Marcon 2016 Pakistan – The Insider’s Look
Marcon 2016’ Pakistan: Traditions and Innovations, the coveted marketing event of the year took place after a long hiatus at Marriott on 26th and 27th April.
And it was a jam-packed event for the entire two days.
It was a marathon two days, some speakers delighting you no end, others just lulled you to sleep. What I’ve tried to do here is include the gist of most speeches and include the videos that were shown by the speakers. I couldn’t find all that were shown. Why not all speeches? Well, to be honest, it was because I was : distracted, out networking, taking a power nap, or the gravest of sins – updating my status online. My bad.
If you were there and feel I missed something important that was said at the conference, do let me know by writing in the comments section.
So here’s a very crude reproduction of the two days of Marcon 2016 Pakistan. My own comments are enclosed in parenthesis wherever needed.
Day 1 of Marcon 2016 Pakistan
Topic: Innovative Leadership
Address by Morning Keynote Speaker: S. Masood Hashmi, Managing Director, Orientm McCann Erickson
Masood Hashmi has been the President of MAP off and on, and is present at pretty much all their events. He started off with the classic Einstein joke just to show his humility. The joke, which is of course false, goes on something like this that once Einstein was on the speaking circuit going from town to town. After a while his driver offered to take his place saying that he had heard his speech so many times he knew it backwards. Einstein agrees and at the next engagement the driver impersonates him. He delivers an eloquent speech and even answers a few questions. But then a toughie is thrown at him. He deftly maneuvers it by saying that it is such a simple question that he’ll let his driver sitting at the back answer it.
He then talks about Jeff Bezos, how he saw a bookstore during one of his lunch breaks as an investment banker and proposes the idea to his boss of opening the biggest bookstore in the world online. His boss tells him to get back to his work. His colleagues don’t believe in it. He goes and borrows money from his parents to create the online bookstore. They ask him what are the chances of success of this store? He says there’s a 70% chance of failure but he still wants to do it. So in spite of no one believing in him or his idea, he goes ahead with it anyway and the rest, as they say is history.
What Masood was trying to say is that for innovative leadership, you need to see beyond what everyone is able to see and not just daydream.
Timeless Fundamentals, New Realities
Address by Keynote Speaker: Bruno Olierhoek, Managing Director, Nestle Pakistan Limited &
Member Managing Committee, OICCI
Bruno delivered the classic corporate speech where you talk about your brand serving a higher purpose than mere profit earning and show a few videos for good measure.
He talked about the founder of Nestle back in 1800s coming up with a powdered milk formula for infants to help his neighbor who’s wife couldn’t breastfeed, and that the same idea of serving others continues to be the hallmark of everything Nestle does.
One of the recent initiatives of Nestle was addressing the epidemic of obesity in kids in Mexico, coming up with the United For Healthy Kids Campaign, partnering with the government and NGOs to make it a huge success. Here’s a video showcasing that:
He then showed the Friskies ad. [Why did he bother, I’m not sure. Maybe he’s into kittens.]
[The ad was almost 3 minutes long. And no matter how cute you think it is, where on earth would you place it? Certainly not the mainstream media. And even if you could afford that for a whole campaign, how many people in today’s era would actually sit through it again and again, considering the average attention span of today’s generation is 8 seconds, less than that of a goldfish. This is what we call out of sync with the ground realities. But then I did a search on youtube and it seems this is one of 13 videos with the series titled ‘Dear Kitten’. This video alone has got 25.9 million views. Not bad, huh? It is part of the buzzfeed video channel and all the videos are made specifically for youtube alone].
Finally came the Perrier ad. [Awesome ad. Must have spent a fortune on it. Again I’m not so sure why it was shown. But the only thing I can think of was to demoralize us lesser mortals with meager budgets that you can’t even dream of coming up with such a grandeur ad].
Implications of Living in a Digital World
Address by International Keynote Speaker: Santosh Desai, Chairman, Future Brands & Author, Columnist & Social Commentator
Businesses despise consumers no end. They look at them as some sort of amoeba in a petri dish in a laboratory instead of humans. A brand has to be deeply entrenched in the lifestyle of the people if it is to have any meaning to the world.
The dominant form of communication medium in South Asia has always been oral. That’s how folklore and even history got passed from generation to generation. And is because of this we rely heavily on rhymes to remember something. And brands have used this to great effect. Some of the brands I remember from my childhood are only because of the rhymes they came up with.
Writing is looking at the world in retrospect, not as the present is happening, unless you are a stenographer.
You don’t manage or build a brand. You dissolve it so that it seeps into the consumer’s soul.
One of the biographers of Adolph Hitler said that there was a reason Hitler was able to get his people to do what he wanted them to do. He had the uncanny ability to amplify the barely audible whisper of the German soul.
If a brand has any chance of reaching the pathos of greatness, it ought to be able to amplify the barely audible whisper of the consumer’s soul.
[Santosh Desai could be said to have delivered the speech of the entire conference. Despite showing zilch ads and videos in his presentation, he was able to get his audience listen to him with rapt attention.]
Digital Transformation & the Future of Customer Experience
Syed Veqar ul Islam, CEO & Director, Jaffer Business Systems
Technology can only do so much and at the end of the day its what sort of experience you’re providing to your customer that counts.
I’ve had the same barber for the last many years. He knows me by name, knows exactly how I like my hair cut and while my son can’t fathom why I need a haircut to begin with [Mr. Islam’s bald], I still go to that man. That’s customer loyalty for you and it has got nothing to do with technology or the digital age. You can make use of technology to amplify that experience but it cannot create it on its own. Human intervention is needed.
[ Mr. Islam delivered his speech without the aid of powerpoint or videos, and he was quite eloquent. But it was way too long, and if you’re going to be delivering a long speech to a large audience who have already been listening to such speeches since morning, you better be uber-eloquent or using a plethora of multimedia tools otherwise you would lose your audience midway through.]
Thinking Inside the Box
M. A. Mannan, President & CEO, TCS Holdings
The way eCommerce is done in the West is not exactly the perfect business model for Pakistan.
In the West its considered good for business if you can generate business without having physical contact with your customers. They have lots of data at their fingertips to predict customer behavior.
Normally, online stores have a limited inventory of products. We wanted to change that. Even if we didn’t have a product, we were going to get it for you. Yaywo was launched to address that.
You cannot drive more than 10 minutes without coming across a TCS centre. But why even drive 10 mins? TCS Hazir was launched to address this.
One day my mother asked me late at night to get some medicines for my father. Instead of going out to get them, I took a snapshot of the medicine and whatsapped it to TCS Hazir, and within 1.5 hours the medicines were delivered.
We were able to deliver Sana Safinaz orders on the day of the launch before the actual physical launch.
[Mr. Mannan ought to be given full marks for the most blatant self-promotion of the event. However, he did have a tough competition from Mr. Bruno from Nestle and Mr. Sarmad from Jang. But he won hands down. Don’t get me wrong. I did learn a lot about TCS and what its doing these days to reinvent itself. But it was just a little too overboard for my liking.]
Kaushik Roy, President Brand Strategy & Marketing Communications & Adviser to
Chairman, Reliance Industries Limited
We haven’t changed as human beings in that way we still do the same things or enjoy the same pleasures but in a different manner.
We still enjoy listening to music but instead of consuming it on cassettes and tape recorders in the past, we’re doing it online via soundcloud and other community-based music sharing sites.
We still enjoy watching movies but now we do it using Netflix and other similar services. We still do shopping but the retail dynamics have changed in today’s world.
We still enjoy reading books but instead of the traditional paperback or hardback, it’s now on kindle or other ebook readers.
I come from the province of Bengal which is chock-full of sweet delicacies. Cadbury wanted to get into that market with its meethay kay saath kuch meetha hojaye but had a tough time weaning the Bengalis off their traditional sweets. So instead of trying to get people to buy their brand, they set about changing the trend itself. One of the most famous sweetmeats in Bengal is Sandesh. They used a popular woman called Manjula who was famous online for sharing her recipe videos, to make sandesh with chocolate toppings. Soon that fad caught on and the Bengalis were hooked on chocolate coated sandesh. Her chocolate sandesh video alone had 46,000 views on youtube.
Amazon never used to do advertising. They never had the need. But when they came into the Indian market, they were faced with stiff competition from brands like OLX, Quikr and Flipkart who had already made into a cut-throat competitive market.
OLX had the first mover advantage. They were the first ones to recognize to get the insights and tailor their ads according to two types of people – people who had old stuff lying around they wanted to dispose of, and people who were searching for such stuff. No wonder they had an ad spend of Rs.400 crore.
The following are two ads catering to these two types:
And a look at how flipkart is positioning itself in this niche:
Paper Boat is a very popular local brand in India which has merged nostalgia with tradition to come up with something that resonates with the heartstrings of the Indian consumer.
Have you heard of Air New Zealand? I didn’t. Here’s what they took what was an air security pre-requisite and turned it on its head to make people sit up and take notice. At least after watching this video, I have developed the desire to travel with them, reasoning that if this is what they do with just their safety video, what level of service must they be offering in real world.
[Another terrific speaker from across the border. You can sense he didn’t get to be adviser to one of the most influential corporate leaders of recent times by doing what advisers in our country do to get that position. He got there because he knows something about this field and that reflected well in his speech.]
Marketing Leadership in a Culture of Change
Maheen Rahman, CEO, Alfalah GHP Investment Management
Mutual Funds was a B2B system and it was easy to approach institutional investors and get them to invest. But that all changed when back in 2008 the government itself changed it to a B2C structure, and all of a sudden investment companies had to reinvent themselves.
The average rate of return on stocks in the last decade has been 25%. Mutual funds on the other hand have returned 30% in the same period.
Al-Falah investment has gone from 12 Billion to 33 Billion in last 24 months.
Innovation in Media
Sarmad A. Ali, Managing Director, Jang Media Group & President, APNS
Jang has been around before the partition of sub-continent, and although we’re no more at Jang with the imperialists, we’re still fighting a war every day, whether its against poverty, corruption or terrorism.
The print media is not dead by any stretch of the imagination. There were about 124 newspapers 8 years ago and they have increased to 240 today. The circulation has also risen sharply in the same period.
Jang has been a pioneer in creating the perfect marriage between technology and traditional media. Jang was the first one to come up with the idea of using QR codes. Classified is a Rs.7 Billion business and Jang used the QR codes to make them more effective. Here’s a video to showcase that:
We made use of augmented reality to make newspaper reading even more effective.
[All about Jang, but I liked the way he was over-eager to tell us about the new innovations at Jang, like a child trying to show his new toys to people around him. At one point he went to the extent of opening the jang app on his mobile and try to scan the QR code on a newspaper in spite of the fact that no one could actually see what he was doing, but that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm to do it anyway.]
The Power of #Now
Badar Khushnood, Country Representative Pakistan, Twitter
Twitter has been used in innovative ways to drive campaigns of national significance. The pothole campaign in Mexico is one such example.
Twitter can be used to gauge the engagement around an event at that point in time, for example the Oscars. It can also be used to gauge activities localized in an area as opposed to a specific instance in time.
[Badar is as always, a very effective speaker. And shrewd. This was one of the shortest presentations I’ve seen him give, but just as effective. This was also his first since becoming the country representative of twitter.]
In Conversation with Kabir Khan, Film Director, Screenwriter, Cinematographer & Maker of
Moderator: Asim Raza, Film, Commercial & Music Video Director
[This was the last session of the day. Very cunning on the part of the organizers. Keep the celebrity for the end so that everyone stays till the end. And Kabir Khan did not disappoint. You could listen to him all day long and not get tired. He has that kind of a personality. And Asim Raza proved to be a great moderator, keeping the conversation going at full throttle. Here’s just a brief overview of the dialogue that transpired ]
Asim Raza: How did you end up making Bollywood movies?
Kabir Khan: It’s a strange story. I always had a penchant for traveling, leaving no opportunity to go hiking or trekking. Then I met this documentary film-maker who told me that the best way to travel is to become a documentary film-maker. And hence started my journey towards film-making. I once traveled to 60 countries in just 5 months as an assistant to a veteran documentary film-maker, learning the tricks of the trade.
My foray into Bollywood is a bizarre story. I wanted to make a documentary on Afghanistan. The best route into Afghanistan was through Pakistan and Pakistan government was not giving visas to Indians at that time. So I traveled all the way to Tashkent. From there I remained stuck for two weeks as there was no flight into Afghanistan. Then one day I saw a Russian cargo helicopter taking off for Afghanistan. I requested the pilot to take us there. He agreed on a bribe of $2000 and hid us amongst the medicine supplies he was taking there. After some time he came down to something like 20ft above the ground in the middle of nowhere, and asked us to jump. We pleaded with him to take us to Kabul or at least land the helicopter there so we could easily get off. He refused to do that, saying that if he landed, the helicopter would need sometime before it could take off again and since he was smuggling them he couldn’t take the risk of this unscheduled landing. So he and his assistant jumped 20ft onto the ground with the camera equipment. They had no idea where they were or in what direction was Kabul. Suddenly they saw a huge guy wielding a machine gun coming in their direction. When he cocked his gun, I thought this was the end, and all sorts of thoughts shot through my mind, if we died here how would the bodies be found and how they would be transported back to India, all the intricate details. One thing I did while the man was coming towards us to say again and again that we were Hindustani because at that time India had a good relation with Afghanistan. When he finally reached us and heard that we were Indians, he smiled and sang the song ‘Mere sapnon ki rani….’. That’s when I realized how huge and influential Bollywood was across industries and decided this was what I was going to do next. In fact my first move Kabul Express was loosely based on this experience of mine in Afghanistan.
Asim Raza: Was it easy transitioning from documentary-making to Bollywood?
Kabir Khan: It wasn’t. On the contrary it was tough as hell. I didn’t know the first thing about pitching scripts to producers, and I pitched to several producers before I got my big break. Wherever I went to pitch, the production houses were only interested in what strategy I had for getting the maximum distribution for the movie in order for it to make money. One production house I went to said that they only listened to scripts on Saturdays and proper proposals during the week. So I went back to them on Saturday and narrated my script. They listened intently and said it was an interesting one but that it was a post-friday script. I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, but I quickly learnt that a pre-friday script is one where you sell the movie to distributors before its released so your profit and investment are safe right from the outset, and then there’s the post-friday script where the profit depends on how the movie fares in the cinema. In short that was yet another rejection.
Then one fine day I got a call from Yashraj studios saying that Aditiya Chopra liked my script and he wanted to meet me. Now in Bollywood, Aditiya is more like a mythical figure -someone who no one has seen or met but exists only as an intimidation tool. So when I got that call, I thought I was being made a MTV Bakra since my wife is a VJ there and Cyrix and other are her friends. I still decided to go to Yashraj studios on the slim chance that it might be true. Even when I reached the gate of the studios, I was expecting Cyrix or someone from MTV to jump from behind the bushes and say Bakra bana dya. Anyway I got in and finally me the mythical Aditiya. He said he liked my script and was willing to finance it. I approached Arshad Warsi and John Abraham for the lead roles and after hearing the script they both readily agreed. And that’s how Kabul Express came into being. It wasn’t a successful movie, but at least it got my career going in Bollywood.
Asim Raza: Why is there a fixation to only cast big stars in your movies?
Kabir Khan: Its not. I approached John Abraham for my second movie New York because I had developed a good working relationship with him on Kabul Express and the rest of the cast just fell into its place. There was no deliberate attempt.
Asim Raza: You’ve done two movies with Salman. How was the experience?
Kabir Khan: I worked with Salman Khan for the first time on my third flick Ek Tha Tiger and I didn’t get along very well with him. We were all the time fighting and are poles apart. He has very different sensibilities than I have but by the time we started working on Bajrangi Bhaijan, we understood each other and finally got along well.
Asim Raza: How did Bajrangi Bhaijan come into being?
Kabir Khan: Salman believes strongly in two things: secular nature of Indian society and friendly relations between India and Pakistan. These ideals resonated with me and we were trying for quite sometime to come up with a script for such a venture.
Asim Raza: How did you find Munni and was it easy to work with a child star?
Kabir Khan: We went as far away as Iran and Afghanistan to search for a girl for this role. In the end we rounded up 10 six-year olds from New Delhi and conducted a month long workshop with them. You can’t expect a six-year old to act so what we were looking for was a passion to act. Initially they were conscious of the cameras around them but after a week they became accustomed to it. Out of all those girls, Harshaali Malhotra seemed to be the most keen to act and always said aloud that she wanted to do this movie.
That settled it for us. But it was easier said than done. Working with a six-year old is no mean task. For instance if you want an adult star to cry, you can just ask him or her to internalize it and put some glycerine on their eyes. But you can’t put glycerine in the eyes of a six-year old. Instead we put droplets of water near her eyes and I talked her through the scenes, but it was an extremely challenging and yet rewarding experience for a director.
Asim Raza: How do you see Pakistani film-makers deal with the problem of having to embed brands in their movies in order to get the budget to make the movie? Have you ever faced the same problem? We only have 100 screens in Pakistan, how can we make a mega-budget movie when we don’t have enough screens to churn out revenues. It’s the classic egg-or-chicken dilemma as to which comes first, the screens or the blockbusters?
Kabir Khan: I think it’s not just about the no. of screens in the country, but a lot of other factors also come into play. There are about 5000 screens in India, 25,000 in China and 35,000 in USA. But the penetration level in India is a mere 3%. The rest of the population doesn’t watch the movies in theatres anymore, which is the main source of revenue. We would want more screens to open up in Pakistan because Pakistan is a huge market for India.
Asim Raza: Why not release Pakistani movies in India for a change instead of only Indian movies releasing here?
Kabir Khan: Definitely something to be considered. But we have to take it on a step-by-step basis. Remember that there are about 250 films released in a year and that’s just Bollywood. If you include regional as well then thats about 700-800 movies a year. So its highly competitive. And a Pakistani movie will have to be really good to compete with those for a slot. But its good that Pakistani actors are getting into the Indian cinema. There’s this Zindagi channel which broadcasts Pakistani dramas in India which are quite popular. Ultimate this would and should lead to some collaborative effort on film-making between the two countries.
Asim Raza: What came into you to make Phantom after making a movie like Bajrangi Bhaijan?
Kabir Khan: Both movies showcase the fact that an entire country is not good or bad, but certain elements in that country are. Both movies reflect those elements in contrasting ways. But I must say that the media plays a negative role in both our countries.
Day 2 of Marcon 2016 Pakistan
Day 2 of the conference for some strange reason took place in the Crystal Ballroom of Marriott as opposed to Pool Marquee where Day 1 proceedings took place. Wrong choice. Not only did you make it difficult for yourself moving all that gear, the second hall was considerably smaller than the first one, giving the latecomers nowhere to sit down.
Television in the Digital Age
Ian Majewski, CEO, Orientedge UM
It is all about convergence with disruption along the way. And digital TV doesn’t mean a Smart TV which so many of you mistake it to be. Pretty much all television today is digital because the analog signal is slowly going out of vogue replaced by digital signals from the satellite.
I was watching a Pakistani channel and in a single break, a brand’s ad was repeated thrice. The advertisers themselves are encouraging the viewer to switch channel as soon as possible. In UK, every hour has got about 7.5 mins of advertising. In Pakistan it seems like it is 30-40 mins.
Pakistan television started off its broadcast in 1964 from Lahore, then came Islamabad and finally Karachi.
Pakistan launched its first private channel with the name of Shalimar Television network in 1990. 2002 saw the dawn of niche channels and in 2007 people’s meter was used for the first time to gauge viewership.
Purpose Driven Marketing
Bharat Avalani, Member Executive Council, Asian Federation of Advertising
Associations & IAA Malaysia & Former IBC Director Asia, Africa, Middle East & Turkey,
I’ve been visiting Pakistan for the last twenty years. I’ve been to 60 countries worldwide and I find Pakistan the best of all.
After the Peshawar army attack, a few of us came for a visit and spent a day with the kids. [Showed a number of photos from his travels in Pakistan spread over 20 years].
Marketing is all about serving a purpose. Don’t call or treat people as customers, consumers or target market, as if you’re targeting them for a kill. Treat them as people.
William Hasketh Lever who founded Lever Bros first came up with the idea of Sunlight Soap because washing back then was a laborious task and he wanted to alleviate people. We have continued on that path ever since.
The Lifebuoy campaign has been done in many countries especially those impoverished countries where children don’t even make it to the age of five because of diarhoea or other sanitary related condition.
Align your marketing efforts with something more meaningful and the brand will build by itself.
Connecting with Ubiquitous Customer of Digital Age
Irfan Wahab Khan, Deputy CEO & Chief Marketing Officer, Telenor Pakistan
It took the mobile service providers 10 years [1995-2005] to reach 1 billion customers. From 2005 to 2020, it is expected that the customer base would reach 20 Bn, which interestingly is far more than the people on this planet.
There are about 25 Million people in Pakistan using internet on their mobile. By 2016 it was expected the total mobile customers to reach 2 Bn.
The customer is everywhere. So unless you have an omni-channel marketing strategy, you won’t be able to entice him or keep him for life.
There are about 2 Million handsets imported to Pakistan each month.
‘A brand is longer what you tell the customer it is. It is what the customers tell each other.’ – Scott Cook.
Marketing Pakistan’s Image
Special Address by Marvi Memon, Minister of State & Chairperson, Benazir Income Support
Sadly this speech didn’t have anything to do with marketing pakistan’s image. It was more of a justification speech for the esteemed Prime Minister’s BISP program. Ms. Memon spoke at length about how her efforts were empowering women in rural areas in all four provinces to take up earning income on their own.
She then shifted gears and went through a whole list of women who have succeeded in one field or the other. I reckon the speech ought to have been titled ‘Marketing BISP’. The lady is eloquent, alright. You got to hand it to her at least this much.
Closing Address by Javed Jabbar, Writer, Film Maker, Policy Analyst, Former Senator & Federal Minister
Mr. Jabbar didn’t have anything to say about marketing either. He spoke in general about some of the problems facing Pakistan. The fact that the economy of Pakistan officially is $285 Bn, but the black economy at the most conservative figures is $500Bn and according to some figures as much as $1 trillion. This is of course due to all the underhand dealings, undocumented businesses, Panama leagues and the transfer of foreign currency with such ease.
This is the paradox of parallel economy and the government does nothing in spite of knowing all this. The present government to its credit has started the computerization of land records and putting it online.
The Last Words
Marcon 2016 lived up to its reputation of being the most prestigious marketing event of Pakistan.
Whether this was the biggest or the most successful Marcon conference is debatable, but it certainly was a huge success in terms of both the speakers it was able to attract as well as the diversity of audience.