Marketing : Spectacular and the mundane, a case of Airtel

Though I am a marketing teacher, I won't claim I understand the logic behind some of the marketing decisions taken by major companies of the country. Half the advertisements I am exposed to, frankly I don't understand. Sometimes after watching an ad I ask myself some what they are trying to do. I wonder what is on their mind? How is this ad supposed to work? Advertising is supposed to work with seemingly a logic which escapes even marketing experts. Similar is the case with many of the marketing decisions. A case in point is that of Airtel. I'm not sure how much money Airtel would have spent on their rebranding exercise. Must be a few hundred crores. Certainly there's a lot of noise in the media, many people realise that Airtel is trying to do something. But do they like it or do they like the older Airtel identity. As an individual I certainly felt a warmth towrads the early campaigns and I detest the current one. This is not an analysis but more of a certain liking towards something that is been with you for the last many years. Whatever be the motive I believe there would be sufficient reason behind the rebranding exercise beyond just generating visibility and share of the noise. Maybe a little thought about being into many other verticals and the restricted imagery of a telecom company considered a limitation. Maybe they thought that the logo , the colour scheme and the imagery are getting a little too old to compete against some of the younger and  fresher players. I don't question their wisdom. However as a customer I really feel they must have invested at least 10% of what they burned in the rebranding into improving their customer service . I have two post-paid connections from Airtell and one digital TV connection. Every month when I get the bill I'm really worried. Not about the bill amount, but how to  make payment. Even 5 min before I was trying to access the website of the so-called Indian telecom major. Either the website do not load, or they refuse to login you, or the connection gets disrupted while you are in the middle of a payment. I can't imagine a company which is supposed to be pro- active in customer intimacy maintaining a website which not even a small-scale trader would dare to have. But I'm not sure anybody in the Airtel management ever bothered about investing at least a couple of crores in creating an attractive interface and ensuring that there is a backend database that doesn't crash as often. If I were in Airtel I would've realised that it is not just noise ,it is not just symbolic imagery that help a customer stay loyal but it is the availability of a convenient repayment or recharge facility, some kind of customer relationship management . That is what a customer like me who is possibly spending more than Rs. 25,000 an year on Airtel wants. The only explanation I can think of for this kind of a misguided marketing strategy is that even trained professionals somehow get carried away by the spectacular. The mundane and the nitty-gritty of ordinary business transactions do not make careers but national advertising campaigns involving celebrities and colourful images help in making careers for senior management. It's interesting to see this folly. Given a choice between the spectacular and the routine people always look at the spectacular solutions though they are much more expensive and risky. There is a fascination with the scale. Doing business the old-fashioned way is no more very fashionable. People want visibility, only spectacular methods are preferred. There is a bias even in the so-called professional management for the larger than life methods. I only wish some of those senior managers realise that marketing is not just about making noise but also about putting that steel frame in place. Investing in the marketing infrastructure not only to create customers but also to retain them and also to ensure that they remain loyal with you. This can be done only by making the doing of the business with the company easy for a customer and by making the customer feel wanted. Once in a while at least sending an e-mail telling him that we are having some gratitude to you. Currently I don't feel any body at AirTel care at all about a customer. Whether he would remain with them or not. They feel that in a growing economy like India the thrust must be on making a high decibel campaign that would propel their top of the mind awareness and gather more of a percentage share of the young market.

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