Archive for the ‘management’ Category

Lorenz attractors

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

The problem with picking marketing/brand management as a career is that your earning potential is definitely capped. It’s like picking supply chain management as a career option – even the absolute best experts in the field, the people right at the 90th percentile and above, only earn about twice that of someone just starting out. In brand management, the ratios are slightly better since general management is infinitely more accessible, but even the GM in my Southern company makes only ~$200K as his base pay (and add another ~$300K or so as a bonus).

This is totally different from, say, finance. Or even sales. If you’re an entry-level sales person, or someone without the best pedigree or connections, you start out as a door-to-door salesperson or someone selling sabun to kirana stores, making the equivalent of ~$50 a day. Slightly better educational qualifications, or slightly better connections, keep getting you higher in the food chain – to pharma sales, to CPG/FMCG sales, to regional sales/distributorships, to financial sales, to the investment banking sales/trading floor. In the last category, a person 5+ years in earns ~$5-10 Million per year, about 300X of the door-to-door salesperson.

I can’t think of the equivalent ‘big bang for your buck’ niche in marketing.

Women typical use considerations like work/life balance, etc. when picking a career – even us ‘high-powered alpha women’ from ultra competitive business schools. Which is why brand management is a disproportionately favorite choice for so many of us. This means we think short-term, and forget the long-term career-long implications of our decisions – we earn less than our classmates for ever, even if the (often male) classmates weren’t all that great to begin with, they quickly overtake us in earning power because of that career line advantage. Marketing therefore gets us on the mommy track before motherhood/families even get a chance to hit us.

And this is the kind of stuff one should be taught to analyze in business school – not double-entry bookkeeping. Or, you should be smart enough to figure this out before you go about picking a career. Clearly, you get the profession you deserve!

Categories: diary, management, marketing

Cool FAIL by Burger King – again

July 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Russ Klein evidently spent his childhood ringing the doorbells of neighbors and running away and got caught plenty. Or John Chidsey, CEO of Burger King, had friends who did that, and he never got the guts to do so himself, so he’s making up for it now (no surprises here, apparently: “We want to stay on the cutting edge of pop culture,” says CEO John Chidsey, 44, whose office is lined with photos of himself with celebrities from Sheryl Crow to Tiger Woods.).

First off, you can’t be entirely cool-based if you’re aiming to be a high market share brand selling at a low price point for your category. That’s way too many things at once for too many people.
And second, One can be ‘kewl’ or edgy without falling off the edge entirely, really. Someone please show this awesomely written article to Burger King, stat:

Burger King’s MO: Offend, Earn Media, Apologize, Repeat

CHICAGO ( — How’s this for a global marketing strategy? Each month target a different international market with an ad that offends some segment of the population, then, after earning a lot of media attention, apologize and pull the ad.

That’s the pattern of offense Burger King has established in the past few months. Most recently, the fast feeder had cultural and religious groups screaming today in the latest installment of what has become a series of monthly melees. A few hours after an ABC News reported that ads in Spain depicted the Hindu goddess Lakshmi atop a ham sandwich — with the caption “a snack that is sacred” — Burger King announced that it would pull the ads. Many Hindus are, of course, vegetarian.

According to the statement: “Burger King Corporation values and respects all of its guests as well as the communities we serve. This in-store advertisement was running to support a limited-time-only local promotion for three restaurants in Spain and was not intended to offend anyone. Out of respect for the Hindu community, the in-store advertisement has been removed from the restaurants.”

This has all become familiar. In April, Burger King pulled and said it would revise a European TV spot for its Texican Whopper that had proved offensive to Hispanics. In it a small, masked wrestler draped in a Mexican flag was carried around by a tall gent in jeans and a cowboy hat. Parents expressed dismay in the chain’s online promotion of “Star Trek” in May, in which the chain’s iconic King character kicked a succession of people in the crotch. Last month brought “The 7-incher,” a promotion in Singapore for a long, fat burger that was sure to “blow your mind away.” A woman’s head with an awed, open mouth accompanied the picture of the sandwich.

Emphasis mine above. So they did put out and them withdraw the ads that were offensive to Hindus and to Hispanics. Good for that. Of course, they never withdrew the advertisements that were offensive to women (Pshaw! Our ‘superfan’ is 18-34 MALE, y’know!) – e.g. the woman’s head ad (also called the ‘blow-up doll’ ad: here), or the pedophilic Spongebob Squarepants ad (here).

My issue here is not just that the advertising is provocative, or that it’s really insulting – my bigger problem here is that the advertising is SO pointless! It’s (A) bad, (B) ineffective advertising that is (C) NOT built around a solid insight and (D) does not communicate any real benefit. The (E) drama is all misplaced, and the (F) branding is really non-existent. Finally, (G) there’s really poor benefit vizualization – and the (H) execution is poor – the food looks unappetizing!

Any one of the eight strikes above, and at P&G – or where I work now – we’d’ve been forced back to the drawing board. I can just imagine the Burger King ads being shown at a advertising workshop as an example of ‘how to spend Millions of $$ and not communicate effectively’.

Look at the Spongebob ad, for instance – at the end of 30 seconds all you remember are square butts on little girls, and a sick Spongebob going around measuring the girls with a measuring tape. They’re not advertising a square burger, or a larger burger (to explain the tape) – they’re advertising their version of the Happy Meal. There’s no logical link (unless it was a convoluted pun on measuring tape = ruler = king = Burger King. Really?). I didn’t even recall that it was a Burger King ad until I went to register my outrage.

Or the Lakshmi ad mentioned above – how is a ‘sacred snack’ a meaningful consumer benefit or drawn on an insight? Do you eat more of a sacred snack than one that’s not? Do you plan for it and schedule your day around it, like you would for a religious event (uhm, isn’t it supposed to be fast food)? And if you HAD to go with that benefit, isn’t there a more effective, relatable way to depict ‘sacred’ to Spaniards than via Lakshmi? If you wanted to show a new Asian line, or spicy food, or new exotic items, I can imagine this kind of an image making some convoluted sense to a small-town, unsophisticated, untraveled creative director. But a Hindu goddess to sell a hamburger? Massive FAIL.

It’s gotten so bad I can’t be bothered to put out an action alert – I can just sit here and laugh my ass off at these idiots working in the ‘Miami-based Burger King’

Ooh, look, shiny Twitter!

April 22, 2009 Leave a comment

I was reading this post the other day and realized I’ve grown up, finally. My old boss at the fuddy-duddy-but-hugely-successful-global-CPG firm would heave a sigh of relief….

A few years ago, when I was there, all I could think of was ‘new media’, ‘interactive’, ‘internet’, ‘360 degree’. I was so caught up in the buzzwords – each time I heard of a new way to sell things, I was hooked. Excuses of top management didn’t make any sense to me – of low penetration, of mainstream moms not caring for high-technology, of low costs & high reach of TV, of lack of measurement tools, even of medium unsuitability (“oh, people don’t go to the Internet to buy detergent or paper towels” – WTF? they don’t watch Lost or 24 for paper towels either!). It took a lot of my ideas being shot down for me to start realizing I wasn’t going to succeed by putting those in front of management.So I stopped – but I never stopped following them myself, or caring for them. I even got my Twitter account back when they had ~5000 users. Oh, those days.

Half of my early excitement for new media was that this seemed like something I could ‘own’ within the firm as my specialization, and I couldn’t own say, rural sales because being a girl those things came with safety hazards and hoops for me to jump through. Second, the Internet, in its early days was completely gender-indifferent and seemed like a place I could finally forget what was between my legs and focus only on what was between my ears – and have everyone else focus there too (this was, of course, disproved pretty badly last year, with the uber-geeks and Internet gods being the worst sexist offenders, and threw Hillary Clinton and Palin supporters out of mainstream online discourse and left us cowering in the deep dark ‘safe spaces’ that we could create for ourselves). Finally, it made me think I would help empower all those millions of Indian moms by giving them an easy way to network, connect, communicate and make their own Girls Clubs so that they would no longer fall for our silly, tall, often-asterisked claims.

But these last two years, I’ve grown up. I believe as strongly as any Proctiod that traditional marketing, – measurable, reliable, boring, designable – works. For consumers, and for us – marketers and advertisers, who, frankly, don’t know yet how to really use these new powerful tools. The people who seem to be winning in the new media are exactly the same people who won in the old media. People with power and money and clout in the bricks and mortar world are using their heft to succeed in the new world, too. The offline bullies are the online bullies, only now they don’t even use deodorants. A NYT reference gets your average political blogger-boy very happy indeed, because it means newspaper gigs for him, and maybe leading to a book deal. Most of the time now, new media is just an amplifier (see Anne’s predictions on what will be in the news tomorrow). The paradigm hasn’t changed, the patriarchy hasn’t been dismantled, and the paths haven’t shifted.

No wonder I’m disillusioned. So much so, that I can’t be bothered that my company blocks Twitter and FB and all of these new media. So much so, that I can only smile at Critical Mass’s Riot excitement and shake my head. I don’t mean that it won’t work – I mean I don’t care that/if it does because there’s nothing in it for me.

And seriously, who buys toilet paper on Twitter, anyway?

Bad NBC. Down, boy, down.

April 20, 2009 Leave a comment

NBC suffering?

NEW YORK: NBC Universal saw its profits fall by 45% to $391 million (€301m; £267m) in the first quarter, with chief executive Jeff Zucker writing in a memo to staff that “a weaker advertising market and slower consumer demand,” along with one-off costs, all contributed to the decline.

Profits down 45% this year? Yay!

He also stated that without “one-off” costs, its profits would have fallen by just 15% during the first quarter as a whole.

These costs included a $45m fee to broadcast the Super Bowl, as well as a writedown in the value of its local TV unit ION Media, and increased film development costs.

C’mon, that doesn’t even make any sense. If the Super Bowl had costs, there had to be profits too. You’re not telecasting the Super Bowl out of the goodness of your hearts, are you? Just admit you did a really bad job and kept trying to upcharge advertisers who were, not making too much money. There’s just so much you could’ve got out of them, even if the upfronts sold mid-year last year there was already strong talk of a worsening economy.

And oh, wait, it gets worse:

[Jeff Zucker] praised the “incredible strength” of the company’s cable TV operations, which now account for 60% of NBC’s operating profit, and are continuing to perform at “record-setting levels.”


People, stop watching stupid TV content. Vote with your remotes, or you will perish! And take the rest of us down !!!!111!!!1!!!!!

When will America really change?


How high is too high?

March 25, 2009 Leave a comment

I was looking at a vendor’s presentation today that showed a research technique, and it struck me – we, i.e. ALL CPG companies – base all our millions and millions of $$ of product development and innovation on a choice made by a sample consumer in 0.7 seconds on one-sixth of a computer screen. Then, of course, we spend months and months and plenty of $$ refining that one choice and pretti-fy-ing it…

No wonder we have idiot-proof stuff, and idiotic stuff that all looks similar. We make junk, and consumers get junk, and they end up then selecting new junk in research that is familiar to them, therefore most similar to their existing junk. Then we launch it and then plan another line extension or a new ad campaign to keep the junk alive in the market.

Anything that takes longer to figure out and say ‘ah-ha’ to, is lost in the packaged goods business. Anything that takes time to know and like and love, aka Rahman’s music, is lost forever in the CPG world.

I’m not sure I believe any longer in the Procter school of brand management. After having worked there and after a hundred years of that model in the marketing/management world, we definitely need something different.

Categories: management, marketing

Causes vs. effects

January 12, 2009 Leave a comment

I love this line here:

But to be honest, uncovering the causes of effects excites me more than
measuring the effects of causes.

That’s the astronomer/astronaut difference from first principles. That’s also probably the difference between me and P, as RamC was trying to explain why I would some time in life go back to academics and why P would be happier in industry. P will excel at the former but will never find that exciting enough, because he really, truly cares for measurable, tangible results. I, on the other hand, love figuring out ‘why’ and ‘how’, and will wait for someone else to make it work and refine it, even if it costs me the fruits of labor. I’m a theoretician! Even when I do practical work, I’m the Indian (as opposed to the Western) model of working – just get it done fast and for now, and don’t worry about the systemic changes required to be made in order that it works for everyone for the long term.

Most women live their lives only focused on the effects – at work, at home, and in their lives, without analyzing causes either way. There’s no sense of history or perspective – most women I know here in the US don’t even know who, say, the 99’s are. Or, say, why Hillary Clinton lost. Without looking at either the causes of effects or to the effects of causes, we’re doomed to continue as not just the Second Sex, but as the second rate gender. Sadly, not too many women seem to care – most of them are thrilled to bits with the Inaugural gowns they will wear.

Anyway, Ha! Now I have an excuse for my love for blogging relatively prolifically, and my utter disinterest in doing a Leo Babauta and getting some readership. I love blogging about the ‘why’s of various things, but I’ve just removed three feeds from my reader this past week that taught me how to use analytics to improve blog readership.

Quali or quant?

August 28, 2008 Leave a comment

So I’m still grappling with why these guys here at my current company don’t believe in qualitative consumer research – not one bit. And each time I bring it up as something that’s worked for me in the past, they think it’s more a function of India than of my previous company where ‘know your consumer’ was the mantra.

It’s true, the Indian consumer is different in so many ways from the US consumer. But my belief is in fact that we need to do things the other way around – in India qualis are far, far more unreliable than quant. That’s because the Indian market is so much more heterogeneous. Here’s why:
(A) India’s population has an income gap that is much, much larger – not in terms of the numerical range, but in terms of weighted range i.e., the lower income groups of India are large in number and have such low incomes that they can barely afford anything.
(B) Attitudes to spending are dramatically different. My dad proudly says ‘I’ve never borrowed a cent from anyone all my life’. I think he’s therefore missed out on so many positive NPV projects. Open capital markets, which came about in the ’90’s, have only recently started changign middle-India’s attitudes toward cash flow.
(C) So many regional brands!

A black, single mother in Atlanta is likely to eat the same brand of cereal as a wealthy old WASP man in Boston, use the same brand of paper towels and even have the same brand of cell phone. Their lives differ not in form or content but in scale – e.g. they buy clothes in a similar way, just the clothes cost $2000 – $20,000 for the latter vs. $20-$200 for the former per month.

A Dalit Tamil maid-servant in Madurai is very, very unlikely to any large brand intersections as a wealthy Gujarati business-owner in Mumbai. Their lives are dramatically different in structure, form, content and scale. The Dalit Tamil maid servant probably gets hand-me-downs, and buys her clothes once a year on Sankranti. The Gujarati businessowner is likely to buy a few clothes each quarter and a wardrobe for a wedding in the family.

And so on.

How is this related to feminism? Feminism in India cannot, should not take the same course as in the United States, where flagship blogs like Feministing and Pandagon are representative of ‘feminists’ who now fight other fights with a lot more passion, apparently since the need for feminism is long gone. In their ignorant but strongly held belief about the overwhelming importance of intersections of other -isms – racism, poverty, etc. – they’ve conviniently ignored their own age-sim. In their vocal desire to sit out an Oppression Olympics, they’ve awarded the medal to the chavunists automatically. By not standing up stridently for women’s rights and parceling out feminism into different categories -black feminism, well-dressed feminism, immigrant feminism, evangelical feminism – they’ve subsumed any hopes for feminism to win the battle to set out to win. They supported Barack Obama so much because he ‘transcended race’ – which is fine, if you’re running the Black Monitor – not if you’re running Feministing.

These women and men, in their quest to be seen as equal to all, have forgotten they have a movement to run, a revolution to foster in order to bring that equality. Like the Indian family of the 80’s, they’re so internally focused that they’re been busy decorating and cleaning their own house all day – the filth on the streets be damned.

In India, where there are ten groups that can be carved out for every one in the US – geography, caste, language are such huge descriptors, for a start, as big as any racial differences – Indian feminists canNOT afford to miss the forest for the trees.