Monday, January 31, 2011

The IPL was well marketed?

This is a report that I wrote for the course 'Consumer Behavior', one that I am quite proud of, so, thought of recording here. The report had to incorporate consumer behavior concepts to answer the question - The IPL was well marketed?

Cricket, pre IPL era was a little staid and long, appealing mostly to young men primarily in the sub continent. It had lost its appeal to the Englishmen and the West Indians except for some iconic series like the Ashes. But post IPL, we have an entirely new breed of supporters who have embraced the game, its many differences with the more athletic counterparts still notwithstanding. 

How has IPL managed to do it? It managed to bring together cricketers from different nationalities, lured them with fat pay cheques, roped in big advertisers who do not think twice before splurging on their brands for prime time eye space, got cheer leaders to shake their hips and bulldozed its way into ICC’s calendar. Thus, by a judicious mixture of managing the environment nearly perfectly and staging fantastic experiences every time a match was played, value creation was no more, the prerogative of a single entity. Instead, multiple stakeholders came together on a mutually rewarding platform and lavished the cricket loving crowds with some truly memorable fare. 

Cashing in on the need for change:

Any product, service or even an experience cannot have a sustaining appeal in the market place unless it addresses some specific needs of the consumer. IPL was able to gauge that the large number of cricket fans no longer wanted to spend a day in front of the television for an ODI encounter not to forget five days for a test match. When the target customers are busy, it is better to cater to their lifestyle change by shortening the game innovatively. The twenty over format already existed. IPL brought the model of clubs as in the EPL and by deft packaging created a customer experience that was too tempting for the customer to resist. The business was not one of selling twenty over cricket matches to cricket fans; rather it was selling an experience of 3.5 to 4 hours to a much larger entertainment deprived public. 

This was one of the reasons why IPL attracted viewers of every age and in young women and house wives brought to cricket, a whole new swathe of followers. The adrenalin rush inherent in the shortened version of the game was exploited by roping in celebrities, cheer leaders, glamorous hosts and a hint of CSR while all along, sending out the right impressions – encouraging small town cricket players to dream big and providing them a chance to interact with acclaimed super stars.  The result was that whole families came together every evening to cheer for their favourite teams, emotions ran high and the advertisers almost got a captive audience (of course, at a very high price) since the excitement in a twenty twenty format was too high for anyone to switch channels during over breaks. 

The IPL Experience:

In ‘Welcome to the experience economy’ by B Joseph Pine and James H Gilmore, the authors emphatically declare that we have arrived into the experience economy after crossing agrarian, goods-based industrial and services economy eras. In the authors’ opinion, “to realize the full benefit of staging experiences, however, businesses must deliberately design engaging experiences that command a fee”.

As opposed to commodities, goods and services, experiences are deeply personal and reside in the minds of the individual who has been engaged as a memorable remnant. IPL has been able to leverage this to its benefit by throwing in something into the experience that everyone who sees the match can relate to and find joy in. Be it the celebrity stars, foreign players, post match fashion shows, social initiatives, favourable commentaries from experts of the game, Bollywood superstars, attractively packaged memorabilia – everyone had something to look forward to and precisely because of this, everyone’s individual experience and joy was starkly different from another person’s. Thus IPL challenged its competitors at a completely different plane by successfully staging memorable experiences. 

By adopting the model of movie theatres that have begun to charge for consumer experiences instead of simply for the ticket, IPL also managed to include in its ticket price and in its advertising slot rates, value for experience thus creating a very high anchor successfully right from the very first edition. Once the initial anchor is set, it is not very difficult to incrementally hike fares and still remain credible in the eyes of the consumer from the pricing point of view. 

Along two dimensions of experiences – customer participation and connection – IPL would fit into the quadrant where both active participation and immersion are high. As viewers, people hold the belief that their loud cheering and appreciation for their teams can sway results. They are also completely immersed in the proceedings right from the first over of the first innings. 

Customers also have an idea of what to expect from an IPL encounter – high adrenalin action. Basing the whole experience on the theme of enjoying cricket has given IPL a focal point around which to organise its other activities. By providing ample positive cues to reinforce indelibly, the first impressions in the form of blaring music between overs and media focus and sound bites from foreign players, IPL has managed to ensure that even the smallest cues are paid attention to. 

The popularity of the IPL can be gauged from the number of people who routinely wear t-Shirts and jerseys that espouse their support to favourite teams even during non season times. This is in large measure due to the array of attractive memorabilia that are sold in shops through the year. Once a city based loyalty is induced in a customer, it is very hard to be shaken by subsequent editions for in sport, there is a joy in rooting for the underdog. It gives the consumer of the experience, the joy of feeling belonged in a group. Peer approval and social norms as dictated by a person’s neighbour, for example, influence him/her to spend on these memorabilia and sport them proudly as a badge of his/her support to a particular team. 

“The more senses an experience engages, the more effective and memorable it can be.” Blaring crowds undulating to the sounds of drum music by a Sivamani, the sight of huge swathes of people decked in attractive jerseys and the almost palpable smell of thrill/victory/defeat combine together to produce the right balance of sensations. 

Innovation as the mantra:

Business standard in an article titled “IPL: The $2 bn brand”, refers to IPL occupying the 22nd position in the list of most innovative companies compiled by Fast company, a magazine that reports on innovation and digital media, ahead of giants like Samsung and Microsoft. 

Some elements of IPL’s marketing strategy can be said to revolutionize the field of marketing experiences and entertainment -

  •  Screening of IPL matches in movie halls
  • Complete use of all social media channels – this helped strike the right chord with the youth who normally take the first steps to know more about any format and who tend to book tickets online. 
  • A mind boggling number of tie ups – To name a few, with Delhi Daredevils, EBay with Kings XI Punjab...
  • The leveraging of immense unpaid publicity by word-of-mouth and other means
  • Adopting a well tried model of international clubs and auctions to the Indian environment and making it a grand success
  • Innovative deals with a number of companies where the structure of the deal includes a onetime licensing fee as well as royalties on the merchandise sold. Other examples: Deals with Google for people to watch matches online and with television channels for IPL related shows.
  • The sheer number of brands that were associated with IPL (In edition 3, the number is expected to touch 80)! Brands that had multiple associations and were involved with cricket through the year gained more out of IPL lending credence to the standard marketing thought that “more the presence, more the impact”
  • Launch of several new and innovative campaigns by advertisers through IPL. Examples: Idea (Oongli cricket) and Vodafone (Zoozoos) 

Learning perspective:

In ‘Managing what consumers learn from experience’ by Stephen J Hoch and John Deighton, the authors propose a framework of four stages – hypothesizing->Exposure->encoding->Integration – with three moderating factors – familiarity to learn, motivation to learn and the ambiguity of the information environment – to capture what consumers learn from experiences.  

IPL by virtue of its gripping nature and a high value based price offered a high-involvement experience for the consumer. Since “consumers tend to grant special status to conclusions drawn from experience” and experience also “promotes better memory because information is more vivid and concrete”, any consumer who watches a IPL match either on television or on the playing field by paying for the tickets experiences entertainment that reinforces the outcome he intended in the first place. IPL managed to do this with a deft and balanced packaging of the different elements on offer as part of the experience. 

Consumers in post purchase situations tend to avoid dissonance inducing information. After spending a good deal of money on the cricket field or worse still, a large amount of time in front of the television set, the human behaviour is to rationalise the money or time spent by justifying it as worthwhile. Hence consumers consciously avoid situations in which they might potentially receive negative feedback about IPL and instead surround themselves with people who “confirm a good buy” by lavishing praise on the concept. 

A contrarian viewpoint:

IPL, for sure, managed to bring in more audiences to a game that was increasingly bemoaned as a sport out of tune with the changing and evolving times. In the process however, it alienated a section of cricket loving population that was rooted in the traditional/classical school to whom, the sport best evokes memories of a “gentleman’s game”. The aggressive marketing strategies followed by the different clubs, the muscle power that BCCI brought to the centre with its rich and wealthy line-up and the induction of glamour as an associated activity in the form of fashion shows and cheer leaders were not received well by this traditional and puritan section of the population.  

The strategies employed were at times seen even by supporters of the format as harming the interests of the players resulting in more injuries. The outcome of many of these games were driven by chance many a time leading some to cast aspersions on the extent of skill required to come out on top. To this section, the marketing efforts expended by popular brands was symbolic of aligning with interests contravening the larger right direction, the game should be taken in. 


Examining both sides of the coin, one comes to the conclusion that the IPL was extremely well marketed. Right from the choice of the name – Indian premier league – having a streak of nationalism to countless secondary associations that were successfully leveraged, IPL as an annual calendar event is extremely well marketed. The increasing crowds in the stadium, the cross border popularity of the T20 format, the numerous foreign players who are willing to sign up, the increasing auction amounts, the rise in the number of franchises catering to more cities and the craze for IPL memorabilia are all pointers to the ever increasing popularity standing testimonies to shrewd marketing strategies. 

Business Standard in an article way back in 2008 termed IPL as “The new marketing cocktail”. To quote from the article, “on a jingoistic note, it (IPL) could be an Indian "brand" export to the world”.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A date with Pondy

On the seafront, cement paved streets lead to the shopping area of the city. Streets named Rue Manakula Vinayakar Covil and Rue Saint Giles stand adjacent lined by colonial remnants of french style buildings rendering the atmosphere with a mystique quality. Foreign tourists in cycles and two wheelers are a common sight while out of nowhere emerges an elephant in a regale fashion led gently by a mahout. This is a picture of Pondy's beach face.  It has three other faces - a rural face, an urban face and a french face. 

Our (Me, Ritam and Aditi) date with Pondy was not a well planned out one. We decided to go to Pondy instead of Chennai for a difference because Pondy was just half an hour more distant than Chennai by road. Early morning, near the campus, as we waited for public transport, we had no clue how the day would pan out. Luckily we got seats and reached Pondy at 9.30 AM with our stomachs yearning for food.

After bargaining with an auto driver, we set forth for Auroville, touted to be a universal township in the making. As we enter the deviation in the highway leading to Auroville, the change in the surroundings is just about pronounced. It could be any other deviation leading to a nondescript village. Bad roads and a bumpy ride later, we are suddenly in Auroville. Being a sunday morning, there are a lot of visitors. 

We enter the exhibition area and find people in groups viewing a video about Auroville and Matrimandir. After a small breakfast of omelet and dosa, we follow the other visitors to the Matrimandir visiting area. The path to the structure is dusty with the sun shining bright on us. Near the structure, we find some people intent on clicking pictures, some simply enjoying the view around, some trying to read the stories behind the construction and some others, sitting in silence. 

On the way back, Aditi, her usual self, becomes camera loving and we oblige. There are 3 boutiques - all of them having a mixture of clothes, home accessories and handicrafts. We decide to have pizzas for lunch and take an auto direct to the Pizza-hut at the seafront, thanks to Aditi's memory. We gorge on pizzas, garlic bread and pasta (All selections by Ritam) and run up a fat bill. 

At around 2.30 PM, we are back on the streets. We walk up to the sea shore, find people lazing around in the sunshine in the cute, small shades. The city's many faces merge on the seafront to create a small microcosm - Ritam calls the city, a melting pot of culture. Aditi, having been here once before leads us to a church she remembers visiting.  
We walk aimlessly for a while observing the city's sunday afternoon life - as people go about after their weekend siestas. The main shopping street is JN road. Brands of all hues and colors are available. Found some interesting names next to each other, perhaps, something that is unique to the place: Saravana bhavan, Shalimar gift shop, Bina Bazar and Aristo restaurant sit comfortably next to each other. Nadi diagnosis and Shruti Anglo French textiles showroom are some other strange names for shops that we found. We chance upon one shop - Casablanca - in which we like everything on display. How I wish we had more money to splurge on! 

This was one of the most funniest things - 

We wrap up a long, fun and eventful day with a light dinner at Daily Bread and head back to the Pondy bus stand to return to our hostels. Like all good things unplanned, it turned out to be a beautiful day - one that made me forget all that was clouding my head and helped me unwind...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On 'Predictably Irrational' by Dan Ariely

This year has got off to a good start because after a prolonged limbo in which I stayed away from non academic books, I am finally back to reading! The book I just finished - Predictably Irrational, the hidden forces that shape our decisions - by Dan Ariely (a renowned behavioral economist, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight) is a master piece if a master piece ought to be judged in terms of how many myths it can bust! 

The book cannot be slotted into any genre very easily. It is not purely academic; not a summary of findings and neither is it a paean to the discipline of behavioral economics. It is rather a mix of all this in small measures with a large emphasis on insights into irrational aspects of human behavior brought out by means of smart experiments conducted by Dan and his several colleagues. 

Product pricing, reference prices, self - control, decision making when sexually aroused, dishonest behavior, the advantages and disadvantages of having too many options - Dan talks about all of these things based on empirical findings. The book is priceless for the sheer number of surprising facets of human behavior it manages to reveal. A plethora of terms - Ikea effect, price decoy, arbitrary coherence, anchoring, herding, self - herding - and their explanations emerge in a very clear fashion. 

As Dan says, 

Life is complex, with multiple forces simultaneously exerting their influences on us, and this complexity makes it difficult to figure out exactly how each of these forces shapes our behavior.
Everyone who has an interest in marketing, consumer behavior and human psychology should definitely read this one. It would be time well spent. 

Also check out some of his videos on youtube.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The audacity to be bad mannered!

This period at Great Lakes has taught me a lot of things and continues to- both inside and outside the class rooms - but if I have to cull out a few of those things, it would be my learning from observing the behavior of people. This post is crudely judgmental and hence a deviation from one of my cardinal principles of life - "Never to judge other people's behavior". The fact is being bad mannered, impolite, insensitive, rude and obnoxious is so pervasive here that it makes me wonder whether good manners were meant only for the generation of our parents! 

Take these for example - 

  • Some people don't know the meaning of "please" and don't know how to request things. If they need to get their work done, (purely selfish reasons), they won't mind calling you at any time of the day and demand your bike keys as if you are under some obligation to give them the keys. The most audacious part is that they call you only if they want your bike keys; otherwise you are a "nobody" to them. The proportion of these kind of people is simply astounding and mind boggling. It defeats me how easily they can taken others for a ride...!
  • Some people behave in 10 different ways with 10 different people. Perhaps, they think, everyone is different and should not be treated with the same level of courtesy and politeness. But what about some basic good manners? To the same question, depending on who poses it, a person is either brash (impolitely expresses his rigid stance on the matter) or sweetly indifferent wriggling his way out of it altogether. Strange! Whatever happened to the manners we were taught when we were young! I suppose, they have gone out of fashion or have become too flexible to lose all meaning.
  • Some people consider it their birthright to demand of others, what they want. Even if they do it with their friends, shouldn't they just put themselves for a minute in the other person's shoes and think if the same behavior or demand (in this case) would have been acceptable if they had been the recipient party? Odds are less they would agree but then, do they bother to think that far?
  • Some people are just too proud of their charms and if they get to spend time with an equally charming person, they don't mind ignoring a less charming third person. The amount of importance they give to looks is sickening and disgusting.
  • Beyond a certain point in any relationship between two people, one gets so used to the other that he/she might be willing to overlook the other person's faults and accept them as they are. But, in the long run, is it good? Shouldn't we instead try to tell them that their behavior is a little arrogant and they should try to change it? Isn't that doing more to strengthen the relationship? Anybody who cannot accept negative feedback patiently from a friend who has done enough to show them that he cares or cannot even give an ear to him, is not worth spending time with!
  •  The word "cool" has lost its meaning if it had one in the first place. If you don't conform to your peers, you are simply not "cool" 
Well, I can write volumes on this, will save more for later. One thing to ponder about - basic good manners is on a rapid decline. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

On Personal Influence

Oscar Wilde writes in his stellar work - The Picture of Dorian Gray

'All influence is immoral - immoral from the scientific point of view.'
'Because to influence a person is to give him one's own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are any such things as sins, are borrowed....The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly - that is what each of us are here for.'

This is one excerpt that comes to my mind whenever I come across any situation in which an urge to influence someone overwhelms me. Influence like power has lost its real meaning and instead has come to be associated with a negative context. The longman definition reads : "to affect the way someone or something develops, behaves, thinks etc without directly forcing or ordering them" which is not how we understand the above excerpt. 

Coming to the topic of personal influence, (as different from professional influence which is a completely different topic) is it per se, good or bad? I guess, the answer is neither. It is somewhere in between and depends to a large extent on context and each person's experience set. By experience set, I mean the sum total of his/her experiences in life that shape a person's character and thinking. 

Failing to read the context and failing to view every person's experience set as unique will get us into numerous conflicts. Life unfortunately does not present us with answers in black and white. There are countless shades of grey. Some people can very quickly put themselves in another person's shoes and hence they are, by definition, the malleable and receptive types. Others, rigid and firm, stick to their world views. As we see, multiple factors are at play here when it comes to exercise and impact of influence. 

Literally speaking, should one exert influence? (because the definition excludes direct ordering and forcing) I suppose, the answer is no. One can at best, put forth one's view point as a means to make sure that the other party knows it. Beyond that, if there is a disagreement, it gets complex. The conclusion is, influence cannot be exerted! It just happens when the other party comes to accept our world view.

Some things are universal - the issue of corruption or bribing or cheating for example. There is a clear sense of right and wrong involved whereas some things, as observed earlier, are largely affected by one's own personal experiences. It is important to objectively separate these two. As adults, this involves two things -

  1. Accepting the other person for what he/she is with all their attendant positives and negatives. Loving them for what they are, while simultaneously, being aware of their faults. Never getting into the realm of judgment!
  2. At all points, expressing our views - it is up to the other person to agree/disagree. Never imposing, perhaps imposing is misunderstood as equivalent to influencing! 
It is easy to write about, but eminently difficult to practice.  To rephrase and summarize, We should simply let our fellow human beings make their choices while making sure that they are intelligent enough to discern the consequences of those choices. 

This ends the rambling for now...