I love cricket! The thrill, the passion, the mindgames, the strategy, the patience, the resilience, the focus but most importantly I love being part of a team. A certain someone from a little known company feels the same. As he takes on his new challenge of leading a team of 100,000+ employees to greatness far and beyond, it's great to see him carry the lessons learned on the cricket field. Salute Mr. Nadella, wish you all the very best!
It's never too early or too late to start playing cricket. Feel free to reach out to me if you'd like to take a crack at cricket. :)
Packaging is part art part science. While it’s something we don’t really think of as we go about our daily lives, it plays an important role in what we buy and how we consume products. For most CPG companies, packaging is one of their top most priorities. They are constantly looking to find ways to make their products stand out on the shelf while reducing costs and carbon footprint. In fact Unilever has crowdsourced packaging design through its Better Packaging initiative.
Here's a look at Unilever's product and packaging philosophy and a list of everyday products I consume that make my life easier not just for their product features, but also for their innovative packaging.
“To make my meal in a box taste better, I decided to tweak the logo, rather than the ingredients. ”
― Jarod Kintz
In Part 1 of our buyer persona case study, I talked about the Shenshi assignment, developed a buyer persona and the content piece around that persona. In Part 2, I will explain the relevance of the content to the Shenshi brand, the tone and voice used as well as the media and platform choices for it.
Relevance to the Shenshi brand
To explain the relevance of the content, let's revisit Shenshi's three core brand values:
1. Inspiration: The Inspiration Experience makes people believe that they can achieve things in their own lives.
2. Identity: The Identity Experience makes people believe they belong to a group with similar interests.
3. Utilitarian: The Utilitarian Experience involves giving advice and tips to help people make decisions about their lives.
In case of the content, our protagonist Dan knows he belongs to a special group of achievers and he has a lot of be proud of. Dan's story is inspirational and this piece of content helps remind him of his clear sense of accomplishments, purpose and drive. So there are certainly hints of inspiration and identity. What's missing is the utility factor which I have deliberately not used at the launch stage. My rationale for doing doing so is in to ensure the message is focused. If you try and say too many things then the impact of the experience is lost in the clutter. I would certainly look to add the utilitarian experience in subsequent pieces of content.
Tone and voice
I've used a quote by Sun Tzu in 'The Art of War' which inspires Dan because he understands and appreciates the Chinese philosopher and it resonates with him at this critical stage in his life. Recall in the buyer persona description in Part 1, Dan has read Sun Tzu's work and can relate to it. Dan sees himself as a leader and loves the quotes and lessons from this book on strategic warfare, leadership, motivation. It's also a nice way to associate China with the great strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu and the Shenshi brand which is done in a very subtle way. The tone used in the monologue where Dan is talking to himself is exactly how Dan talks in real life. It's similar to what he would say before any important endeavor. The phrase 'let's do this, let's make it happen' is what Dan would say to his team before they make a presentation to the class or before they enter the field of play. Depending on the context, in subsequent pieces of content, other Sun Tzu quotes could be used.
Platform and delivery
Shenshi has a strong digital presence through its blog, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. For purposes of the launch (subject to budget constraints) I would also use this piece of content as an ad on the subway, in Toronto Transit buses, in the 'Metro' newspaper, which is a free local newspaper for consumers while in transit. Dan will tend to be more receptive to this piece of content while he is travelling because that's his 'time out' experience. I would also place ads at strategic locations in and around universities and colleges in order to make sure that I can grab the attention of my target audience where they spend a large portion of their time. In a digital world, we tend to overlook the importance of traditional media. Infact it's best not separate media as traditional or new. Media should be all about conveying your message to the consumer wherever, whenever and however he wants to consume it.
In addition, I would use display advertising on the Globe and Mail website, advertise on the weather network mobile app (Canada's #1 weather update center). These are media sites that Dan regularly accesses. If this piece of content were presented on the website, I would have an additional button that would say subscribe to our weekly online magazine ‘Aspire’ which would offer content such as inspiring stories of business people succeeding through hardwork, tips on career advice, tips on dressing, etc. Subscriptions to this newsletter would be one of the methods of measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of content in the digital sphere. I would also carry out user sentiment surveys to see whether the target user has the feeling of inspiration and identity when he sees the piece of content. I would want to know how he feels having seen that piece of content so that I can iterate going forward.
That is the end-to-end process for developing content through the use of buyer personas. Perhaps you can take some ideas from here and try to apply them at your workplace.
I took up a MOOC through Coursera on content strategy. If you're not familiar with what a MOOC is, MOOC stands for 'massive open online course'. It's a novel concept in education through which students from around the globe can take a course online. They can collaborate, learn from each other and it offers as a rich an experience as one might have in a real world classroom. I found the experience amazing. In some ways, perhaps ever better than what I've experienced in a real world classroom. Through this MOOC I learned interesting new concepts in content strategy, all of which I can take back to work to try out.
As part of the MOOC, we were asked to work on on a case study. The case study involved a fictitious Chinese retailer called Shenshi that manufactures affordable and trendy men's clothing targeted at younger men who aspired to rise to the middle class in China. After its success in China, Shenshi's management have decided launch the brand in your country (wherever you're taking the class from). The assignment involved developing a buyer persona for this brand that exemplified Shenshi's brand values of inspiration, identity and utility. The next piece was developing content around this buyer persona and explaining your rationale behind it. Here's what I came up with:-
Dan, 22 years from Etobicoke, Ontario is in his final year studying Bachelor of Commerce at University of Toronto. He is very intelligent, loves math, tops his class regularly. Since childhood, he has developed a strong work ethic by watching his parents. He has had to take on a student loan to finish his last year in school. His short term goal over the next year is to get an internship as a trading analyst at an investment brokerage. His long term goal is to be a Portfolio Manager, managing large sums of money. He has worked hard at University in the first 3 years having completed all the tough courses and is now spending most of his time networking to find a job and wrapping up his last few courses. He loves dressing up and is very picky about his clothes. He is independent and likes to shop alone. He loves high end brands but cannot afford them at this time. He likes all sports but is passionate about mountain climbing which he does in the summer months. He is fit and works out thrice a week for 45 minutes/day between classes. He reads the Globe and Mail, Bloomberg, NYTimes and Financial Post to stay current. He also has a fictitious stock portfolio that he tracks meticulously. He looks up to Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet and Richard Branson all for different reasons. Dan has a smartphone, travels in mass transit to get to school and for his networking events. He is contemplating an MBA at a top business school in a few years and knows that he needs to be thrifty over the next few years so that he can pay off his debt and save up for the MBA.
Does this piece of content resonate with the target audience?
Whether you're a B2B or a B2C company, it's absolutely crucial to develop a buyer persona before creating any content. Even if you've worked in the same industry for many years and believe you know everything there is to know about your buyers, remember that buyer personas are never based on intuition. You do have to take the time to speak to your buyers and shadow them as they go about their day to really understand them. Go beyond metrics that are easy to measure such as demographics and try to understand their goals, aspirations and motivations to enable you to create content specific, relevant and meaningful to them. In Part 2, I'll discuss the rationale behind this piece of content.
Last night, I checked out a basketball game between Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Pelicans. It was my first basketball game and I loved every moment of it. The atmosphere, the energy and the advertising! You couldn’t help but notice the advertising as it unleashed in your face. Some of it was clever; some of it was pretty wasteful. Here are a few brands that stood out.
BMO, lead sponsor of Toronto Raptors last night provided a sort of gamified experience. They had an app running on the big screen that displayed four cards, one of which was a BMO card. A participant from the audience was asked to pick out the BMO card after the cards were shuffled live on screen. Having that app play out on the big screen got the entire audience involved and it felt like we were all playing the game with her. The exuberant participant guessed correctly, maybe with a little help from the crowd and won a BMO debit card with a 100$ deposit. Pretty smart considering, that this experience could be the beginning of a long term relationship between this lucky winner and BMO. It could very well turn into a bank account that she might go on to use for regular transactions in the future. If she’s already banking with BMO, perhaps there will be a higher propensity for her to stay loyal and use more of their services. If nothing else, the experience will be one she will cherish and talk about with her friends.
M&M gave a year supply of its candy to the best dancer of the night. It was perfect for the brand’s quirky, fun persona and if you ever needed an incentive to dance, that was most definitely it. How else can a brand make 15,000 people dance in the most ridiculous way all at once! M&M nailed it!
Klipsch headphones, which makes premium sound products like headphones and speakers was branded as the official headphones of the Toronto Raptors. I hadn’t heard of this brand until last night. This brand is awesome, it appears that a fair chunk of its marketing spend goes towards live events, music and sport. That image was compelling and it told the whole story - the grit and determination on DeMar’s face and how he gets in the zone before the start of the game. It offered that little window into his life.
At first I was puzzled by the Grant Thornton banner ad and wondered why it was there. It then struck me that it was targeted at the executive suite in the stadium. Perhaps the goal was to generate unaided awareness, or maybe it was trying to promote its sports advisory practice or maybe it was just a show of support for basketball. Whichever it was, it popped out in my mind probably because in the myriad of all those food brands, I wasn’t expecting to find it there.
Check out this article by David Edelman, Partner at McKinsey: Olympic Gold: Understanding the True Value of Sports Sponsorships where he offers amazing insight into why marketers choose to advertise in the sports domain and how they can maximize their investment.
Apple posted earnings last week which beat the Street’s expectations however sales guidance for the coming quarter was lower than estimates. On the face of it, the numbers showed that Apple had done a decent job of alleviating at least some of the key concerns of its investors. There was robust growth in its frontline devices, strained yet controlled margin pressure, strong international growth, a typical secretive yet confident innovation pipeline with anticipation around iWatch, Apple TV, a possible payments business coming into the market in the near future.
So why then did the stock take a beating?
A few believe that the big question mark for Apple is its big bet on China. The litmus test for Apple is to see the effects of the much awaited tie-up with China Mobile and whether Chinese consumers will bite now that there’s easier access to iPhone devices. It’s still early days but Apple’s market share in China stands at a dismal 5%. We all hear of how globalized the world has become but China is an entirely different beast and making real inroads there may be a lot tougher than expected. But then again, Apple’s sitting on a cash pile of 160 billion$ so why not China? Ofcourse, marketing (read execution) is key.
Apple’s been at the forefront of product innovation and marketing and that’s been the crux of its philosophy. So how will the marketing mix change for Apple in China, what are some of the big decisions they have to make?
Product Design Approach
Traditionally, Apple's leader Steve Jobs has been the 'sheppard' and as consumers, we’ve flocked to Apple's products. But that was at a time when smart devices were an entirely new category and there were no standards for consumers. Today, standards and expectations exist and for the most part, Apple has led the way in setting these standards. But the consumer too has become much more savvy and proactive and has certain expectations from his chosen products. In an interview on Bloomberg, Baidu’s Founder and CEO, Robin Lee said that as he doesn't use an Apple phone because he likes bigger screens. That’s what he’s grown up with. But his wife on the other hand has an Apple and she loves it. So depending on who Apple is going after, it will have to decide on its product design for China. The real question is: Is Apple willing to make that fundamental shift from creating products by being closed, secretive and dictating design to its customers or is it willing to open up and allow the voices of its customers into its design lab?
Apple has decided to expand its retail presence from 10 to 22 stores in 2014. The company also hired former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts who has been credited with making Burberry one of the most successful luxury retailers in China. The rationale behind this approach is perfectly clear. While its partnership with China Mobile will expand Apple's footprint in China, it won't do very much to sway customers towards the Apple brand over other lower priced competitors. Apple might offer a slightly higher channel margin but ultimately China Mobile is more concerned about selling phone plans rather than worrying about which device the consumer buys. At the end of the day, Apple is just another SKU in its extensive portfolio of devices.
How low can you go? Apple’s competition whether Huwaei, Xiaomi, ZTE are able to offer high quality smartphones within the 150 – 300$ price range while even the lower end iPhone 5C is over 700$. Whether consumers are willing to pay 3x higher for its superior product design remains to be seen? Apple CEO, Tim Cook has said ‘We'll make any product that is a great product. Our line in the sand is making a product that isn't fantastic.’ So perhaps there is scope for an even lower priced line extension but how does Apple do this without alienating its existing, super-loyal customers? Besides, it’s unclear as to whether Apple actually wants to do this. When the company first announced a lower end iPhone targeted at China, it signaled a substantial reduction in price. But the reduction was only around 17% from its premium 5S phone which is still unaffordable to most people.
That’s the challenge for Apple - finding that balance between pricing its products as aspirational and garnering a big enough chunk of that sumptuous yet elusive Chinese market, all while keeping its more indigenous competitors at bay. With growth having dried up in North America, China is obviously a crucial long term play for Apple and it will be interesting to see as time goes by what Apple does to woo the Chinese consumer.
The Tri-Nation Twenty20 Women's Series concluded a month ago in the Caribbean with the West Indies winning the tournament convincingly. Deandra Dottin was awarded the player of the series for her explosive batting. But amidst a rising West Indies Team we were fortunate to witness a new star player coming into her own, seventeen year old Shaquana Quintyne. I learned a lot from watching her bowl and it was a joy to see that fire in her belly and that desire to want to be the best.
Shaquana is quite an enigma! On the one hand she’s only seventeen and yet has the maturity of a bowler far beyond her years. She’s not a big turner of the ball but what she does really well is stick to the basics. It explains why her captains Merissa Aguilleira and Stephanie Taylor showed immense faith in her and gave her the ball in high pressure situations like the super over against England despite having more experienced bowling options at hand. Conditions weren’t ideal for bowlers; it’s never easy bowling with a wet ball but Shaquana showed us precisely how it’s done. She didn’t try anything fancy. All she kept bowling was her standard stock ball delivery making sure that the ball was pitched up to the batsmen while waiting on them to make the mistake and that’s exactly what happened. She couldn’t have scripted the story any better.
It was also impressive to see her take charge of her field; she knew exactly where she wanted to position each fielder and she successfully bowled to her field. Leg spinners have traditionally been expensive but they’re valuable because they generally get wickets. But for a leg spinner, Shaquana sure is stingy. If you misfield while she’s bowling, she will give you the glare even if you’re a senior player on the team.
It was a great tournament for Shaquana. She got 8 wickets in 5 games of top quality batsmen and that 5 wicket haul against England was the icing on the cake. To have that level of confidence at such a young age in a game where confidence eludes even the most experienced players from time to time is pretty amazing. Her exuberance shone through her speech at the post match presentation; “hard luck England” she went on to say as West Indies brought home the championship much to the delight of the home crowd.
Shaquana, the world is yours to conquer! Go on and show us how it’s done!
I was born in your average home in Mumbai, India. So cricket was everywhere: on TV, on the radio, on every playground, on every street, at every nook and corner. But it was a sport that only the boys played and I’m not sure why but that really angered me. I couldn't for the life of me understand why girls wouldn't play cricket. So just to break that stereotype, I started to play with the boys and as it turned out, I was really good at it. I was a natural. I remember breaking glass windows while smacking the ball, taking diving catches and bowling underarm leg spin that would get me a lot of wickets. Most of my pocket money was spent on buying rubber balls which would always get confiscated by the elders in the neighborhood because we ended up breaking a lot of windows.
When I was in the 5th grade, I went to my dad and asked him to write a letter to the school principal to get us a cricket coach. Dad thought I was being my whimsical self and he wrote that letter to humor me. The Principal said “sure we’ll find a cricket coach” and she did keep her promise. My first cricket practice was to start on a Monday morning at 6.30 am. I was really excited, woke up bright and early and ran to school. The coach was there, I was there but unfortunately nobody else showed up. The coach said he didn't see the point of teaching one girl and to be honest, he wasn't too excited with the idea of girls playing cricket altogether. And there ended my cricket journey. Or so I thought…
Fast forward to 2011, I've moved to Canada, married the love of my life, and finished my MBA. I was watching the Cricket World Cup and I really started to enjoy the game and reminisce about the good old days. Just for kicks, I found a club (Kaisoca run by George Maharaj) and started playing cricket. The difference this time around was that we played with the real cricket ball often times against grown men who bowled pretty fast. I was quite honestly very scared at first. While batting, instead of getting in line with the ball I would move away from it. Bowling had its own set of challenges. I had no consistency whatsoever; line and length they kept saying and the ball would loop like a rainbow and most batsmen would help themselves to heaps of runs. Fielding, well at this point I was about 150lbs so definitely not the most agile player, so it was a challenge. Despite that, I loved the game so I continued. I suppose that 5th grader inside of me kept telling me not to give up, not to let cricket go so easily.
That year, TDCA held its first ever women’s league and our team played the finals and won. The women’s National Team Coach, George Codrington was watching the game and he invited a select few players to come out to national practice and try out. I batted and got out on 2 or something and I didn't get to bowl because our bowlers got the job done pretty fast. So understandably I failed to make an impression and wasn't invited to national practice. Durriya – another National Team Player wrote to George (without my even asking her!) saying that there might be a few other girls who might benefit from national practice and asked if we could come to practice. George said sure why not and we started going to these practices. I still didn't think I was good enough to make the team but I was disciplined; worked really hard at my cricket, bowled for hours, got fitter, shed about 30 lbs that year and it all paid off. In less than a year of playing, I got the call to represent Canada at the 2012 Americas Championship. We won the Americas and we were headed to the World Cup Qualifiers and I was the happiest person in the world. I thought to myself wow, the opportunity to compete against cricket giants like Sri Lanka and Pakistan! The opportunity to put Canadian Women’s Cricket on the map! It meant a lot!
A few months ago, we played the World Cup Qualifiers and fell way short of our goals. No doubt we were disappointed, dejected and I took a couple of months wondering whether it was time to hang up those boots. Yet again, that 5th grader inside me came back and said “keep going and this time come back stronger” and yet again I gave in. We don’t even know whether there’s going to be an Americas Championship in the near future, but ICC if you’re listening, the Canadian Women’s Cricket Team will be back and back with a bang. We’re getting ready to take on the world!
Cricket has made me ten times the woman I ever thought I could be. It has challenged me physically, mentally and emotionally and I've been able to do things that I never imagined I could do. I've made some wonderful friends along the way who have made this game a super fun experience. The MBA inside me can do the cost benefit analysis and say well was it worth it or the 5th grader inside me can say thanks for keeping me alive. Believe me when I say that what I have learned playing cricket has been equally valuable if not more than sitting in any academic classroom. It’s been an incredible journey and I’m finally starting to find my line and length too.