Where do differentiating ideas come from?- SG
(This is our third guest post. This time from another friend I admire for his infectious enthusiasm and prolific ideas. Subhabrata Ghosh – best known as SG – firstname.lastname@example.org . This is about SG by SG. “25 wonderful years in building some of the best loved brands in India. Leading fantastic teams in Rediffusion and Ogilvy. Excitement of founding Saatchi & Saatchi in India. I enjoyed the business for a long time, but eventually got tired of discussing problems when what I really wanted to do was inspire change. So I went in search of new inspiration for my soul.
I started Celsius100 (www.celsius100.co.in) in 2007. With the singular purpose of inspiring businesses and brands to differentiate. I have an unshakeable belief: brands become enterprise assets when they make significant difference to people’s lives. My challenge is to make it happen.”)
Technology has become so democratic that in every product category we face the unstoppable reality: the erosion of distinctions, higher performance standards, squeezed margins and prices, rapid imitation of innovation, the endless repackaging of value. Pouring more content in the same context invariably results in loss of differentiation – the similarity trap!
Under pressure to meet targets, marketers use the four letter ‘F’ word, FREE, to entice consumers. That kind of defeats the whole purpose of branding – to raise enterprise value.
A few months ago I was faced with this situation. One of my clients markets rechargeable emergency lanterns in rural and semi urban areas. The market is flooded with Chinese and locally manufactured products which are cheaper. Having failed with all the tricks including pulling the price down, my client, at his wits end to figure out a game plan, sought help to find a solution.
We started outside-in, to answer my first question
Who do we want to build a relationship with?
So we went exploring in the villages.
Pyarelal lives in a village about 60 kilometers from Gorakhpur. When we reached the sun was about to dip below the horizon. Inside the house we found Pyarelal’s children, Gita and Ramu pouring over their books. The light source: a kerosene lantern, there was no electricity. It was the same picture in scores of village homes we visited.
Seeing Gita and Ramu study, memories from my student days came flooding back. In the hot and sweltering Kolkata summer I remember my mother sitting with a palm leaf hand fan and fanning us as we studied around a similar kerosene lantern. The heat from the lamp added to the discomfort, the flickering light was painful to our eyes. UP in summers are hotter and chatting with Gita and Ramu I could immediately empathize. We asked Pyarelal why he did not use emergency lights. He had spent a couple of thousands over the last three years. All of them failed.
Interestingly we discovered he spent a disproportionate amount of money on his children’s education and emergency lights were part of that expense.
Pyarelal did not want his children to suffer as farm hands. Education held the promise of escape from poverty to a better life.
We found the answer to my second question:
What people really care about that gives us a new context for business?
And the business idea was staring us in the face: Help village children study at night.
After spending days in villages we had a prescription of functional needs of a study light:
Affordability: priced below Rs.900.
Should fully charge in 4 hours
Give at least 4 hours light
Dispersion: 360 degrees
Maintenance free battery guaranteed for at least two years.
Safe for children’s eyes.
LED lights with no heat and UV-A radiation
Robust enough for rough use and require no maintenance.
Easy to carry, hang from the roof or place on the floor.
This was an innovation challenge. We had to design a completely new product, upscale capability, find global supply sources and work with new materials and components to keep the cost to customer below Rs.800. Optometrists from Shankar Nethralya worked with us to ensure we had the correct light for children.
It took six months to develop the prototype within these parameters. We took it to Pyarelal and his family. We told him the whole story of development. He did not believe that it would charge in four hours.
We left the product with him and returned the next day to find the children were studying under the test light. Pyarelal grinned.
With the idea embedded in the ‘Chirag’ brand value chain, communication was simple.
The CONTEXT was captured in the brand proposition, ‘Zyaada pado, aagey bado”
The product promise: ‘Charges in 4 hours, 5 hours of light’ is demonstrable.
Along with the launch, Chirag announced district level scholarships for meritorious students. One of the qualifying criteria being an essay which students had to write.
The subject: My Dream. We tied up with a large newspaper group to publish these essays under Chirag sponsorship so that the voices of our rural children are heard. Imagine a village student seeing his essay in a newspaper!
We had answered my third question: how can we make a sustainable difference to people’s lives?
Chirag has touched 50,000 units and company is now expanding capacity.
“Powerful story. I did not think of differentiation as making a difference to people’s lives. Do all marketers think like this? ” Prasna** wondered.
“No Prasna. That is why people like SG make a difference. He constantly demonstrates that there is more to marketing than mere hype.”
**Prasna Rao is an unusual friend. He appears every time I start writing something. He is almost always there when I am writing my blog. He asks questions that are razor sharp and often makes me uncomfortable. He is relentless till I answer his questions in simple, clear terms. You might find that he is most of the times asking questions that you want to. Therefore he is on your side, while he is putting me in the dock. I call him my Uninvited Coach