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The Consumer & The Idiot Box

Today a big dilemma among marketers is to choose between following the beaten path or the road less travelled

Photo Credit : Shutterstock


When I turn on my TV set, even before I can select my desired channel, I must contend with the shrill cacophony of a TV shopping channel (the default programme). But not before the voice of the sales person has pierced through my tranquillity and made my nerves jangle on end.

I have often wondered, why most such shopping channels have to impale listeners with brute force to make them buy? I came up with the following possible reasons:

* The modus operandi reflects our rural roots, where people are used to hailing each other at the top of their voices (“You can take a villager out of a village, but not take the village out of a villager”);
* This is that age-old pavement seller / train peddler / village haat technique of calling out to catch the attention of passers-by;
* The assumption is that the mass market is looking for deals and the primary need of the customer is to identify the product and decide to buy based on the price tag offered… and so the deal is worth the din;
* That having done bulk buying of a huge inventory of goods, a TV shopping channel comes under pressure to sell and that drive translates into the shrill tonality (and every second counts).

Having said that, in recent times, new (and targeted) shopping channels have entered the fray and are following a sober presentation style in keeping with their (niche) audiences. But this is not to say that even for mass market shopping channels, someone cannot come in to break the stereotype!

Today a big dilemma among marketers is to choose between following the beaten path or the road less travelled. Commercial pressures drive leaders into replicating what has worked and staying away from the risk of exploring differentiation.

We have seen large-scale imitation amongst Indian TV channels hunting for TRPs. No sooner does one channel achieve success with a formula than five others jump onto the same bandwagon. One Ekta Kapoor started a new genre of family serials that caught the imagination of a wide segment and everybody began following suit. Arnab Goswami brought in his brand of news coverage — bludgeoning both panellists and viewers — and several channels adopted similar stances (except notably one).  Every reality show — whether for music or comedy — is adopting the same formula with judges and anchors, right down to men dressing as women in several of them.

It is worthwhile, on the other hand, to focus on some brands that have done things surprisingly differently. A number of marketers revel in garnering attention at the cost of image or propriety just for the sake of being different. The more offensive or ridiculous an ad is, it sticks on in the consumer’s mind, and supposedly contributes to disproportionate sales. Or so some reports would have us believe.

There is this meme from the category of hotel sales who seems to have cut through clutter and become one of the most popular hate (oxymoron?) symbols of TV-dom. Such characters are like anti-bodies, injected into the system to bump up brand entropy. But are they long-term associations that a brand ought to internalise?

I can’t help feeling that on the idiot box, it is the poor viewer who is most often being treated like an idiot!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Magazine 20 January 2018 marketing branding opinion

Indranil Gupta

The author is Founder Director & Chief Executive Officer of BrandNEW Associates Private Limited

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