Princeton researchers recently published a paper predicting the death of Facebook! No matter what you and I believe, it is hard to avoid listening to those Princeton “smarties” without giving them an ear. It claimed that Facebook will lose 80% of its users by 2017. Simply put, they used a model that predicts the death of Facebook based on its blazing rate of adoption (like a disease), combined with its decreasing rate of adoption among new users of social media. No matter whether a “disease” model can be applied to the adoption of Facebook or not, the authors eventually based their claims by referring to previous successful attempts of explaining the “spread of ideas” with the “spread of diseases”. The whole paper can be downloaded here (only for advanced readers).
Talking about the death of Facebook or about weakening popularity of it, is not a very recent phenomenon.The Forbes magazine also commented in one of their issues in 2012 about why Facebook might die and twitter would live. So what is the fuss about it?
I would like to dissect the whole issue and look into it from two different views. First one is from the view of product life cycle (or brand life cycle, to be more specific). Just like a brand may die and sometimes gets a make-over to restart its life, the same is theoretically possible to Facebook. The recent trend of decreasing popularity of Facebook and increasing popularity of Twitter have alarmed the social network strategists to fear the life of Facebook.
In real life, the business world has seen such ups and downs in the life of a brand. Xerox and Polaroid could be good examples. Privacy issues have been big concerns lately since Facebook allows so many third-party apps and games. About revenues, a big part of Facebook’s income comes from advertising. With the falling user base, the advertising revenue might hurt in future as advertisers would spend somewhere else. With its current set-up and make-up, it seems Facebook needs to re-design a lot of things to keep going. So the first issue is about usual life-cycle that any brand may experience.
The second one is from the view-point of business dynamism and adaptation of strategy. (Read More)
Ever wondered how come pilots in big commercial aircraft manage hundreds of indicators, switches, knobs, and sound warnings while they fly? Are they looking at all of them and flying? They must be super humans!
No. They don’t have to look at all of them constantly. There are critical indicators at every stage of flying that need to be monitored carefully which would ultimately warrant subsequent actions (computerized auto-flight instruments have largely reduced this burden too). It does not mean that pilots are unaware of other indicators while they are monitoring the critical ones. It is about priority where attention needs to be focused. Priority is set based on urgency of action. As long as critical indicators are alright, you may not need to closely monitor all other indicators. This is called the principle of exception (or management by exception) where attention and actions are directed once critical indicators show exceptions of the norm.
Like an aircraft’s dashboard, we all should have our own management dashboard where we put important indicators that need to be monitored all the time. Find out critical indicators and take care of them first. This does not mean that you have to be a reactive manager and not a proactive one. Once you have taken care of your critical exceptions, you can spend time on preventing other “normal” indicators from getting beyond the critical range. While the management by exception could be termed “reactive”, spending time on that imaginary dashboard and taking care of all other “indicators” must be proactive.
How does your dashboard look like?
We want to forget the failures of the past and move ahead with a fresh year. Many of us will have their personal resolutions to be achieved in the New Year. Historically, many new years’ resolutions were meant for the first day/week of the year only! Then we forget to act upon those plans and go back to our business as usual. In the following year, we repeat the same resolutions and fail again. It is difficult to achieve these new resolutions unless we change the way we act and change our habits that fail us. We cannot achieve new things unless we replace our old habits with new ones that will help us succeed. For instance, celebrating new year with a fatty dinner with a resolution to lose weight will not work. The change must start on the first day, otherwise, this is not a resolution— just a wishful thinking. If we want to change things for better, let us start the change inside ourselves first. Let us make our actions persistent, leading to an embedded behavior or habit. I think Aristotle knew this secret long time ago, as he said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Wish everybody a happy new year!
In terms of the number of mobile phone subscribers, Bangladesh ranks 12th globally. Here is the list of top 14 countries based on mobile phone subscribers (www.mobithinking.com):
It seems that Bangladesh is among those attractive countries for mobile operators in terms of sheer customer numbers. However, from an operator’s perspective, that might be questionable.
While this is true that a respectable size of market exists, it is also true that the market has already become highly competitive after deregulation and allowing multiple operators. Bangladesh now has six operators, which has turned the market highly competitive for operators at one end, and very attractive to subscribers (customers) on the other. This trend of increasing competition is actually good for customers because it usually leads to lower prices, attractive offerings and improvement of services. Remember those old days when only one mobile company offered almost a half-kilogram phone with exorbitant rate plans, including paying out from your pocket whenever there was an incoming call? Now-a-days, you will find almost everybody on the street using mobile phones, prices and rate-plans of which have come down to a very affordable level. Where in the world can you find unlimited validity period like Banglalink except in Bangladesh? Where in the world can you find the cheapest ‘friend and family’ deals as offered by Airtel or other competing operators?
A study shows that, Bangladesh is a country where mobile companies have one of the lowest per customer revenue in the Asia-Pacific region. The measurement is called ARPU (average revenue per user). It is the amount of money, on average, that a company brings in for each of its customers per period of time (usually per month). Roughly speaking, the higher the ARPU for a company, the better it is from operators’ perspective. Obviously, the lower the ARPU, the better it is from customers’ perspective. Here is the summary of their findings:
Even though other measures are needed to understand the price-profit scenario, ARPU could be a good starting point. Amid this price pressures, operators are under compelling need to come up with differentiated products like 3G and mobile banking, the trend of which has already started. Hopefully, we will be enjoying low voice rates in coming days, and let the operators continue their pricey 3G services until the competition heats up again in this sector.
With the advent of online libraries, pdf, epub and so many versions of virtual books, some may argue whether printed versions will be stacked on the shelves of history soon.
E-books have several convenience factors. It is cheap, storage does not require measurement in square-feet, babies cannot tear it down and you can easily carry thousands of them without hiring a taxi. The only downside could be the readers’ personal preference of turning pages, feeling and touching a book and experiencing the convenience of reading it without turning on gadgets and looking at battery level. Remember the fresh smell of new books when we started new school years? Some find e-books very mechanistic that does not add to the emotional experience of reading a “real book”. Well, some might disagree. Particularly, in the age of advance e-readers like Nook or Kindle, some readers feel that the lack of emotional connection to a physical book can somewhat be re-established.
So what is the magic point that would answer the question that we posed at the beginning? Will printed books survive? I guess the magic word is “convenience”. Once upon a time, “books” meant a stacked pile of carved stones that you had to handle to “read” inscriptions in there (muscle power required besides intellectual passion!). Then appeared the invention of paper, which was not what it looks like paper today, it contained some dried and straightened paste of fibers, combining some loose feeble scrolls that were delicate enough to be handled by average users. Today, we are lucky to have high quality paper that is versatile enough to print and store any thoughts in writing. This whole chain of evolution spanning over thousands of years was based on one single requirement: Convenience. So if there is any convenience factor that would be relevant to paper version of books today, they will probably survive.
There is one more thing that needs to be considered when we talk about “convenience”. How big is the size of consumers who think that either of the two (e-book vs. paper version) is more convenient to them? We never thought in the early ‘90s (when e-mail was the only virtual medium of texting) that there would be something like facebook and messengers which would be so convenient that a big chunk of users might love spending hours in the virtual world. Did we ever imagine spending hours in e-mailing then? No way. But spending hours on facebook or other social networking sites has become “convenient” because of the two-way real-time communication and consumers’ preference of multiple sources of information as those social sites offer today. So the “evolution of customers’ preference” by a sizable amount may also determine whether print version will be dead or not. For example, many readers (like myself:) would find printed versions personally more convenient to read and connect to the author. How about a decade down the road, majority of readers might find better technology and gadgets that would give them the same feeling and convenience of reading an e-book? Surely, the market size of paper versions might shrink to such an extent that it would be commercially unfeasible to produce paper books anymore.
Well, unless a sweeping technology completely takes away the convenience of paper books, we will probably see the co-existence of paper books and their e-versions.
If you visit places outside Dhaka, you will find many unknown local brands in many product categories at district or upazilla (smaller administrative unit) levels. Some of them sound funny (like “tiktiki” or lizard brand mosquito coils in Savar), some brand names are highly symbolic (like “Hati” or Elephant brand drycell batteries in Mymensingh) etc. Some names are plain owners’ name and nothing else. You won’t find these brands at national level stores, however, they are successfully surviving at regional level for a long time. Have you ever thought of where they got the competitiveness to face national level competitors in this age of media spending and superiority claims? It is interesting to think of their competitive advantages.
I think the prime source of competitiveness at the rural or district level is the “price”. These local brands perform the basic function that they promise and are available at lower prices to attract the segment of cash-strapped customers. So, their target segment(s) could altogether be different from that of the national competitors.
The second source of competitiveness could be the easy access to “distribution” outlets. Regional brands are quick to reach the regional outlets, sometimes into deeper pockets at outskirts where national producers have hard time reaching them. So, “availability” makes these brands survive in a competitive scenario.
Some local brands are sponsored by local businesses that have great social contributions as well. For example, Amrit Lal Day in Barisal, whose products are found everywhere competing effectively against national competitors. Apart from its “karikor bidi” businesses, which may not promote any social cause, the group has great contribution in education sector which cannot be denied. People can easily “connect” themselves to this brand, making it popular regionally.
Is there any other source of competitiveness that you can think of? Do you think multinationals have something to learn from them as well?
Oftentimes, our marketing texts are designed in such a way that is more beneficial to be practiced by big corporations than to be practiced by Mr. “Kalimuddin”, an imaginary farmer of my mind. We teach how to differentiate, how to appeal to customers’ minds, designing products, effective pricing, appealing communication, launching super-hit activation, designing effective distribution etc. While these skills are required as a basic ground of expertise for any type of marketing effort, it is also important that we should not forget the most important people at the bottom line of the economy: our rural producers.
It appears that, we are more interested in Rural Marketing (marketing products to rural people) than Agricultural Marketing (marketing agro-products from rural to other people). It does not mean that Rural Marketing should be ignored, rather it means that a marketing orientation and academic emphasis should be there on how this “marketing” skill can help rural producers to effectively get into the process of value creation and enhance their standard of life. Currently, it seems that we are imparting marketing knowledge and skills for an extremely narrowed group of professionals who are more connected to the broader multinational objective of profit making and less to the common economic causes of people at the bottom line. What a poor connection between our education and society!
I hope our academicians and practicing professionals will think about an appropriate rural orientation in their imparting of marketing knowledge and training where relevant.