Nostalgia Marketing

Marketing is a hollow practice if the consumer does not identify with your brand. A brand that has been around for some time should be able to claim that it delivers comfort and familiarity to its clientele.
Brand management is significantly about recreating. If you know your consumer, make an attempt to tap their collective memory and understand the factors that make them nostalgic. Nostalgia delivers comfort and is one the best ways to bond emotionally with consumers.
Marketing methods that employ Nostalgia as a tool perform the brilliant task of placing a customer before the product. This gesture of solicitude is easier for the customers to recognize and they instinctively feel good about the brand.

Re-cognitive Stimulation

Evoking nostalgia works differently for diverse people. It can range from the whiff of perfume to the watermark that you choose for your website. Study your average target consumer and undertake a thorough exercise of recognizing the cognitive impetuses that generate nostalgia in them.
Selecting the apt imagery or sound depends on what the brand seeks to achieve and the psyche of its consumers. Millennials are proof that if deployed well, nostalgia marketing can work wonders beyond increasing sales. Brands like Nestle, Spotify, Coca-Cola, Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, Paper Boat, etc. have harnessed its potential over the past couple of years to trigger the collectivememories of millennials.

Good old Content

Speaking of millennials, a fitting example of nostalgia marketing that I can come up with is one of the most watched TV series in 2016, “Stranger Things.” The original series aired on Netflix employs images and sounds that one cannot help associating with the 80s. It is a vintage homage to Spielberg films and popular culture of the 1980s when people had begun taking an interest in sci-fi flicks and electronic devices like VCR, Video-game console, Cable TV, Walkman, etc.
Characters are shown sporting 80s fashion and hairstyle, making references to E.T., Aliens, Stephen King and the like. Apart from visual impact, the show scores with its background score that indicates extensive usage of synthesizers, which is reminiscent of artists and film composers atin the eighties. The extensive effort went down well with millennials because they quickly identified the elements that constituted their childhood.


Barely tapping memories becomes pointless if they are not customizedwith today’s fast-paced social media. Having borrowed elements from the past, make sure that you do not stop innovating. Position your content/product to fit the interactive medium. Try to make an imprint amongst your consumer base through continuous interaction. Smart usage of social media platforms can deliver the right dosage of nostalgia and get your message recognized.

Weave Storytelling in your Marketing Strategy

Everyone likes a good story, including your consumers. Marketing is essentially the practice of storytelling. Some may call it emotive marketing because if woven right, stories can turn a product into a reflection of core human values. It is easier for consumers to associate with familiar narratives that position the brand at the intersection of everyday experiences and the choices that we often make.

Visual Storytelling

The message always gets amplified when disseminated in the form of visual stories that are easy to perceive. Images distributed in a continuum have the power to draw viewers and evoke curiosity. Visual storytelling can range from website designs to video stories to posts on the brand’s social media page. The intent is to remain consistent and let your brand tell a story. Amul is the longest living example of impeccable visual marketing in India. Since 1969, Amulhas been dispatching exceptional visual commentaries on major socio-political issues with unparalleled humour. Its satirical take on significant pan-Indian events has remained a hit. It is perhaps the only brand to have never shied away from making spoofs around contemporary issues that have mattered to the masses, from compulsory sterilisation in the 70s to Dhoni’s return as captain.

Your Corporate Story

Consumers are real people who like original narratives that strike right through their emotions. Storytelling begins when you choose a soft spot and send across the message that humane experiences matter to you. Hence, building around a core value and weaving your personal tale is a powerful way to go. There was an interesting video by Guinness, an Irish Beer Company, which featured a group of men playing ‘Wheelchair Basketball’. The end reveals that only one of the men was physically disadvantaged, while the rest had joined in solidarity so they could all have a fair share of the game. The ad ends with the bunch heading to a pub for some post-basketball pints. The advertisement won massively over its target audience because it easily evoked Friendship and the spirit of solidarity, and rightly conveyed that our choices define who we are. So does the choice of beer.

The Holy Grail of Brand Management – Got an Idea?

I often run into conversations like this:

“I have explored all branding tools namely PR, Creatives, Blogs, Newsletters, Social Media, but somehow my brand is not taking off.  Can you give me an idea/ a strategy which can make my brand skyrocket?”

Well….. Yes, of course, we can. But hold your horses…..

We would like to treat the malady rather than the symptoms, as the famous Dr. House often repeated to his brilliant bunch of physicians.

The malady lies deeper.

You are obviously misreading your objectives to trend with the current times. It’s like painting zebra stripes to appear cool, but you end up losing your identity.

You are not a Zebra, you are a Horse, so why pose like a Zebra? Blaze your own trail folks!

Go back to your objectives- What are you offering? Why? To Whom? How will it make their lives better? Why should they care? Do they care? Do you know who you are speaking to? Really know them? Are you tying in your objectives with what appears to be trending nowadays?

If you don’t, you risk getting your customers falling off your saddle.

The most important thing you need is ‘Positioning’. Are you positioning yourself right? Have you positioned yourself in a manner which is clear, concise, creative and impactful?

Is your ‘right’ positioning being communicated through the so-called tools?

Positioning looks deceptively simple, it is anything but. You may think that if you can run a company, you can very well position it too. You cannot be more wrong. Even your mentors cannot tell you how to position yourself.

Positioning needs a careful analysis of a huge number of occurrences across your entire eco-system. It answers a lot of questions and solves brand challenges. Deducing the right positioning is not everyone’s cup of tea. It needs to be done well.

And it needs to be implemented well. You need to revisit your positioning at least once in six months, to keep yourself relevant. Rinse and Repeat.

You don’t need an idea or a strategy, instead you need to revisit your entire spectrum of brand communication.

One of my pet peeves is that most people are confused between ‘advertising’ and ‘branding’.

An Idea is what an advertiser will give you, maybe an ad, maybe a campaign, which will run and get over. Good for you if it sticks, but that happens rarely. Advertising happens in a microcosm. They are usually advertising a product or service. They are not advertising your company or its long term objectives or what you are essentially in the market for.

Ideas or ad-lines or jingles do not make a brand. A brand gets made over many years, through many efforts. Branding will help you find your inner strengths and leverage them. It is way less cool or glamorous than advertising. It is backbreaking work at a snail’s pace. But it hits the home run, every time.

However if you are in a hurry, the Gurus of advertising are very capable of offering you the Holy Grail, and take it with them when they leave. They will paint stripes on you. Hell, you will even start feeling and strutting around like a Zebra.

And then one day the truth will trot home. Hopefully, it will not be too late by then.

Are Not These, With Thousands Moe; Than the Courts of Kings do Know

A colleague, who I once had the good fortune to work with, had a peculiar decision-making quirk.

Any and every decision was taken in the context of ‘what the competition is doing’! Be that crafting a strategy, participation in a show, a new advertisement, presentations, new brochures etc. Competitors were the benchmark of his professional life.

Now these benchmarks can be beneficial to a degree, but are extremely restricting and non-creative at many levels. The yarn you knit should not tie you up in knots!

Another colleague I know, leaves his decisions to the last minute, thinking that the deadline will let him arrive at the most intuitive conclusion! He is probably unaware that ordinary intuition and strategic intuition sit on two opposite poles and expert intuition sits somewhere in between.

Moreover, as per Columbia Business School professor William Duggan, expert intuition can be the enemy of strategic intuition.

Now, why does decision making has to be so illogical and restricting?

Gretchen Rubin sums up the difference between two types of decision-makers in a post at the Happiness Project.

‘Satisficers’ are those who make a decision or take action once their criteria are met. That doesn’t mean they’ll settle for mediocrity; their criteria can be very high; but as soon as they find the car, the hotel, or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied.

‘Maximizers’, on the other hand, want to make the optimal decision. So even if they see a bicycle or a photographer that would seem to meet their requirements, they can’t make a decision until after they’ve examined every option, so they know they’re making the best possible choice.

In a fascinating book, The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz argues that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers must spend a lot more time and energy to reach a decision, and they are often anxious about whether they are, in fact, making the best choice.

You’d think maximizers would at least feel content with their decision after all that work, but no! As anyone who’s ever researched a possible illness on the Internet knows, more information does not necessarily lead to peace of mind or better decision-making.

So, when you are in the land of a thousand communication agencies, how do you choose one?

Some people let the budget (or the absence of it) make a decision for them. Nothing could be worse for your brand.

Here are some broad parameters;

The agency knows about your subject matter and has sufficient knowledge about the same. They understand your Target Audience and have worked with them in the past.

Now, this can work both ways. The experience they bring to the table can be offset by the fresh perspective someone else can offer. The main yardstick should be that they understand you and the parameters you operate within & are innovative. In that case, look no further.

They understand branding and communication as a field and have a certain expertise in the area.

This can be ratified via myriad ways in the exposed society that we live in today.

They are willing to work with you in the long term and invest quality time to build up your brand. They feel your (brand) pain.

This is essential, as the empathy one feels for a brand translates into an enormous motivator for them to make a phenomenal difference. They (and not you) own the brand and will bleed for it.

Brands are not built in days or months, but years; and once they are established they need to be nurtured to last over many decades.

How the paradox of choice will unravel for your brand, that choice is yours!

Does Advertising = Branding ?

In my first post, I am going to talk about the bane of Brand Management in India.


Almost everyone, from CEOs to managers to professionals to management students, everybody confuses Brand management with advertising.


Because that is the most visible form of branding a company. Well, and maybe a myth propagated by big time advertising agencies that if you don’t advertise, you might as well die a slow brand death !

It might be true of FMCG, white goods industry, but definitely not so for everyone else.

I am a big propagator of ‘ slow and steady wins the race’.

If you are not selling into retail market, than advertising should not be the ‘be all’ and ‘end all’ of your brand management strategy.

There are so many other unique/ innovative ways to build your brand; but they should all be looped into a holistic strategy with a mix and match of ATL, BTL activities and some gimmicks thrown in, for good measure.

More on that later……

Engage or Disengage?

I do not know what your definition of marketing is, but for me, it is ‘building a community through continuous engagement’.

The big question that all of us need to ask ourselves, probably as a derivative of month-end financial reporting is -> “Are we doing enough to engage with our Target Audience?”

Do a snap profiling of your Target Audience (TG), and ask:

“Do enough of these people know me?”

“What can I do to keep myself in their mental space?”

“How often should I get in front of them?”

“If I do nothing, will they still recognize my company name or me?”

“How can I get their mindshare without spamming them or being intrusive?”

“Am I engaging with them enough?”

“Do I come across as a knowledgeable entity to them?”

“How can I not hard-sell?”

“Can I add value to their lives, processes, world in any manner?”

Can you?

Marketing should not be about ‘Buy my product, I make the best one’.

It should be about ‘How can I help you take the best decision and add value’.

I recently saw a TV ad in which a logistics company was extolling its clientele to go in for their services because ‘B’ stands for ‘Best’! Moreover, because their name starts with ‘B’!

Really? Is Alphabet advertising in vogue nowadays?

They are spending all those hard earned dollars making and rolling out a TV ad, and this is what they have to say? It is incredibly tragi-comic!

Whatever business you may be in, you can add value to your clientele. Do think from their perspective.

The different marketing tools and formats are just the carriers of your message.

If your marketing tools are 360 degrees complete with all the Ads, Videos, PR, blogs, mailers, newsletters and case studies in place; and yet you are unable to engage your TG, then you are eating an ice cream cone without the ice cream in it!

The structure is there; the substance is not. There is no flavor!

It is infinitely more important to understand and formulate what message you need to showcase before your audience. Distribution is secondary.

A few pertinent examples of companies engaging with their TG effectively are,

Vodafone with the following puppy, Fevicol ads, Idea Internet, Dove Real Beauty campaign, Five Star Ramesh Suresh ads, TBZ Wedding, Some Coke and Pepsi ads, Airtel with ‘Har Friend Zaroori Hai’ and their latest 4G Campaign, Hamara Bajaj, the opinionated Amul Girl, Chlor-mint, Centre Fresh, Mentos etc. spring to mind.

Unfortunately many organizations, even while doling out big bucks to hi-profile agencies and Gurus, are unable to make an impact because the engagement is off!

To create and sustain high engagement, you need to connect emotionally with your TG and convey a message that touches a chord or answers an unmet need imaginatively. Look at the big picture your industry brings onboard.

Please do not blow your own trumpet incessantly. Otherwise, your TG will become tone-deaf!

Disengage from the non-value add approach. Engage with adding value. Today.

Branding Rakhi Sawant

The lady in question is a spitfire and has a lot of spunk. Rakhi has managed to brand herself very well, despite her obvious limitations. This is the electronic / digital age, folks. For individuals, controversy is the way to thrive in the limelight.

Now, if only she would enroll herself in a finishing school…

Another case in example is Mallika Sherawat, who also managed her non-existing career well, using the media.

Managing media is not tough and indeed very important for Corporates.

Its a symbiotic relationship. They need you as well as you need them.

Some basic ‘respect’ rules are-

  • Always adhere to your deadlines
  • Respect journalists equally whether they are from the leading financial daily or a vernacular paper or a small trade mag
  • Don’t fake your respect
  • Give them all information necessary, to form their own opinions
  • Don’t hound them for appearance of coverage
  • Be frank and be fair, they have other sources to find what they want to find
  • Be upfront in your dealings

These are just a few rules which will take you far in your PR stint.

Media people are very intelligent. Never underestimate them, but yes don’t bend over backwards and sweep the floor for them. They will not respect you, if you do this.

Information exchange between the companies and media needs to be on a fair footing.

I have come across many company honchos who wanted to know how many column cm. coverage can we get them, for a PR retainer !!!!!!

Folks, it’s PR, not advertising. It’s a relationship building exercise between you and the media. We open the door, we put your foot in.

If the media finds value in your offering, they will pick you up.

This is where the value add of a PR guy comes in. Make your key messages interesting and customized to the Press you are talking to. Find out what they are interested in publishing. Create a good story and pitch it.

In India, PR has lost a lot of its sheen, with funny controversies being the order of the day, but well… every ‘person’ has his day 🙂

The Co-Branding Route

Some of you might remember a time few years back when there was a plethora of co-branded cards hitting the market. Almost every day, we found pics of well dressed dudes (never ladies- but well, that’s a different story) hanging on to huge plastic cards and smiling down from the newspapers- card companies and petrol firms, airlines, banks, everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Don’t know how many of them survive now.

But what I am really talking about here, is the co-branding concept, which has a lot of potential beyond just co-branded cards. Apart from what you will read in books, it’s basically two corporates with similar synergies, coming together, to start an initiative, in which both of them stand to gain EQUALLY. This never works if each one is getting less than the other.

Sometimes it takes the form of a barter route. You take my goods in lieu of which I take yours. Airlines tyipng up with corporates to give away the perishable seats or hotels doing the same in lieu of their products, come under this category. This could however lead to some creative accounting complications unless handled carefully.

Another could be a scenario where a chocolate manufacturer piggy backs on a bisuit company’s channel route – similar target audience- to reach out more widely, while sharing the advertising costs.

A mobile manufacturer can tap the rural markets through a tie up with TV production companies or even bicycle manufacturers as TV / bicycle are No. 1 purchases of a rural household once they start generating disposable income and well, mobile can well be No. 2 with its gaining functional prominence. They however need to figure out how they would compensate each other.

In India, there are a lot of firms which can gain through this marketing tool. You just need to put your mind to it.

India vs Bharat

A few days back I read an interesting article in ‘The Economic Times’ on ‘India vs Bharat’ where the author made a case for using the same set of branding tools and content in rural areas (Bharat) as is done in urban areas (India). I don’t agree with him in entirety.

Though it must be agreed that you cannot assume that rural consumers have not upgraded themselves on various socio economic parameters over the last few years. When the urban consumers have closed an entire generation in terms of social networking, media and technology, the rural consumers have not been totally isolated to the onslaught either.

Marketers need to understand that their age old tactics of 5 wall paintings + 2 nautankis + retail mapping will not really do the trick anymore. They have to re-engage their audience by looking at the changed parameters and understanding the forces at work. If the neighbourhood money lender does not play that big a role anymore, than who does? Is it the NGO who has made the women more self sufficient? If the panchayats are increasingly losing their hold…. than whom are they losing it too? The BDO? or another authority? Who are the new influencers? The new target audience? Within a housesold, who has more say ? And wouldn’t it be prudent to do this demarcation across the developed, underdeveloped and remote villages?

BUT.. to apply urban branding patterns to a rural audience would be a disaster. Not all products need an ‘aspiring for’ orientation. I might aspire for a product which Aishwarya Rai advertises. My maid might aspire for a product, which her neighbour’s wife has. Everybody’s aspirations are different, and the product has to marry not only the Target Audience, but his wife, kids and his influencers as well…. only then a comprehensive communication strategy can be developed.

(Social)ize your company

Does your company need social marketing? Is it just something you have to do because everyone else is jumping in the well? Most B2C companies do need to get on the bandwagon, but B2B companies need to evaluate their strategies before you jump. Perhaps if your product would benefit from a facebook or twitter presence; if you want to build up a public opinion; if you are going for an IPO, or some other valid reason; than it might make sense.

Everything starts with an objective; what do you want to achieve. Do you want a group page – a controlled community interface but the updates don’t appear on the member feed, or do you want a fan page where your status updates appear in fan feed home pages?

Another thing to note is that please don’t use your personal facebook id to create company groups/ pages as facebook currently has NO option to delete the original creator. So even if you leave your job, you would be stuck with being a creator and worse, the earlier company would be stuck with you. Create a company ID and than create Group pages etc.

More on this later…