December 6, 2008

Nothing new by way of marketing in state elections

Delhi, J&k, Rajasthan and MP have recently gone through the process of electing state assemblies. Although the later part of electioneering had been clouded by the dastardly violence in Mumbai, but its impact on the voting behavior remains a point of discussion. The results would be out on December 08, 2008.

I had the opportunity to advice an unique gentlemen in an unique constituency in the state of Rajasthan. Besides i kept a close watch on the use of marketing by politicians and parties to conduct their campaigns. Unfortunately once again it were the same old story. Political marketing is still confined to seeking to influence & persuade the voters through by applying marketing tools and concepts.

The parties stubbornly stuck to believing that marketing can go no further. Most parties still depend upon their core members, government agencies and mass media to judge the 'mood' of the electorate. Moreover in most places they refuse to accept that voters can break the caste, and culture barrier,even if the parties put up trustworthy leaders and present credible governance.

Political parties fail to adopt a 'market orientation' by democratising the agenda setting by the electorate. It would be proper if parties could use some grassroot marketing search to understand the mood of the public. When the parties themselves decide the agenda for the electorate,this leads to confusion in the mind of the people who are forced to choose a caste, religion or culture issue for selecting a party to vote for. Politicians must find out what people want and then set out to fulfill their promises if they wish to remain in power for long. Just use some real marketing research.

Just concluded elections were wit out much marketing innovations. If there were any like use of camel for transport it were restricted to introduce novelty without the ability to satisfy the desires of the voters from elections.

Another point worth noting is that politicians and parties firmly believe that Indian electorate can not break the barriers of caste religion. It is not true Mr politician. Go out and make a win-win proposition to your segment of voters, success would come running to you!

December 1, 2008

Check corruption to deal with terrorism

India, once again, is writhing from the pain inflicted by the scourge of terrorism. Once more innocent blood has been spilled. Another time India watched helplessly. Who will rid us of this hopelessness? What can India do to stop this terrorism?

Some nationalist parties say that the terrorism can be tackled by attacking a neighboring country as that has been the fountainhead of these uncivilized activities. Even if India exercises the option of strategic strikes inside another country it may lead to full blown war. But are we afraid of war? Certainly not, but India need to know what objectives can we met by going for war against another country. Going to war may only harden their resolve to sponsor more terrorist activities against us. What options are we left with?

The most feverish argument thrown by mass media has been that if USA has had only one strike in last 8 years, why we cannot achieve the same results? Well, India is not USA. On the other side Israel has been at war with its neighbors since long, are they living in peace? And Israel has support of the West which we don’t have. Surely Israel would wish to end the war at the earliest.

India is vulnerable and helpless against terrorism not because we have problem with our neighboring countries. We are let down by endemic corruption and nepotism prevalent within. The enemy within is the total absence of the rule of law. Law does not discriminate between Hindu, Sikh or Muslim but the enforcing agencies and the political parties never apply it uniformly. So called pseudo-nationalist and pseudo religious outfits do not allow a government agency to investigate allegations of terrorism against their own ilk.

The terrorism shall stop when India learns to curb corruption and nepotism. When no one can get a false id card, ration card, phone connection, a university degree, a government and corporate job without having valid eligibility then you surely could catch any terrorist much before they execute their nefarious plan. Citizens in India do not trust our courts, police, politicians and each other how we can feel secure.

How can incompetent assure us security? When India learns to honor talent, competence, strength of character and do not discriminate on the basis of religion, caste, region and language we will have complete security. Armed forces are competent to wage a war against the external enemy we have to fight the enemy within.

India has a strong armed force and enough fire power to take on an enemy but still we suffer. Once we have genuine people in responsible positions no one could defeat us. Therefore let us make India an impregnable fortress with our strength of character; respect for the rule of law, secular and civilized behavior. Believe me no one would be able to dare touch us.

November 12, 2008

Marketing in the current global slowdown

During the past one month, Entrepreneurs from the region around Chandigarh, have inquired about what could be an appropriate response for their firm to the current contraction in demand. Well, classically, during a slowdown most companies tend to prune their market spends. This could prove to be a wise tactic for a b2b firm sometimes, but most certainly the FMCG sector could better stay away from even toying with such an imprudent step. Organizations in the durable space have no clear cut alternatives and would have to take a position depending upon their place in the market. But the SME sector has to be most careful in designing a suitable action plan.

Exports from India have also registered a downward trend. Inventories are piling up in the durable and auto sector. A major Indian auto company has been forced to declare production interruption at their plants. So what could one do in such a scenario?

Let me share with you the strategy for the next quarter put in action with two of my clients in the SME domain. They have advised their teams to use the opportunity to focus away from new sales and invest more time in generating customer goodwill by settling outstanding issues. This could be combined with paying more attention to settling outstanding payments cases on priority. This would lead to satisfactory cash flows and positive bonding with customers by settling the contentious issues.

I certainly do not recommend offloading the inventory into the market at the distribution points. Although some companies can surely exert their marketing might to influence the resellers to carry high inventories. You could do it by discounting prices or offering attractive margins to the trade etc. But this certainly affect your image once the markets come out of slowdown phase that may last for 9-12 months as reflected in the major indices.

Mass media advertising does not help in such a scenario because the consumer is not an upbeat mood. It would be proper if the companies shift their market spend to the point of purchase, in store events and other below the line media. I strongly recommend the use of events and in theatre advertisements in the present scenario as it is necessary to motivate a buyer before she can open her purse strings. SMEs have to seek customized solutions depending upon their unique position in the market

November 6, 2008

Obama lessons for India

What lessons can we draw from Barack’s selection by the majority of people of the USA as their 44th President? Both India & USA are democratic & multiracial societies. We both have experienced deep divisions amongst our people, although divisions in India are definitely run into several layers. And we have suffered terrorism. But how can we prepare for a better future?

We can prepare for future only if we focus in that direction! Unfortunately we still long for the long lost golden past. You would agree that human beings can be happy despite whatever culture and religion they are born into. It is time for us to think on geo-economic lines rather geo-political factors. Providing reasonable living standards for every Indian shall be the guiding principle for us to conduct our politics and social life in place of counting the numbers in our tribe.

We would be a happy nation if we judge people by the merit of their character rather than how/which god they pray to, which part of country they live in or which caste they belong to. What kind of india we would have in future if we cast our vote along caste, language, religion lines? Ability and strength of character should be only criteria to select people to lead the country on the path to progress. Let us vow not to vote on the basis of caste, religion, region and other such unimportant factors and select our leaders on the basis of strength of their character and ability.

How can we expect to be reasonable place to live in, if we can not provide jobs and rule of law in India? Why should we use religious and cultural symbolism to unite/divide us? It is a futile exercise. Iraq and Iran have fought many wars even when they belong to same religion. Europe also have fought amongst themselves several times despite their allegiance to a particular way of life. And India has also experienced the madness of small Rajas belonging to same religion fighting with each other. Why seek pride in things like caste, religion etc when those things can not make us happy and living on earth more meaningful.Wake up India and become a happy country. Let us choose happiness over pride

It is better to be happy than proud!

October 3, 2008

NewClear India!

Thank God, The deal is done. We are a recognized nuclear state, or shall we say a newclear power? INC has been saying that it would help us seek more high technology collaborations with the rest of the world besides providing a clean source of energy. Left parties are doing their harmless regular stuff. The BJP is in a fix, so it is talking about the restrictions on tests. But how much this deal would impact the fortunes of Congress party in the coming election the jury is still out?

India is warming up for another national election in early 2009. So you see the politicians and parties making suitable poses & noises to allure the voters to select them for the plush jobs in the government. Some of them have announced their candidature too without waiting for the vacancy advertisement. Why does Mr Advani thinks he is most eligible for the job of the PM this time around?

Going into elections the BJP or NDA may consider that since he has worked for long period, and have aspired for even longer, so why not let a senior leader to fulfill his desire. Do the majority of the workers in BJP approve of his candidature? And what if the voters did not approve of his candidature? Wouldn’t that be really embarrassing situation to be in for him post elections? After all he has been a fighter, or shall we say a Rath Yatri, all his life.

But well into 21st century now would it be good for us to have a leader as PM who loves Chairman Mao style homegrown cultural revolution in India? China has long moved on from Cultural Revolution to economic revolution why should we not? What would India do with a PM who knows more about cultural and religious matters than the fundamentals of economy? Surely BJP has many leaders like Modi, Jaitley, Jaswant etc who while talking about the religio-cultural harangue never lose focus from the economic agenda for our poor country?

Let us forget about the last NDA finance minister who had starting jumping wildly in his chair shouting India Shining, India Shining, when all we had got was a faint hope of prosperity that we may achieve with our persistent efforts in another 30-40 years. Our India needs, like other countries like China, Russia, Brazil, Malaysia have got, a hard working, growth minded, unassuming, silent worker as a PM who should keep working tirelessly without getting carried away by small victories on our hard road to economic development that we all need badly. How can India become great if Indians do not have enough to eat?

Let Nirvik singh of Grey India go gung ho about India Shining because he made the moolah by crafting a communication strategy without qualms about advertising ethics. Nirvik can surely defend his position by saying that if he had not done it someone else would have, but a political party should be careful about its credibility and must not take us for granted. Let us be clear that once BJP have used that shining thing what would they do in the next elections? Without doubt, Nirvik would definitely find new accounts.

August 3, 2008

Nutrition, Taste, Health and/or pleasure of Foods!

We eat to live. Well most of us definitely do. Hence the food must make us healthy and increase our life span. As consumers are becoming more demanding the food companies have to work overtime to convince the buyers to depend on them for offering nutrition combined with pleasure. Therefore food companies are taking fatty foods off the shelves and replacing them with the healthier foods.

You may segment the food along four benefits; Nutrition, Taste, Health and Pleasure. What are the alternatives with the Cola majors like Pepsi & Coke? Would they be able to sustain a strategic attack on their consumption? Could they survive by asking consumers to go for cola drinks for pure pleasure? Or could they pass off as the tastier water available? They would find it very scary to go for a pleasure tag. Certainly they would never imagine killing their market by hawking Cola as a health drink. How the future is going to play out is a million dollar question.

Snack food market in India is dominated by the unorganized sector. But the future may be different. The organized retail revolution unleashed in India would change the contours in no time. Most retailers have or are in the process of launching their own snack food brands. The local small snack food players would be edged out from the market and would remain in business as vendors of the large stores. The evolution of biotechnology would also upgrade the snack food portfolio.

The sweet snack food segment dominated by biscuits is experiencing real tremors with entry of new competition from within and global market. Players in biscuit market are planning to launch biscuits as a healthy snack food. We are all convinced with cereals and dalia etc as a healthy food. But a snack is a snack. How can you force fit a biscuit to pass of as a health food? Surely a snack food product positioned on health benefit segmentation is in nothing but a horrendous idea. Hope no snack food player would like to present their products on the lines of Chawanprass or some Churan. If they do how would the packaging look like? Would it look like a health product, a medicine or some happy pleasurable packaging?

How many snack food players have we got in the Punjab region? Not many! Why is it so when there is huge market available in the region? When you shop for a snacks all you see if Fritolay, Haldiram, and 2-3 local players. We know that being a developing country that has recently come out of a total regulatory regime, our entrepreneurs are more comfortable with production than being adept in marketing their produce.

Every big small town in the region has 1-2 famous snack food player. How we all miss the great retail effort undertook by Lovely Sweets from Jalandhar. Gopal from Patiala has also flexed its muscles but have not taken a real shot at becoming an established player. Dhoda sweets may have shifted base to Ludhiana but their product line is woeful short.Cremica has opened up into this domain but they seem to be satisfied with organic growth only.

When would we see a snack food brand leveraging the worldwide appeal of PUNJABI DHABHA and SHER-E-PUNJAB? Is someone listening!

July 18, 2008

Election issues in India

Which would be the most important issues that people would vote for in the upcoming parliament poll in India? Well the election date would soon be known after the vote in parliament scheduled for July 22. The political parties in India generally depend upon and go by the ‘wisdom & judgment ’ of their in-house political pundits and those so-called senior journalists, who spin doctor as a fulltime profession for the parties they are working for without ever bothering for the professional ethics. Simultaneously the political parties also commission some market research to find out about the mood of the electorate. And the findings of these research agencies are generally ignored because the political leaders generally like to believe that they know the masses well enough at all times.

The masses, beyond the party workers, do not claim to know their leaders at all the times. That’s why they keep changing their opinion about electing them to power periodically. Political parties would benefit a lot if they could get some professional organization to research into the mood of the electorate so that they could make ‘promises’ on the correct lines at least. Let us try to list the most talked about election issues in the media.

Nuclear deal between US-INDIA has become a prominent issue. The Congress would go to people projecting it as a deal in the national interest and of the ‘AAM ADMI’, (Children in India believe that they only could be the ‘aam admi’ as mango is their favorite fruit). Though rural India suffers more from power cuts than the urban but its influence on voting may be more in the urban areas. BJP lead NDA would find it difficult to convince the people about their opposition to the deal.

I do not find anything wrong with getting close to the most powerful nation on earth. US have close relations with Europe, Japan, and Malaysia etc too. Would the opponents of the pact like India get close to poorer and least developed countries? India needs to feed its scary population. India needs to grow faster to be able to find jobs for its people. India needs energy. One could grow by being in the company of the developed. How could you keep company of the underdeveloped and expect to grow fast? Nations, like Men, are known by their company.

Let us shed that hollow & false pride to concentrate on working with international community to develop India into a place where everyone can find food, clothing and shelter. How can India be great when half the population goes empty stomach? Get real if you love India. India is its people. Have pity on the Indians, cut that jingoistic rhetoric away for sometime and let India develops economically. If you want India to strong and proud let us all work hard and find food, shelter and normal living conditions for most of us. Healthy body has healthy mind. Let us make India healthy first.

Inflation would be NDA’s most potent weapon. Recent price escalation that’s threatening to touch 12 percent on July 18, 2008 could work wonders in the urban areas for BJP. Other NDA constituents may not benefit much from this phenomenon because they do not much following in the urban India. Well the Congress would like to project that the rise in crude price is beyond their control and blame the inflation on the foreign hand. But masses in India have shown repeatedly that price increase is not forgiven. Congress would have to work hard to convince the masses to control the damage.

Governance has remained a pretty prominent election issue for a long time. Congress used to project itself as the only party that could rule India and offer stable government. It has been proven wrong. Several non-congress governments have ruled India. NDA government lasted full 6 years at the helm. This issues now figures prominently in speeches of LK Advani. BJP has very smartly marketed this issue in its modified version as good-governance. Well done. India needs good governance more than the stability. We need corruption free governance. Effectiveness of government could improve only when corruption is taken out of the system.

No political party promises a corruption free government. If any one of the Congress and BJP could promise a corruption free government it can sweep the elections on this one issue alone. Indians are fed up with corruption. There can be no really good or stable governance when nothing moves without greasing some palms.

Hindutva would remain a major election issue for BJP led alliance. BJP would be using it in some form like Amarnath, Death sentence to Muslim accused in parliament attack, Sonia gandhi’s origins etc. Hindutva has become necessity of the BJP to keep its flock of party workers together. The issue has lost appeal for the average educated Indian.

Unprecedented economic growth in India in last 4-5 years would become the major plank to convince voters to side with the party. It would also project the clean image of Manmohan Singh. Lallu’s great innings with railways is another powerful issue. Overall UPA & Congress would do well to project their achievements. NDA/BJP would counter it by projecting the inflation.

UPA and Congress have to be careful about their media plan to convey the message of great governance. I would recommend that they should take best media planners on board in its war-room to strategise to formulate a media plan and fine tune its targeting of the various sections of electorate. NDA last-time had a great campaign in Shining India, but they completely failed in crafting a media plan.

There have been constant complain campaign by BJP about many power centers in UPA, dilution of the prestige of the office of PM, and the charge that Manmohan is a weak PM. Well Congress may counter them with record of its government. I have reservations about demand for a strong PM. Does India need a PM like Modi? A parliamentary democracy would do well to have a PM who is more of a Coordinator than a typical one-man show. Half of the India is poor, uneducated, religious, ethnic and caste conscious, and densely populated, its possible to arouse their sentiments and push them into unfortunate battles over trivial issues. A dictator like PM is not required in India. We have rejected the emergency last time too. India needs a consensus seeking, soft spoken, educated person like Manmohan, Nrayanmurthy, Rattan Tata, APJ, Sachin Pilot, Arun Jaitley etc to lead us into better times.

There may be several other important issues that could be found out through research. I hope political parties go beyond using marketing tools & concepts and give a market orientation to the party itself. A real democracy should ask people what they want and give them what they really need. All political parties have to develop a new market orientation to get the trust of the people they claim to represent.

July 15, 2008

Meta Marketing for the B2B SMEs

When I proposed to a capital goods manufacturer of packaging machines to go beyond functional, quality & price matrix to market the machines, they could not understand how would it lead to a fat order book. Subsequently when it was recommended to improve aesthetics of the damn machine, they laughed loud. Gentlemen! Why can’t we have sexy machines that dance equally well?

Finding new customers remains one single most important challenge facing SME sector in India. More so in B2B sector the problem is terrible. You would come across number of manufacturers who have created a product or have the knowledge to produce but do not have the way to get it across to the buyers in time. You may also meet entrepreneurs who boldly tell you that they have got a million dollar product, market plan but don't have the execution muscles. Simply put they lack trained motivated professionals. 

Recently i got to advise a wrapping machine manufacturer who is in business for almost twenty years. This particular company faced a major crisis when one of their key people walked out to set up a parallel company. And this person approached the existing customers of his employer. He offered a similar product ‘an equally good machine’ at a lower price. Some customers diverted their new orders to him. What can you do in such a scenario besides taking legal steps to handle such challenges?

First if you are a B2B organization with almost finite demand over small to medium term go for CRM immediately. Identify & segment your customers on various criteria and appoint dedicated Relationship Managers. To organize this function in a better way you may employ some CRM tool from a wide range of applications available in the market. The relationship managers would do well by meeting the customer end teams at a suitable frequency backed by more intense offsite contacts. The aim of this exercise is to build top of mind recall so that every time the customer may include your name in their buying plans.

Secondly service teams should be encouraged to communicate through RMs. Since service teams are not fully trained in Sales activity they may not be able to influence the sale beyond discussing ‘quality’ aspects of the product. I have noticed in many companies services engineers tend to assume the role of generating sales. Though there could be some exceptional individuals in service, who could influence the customer but the in normal circumstances, the sales job should be delegated to the crack sales team only.

Since most machine tools and intermediaries are closely linked to the sale of other equipment also it would be necessary for the manufacturers to carefully leverage the meta marketing variables. A wrapping machine buyer would be buying other machines to complete production line therefore it would be appropriate for the manufacturers to tie up with other suppliers. Packaging machine suppliers need to sell their machines to the manufacturer of plant machinery and the project consultants before marketing the same to the actual buyers.

Generally major trade fairs remain the mainstay of promotion for the B2B segment. It would be appropriate if you take services of some marketing Adviser to package & present your products at such shows. You may have noticed that smart presentation at the trade show could multiply the possibility of generating orders and satisfy existing and potential customers. Try doing something unique next time during your trade show presentation.

Some engineers & manufacturers in B2B segment find it difficult to adopt sophisticated marketing techniques. Because marketing is treated as a post-production function rather an orientation of the business. How often have you come across sellers comfortable with maintaining their price in negotiations? Why can’t they learn from the success of leading true blue engineering companies that embraced marketing to become world best like Microsoft, GE and the old IBM.

Strategic Marketing communications separate a successful SME from the rest. How do you identify, engage, persuade, delight your customers would determine your topline. Why do some SME owners forget to leverage media & technology surprises me? If you have not used Direct Marketing and CRM, you are taking a risk in the medium to long term.

Come on shed that old mindset of treating marketing as a post-production function and give a total market orientation to your business. Focus on the customer, not what you want to sell you shall succeed

July 8, 2008

Complacency kills!...... Is India really happy & satisfied?

You cannot escape hearing these days about the talks/seminars on economic progress being achieved by India at 9 percent aggregate growth in GDP for last 4 years and the loud signing off that India would soon be a global power. But the same people could be seen struggling on the chocked roads fuming to reach home. Well that could be sign of ‘enormous’ wealth expressed in terms of auto sales.

Well whom are we benchmarking ourselves with? Europe, eastern I suppose or the America, south may be or the nearer home like Shanghai (Mr Prime minister please), Taiwan, Bangkok, KL, Hong Kong…..or perhaps Chengdu that relatively unknown place in Sichuan province of PRC.

When I was in Chengdu, China I experienced a world that’s pretty different from my hometown Chandigarh, and the home state Punjab. It was a completely pleasant surprise. Though Punjab is almost the state where fellows Indians from several states come to work and live, and Chandigarh is still hawked as the greenest city, an epitome of modern living. Certainly I do not want to compare any Indian city with Hong Kong,, Shanghai or Kuala Lumpur. But these die-hard optimists would not compromise their harangue on how great is it live in India.

Why can we not have an opinion about the house, land, planet and the world we are living in?

How would we clean up the environment unless we agree that things are not normal? Why should we shut up and wait for ages & centuries for a miracle, that new world order, which would emerge and India would become a place that you could be feel proud of? We Indians have to recognize the problems with India and work… honestly to make India a country that other people on the globe would prefer to talk about and admire. Please excuse me for wishing for admiration from others. Perhaps that’s the way I perceive of attaining the Nirvana!

Whenever ‘India eulogizing’ rhetoric begins anywhere on our land it strangely starts projecting our most dangerous problems as opportunities. Population problem is repackaged as an opportunity to earn foreign currency! The pathetic logic goes like since India would have 90 crore youthful working population therefore all the developed countries with stagnant population would be dependent upon us for labor.

Whew! How could a country be called a super power if its citizens toil in foreign lands doing menial jobs?

India would be a super power the day all Indians can live securely and find work on our land. Otherwise please name a country that could be called a super power and its citizens have to go and work abroad in droves. Well except the poor USA! Its citizens are ‘working’ in Iraq, Afghanistan and few other places. Well incidentally me and President Bush has lots in common besides our education, birth month and of course the popularity. I am almost matching his popularity ratings in our respective work areas.

When India figures high in surveys on happiness it must be a matter of concern for our leaders. Complacency kills! More so when Germans, Japanese do not think that they are happy.

Happiness is a state of mind. It may mean different things for different people. In war zone one may be happy to be just alive, but the same person may not be happy lying in bed in a super luxury suite. If you are a person who wishes to be an achiever then you may not be ‘happy’ with little success. But if you do not have well defined goals in your life then perhaps you may remain happy just like that. India needs to work very hard to climb up economically. Therefore ‘just like that’ or a ‘chalta hai’ attitude may not be useful for us to achieve recognition and acceptance.

Let us change our attitude and do not rest on our past achievements and strive continuously to achieve a reasonable standard of living in India for all of us. Lets be happy only if India produces great Books, products, athletes, scientists, businesspersons, teachers and politicians. I am trying my bit and believe me I would not be happy without a concrete achievement. I am available for work 24X7.

July 2, 2008

Selecting a logo

When it comes to selecting a logo for a product/company most prefer to go by thier 'gut feel'. But if you follow the follwing steps your task may become easier,

1. Have a good look at the logos of your business/product segment.

2. Check up the logos most admired by the Target customer segment of your product/business.

3.Non-fmcg may avoid additional properties like visual metaphor, signature tunes etc as the target buyer has a close homogenous profile.

4. Businesses/products targetted at the youth would do well if they add a graphic.

5. Packaging should be leveraged to enhance the brand experience.

6. Let a professional decide how your logo should look like!

June 22, 2008

JAL- Joy of India

Recently KOHLER a bath fittings and bath wares brand got active in indian market. I beleive other similar brands present in Indian market like JAL, Jaguar, etc need to tighten their belts as the growing market for housing would be changing the industry completely. We can learn from what happpened in cement market in 90s when an aggressive player like Gujrat ambuja challeged the might of the biggies like ACC with devastating consequences for them. If cement can be successfully branded why not an engineering product like bath fittings?

Monte Carlo to Sportking-Ludhiana Hosiery Brands

Ludhiana in Punjab comes second to Tripur, Tamilnadu in hosiery industry. India being an emerging economy has the problem of scaling up of business organisations. Most Indian entrepreneurs prefer a 'minimal' risk route by manufacuring goods for other brands rather than going directly into the market with their own brand.

In fact most businessmen do not plan a budget for marketing more than salaries of sales staff and a few rupees for an odd advert in the print media or a tvc. Marketing is treated as an additional post production activity. How could one compete in market without a name and reputation?

We all have heard of Lifebuoy, Lux, Dettol, Dove, Pears etc. But how many have heard of VVF? My humble suggestion to our decades old established business houses would be to go in for branding and secure thier long term position.

Some years ago india did not had the 300 million middle class then it was okay to manufacture for european and US brands. But now when Indian consumers have demonstrated their natural preference for strong brands, it is time for us to have a relook at our branding abd positioning to keep the customer happy. It is not that ludhiana industry has not tried their branding but their experience does not seem to be very happy.

I remember OWM casablanca people tying up with pringle decade ago. You would surely recognise Montecarlo as a wollen brand. Some other business houses from ludhiana also roped in national level advertising agencies but the result has not been great. Why? Firstly Ludhiana businesses suffer from chronic deficit of talented marketing pros. Though the leaders are open to innovation. I remember having sold a 'cartoon contest' feature to leading most cycle manufacturer while working for a english daily. It was a completely new exercise.

Secondly most business leaders control thier businesses very tightly killing any possibilities for a talent to flourish. Let us have look at some of the brand issues from Ludhiana. Monte Carlo has been stretched to cover non wollen items, When montcarlo launched a new premium brand to compete with Pringle of casablanca, the packing carried the mention of from the house of montecarlo. A junior brand should not be used to endorse the premium segement.

'Sportking' does not have much market in the sports segment. If it is a fashion brand then why call it 'Sport' at all? Its selling good? Try position it properly and see the hidden treasures in terms of marketing dollars. 'Duke' has the potential to become the aspirational wear for Indian youth but then is soemone listening to strategise to put it before the world's youthful nation?

I beleive time has come for business leaders to understand the potential of branding. Since most punjabis travel worldwide we all have seen that WAL-Mart is not a fancy looking store but a greatly strategised retaling business. If we continue to depend on producing for others we may loose our chance to add greater value and may also loose the manufacturing race to China, Africa etc. Let us get up and put our name under the arc lights! Ludhiana listening..?

Nokia 6708 !! Panasonic X 300

NOKIA 6708 is a touchscreen phone. Does anyone wish to buy an used NOKIA 6708 or Panasonic X 300 ?

June 21, 2008

Is MBA all about research?

Is MBA all about research experience?

Management institutes in India and abroad generally prefer to recruit those as faculty who have a PhD degree. Such PhD professors may lack the work experience in corporate/industry and have never got an opportunity to experience & understand business management. Therefore they fail to properly make aware the students about the real management environment in the corporate resulting in severe mismatch in the skill portfolio of the students and the demands of the corporate world.

MBA course in India has become very popular due to economic growth & the privatization of the education sector. Lots of grads are joining the newly opened Business Management schools with a hope to make it big in the corporate world. Being a faculty member at three such institutes I have the opportunity to appreciate the prevalent circumstances.

There are some subjects like Marketing, Sales Management, Distribution, SCM, CRM, Strategic Management that definitely require some exposure to the real market place. It is not possible to disseminate these subjects without referring to some real life cases from the current business scenario. When I was studying for MBA at Punjab University, my marketing professor could not tell which were the leading advertising agencies in India only. Sic.

Professor holding PhD degrees and teaching Marketing Research to MBA students would be unaware of AC Nielsen! Please ask you teacher of research if s/he has ever heard of ac Nielsen. What kind of education are we talking about?

Agreed that a good business management course must follow a multi disciplinary approach and one requires a general smattering of Psychology, Sociology, Economics, Mathematics etc, but how could you a scenario when majority of the teachers have no knowledge and experience of the corporate world? Walk in any nearest business school in India and discover the truth for yourself. How could we support our economic growth if the human resources lack on quality?

The b-schools in India must encourage and invite professionals with industry experience to teach real stuff to the students. This would enhance the economic growth of India. If the b-schools give due preference to industry experience and not insist on PhD degree the quality of education would certainly improve inside the classroom. And the corporate sector would definitely get ‘ready to use’ human resources. In my opinion we need to put professional in charge of business education than mere theoretical teachers with PhD degrees and no real knowledge of the corporate.

June 18, 2008

Oh God! make their films work at box office

Recently a well known Indian film star and his family walked bare foot to visit a temple so that their career may look up after a string of flops. Surprisingly this person after working for decades have not found confidence in his abilities to get success in profession? If people in that old ripe age with tons of money at their command do not believe in their abilities then who else can? One has to look outside than inside of one's persona? What a dangerous thought to undermine the confidence of young India in their abilities.

This sends a loud signal to the new generation that abilities and honesty are not enough to succeed in life but one has to pull other strings too. No wonder India do not win medals in Olympics, writes great books, create engineers etc because we inculcate in our children that one can not build oneself up to a level where s/he can be the world best. Because it is unachievable without help from outside. Come on. I am finding it difficult to explain it to my son. Oh God!

In India the unorganized sector, be it religion or the corporate, has a greater following than that of organised one. When we look at toiletries, food, clothing, footwear, auto component, retail & services....the greater market share is generally in favor of the unorganized sector. We attribute it to the nature of market economy. India being a developing economy would take time to consolidate businesses in the organized sector and requires more time to benefit from the resultant synergies , enhance operational efficiencies and reduce unnecessary costs in the processes.

The effort to organize retailing has already hit major road blocks in major states. Why do the masses prefer to unorganized over the organized and branded offerings? We all understand that a brand from the organized business offers greater promise of quality. And the prices have less stability in commodities market than manufactured goods and brands. Let us not digress from the real point of faith and religion.

Most faiths have clear guidelines for the believers then why ever new 'saints' are emerging on the scene. These new saints have huge money following them. I went to study from two reputed universities for MBA, MJMC and have been working for over over 20 years, but i do not have finance to set up a professional education institute. On the contrary there are several great men who have set up huge infrastructures to offer astrology, religion, ayurveda, yoga etc without going for any training in research and education. Whats this?

India has been known as land of saints, gurus and religious people. We have mainstream national parties that swear by their own brand of religion. This creates schisms among different groups. These parties convince the masses that once their brand of religious thoughts are implemented in the country then India would become a super power. If you ask them to prove their point with reference to history they can not site any time when their brand of thinking helped the masses in India to achieve peace, happiness and glory. But they continue preaching their idea and acquire political power for themselves. Now how do we view the concept of religion in the new globalist world?

Are we Indians more religious than Japan, China, Malaysia, US, Europe? Is there a link between following religious tenets and becoming successful. Does it have any impact on businesses and living? Certainly it has, don't you agree? In India religious persons, places and concepts attract huge money. People go to visit persons, places of religion to donate money so that the almighty may help them in life and living. In this transaction, like other transactions in business, the motive is to get higher returns.

How would the religions cope with a the march of globalization? Won't the masses would start comparing various thoughts finally settling for a new world order in which everyone has a level playing field.

June 16, 2008

waste thoughts

Life's goal can not be filling up the tummy, putting on expensive clothes, driving best cars, living with best women. Then what is life meant for?if all our actions would come to naught? but does all our actions actually have no value? Why should we remember a napoleon, a shakespear, a newton, a pele, these guys would never be forgotten till the time their works are relevant to life on we must act in context to relevance to human life. since charity begins at home, shall the individual not strive to built oneself first, or shall the personal interest be given second importance to public good. oh God, pls tell us what is right?

Let the life lead us

Let the life lead us?I agree, yes! I agree.Life as 'understood' by us from the past around 5000 odd years of living on this planet does not offers many answers. I agree that we have found some explanations, but the main questions remain unanswered.Like the need for a 'God'? is He there? Is HE a HE? Do we need Him. some religions discount HIM.What is happiness? Is it an islandic feeling? I mean how can we celebrate the winning, when most who participated lost the contest? How can we enjoy a chocolate sitting in our car when a street urchin is looking at us on the traffic light? Happiness must be a meaningful experience. Ignorance, or the willing suspension of disbelief, shall not make us happy.What actually is a crime[crime & punishment;dostoevsky]? If Saddam kills thats crime, if Bush kills thats not? Who struck first cannot be the basis of definition of a crime.Let us find answers, let us be Happier, let us talk to each other. There are no good, or bad people here. The time has not come to decide whats good and whats bad, till that moment let us keep living!!

Tata NANO's mega-marketing plan for EU

The media and students of marketing strategy and business management are virtually dumbfounded by the the timing of the launch of TATA's NANO and TATA's acquistion of Jaguar & Land rover, aren't we? Do we find a link between the two events?

It is generally explained by & in the media that tatas wanted to balance its product portifolio therefore Mr Rattan Tata, that honorable genius-donnt we all admire him!,decided to go for both. WRONG!

In my opinion the acquisition of jaguar & Land rover has nothing to do with any balancing act whatsoever. But a strategic marketing move to market NANO in lucrative EU market. Am i right Mr Rattan Tata.

Acquisition of jag gives TATA motors the access to strong distribution network in EU with an incredible product synergy. A customer walking into jag or rover outlet to acquire a lifestyle product may not mind shelling out 5% extra to express his/her concern for environment by driving a small car for local driving.

NANO can safely get parking space in the wallet and garage that boasts of lifestyle autos. Come on tell me if i am wrong Mr Rattan Tata

Why Punjabi language media lags behind?

You must have been wondering why donn't you have a successful punjabi language channel or radio ? Marketing logic would suggest that it would make a good business sense to create a great paper, radio, tv or digital channel in punjab. Punjabi community has the buying power to attract advertising dollars.

Punjabis have the right kind of attitude towards spending & living that would be of great attraction to the investors. Then whats wrong, why donnt we have a successful media business in punjabi language? One unteneable logic generally propogated by the so called specialists is the proximity or likeness of punjabi with hindi language.....then why bhojpuri, marathi, gujrati is thriving within the hindi belt? Certainly most of those dialects do not have a market consumption profile completely suited for attracting advertising dollars. We hardly have two punjabi newpapers ajit and jagbani, others like desh sewak, punjabi tribune, spokesman, chardikala etc have hardly have significant base to talk about. All papers are morning dailies. It is generally said that punjabis have no reading culture..but what about listening and viewing culture?

Punjabi media suffers from lack of differentiation. Donnt you agree that punjabis have significantly diffrent culture and lifestyle? Why donnt the media reflect it? Punjabi media must recognise the punjabi ethos and touch the punjabi soul..the success may not be far.

A punjabi tv channel can get eye balls with classic love stories of heer-ranjha, sassi-punnu, serialisation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's story, bring the sofi poets alive on small screen, develop kamagatamaru to current escapes of punjabis to lands that offer better life etc. There is enough content to sustain a build and market a great punjabi channel. All we need is a determined investor who is in love with punjabi language and takes genuine pride in punjabi ethos.

Let us hope some educated punjabi business person may see the logic of serving the cause of punjabi culture and backs a media project to promote it. If Punjabis change thier habits and become more like gujratis who would buy new fancy cars on shoe string budgets? When punjabi culture gets diluted marketeers would have to search for a new early adaptors segment and the businesses would have longer break even period. Do you wish it to happen in next 5-10 years?

Punjab based political party Akali Dal definitely requires to promote punjabi language to maintain its grip over its supporters. Otherwise the party may face extinction in near future. Young leaders like Sukhbir Sing Badal would surely like to keep his flock together with promoting punjabi language so as to maintain their diffrentiation with BJP and Congress. And on the other hand Congress, or bjp in punjab could do well to capture the imagination of punjabis and portray themselves as promoters of punjabi culture and strengthen their political grip in the punjab region. Is someone listening!

June 15, 2008

Sawpan's malicious dreams

You would definitely feel hurt when intelligent people side with dark forces for the sake of short term gains. Evil geniuses. Hitler was not a dud, but a person who could move the masses with his eloquent speeches and evil logic. In a developing country like India some resonably good journos have joined caste and religion based parties because the mainstream party did not acknowledge their ralent. Some of these journalist are good enough to feed the propagandist rumour mill of the parties they represent.

People like swapan das gupta are tweaking the news to benefit the party they represent. But sometime he, and other like him go overboard to defend their political interests that they put the country at stake. News management has become a definte tool of political marketing. But national interest and decency must take precedence over narrow parochial objective. We must not put the unity of India at stake for personal gains.

In order to please N Modi, swapan has written in today's Times of India that Modi is right in asking for dissociating gujrat from the union governement. Is it not challenging and weakening the structure of our system. swapan says that since gujratis are smarter than the rest of india they should be allowed to use money generated as taxes from the state. They must have priviledges.

In his own words...."Contrary to what simple-minded nationalists may feel, this was not a coded signal for secession. Why, the Singapore leader was asking, should Gujarat compromise its comparative advantage as a centre of entrepreneurship and prosperity for the sake of that India which doggedly refuses to enter the 21st century? Should the brightest student in a class be forced to dumb down to accommodate the dullard?" Times of india june 15 2008.

sawapan must not forget that same argument was given in punjab 20 years ago in favour of Khalistan movement. If we can not serve each others' interests what right we have to call ourselves as fellow country. swapan and modi forget that gujrat makes some money because indian armed forces are defending the borders. Can modi have investment climate without security? How many of our gujratis brothers are serving the armed forces? Please do not divide the country for personal gains.

June 14, 2008

White lies, half truths...& pure Marketing

Do you believe in marketing? How often you have come across people making blantantly fake claims about their offers? When you would have asked them why they were doing must have got back a reply like...come on i was doing a little marketing!!! Can a half truths or white lies pass off for in the name of marketing?

Well how can we imagine to get into a reasonably long term relationship that has been based on lies, be in in personal life or professional. The buck shall find a time and place to stop.

When i come across adverts promising 70 & 30 % off in mainline english media in print, tv and digital my marketing sense bleeds. How can we succeed by doing business with not so smart customers? lots of such marketing communications are being passed off in a rapidly developing country like india. Since large sections of our society are going through a SEC profile transformations the products with low proces are flying from the shelves. With low level of current product penetration the businesses are not bothering about delighting & retaining customers. They are smug and sure in their belief that new streams of customers are being added to SEC a,b, & C therefore they would plently of fish to catch in the sea.

When a business is targetting new customers upgrading from lower SEC strata they forget to give due weights to the purchasing power and ease of purchase. A repeat customer brings more money to shop and shops fast. It would be logical to get facts right and use marketing to delight the customer.

I wish traditional business in Punjab, Haryana, and HP should have a second look at their marketing strategy.

Globalisation of Consumers

Globalisation of customers citizens

The age of romance and beauty continues. So is the quest to find the meaning of life. But no longer we hear of a young charming prince from a distant land setting out on his effervescent horse to conquer and unite the world. We have our dapper graying ‘powerful’ kings, some democratic some not, busy launching marauding armies from their air-conditioned bunkers shortly after a nutritious dinner meal.

The world has accepted the political boundaries drawn in the wake of Second World War as sacrosanct. Higher fences are a symbol of safety and happiness. Admiration and awe is now moved from those decorated military heroes to tactical weapons and their awesome destructive force. Bombs know no forgiveness as associated with erstwhile romantic war heroes. Wars are still waged, still in the name of peace. We have devised new ways to acquire the wealth from weaker people and nations. We call it globalization.

The industrially developed nations are touting globalization as a panacea for the reduction of poverty on the earth. In the process these corporation contribute to the economic development of their parent countries though market expansion and out sourcing hazardous production processes. The enlightened scholars from the western world advise the developing countries to allow big business corporations from the west to sell to the poor citizens living in the developing countries.

These great corporations from the industrially developed world promise to ‘delight’ the customers in the LDC countries. But the same customer do not get a welcome if s/he wishes to live in the countries represented by these global corporations. How do these companies plan to achieve ‘customer delight’ without building mutual trust?

How can a company call itself a true marketing corporation if that does not stand for equal opportunities? If the people from less developed world do not have equal chance of living wherever they wish what moral right does a corporation have to interact with same people living in their local countries. Globalization can be achieved only if all citizen customers have equal opportunity to live wherever they want as per the international laws and ethics.

The developed world discourages less developed people to join them as that may disturb the local culture. The same people vehemently promote their cultural products all over the world. Why should people in India, China, Russia and Brazil develop a liking for Scottish whiskey or French wines or German engineering products? These are distinctly culture-based products.

How do we explain the rise of Australian wine industry or the rise of Canadian corporations? Why can’t you enjoy a drink of Coca Cola in Middle East? What has happened to the sales of Swiss watch industry in the wake of continuing conflict in Gaza? If a nation fails to welcome all citizen consumers to its shores it would face problems in making money from global citizens.

Is actual Globalisation achievable without building a civil global ethos based on universal principles of justice and fairness? We can not go against the mother nature, have we ever come across a moment in our long past when entire planet has had the same conditions, economic, political, natural, or social? When was the last time you heard that the earth has had rains all over the place, or everyone went to bed the same time? If nature on earth cannot offer same weather conditions in all places, how can we achieve true globalisation of opportunities? The new order looks farcical in the light of definition of marketing too.

We do not have same color of our skin. Nations do not have same ‘power’. What is the purpose of aiming for Level playing field amongst unequal? Have our civilization given up and have accepted the hegemony of the strong over the week? If might shall always be right, then why talk of creating an equitable, just and human society on the earth.

Guru Gobind Singh ji has remarked that true virtuous beauty is enshrined in the act of valor when sparrows muster up the courage to challenge the hawks. But in our postmodern society such romantic acts are portrayed as old fashioned. Pursuit of pleasures takes precedence over the pursuit of happiness.

Globalisation would give an equal opportunity to powerful developed countries in the west to compete in the market place in the developing world. The direct consequence of it would be that due to lack of resources the companies in the LDC would be at mercy of the onslaught of the foreign companies.

Political Marketing in india

Winner’s curse in Political Advertising

A sound communications strategy could backfire without astute media planning. Vajpaye led NDA government had lost elections due to bad media planning. In fact there was nothing wrong with the communication strategy of India Shining campaign. Probably the segmentation was also done meticulously. The party managers had faltered on establishing a correct level of advertising spend believing that if they spend more on communication the result would be in their favour. How could one assume that when most research indicate otherwise.

India shining campaign has been considered a flop show as the party lost elections. A closer study would reveal that there was real merit in the communication strategy adopted as election theme. Most experts also agreed that the campaign was generally good and effective before the election results were out. The devil did lie in the media planning. From political marketing viewpoint no one tried to look at the desired level of media reach for an incumbent party. The overkill in media cost them elections.

The Samajwadi party in Uttar Pradesh used the most powerful brand endorser in India combined with messages that had top grade production values, but that was not enough to keep the party in power. Did the political advertising campaign worked in this case?

There are major differences between the American and European way of conducting advertising campaigns. In USA you have candidate centered, repetitive, and short advertising messages as against the European way that features party centric, longer duration, and single shot advertisements.

If the Labour party in UK could use professional help and successfully re-brand itself as New Labour and go on to win successive elections. Why can’t political parties in India learn from their experience and seek professional help in place of some inhouse experts who could be susceptible to the phenomenon of tunnel vision.

If congress party in Punjab assembly elections 2007 had succeeded in reminding the loyal voters of Shromani Akal Dal in towns about their ‘differences’ with hardcore Hindutva forces then the election results outcome would have been different. If the media experts in congress party had targeted advertisements on the basic differences within the loyal cadres and voters of SAD and BJP it may have continued to rule Punjab.

The hardcore Akali and RSS/BJP do not seem to have resolved their ideological differences over major issues like Punjabi language, river waters, Chandigarh, and attitude towards religions etc. Therefore Congress party in Punjab had a cut out task of reminding the core voters in both camps about their past.

It was that core Akali voters who for the first time polled votes in favour of BJP that made the difference to the unprecedented BJP victory in the state. The credit went to the young leadership of SAD for engineering a shift in the voting behavior of traditional Akali voter by very successfully mobilising and convincing them to cast the votes in favour of Akali BJP combine.

SAD & BJP are parties with a strong core. These kinds of parties can win an election on the basis of a strong wave only. It is very important for these parties to appeal to the floating voters to vote in their favour. In the last Punjab elections there were other strong reasons for the victory of SAD BJP alliance.

Use of marketing instruments, concepts and techniques is on the rise in India with every new election. Most political parties realizing the importance of political communications have created in house teams, often named as media cell, to establish, maintain and improve the image of their party and advise the party on professional political communications. These media divisions within parties generally consist of current and former journalists and a smattering of political communications experts. Well-planned political marketing helps to influence the election outcome by convincing the electorate about real effective issues.

Elections and political management remains under tight control of the in-party specialists who claim to understand the political scenario better than the marketing expert who generally gets involved in elections during election time only. The politicians and parties in India have yet to get onto the perpetual political marketing mode as undertaken in democracies in western world and the ASEAN countries. The war room mentality remains the favorite style for leveraging the political marketing process in developed world.

Punjab elections in 2007 featured high decibel advertising campaigns, public election broadcasts, road shows, exit polls, news management and a more organized campaign management to get the voters out to vote. The reverberations continue to be felt in the form of daily dose of news coverage about the arrest & trial of high profile previous chief minister and his associates.

The role of media and the media advisors have never had attracted such attention in election campaigns in particular and managing a political party in general. Can we conclude that astute media handling, and overall use of marketing tools have become a necessary feature for the success of a political party? The application of marketing techniques and strategies to the political marketplace is a paradigm shift that will continue to change politics, as we know it today.

Media in Punjab, India too, has long been associated with social and political movements. It has been considered as an instrument with the potential to usher in a socio-political change in society. Till recently, major media in India could have been identified with distinct religious, political, social and economic interest groups having a definite agenda to promote without regard to the overall health of our democratic nation. In the current democratic set up media openly seems to side with political parties and other vested interest groups to sway the public opinion in a particular direction. Therefore news management has become a full time activity for the political players. Success in politics is measured by the ability of a party to move the public opinion in a direction it wants it to move.

Since vast majority of Indians are religious and God fearing therefore it has become a general practice amongst politicians of every hue to be seen to be seeking blessings from religious leaders more during the time of elections so as to impress upon their followers to vote in favour of their party and candidate. But for the first time in Punjab, a Baba from the neighboring state of Haryana took out series of advertisements impressing upon his followers to vote in favour of a Congress party.

This cocktail of religion and politics seem to work all over India and has produced enormous aftershocks long after the polls have gone. A professional approach in handling such communications could reduce the unsavoury aftershocks in the country. The intensity of the competition could be gauged from the fact that socio-religious leaders are prompted to appeal to their followers to influence voting.

It is not the media companies alone who take recourse to the pre poll surveys to assess the mood of the voters and pump up their TRP. The political parties also resort to use of market research to fine-tune their campaign strategy. Since these surveys make catchy headlines therefore their impact on the voters and the party workers is powerful. A positive survey finding motivates the party worker to get out work to get all the votes polled on the Election Day.

A pre poll survey predicting a negative outcome could demotivate the party rank & file and also convince the floating undecided voter to form a negative opinion about the projected looser party. These surveys provide new debating points to the media and do seem to colour their own news analysis also.

The Parties employed below the line media to reach out to the rural voter. Music videos and election songs have become a major tool of communicating a political message to the rural audience. Terrestrial television in the form of state owned Doordarshan has an extensive reach in the rural areas and therefore used for the purpose of public election broadcast to disseminate the message to the people who otherwise depend upon vernacular print media.

The cap on election expenditure also restricts the political parties from involving professional advertising organizations to execute a political campaign on their behalf. Because the political party would not want to disclose their actual advertising spend to the election commission.

Persuasion remains the main objective of the political players. The parties stop short of finding out what the electorate wants from them; instead they claim to know what people must expect from them. The parties have generally ignored the need for marketing research to list the issues facing the public.

There has been an extensive use of negative advertising during the election campaigning. Some of the advertisements do have advocacy tone also. But nothing that could be called a creative advertising campaign capable of producing measurable effects. The media cells in parties continue to believe that voters would buy everything that they have to tell them. When would these media experts accept that we live in times when creating credibility of the messages is a challenge.

There has been plethora of research suggesting that incumbent party does not gain from higher share of voice. Though it gains remarkably from share of mind and share of heart. This would require limited use advertising and leveraging the other promotion vehicles. But most incumbent parties do not seem to take lessons and keep on wasting resources on government advertising.

It is believed by many that there are no upper limits to the quantity of communication to strengthen the appeal of a political party. More the merrier, but that’s certainly not true. Several studies in political marketing have established beyond doubt that there is a non-linear relationship between the spending and net marginal benefit to the advertiser. Particularly for the incumbent party it has been generally accepted that low level of spending, than the challenger, may be better for producing a positive effect for an incumbent party.

Most political pundits seem to have concluded that advertising and other marketing devices have almost negligible effective role to play in Indian elections. But several parties have tried to deploy sophisticated political marketing tools to convince the voter to elect them to power. But the results may not have been turned out in their favour.

While most political parties use sophisticated technology to get across their message to the voters, they still rely on party old timers, journalists and bureaucrats to work out a communications strategy. Professional advise in election management is still not a very popular way. Therefore, most of the times, the quantity and quality of communication is way off the mark. Some political parties in India have recently begun consulting outside professional marketing experts to understand the mood of the electorate, plan communications/advertising, & manage news media in order to mobilize public opinion in its favour. Definitely they see wisdom in using marketing for victory in the elections though political pundits may not agree with the effectiveness of the political marketing process.

Gurinder Singh Ahluwalia
Marketing Consultant

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