APPLE TO IGNORE INDIAN SMARTPHONE MARKET AT ITS OWN PERIL

Apple sales are down, for the first time in 13 years. iPhone shipments are down 16% to 51 million units in the last financial quarter. Sales are down 13% to $50.6 billion. Apple stock is down around 7% wiping out $40 billion in value in a single day when Apple announced its sales data.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, while presenting the figures, reiterated his concerns about saturation in the smartphone market.

And indeed it is happening. The latest report by the market research firm IDC, on April 27, a day after Apple came out with its earnings, shows that the global smartphone market remained almost flat with just 0.2% growth in shipments in the last quarter.

While it concerns every smartphone maker, it should be more worrying for Apple.

Its main market, the US, is near saturation. It growth driver, the China region, saw a whopping 26% decline. And Apple is not even 2% of the market size in the world’s third largest smartphone market, India, despite being in the country for years. Apple has ignored India in a questionable pursuit to establish itself as a premium, upmarket brand, thus missing out on the opportunity to create a solid base in the country.

India is projected to overtake the US next year to become the second largest smartphone market as Morgan Stanley concludes. And the distinction the Indian market has now is while China’s economy is slowing down, India is now the world’s fastest growing market.

Add to it the demographic dividend – according to the Morgan Stanley report, smartphone market in India is still just 18% of its population with 225 million subscribers.

So, there is a huge potential to tap – with the right kind of mix – like an ever increasing base of Middle Class, a fastest growing economy with over 80% tele-density and a young population base. India has already the world’s largest youth population of some 360 million people in 10-24 age-group and the country will be the youngest nation demographically by 2020.

So, all you have to do is to remain there, as a sincere, responsive brand when the growth takes off. And it is happening in the Indian smartphone market now.

Apple is now pushing for its presence in volume segments in India with the recent launch of iPhone SE but it is too little too late, and again, is coupled with a poor insight. In a price conscious market like India, that is projected to be the world’s largest middle class by 2030, no one would go for obsolete versions of iPhones or an exorbitantly priced substandard product, iPhone SE at over $500, when other vendors including Samsung and Chinese entrants are offering world class products at much cheaper price points.

Samsung is present with a flagship product in every pricing segment in the Indian smartphone market while the top-end models of Xiaomi, Gionee, Lenovo, Oppo, Vivo and Micromax, all are priced at around $400.

Apple needs to follow the basics of branding here. Apple needs to earn people’s respect in India. The astronomically priced iPhone is certainly not an exciting prospect for an Indian smartphone user, especially when those with access to the US and other markets can have the gadget for a much lower price.

Samsung, the South Korean behemoth, sits here at the top, with a comfortable margin from its nearest rival, a home grown Indian company, Micromax.

While Apple has failed with its strategy in the Indian market, Samsung has adeptly captured it.

And the fact that Samsung’s top-end smartphones are priced at around $800, near iPnone’s around $900-1000 tag, and that in spite of that they sell well, makes Apple’s marketing strategy in India even more a pathetic case study. Samsung has 24% market share in the smartphone segment in India while Apple is not even 2% and it tells a lot.

India is the market now the world is looking at, for smartphone, or for every other segment the market consumes. Analysts say the Indian smartphone market today is what China was five years ago – with immense potential of growth.

Apple seems to have missed this growth story. And its current marketing strategy in India says the company have learnt nothing from that.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

APPLE’S IPHONE: ‘BEAUTY WITH A BRAIN’ TAG SLIPPING?

Sales are down, the profit basket has shrunk, for the first time in Apple’s last 13 years, after 2003, in the last financial quarter. And it is driven by a massive drop in iPhone sales – the first time ever in the iPhone history. And everyone is writing about it.

Why it is so significant to write volumes about it?

After all, it happens with every brand, especially when it is about a tool of technology – as every pioneering technology is bound to become obsolete with time.

But Apple is different – for the way it has created a visible brand perception around the world – something that we can sum up as ‘beauty with a brain’ concept – something unheard of before Apple brings its products – yes that has been the unique hallmark of Apple making its products since Macintosh in 1984 stand out in the market – creating a cult following – that reached to phenomenal levels since the iPhone launch in 2007.

But the ebb is coming now.

Because of its over-reliant on iPhone only!

The first quarter slump in iPhone sales is here and it is massive – 10 million units – from 61 to 51 million units a year ago.

The Apple story since 2007 is the iPhone story – the smartphone that took the world by storm – registering stupendous growth year-over-year – from 3.7 million units in 2007 to 231 million units in 2015 – that is staggering over 600%.

In fact the world’s biggest listed company is solely dependent on iPhone for two thirds of its revenue. iPhone has made Apple the biggest corporation on Earth.

But that cannot last forever.

Unless Apple comes with another blockbuster product or some blockbuster enhancement to the existing line of iPhones!

Because, it’s largest market in the US is nearing saturation.

Because, it’s second most important market in China is the chief culprit in bringing down its revenue – 26% down in Hong Kong and Taiwan and 11% in mainland China.

Chinese companies are fast emerging as Apple’s alterative for ‘beauty with a brain’ smartphones with much cheaper prices and can replace Apple easily in a market that has been Apple’s growth engine. And we should always remember that China is a protectionist regime and would see interests of its home grown companies first.

Because, Apple has failed to capture the third largest smartphone market in the world, i.e., India. Apple’s market share in India is still less than 2%. Moreover, according to a Morgan Stanley report, India is projected to become the second largest smartphone market by 2017 overtaking the US.

Though, after faltering for years, Apple is now trying to tweak its strategy in India, offering older versions of iPhones for lower prices or launching the cheaper iPhone SE. But that is not working. The impression goes that Apple sees India as a dumping ground for old versions of iPhones. At $500, iPhone SE, a low priced version with a smaller screen size, and resembling much older iPhone 4S, was again a failure. People can have a much better smartphone than iPhone SE at a much lower price in the Indian market.

For most Indian consumers, they may still see beauty in the iPhone range but they fail to find any brain there.

Though for different reasons, the trend is spreading across the world – in other markets. Apple has been able to maintain the beauty quotient of iPhone but cosmetic measures like enhancing screen size or upgrading camera or operation system or introducing a personal virtual manager or even a biometric identification system with touch ID fingerprint sensor are now proving inefficient in keeping the ‘brainy’ tag of iPhone intact. These technologies are good but can’t act as differentiators for your brand identity because everyone else is also coming with them.

So, where is the new market for Apple – that can sustain its astonishingly high market capitalization and revenue figures?

So, unless Apple comes with something new, an innovation sort of offering a gadget that we see in Sci-Fi flicks, means it is ahead of the competition and thus creates new markets for its products in not so ‘price conscious’ markets like India, the trouble is going to grow.

A crude way to say that is, people have become sceptical of Apple’s motives, after just marginal enhancements in every subsequent generation iPhone, without offering any breakthrough.

iPhone is fast losing its ‘beauty with a brain’ tag. The law of average is catching up with it.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

AAMIR KHAN, BRAND APPEAL AND RULES OF THE GAME

First November, then January and now February – and in between a demanding, damning December – life has been difficult for Aamir Khan – since he decided to speak his mind about the ongoing ‘tolerance Vs intolerance’ row/debate.

While we can count valid reasons on why the government should have retained Aamir Khan as the brand ambassador for the ‘Incredible India’ campaign, the Snapdeal decision that was reported today sounds a regular fallout of the controversy.

That is simple, straight formula for celebrity brand endorsements. If some company pays a hefty amount for an Amitabh Bachchan or an Aamir Khan, it has every right to ensure everything goes right with its brand – with no probability of that ‘write-off’ scenario when the brand ambassador would start hurting the brand.

Yes, like the ‘Incredible India’ campaign, here, too, nothing is in absolute ‘black and white’ and there is much – like the rough financials of Snapdeal, an e-commerce retailer, and Aamir Khan’s high annual endorsement fee (reportedly Rs. 15 crore) – to read for (in between the lines).

It would have made sense for the government to retain Aamir Khan as the ‘Incredible India’ ambassador because it would have sent a positive message that we, as a nation, were resilient enough to decipher and discern about a viewpoint about something that was threatening to rupture the social weaving of the society.

Yes, we as a nation are resiliently tolerant – and that is why we all are stakeholders into any such development – and that is why we need to speak our minds – and Aamir Khan’s views on ‘rising intolerance’ should be seen in that context.

Yes, being a sensible celebrity with a mass appeal, Aamir Khan did cross the limits here – but given the nature of the ‘Incredible India’ campaign, promoting and selling India as a wholesome package – continuing with Aamir Khan could have proved, in fact, a boon. People would love the concept that India (and its government) was transparent enough to differing views – and was a tolerant society.

But that appeal is limited to campaigns like the ‘Incredible India’ series.

The same cannot be expected from profit driven corporate entities – like Snapdeal – or any other company.

Snapdeal, though illogical, was forced to distance from Aamir Khan’s intolerance remark in November and had to discontinue its advertising campaign. Aamir’s observation that his wife had discussed the possibility of leaving India after a raging debate on the growing incidents of intolerance made her concerned for their child’s security infuriated many and Snapdeal faced the brunt in the social media space with many uninstalling the Snapdeal app.

Though some reports say Snapdeal registered a surge in its app rankings in the period, still, any for-profit entity cannot afford a controversy-hit brand ambassador. The business of ‘corporate brand management’ that believes in ‘playing it safe’ doesn’t believe in that.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

IPHONE LAUNCH EVENT VS NEXUS LAUNCH EVENT

On September 29, Google launched new series of Nexus devices. Yes, new Chromecast was also there.

But though Nexus has its own followers – and the Nexus mobile handsets are among the hot handsets in any market – its nowhere near to what iPhone commands – in terms of market share and in terms of brand equity.

iPhone, in fact, is the most suitable example of our times so far on ‘how brands can affect campaigns/public relations exercises around them’.

And when the world says that iPhone alone earns more in revenue than overall turnout of its nearest competitor, it sums up the central point about the brand in one word – perfect.

Yes, iPhone is the perfect brand to weave any communication package around it and like any ‘perfect’ brand, the company behind iPhone does least of the job on ‘promotion front’. The rest is done by the world outside the company – the world inhabited by media outlets, analysts, enthusiasts and sophomores of the virtual/online world and people across the world.

When Apple launches an iPhone, the world talks about it. Apple telecasts the event live and whole world catches every bit of it – the world inhabited, again, by iPhone enthusiasts, media outlets and analysts.

The iPhone launch event is top ranked trend on every social media platform across the globe. News channels go live with the event in the most of the countries. As is the trend now, Twitter and Facebook generate an intense buzz of opinions/voices. This year, a quick glance revealed the event to launch iPhone was trending on top in Twitter trends in most of the markets – when it was launched on September 9.

In fact, the word around the next iphone starts doing rounds just few months after the launch event and reaches to the deafening levels as the traditional annual launch date in September nears.

Nexus also commands some good media attraction and fans attachment – but on every parameter – the launch event proves a lacklustre performance when compared with the Apple event.

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

LESS THAN AN HOUR TO GO – HOW THE APPLE EVENT IS TRENDING..

I am not an iPhone fan or an Apple follower. But no communication professional can ignore the massive global appeal that each iPhone launch generates. The extent of coverage that it gets is beyond the organizing capacity of any public relations agency or groups of marketing communication professionals.

What Steve Jobs gave to the world is a must case study for every communication expert to deliberate on ‘how iPhone became a global brand with revenue surpassing overall turnovers of tech companies like Microsoft or IBM’.

Globally or nationally (here in India), the Apple event to launch the next iPhone is going to be trending event of the day. It is already in the top run on many social media sites and a rage on different traditional and online media platforms.

In less than an hour from now, Apple will launch, as the reports say, and as has been the trend preceding this launch, iPhone 6S, new Apple TV and a ‘big’ iPad – probably.

There may be something else in the store as analysts are expecting some surprise given the scale of the event this year – in an auditorium that can accommodate 7000 people. As expected, the online Apple store is down before the start of the launch event with its ‘comeback’ message.

Let’s see how the launch event is trending on Twitter, the global storehouse of #hashtags (and news and opinion) on any ongoing breaking development.

Globally, in worldwide trends, the event with hashtag #AppleEvent is trending at the top. Then there are two other ‘iPhone tags’ are in top 10 – iOS 9 No. 5 and iPhone 6S at No. 6. #AppleEvent is also on top on Twitter’s US page. In United Kingdom trends, it is at No. 3. In Dubai, it is at No. 2 – going by the trends written in English. In Japan, I could not understand as all the trending topics were written in Japanese. In Germany, it is at No. 2 but it is yet to come in top trends on Twitter’s France page.

In Canada and Mexico, #AppleEvent is on top while in Brazil, iPhone 6S is on top and iOS 9 is at No.3. Singapore has #AppleEvent at the top while Malaysia has iPhone 6S which is No. 2 in Philippines.

In India too, the event is on top of the minds now – if we go by Twitter. #AppleEvent was trending in top 10 but now, few minutes before the launch event, it is trending at the top.

Almost similar trends are visible on Twitter pages for trending events in different countries.

The fever has built up the aura, like it always happens. And the wait for the millions of iPhone fans are just about to get over with the San Francisco launch event going live in few minutes.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

Apple-1

Featured Image Courtesy: Screenshot from Apple’s Website on September 9 Event

TEAM PK THANKS VOLUNTEERS OF HINDU OUTFITS FOR THEIR TIMELY SUPPORT

Though it was a tough day, with important news developments like the court decision on discharge plea of Amit Shah, BJP’s national president, Narendra Modi’s Number 2, second most powerful figure of the political establishment running India now, from charges in Sohrabuddin and Tulsi Prajapati fake encounters; the ongoing India-Australia test match; and the ongoing developments in missing AirAsia flight incident, that was bound to take the airwaves time away, the team behind PK, the movie, expressed its gratitude to the round of much needed publicity that accrued to it in past few days.

Their spirit of recognizing self-motivated and selfless efforts remained undaunted, when, in the end, even the reduced coverage that was expected, didn’t come after the shocking news of unexpected resignation’ of Mahendra Singh Dhoni from test cricket swept the agenda of the day.

The Team PK sent praising notes of their heartfelt thanks to the top leadership and members of outfits like Hindu Yuva Vahini, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Mahasabha and many others who have been working relentlessly making outreach of PK even wider, when the movie was fading in appeal. Also, the team has sent specially packaged messages to express its feelings to Ramdev and Subramanian Swamy, the two stalwarts of the pack.

After all, because of their efforts, the movie is again in news, is registering more footfalls and is headed for more views.

Though PK, the movie, was an ‘inspired’ production with less of original elements, including the idea, the narrative was developed well around a subject of mass-importance and thus mass-appeal – religion and its quirky and ostentatious elements – and the Team PK hoped to cash on Aamir Khan’s star-power, Rajkumar Hirani’s track-record and a well-crafted marketing strategy to enter the big league, the super-blockbuster league of Indian Cinema, with earning ranging in hundreds of crores.

It worked well, initially, with the star-power, the narrative and the hype keeping the cash stacking up. But, being not the first time, with ample gyaan and slow pace in the 2nd half, it soon became clear that the narrative was not expected to get to the ‘super-blockbuster’ status – until the push to its 2nd life arrived.

As expected, after the days of hype and marketing influence were over, the cash inflow started flattening out and was well on the way to get into the stagnation zone.

And then, it happened. The 2nd life arrived, and in style, keeping the nation and the audiences hooked to the TV screens with intensely debated discourses on the movie.

The Good Samaritans, from the evergreen, overworking Hindu fundamentalist outfits, jumped in the fray, carefully picking elements from the movie to enlighten the nation, pushing more to watch the movie, to know about the elements they were highlighting. There are even the sort of viewers who had watched it earlier but are going to watch it again as they could not notice the element(s) in the context these ‘Good Samaritan publicists’ are presenting.

And there could not be a better timing. It is perfectly opportune, maximizing the resource utilization.

After all, had it coincided with the release, it would have wasted the resources used in marketing and promotion of the movie. Coming after the days that could be attributed to the ‘influence of marketers’, the well crafted, coordinated and increasingly synchronized move is a brilliant exercise in exercising the Public Relations tools.

After the first wave lost its appeal, fully exhausting its capacity levels, the second wave, that was voluntary in nature and had no official access and took time to research and study the finer elements of the PK content to be used as the central themes of their campaigns, had found the opportunity to chip in and they did it with full commitment, and too, without informing the production house and commercial stakeholders of the movie. Such exemplary selflessness is rare and is to be given due notice as has been happening.

Now, it is certainly debatable that how much the movie has earned so far, with differing figures putting the movie in different leagues – from Rs. 200 crore to over Rs. 400 crore clubs (hyped up box-office collections, that is again an increasingly used brilliant film marketing tool) – but it is clearly visible that its cash-pile is adding more stacks now, and at a handsome pace.

And the team that has produced a sensible cinema in PK, the movie, cannot be expected to act insensibly, by not saying thanks to these altruistic well-wishers.

And it also came with perfect timing. The ‘tomorrow’ could not have been better than the ‘today’ to say thanks as it was a frustrating day for the volunteers with Dhoni’s resignation stealing the show and the airwaves even if they worked harder and launched the campaign in many other cities.

The words of recognition, appreciation and gratitude by the Team PK will certainly lift their mood and morale up from today’s frustration and would recharge them for a more action-packed tomorrow.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

EVEN RAJINIKANTH COULDN’T SHOP ON FLIPKART ON ITS BIG BILLION DAY!

Someone said so, saying of a joke doing the rounds on gaffes, goof-ups and outright doublespeak after the grand promise made by India’s largest online retailer and its promoters failed miserably.

The huge amount of negative publicity or countless disgruntled customers expressing their outrage online raised the most logical question of the failed event (from a customer’s perspective) – was there a SALE indeed that could correspond to the special message of ‘Sachin & Binny’?

On October 4, a Flipkart mailer with the subject line ‘Special Message from Sachin & Binny’ was dropped in millions of mailboxes where the online retailers tried to sound emotional, linking the date with the address of the place they began with, while, simultaneously, the marketer in them was urging the targeted market ‘to be a part of this event, when, come October 6th, Flipkart forever changes the way India shops’.

Well, nothing so happened. The market might well have paid tribute to the marketer by giving it a larger business volume on the day but the marketer failed to pay ‘tribute to dreams and dreamers’ as ‘Sachin & Binny’ initially told us.

An intended ‘way of making sure Flipkart’s all customers’ dreams come true..’ became a routine ‘clearance sale’ which failed to live up to the promises made.

Well, the fault lies with those who read too much into what ‘Sachin & Binny’ promised, like has been the case always, in every such ‘sale’ oriented marketing event.

Nothing is emotional in marketing Gyaanis always say and ‘Sachin & Binny’s Flipkart only reaffirms this again. It reaffirms again the cliché that is conveniently forgotten again and again.

I don’t remember if Nokia Lumia 1020 ever sold at over Rs 62000 and that how ‘benevolently’ Flipkart was offering it at 19000 when its life was already over months ago.

Also, I couldn’t locate Rs 600 Adata 2TB External Hard Disc Drive (original price claimed by Flipkart – Rs 6000), Rs 99 JBL 55i (original price claimed by Flipkart – Rs 5490) or Rs 1390 Galaxy Tab 2 (original price claimed by Flipkart – Rs 13990) on Flipkart. All these offers were advertised crazily in the morning newspapers and they crashed crazily. Deodorants that were on 30% discount were reduced to 20% discount tag within an hour. In Fact, ‘marked up’ prices and ‘fleeting discounts’ dotted across the category lines.

That forced the majority to ask where was the ‘Big Billion’ event of the day? Well, it never arrived.

A guy who thought his ‘luck’ worked ordered two units of a mobile phone handset, each for Rs 1500 for the retail price of 7000 a unit. The order was placed successfully and the confirmation was received. In evening, the fellow got another mail from Flipkart saying his order was ‘auto-cancelled’ due to ‘price error’. The guy, obviously left fuming, sent complaint mails to media houses and said of taking the matter further up.

There are countless such reactions flooding the social media and different Internet platforms. In fact, on yesterday, the supposedly big-ticket Flipkart event day, #Flipkart was tending on Twitter only because of the negative publicity owing to Flipkart’s failure to follow what ‘Sachin & Binny’ had spoken of.

But, in marketing, at the end of the day, what matter most are business volumes, inventory clearance and profits and Flipkart sure would have scored on it.

After all, irrespective of how ‘touchy and personal’ ‘Sachin & Binny’ tried to be, it was nothing but a tried and tested marketing gimmick ‘that never fails to bring results’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/