As in poker, so in politics. And maybe, even in Advertising!
Leading on your opponents to believe that one holds better cards is a classic strategy in poker. What is usually referred to as bluffing. Which of course demands a few prerequisites. The classic ‘poker face’ is the first of them. A definite lack of ‘tells’ is another. Good bladder control, and steady motor nerves are others.
A newly elected western leader is currently using the ‘bluffing’ maneuver rather exquisitely, though one wouldn’t usually expect such finesse from a sledgehammer.
Analysts have arrived at the conclusion that the leader’s provocative statements and actions are aimed at bluffing the people on the other side of the table, and thus getting the best deal for his country.
Repealing his predecessor’s healthcare initiatives is to force the healthcare industry to give the government the best deal possible. The new wall, with a neighbouring country is to renegotiate trade deals to a more favourable angle for his country.
The blatant threats against a certain Middle Eastern country, is to ensure the continued and increased purchase of goods, including everything up to large passenger aircraft. Of course, this stance will also ensure that certain other countries are forced to buy weaponry from the leader’s country.
The question of success and failure will be answered in the near future.
But the ultimate objective of making the other guy blink, before even starting the negotiations, has been beautifully employed earlier, in several marketing and advertising cases.
The famous ‘Cola Wars’ in the US, is a case in point. The upstart forced the originator of the product to change its hitherto unchallenged, winning formula. The resulting mayhem in the market then forced the leader to relaunch the classic formula. But, as we all know, old wine in new bottles, doesn’t sell!
Today, advertising agencies have only one card to pull out of their sleeves – the celebrity endorser (cricketer or cinestar)! Though to be fair, it is often the client personnel who so desperately want that selfie! The answer to whether a celebrity endorses actually sells product, is like reiterating the age-old chicken and egg question. Though it might be safe to believe that a batsman can sell cricket bats. A gorgeous film star can obviously speak for the relative merits of cosmetics, with or without the help of photo-editing software. At the end of the contract, it is usually the celebrity endorser who happily endorses the payment cheque and laughs all the way to the bank!
What then is the best way to trump the competition?
The way that works is to actually find an edge – in the product, in the pricing, in the place (distribution) and in the promotion.
An Indian communications professional doesn’t have to go very far to find a current success. An Indian consumer products brand, promoted by a successful yoga guru, has got the entire market in a tizzy. Let’s look at the rather evident secrets.
First the products. The endorser is a yoga guru, as demonstrated, pretty vividly, on television. His earlier, and fervent boosting of natural products and ingredients, has paid off now. The product names are all Indian, with a built in delivery guarantee. The taste, odour, colour – all contribute to an advantageous product differentiation.
Second the pricing. Most of the new brand’s products are priced at about half of the competition. And the features are the same, if not better!
Third, the places of availability. Besides the regular distribution channels, the new product has also set up smaller, exclusive outlets, in not so fancy (read, pricey) locations, thus furthering the brand’s inherent promise – quality, at reasonable prices.
Fourth, promotion. The brand ambassador is the co-owner himself. More importantly, his professional reputation and demonstrated ability and physical well-being, are extremely credible attributes for the brand’s promises.
No wonder that the MNC competition’s numbers are dropping!
It is simply up to the combined operations of a brand owner and a communications agency to figure out how to create a success in the marketplace.
For a brand owner, the idea is to find a new product, or at least a new angle on a product.
For an advertising agency, learning can come from anywhere. The idea is to keep your eyes and ears open to pick up a trump, even if it is only a knave!