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March 30, 2012

Culture - The jigsaw puzzle

This is the second article in the series of articles on Culture and its effects on global marketing of products.

Maruti range of cars in the USA: When the Indian car manufacturers sell their cars in the USA they have to make a quick fundamental change in the design of the car. The steering wheel of the car has to be changed from the right side of the car to the left. This is because people drive on the left hand side of the road in India and on the right hand side in the USA. First time visitors in USA face a horrendous task in crossing the road – They inevitably look at the wrong side while the traffic is coming from the other direction or from their blind side.

Electric switches in Russia: Even more puzzling is the position of the Off and On position of electric switches in Russia. What is Off condition in many countries is the On position for the switch and vice versa. India pilots sent to Russia for training in the MIG series of fighter aircrafts spend considerable time in practicing the Off and On position lest they leave the plane in the On condition when they leave it on the tarmac.

Mehendi in the USA: Young people now a day are into body piercing and tattooing. The most favorite in thing in tattooing is to get the name of the mate tattooed. But the problem is that the mate would change but the tattoo is permanent. It is very difficult to explain the name and the bondage of the ex beau with the current one.

Mehendi (an Indian form of tattooing) could provide a wonderful solution. Get the name of the mate done in Mehendi instead of a permanent tattoo. The Mehendi would be seen for a period of ten days. If the mate is still around the same name can be put again in Mehendi or if the mate is changed a new name can be done. Thus Indian Mehendi can be marketed as temporary tattoo.

Sarees and Dhotis: sarees and Dhotis the mysterious Indian dress worn by women and men is slowly becoming popular in the western countries. But the problem with saree and the dhotis is that they are single pieces of unstitched cloths. They have to be draped and draping is a skill that very few can master. A solution to that problem has been provided. Now days it is possible to get zipper sarees and dhotis. One can appear to be in ethnic dress but at the same time be very comfortable. Madonna is big fan of Indian sarees and has a huge collection - albeit the zipper version.

The Pajamas that Indian men wear along with the kurthas also has undergone a change. Now the pajamas come with a zipper. So it is easier to relieve oneself in a restroom. Earlier the man had to almost undress to relieve himself. 

March 16, 2012

World's most outrageous Product Promotions

Enter half-naked and leave fully dressed: On January 2, 2012 hundreds of customers lined up outside the store of Spanish brand Desigual at their Regent Street store dressed only in their underwear. No matter what the weather is the customers will have to wait in a queue only in their undergarments. The first lucky 100 in the queue will walk away with a free outfit (one top, one bottom). The customers will get an hour shopping spree to pick out the perfect outfit, plus 50% across the store on all summer collections, a great reward for embarrassing themselves. A fair trade for the humiliation, especially as this stunt goes down at 9 am on one of the busiest streets in London,

But as a brand Desigual is renowned for its fun loving philosophy and bold collections, this is a great way to get noticed. When they first did this ‘Enter half-naked and leave fully dressed’ event in Barcelona in 2006 hundreds of people turned out and the craze has since been hosted in Madrid, New York, and Amsterdam, and as well as London Berlin and Stockholm
Giving Away Cars free – Oprah Style: On 23rd November 2010, TV host Oprah Winfrey gave away free her studio audience 275 Volkswagen New Beetles Monday as part of "Oprah's Favorite Things" promotion. Unfortunately, her audience members could get their cars immediately as Winfrey gave them 2012 New Beetles. At that time the new version of the iconic curvy little car has not yet been revealed to the public.
On the show, Winfrey showed only a silhouette of the new Beetle. Winfrey owns and drives a New Beetle and approached the automaker to arrange giving away the cars on her show. Volkswagen was only too happy to oblige the TV queen. Volkswagen donated all the cars, plus money to cover taxes and fees for all of the audience members,
In 2004, Winfrey gave 276 Pontiac G6 cars to her audience. At that time audience members were able to go out to the parking lot and inspect their cars immediately.
Giving Away Cars free – Daewoo style: In late 1995, Daewoo India the company that made Daewoo cars in India realized that it needed to give its flagship model Cielo a strong push to improve the sales. The company devised a innovative promotional campaign, called the ‘Diwali Bonanza scheme’ for corporates, offering one Cielo free on purchase of every ten cars.
This was followed up with a lottery scheme for individuals, wherein the winner was awarded a car. But it led to customers to look at the car with suspicion.
To top it all Cielo announced a test drive scheme to lure the buyers in April 1997. The scheme entitled all car owners to participate in a draw where 200 Cielos were given to the winners for 18 months. On completion of this period, the winners had the option of either buying the car by paying 70%of its original on-road price or returning it to Daewoo. The company claimed to have successfully tried out this scheme in the UK and Korea earlier. The scheme was intended to enhance Cielo’s credibility in the marketplace. However, the low finance rates and the test drive schemes faced the same criticism the free Cielo scheme did. These effectively doomed the fate of Cielo in India. It got branded as a cheap car that no one really wants and finally exited out of India. 

March 14, 2012

Culture - The googly that foxes every one!

I have given a test in culture to my final year students of Management and not surprisingly most of them did not do well. I think understanding culture is like learning swimming. You can’t learn swimming by staying on the shores. One has to get into water. Sample some of the questions asked. The following questions were asked and the students were asked to suggest changes in any of the 4 Ps (that is in the product, Price, Placement or Promotion).

Mac Donald’s hamburgers in Middle East: What changes are suggested?

Answer - Mac Donald’s hamburgers in Middle East: The word ham burger is itself a very dangerous word in the Middle East. Muslims hate the animal PIG so much that the word for dirty in Urdu is Suar (PIG). The product called hamburger had to be tinkered and tinkered severely. Mac Donald does not sell Hamburgers in Middle East. (Ham is the meat of the pig).

Muslims only eat Halal meat. Halal means permissible. Halal meat is the meat of the animal that is slaughtered by Dabihah the prescribed method of slaughtering all animals excluding fish and most sea-life as per Islamic law.

So Mac Donald serves only Halal mutton (sheep and goat meat), Halal chicken (meat of the hen meat) and Halal beef (Buffalo ox or cow meat) burgers in middle East.

Mac Donald’s hamburgers in India - What changes are suggested?

Mac Donald’s hamburgers in India: Mac Donald faced another set of problems in India. One of them was that if hamburgers are served in India the 15% Muslim population would not eat their burgers. Another was that if beef burgers are served the more than 80% predominantly Hindu population would not eat as cow is sacred. So a via media option was chosen. India is one of the few countries in the world where Mac Donald serves only chicken burgers. Even Mutton burgers are avoided as there is a big fear by many Hindus that costly mutton meat could be mixed with cheap beef.

Another problem was that most of the Hindus population even though non vegetarian prefers to eat vegetarian food most of the days. And India has a huge population of pure vegetarians who don’t touch any meat products at all. Mac Donald caters to all these vegetarians by offering many vegetarian items like Mcveggie, McAlooTikki, Paneer Salsa Wrap, McCurryPan and Pizza Mcpuff etc.

The vegetarian Indians love the products especially offerings like Paneer Salsa Wrap and Pizza Mcpuff which are very close to the popular Indian snack the Samosa.

An interesting side light - I had worked in Ethiopia and I had many Ethiopian Christian and Muslim friends. Giving a party was a nerve wracking experience. The Muslims would not eat the Haram meat (the non Halal meat) and the Christians would not eat the Halal meat. So two different sets of meat dishes had to be prepared and I had to be extra careful that even the utensils had to be separated. This made life so difficult to my  wife (who was a vegetarian)  that she came out with a dikhat (rule). 

My wife served only vegetarian menu to my Ethiopian friends and colleagues. Even though vegetarian  food  is labeled fasting food (Ethiopian  Christians while fasting  eat vegetarian  food) my friends enjoyed the food and appreciated the variety of vegetarian cuisine that my wife could dish out in no time at all.    

Electric razors in Japan - What changes are suggested?

Electric razors in Japan: American electric razor companies were puzzled that their popular electric razors were not doing well in Japan. This was surprising as Japanese are tech savvy customers and lap up any product that is technologically advanced. Investigation showed that the average hand of the Japanese man was smaller than that of the average American. The electric Razors designed to fit the American hand had become too big for the Japanese.

It was imperative that the electric razor fit the hand snugly. The snug fit is very important. The razor had to be gripped and only if the grip is good can the user get a neat and a clean shave. The sale took off once the electric razor was redesigned to snugly fit the hand of the average Japanese customer.