Google Chrome … The Early Marketing Chronicles

Make no mistake… I love Google. I love the way their products just work and over the years, have come to love their marketing as well… Remember ‘the 1 GB inbox’ Gmail… it carved out a space where apparently none existed… It was a perfect flanking attack which shocked Yahoo and proved to be disruptive. Chrome was another of those launches from Google stable which like gmail competed in a significantly mature market and have a great potential to be disruptive.

While the strategic objectives for Chrome go much beyond merely gaining few % points in browser market, the marketing objectives must have been pretty clear from day 1 : Create a positive emotion around the product which would supplement the visibility garnered by the usual Google PR machinery & hence create a strong foot hold amongst the early adopters…

Tough task considering the market was very comeptitive and needed an innovative circuit breaker… Innovative was what Google chose by becoming the first company to launch a major product using a comic book… yes, I actually mean a comic book. Who does that right … well apparently, those who do get huge amount of PR, not only in mainstream web media but at places that actually matter for early adopters, those fabled geek hangouts … Round 1 to Google, Well played…

But this is old news… almost 8 months old now… the fizz from comic book is largely gone… & meanwhile the product has stablized a bit… has found acceptance amongst fanboys… is gaining new users every day because of the hard push its getting from Google’s virtual estate (try accessing google.com using IE &  get bombarded with a free Chrome ad… ditto with youtube and gmail) and Google’s real world  clout (Google has cut few OEM deals for Chrome already)… now would be the perfect time for the next phase of marketing… Marketing objectives presumably would change to expanding user base and becoming more mainstream, and probably go beyond 1.2% the browser currently commands.

& Google has tried… by shifting from comic books to videos… and essentially trying to get community to do their marketing. In theory it makes great sense – Get the beehive to create your videos…  they would almost definitely be cool and they would be free…

The end result is 12 great videos. All submitted by amateurs like us and all of them look great.

Two shining examples of seemingly great stuff. But is Chrome perfect in its marketing… is it doing all it can do. Is it this hard to go beyond 1.2% despite all the hard push its getting?

There is no doubt that Google’s execution has been beyond rapproach but they could certainly do a lot better on market positioning front … lets think a bit here, IE is ‘The ubiquitious browser’, FF is ‘The safe browser’… What is Chrome… they used to be somewhere in between ‘The fastest browser’ or ‘The simplest browser’… in last 8 months they have moved further south and are trying to become a browser that is great in everything (Right now they are ‘A new web browser’ … Really Google?? Hope you are just testing that positioning statement and would get rid of it soon)

& then they could have certainly done a better job of naming their key features… think of their choice of ‘In-cognito’ for privacy feature… Great buzz word… yes, Communicates the benefit to the end customer clearly… no

Think of what microsoft did with same feature in IE8 – ‘In Private’ … firefox folks – ‘Private Browsing’… I can bet that perceived first mover for this feature would be Microsoft not Google (& this despite the fact that Chrome debuted this feature in mainstream when people had hardly heard about Safari and IE8 betas offering privacy features) & perception is all that matters in marketing world.

Chrome needs to understand that its operating in a world where 92% of people don’t understand the meaning of word ‘browser’ … not many would understand In-cognito…

Also have a look at the first TV ad they chose to air…

Very cute… this ad was designed to emphasize the clean and uncluttered interface of the software compared to its competitors and it does that too… but only to people who already know Chrome. It has a call to action in last frame, but that effect is negated to a great extent as for a first timer Chrome can be an OS, a Kid’s Game, A browser, A decorative piece… all with equal probabilities.

Chrome has delivered master-strokes (like the comic book launch) … some of them need some refining before they can help Chrome go beyond 1.2%… its a good product and certainly deserves a double digit market share at least.

Do it Google. You have a wonderful product and a wonderful execution team. Focus your energies on one single benefit and beat the hell out of your communication. Do it right and soon you would be no 3 (or if luck is with you, no 2)…

Positioning Path – Time to think beyond End Positioning?

Something I wrote more than two years back. Republishing it.

Cavincare for a lot of Indians is a household name. The originally Southern company that made its mark with Chic is now trying to expand its wings across…

‘Spinz’ the Talcum, Deo & Dab-on brand of Cavinkare is one such product which might become a significant business for the company. Few facts…

  1. 600 Crore talcum market,
  2. 55% market share for Ponds Dreamflower talc & Ponds dream flower magic.
  3. J&J is the second guy in market with 10% share (near domination in kid powders)
The respective positionings of all players as espoused via their respective TVC’s

Brand

Target Segment

Positioning Path

Ultimate Positioning

Ponds DFT

Middle-Aged Women

Freshness

Confidence in social interactions

Ponds Magic

Young Women

Fragrance

Attraction of Opposite Sex

Spinz

Teenagers

Fragrance

Life Non Stop Fun

As per marketing team of Cavinkare at IIMB workshop, they wanted to establish Spinz as a brand that is associated with fun, a positioning that is not taken by anybody in the talcum market. The marketing team decided upon this positioning after a lot of consumer research and was pretty confident about its success.

In blind tests for better fragrance, the competition was beaten hands down. Same was the case with their innovative packaging. Response from market was good. Great going till here… But consumers still were not buying the product (3% market share… growth rates were good, but with that kind of differentiated positioning, the potential was much higher), and the marketing team was left wondering what went wrong.

Well this is a typical case of undifferentiated positioning path. While the final desired positioning is pretty clear and differentiated; the way TVC’s reach that path is not.

To make matters worse, the TVC’s of Spinz only remind you about the Ponds advertisements. They show males swarming the female model during most of the ad, and frankly the only difference I found in this advertisement when compared to Ponds Magic was the model they were using.

Also, the fragrance of Spinz in market is Rose and Lavendar, the two fragrances ponds is known for. So again no differentiation here.

They should change their positioning path to something else instead of fragrance. But then the investment in the fragrance had been huge. So may be, they can keep Fragrance as main idea and change the way the TVC’s are made. Spinz is pure fun and Ads should communicate that in a humorous and hip way.

Other thing they can do is to launch new fragrances in market, (Presumption is that a new teenager is a prosumer and will like to move beyond what has been on offer for years) and move beyond Rose and Lavendar.

Moving over, a major hiccup for the company has been the low market share of Spinz especially in North; possibly because of not that great S & D structure.

Now I don’t know much about inter company relations, but I see no conflicts between Cavinkare and ColPal, which might form a amazing set of channel collaborators. Albeit such stuff in actual boardrooms is a matter of fantasies.

Dettol Cool – Where does it fit in overall positioning matrix

Dettol… So what does your marketing hat say!! Is it Germ Protection or does it sound as Health Soap or may be Everyday Protection … of course, what else… it has been the Protection against disease causing germs since ages. And you are not alone as million other marketers would think same.

Now what if u are Brand Manager for Dettol for a day and have to decide on a new soap variant. Ok… well… lets have some time to think… what fits with the existing brand message… (They have already launched a skincare variant… not much chance there)

Huge dilemma… right…

Lets see what Dettol actually did… What about a freshness soap… A lot of us might not agree with launching a freshness soap to take on the likes of Liril and Cinthol… Why? ask yourself, how does Dettol Cool sound… Dettol is not cool… Dettol is reliable but it’s not cool… From pure Marketing theory view, this would be a long term failure. But then test market results were very surprising and four months later this soap with a promise of Freshness with protection of Dettol is a big success across India. In fact the numbers put its sales as a significant percentage of Dettol Original soap in the many outlets.

Is this a phenomena that will change the philosophy of marketing… or is it just an over extension that is an exception to the conventional marketing thinking… or yet further, it’s just an initial success and Dettol Cool wouldn’t be able to maintain its success in future.

Let’s get some perspectives. Well here is what Dr. H V Verma, Senior Marketing Professor, FMS Delhi thinks:

“An extension in a product category like soap characterized by diminished real product differentiation, rampant switching and search for something new and ‘exciting’ may have contributed to unexpected high initial sales. Also there is a great possibility of parent brand cannibalization. So it requires serious statistical analysis to find out the real source of sales the new extension has generated.”

But what does Dettol Brand Manager, Mr. Vikram Datta, who himself is an MBA from IIMB and had an extensive experience at Colgate Palmolive before taking over the reins of Dettol has to say about this move. He first clears the clouds over the source of cool soap sales:

”Source of business for cool soap has mainly been from health and herbal soaps … little cannibalization… approx 10% of cool soap volume sourced from Dettol original and Dettol skincare.”

But Mr. Verma has much more to offer when it comes to branding:

“This move is not new. Many strong brands have gone this way to eventually weaken the parent brand by going overboard on extensions. There are two possible ways moves of this kind may hurt the parent brand in the long run:

First is by creating brand dilution; That means when many inconsistent concepts start hanging on the name, the focus is sacrificed in favor of breadth. The parent brand begins to lose its core value proposition and meaning. Second is brand confusion. This implies haze that surrounds in the mind of customer”

Liril once being a very strong brand with core essence of ‘freshness’ lost ground precisely by line extensions like menthol, cologne, ice blue etc. Also Cinthol was once a strong soap with clear positioning ‘with ingredients that fight odor causing bacteria’. Later the brand suffered when it tried to fight Liril by launching variants that copied Liril’s core ‘freshness and lime’ position.

So ask your self do you want Dettol to be cool? You may want effective bath or you may want cool experience. Probably not both at the same time.”

Well that sounded convincing… probably most of us would have decided by now that this move is a wrong move and is going to take Dettol nowhere in long run. But Dettol Brand manager, Mr Datta, has his own logic:

“This move adds a new dimension to the already entrenched notion of protection…. Variant differentiation is key … The Cinthol and Liril soap extensions failed as they were not sufficiently diffentiated. This is not the case with Dettol Cool.

The key to success for an LX (line extension) lies in leveraging the core brand proposition to present it in a new light to the consumer. Here it’s important to upfront the “new news” – in this case cool refreshing sensation, since a freshness consumer would not compromise on the freshness aspect, protection being an add-on for her. Also, one needs to sufficiently differentiate the LX from the base brand – both for getting new users as well as enhancing consumption among current base brand users. Finally, while the LX does take the equity from the parent brand, it should also give back in terms of enriching the overall brand imagery.”

So who wins the argument finally. A little chance for conventional thinking; a small chance for innovative thinking… a major chance for a stalemate … Dettol Cool may become a major success and it may go into arena as yet another revolution that forced us to add another dimension to the basic laws of marketing … or… it might end up just being another entry into the huge encyclopedia of marketing failures … only time can tell. Best of luck to both parties till then.

Edit – Above was first posted on 7 September, 2006 … Dettol Cool has since become a major NPD success for RB

Update – April 11, 2007 … I found this statement on internet from a Reckitt Benckiser Guy

Parents of western teenagers won’t believe this, but Eastern teens actually shower a lot. It’s their response to the humid conditions. Unfortunately for us, though, they didn’t feel that Dettol was for them.

Our response was to launch Dettol Cool, a variant with menthol to cool the skin.

The advertising, featuring youths playing volleyball, made clear that it was a brand for active teens. They were certainly active in the shops. After just a couple of months, Dettol Cool grabbed a cool 30% of our shower foam sales.

Nick Horn – Category Director, Germ Protection