My reading experience with the book X:THE EXPERIENCE WHEN BUSINESS MEETS DESIGN by Brian Solis

UX planning is currently a buzz word in marketing. I had to know more about this subject and therefore went online and bought the hard copy of the book by Brian Solis called X: The experience when business meets design.

The book talks about experience being the new branding. He talks about creating meaningful experiences for customers. His words are ‘transformative approach to customer experiences by design: human centered experience architecture. This approach defines customer experience as a sum of all customer engagements in each touch point and every moment of truth’, through out the customer lifecycle‘.
The takeaway of the book is UX + CX + BX = EXPERIENCE. (user experience + customer experience + brand experience)

Here are my moments of truth (MOTs)

Zero moment of truth: when i opened the package ordered from Amazon and saw the book, the hardcover book was horizontal, about 15 inches! It had a book jacket that keeps getting in your way when handling, and you are forced to remove the cover and keep it aside! The book has to be placed on a flat table and read.  You cannot read it comfortably, or you place it on your lap and sit erect to read it.

1st moment of truth : some of the pages use dreadful blue gradation and the copy matter on top is difficult to read. On some pages, a red colour used for headings is irritating to the eye. No thought to usability.

2nd moment of truth: the printing quality, photographs, graphics are extremely poor with indecent wastage of paper. Pages are blank and do not add any value or aesthetics. No thought about wastage of paper.

The book starts off in an interesting way with examples of Walt Disney’s Magic Band and Google’s Nest. A example of American Airlines and their website experience makes good reading.

He mentions the Lego company turnaround without any credit to Martin Lindstrom who has talked about it detail in his book Small Data. I dont know who is right or wrong here.

Further as you go along, the book offers diagrams that can make a marketers power point more complex to understand.  Make it complex so that it is impressive seems to run throughout the book.

However, the concept of the grid is interesting. But haven’t designers been using grids? A lot of the concepts are old, with new words spun around to sound awesome.

In many ways the hard copy of the book completely contradicts all the gyan in the book. My experience with the book was simply POOR and i dont know whether any of his other books would interest me.  The topic is awesome, but a total let down.


Understanding your market

  • Size of your market : You can get an idea about the size of the market by availing of industry reports and research. Trade associations can also provide information. The size of the market helps you to decide what share of the total market you want to capture.
  • Market performance – growth or degrowth, the rate at which it is growing. Sometime the growth can slow down or it could stop. If the product has been launched for the first time, then the market is new. For eg, when mobile phones were launched for the first time, the market was new and in its infancy. Today, the mobile phone market in India is growing. There are a number of players and more coming in. Very soon, the market will mature.
  • PESTLE – political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental factors that affect the market. For eg, a new law or new technology that can cause disruption. For eg, when desk top computers came and disrupted typewriters. It is also very important to know seasonality and buying trends.
  • Players – who are the players, their strengths and weaknesses, their size and financial strength. This gives an idea of your competitors and how where you stand amongst them.
  • Customers or target market – make a list of your target markets and segments. Make a note of the number of units sold or the amount of revenue that each segment is contributing over the last two financial years. This small exercise gives you an idea as to which segment is contributing most to your sales.

Step – 2. Understanding your market

Step 2. Now that you have written your marketing goal, let us move to the next step. The next step is to understand your market. For eg, what is the size of your market? How the market is segmented, who are your competitors etc? Here is the list of questions for which you need to have your answers in detail.

  1. What is the size of your market? For eg the market size is 250 cr or the market size is about 50 cr. It will depend upon your product and your geography
  2. What are the market segments? For eg the soap market is broken up into the following segments – ayurvedic,  medicated,  handmade etc.  Make a detailed list of the segments, because it is very important to know which segment your product belongs to.
  3. Who are the other players or your competitors? Make a list of all the players and to which segment they belong. List them according to their size and hierarchy.

Spend time in detailing the answers. You will be delighted with some insights that you gain from this exercise. It might lead you to some new ideas.

Marketing for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Companies

As a marketing and branding consultant, I come across a number of small and medium enterprises that need marketing. SMEs are unable to formalise the function like the big boys, as it is assumed to be a daunting task.  In a series of blogs, I will draw up a step by step guide on ‘How to Market’ your brand / product/ company plan which can get you started  You can draw up a marketing plan yourself and implement it in your company or enterprise. This could apply to any product / category that could be b2b or b2c.


Step 1 : Your marketing goal: Write out your marketing goal for the year in simple words. It should not be lofty or idealistic, but practical and achievable.

For eg. To achieve revenues of XXX amount for this year,


XXXX (Your product) will be the leader in the segment 

Do not get caught in any management jargon while articulating your vision. However, think big and think practical and achievable. Your goal is what is going to drive you and your marketing team.

Private Banks and branding

• Check the ICICI bank facebook page and you will not find a single consumer complaint. Now isn’t that fishy?
Axis bank facebook page do have a lot of consumer complaints with no response. Only ‘kind words’ are responded to.
• Axis bank corporate banking user interface online has been so badly designed. For the first time user it is frustrating
HDFC bank has 16 boards 29 followers and 370 pins on Pinterest. What is it doing on Pinterest? Does it need to be there?
• Go to Axis Bank, JM Road branch in Pune. The security guard is chewing mawa most of the time and spitting it into the spindly leafless potted plants at the entrance. The interiors are smelly and forever crowded. Chairs wobble and are stained beyond recognition.

Using a bank prior to the advent of private banks was like entering a government office. Transactions were painful, time consuming and frustrating. A tall glass partition separated the customer and the bank. We just accepted it. As customers we had no expectations either, and those banks did not create any. Neither did they spend much money on brand building. In many ways they were honest and straightforward.
Then came the private banks with their slick packaging. Gracious spaces with relationship managers and all the frills. Using every tool, every platform to create the most warm and emotional image of being perfectly trustworthy and honest. A lot of us got captivated and opened accounts. In their quest to add numbers, they would go out of their way to open accounts. Gone were the glass partitions. Instead there were lounges, tea and coffee served etc. The honeymoon had begun.
It has been more than 10 years now. Some of the private banks have become huge. In their greed for big money, one has seen a distinct change in the way they function. The relationship officers are most of the time peddling gold coins, mutual funds and insurance policies where they stand to gain. There is no sincere financial advice. Also gone is the small talk, tea coffee madam? Instead small customers are classified as cattle class, and they are brazenly unapologetic for their attitude towards them. Other touch points have been worn off their sheen and gloss. They have taken their bigness for granted.
What is most surprising is that there is no integration of customer database to provide value to their existing customers. For instance, if you are a HDFC home loan user, HDFC bank has no clue about it.
Being on various platforms of social media and conducting promotions does not mean that these brands are engaging with their customers.
Recently some of the banks were in the news for wrong reasons. Their corporate communications department immediately issued pretentious statements instead of being frank and admitting to their mistake.
As net banking becomes popular, it would commoditise banking. How do they intend to differentiate and live up to a brand promise.

So what is it that ails these brands?
• Brand’s core values remain on paper
• No brand differentiation
• They are not communicated well internally.
• The brand does not walk the talk.
• Bottomline driven and not customer driven.
• Growth towards volume and not value
• Transactional rather than engagement
• No differentiated strategy for ORM (Online Reputation Management)

Branding for manufacturing and ‘job work’ companies

Recently I delivered a talk on marketing and branding to a group of small manufacturers who did ‘job work’ for bigger manufacturers of B2B products. Their business turnover was annually between 10 to 50 cr. I was speaking to them about the role of marketing in their business. As they did ‘job work’, their customers were fixed. Their products were tailor made to suit their customer’s specifications.
They heard me out and maybe felt that marketing was the prerogative of consumer products and services and not them, since they did ‘job work’. What was the use of marketing and branding for them?
Marketing is very often misunderstood as a selling function with the end objective of increasing sales.
However, manufacturing or ‘job work’ enterprises should market themselves if they want to grow. They need to understand and invest in marketing and branding. A lesser known fact of marketing is that a brand is built as a result of marketing alone. Companies that make business products and services need to build their brand. Some of the top brands of the world are such company brands.
Some of these companies started manufacturing and doing ‘job work’ and became big. They were ambitious to scale up and go beyond what they were doing and understood that marketing played a very important role.
A very interesting example is of Intel. Computer chips were an unknown component of PCs and a commodity product. From a competitive standpoint there is no performance difference. But Intel built a brand and by 1997 it controlled 90% of the world’s market for personal PC microprocessors. Intel is still the largest chip manufacturer in the world.
In 1991, the “Intel Inside” brand programme was launched. Intel needed to differentiate itself from its competitors and build a brand due to which it could position its chips as a premium product, in turn sell at a premium price to computer manufacturers. Intel convinced manufacturers that their computers would have higher perceived value if they featured Intel in their own marketing.The name “Intel Inside” became the first trademark in the electrical component industry. Intel gained the confidence of the end consumer that “Intel Inside” represented quality and reliability. The results were stunning. Now products that don’t carry the Intel inside logo arouse suspicion among consumers.
Market research has indicated that end-users show a strong preference for computers with Intel saying they will pay a premium for the brand.
This demonstrates how a successful, marketing and branding program can transform a commodity business product into a brand with value.
Be it a manufacturing company making machines or a company doing ‘job work’. Be it a consumer product or service, a branding strategy definitely adds value.

Branding basics for SMEs

The Right Brand name – a successful start!

Think of the following brand names – Infosys, Biocon, Educomp, GoAir, Titan etc. These are called ‘corporate ‘brands’ or company brands. Frooti, Fastrack, Café Coffee Day, Aashirvaad are ‘consumer brands’. All of them are young, less than 25 years old! Very importantly these brands are all very successful and profitable and have a lot of good will in the market.

What is it that you find about these brand names? Aren’t the names memorable and different? These brands remain in our minds and we are not likely to forget them.

They have been created keeping the customer or the consumer in mind. There has been a naming strategy behind these brand names.

If you want your business to be successful and profitable, start thinking’ brands’. In today’s competitive environment, entrepreneurs, marketers do not have the luxury of ‘time’ to build a brand. You should be able to communicate a brand name effortlessly to your customers.

Sometimes, brand names are not understood and companies spend a lot of money trying to market such brands. Le Sancy, a soap was one such brand that failed in the nineties inspite of investing crores of rupees in marketing.

Most well known older companies have family names like Tata, Birla, Kirloskar, or geographic names like Bharat Forge, Bombay Dyeing or generic names like Reliance, The founders were pioneers and preferred their family names. They have built their brand names over a very long period of time.

Family names do help in certain professional businesses like fashion designers, architects, interior designers etc.

If you are about to start a new venture or launch a product, keep these parameters in mind while naming.

• Think ‘brands’! At first decide that your company name should be the brand name that you want to build with your customers and stakeholders. Because, finally it is the brand that will be the wealth creator for you.

• The brand name should be memorable and different

• The name should reflect your business and be understood by your customers and stakeholders. For eg Woodlands (footwear), Govardhan (dairy products)

• Names should be short, easy to pronounce and easy to spell. For eg. Nano, Hero, Titan etc. Long names invariably become acronyms like IBM (International Business Machines), MRF (Madras Road Factory) should be avoided.

• Unusual evocative names are more easily remembered. For eg. Sunsilk, Google, Pulsar etc.

• Avoid generic names like ‘Apex’, Zenith, ‘Style’, ‘Radiant’ etc because they are neither different nor memorable. There are many other business entities using these names.

• Identify a list of names and test it with your friends, colleagues and customers. See which appeals and generates the maximum response and interest. If you are unable to generate any interesting name, take the help of advertising agency professionals.

What does a brand consist of?

A brand principally consists of two parts – the tangible called ‘product’ and the intangible called ‘perceptual’.
The ‘product’ is the real thing which you can see, touch, hear, smell and taste. When we say coffee, the real thing is beans, powder, aroma, a jar, the price, colour etc. Products are ‘manufactured. In case of a service, say a bank – it is quality of interaction, service, layout and spatial ambience.
The ‘perceptual’ part is what is being perceived (image) and is intangible. Nescafe is perceived as being refreshing, trusted, international, etc.
Let’s say there are two shirt labels – one is called Browne and the other is ColorPlus. The difference between the two is at a perceptual level. ColorPlus is seen as corporate. The brand is active, and engages with its consumers. It has built a brand image with advertising and other communications. While Browne remains passive, insular and low profile. Nobody knows about Browne and therefore it is not considered a ‘brand’. Browne remains just a name.
If the owning company wants to sell Browne, it would not have the benefit of monetising it. There is no goodwill or reputation, whilst ColorPlus is loaded. The brand is strong, carries considerable good will and reputation. It has financial value.

‘branding karna hai’

Branding as a discipline has come about in the West only in the fifties. Branding came to India and entered into the business lexicon quite recently. Branding has come to mean a logo to most people. Branding is much more than a logo. Creating a brand is a process and if done well, can be monetised which means, a brand has financial value. The large business houses are brand savvy. However it is small and medium sized enterprises remain confused about it. ‘Branding karna hai’, which means the logo should be visible everywhere.

A brand is visually symbolised by its logo. That is why the logo is so important. Without a visual symbol we would have been unable to identify a product or a company.

What is branding
A brand is a name, symbol and all sensory and unique perceptual associations, personality, thoughts and goodwill that resides within us. All these elements are created and strategised so that it results in the brand image that we have in our minds.

The beginning
The word ‘brand’ comes from the Old Norse word ‘brandr’ which means to burn or sear. Originally branding was merely used for identification by a symbol or a family name. For instance a mark or symbol used to be seared on the cattle’s backside to identify them when they roamed the vast countryside. Liquor makers had their family names and a symbol to differentiate their produce from others. Royal families had a coat of arms or a crest and used it on flags which during wars,was a means of identification. It was much like a company today that uses a logo.

During the industrial revolution, mass production was possible. Many manufacturers made packaged products and the need to differentiate was critical. Competition among the consumer goods gave rise to branding. They had to deliver much more than just the product, something more than the tangible elements. These intangible elements were communicated through advertising. That is why advertising is crucial to brand building.

Some of the earliest known brands are Coca Cola, Quaker Oats, Kelloggs, Cadburys. There was Ivory, Pears and Lux.

‘Brand men’
P & G was the first company to give a designation of brand manager. Neil McElroy was the first to introduce the concept of brand management through his famous 3 page memo for ‘brand men’.

Is ‘Alive really awesome’

When I was a teenager in the seventies, Cinthol used to be a popular soap with a distinctly red package. The soap was green with a strong smell. It had something called hexachlorofene, an ingredient that was supposed to make it different and thus used in all their advertising. Just then Liril came and captured everyone’s eyeballs. It was for the first time that the Indian public got to see a bathing beauty in a bikini frolicking under a waterfall, on screen. The soap was lime green, had a great fresh fragrance. 

 Cinthol then launched its lime variant with handsome dudes like Vinod Khanna and Imran Khan that had all the girls swooning over.

Ever since, the soap market has changed and Cinthol has sort of slipped through the conscious. I never considered that soap, and retailers had also tucked the soap away in some corner of their soap section.

Recently when I saw the TV commercial for Godrej Cinthol, I was curious to see how the brand had undergone a change. I was also curious to try the soap.

I went to the large supermarket with innumerable varieties of soaps in their soap section. Handmade, coldpressed, flavoured, scented, ayurvedic etc. I saw Cinthol on the lowest shelf and had to stoop to dig it up. The soap had undergone a change in packaging. It was simple and minimalistic with colours that were a dirty kind of grey, blue, red and yellow. I picked up to smell it. It was the same smell. I was no longer curious. I kept the soap back. 

Perhaps I am not the target audience. The makers as well as the ad agency had explained that Cinthol was meant for today’s youth who want to live life to the fullest.  I did not see any special  POP displays or the message taken any further than that. The packaging was dull and boring. Nothing alive or awesome about it. What a let down. 

The TV commercial went overboard with the message. But has it worked for the brand?