Hitting out at competition in public – Watch out for the back lash

Traditional wisdom has usually been in favor or focusing on YOUR product / company strengths in promotional campaigns. In fact, may marketing methods deliberately advice against mentioning competition in your campaigns since it “unnecessarily” provides your competition visibility at your expense. However, in many cases (especially when you are trying to grab market share from that competitor), a feature comparison is pretty common – car companies routinely push out feature to feature comparison with competition. It is usually characterized by a bunch of ticks against your product and a lot of crosses against your competition.

The latest brand war between the Times of India and The Hindu is pretty interesting in many respects. Both these are age old news papers and have a huge circulation. While The Hindu is strong in the South (many Chennaites cannot think of a morning without The Hindu), the TOI has a much higher circulation across India, even though there don’t have a significant presence in South India. In terms of the content, they are as different as chalk and cheese. While TOI (in my opinion) focuses almost entirely on showbiz, celebrity, skin show and a little bit of news, The Hindu (again in my opinion) largely dishes out pretty “boring” but reliable news  – words like “unbiased journalism” and “ethics” are more associated with The Hindu.

See how the story unfolded here – http://whataworldagain.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/brand-wars-the-times-of-india-vs-the-hindu/

and a very good analysis of this at http://forbesindia.com/blog/business-strategy/how-toi-woke-up-the-hindu/

I think there is a lot of truth in both the campaigns, The Hindu doesn’t really “wake you up” and the TOI doesn’t really give you news.

Now coming to TOI’s strategy of initiating this war, I think it was a good move, irrespective of who has the last laugh in this war. I say this in spite of The Hindu hitting back in style (of course, you can expect TOI to hit back again in more style, but we’ll wait and watch). TOI had almost no presence in Chennai and any advantage in terms of the attention (and circulation) that they can get there will be a bonus. Everyone knows that The Hindu lacks spice and by clearly calling that out, TOI has offered itself as an alternative to the spice-hungry among the Chennites. There are people in Chennai who still don’t know that the actress associated with “size zero” is Kareena Kapoor, and I do believe overall, TOI is going to see a push in their circulation in Chennai – even with people who acknowledge that The Hindu’s response was clever. With close to zero cost of the newspapers expect many Chennai homes to even get both The Hindu AND TOI.

Now, coming to why I feel TOI should watch out for the back lash. Even after The Hindu’s clever response, their job is only half done. Now what they need to do is to promote this message in areas where TOI is traditionally strong, and educate TOI’s readers that “All Bollywood and no news makes Jack a dull boy” and tell them that they have been missing out on “news” at the expense of Bollywood and celebrity stuff. How well The Hindu can promote their response across the country (and in this internet age, its comparative easier) will determine how this war pans out. They already have a presence, a rather weak one, in Mumbai and a this could be a great chance to grab some market share in Mumbai

The Hindu clearly has the opportunity now to turn the hunter into the hunted.


There are no uncreative jobs….. only uncreative ways of doing a job

If you grew up in Chennai in the late 80s / early 90s, it would be hard NOT to have heard about Ayyannan, a traffic constable. Now, on initial glance it is easy to imagine a traffic constable as a pretty uncreative job. How creative can you get with directing traffic?

However, Ayyannan was special!!! He had this choreographic way of directing traffic – expansive dance like movements to get the traffic criss crossing…. and NO, his way of directing traffic did not cause any accidents. Ive often seen him posted in 2 of the busiest traffic intersections in Chennai during the morning peak hours – Gandhi statue on beach road or Music Academy junction in Cathedral Road – both of which fed huge traffic from the residences in South Chennai to the business districts in Mount Road and Parry’s corner. There would usually be a small crowd who stopped in a corner to just hang around and watch him go about his “uncreative job”. People in passing vehicles craned their neck to watch him too. I remember The Hindu even doing a piece on him.

Unfortunately, those were not the days of the internet and when I just did a search for “Ayyannan Traffic Constable” on Google, it returned almost nothing. In this day of Youtube, his video would have gone viral…. Like a “Kolaveri”.

Ayyannan has helped me remind myself that there is always a more creative way, an more enterprising way, a passionate way of doing even the most mundane job. Face it, in every job, there is a portion which is a drudgery.  My ex boss once told me. “Whatever you do, there would be about 20% of your set of things on your plate that you will not enjoy greatly. Its part of the deal”. In multiple stages of my career Ive usually found this 80:20 rule to be pretty true – at a broad level. Looking at it as a drudgery is a sure way to not enjoy it and also to do a bad job at it. Maybe there is a more creative way of looking at it.

Its not just about what you do, but also about how you approach it and how you go about doing it.


— NWritings