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The Importance of Brand Arnab Goswami

I am picking up a contentious topic this time with some not so much fully formed thoughts in my head. Since the launch of Republic TV a few days back, been occasionally tuning in, though, with all due respect to Arnab, my patience to his castigating style of TV is all of about five minutes. I don’t think you can call that thing a debate, because, in a debate, parties speak as per laid out rules and get the chance to express themselves, and the platform becomes incidental.

Not on Arnab’s TV. On Arnab’s TV, the house(Arnab is the house!) comes with a motion and some panellists who support it. Those who oppose the motion are at the mercy of the house and face reprimand of the worst possible type, delivered across the subcontinent. Often like clueless puppies, getting firehosed with gushing water.

So what exactly is Arnab Goswami brand?

According to me, the brand occupies an aspirational space in middle-class Indians, who prefer their ‘news’ served in English, and believe, rightly or wrongly, that only he represents their nationalistic ego. So what the audience is unable to do, they vicariously do it through Arnab, where severe tongue lashing at 120 dB is reserved at the ‘against the motion’ panellists!

The other aspect is that he does not seem to believe in ordinary reporting of commonplace happenings, but only ‘expose’, a revelation, someone who is always looking under the carpet at the most unsuspecting places. He feeds our craving for someone’s dirty linen getting exposed daily. It is a reactive expectation from the audience, that feels, rightly or wrongly, that the pigeonhole debates happening on other channels, though equally meaningless, are not loud enough!

In a country where we have seen the pace of the justice system become very slow over the decades and the political system become ineffective, brand Arnab gives the impression that he is ‘delivering’ on everyone’s behalf. In other words, it is primetime justice!

A Supply Chain Perspective of the Current Currency Crisis

Bullwhip Effect is a well studied and documented supply chain phenomenon dealing with supply and demand related uncertainties. In my view, it is what is at the root of our current currency problem.
Try to understand this: You wake up in the morning and find your neighbours going to the bank to withdraw money. Though you have 2 thousand rupees in cash with you that will last you a while but you come under peer pressure and head for the bank too. You go to the bank with an intent to withdraw Rs 2000 just to build your comfort level. Once at the Bank, you see more people than normal and become more apprehensive and up the planned withdrawal to Rs 4000. Just then the bank runs out of cash and asks you to wait for supplies which will come within an hour. You sign a new cheque for Rs 8K because you are seeing supply-side uncertainty. More people follow your pattern and bank runs out of cash again.

Bullwhip in Action!

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia article titled Bullwhip

On the other side, the bank sends urgent SOS for cash replenishment. The folks Incharge at the city level notice this pattern across branches and increase their aggregate cash requisition to the regional office by adding a significant buffer. The regional office totals the demand, then adds some more buffer and sends it to the HO. The head office looks at the region level demand data, adds more buffer, sends their demand to the supplier in this case, the RBI. There is an interstage latency and that causes more amplified repeat of this phenomenon in the supply chain.
But what is the reality? The reality is that very soon the supply chain will be full of excess inventory at different stages and incur huge inventory cost in production, shipment, security, and storage. There will be very indifferent demand because, the end point in the channel, me and you, have no further appetite.

Our economy is currently in grip of a massive bullwhip phenomenon. Today there is partial product substitutability – currency does not have an absolute monopoly over the demand as it was in the past. One can sign up e-wallets such as Paytm etc, for buying medicines and paying for tyre puncture,  pay car cleaning staff through bank transfer and even the staff can pay the shops, at least in larger cities, through their bank debit card or through mobile wallets such as Paytm. You still can’t pay, for example, car parking through such means, but days are not far.

At the end of the bullwhip effect, all players of the supply chain, and the customer(you and me!) get bruised. You and me can stay out of this bullwhip by withdrawing cash only if genuinely required, and only to the extent that is required. Remember, there is another supply chain phenomenon called Stock Pressure, which means if we have more of anything (cash, in this case), you will tend to spend more!

Content Marketing: Not Ranked, Not Found, Not Read

Competing for eyeballs gets tougher as more and more content gets published. And no content is worth the effort for a brand, if it does not generate traffic. Not just generate traffic, but also engage the target group. Traditionally, search engines such as Google have played the market maker in directing traffic to a post. Which meant,  if Google ranked you higher around sought after keywords, your post content could do wonders. If it ranked you poorly, it is like setting a party at South Pole!  In other words, all brand managers would want content that is ranked higher compared to competition by referring posts such as Google, who in turn would direct higher traffic to the site, after which, hopefully, the content would take over and engage the customer.  In other words, the key is to be found by the target group. Such an approach has traditionally been called the organic traffic. The other way(‘inorganic’) is to guide the traffic to your content using intelligent advertising led funnel. Nothing wrong with this approach, other than the fact that it costs money! And plenty of money!!

The best thing to happen to your content is, therefore, it being discovered by the target group at the earliest. For that to occur, few things should be carefully aligned:

  1. As content publishers get smarter, so do Google’s algorithms. A decade or so back, short descriptions of content contained in invisible html code called meta tags ruled the content game. Not so much anymore, as search engines developed capability to parse your entire content and make their own opinion of it! Yet, do not ignore it completely. For instance, if you click here  , you would notice the description of the content as stored by Google. If you do not provide and meta tag, a search engine would pick up some text, usually from the beginning of text, and store it.
  2. Build a healthy ecosystem of referral sources. One way to do so is to get mutual link backs. So be generous in citing examples from other sources.  It is not about passing traffic to others, but about generating credibility in the content consumer that you really know what is happening in the ecosystem and hence know what you are talking about!
  3. Keywords aren’t dead. However, one must define keywords. Does everything become a keyword? Keywords are those words, which are likely to be used for searching, either by themselves, or in combination with other keywords. An example, “quadratic”, “equation”, “solving” & “one” and “step” may not be heavyweight by themselves, but when combined together, they almost resemble a possible search query – “solving quadratic equations in one step”. To get a hang of it, you can also use a keyword density tool such as this.
  4. The title: People take only fraction of a second to decide whether to further spend time on a content. If your content has substance, the title has to be clever.For example, as in this post, touching upon pain areas really help in getting users to spend more time on your content.
  5. Submit a sitemap: The search engines crawl the web at their own cycles. A good practice to have your content getting picked up fast is to have an automatically generated XML sitemap. Here’s how to do that.

The larger point behind all the above recommendations is that as a brand your content may to totally fail you not because of creative reasons, but because these good practices for the medium are not adhered to . In other words, it is important to make all the above integral to the content creation and publishing process.

Vistara is a Surprising Choice for an Airline Name

The new TATA SIA Airline has been announced to have the brand name Vistara. In my view it breaks many accepted norms of branding:

  • Phonetic Ambiguity: What is the right pronunciation, Vistaara or Vistaar or Vistara ? The Indian T as in ‘tum’ or the European ‘T’ as in ‘tomorrow’? In my view this is a serious tripping point for this set of letters to be chosen as the brand name. Note the different ways in which this name has been pronounced by different TV channels yesterday.
  • Meaning: What is the etymology of this name? It is from Vista, or Tara ? Meaning? Is it English, Sanskrit, composite, what? How is it related to air travel?
  • Domain name: Someone forgot to look up the domain name. The Golden dollop of a modern brand name is a clean domain. One can see that www.vistara.com is an existing business in US. On the other hand, www.vistara.in is a site of Vistara Voyages, which is a travel experience company, which leads to more ambiguity. God bless!

Even in terms of impression, the name does not have a ‘naturally elite’ feel to it that one would expect from a full fare airline that seeks to redefine executive travel.

In my judgment a 2/10 on choice of name.