Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Nike Curse" - of phobias and superstitions..! (part I)

What is common between Tiger Woods scandal, Wayne Rooni and his sex scandal, Henry’s infamous handball that took France to the last world cup, the Indian teams poor show in T 20 And Roger Federer loosing his cake walk in Wimbledon this year? 

For many the answer would be vague, for others (you) would have guessed it already… all of them are (were) celebrity endorsers of Nike and got INTO SOUP and thereby spoiling Nike image, this year.. They call it the Nike Curse and that made me sit and ponder a bit more on superstitions that rule my beloved industry… what the hell the brand has to do with the mistakes/errors/goof ups that its endorsers end up with?
A lot many factors affect (negatively) business performance like paraskevidekatriaphobia—(well that is fear of Friday the 13th) if you go for a survey among people in the western world. Their fear and love (at the same time) of superstitions are well known secrets….But friends with experience of having done business with Americans tell me that a sizable number of the western folks have this fear. I searched for data and it says in US alone about $800 million to $900 million in business revenue is lost on that ‘ill-omened’ date. Indians aren’t that bad you say? Well let me tell you more…

In all probability all of us have in some ways or other, have indulged in some kind of superstitious behavior in a business settings and otherwise, be it starting to meetings on auspicious moments ( Muhurat ) , scheduling an important meeting in alignment with a our horoscope or by wearing a auspicious set of clothes to an interview. I know people who wear the same set of stuff for days together to win clients, their stars may smile at the them but the stink will stare the clients off for sure. It may sound irrational but it seems this whole lot of seemingly irrational stuff has reason behind this, according to psychologists. 

I had a friend in EURO RSCG who strongly believed that having a cup of coffee from a particular vending machine would help us win accounts… he not only propagated this ridiculous belief but also could win over followers with his evangelism. People made fun of him and yet when a D day approached the LUCKY vending machine had a long queue in its front …strange but true!!

I was never a proponent of such stupidity, I felt that pitching is won on merit and hard work, and some greasing and back door activities of course, but having coffee from a certain machine would be the last factor in getting an agency win an account.. I knew this, so did many others, and yet we all did the coffee ritual and the logic was,- Crazy or not, you feel better having done it/them… I admit to have had the coffee a couple of times and have won accounts,,,, HUH !

Just like Friday the 13 th is a bad day, there are some good days as well. Iceland air, for example, ran a promotion in 2007 allowing customers to add on excursions for $7 each, provided they booked by 7/7/07. Now that speaks how much ‘7’ is a lucky number. Another example of the clout of ‘7’ is Wal-Mart's "Lucky in Love Wedding Search," which granted seven couples a free wedding ceremony and reception for 77 guests on the lucky date. Bharti chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal and his fascination to the number 23 is famous. 

The more apt example in Indian scene would be of  jewelry sales and purchase of gold which rockets by at least 15-20% during Akshaya Tritiya, a day considered auspicious for the Hindus but lesser known till a couple of years back (at least in the south) ..Similarly during Dhanteras last year the car sales in India went up three times.. Good examples of how Marketing enters into a marriage of convenience with beliefs /superstition. 

In the west, hundreds of millions of dollars are lost on Friday the 13th because people (even the well read ones) are logically risk-averse. Just like in India people don’t like to buy metal on Saturday, so car sales ( and any metals) are usually low on Saturdays …I still remember that at my first agency in Chennai, the boss had wanted me to go back to office and start again after we had reached the main gates of our office , for a client meeting… the reason- a black cat which waded across our path unabashedly and seemingly unconcerned about Lowe or its client Saint Gobain…

Foot note :- I thank my lucky stars I’m not superstitious!
To be continued...>>>>>

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