping the Americans and he gets recalled back to Paris, it makes matters worse when André finds about a counter intelligence spy ring headed by some of his own French counterparts in high places to help the Soviets.

The film follows André’s journey through New York, Cuba and Paris before he exposes the plot of his own intelligence people. This film features a uncredited appearance by the Cuban leader Fidel Castro (Sir Alfred has used some footage of the leader to lend some credibility to a Cuban rally scene).

A trademark Sir Alfred Hitchcock spy thriller. But was not a success in the box office. And was criticized by many in the US for not featuring any known American faces.

Trivia: Sir Alfred appears half an hour into the film in the airport. He is being pushed in a wheelchair to a flight. He gets up at one point, shakes hand with a man and walks off into a gate.

Shadow of a doubt (1943)

Actors: Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock

Young Charlie suspects that her beloved uncle Charlie is a murderer. She sees that the police are trailing her uncle and he could well be the cold blooded “Merry widow murderer”. One who targets rich new widows, seduces them and murders them for gain. Charlie wishes she is proved wrong and her uncle is clean.

But as the story unfolds uncle Charlie even tries murdering his beloved niece young Charlie to escape law.

With the typical Hitchcock style of story telling and the staple suspense elements, this movie is worth a watch. But as any other Hitchcock movie you might want to watch this movie a second time before you like it.

Many critics and historians consider this movie a classic and one of Sir Alfred's best American films, and this movie was one of Sir Alfred’s all time personal favorites.

Trivia: Sir Alfred is seen in the train to Santa Rosa, playing cards.

The name Charlie (name of two characters in the movie) is repeated 170 times in this movie

This film was nominated for Academy awards in two categories – Best writing and Best original story

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Saboteur (1942)

Actors: Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings and Norman Lloyd
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock

A wartime movie about war. A typical Hitchcockian plot, where the hero is wrongly chased by police and law for a crime he didn’t commit. The hero is constantly on the run while he investigates and finds the real culprit to get his name cleared.

Aircraft worker Barry Kane is accused of causing fire in the factory which kills his best friend and injures many. While Barry says the fire could have been caused by a fellow called Fry, the police don’t believe because there is nobody called Fry in the factory. Barry becomes a fugitive to unravel the mystery and clear his name.

The movie is much ahead of its time. Unbelievable camera work and action sequences make you wonder if the film was really shot in 1942. the famous being the climax action sequence atop the Statue of Liberty.

Trivia: Sir Alfred makes an appearance by the end of the first hour of the movie. He is seen standing in a shop in New York, with his back facing the camera as the saboteurs car pulls up.

Sir Alfred’s cameo was supposed to be a slightly bigger role. He and his secretary at that point in time, Ms. Carol Steven were supposed to walk through the streets as a deaf and dumb couple. In this scene Sir Alfred was supposed to make some gestures (sign language) to his partner to get slapped by her (because the gesture was supposed to be an indecent proposal). Later this act was dropped by Hitchcock as he feared it might be construed derogatory by the deaf and dumb community.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rear Window (1954)

Actors: James Stewart, Grace Kelly
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock

Billed by many film critics and scholars as one of the best and most thrilling movies of Sir Alfred, this is a fine movie and a must watch.

A simple story line that reflects everyone's life. Voyeurism, spying, espionage and gossiping, these seemingly big words are something which everyone of us do on a daily basis, knowingly or unknowingly. People trying to peep over your shoulders to see what is on your desk, what mail you are typing or what you are surfing or eating. We do this for adding some excitement to our lives at the expense of another man's freedom and space. That is the plot of this story. Add to this the classic Hitchcockian thrill, suspense element and a masterly camera work, Rear Window is born.

L.B. Jefferies a press photographer is confined to his bed due to a fracture in his leg. With the irritation of having been confined to his wheel chair and bed, and having to stay put at his house for an extended period of 6 weeks makes him long for some excitement in his life. From his rear window he tries spying on what the other people in his colony are up to.

His philandering eye sets on a salesman's house. This salesman's invalid wife is a nagging woman who at times irritates her salesman husband engaging him in arguments. One night Jeff sees the salesman in action walking in and out of his home a couple of times armed with a big suitcase. He comes to a conclusion that the salesman has murdered his wife and sets out to unravel the mystery with the help of his girlfriend Lisa, his nurse Stella and his detective friend Doyle.

What happened? Does Jeff manage to untie the mystery knot? That is the movie.

The viewer sees everything happening from the Point Of View of the wheelchair bound Jeff. This means that the camera is used in a narrative style following what Jeff sees with his voice directing the camera. At some places the camera also follows Lisa (Jeff’s girlfriend), Doyle (Jeff’s detective friend) and Stella (Jeff’s nurse)

Superb camerawork, amazing direction, a superb set and some great acting makes this a must watch.

Trivia: Sir Alfred appears in the movie at one of Jeff’s neighbors house. This gentleman in the neighborhood is a struggling music composer. Sir Alfred is seen working with him on some tunes.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Marnie (1964)

Actors: Sean Connery, Tippi Hedren, Diane Baker
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock

A psychological thriller based on a Winston Graham novel. For me this is one of Sir Alfred’s best movies I have watched till now and many critics are of the same opinion.

The protagonist Marnie Edger is a kleptomaniac, a thief and a liar. She carries a bunch of social security cards and a assumes various names and identities to get a job. Once she does she vanishes, wiping off the cash box. Mark Rutland a wealthy widower employs Marnie knowing her past, out of curiosity. Soon Mark falls in love with Marnie and is out to reform her.

In the process Mark finds out the darker side of Marnie, her phobia for colors, red in particular. Her aversion towards thunderstorms and lightning & her disturbed sleeping habits and her distrust on men. Mark investigates to find her difficult childhood and her longing for the love of her mother.

The director then takes us through the thrilling journey of how Mark marries and reforms her. Sir Alfred, as usual excels in his trademark narrative style of camera usage. The camera leads the way to make the viewer explore the world of Marnie and her exploits.

Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren excel in their roles and make this movie a very interesting thriller.

Trivia: Sir Alfred appears very early in the movie. He is seen walking out of his hotel room as Marnie is being lead to her room by a bell boy, after her first loot in the film (at Strutt’s)

Grace Kelly was supposed to play Marnie but declined at the last moment

Sean Connery was fresh from the success of his latest bond movie Dr. No

Monday, November 06, 2006

Continuing with education

The IDM course apart, I am also trying to arm myself with some knowledge on Account Planning. This was till about a month ago happening online, thanks to Russell Davies and the other online sources.

I have since managed to source a couple of good books on Account Planning and other related subjects. I am finding them interesting and it is worthwhile buying them in case one wanted to seriously pursue an Advertising / Account Planning / Marketing career.

I would soon post a list of books (I own) what I think would be useful from an advertising / direct marketing / account planning / marketing perspective.

Back to school

Raja is back to school after a long break of 8 years...

I have joined a diploma course on Direct & Interactive Marketing with The Institute of Direct Marketing as of September 2006. I am pursuing this one year course in distance education mode.

God willing I shall be a IDM certified direct & interactive marketing professional in another one year's time. Wish me luck!

The man who knew too much (1956)

Actors: James Stewart, Doris Day
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock

A remake of an old Hitchcock movie (1934) of the same name, this is a fascinating thriller. The 1934 movie was made by Sir Alfred in England. In his own words the 1934 movie was the work of a talented amateur and the later was the work of a professional. In other words the director considered the later version as a superior movie, a point of view many critics differ with.

Whatever said the 1956 version I watched seemed to be one of the best thrillers I have seen till date. You have a gripping plot, the kidnap of a young boy whose parents are vacationing in Morocco and his rescue in England.

Music plays an inseparable part in making sure that the viewer sits on the edge of his seat. The highlight being the performance (the climax) of the London Symphony Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall, London where the assassination attempt is supposed to happen.

James Stewart & Doris Day have done a fine job playing Dr & Mrs. McKenna and not to forget the performance of the little boy and the other members of the cast. Doris Day’s performance especially is impeccable, the scene when she knows that her kid has been kidnapped and the climax where she renders the famous song "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Qué Será, Será)".

The story is simple but the way the director has taken it forward is gripping and not to forget the suspense element Sir Alfred is known for. A couple on vacation to Morocco with their kid are witness to the death of a French spy. The spy dies in the lap of the vacationing doctor and utters something of paramount importance to him, about an impending assasination of a high ranked diplomat. The couples kid is kidnapped to keep their mouth shut, so that they don’t divulge the assasination plot to the authorities concerned.

Will the parents get the boy back? Would they be able to foil the assasination bid? How would the parents secure the release of the boy?

Trivia: Hitchcock appears in this film while the family of Dr McKenna is touring the markets of Marrakesh. He is seen watching the acrobats in the market place, with his back facing the camera

During the making of this movie Sir Alfred, due to the Sub-Saharan temperatures of Morocco appeared on location in his T-shirts. Normally Sir Alfred is only seen on location or the sets prim and proper, in his suit

The music composer of the movie Bernard Herrmann appears as himself, conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in the climax scene

This film won Oscars for Best Music and Best Original Score for the song Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Qué Será, Será)

The song “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Qué Será, Será)” even topped the UK and US pop music charts

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Strangers on a train (1951)

Actors: Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Robert Walker
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock

This is a gripping crime thriller by Hitchcock.

Tennis star Guy Haines meets Bruno Anthony on a train while he is going back to his town Metcalf. He is in the messy process of finalizing his divorce with his unfaithful wife, Miriam. While on train, Bruno comes up with a proposition of swapping murders. While Bruno has long wanted to finish his father off, Guy has trouble getting his wife agree for a divorce so that he could marry his sweetheart, a senator’s daughter.

While for Guy this goes off as a passing conversation, Bruno takes things seriously and kills Miriam. Police suspect Guy because of some circumstantial evidences & his suspect behavior and Bruno starts to blackmail Guy to return favor by killing his father.

Does Guy kill Bruno’s father? Is Guy caught by police for murdering his wife? Does Bruno succeed in his blackmail? Does Bruno get away?

Trivia: Alfred Hitchcock appears early in this movie as Guy gets out of the train at the Metcalf railway station. He is seen boarding the train with a double bass fiddle.

Frenzy (1972)

Actors: Jon Finch, Barbara Leigh – Hunt
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock (his penultimate film)

This is a crime thriller based upon the novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Berne. This film is set and filmed in London.

A sex maniac serial killer is rocking London. He finishes off his young women prey using a necktie to be nicknamed “The necktie murderer”. Circumstantial evidences point to an innocent Richard Blaney.

So does Richard manage to escape? Is the real necktie murderer caught?

One comes to know who the necktie murderer is pretty early in the film. But what is thrilling is to watch how the innocent Richard is on the run being chased by police, arrested and even prosecuted to be finally set free when the real necktie murderer is held.

Trivia: Hitchcock appears in two scenes in this film. First when the minister is addressing a crowd in the banks of river Thames near the Tower bridge (in a bowlers hat). And next when the crowd flocks to see the latest prey of the necktie murderer being washed ashore in the Thames.

Family Plot (1976)

Actors: Karen Black, Bruce Dern, Barbara Harris, William Devane
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock (his last movie)

This is a typical Hitchcock black comedy thriller. A fake psychic healer cum con artist and her taxi driver boyfriend try to find the long last nephew of her wealthy client. The nephew disowned by this lady at one point of time would get the con artist and her taxi driver boyfriend $10,000 as fee if they manage to find him.

The nephew by now is a jeweler of some repute but has a dark past and a horrifying present. He, with the help of his girlfriend kidnaps people for ransom. With police on close trail, he and his girlfriend are a bit too careful about their dealings and the people they know.

Does the con artist and her boyfriend find the nephew? What challenges do the duo face while they are on the trail to find the nephew?

Trivia: Hitchcock doesn’t appear in this movie physically. But his shadow is seen in one of the registrar office window panes.

The Birds (1963)

Actors: Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren
Dir: Sir Alfred Hitchcock

This horror movie is based on Daphne du Maurier’s short story of the same name.

Bodega Bay, a Californian seaside village experiences a strange phenomenan of violent bird attacks on its residents. This happens while Melanie Daniels visits the village from downtown San Francisco for handing over a surprise gift of lovebirds to Mich Brenner’s sister. The peaceful seaside village turns into a battlefield battered by the bird attacks.

Why do the birds attack? Is the attack got to do something with Melanie’s visit? Who is behind this?

The director never explains the phenomenon or tries answer any questions about the strange happenings. It is all left to the viewers imagination. As someone used to the conventional endings in movies, this kind of an ending seemed to be a little bland and disappointing, but only for the first time I watched it. That said you would never miss the gripping storytelling abilities of the director in any scene of this famous movie.

This horror movie made its name for its special effects, music and the usual Hitchcockian suspense.

Trivia: Hitchcock appears early in the movie walking two dogs out of a San Francisco pet shop as Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), walks in to the shop

Falling down (1993)

Actors: Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall
Dir: Joel Schumacher

The story of two people Bill – The vigilante, who feels cheated & rejected by the world and thinks he could set things right in a wrong world and Sgt. Prendergast – The police officer who is struggling to balance his life between a mentally ill, domineering wife and his fellow departmental colleagues who see him as a meek, misfit in the force.

Bill chances upon various kind of arms, from a baseball bat to a butterfly knife to an assortment of firearms. And Sgt. Prendergast on his last day sets out to stop Bill.

So how does Bill react, how many does he kill, does he achieve what he wants?

Does Sgt. Prendergast manage to change his colleagues perception on him at his last day in office?

DVD cover image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Alfred Hitchcock mania!!















I have lately beome a huge fan of Sir Alfred, the master of suspense. I have bought a boxed set of about 14 movies of Sir Alfred and have also managed to watch three of them in a span of 2 days.

This boxed set would occupy a special place in my library of movies.

Favorite movies

I was looking at my blog profile a couple of days ago. I thought the favorite movie(s) section where I have put up 4 of my favorite movies doesn't exactly reflect on my preferences.

I realized that I watch a minimum of about 6 – 9 movies a good week and at least once in two weeks I have a new movie that joins my list of favorites. This means that at the end of every year I must have about 26 movies that have entered the favorite category.

Remembering this ever growing 26 would be a improbable task. And threfore, from here on I am planning to put up the names of the movies I watch and the details like actors / director and a short note on the movie on my blog.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Wandering through WWW...

It was during my usual routine of wandering through websites and blogs that I found this link on the APG site.

GoodLogo!com is a fantastic resource / library of logos of brands from all around the world. To make your experince surfing interactive, they have a rating system for the logos in display, a facility to upload your favorite logos to be rated by others, featured logo of the day section and some (logo) design cases.

More than the things mentioned above, this site also has a small dummies guide kind of a section that talks about how good logos are made, the look and feel. There also seems to be a logo quiz page which is coming up.

I felt this website would be a valuable resource for all advertising, identity and marcom people. If you have not been to this site go here today, it is interesting.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Customer Care Hotline

Last week when I was in dire need of some money I went to this ATM (owned by the bank where I have an account). The ATM was a bit too hungry that it decided to swallow my card for a meal, it rebooted itself. I saw this 1-800 number mentioned on the walls of this ATM bunk and so I decided I would call this number to report the loss. In spite of 8 tries I couldn’t get in touch with a customer care executive. The line would shut itself after giving me a hope of 4-5 rings.

After a while I decided to call another number (not a 1-800 this time) to report my loss. After a customary 4 minute wait for being reassured that I am one of the banks most valued customers and some stupid music I managed to speak to a gentleman. As usual he put me on hold for sometime to get the information on my account on his screen. Then there was another 6 minutes of time spent on verification questions before the card was finally reported lost. I was told I need to wait for 3 days before the card would be returned to me. I wouldn’t have any money or the luxury of a card for the next 3 days.

I decided to bank on one of my trusted sources for the money I required urgently. I loaned it from one of my friends, with a promise that I would return it 3 days later.

3 days later I go to the bank to collect my card. After the formalities my card was handed back but not without another bomb being dropped. I was supposed to call their customer care helpline to activate my card. This process would take just half an hour said the executive there.

I called up the customer care helpline to be put on hold for 9 minutes. This time there was an additional information that was given to me more than the reassurance that I am the banks most valued customer.

The voice this time said “All our customer care executives are busy at the moment, they would be back with you in 5 to 7 minutes”

This 5 to 7 minutes kept reducing every minute. I was relieved when it did say that a customer care execute would be with me in the next minute. But to my dismay suddenly it again increased to 3 to 5 minutes.

And finally well past the 9th minute of holding the line somebody appeared, this time a lady. Then came the usual putting on hold for a couple of minutes to get my information on screen and then the verification questions that take about 6-8 minutes.

My card would now be active, after another half an hour the executive told. Before I hanged up, the executive wanted to know if she could help me on something else. I told her I would be happy if someone picked up calls at least by the 2 or 3 minute someone calls for help.

“It would be very difficult for us sir, you know we keep getting so many calls so it takes sometime before we attend each one of them”

I loved the courage of this lady to tell this as an answer to a (most valued) customer. More than the lady the bank should be proud of itself for providing such a fantastic customer service to its customers.

It is high time the bank looks at revamping its customer care system, else it is going to be too late…

Monday, October 09, 2006

Customer Care(full)

There is this small Lebanese bakery near our office. Me and another colleague order the occasional breakfast from these guys whenever we crave for a Manakeesh (a Lebanese pie that more or less resembles a Pizza). Essentially my colleague calls up the baker and orders a Cheese Manakeesh or Zaatar (a mix of herb topping)

The shop I believe employs 3-4 guys to make stuff, take orders and deliver the stuff. Many from and around the Dubai Media City should be ordering their stuff from these guys as their produce is nice and tasty and their delivery system is effective in spite of their shortcomings in terms of manpower.

How do they care for their customers?

It was one of those days when we wanted a Manakeesh for breakfast. As usual my friend called these guys up. The following is the conversation between my friend and the guy who picked the call up.

Friend: Hello is it XXXX Bakery?

Baker: Yes sir, how may I help you (in a very Arabic accent)

F: I’m calling from Loft office 1-A in the Media City. Number 401

B: Oh, Mr XXX? How are you sir? It is long since you called, almost 3 weeks. I thought you were on a vacation. Is it the usual order sir? 2 Cheese Manakeesh, 1 Zaatar Manakeesh or can I suggest you Egg Cheese Manakeesh today?

We were flattered by the very personal conversation the baker had. He remembered the last time we ordered, what we usually order and he also suggested us something else that would suit our tastes.

Considering that this guy caters to the whole of Dubai Media City, which is a city by itself, it was amazing. There would at least be about 50 orders this guy must be fulfilling every day. Considering that 50% of his customers are loyal, he needs to remember 20 names, addresses and preferences. For a small shop manager in a considerably large neighborhood, this is quite a task and an achievement of sorts.

I’m sure his business would continue to grow leaps and bounds given this personalized, friendly attitude of the baker and his good delivery mechanism.

Me and my friend are one of this bakery's most loyal customers, for life.

Long live the Baker! Long live his Bakery!!

To sum up…

a) Personalization pays. But remember it is a double edged sword, so one needs to be careful while personalizing

b) Personalization is not simply putting a Mr. or Ms. before a name. It is remembering your customers preferences, needs, wants and most importantly what a customer doesn’t want.

c) It is not enough if you remember your customer by name, what is more important is to fulfill the reason he / she called

d) And last but not least, it is not enough if you just fulfilled what your customer wanted. It matters when you fulfilled, did you deliver on time? Was the stuff intact the way the customer wanted when you delivered?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

It’s FIRE in the 13th floor

Saturday, October 07, 2006.

It is a holiday, you have invited your friends to have lunch with you. The moment you have had two bites of your lunch, the friend says “Is there something burning in your hall? May be an electric short circuit or something?”.

I reluctantly leave my lunch plate, get to the hall and I can see some smoke and the burnt out smell. I quickly run to switch the lights off, thinking the choke on the tube or something has burst. But we start to see a steady increase in the volume of smoke in the hall. With doubts in my mind I open my door and have a peep at the corridor, I couldn’t see anything it was full of thick black smoke.

My next reaction was to yell out for Roopa and my friends ask them to immediately pick Anirudhha and my friends kid and run out. I quickly ran inside the house picked my handphone and rushed out to help the others out.

It was high drama and tension with Roopa shouting instructions to me to keep Anirudhha covered from smoke. Everyone started coughing and choking because of the smoke. It was quite a task cheering everyone up, keeping them calm and encouraging them to push harder towards safe ground. It took no less than 10 minutes for us to reach safe grounds from our 14th floor apartment.

Everyone had a blanket of black smoke around their faces and body. Anirudhha resembled a cartoon, with his nose and cheeks covered with black smoke. But the man was brave at only an year and one month of age he displayed a very calm attitude but for coughing, when children twice or thrice his age were screaming their guts out as they were running out.

Well to sum up…

a) This fire was started by a bunch of three kids who were playing inside their apartment (unsupervised)

b) It required two fire engines and about 4-5 fire fighters inside the apartment to put the fire off and rescue the inmates.

c) Roopa, Anirudhha and me are safe and sound. It took us a cool 2.5 hours before we were allowed to go inside the building.

d) The corridor now bears the remains of last afternoon, covered with a layer of soot. The smell of smoke would take days before it clears up.

The moral of the story…

a) Never leave your kid(s) unattended, especially when they are in a very playful mood.

b) As far as possible dissuade / don’t allow your kids playing with fire

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The famed Stanford commencement speech


This is the inspirational Stanford commencement speech of Steve Jobs delivered on June 12, 2005.

Most of us would have read this as an email attachment sometime in the recent past. I used to get spammed by this email every alternative day from one of my friends.

I love this presentation / speech. I rank this as one of the best presentations I have ever come across, sans the omnipresent powerpoint.

Stay hungry, stay foolish

God bless Steve Jobs!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Customer Care(less)

One of my friends recently bought a new car. When he did so, he sold his old car and settled the loan he had on it and took another loan from the same bank for his new car.

The used car dealer who was buying his old car required a “Liabilities letter” or a statement that spelt out how much was outstanding on this car loan (normally the amount outstanding on the loan is directly paid to the bank by the used car dealer). When my friend contacted the bank’s call center they told him it would take half an hour for them to issue this letter if he went to the branch from which he had taken this loan. And this would be done free of charge.

When my friend went to the branch the response was diametrically opposite. The guys at the branch informed him that they would take 2 working days to prepare this letter for him and it would cost him Dh. 100.

All my friends efforts to reason with the staff there went in vain. Finally the lady in the branch (head of customer care in the branch) offered a solution. She said she would get this charged waived off under the ground that my friend is continuing his relationship with the bank by means of the loan for his new car.

My friend walked out of the branch a victor. He had finally managed to get the Dh. 100 on the letter waived off. But his feeling of triumph didn’t last long. In came his next months statement from the bank and they had promptly deducted Dh. 100 from his account for the liabilities letter.

The friend obviously was furious, he shot out mails to the head of marketing & sales, the head of customer service and the manager of the branch where he transacted.

He is still waiting to hear from the bank. I am not sure how long he would.

How could this have been averted?

1. Had all the employees of the bank spoken the same language (the call center and the branch)

2. Had the staff in the branch communicated to their internal departments about the waiver of charges and obtained their approvals immediately

3. The most important of all, this customer has a relationship worth more than Dh.100,000 with the bank. To grow that relationship, the least the bank can do is to waive 0.1% of the loan amount, which is nothing but an administrative cost.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sharjah by day
















The Sharjah I see, from my bedroom window

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Learn a new word in English

This is Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims all around the world. So it is a custom here in the UAE to have tents / facilities in all major roads / streets where people who are fasting could break their fast in the evening or have their Iftar.

"Faster breakfast tent"


This one is a big sign board on one of those tents along the Emirates Road, which is an express way that connects all the emirates.

“Faster” the one who is fasting

“Breakfast” the meal that breaks the fast Iftar

Was wondering if it would have made good if it just read “Iftar tent”.

I am sure everyone in this region knows what Iftar is.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Me in Campaign ME - The Link

There seems to be a problem in the link for the original article from the previous post. I believe one must subscribe to CampaignME and log-in before you access the article.
To make lives simpler I'm putting up here snapshots (taken from the CampaignMe website) of the Brand Healthcheck and Diagnosis sections.



Me in Campaign ME

I had written a letter to the Campaign ME editor on something I read in their September 03, 2006 issue.

They have a section called Brand Healthcheck. Here, they take a brand and discuss about its health in terms of how it is currently doing in the market and what its marketing plans are. At the end of which they have another small section called Diagnosis where someone from the industry suggests remedial action / course correction to improve the brands visibility / market performance.

This letter I wrote to the editor was basically a rejoinder with respect to certain remedial actions this person had suggested for Land Rover / Range Rover in the Diagnosis section. Take a look at the article here.

I am grateful to the folks at Campaign ME for having published my views in their September 24, 2006 issue.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A roundtable, coffee, biscuits and needless discussions

I have been feeling for a while that meetings are a waste of time. It only provides you an opportunity to sit around a table, drink coffee, nibble biscuits and have some directionless conversation. What makes this more sickening is the fact that one needs to waste more time drawing up a minutes for this wasted time.

I think emails and phone calls serve the purpose more than having a meeting in person.

This observation of mine doesn’t hold good when there is some real pressing need for having people across the table or when you are meeting a genuinely concerned person who wants a solution for his problem. For example an account review, finalizing a campaign, putting together the annual plan, budgets etc.

I wanted to validate this observation of mine by collating some data on the meetings I have been taking for the last one month. This includes the time spent on meetings internally as well as with the clients (leaving alone the joblist reviews and other trivial meetings).

Then figuring out the purpose of the meeting, how much time did we have the meeting for, did we come to any useful conclusion at the end of the meeting and most importantly was the conclusions reviewed and the action taken.

I found that I have taken 14 meetings in the last 31 days.

The average time I have spent on meetings is approximately 42 hours

Of this 42 hours only about 7.5 hours were productive. This means we discussed business only 7.5 hours of the 42 hours of sitting around a table.

So what the hell were we doing in the other 34.5 hours?

a) Waiting for someone to join us
b) Waiting when someone part of the meeting took a washroom break
c) Waiting for someone to finish a call
d) Discussing about biscuits, toffee and the coffee that was being served
e) Discussed about George W Bush, C Rice and Saddam
f) Discussed music, record labels and chart busters
g) Discussed countries and economies
h) Counting the number of mechanical cranes in Dubai
i) Discussing about the metro project in Dubai
j) Postmortem on the Football world cup and a curtain raiser on the Cricket world cup
k) Sharing some stupid jokes and pretended to be laughing
l) Meaninglessly digressed off topic
m) Worthlessly debated a non issue

Well, these are only some I could take note of. There were many other very important moments as part of this 34.5 hours.

Of that 7.5 hours, we had these two almost an hour long meetings. These are the ones I would remember from the last 31 days as meaningful meetings where we arrived at a decision and have actioned it since.

So, only 2 out of 14 have been productive meetings overall. Except for those few minutes of productive time from the others.

So what could we infer from these statistics?

1) Never gather a large crowd for meetings
2) Like a parrot keep saying “What we are discussing in this meeting is…” every 10 minutes
3) Try and close trivial things over phone or emails
5) Take meetings if and only if it is of extreme importance. Say, while starting something or closing a deal
6) Try and levy a fees for meetings. “An hour of mine costs $ X”

This is what I could take out from the last 31 days. Hope I learn from the mistakes I have committed in the last 31 days and correct them soon.

But I am sure I can never avoid this, but maybe I can try reduce the amount of time lost.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sharjah by nite



This is the view of Sharjah from my bedroom window.

It is Ramadan

Today is the second day of the holy month of Ramadan.

There would be very less or no activities this month apart from prayers and evening fast breaking get-together during the course of this month. That said all the marketers in the region would spend the month planning and would go full blast post Eid ul-Fitr or the festival of breaking fast, the day that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Why is the month of Ramadan considered holy?

Muslims believe that during Ramadan, the revelation of the Qur'an to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) began.

What happens during this month?

The Muslims fast from dawn (fajr) to dusk (maghrib). They don’t eat, drink or smoke during the fasting period.

More on Ramadan here

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Another interesting cabbie I met

This time, it is a Sharjah Taxi cabbie with whom I traveled from my house at Sharjah to my office in Dubai.

Mr Khan is from Peshawar in Pakistan. So, as usual the talk started with the Indo-Pak relations and ended with Cricket. The most interesting thing was to be told that he is Pak cricketer Shahid Afridi’s cousin.

It was nice talking about cricket (with special reference to Pakistan, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad & India – Pakistan matches) with Khan.

Good 2 hours spent.

Goodbye Croc Hunter…



We lost a famous son of Australia Steve Irvin to a sting ray barb accident starting this month. This one is a piece from his memorial service in the Australia Zoo. His 6 year old daughter Bindi Sue Irvin’s tribute to her illustrious father.

It is touching, her opening line sums it up all…

Steve was sure a hero to people like me who grew up watching him grapple with crocs, snakes and lizards.

Steve, Bye Bye. Rest in peace.

End of the hiatus...

Well it is almost 20 days since I wrote something.

I was looking for 3 good reasons why I was not posting, here they are...

1) I was busy with my office

2) I was busy with my office

3) I was busy with Anirudhha

Ok... Here I am back in action after the "post nelson" (the 111th post here) break.

Cheers!!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Debonairs Pizza

On Thursday, me and a couple of my colleagues went to this joint in Dubai for lunch.

While we were amused by the name, Debonair which is quite unusual for a Pizza joint. The stuff they had to offer was great, and had a distinctively Indian flavor.

I was told that the owner of this joint is an Indian. The strongest possibility is that his name is Debo, a Malayalee “Nair” (a clan of people from the South Indian state of Kerala who are found in abundance in the UAE and the Persian gulf).

This is a list of what we managed to sample that day. Chicken Tikka Pizza, Mumbai Masala Pizza, Hot Chick Pizza etc. All these come with a generous dose of Indian herbs and masala.

We had a good meal for about Dh.70.

Thank you Mr Debo Nair.

God bless.

PS: I just found that Debonairs is a South African chain operating around the globe. Hence my wishful thinking about Mr. Debo Nair wouldn't be true. But Mr. Nair might as well be the franchise for Dubai!! More about Debonairs here

Genie in the cupboard




I snapped Anirudhha sitting inside one of our cupboards and enjoying himself while we were shifting houses. It was quite a sight to watch.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The role of software in a CRM program

In the last couple of weeks I have been part of many discussions on CRM programs and the scope of software in CRM. Being part of the industry, I think it is my responsibility to clarify (again) that CRM is not a piece of software as most of the people think.

Even some of my learned colleagues from the Direct Marketing & CRM industry think otherwise, such is their knowledge and awareness about CRM.

And hence I thought it would be useful if I tried clarifying the role of software in CRM and try illustrate what happens to CRM if we don’t have a software system with some examples.

Data collation

This is the first step of any CRM program.

The data helps us understand who our customers are and what their needs, wants & preferences are.

We used to fill in sheets of papers before technology made our lives simpler. Now we use online forms, web based data capture forms, touch screens etc.

Advantages of technology

1) The time and effort needed to decipher handwriting and collating all the data into one platform is minimized

2) Capture errors are minimized

What if we didn’t have technology?

There wouldn’t have been any change, except an additional few hours capturing data from a sheet of paper and standardization.

Therefore technology or no technology a CRM program can be initiated.

The technology is only meant to make our lives simpler.

Now that you have collected data and know your customers / prospects, what is the next step?

Using the data to offer what the customer wants.

And hence building a relationship with the customer.

What do we do? (some examples)

1) Send communications in the language a customer has requested for.

2) Send him the offers he had requested.

3) Leave those customers who didn’t want to be contacted alone.

4) Send the customer an invitation for the category he / she is interested in.

What if we didn’t have technology?

An office boy and an account executive from the direct marketing agency would be sorting all the feedback forms from the customers and arranging them up in piles according to preferences.

This sorted / standardized pile would be used for the exercise they are planning to undertake.

This is a manual process and hence the process needs to be repeated for every exercise the brand wants to do.

Therefore you don’t necessarily need a data warehousing or reporting software for a CRM program. You need two patient people with two good pairs of eye to do the job.

These are some examples to prove that a good CRM program would survive without any software support.

To sum up

1) Any CRM program starts with understanding who our customers are, without C there is no CRM.

2) A software program helps us minimize time and save costs.

3) Software is not and cannot be, the be all and end all of any CRM program.

4) CRM is a dynamic environment, you can’t have a one size fits all solution.

5) Software works on algorithms, a customer doesn’t . He relies on his experiences with the brand, his impulses and his needs & wants.

6) Customer Relationship Marketing, as the name itself suggests starts with building relationships with your customers. A software can’t build relations, only humans can.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Touchpoints and Moment Of Truth

This is going to be a tricky post. Simply because 2 out of the 3 terminologies mentioned here have been spoken about at length by the executives of my alma mater OgilvyOne and are their properties. So I need to tread the thin line between plagiarism and quoting someone

What is a Touchpoint?

Touch points are the occasions when a brand gets closer to its customers in order to create a positive brand experience.

Touchpoints can be any attempt a brand makes to contact our customers.

I tried dividing the Touchpoints into two categories, and here is what we have

1. Common touchpoints
2. Creative touchpoints

What is a Common touchpoint?

The basic of touch points, it is a hygiene or rather a mandate that any brand does these. These are the starting point of any customer's relation with a brand. And they are mostly “Me-too” replicated by others.

Example 1: A poster or any Point of Sale material at the shop floor. This definitely makes the customer look-up to the brand and is surely a touchpoint. But unfortunately almost everyone does it.

Example 2: A welcome kit or a starter kit with consumer durables or automobiles. You must have some form of communication to ensure that the customer enjoys using the brand. And therefore to make him understand the basics of the brand you use this medium.

What is a Creative touchpoint?

This type of touchpoint is mostly data dependent. There is a lot of thinking and strategy involved to arrive at this. This type of touchpoint ensures that the brand produces a WOW effect on the customer.

This basically is a touchpoint hitting the customer at the right time at the right place. This is what in OgilvyOne terms is called the Moment Of Truth or MOT.

Example 1: You have run 25,000 Kms in your car. It is time for a service. How would you feel if your dealer calls you now and requests you to bring your car for service?

You will surely feel flattered when you are asked to come for a service just at the time you are starting to think about the service.

Example 2: We had a new business pitch and I had to work 2 full days to complete the presentation and the related collateral. I was completely worn out when the pitch was over, I was thinking about taking a day off. That was when my boss called me and gave me a days leave of absence.

I didn’t expect it, but I wished I had a day’s leave. I felt flattered and my loyalty to the organization and my love for my boss slightly increased for the time being.

Increased contacts with the customer or more touchpoints would increase the loyalty and create a better bond with the customers for a brand.

Now let us see an example from the automobile industry and let us count the number of occasions the brand is in touch with us till one buys a car.

1. You hear about the brand through your friends or somebody you know.
2. You get brochures and literature about the brand and read them
3. You see advertisements / outdoor / signages
4. You go to the showroom
5. Speak to a salesman
6. You take a test drive
7. The salesman calls you back with a deal for you

Here we have counted 7 occasions where the brand would be in close touch with you. This is just a count of the minimum, this is bound to increase in a real life scenario.

In the OgilvyOne lexicon there is one more terminology. They call this the “Critical Loyalty Drivers”.

This is defined as a touchpoint that can lead to a customer opinion (about the brand) being formed.

A Critical Loyalty Driver is not necessarily a Moment Of Truth. But if strategically timed it has the potential to make or break a relationship the brand has with its customers. And a Critical Loyalty Driver could turnout to be an important Moment Of Truth.

Example of a positive Critical Loyalty Driver

I go to a bank for getting an account opened. There is a long queue standing before I could get my job done. Now imagine a customer service executive offering me a cup of coffee and a warm word “We are sorry for the delay. But I’m sure that you would have your turn by the time you have this cup of coffee”.

This makes me think that I have landed in a very safe, caring, proactive bank. I have a good opinion formed about the bank.

While this may or may not be a MOT, this is surely a touchpoint at a crucial juncture that would have made or broken the relationship I was supposed to have with the bank.

Example of a negative Critical Loyalty Driver

My monthly bank statement has just arrived. And I can’t believe that they have wrongly debited $200 without any reason. I am pissed and uncontrollably angry.

The bank statement is a routine touchpoint. But this touchpoint takes the shape of a Critical Loyalty Driver because of my experience with the brand in this particular touchpoint.

This experience may even make me close my account with the bank and end the relationship.

Summing up

a) Touchpoints are the routine contacts a brand has with its suspects, prospects or a customer.

b) When the customer finds a particular touchpoint important (positively or negatively), it becomes a Critical Loyalty Driver.

c) A touchpoint becomes a Moment Of Truth when it reaches the customer at an opportune moment when the customer was expecting or not at all expecting it to happen. Moment Of Truth are those (most) meaningful interactions a brand had with its customers.

d) To create touchpoints a brand should first understand its customers, their needs and wants.

e) The number of touchpoints a brand has with its customers and their timing would make a touchpoint a Critical Loyalty Driver or a Moment Of Truth.

More on CRM later...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bonds & Loyalty

What is loyalty?

It is the act of binding yourself to a course of action.

It is this loyalty that makes you love or hate a brand. The extent to which you are loyal to a particular brand may vary from person to person depending on his / her interactions & experiences with the brand.

As the loyalty increases one becomes a bonded customer for a particular brand.

Why do most of the Airlines we know run a loyalty program?

The aim of any loyalty program is to induce repeat purchase by rewarding the customers. Most of us get flattered by the smallest of rewards and become bonded to a particular brand for life.

What are the different types of loyalty?

There are two types of loyalty

1) Behavioral loyalty
2) Emotional loyalty

Behavioral loyalty: This is all about actions, behavior. A behaviorally loyal person cannot attribute any reasons as to why he or she has chosen a particular brand.

An example would be the telecom scene in the UAE. Everyone here has an Etisalat mobile connection. It is not because everyone loves the brand, but because they don’t have a second option.

Behavioral loyalty comes simply out of habit or because of a reason that there is no other option.

Emotional loyalty: This is about a combination of feelings and action. An emotionally loyal customer goes any length to buy his brand. He either buys his brand or doesn’t buy at all, such is Emotional loyalty.

A hardcore Harley fan doesn’t even touch other bikes. He or she is Emotionally loyal to the brand Harley.

The greater the emotional loyalty, the greater the sales… The real payoff for a brand
comes only when the customer gets on top of the emotional loyalty pyramid
Garth Hallberg, All consumers are not created equal (John Willy & Sons, 1995).

What is a bond?

1) A connection that fastens things together.
2) Stick to firmly.
3) Come together for a common cause.

A customer’s bonds with a particular brand is the result of the emotional loyalty he / she has towards the brand.

Simply put, as the emotional Loyalty increases the customer bonds with the brand. The brand becomes the customers favorite.

There are three types of bonds

1) Financial Bond: The simplest and the easiest of bonds to understand, the name explains what this means. This is a bond a customer develops with the brand because of “monetary offers”. This could be a voucher which the customer redeems for a product, a discount coupon, scoring rewards points etc.

I use my Citicard because I get more points compared to the other cards I own (this is an example and I don’t know if this is true!!)

2) Social Bond: This is when the brand creates a sense of belonging among its customers. The customer is made to feel as a part of the brands family. This bond works well in cases where the emotional loyalty is extremely high.

A good example of this would be the HOG (Harley Owners Group). The Harley owners feel part of the Harley family & culture and they feel proud about it.

3) Structural Bonds: This bonds comes into play when a customer has a formal, contractual relationship with a brand.

I have a service contract on my car with Arabian Automobiles (a dealer in Dubai). Therefore I am obligated or bound to go to them for getting my service done. I am structurally bonded with the dealership.

Amazon.com is one example of a brand successfully exploiting all three bonds to create a mutually beneficial relationship with the consumers.

1) They have you registered with a username and password – Structural Bond

2) They feed you with exactly the information you would need. If you are looking at buying or bought a fiction, they start feeding you with more fiction titles every time you login and they also throw in reviews from likeminded people – Social Bond

3) They also present you a free shipping option based on your purchase value etc. – Financial Bond

These bonds have their own strengths and weaknesses.

a) The Financial Bond is a double edged sword. This can easily be copied and bettered by your competition. But it gives you quick wins. In the long run it would be difficult for any brand to survive based on the strength of the financial bond it has with its customers.

b) The Social Bond tends to create a great amount of emotional loyalty. But a Social Bond can’t be a substitute for a substandard product, pricing or distribution.

c) The Structural Bond is very strong. But remember it can be broken once the structure collapses. In other words this bond ends when the period or tenor of the agreement ends.

Summing up

1) No one bond is greater than the other (even James Bond!!)
2) No bond is standalone. They have to be combined to produce a better result
3) The bonds are not a one time offer. It is the sustained effort a brand takes to foster a mutually beneficial relationship with its customers

Having spoken about loyalty and bonds we have to look at how we initiate a conversation with the customers first place.

We have to create touchpoints and more importantly create them at Moments of Truth (Something I learnt at OgilvyOne)

More about this in my next post…

I again have to thank OgilvyOne for making me what I am today, as far as Direct Marketing & CRM go...

And finally...

After having disappeared for 13 days, I am back in circulation.

In this two weeks,

1) I found a house in Sharjah. A two bedroom, hall, kitchen flat to end my house hunt

2) Shunted between the Sharjah Municipality and Sharjah Electricity & Water Authority to get my contract with my old landlord cancelled. Get the deposit refunded

3) Vacated the old place, which was the very tough job that took me and Roopa 3 ½ days of packing

4) Shifted the base and unpacked. The unpacking is still not over

5) Finished truck loads of work at office

6) And had my car serviced

To add to my woes my bad back and the slipping L2, L3, L4 gave me lots of trouble.

I was reminded about Jerome K Jerome’s “Three men in a boat” while packing things up.

To end, let me quote Jerome K Jerome

"I like work. It fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours."

And add my own one line…

“But when I do, it hurts.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

We grew up seeing this on TV



Those days (the 80’s) back in India there was only one television channel, the state run Doordarshan. This musical documentary used to run as a filler between programs.

Back in the 80’s television had just arrived and was getting popular.

This musical documentary made by the Film Division of India had its cult following in India, kids and elders alike. Everyone simply loved it and longed to see it again. In those days animation was something everyone loved to watch and it was a rarity if you didn’t count the Disney animations. This one hence, was something new to India (animation), with a fantastic jingle and an unforgettable storyline.

This is a take from the famed Aesop’s fables talking about the power of many. The Indian version was more about India’s “Unity in diversity” theme, how you can’t be defeated if you are united.

As you could see this documusical starts as a conversation between two characters, an elder sister and her kid brother.

The sister tells her kid brother the difference between one (Ek in Hindi) and many (Anek in Hindi).

So the jingle goes like this…

There is one Sun
There is one Moon
One, One, One… Adding up stars become many…

And it moves on to other examples and then comes the power of many, the famed Aesop’s fable.

One of the most power piece of communication I have ever seen on the Indian TV scene till date. This documusical had a cult following among the children of 80’s. And I have recently noticed that this is making a comeback as viral e-mail attachments and ringtones.

Simply unforgettable

Customer Relationship Marketing in action

In my last post we saw what CRM is. We know CRM starts with compiling a database. Now the question is how does it work?

In a purists sense CRM is something done for customers, but it actually starts right from the prospecting stage. Many companies effectively start using a CRM program right from the lead generation stage.

First let us see the various stages in the lifecycle of a customer with a brand.

(I have been experiencing some problems uploading the JEPG file I have created illustrating the customer ownership cycle and hence it can't find a place here... those who want to get a copy of this can reach me at "raja dot baradwaj at gmail dot com" else the following is the best I can illustrate, please bear with me...)

Market--> Suspect--> Prospect--> Customer (A bonded customer if he gets too close)-->

Churned Customer (If a Customer doesn't come back or he has Churned out of the system)-->

The Churned customer goes back to the market to become a Suspect again (And this cycle continues)

Lead generation

1. Identifying suspects
2. Segregation of prospects
3. Addressing the prospects / calling for action

Acquisition

1. Welcoming the customer into our fold
2. Making the customer familiar with our systems and processes

Retention

1. Enhancing the product / buying experience
2. Redressal of problems
3. Sustained, relevant communication throughout the buying cycle
4. Rewarding loyalty and repurchase

Win back

1. Getting back those irate / dissatisfied customers into the fold

A CRM program would broadly encompass the four stages of the customer lifecylce. The program focuses on being in touch with the customers frequently and making sure they have a very happy brand experience.

The contact the brand has with its customers is called “Touchpoint”. In any customers lifetime with a brand he is bombarded with various touchpoints. The more (interesting) the touchpoints the better brand experience & feedback the customers would have.

Let us see an example of CRM with an automobile manufacturer

Who does he sell to?

1. Individuals like you and me
2. Companies who own a large fleet of cars

Lead generation in this category is usually facilitated by various media including the mass media like newspapers, TV, Radio, Outdoor and also focused media like web, road shows, direct mail. But whatever the media used, there is a definite call to action – asking people to walk in to a showroom or call a number for more details.

Once you see this communication, if you are interested
1. You call the showroom to know more details
2. Walk-in to the showroom asking for more details
3. Search the website for more details
4. Ask for a test drive

Whatever your mode of communication is, your data is captured and the lead is passed on to the relevant sales team for following-up with you.

The sales team takes over and tries selling you the car of your preference.

Assuming you have decided to buy the car. And you have bought, now what happens.

You go to the showroom to take delivery of the car. The dealership makes the process of registration, insurance etc. simpler by helping / guiding you do it.

They fill enough petrol in your car to ensure you are safe for at least the next couple of hours.

Some dealerships give you a small gift, some have you photographed receiving the car and they even frame it nicely before they hand it over.

A guy from the dealership then has a small chat with you, explaining what is what in your new car as you sit in it to drive out of the showroom.

After a day of owning your car you get a call from the dealership asking you about your experience with your car.

Three days from then you receive a welcome pack from the distributor. This also has the details of your contacts in the showroom & service center you might need in the future.

Two days from then you receive another call (only a few receive this). This time it is a survey checking how your buying experience has been.

From now on it is a set calendar that is followed…

a. Service reminders
b. Offers on accessories
c. A newsletter / magazined. Service offers
e. Birthday cards / greeting cards
f. Registration / insurance renewal reminders
g. Service feedback calls
h. Special offers
i. Referral programs
And many more

This continues for about three years, then comes the next phase. This is when one might start thinking about buying a new car (in the Middle East market people as seen to change their cars once in 4 years).

So by the third year you would be informed about the new model launches, buyback schemes, offers on price etc.

While the other communication would also continue, the focus would be on retaining you by selling you another car.

By the fourth year the dealers effort of selling you another car intensifies, I have noticed that more often than not people remain loyal to their car brands. And this is provided they didn’t have a really bad experience with their car or the dealership.

For those people who don’t buy again, they call you to find what you have bought and then keep in touch with you at regular intervals to see if you could come back to the brand again.

To conclude

How happy a customer is with a brand depends on the kind of bond the brand has forged with its customer(s).

This bond determines how loyal the customer would be to the brand and also enhances his experience with the brand.

More on bonds & loyalty later.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

An introduction to Customer Relationship Marketing

Fondly called CRM, most often it is mistaken for a software package. Thanks to the huge advertising spends of the software majors, even seasoned marketers think they can buy a CRM package off the shelf and immediately implement it ensuring a manifold growth of their business.

But unfortunately, most of the time these kinds of quick fix solutions don’t work and many discontinue their endeavor to implement a CRM program half way through. Now let us try understand what CRM is.

The starting point of any Relationship Marketing exercise is data. Let me tell you a simple example...

When I say my son’s name is Aniruddha, what does it mean in relationship marketing terms?

1. In my mental database, I have fixed who Anirudhha is
2. I know where he lives, what he likes and what he dislikes. Meaning I have a full demographic and psychographic map of this person
3. I also know his family and friends

Now based on what I know about Anirudhha, I can give him what he wants and please him. And not give him what he doesn’t so that I don’t piss him off.

So database is the starting point of any relationship marketing activity. Beyond this database you need a human intervention to create and nurture a relationship

What is Customer Relationship Marketing?

CRM is the process of actively deepening your knowledge of your customers over time, and then using that knowledge to customize your business to meet customer’s individual needs...
(A definition I learnt during my OgilvyOne days)

The knowledge mentioned in this definition is acquired by building a database of information about the customers.

While a software package would help you compile a database. You need human intervention to compile the data, tell the software what it should do and carry on with it beyond the software to your consumers doorsteps.

This human is not simply a programmer who gives command or writes codes. This is somebody who knows marketing first place, has lots of commonsense, understands what the consumers need and plans the marketing activities accordingly.

To conclude

CRM is a dynamic environment. As the definition suggests you need to keep deepening your knowledge about your customers and then customize your business based on the customers needs and wants.

The CRM software packages are like the files you use in your office. The files would help you arrange your papers properly and store it safely. But the conduct of your business depends on how intelligently you make use those papers filed.

Quite often than not the files get old and you need a replacement.

Remember

CRM is driven by data, but it is only the starting point.
The software you use don’t create relationships by itself

More about CRM in my subsequent posts…

Monday, August 14, 2006

An introduction to Direct Marketing

Direct Marketing is an interactive system of marketing that uses one or more advertising media to effect a measurable response and / or transaction at any location, with this activity stored on database. (Source - Direct Marketing Magazine)

So direct marketing is not just

a. An invitation or a statement that comes to you through post / courier
b. “Take a look at our catalogue and call 1-800 to order”
c. It is not a “cut this, fill in your details and win a gift” on a magazine or newspaper
d. 40% off between August 01, 2006 and September 07, 2006, rush now...

So what is it?

It is another stream / way of marketing

As the definition above suggests you are a Direct Marketer if

1) You use any one or more media vehicles
2) Communicate with a select target audience
3) Measure the response / transaction by the media vehicle used
4) Track this activity using a database
5) And most importantly use the database so generated for your future marketing activities

An example we all know & have seen…

“Call 1-800-183939 to get a home loan at 0% interest” This is an advertisement we all see on newspapers, hear in our radios, see on the web as banners and so on, frequently.

If you are interested, you call the number specified. The person there teases you with some information about the product and asks for more details about you. So you give them information on who you are (contact information) and much more (including some details like your salary, your age etc.)

After this conversation there are two possibilities.

1) The lady who speaks tells you that you are eligible for the loan and says that she would ask someone from her sales department to get in touch with you
2) She says “Sorry sir / madam you don’t qualify (because of some reasons she would explain)”

In both cases your details are retained with the banks / financial institutions database and they would definately use your details for some future marketing plans they might have.

So what can Direct Marketing do?

1) Identification of a suspect (a prospective consumer)
2) Target the suspect, convert him into a prospect
3) Obtain more information from a prospect, generate a lead
4) In some cases enable a sale, convert the prospect into a consumer – Acquisition
5) Be in dialogue with the existing customers, keep them in the flock – Help retain people
6) Get in touch with those who are not customers anymore – Try win them back

In a nutshell, a Direct Marketing agency formulates strategies (for its clients, obviously) for

a) Lead generation – Generation of prospects
b) Acquisition – Getting new customers
c) Retention – Keeping in touch with the existing customers
d) Win back – Getting those who left us comeback

So what is the difference between advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing?

Advertising: It is the usage of mass media. You speak to people en masse, you never know who exactly you are speaking to and in general it doesn’t call the target audience to take an action immediately.

Sales promotion: A short term route you take to immediately hike your sales up. While the means used might tempt us to call this direct marketing, it is not. Because it usually is a one time effort and there is no follow-up or a sustained contact.

Direct Marketing: It is cyclic process. Using this you give birth to a consumer, give him a name & identity (building a database), hold this persons hand throughout his lifetime (sustained communication) and also be the good shepherd who brings in the consumers who go astray (winning back).

To conclude

Direct Marketing is sustained personal and relevant communication by generation of a database of information on the suspects, prospects & consumers.

I am very grateful to Ogilvyone Worldwide for whatever little I know about direct marketing today