Tuesday, 19 August 2014


# My laptop says low on battery. I plug it into a socket of my train compartment. I open my web browser and strain my brain hard, searching for a content to write about. I hear a vendor marketing his product : “Le Chai Le Chai… Garma Garam Malai Maarke Special Chaai.” The train passes over a bridge. A little girl asks her dad to buy her a dress on flipkart as she just now received an SMS about their 60 percent discount scheme. I smiled and my fingers started dancing on the keyboard.#

This piece was written for www.digitalmarketingstory.com

Marketing in simple terms means communicating about products to the target customers in a bid to convince them to buy the said products. Believe it or not marketing has been in existence from time immemorial. Egyptians used papyrus for advertising while the Romans used paintings to promote races, gladiator contests, etc.

India was also not unknown to marketing techniques. Remember when you watched those Mahabharat episodes where the last war was being fought, and you got all confused as to which side is our beloved Indian Casanova Krishna was on. Where is Arjun’s chariot? Where was Krishna? The red flag with Hanuman’s print always came in handy. We knew right away which chariot is the right one. See, this is where logos and brandings came in handy. Be it Karna (Kavach and Kundals) or Krishna (peacock feather), Ved Vyas knew the advantages of branding and used it in his favour to write an awesome novel.. the epic called Mahabharata. Even the two clans of Chandravanshi and Suryavanshi Kings used moon and sun respectively as their logo. Then, there are other examples of wall paintings and statues. I wonder many a times whether the awesomely-nude-but-not-obscene depictions on Khajuraho walls was not merely an art form but also marketing for “Shilajeet. May be, may be not. But the point is that India was indulged in marketing strategies from the ancient times.


Pre Digital Period:

The times changed. Chariots have been replaced by cars, horses by bikes and cheer-haran by rapes. And so have the marketing techniques. The Khajuraho temples (apparently) advertising for sheelajit has become an advertisement in print media stating: “Meet Dr. Sahni in Raipur on Thursdays and Fridays. Call 98xxxxxxxxx.

Before the digital world came into existence, the printing press played an important role in marketing activities. There were newspaper ads, fliers, pamphlets and what not. However, in India we used other means too. Whosoever have travelled by trains, would have noticed these genius marketing gimmicks.
In buffalo-bold font, you can read clearly from as far as a kilometre far written on the walls (usually boundary walls): Use “Guddu Chhap Gudakhu”.

Caution : Using Gudakhu may have adverse effect on your relationship status

[For those fortunate beings who do not know what gudakhu is let me enlighten you. Gudakhu is a thick paste of tobacco, molasses and other such ingredients used to rub on teeth for reasons unknown to me. How cool is that.]

Another creative idea was the use of toilets. We all know while sitting in the “Indian style” aasan, our mind sprints like PT Usha. Indians may not use toilets for excretionary purposes but they sure have used them and still continue to use them for advertising purposes. With creative juices flowing, someone might have started advertising his “capabilities” by writing : 

“For an awesome night meet me, Rakesh.” 

Followed by Rakesh’s address. Then, Suresh would say some interesting but obscene depictions about Rakesh's mother followed by a doodle of errr...well you know. And hence started the wall where people would right all sorts of creative swear words one can think of and then there would be comments below those words inviting for a pleasurable one night stand or abusing moms and sis. And guess what? I wonder if Zuckerberg travelled by Indian trains once and got the idea for facebook from there.

And then, we (Indians) took it to international level. As we all know footfalls play an important role in business area. The more the people the more customers you can get. Our people got that right and started writing on the monuments too. Hell yeah. There are national as well as international tourists.

One of them read : 

“For guide contact 98xxxxxxxx.”

Then, there were messages with hearts and arrows which read as : 

Rahul “Heart pierced by arrow” Pooja.

Another one was a marriage invitation: 

“Mohan Weds Mumtaj”. 

[Because someone once said: “Marketing is not about money, it’s about relationships.” And we took it quite literally.]

Love is in the air ....

.... and on the walls too !

This is how most of India evolved into the marketing arena. We have companies, we have big corporate houses but the larger number of marketing takes place in root level.


Digital Marketing: 

After print media, came the digital world. The telephone and internet has become the main tool for marketing. Now you can see “Manchali Baatein” advertisement not only in newspaper but also in those annoying pop ups whenever you open songs.pk to download a song.

Coming to the internet. We have seen various ads for online shopping by Flipkart and Snapdeal. Writing about them is cliche. Everyone wrote about it and will write about it. I would like to take the road less traveled and talk about some candid marketing activities people do knowingly or unknowingly using the internet.

* Personal Marketing: Remember I told you what marketing is? Communicating the customers about your product and convincing them to buy the said products. When personal marketing comes into picture, the person marketing is the product himself. For instance : The ‘about me’ column in Face Book profile of an uncle read –

“I m cool dude wid full attitude. Attitude is my last name. I m macho man wid broad shoulders. I wnt do frandship wid gals and aunties. Accept me n u wil luv me.”

Another bio in a matrimonial site read:

“Cool husband. Wife dead. Want another. No mother in law. No problem. Contact soon.”

Now this is what I call an irresistible offer. Isn’t this marketing? Who would not want to send this cool dude uncle a friend request on FB. Or won’t you want a cool husband with no mother in law?

* Star Marketing: No, this isn’t related to celebrities. This is one is about the stars that have the power to change your fate. Whenever I am free I take my time out for youtube. Not for the videos per se but for the comments below them. They are more entertaining. I am sure you must have read them too. They start with who is better SRK or SALLU. Then, SRK becomes SRGAY and SALLU beomes LALLU. Then, out of the blue the whole fight moves on to North Indians vs. South Indians. Eventually and inevitably it goes on to India and Pakistan. But then suddenly something else happens. Let me show you how it is:

CoolDudeUncle:  Dis is bakwaas. The film will flop n so wil ur Sallu Lallu.

MachoManSalluFan: Shut the f*** up you *****. Ur Srgay is not even comparable to shit of my Sallu. (Authors Comment: What an analysis man… Bravo !)

NerdyAttapattu: All of these movies are copied from South Movies. Rajnikanth is the super star.

JattPunjabiMunda: Oye teri ***** You southy **** you oily *****

BiriyaniLovingPaki: Yes u shud all fight. Die u Indians.

JaiHindBharatKumar: M****** you ******* Bharat Mata ki jai.

[And just when the war was getting nastier and an e-nuke was going to be dropped by BiriyaniLovingPaki on Youtube comments, an irrelevant yet important comment comes in.]

BABA GAJODHAR : “Baba se milein. Sirf phone mein milega samadhaan. Buri nazar, sautan ka asar, saas se taklif, pyaar me dhokha, businees mein pareshaani, paise ki dikkat. Baba ke paas hai sab ka ilaaj. Baap dada se mila khandaani vardaan. Sirf phone karne ke 5 minute ke andar fark dekhein. Kismat zaroor badlegi. Call: 94xxxxxxxx”

This proves that online marketing is not only limited to big companies. Even mysterious dudes with incredible powers also like to use digital marketing techniques to grow their business.

* Carrot & Stick Marketing: This kind of marketing is exclusively used by using the “carrot and stick” technique. Remember those annoying but scary chain mails? They have taken a whole different road in India. You must know what I am referring to. A picture of any Indian god pops up either on FB or on Whatsapp and it says… Jai ######. Share zarur karein. Labh avashya milega. This is the pleasure technique – the Carrot. For people who would love to go to heaven they will share it to atleast 15 people. Visa to heaven confirmed.
Another one will read : Share it or you will burn in the red flames of Narak (hell) or bad luck will hover on your head for 7 years. This one is the “Stick” technique. Those who are happy with mother Earth but do not want to go to hell will share it to many friends and the chain goes on annoying and scaring people all at the same time.

Now, look at it from the marketing point of view. Isn’t this just awesome. Though you are not earning any revenue. 
(See, religion is not about money at all, you know)

You are easily getting 10 to 15 referrals per lead. Isn’t this amazing? Even Tom Hopkins can’t get this much referrals in a month.

There are many more, and someone from a business school might write a book on it. I will conclude here as this piece is getting two times longer than expected.

It is quite interesting when you note that in this age of digital marketing, Indians have been quite resourceful and creative. They have taken whole of this digital marketing to a new height. These were some interesting aspects of both digital and conventional marketing which I have observed time and again but never read anything about them being referred to in B schools. I wonder why?


I am neither an MBA student nor do I have any knowledge about marketing. I just observed some interesting ways of marketing and I had an urge to write this piece for my friend. I am obliged that she found this piece relevant enough to make a place on her site www.digitalmarketingstory.com
This piece need not be taken seriously. But you ought to give a round of applause for the creativity we Indians possess.
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