Cover pic for this post, a composite of ebay's image of "10 Crore Products" along with their message of 'not judge'

Irfanvertising | Ebay Shows the Way

Irfanvertising LogoYou are not among the top three e-commerce sites in India. You didn’t go in for a logo change recently, or even about a year back. You in fact have struggled with an identity change since you entered India: you were an online auction site in the US and, since that concept was new here and never did catch on, you then became an e-tailer, like many of the others. You were launching your festive season campaign much later than the others, and perhaps with shallower pockets. And you don’t seem to have any discounts on your site, or at least in your advertising. How then do you stand out?

You do something radical.

That’s what ebay.in has done with its festive season campaign, #ThingsDontJudge. The TVC begins with an “obviously” effete guy practicing Bharatanatyam. Your eyes open wider with what happens two sequences down the line: a guy on his knees, wedding band in hand (yes, a guy with a wedding band), proposing to… another guy. And both are everyday-looking guys. That’s the more radical part.

After this, the other sequences might seem less “rad” in comparison. But they have their own charm, speaking with their intended audience in their own ways. A homemaker rests her visibly tired feet and body on a recliner. Yes, homemakers needing rest is a revolutionary idea in many an Indian household. And finally, a gran skipping to her inner child’s content in a park. Nothing great about that, for you’ve seen that in tons of commercials, right? Yes, while this one might seem the softest one, when you see the audience it’s targeting – getting an older generation to think of buying online, even as something as simple as a skipping rope – that is sensational.

When I see impressive commercials such as these (all the YouTube comments I scrolled through were mostly positive, and some even said that ebay is suddenly their most favourite e-commerce site; so, advertising, nay, good advertising works, no?), I try backtracking. How would they have arrived at this? What insight would they have worked with? What inspiring message from the servicing person in the brief and briefing (hopefully) would have given them this flight of fancy?

In this case, it seems quite work-out-able. An advantage of buying stuff online is that the seller, unlike in a brick-and-mortar store, doesn’t really see who you are and therefore doesn’t form an opinion of you – whether you are too old for something, that you are a man buying a “woman’s product”, what use you’ll put it to… And therefore, you can go ahead and buy it without fear of the attendant judging you, or in other words, as it addresses in the commercial too, “log kya kahenge” (that perennial Indian fear of “what will people say?”).

Well, most people seem to be saying, “Yay!” Both to ebay and its advertising. This is sure to go well with the award judges.

The cover pic for this post, featuring the Israel (Tourism) logo and lead-in text
Cover pic for this post, with Meena Tai in the logo saying, "Baseline mangta..."

Irfanvertising | Meena Tai’s, Meena Tags

Irfanvertising LogoAs an ad guy and a branding- and logo-lover, I not surprisingly find myself scrutinizing the same in ads I view. And as an ad consultant, I often find myself emphasizing the need for this to potential clients. However, perhaps because the potential clients at my level and stage of working – I started out on my own just about a year ago, that too in an Indian metro not really known for its ad industry (Chennai), compared with the earlier metro I was in, which is considered the Mecca of Indian advertising (Bombay / Mumbai) – are “relatively small”, I find them not quite getting the necessity of having a baseline to emphasize their promise to their potential customers, or at the very least, to accentuate their branding.

So, when I get a chance to come up with the baseline / tagline of a brand, that too of a category I love (food / hospitality), that too for a restaurant I have been to, loved and blogged about, how can I pass up the opportunity?

The logo for Meena Tai's, the newly opened Maharashtrian restaurant in ChennaiThus, when the relatively new upscale Maharashtrian restaurant, Meena Tai’s, announced a tagline contest on its FB page, I dove right in. Into my scribbling pad. I sweated and swotted over it for a few days, then as the end date approached, decided to go for gold by not just putting it in the comments section of the post as most folk seemed to be doing, but creating a PPT for it. Complete with a ToC, notes, routes (Maharashtra-based, Tai-based, Maharashtra- and Tai-based, Marathi-based), and yes, even an end Thanks slide. Any surprise then… that I ended up winning!?! That, and the fact that I love the restaurant, and was born and have lived in its source state for the better part of my life.

Below are some of my entries, the one that won, links to the blog posts I’ve done on it (from a vegan perspective, of course) and the site’s own links. Check them out while I go do nom-nom. The prize is a dinner for two.

A few of my entries for the Meena Tai's tagline contestThe acknowledgement post for my winning entry for the Meena Tai's tagline contest

The first of my two blog posts on Meena Tai’s, this one a prologue: Meena Tai’s – Prologue

The second of my two blog posts on Meena Tai’s, this one the main post: Meena Tai’s – Vegan / Friendly

Meena Tai’s on FB: MeenaTais

Meena Tai’s on the web, or should I say, bheb: meenatais.com

A pic of the Nike Da Da Ding TVC, twisted to 'Just Da It'

Irfanvertising | Just Da It

Irfanvertising LogoI’m guessing,

Because the sporty male target audience is saturating,

Nike’s getting into female targeting –

They know women like spending,

And now they’re also getting

Into football, cricket and kick-boxing,

So, they’re featuring

Top women players in everything

Sporting,

And to make it more attracting,

They’re even pulling

In the Bollywood queen reigning,

So, everyone’s going –

‘Da da ding’

And hoping

The cash registers will be sounding –

‘Ta ta ting’.

Illlustration of a sombre-looking Oriental girl wondering, 'Where is he?'

Irfanvertising | Only the Girls

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The new (actually, not-so-new) Jeevansathi.com TVC shows a desirable man “still looking” for his better half. It might have the guy speaking, but it’s actually speaking to the girl, as a target audience (TA).

Similarly, the Shaadi.com TVC that came sometime back had girls speaking – about what they were looking for in their guy as well as sharing their own attitudes – but they too were talking to the girl, as a TA.

No surprise actually that the matrimonial sites are talking to the girl. Only the girls seem to be looking. While the guys seem to be busy playing to their stereotypes: commitment-phobic, not looking, interested only in LTRs (light-term relationships) and not LTRs (long-term relationships).

Any wonder then that if TVCs themselves are something to go by (Fastrack from 2013 and Anouk by Myntra from last year), women are turning to themselves?

Cover pic for this post, using a part of the Social Beat Digital Chai pe Charcha ad and my text

Irfanvertising | On the ‘Social Beat’

Irfanvertising LogoLogo of Chennai-HQed social-media agency, Social BeatSocial Beat is a, or even, the leading social media agency in Chennai. They’ve handled digital marketing (DM) and social media marketing (SMM) for clients ranging from start-ups to conglomerates. But that isn’t why I’m talking about them. And no, I don’t consult with them either.

The Digital Chai pe Charcha post for Content MarketingOnce a month or so, since January this year, Social Beat has been organizing these DM / SMM chat sessions called Digital Chai pe Charcha (DCPC). These are open to all and free of charge. (Why, Social Beat even sponsors beverages and biscuits for attendees.) Each session is around a chosen topic – which they publicize for about 10 days or so before the session – and goes on for about 1-1.5 hours. So far, there have been sessions around content marketing (one of my areas, which I ironically missed as I was out of the city / country), digital advertising, Instagram, ROI on DM (Social Beat’s baby, as ‘ROI’ is there in their baseline too, and thus obviously what their agency focuses on), and the first one was a generic one.

The sessions are beneficial for multiple, though perhaps expected, reasons: networking, knowledge-sharing and gaining, and in my case, refreshing. I had taken up a course in DM from NIIT about a couple of years ago when I started working in a digital agency. However, I didn’t start applying the knowledge until I started off on my own. These sessions at Social Beat thus act like monthly checkpoints, showing me how much more I know since yesterday or the last time and what gaps I need to fill. And even where I don’t seem to know much (like with the Instagram and ROI sessions), I still seem to end up being quite a vocalizer, as I am then eager to know more, or even all.

Logo for On1yDCPC has also been good as it has led to one work, or rather showcase, opportunity. I blog a lot about vegan stuff (under the series, IrfindingVegan). So, when Social Beat organized a food bloggers’ meet for On1y, a brand of gourmet herbs, spices and seasonings, I requested them to accommodate me, although I don’t really consider myself an “influencer”. (I don’t have too many followers on my blog, but that’s because I blog about several things – which is what my blog tagline says too – and I’m okay with this.) The good folk at Social Beat (am connected with most of the senior folk on social media) were kind enough to do so, and I eventually found myself at The Raintree, Anna Salai one Friday, first listening to a presentation about On1y and then tasting some fine dishes sprinkled with their range. I of course touched only the vegan dishes. Happily enough, all of On1y’s range is vegan.

The sessions seemed to have served their purpose for Social Beat too. I’m guessing they initiated this to be seen as thought leaders / experts in what they do, network with potential clients and other professionals, and provide a forum for DM / SMM / start-up discussions.

Not surprisingly then, I look forward to these sessions, and ever since they started being held on a Saturday evening (as against Friday evening earlier), it’s become even easier to go for them. Last time, they even asked us what we’d like to discuss next. Some suggestions that came up were influencer marketing, growing a brand organically on DM / SMM, handling negative comments (trolling) on SMM. I can’t wait.

A pic from the first Digital Chai pe Charcha session

A pic from the first Digital Chai pe Charcha session. Me at the back in blue. And trust me never to be looking at the camera.

And oh, why did I pen this piece? Is it some form of content marketing for them? (No, don’t think they need it, although any positive press never hurts.) Work opps from them or other professionals and clients coming there? (Nah, the info coming from there is precious enough for now, though again, chats with potential clients and new connects never hurt either.) Well, simply to return the favour. I don’t like freeloading.

And that’s not why I don’t touch the beverages and biscuits. One’s unhealthy and the other unvegan. But then again, the sessions are refreshment enough.

A close-up of the famous Hulk Hogan's famous moustache

Irfanvertising: Brandamania!

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This year is the 25th anniversary of several of my favourite things…

The secondary-section building of St Xavier's School, KolkataIt’s been two decades and a half since I left school, actually, schools. I was in two schools from the first to the 10th across two cities (and in a third for my KG) – from class 1 to a bit of 9 in St Xavier’s, Calcutta / Kolkata and 9 through 10 in Don Bosco, Bombay / Mumbai. I had great joys in Xavier’s – the greatest being winning the inter-class football tournament in classes 7 and 8 – and my two best friends come from Bosco. I don’t know if the Bosco folks are organizing a 25th year reunion, but I know the Xavier’s folks are, and I plan to go.

A still from 'Lamhe' featuring the younger Anil Kapoor and older Sridevi charactersIt will also be the silver anniversary, come November, of one of my favourite films of all time. Lamhe released, I believe I remember correctly, on November 21, 1991, along with Ajay Devgan / Devgn (man, people’s names have changed along with those of cities in this period) debuting in Phool aur Kaante. And promptly flopped. (Phool aur Kaante became a roaring hit.) The story of first a younger man (Anil Kapoor brave enough to play this character and take off his moustache) falling in unrequited love with an older woman (Sridevi) and then the woman’s daughter (Sridevi again, doing very well to look and project an 18-year old) falling for this now-older man (Kapoor) was considered too “advanced” for its time. Most aspects of the movie (music, acting, cast) were appreciated by the masses and the movie itself by the folks who could see beyond society-instilled taboo and of course by romantics such as myself. But the movie, due to that big mental block of a storyline, could not last beyond some lamhe at the box office. Thus clipping Anil Kapoor’s contention for the numero uno position, after big hits the previous few years (Tezaab, Ram Lakhan, Parinda). Whenever I’ve watched the movie, though, I still feel good and warm in all the right places.

The older logo of the earlier-name World Wrestling FederationAnd it will be also be 25 years since WWF / WWE (here we went with the name changes again) came to India. WWF caught the imagination of a nation of testosterone-charged and adrenaline-pumping teen boys (I was then) and also some grown-up men like perhaps IPL in its early seasons. Guys quickly became familiar with moves like clotheslines, power-bombs and DDTs, and with wrestler names, or rather nicknames, like Macho Man Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, and the star of this piece, Hulk Hogan.

Hulk Hogan in heavily graphicized version of his T-shirt ripping gimmick

In my opinion, for the longest time, Hulk Hogan was WWE and WWE was Hulk Hogan. With his blonde hair (what was left of it), moustache (which has come to signify him as much as Anil Kapoor’s) and trunks, his pythons (his bulky arms, not serpents; Jake the Snake Roberts was the actual snake guy), his ripping of his T-shirt before the match, the ear-tipping to the fans on the four sides of the squared circle at the end of the encounter (of course, only on winning); in short, his brand of Hulkamania and therefore his legion of Hulkamaniacs, fans who loved and mimicked him.

While I continue to feel fond for Xavier’s and Calcutta (I can’t ever call it ‘Kolkata’) and football and Bombay (I can’t ever call it ‘Mumbai’) and Lamhe and Anil Kapoor (after losing out in the Bollywood war to the Khans, Kapoor seems to have come back with a bang as a senior actor), I think I lost my craze for WWE a long time back. Like with most other folks / guys back then. Many lost interest on realizing it’s staged, I on finding the new age of WWE pro wrestlers to be very assembly line, and almost everyone on just growing up.

I wasn’t so hot about Hogan either. In fact, I think I actually preferred Ric Flair to the Hulk – I dare say he had more charisma (with his ‘Wooooooooo’ and post-win strut) and he kept himself enough fit to last a long time, going on to fights with sons of wrestlers he had fought in his heydays (Randy Orton, I believe; s/o Cowboy Bob Orton).

The text 'Hulkamania' in red against a yellow backgroundBut where I dig Hogan, and this is the point of the piece (what, you thought this was me on a nostalgia trip, after a reference to advertising in the piece’s title?), was that he was a… brand. At a time when terms like ‘personal branding’ and ‘celebrity branding’ hadn’t even come to the minds of the people marketing Bombay Times.

Here’s a stellar example of what I mean. In college, a few years after WWF had entered and become a craze, I had gone for one of those inter-college fests. I would go only for the quizzes, but for this one, for some reason, I think because we had time to kill, we decided to also go for one of those word games, like Taboo and such. One of the members in another team, on getting the word on his chit of paper, just uttered the clue-word ‘canary’ to his partner sitting on my side. And his partner went pat: ‘Hulk Hogan’. Killer. I don’t think if the personality was some other wrestler, anyone else would have got it. Even Macho Man would have required two words (you could use only one at a time): Crazy Glares.

A graphic of Hulk Hogan's face, with moustache, red bandanna and yello T-shirtAnd I got thinking of all this not because, like my school days and Lamhe, I was fondly reminiscing about Hogan, but because in someone’s post on FB a few days back, I saw an image that someone had shared that reminded me of what the Hulk would look like in / as an icon. And I commented as much, attaching a graphic of the Hulk as an icon. On doing a Google Image search to get this image, I realised what an instantly recognizable brand the Hulk is: through just a graphic. (Why, if he decided to come up with an app, this is what its logo would look like.) After all, didn’t you too, if you are 30+, recognize the guy in the cover pic by just the moush? Go, on, say, “Yes, brother!”

BTW, I didn’t pen this piece solely out of some admiration for the Hulk or due to my love for branding, but because I was approached for a personal branding exercise of sorts for someone. (It may or may not happen, though.) Plus, I’ve been fascinated by how celebs use Twitter (and Instagram) to promote themselves. Yes, call me a… brandamaniac!

 Anyway, you can check out this slightly oldish interview of the Hulk on his site, talking of personal branding, among other things: Hulk on Personal Branding