Friday, 27 June 2014

The little things

It’s always important when travelling to remember the phrase, “It’s not wrong, it’s just different.” However, with some of life’s little efficiencies that follow, there’s not a thought of it being wrong, and you may wonder why you haven’t seen it before. Having been travelling in Southeast Asia for almost a month now, and conducting various research, I have come across some marketing miracles along the way.

First, I was extremely impressed by the electronic key bracelets that most hotels have implemented, as seen below. With this tool they have most likely eliminated their plastic key consumption, lost or stolen room key problems, and various waste throughout their supply and disposal channels (in addition to the disposal channels where lost cards do end up). These fashionable bracelet keys solve further problems facing guests such as door lock battery failures since they can be simply magnetized and don’t necessarily need a battery. The hotels using these keys are also saving work for themselves by keeping the keys and not having to remagnetise them every time for a new room. They also no longer have to open rooms for guests who lost their keys, and are able to easily identify guests of the hotel for security reasons. The bracelets slip on and off and are easily hidden by a sleeve if they don’t match your outfit.

Another interesting concept, which I am extremely curious as to why it hasn’t been implemented in almost every hospitality institution, is the service call button. Similar to the button above your seat on an airplane, many Asian countries have service buttons on your restaurant table in hopes of improving your service. This eliminates waiting times, keeps staff from bothering customers, and creates ordering efficiencies. This drastically improves customer satisfaction, as it give customers the choice of when to place their order, while staff was busy making other orders or cleaning the area, etc. A potential problem here could be that staff members take too long to reach your table, but if the venue is correctly staffed for its size and amount of customers, this response time can be easily managed. If venues want to improve their customer response ratings and reviews on the internet, this might be a good option.

To me, these two small tricks to make your life easier are marketing geniuses, because sometimes, it’s the smallest thing that can make or break your experience at a place; especially when you’re travelling or working abroad.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Master of Marketing Students visit Landor Associates

A few weeks ago, several students from the Master of Marketing course, including myself, were given the opportunity to visit Landor Associates’ Sydney Office, and hear about their unique approach to branding. Putting aside the breath-taking view from their office (as seen above), it was a truly insightful experience, and a great opportunity to ask industry specific questions and gain both an international and local perspective on the branding agency landscape (Landor currently has 21 offices across 16 countries).

Following our initial visit to Landor, we were then asked to participate in a research challenge, for which we would need to come back and present our findings to the Landor team. Splitting into two separate groups, we spent a period of two weeks gathering information and putting together our findings, culminating in an hour-long presentation (each group) for the people at Landor.

Although we can’t share exactly what we worked on, the team at Landor were extremely pleased with what we had presented, and in return provided us with really positive and constructive feedback.

For more information about their agency, and their creative approach to branding, you can visit Landor online.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Global Takeover – Airbnb

If you haven’t heard of Airbnb, the bad news is that you’ve probably been living in a cave for the last couple of years. The good news is that now, thanks to this company, you may actually find someone who is interested in renting your cave.

Over the last couple of years, we have seen a massive shift in the way that the hotel industry does business. From the birth of review sites like Trip advisor in the early 2000s, to the explosion of social media in the mid 2000s, the commodification of customer data has disrupted the type of influence that big name hotel brands usually yield. Airbnb, therefore, has taken this form of disruption to a whole new level.

Founded in 2008, Airbnb is as a digital marketplace that allows any user to rent out their accommodation for a specified time and price. By providing this universal platform, the company has essentially decentralised hotel accommodation by shifting power away from hotel chains to anyone with a spare room; effectively allowing everyone to compete on a level playing field.


Now, with each addition of new accommodation offered by an Airbnb user, the consumer experience grows. Reviews are shared between all parties. Communication is made to be direct between both the provider and the consumer. This form of co-creation has allowed all parties to participate in determining the value of the service. Suddenly big brands matter less, marketing overheads matter less, and every Tom, Dick, and Harry can be a hotelier.

This change in the old guard has shaken up the hotel industry, with hotel chains scrambling to think of ways in which they can protect their business. Many have tried to overcome the issue by raising lawsuits and merely quibbling over the legality of such a venture. But where is the innovation? Instead of arguing, why haven’t they found new solutions to deal with such a business model? Why are we still being hammered with marketing speak and bombarded with phantasmagoric TV commercials?

A page should be taken from Airbnb’s book, in that co-creation of value is key to continual success. It isn’t about who has the most accommodation spaces, or the biggest marketing budget, it’s about collaboration; every stakeholder should be involved in providing a unique experience. This could mean the difference between experiencing something ordinary, to experiencing something extraordinary.

Kenneth Bjorn Schaap
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

FIFA World Cup 2014 – A Global Conversation

Our last post on this blog mentioned one of the many FIFA World Cup-centric ads that are currently being aired across the globe. After watching a few more over the last week, I wanted to profile one particular ad which I believe captured the true spirit of the event in a very relatable, and global context. The ad I am referring to is the ‘Global Issues’ ad which was aired by the U.S. sports television channel ESPN, and bears the tagline ‘Every 4 years. The conversation starts again’. 

In a nutshell, the ad features a handful of people from different countries, having essentially the same conversations, but with different opinions. The ad is produced and edited in such a way that when one person starts the conversation, another will continue or complete it; depicting therefore a series of  conversations that occur across different age groups, races, and genders. Due to this clever editing, the key message of the ad is very clear – regardless of where you are in the world, everyone will be talking about the World Cup.

Although this ad hasn’t garnered the same attention as perhaps the higher profile ads by McDonalds and Adidas, there is no denying that it doesn’t have a global appeal, and could easily be aired across any country without the key message being lost in translation. What makes it so powerful is that viewers gain an instantaneous understanding of the FIFA brand community, even if like me, you have little interest in sports.

All you need to know in order to understand this ad is that the World Cup is as much about the players and teams, as the people who watch it. It’s the global conversation that really drives the event, and so ESPN was very clever to point this out, and really celebrate the people who make this event the big deal that it is.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Ads you actually want to watch

A number of current trend studies have indicated a movement from televised advertisement to radio and social media ads. However, there may still be a culture out there specifically gathering to watch ads on TV.

For example, large-scale, international big sporting events, such as the Olympics or the World Cup sees big firms paying millions of dollars for their 30 seconds of not just fame, but marketing brilliance. Not to mention, the American Super Bowl; now those ads are expensive!

One of the biggest up-and-coming events, being held this month in Brazil, is the 2014 FIFA World Cup which is set to showcase the world’s top soccer teams. As part of their digital campaign, Beats did an extended advertisement show casing their understanding of, and communication with, their customers. The moving ad can be seen here:

Although I do not own a pair of Beats noise-cancelling headphones, I thought that the introduction of the famous soccer stars and inspirational emotional connection was nicely intermixed with the pump- up music to get everyone in the zone for the big game. I felt as though I could relate to the story of preparing for an athletics game, performing rituals, and listening to “pep talks”. But one thing that kept crossing my mind was…. “Man, this is a seriously long commercial!”

I acknowledge that from a marketing and consumer insights perspective, it is extremely crucial to show the consumers that you understand them and their needs. However, over-emphasising that relationship focus with a lengthy ad only counteracts that aim. In this instance, less could possibly be more.

Chances are this campaign will be cut for the actual televised event, but by then, many people probably would have seen the ad online. Hopefully Beats has saved their best material for the prime time stream of viewers.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Importance of Trade Shows – 2014 Hair Expo Australia

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to be given a pass to attend the 2014 Hair Expo at the Sydney Convention Centre. Having never been to this event before, I was very much looking forward to seeing what was on offer - from both a personal, and marketing perspective.

Although my interest in hair care has been a long-standing affair, it’s only recently when I started studying Marketing that I’ve really begun to assess a brand by more than just the product or service it offers. What made this experience so enriching for me was that I got to really understand the philosophy of the brands displayed at the exhibition in a very tangible way. Each brand had set up their own designated area with signage, furniture, props and music that reflected the ethos of the brand, and the contrast between each displace really accentuated the similarities or differences between the brands.

Trade shows like these for the Hair industry serve as the primary platform of promotion for the businesses that either lack a traditional shop front (i.e. salon exclusive brands, hairdressing equipment distributers), or those that provide specialist services (i.e. hairdressing training) that are typically only advertised to members within the industry. It is therefore crucial for these businesses to raise significant awareness within the few days that the exhibition runs - whether this is done through live demonstrations, or educational seminars.

All in all, I left the event with my pockets a lot lighter, hands full of free samples, and my mind reeling at the possibility of attending this event in the future, but from the other side (i.e. as an employee of a brand involved in the exhibition showing!).  

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the The University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 6 June 2014

Cadbury Malaysia in hot water over pig DNA found in ‘halal’ products

Cadbury has recently come under fire in Malaysia after traces of pig DNA were detected in two of their product lines during routine checks for non-halal substances, conducted by The Malaysian Health Ministry.

Considering that Islam is the most practised religion in Malaysia, and that those practising this religion are forbidden to consume pork or any pork derivative, it is fairly understandable that the country would be in uproar following this discovery.

Cadbury products being withdrawn from shelves in Malaysia (Source:MalayMailOnline)

From a marketing perspective, this situation presents a very difficult position for Cadbury, because the brand loyalty that they would have nurtured in this market (and many similar to it) could quickly diminish if consumers begin to see this mistake as a betrayal of their trust in Cadbury, and of their religion.

In a statement posted on Cadbury Malaysia’s Facebook page, they mentioned that:

“We at Cadbury Malaysia understand that customers are disappointed to hear of the news on the recent test by the Ministry of Health on two of our products.

We understand how important Halal is to the Muslim community. It is also of the highest importance to us here at Cadbury. Ensuring that all our products made here in Malaysia are Halal is something we take very seriously.

We would also like to reassure you that [aside from those products affected] all other products made in Malaysia are not impacted by this test. We greatly appreciate your patience as we work through this matter.”

What I wonder about this statement, and others that have followed it, is whether they are enough to reverse the damage that has been done to their brand image.

McDonalds, for example, has been haunted by ‘urban food myths’ for years, including some that I myself often wonder about. For example, whether there really is pig fat in their ice cream. You may recall a recent campaign that was launched by McDonalds Australia to debunk these food myths, but the reality is that when people start believing that something is true, it’s often hard to dissuade them otherwise.

In a fairly recent interview, McDonald’s CEO, Catriona Noble, noted that:

"[McDonalds has] done a lot to bust myths ... but even in our own lives we come across people [who believe them] .... we've made ads that tell the truth and people still don't believe it."

In Cadbury’s case, this is no food myth, but rather a disturbing reality for the people of Malaysia. Even after the situation cools down, we can expect that Muslim consumers in this country are likely to second guess their next Cadbury purchase, regardless of the original product category that was contaminated, and regardless of how long ago this scandal occurred.

For our purposes, it will be interesting to see how Cadbury plays its cards next, and whether their efforts will be enough to reverse the damage; or at least contain it within the country for now.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Open a New Friendship

I sit here wondering, there couldn't possibly be anything more brilliant that Coca-Cola could do next. However, their latest campaign “Friendly Twist” just screams consumer insight! You can view the full campaign in the video link below:

It goes without saying that American undergraduate freshman get to college or university without knowing anyone on campus. Often they experience homesickness, as many American students journey long distances to their new homes away from home. I myself know this from experience.

Coming from New York, I knew no one in Florida where I was meant to spend the next four years of my studies. All I could was text my friends and family from home or check my Facebook for their updates. Admittedly, there was a lot of anxiety and little relief. But with Coke launching the campaign to create friendly interactions, I hope that today’s freshman will make instant friends.

The campaign shows the design of a special Coca-Cola bottle cap that cannot be opened without the use of a second bottle to twist the caps in opposite directions. When students figure out the trick cap, they then have to ask someone who has a second bottle to help open theirs. The consumer insight here lies in the fact that if you would like to enjoy your bottle of Coke, you’ll need to communicate with someone who is physically in front of you, and not in your cell phone. The fact that Coca-Cola has engineered and successfully produced a bottle that consumers cannot open by themselves doesn't cease to amaze me!

This campaign promotes more than just a fun activity. It involves sharing experiences, co-creating new friendships, and most of all, being happy. Human interaction is something that is instinctual and the fact that most young students have reduced it to zero by living through their phones, is hindering their transition to university life. Also, although this campaign is specifically aimed at 18 year-old students in America, it has the potential to be applied to many other countries and cultures in the near future. For example, although most students in Australia typically continue on to university with at least some of their high school classmates, the universities that they do study at are very large, so a campaign like Coke's "Friendly Twist" can provide an avenue to reach out.

So Coca-Cola, you've done it again; warmed our hearts and found a way to keep us having fun, being engaged, and creating a memory with Coke that cannot be forgetten.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School