Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Marketing gimmick or con job

Getting an MBA is an ambition for many young people. They study very hard to try and get admission to a good management school. India boasts of the IIM’s which, I have been led to believe, offer world class education. Management graduates are supposed to be worth their weight in Gold, and we all know how expensive that is! Gillette is one of the world’s best FMCG companies owning several large brands. I presume only the smartest management graduates from India as well as abroad am selected and get employed by such good companies.  

I had gone to Pali Market and on the way back, as is my wont, stopped off at Modern Stores. This stop is essential for two reasons. The first is to step into their newly air-conditioned store and get some relief from the oppressive heat and humidity. The second is to exchange some banter with Bharat, Mulchand and their Dad who own the store. I also go there to buy provisions, but that is by the way. On this particular morning when I walked in there was much excitement. Mulchand had worked up quite lather and was fuming. “Sir!! Look at this! How can we run the business? How can we answer customers??”  Bharat was equally upset and said “All these MNC’s are cheats!!” I thought that this was a fairly unusual level of excitement, so I asked what the matter was. An Oral B toothbrush was thrust into my hands and this is what I saw.

“Now turn it over and have a look at the MRP [maximum retail price]” said Mulchand, still excited. I did and this is what I saw.

“How much are we supposed to sell this brush for?” Mulchand asked? I thought for a moment, did my calculations 46 – 12 = 34. “Rs 34/-“was my answer. Both Mulchand and Bharat smiled at each other and told me to have a look at the fine print. This is what I saw.

I was aghast. There was in reality no discount at all on the tooth brush. The sleeve on the brush had the “Rs 12/- Off” and not the actual package. The very small print on the front of the sleeve had no corresponding asterisk on the MRP printed on the reverse. It was obviously a huge bait which some foolish non vigilant customer would fall for. After going home, on looking more carefully the customer would realise he had not got a discount and be rather upset. What sense does the statement “vs a regular flat trim toothbrush” mean? Why is the price of this so called regular flat trim toothbrush pegged at Rs 58/-?  It seems obvious that the toothbrush was not selling in the desired i.e. `projected’ quantities. So methinks, the smart management graduates decided to put on this sleeve promising this nonexistent discount to lure gullible customers. Shocking!

Is this what MBA graduates presumably from top management schools working in a Fortune 500 FMCG company can think of? Is this a sales strategy? Is this what Management graduates have studied for? How vigilant is a consumer supposed to be?

No wonder they were upset. As I write, I myself have worked up quite a lather, if you pardon the pun.

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