creative, digital, insight, mobile

From Big Ideas To Little Ones

We’ve grown extremely used to clients – and indeed, Creative Directors – asking for the Big Idea.

The Big Idea is the sacred cow of advertising. The rock around which campaigns – and agencies – are built. Businesses are won and lost, brands are built and torn down, careers are made or unmade, by that elusive Big Idea.

These are the kind of words we bandy about to describe the Big Idea:

What is a Big Idea?

How we describe a big idea.

Jaago Re, What An Idea Sirji, Daag Achhe Hain, Open Happiness, Real Beauty…these are the kind of ideas that we identify with as Big Ideas. The kind of ideas we’re benchmarked against, the kind of ideas we’d kill to come up with.

They’re gargantuan. They go viral. They’re loved, they’re hated, but they’re universally spoken about. The media picks them up. Celebs tweet about them. Inevitably, they become part of popular culture and lingo. (And the agency’s showreel.)

But when it comes to digital, the world of software-driven marketing, there may be a different approach.

When it comes to agencies trying to develop a great app for their brands, they might want to start by identifying a small niche. A small problem, left unresolved.  A small opportunity to do something better than someone else has. A small gap in a market that nobody may have noticed.

Little ideas which may not sound earth-shattering, but which turn into brilliant, useful, engaging, entertaining apps.

We’re seeing app developers take this approach, and churn out apps that fill small gaps and suddenly become the de facto solution. And brands need to follow.

Some already have.

Pampers’ Hello Baby Pregnancy Calendar took away the need to visit a baby website to track your unborn child’s progress.

Walgreens, the local pharmacy, removed the need to manually set prescription reminders by automating them and allowing users to order through the app.

ColorSmart, by paint company BEHR, allowed you to choose paint colours to compliment an existing colour in your room, and held interior design angst at bay.

A really brilliant one was Chase Bank’s Quick Deposit feature on their mobile app. Which eliminated the need for a user to go to a bank to deposit a cheque. All the user had to do was scan the cheque number and details, verify the amount, and VOILA! (A great example of digital transformation as well.)

All of these are based on real human truths, and sound like little ideas, almost not worth doing.

Yet, they stand head and shoulders above the ruins of failed branded apps.

So the next time you’re trying to crack a branded app, put away the pressure of the Big Idea, and focus on the little one. Try and solve for the real problems, the ones we moan about in the privacy of our minds.

You might find truth in the old adage, “Less is more.”

digital, mobile

The Power In Your Pocket

It seems that, almost a year after my last post on the subject, people are finally beginning to believe in the power of the mobile phone.
Of course, a lot has changed in the past year. Google’s Android OS has blazed a new trail, opening up the market for a generation of affordable smartphones with multiple hardware manufacturers. BlackBerry has sold handsets purely because of BBM. iOS has evolved and grown in India, bucking the global trend. As a result, normal folk – the late adopters – are Facebooking, Tweeting, Whatsapping, Instagramming and what not, all on the go.
As a result, clients, digital agencies, publishers and media agencies, all want to build mobile apps. These days, I get at least a couple of requests a month on mobile apps (and pitch at least half-a-dozen more).
The intention is good, but there are several reasons why many mobile apps from India have failed to get traction. 
One: The interfaces aren’t up to international standards. They lack the polish and smoothness of their international counterparts. 
Two: A lot of apps depend on content. And fail when they don’t have that content. 
Three: They’re not promoted well enough. 
Four: They’re tactical, almost campaign-based, rather than strategic and long-term. 
Five: They don’t offer the user enough beyond the initial experience or utility. The makers of the app don’t look for deep user/consumer insights.
That’s why it was a relief (and a delight) to experience Standard Chartered Bank’s mobile banking application – called Breeze – last weekend.
Breeze is – for real – like carrying your bank around in your pocket. It lets you do everything you could from your Netbanking, and then some. Check your account and your transactions; transfer money; pay bills; book cinema tickets; book flight tickets; yeah, you read that right!
In keeping with today’s audience, Breeze uses extremely simplified language. “Bank Balance” is replaced by “What You Have”; “Credit Card Outstanding” by “What You Owe”. So simple.
It’s also integrated with Twitter. And locates ATMs using Google Maps. But what really sells it for me is its unique Wishlist app. Here, you can allocate an amount of money every month towards a goal – be it a trip abroad or an iPad 2.
I could go on, but I’d like to conclude by judging Breeze by the parameters I outlined earlier.
One: The interface is gorgeous and simplistic. The app has been built by teams working around the globe, and the experience in mobile interface design shows.
Two: With travel and cinema bookings comes great additional content.
Three: The promotion is excellent. I saw the app at a blogger meet organised by BlogAdda (more on that in a later post). This is the third meet StanChart have organised in the APAC region, and judging by the bloggers’ response, it was pretty successful. And I’m sure it’s just one part of the marketing communication mix.
Four: It’s a strategic tool, a long-term initiative. A tool that might tempt some digital-savvy consumers to shift accounts. A tool that’s definitely worth some advertising dollars too.
Five: By going with additional functionality like bookings and Wishlist, the Breeze team has shown great understanding of the modern, young consumer. And from what I gather, there are more features to come. What’s more, Breeze works on over 500 devices across multiple platforms.
I’m not going to be downloading Breeze – but that’s only because I don’t have a StanChart account. But this is a fine example of how Indian brands can build mobile apps.
To download Breeze, just visit the Breeze website.
Disclaimer: I reviewed Breeze at a BlogAdda blogger event sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank. Neither BlogAdda nor Standard Chartered Bank paid me for this review.
digital, mobile

Where Digital Agencies Are Fucking Up

what we really deserve is a classic indian gpl
There are too many logical, long-winded, argumentative ways to say this…so I’m just going to say it straight.

We’re fucking up because we’re ignoring India’s most pervasive digital medium:

The mobile phone.

Statistics reveal the depth of our ignorance. (Sources: Wikipedia, IAMAI)

Mobile Phones
Total subscriber base 81 million
617.53 million
(May 2010)
Annual growth 14 million 178.25 million
Monthly growth 1.2 million 20.31 million

The way we operate is to take a brief and straightaway start thinking along the lines of a microsite, social media, sharing, etc. And completely ignore the facts.

It’s stupid, ignorant, arrogant, blinkered, narrow-minded and absolutely unforgivable.

Make no mistake – I’m not just castigating others, I’m casting the first stone at myself.

A lot of this ignorance is because we haven’t yet opened our minds to the power of the mobile phone and what we can do with it. We have limitations to work around – 3G isn’t here, smartphones are only now beginning to catch on and data plans are pricy.

Even then, we have opportunities:

  • SMS, the old favourite. While outright unsolicited push SMS is technically banned (‘technically’ because the ban is seldom enforced), one can reach consumers who’ve opted to receive messages.
  • MMS, another old favourite. Till date, MMS has been used primarily to spread sex (scandal) videos. But the potential is there, as more and more phone manufacturers crank up multimedia capability.
  • Voice, the key thing we ignore. Voice content is huge in India. Prepaid users in small towns pay as much as six bucks a minute to dial a number and listen to a joke. Six bucks a minute! For people who recharge in increments of Rs. 50! Unbelievable potential…if we can get the content and context right.
  • Audibles. Ringtones and caller ringback tunes. There’s a lot we can do with these if we just put our minds to it.
  • WAP sites. They’ve been around for a while, and are generally rather minimalist. There’s a lot you can do with them, though. I just saw a demo of 3D product displays on a WAP site…and I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Augmented Reality, the new kid on the block. Layar is proof of the concept, and it’s even released in India. QR codes are gaining traction. One caveat though – this is a technology for Internet-enabled smartphones only.
  • Social networking is on mobiles too! A large chunk (I don’t have the exact stats) of logins comes from Blackberries, iPhones, Snaptu, Social Hub and the ilk. Phone manufacturers are helping – most phones today come with pre-packaged Facebook and Twitter apps.
  • Location, location, location. With GPRS connections and GPS-enabled phones on the rise, there’s an opportunity to tap into location-based services without going through network operators. Location is the flavour of the month – global operator Foursquare has just crossed 100 million check-ins…all of them from mobile phones.
  • And surely there’s something I haven’t thought of yet.

Apart from the creative jollies we’ll get developing engagements for mobile phones, there’s a damned good business reason for us to get our heads out of the sand.

Typically, digital in India has been adopted by brands that reach out to the higher end of the SEC/LSM strata. What do members of these strata have that their lower-SEC/LSM counterparts don’t? The answer is easy, frequent Internet access.

And that’s where the mobile phone can come in – as a truly global, pan-SEC/LSM digital platform. It can allow us to finally sell digital as a medium that will truly augment reach. It will allow agencies to present – and clients to buy – campaigns for the Ghadis, Bagpipers, HMTs, Lifebuoys, Cycle Agarbattis and Fevicols of India. It will allow us to discover and engage with a new audience.

And it will allow us to (finally!) push Indian marketing into the digital era.

It’s time to get our heads out of the sand.