AdStand: When Sale is a strategy

There is a lot happening in the consumer space. More brands are on sale then ever. Homes are on sale, cars are on sale, phones are on sale, even brands are on sale. If you are a consumer, then this is the time to go shopping.

Conventional marketing theories have been about building strong pull for the brand by building on core values. Brands should demand a price premium and consumers should seek them out. Price offs are tactical ways to expand the franchise and bring more people in. Marketing managers in past have spared no effort to study the impact of price drop on overall profitability of the brand.

All this is now history. Now sale is the dominant consumer strategy. And if the brand is not on sale, it might have a deal being offered by some deal app.

With opening of ecommerce brands and the race to acquire customers, the money they spend on sale far exceeds the money they spend on brand building. Today Amazon is on sale, Myntra is on sale, Jabong is on sale (and is up for sale).

Meanwhile a brand in US has just introduced drinkable Marijuana Tonics.


Myntra is on sale


Its not just a sale, its India’s largest fashion sale. Heck, they even have Hritik Roshan getting ready to shop on Myntra. Asking people to create a wish list is simple, that’s what people do before a sale. Myntra even created a behind the scene video of how they are getting ready for the increased demand. There is nothing unusual about the video, just a brand telling its own story.

The big take out from the campaign is simple, you need a big superstar to build traction for sale, that will last two days.


Amazon is on Sale

Amazon’s latest fashion campaign has a bus, has a few youngsters who are on a road trip, while on the trip they showcase fashion styles from global ramps. Interestingly, there is another brand that a year ago was doing the same. A bus, a road trip, a bunch of youngsters celebrating life, but not from Amazon, from Jabong.

They called this the Citizen of Fashion campaign, and did a sale extension of the same campaign. Even before Citizen of Fashion could be established, the brand moved on to sale. Clearly offering fashion cheaper is more important that offering fashion.

Clearly, price is a strategy and not a tactic


Jabong is on sale

Jabong created a completely different persona for the brand. They went younger and rebellious. This was Jabong’s way of building credential as high fashion brand. They too are on sale. The big brand sale has number of people jumping all over the screen to create high energy impact.

Jabong too has used the sale strategically. Its not a build on the brand tonality they had. They even dropped the brand signature. For the ecom brand, sale is the strategy


Sale is the dominant tactic

For most ecom brands, and not just the three fashion brands, sale has become the dominant strategy. Sale has been topped by cashbacks, deals and more tactics that tell consumers ‘we are cheap’. Brands today spend a huge marketing money to ‘announce’ price deals. This is not the conventional branding logic. There are two issues at play here.

One, the ecom brands are actually retailers who leverage the brands they sell. Are they harming the brands by being on sale?

Two, will the consumer go back to these ‘brands’ if they stopped the discounts?


Meanwhile there is a store in US has launched a brand called Legal. Here’s the video

Now this may be really differentiated brand thinking

Lessons from ecom brands

Communication industry has often been dominated by certain category for a long time. Rules, codes practices are evolved from the categories that dominate the landscape. The packaged goods domination created the famous product window and a complex product demonstration. The automobile industry took the product window forward and created longwinded demonstrations of the product. Automobile advertising was surprisingly narcissist in approach as the world always revolved around their cars or bikes or trucks or busses. The cell phone and cellular network domination brought a lot of tech mumbo jumbo to mainstream conversation. Thanks to this industry we know a lot about processor, screens, apps, speed and many more such things that should have no connection to why someone buys or chooses a cell phone or cellular network. Cell Phones sold the tech babble much more successfully than the PC brands!

Last two years seem to be the age of ecom brands. Most of these brands are armed with bottomless resources, play the game of dominance in media, and have created an eco system of their own. This is a very large bunch of brands that span categories like fashion, technology, automobiles, books, groceries, housing, buying and selling, travel, food delivery, bill payment, furniture, dating, art, auction jobs, and almost every other thing that you cannot think of. What it means that the category called ecom is a misnomer; almost the entire communication industry is a part of it. Yet there seem to be something that defines that you are being engaged by a brand that belongs to the new age category and somehow is rewriting the old rules of communication. Here’s my quick look at what the world of ecom is teaching us

 First, it is obvious that if you are an ecom brand you will redefine the concept of pricing. Normally a brand will build a sense of ‘brand’, as to what values it stands for, what is the reason for consumers to trust it and then eventually give an offer to pre pone the buying decision. Ecom brands have collapsed the whole cycle, in fact sale communication is now not tactical, it’s strategic. Three brands have turned the entire ‘sale’ communication on its head.

Snapdeal is a brand that has being built on the premise of saying ‘never pay full price’ has taken Amir Khan and made the search for discounts and deals into a memorable appeal. The brand audaciously even implies that Mr. Khan is proud to hunt for deals for himself. Flipkart turned the sale communication into a self-indulgent look at creating communication. The whole set up of agency executives struggling to create one more ad for never ending sale on Flipkart helps in consumers engaging with the brand. Amazon is the third brand using the sale as an aggressive brand building activity. The initial ‘aur dikhao’ was about setting up the fact that the platform has hundreds of products at the best possible prices. Notice that they used price as a strategic tool, and not as a tactic to drive shoppers to site. The new communication currently by Amazon to push the sale has a very different tonality and treats price as a tactic to drive conversions. Ecom brands are making sure that they use price as a strategy and not as a tactic

Secondly, humor is a big part of the ecom brand arsenal. Often to sell concepts or ideas that are different or difficult to fathom, humor is used to create the brand appeal. The entire bunch of brands in the servicies category like Freecharge, PayTM, Ola Cabs, Quickr, Olx are using humor in different ways. The Freecharge ads are delightful in the way they portray the gender gap between father and sons to sell phone recharge is phenomenal. The brand uses the insight of middle class fathers thinking their sons are frittering away life and sons need to prove that they are smarter in delightful way. They get the cultural context absolutely correctly. The Olx commercial of the harassed by snoring wife and seeking a way out has a ring of human truth, again in a delightful way. Both brands also end up using price as a strategic tool. The Ola cab ads to my mind miss the mark completely with their tale of forgetful protagonist who needs to escape sticky situations. The ads could have been funnier if they were crafted better.

The third is many brands dipping into the old world of packaged goods brand demo route to educate users on how to use their app or service. May be they have a reason to do so, may be the intention is widen the user base, for me, they seem to miss the mark completely as they create no engagement with potential users.

In contrast is the fourth bunch of ads that use strange animals as mascots to create appeal. Now a mouse can get you a job, a dog can get you a car, a panda can get you a meal and even a humble owl can be a reason to get food delivered home. Mouse is about rat race, dogs run after cars, panda is always in active graze mode and knows about food, owl may be has highly developed taste buds, but all are funny.

There is a fifth bunch of brands, maturing in the way they use communication, go beyond price, humor, demos and brand mascots. These brands tell compelling stories about who they are and what they do. Make My Trip’s “dil to roaming hai” is a wonderful take on what travel can do to family bonding. For a brand that built itself as the most efficient travel site, the focus away from efficiency is a welcome move. The second is Jabong’s Be You campaign that celebrates individuality and turns that into fashion statement. I wish more brands from ecom turn into compelling storytellers.

Ecom as a category is relatively new, they face two big challenges of seeding new habit and of creating an alternate way of living, something that didn’t exist before. These are early days, and they will evolve in more exciting ways in coming days

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