Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pitching for Gillette, Vodafone, Mercedes, PepsiCo & TAC.

Lessons in Business Development, Sales, Marketing, Strategy, Business, Entrepreneurship & the pursuit of greater glory.
Chances are, you recognized the first four names up there. No marks for that. But, who the hell is TAC?
I was a Trainee then. FOB- not ‘fresh off the boat’, the acronym that my son uses when we adults don’t ‘get it’, but in this case, ‘fresh off B-school’ and just about a week old in Ogilvy [a global, marketing communications company], my first job, in India. All keyed up to take on the big, bad, glamorous world of advertising.
And plomp! drops a new business pitch right onto my lap. For Tutucorin Alkali Chemicals and Fertilizers-a company about to launch their sexy, new fertilizer. This was not going to contribute to my glam quotient with my batch mates. I was to be the smallest cog [the gofer] in the big new-business-machine involving the powers-that-be of Ogilvy.
A new, totally unheard of fertilizer called TAC Ammonium Chloride. Google’s great grandfather, search engine AltaVista was still a decade away. But we still had to know more about this unknown fertilizer thingy. And who better to do that, than the gofer? My job was to ferret out every tidbit that existed about NH4Cl, the cool Ammonium Chloride.
Long story short, the Indiana Jones in me discovered a little know fact, not to just us advertising types, but to even many in the client’s office!
Here’s the scoop: The water that irrigates your field [if you ever did get to buy your farm one day & retire] will never wash Ammonium Chloride away. Btw, I also discovered that the big brother competitor ‘Urea’ tended to get washed away- a good 25% of the nutrient from Urea, just got leeched. Not so, with Ammonium Chloride. But wait a moment, did farmers know that? We checked and found that though they were not sure, they were certainly ready to listen and question their twenty-year-old habit of using Urea! And try out the new kid on a small patch. And from there was born, the positioning of ‘The NO WASTE nitrogenous fertilizer” for TAC Ammonium Chloride. And just that strategic thought, won Ogilvy the new business. Every single committee member from the client team sat up and picked Ogilvy.
And I learnt my first lesson- “Be the Google: Know your product inside out”. There is absolutely nothing that equals the power of that intimate, 360-degree understanding of what you are selling, in business. And while you are at it, you got to know your client, your category, your market, your consumer, your competition as well. Because all of that is "Being the Google" on your product.
Overnight, I was a hero! Not only did we win MY(?) first pitch as a rookie, I practically authored the strategy. And got the first client that I ever managed as an Account Executive. Not to mention, I also got the chance to write the first full-page, newspaper sized launch ad as the ghost copywriter [because I could write well in Tamil, the language to reach our target farmers]. And the full-page ad caught the ‘Father of Advertising’ David Ogilvy’s eye, during his first visit to India & his agency and he cast an appreciative nod in my direction. And I died and went to heaven.
Believe me, this is not some exercise in auto-ego-massage. In talking to a consumer about a product’s benefit, advertising teaches you how you need to ‘peel-the-onion’ and go deeper into the consumer’s psyche, to find what he or she will actually, finally, get out of using the product. Which is why ‘a close shave using your razor’ is not just ‘smooth cheeks’ or ‘clean removal of facial hair’, but is about ‘ being the MAN you desire to be’. So likewise, “Being the Google on your product” will not just win the business for you, but may actually take you to greater glory & to heaven’s pearly gates.
Cartoon Courtesy: Oliver Widder;

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