Innovation and Business for Good – an India story.


Mosquitos are a common menace in almost every part of India. The branded market for repellent product business is Rs.3600 crore or $520m. It is believed that even today almost 54% of the population does not use branded products and relies on burning Basil leaves or Neem leaves as an alternate remedy for repelling mosquitos. Today chemical companies to consumer goods companies vie for a share in the market and convert the non-believers to believers.

For several years we have seen company after company launching product after product to fight this menace and capture the branded market segment. We had a long association with Mosquito repellent coils and tablets. Then came creams and sprays. On the other end of the spectrum we had aerosol sprays that were marketed as a pest control solution. After a breakthrough innovation, the producers moved from coils to liquid vaporizers. But I have seen all this marketing effort towards selling their product and capturing the market segment to add to their bottom lines.




As said above all of these products were aimed at the branded market. And there is nothing wrong there. Every company aims for and thrives on profit. The 54% market that did not use these products did not use them were those who could not afford to buy them. At any given point in time, these products were out of reach for those who struggled for survival on a day-to day basis. A day wage laborer could not think of spending Rs.50 out of his Rs.200 wage to buy a coil. None of the rural poor can afford to spend this kind of money. They preferred to burn leaves or sleep with the mosquitoes than spending money on these luxuries.

Another common problem with all of these were the side effects of all these products. The smoke emitted by the coils was hazardous and caused breathing problem in children and adults alike. Again the liquid vaporizers or tablets required electricity which is a rare commodity in the interior parts of the country even today. So even if people could afford the vaporizers or tablets, there was no electricity to run the machines that could vaporize the chemicals in the products. With these difficulties, most of the producers ignored these consumers for a long time. Again profit being a prime motive of most of these companies, these non-consumers were an unattractive lot.

Thus I was pleasantly surprised when a well-known company in the FMVG sector – Godrej Consumer Products Limited – launched their latest innovation in October 2013. This innovative product was developed in conjunction with labs in Indonesia and tested in those markets prior to its India launch. The product is basically a piece of paper that is embedded with TFT molecules. You have to fold it and set it alight. It burns for all of three minutes.

Now why is this product a disruptive innovation? Let’s consider the cons of other products and tick them off against this one.

  1. Cost Effectiveness:

The coils, vaporizers, creams, sprays are all unaffordable to a large chunk of population in India who struggles to survive. This product launched at Rs.10 for 10 cards, effectively Re.1 per card.

  1. Resources:

This product works without electricity solving a major constraint that a major proportion of the rural and semi-rural population faces.

  1. Safe:

Since this card burns only for a few minutes and stays active for upto 4 hours, the problem of smoke and the effects related to inhalation of smoke have both been eliminated. You can burn it in a corner, away from people and enjoy the benefits devoid of the smoke.

  1. Ease of use:

The usage of this product is very straightforward and simple. It is basically ‘a piece of paper that burns.’

I have nothing against any company or product. What I love is the fact that the company has made product so affordable and put it within reach of any and everybody. Again it is a product that has been specifically developed keeping developing countries and their specific problems in mind. I like the thought process that has been applied in general. I look forward to more and more companies incorporating socio economic responsible behavior along with business for good concept in their overall strategy.


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Building Your Brand On The Social Media

Digital Marketing is an umbrella for a number of marketing activities that mainly use the Internet as a core promotional medium to reach and convert leads into customers and retain them. Digital marketing activities include search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, email marketing, content marketing and display advertising.

Social media is omnipresent. It has the ability to connect, to compel, to convert. According to statista, Facebook monthly active users increased from 100 thousands in the third quarter of 2008 to 1.59 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015. That’s about a quarter of the whole world population on Facebook alone!

Individuals, businesses, social organizations, the government can’t afford to ignore this opportunity to reach this huge population. Many have already understood that and have been leading very successful campaigns on the social media, others didn’t do so well. Many startups have relied entirely on the low cost social media campaigning to deliver their messages and spread awareness to their brand.

A few choices that I found to make a social media presence successful:

1. Publishing content relevant to the social media network

It’s important to understand the differences between social media networks. For example, people go to LinkedIn for work related content; so if you’re in the business of career coaching this should be your network of choice. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use other social media to spread your message. But probably Snap Chat wouldn’t add a lot of value, in fact it may make you look unprofessional to some.

2. Valuable content

When people enjoy the content you publish and find it useful, it’s a sure fire way to attract and retain audience. People will love your brand and will happily share your content and spread it to their networks. In my opinion, the best content is that which triggers conversation; people will share it, comment on it back and forth, and that’s going to attract curiosity from everyone scrolling down the numerous posts on their feeds.

Another way to add value to your content, is to create some promotions and coupons for your followers or subscribers. Of course it depends on the brand that you’re trying to build but it’s usually an attractive perk.

3. Understand your customers

The more you learn about your customers, the better you can relate to them and the better you can craft content to build your brand. A popular and extremely useful tool to achieve that is using analytics. For example, on this word press account, I can use its built in dashboards to see the number of unique views to each post, which countries they come from, which days of the week are most popular, which social network the post was shared to led to views,…etc. Tapping into this information treasure of analytics is critical to your brand success.

4. Scheduling

It’s important to find the right moment in which to share your content. Think of the upcoming Valentine’s day, people may be looking for ideas for gifts, travel,… If possible, connect that to your brand and leverage that.

5. Leveraging influencers

Influencers can help you build your brand much faster than you can imagine. If you have something that can be of particular interest to one or more of these influencers, make sure to directly send it to them, tag them, ask them. If you get a share or retweet from them, you will see a spike in your content views. It’s on you and on the quality of your content now to retain all those leads that you gained just by a retweet from someone with a million followers!

6. Paid promotions

Paid promotions do help, especially on platforms where they have enough knowledge of their users, which is basically every major social network! For example, if you’re someone into small planes and aviation, like me, your Facebook news feed will show up some Ads from aviation clubs and schools. It’s another way to reach interested but under served potential. Again, it depends on the quality of your content to retain these customers that you paid to get their attention in the first place.

Of course, not every choice has to be implemented for every brand. Also, this is not an exhaustive list, these are just some choices that I saw and noticed to make a difference.


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Is Celebrity > Olympic Success?

Many Olympic hopefuls live and die by sponsorship deals. Not to discount the incredible amounts of dedication, talent, and drive it takes to become a world-class athlete, the truth of the matter is that there are a lot of great athletes out there. To succeed (i.e. get sponsors), athletes have to become great storytellers, self-promoters, and differentiators to cut through the clutter.

How does an athlete do this? That is, how does an athlete market his or herself in a genuine way?


Dawn Harper Nelson (left) took advantage of Lolo Jones’ (right) falter to take gold in 2008.

To illustrate my point, I would like to compare two track and field athletes. Dawn Harper Nelson grew up in a Midwestern town, had humble beginnings and is outspoken about her Christian faith. She has plenty of spunk and personality, often showcasing wild hairstyles during competition. More importantly, with an Olympic gold medal from 2008 and a silver medal from 2012, she is one of the most successful hurdlers in American history. Yet, she had no sponsor going into 2008 and now only has one (Nike). She only has 10.5K Twitter followers and little notoriety outside of her sport.

Lolo Jones also grew up in the Midwest, faced a difficult childhood, and is very vocal about her faith. Although she competed in the same two Olympics as Harper Nelson (and forayed into winter sports as a bobsledder at the 2014 Sochi games), she has no hardware to show for it. Yet, Lolo has major deals with Asics and Red Bull, appeared on Dancing with the Stars, made it into the ESPN The Magazine Body Issue and has more followers than any other U.S. track and field athlete on Twitter (414,000 to be exact).

So, what’s the difference? In the battle for attention, why does Lolo’s celebrity trump Harper Nelson’s Olympic success? I would argue that it comes down to the use of an agent.

Back in 2010, Jones had a track agent, but didn’t have any help in the marketing department. Then, she got a random call from an agency in New York City that explained to her how she needed an agent on the business side. This was very unusual at the time, even for an Olympian, but Lolo has since recognized how crucial having an agent has been to elevating her profile above other hurdlers.

Lolo Jones - Portrait

Lolo Jones built her brand (and her value to sponsors) by taking social media seriously

After receiving criticism from her medal-winning U.S. teammates in 2012 over her “unearned” publicity, Lolo retaliated: “I’ll say this of Dawn and Kellie, I know that they didn’t have marketing agents. So if they want to blame me for getting the deals because I’m pretty, or other various things, I think when it comes down to it, I was also the only one who had a marketing person.” Jones was initially known for her tragic fall over the penultimate hurdle in the 2008 Olympics. Her marketing team capitalized on that momentum to turn her into a media maven.

PR battles like this abound in Olympic sport. In Beijing in 2008, Shawn Johnson was considered the favorite heading into the all-around gymnastics competition. However, Nastia Liukin was the one that walked out with the gold medal. According to Mary Lou Rhetton, people forget that Shawn didn’t win the gold in the all-around. Why is that?


Shawn Johnson (left) is often better remembered than Nastia Liukin (right)

Well, as you can guess, Johnson had an agent that worked on a marketing plan a full year prior to the Games. Focusing on Johnson’s bubbly personality and unbeatable smile, the agent landed deals with Adidas, Coke, and McDonald’s long before Johnson and Liukin hit the gym in Beijing. Even before she returned home to Iowa, Johnson’s agent was in talks with Dancing with the Stars. The lesson to be learned here is that preparation, planning, and a little luck are the keys to crafting a successful marketing campaign.

When the world’s best gather in Rio this summer, we will likely see more instances of mismatched celebrity to athletic accomplishment. Some athletes will capitalize on their Olympic exposure more than others, possibly because they hired a better agency. As much as I wish that great athletes could be remembered above all else for their skill on the field of play, that’s not how it goes in the dog-eat-dog world of athlete marketing.


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The Best Part of Waking Up

Chances are your brain echoed “is Folgers in your cup” after you read the title of this blog post. I would also bet that you could easily fill in the following blanks: “Break me off a _____ of that ___ ___ bar!”

Wondering why I’m playing musical trivia with you?

I was driving in my car, listening to the radio, instinctively singing along to every song I knew, when all of a sudden I realized I forgot to change the station when the commercials began. Why did I forget? Because I found myself singing along (and I don’t mean subtly humming; I mean belting as I would to Adele) to the horribly catchy, forever-sticking-in-your-head, commercial jingle that was playing. As soon as I realized what I was doing, I swiftly changed the channel in disgust.

After my slightly traumatic experience in the car, I wondered if music in advertising has any other effect than to ruin your SAT score because you just heard the Meow Mix theme song on your way to the testing center and it is now stuck in your head for the next four hours of the exam. It turns out these marketers know what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well.

Subliminal-ish Messaging

Having received my Bachelor’s in Psychology, it’s always a pleasant surprise when I can relate what I learned to business/the real world (told you, mom and dad!). The truth about repetitive advertising, as in the case of catchy commercial jingles, is that there is a psychological process working in the background to get you to like something after the fourth, fifth, sixth time you’re exposed to it. [Note: Apparently this does not apply in marriage.] You don’t even have to know that a stimulus exists; the mere exposure to it (conveniently referred to as the mere exposure effect – thank you, R.B. Zajonc) is enough to sway your preferences towards it. The human brain takes familiarity into account when judging safety, thus we gravitate towards brands that we know over ones that we’ve never heard of. You might be thinking, but what if I consciously hate ads? Shouldn’t I hate everything associated with the ad, including the very thing it’s advertising, i.e., those commercials with the annoying jingles? Unlucky for us, psychology does not have our back on this one: research shows that simply hearing a brand name is enough to make us like it more going forward.

Marketing: 1. Brain: 0.

Another music-related example: we’ve probably all experienced what I call the Taylor Swift Effect. It’s when you hear her new song for the first time and swear to yourself that you will never put your ears through that sort of suffering again. Then you hear it for the second time against your will – maybe in a cab or at your little sister’s Sweet 16 – and you begin to develop a sort of jealous hatred, because come on, anyone could play those four chords over and over again, are you serious? The third time you listen to the new TSwift song, it’s in your closet under several blankets to be sure your roommates don’t find out. The fourth time turns into the fifth which turns into the sixth which turns into your newfound obsession for TSwizzle that you just can’t deny any longer. #SquadGoals, am I right?


All The Feels

Maybe silly commercial jingles and overplayed pop songs aren’t the best examples, but there is no doubt that music can evoke emotions that you never knew you had. Music in advertising can help to establish an emotional relationship with consumers that can be critical to the success of a brand or product.

Matthew Sommer, COO of Brolik, said it best:

“Music helps brands to form an emotional connection with their target audience in a unique way, in that it affects a wider audience than most other forms of artistic expression. With so much competition for attention, advertisers can’t afford not to use every tool in their shed, especially one as emotive as music.”

A well-known example of a commercial which used music perfectly to the company’s advantage is this P&G commercial from the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Test it for yourself: without sound, this ad would be completely worthless. Then rewatch it with sound and feel all the feels that the art of music in advertising can make you feel (I suggest you grab a tissue).


I’m Confused – Is This Article About Coffee or Music?

Okay, my point is… music in marketing is important, whether we like it or not. Consciously or subconsciously, repetitive jingles, Taylor Swift songs, and tear-jerking commercials have a profound effect on us as consumers. Marketers should use music as a tool for creating lasting awareness and building strong customer relationships. Because evidently, it’s working.


  1. Zajonc, R.B. (2001). Mere Exposure: A Gateway to the Subliminal. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10, 224-228.
  2. Markman, Art. (2008). To Know Me Is to Like Me I: Mere Exposure. Psychology Today. Retrieved from
  3. Olenski, Steve. (2014). Why Music Plays A Big Role When It Comes To Branding. Retrieved from
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Baseball’s youth problem: Should MLB fear for its future popularity?

Looking at the numbers, business has never been better for the sport of baseball, as MLB brings in nearly $10 billion a year in revenue, television contracts are increasing, and franchise valuations are rising as well.  Player contracts are larger than in any other sport, and the league has developed a very successful Internet and digital media branch, MLB Advanced Media.  Despite all of this success, MLB is worried, perhaps rightfully so, about the perception of the sports and its demographics.  Many consider baseball to be a sport that attracts only old, white, male fans, especially in relation to other popular sports in America like football and basketball.  As a result, there is concern that interest in baseball among the younger generation is declining.  Little League participation declined last year at a higher rate than youth sports as a whole.

A more diverse and tech-savvy younger generation presents a challenge for MLB, as they have to compete with leagues like the NBA and NFL that have extremely recognizable stars that are frequently in the public eye.  Baseball’s best player, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, plays in the country’s second-biggest market and is a once-in-a-generation talent, but could hardly be considered a household name.  While MLB has strived to use social media to connect with younger fans, the success of MLB Advanced Media has perhaps worked against these efforts in some sense.

MLB makes very concerted efforts to keep any and all content within its own media channels.  MLB is notorious for removing highlights that fans upload to Twitter and YouTube.  While it is understandable that MLB wants to protect its content and preserve the worth of its digital arm, it eliminates a lot of the ways that the younger fans it is so desperately trying to attract interact with sports highlights.  I know that as a sports fan myself, I am constantly watching old football, basketball, and soccer highlights on YouTube along with Vines of plays that have just happened in real time on Twitter.  Younger kids are doing this just as much if not more than I am, and MLB’s strict copyright policies prevent them from interacting with baseball in that same way, which could prove detrimental to its future.  It is a lot harder to send younger kids to and away from the established media channels they use so widely.

On the other side of the coin, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, when asked about why the NBA doesn’t crack down on people ripping plays on YouTube, responded, “Highlights are marketing.”  This is something that MLB has failed to embrace, and in that sense I think they are working against their own efforts to connect with younger fans.


Baseball’s best player, Mike Trout

However, what baseball does have going for it is a wealth of extremely talented, young marketable stars.  Players like Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Yasiel Puig, Giancarlo Stanton, and Bryce Harper all have the talent and persona to fill the void left by past icons like Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey, Jr., for example, players who were truly household names.  It is up to MLB to take the young players it has and somehow insert them into the hearts and minds of young sports fans.

MLB and its teams are also taking other steps in terms of improving the pace of play and offering more in-stadium attractions, but until Trout, Harper, and others like them are on the same level as athletes like Steph Curry, LeBron James, and Tom Brady, concerns about baseball’s sustainability will remain.  For Trout’s part, it will take some convincing from the league, as he says, “You’ve got one job: It’s to come here and play.  That obviously comes first.  If it’s nothing too crazy, it’s something I’d look into.”  While it is no guarantee that Trout or another player can become a megastar, it seems crucial that baseball find a way to gain traction among young fans on the back of its stars.  The good thing is that MLB recognizes this need, and fans like me can have some hope that kids will fall in love with the game the way we did growing up.



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Why FIFA is still a strong brand

Marketing is a very widely used word. It generally describes the means of communication between companies and the consumer audience. New trends and technologies often influence marketing strategies and instruments. One tactic that has been present for a long time and is still very important is brand marketing.

Companies which use brand marketing have usually been in the market for a long time and have a successful past. If people hear a word or slogan or see a logo they immediately connect that to a specific company. However, that association has to be formed first.

I think one of the most important aspects of building a brand is to offer a very meaningful product. Consumers have to have the need and desire to enjoy a specific product. It has to appeal to emotions, which is not easy to achieve.

If a company gets to the point where they have built a brand, they can try to leverage that. The brand now represents the market identity of the company, for example who they are, what they do, the quality they provide, etc. Consumers often buy new products of a company because they know the brand, have had good experiences before and trust the quality. I believe that brand marketing is often used to encourage repeat business with costumers by investing a relatively small amount of money.

One of the companies that does a lot of brand marketing is FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association). Most people associate FIFA with football, or what Americans call soccer, and the World Cup.

FIFA was founded in 1904 and is the governing body of all football associations and responsible for the organization of football’s major international tournaments. The World Cup, which is recurring every four years, is its most important event.

Since its foundation over 100 years ago, FIFA has built its brand and strengthened it throughout the years. However, there has been a lot of controversy in the recent past especially over the last few months. FIFA top managers have been linked to corruption and bribery and it is proven that votes for the election of the president and to decide the location of future World Cups were bought.

Based on recent incidents one would imagine that the brand FIFA has suffered a lot. That’s not exactly the case though. I am sure that the reputation of the organization is a lot worse than before and people don’t have the same level of trust as before. This is supported by the fact that some sponsors like Castrol or Johnson&Johnson decided not to renew their deal. But FIFA is still a very strong brand and is able to acquire new sponsors.

I think the main reason is that football is the most popular sport in the world and the FIFA World Cup is the most popular sporting event in the world. I believe that (potential) sponsors are weighing their options of sponsoring an organization with a damaged image versus getting a platform of attracting billions of people. Most often companies choose the latter.

It is certainly ironic that the mission of FIFA is “to develop football everywhere and for all, to touch the world through its inspiring tournaments and to build a better future through the power of the game” and their slogan is “For the Game. For the World.” But I guess people are looking at the “World Cup” and still believe that FIFA can deliver a high quality product through very well organized and amazing events. Moreover, men and women have not stopped playing or watching football because the association is corrupt. This could change if the game itself is fixed, especially for passive football fans.

From a sponsoring perspective I assume that companies are saying to themselves that they are not sponsoring the FIFA but the FIFA World Cup. The opportunity to have a significant amount of airtime in front of a massive international audience is just too tempting. I would argue that sponsors need FIFA more than FIFA needs them.

Besides this, the organization reacted and suspended all known corrupted officials. They are trying to navigate the ship back on course and reestablish a positive image step-by-step. All this shows that a very famous and well respected product can protect an established brand through crisis.

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Sponsorship in Sport

In the sports business, there’s an ongoing debate concerning the worth of corporate sponsorships to corporations.  Sponsors earnestly attempt to quantify the return on these expenditures with metrics such as cost per reach, sales per dollar spent, long-term brand strengthening, and other indirect benefits. But can they measure them accurately?  And are these metrics the best representation of ROI with these sponsorships? Given these questions, it’s not shocking industry research reveals that one-third to half of US firms can’t effectively measure the ROI of their organization’s sports sponsorships.  Despite these doubts, corporate sponsors remain undeterred and continue to spend big on sports sponsorships to the tune of an estimated $20 billion in 2013 alone.  For perspective, that equates to one-third of total US television advertising and one-half of digital advertising annually.

In the past 30 years, sponsorship has undergone a significant transformation.  Companies can no longer simply superficially tie their name and brand to a sports entity and hope for a healthy return.  To reap returns on their substantial investments, it’s now imperative they fully integrate their brands within sports entities to continuously and impactfully engage their target consumers.  This active engagement is vital especially given the recent demise of sponsorship exclusivity and the ever-growing forms of media and content competing for a consumer’s attention in today’s world.  Companies are no longer competing for just market share. They’re competing for real estate in the mind of every target consumer.

To build deeper relationships with fans, sponsors now strive to select sports entities with common target demographics and values.  In doing so, sponsors would be wise to disregard stereotypes regarding fan base demographics.  To that end, although it’s commonly assumed the NFL fans are overwhelmingly men, 47% of NFL viewers are women. CoverGirl, recognized this neglected, coveted demographic.  Pouncing on the opportunity, CoverGirl aligned its brand with the league and became the official beauty sponsor of the NFL.  With accurate market assessment and tactful action in this previously overlooked space, the company has earned its perception as the most stylish makeup brand among NFL viewers.



With many fans feeling jaded with the barrage of advertising in their lives, simply being a “proud sponsor” won’t cut it.  Tapping into the intense loyalty of fans and channeling their enthusiasm is essential to gaining their trust and favor. The perception of a lack of authenticity can easily alienate the targeted consumers among fans. But sponsors that speak to the heart of their consumers with a simple, spiritually resonant message can quickly ingratiate themselves.  Southwest Airlines’s sponsorship with the NFL executed this strategy to great effect.  Its “It Must Be Football Season” campaign struck a chord with consumers overjoyed with the annual return of professional football.  As an avid football fan myself, I eagerly await the arrival of the NFL season every year and savor it while it lasts.  To me, this slogan serves as a friendly reminder to savor it. Considering Southwest’s brand equity has increased 173% since the sponsorship began in 2001, other pigskin fans likely received it just as warmly. This compares with only a 66% spike among the general population in the same time period.  Considering brand strength contributes about 60-80% to overall sales, this appears to be a case in which the ROI is legitimate and beyond substantial.

Another marketing team that fully capitalized on its sponsorship opportunity is Hyundai. Partnering with IMG College, Hyundai launched one of the largest sports sponsorships in U.S. history.  The “Show Your Loyalty” activation campaign customized its marketing activities and merchandise for each of the 25 universities and 156 college football games it covered.  Probably accepting that these crazed fans were enjoying game day without cars entering their thoughts, Hyundai strived to connect with the fans on a more personal level relevant to game-day.  The company seemingly jumped on the same “fan frenzy” frequency by emphasizing the parallels between the fans’ home-team loyalty and its own enormous pride in its brand’s number one owner loyalty ranking. Given the perfect execution of aligning Hyundai’s sensibilities and message those of rabid fans, it’s clear to me why this campaign resulted in 65 percent of fans surveyed stated they are at least “somewhat likely” to consider purchasing a Hyundai vehicle.  In my humble estimation, Hyundai implemented a virtually flawless campaign.


Ben Chalfie







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