How can your company benefit by having a custom publication for employees?

Imagine a world where you can exchange ideas with employees and peers without saying a word. Imagine creating a new world within your office walls, a world with windows of opportunity and progress with every turn. Welcome to the world of Custom Media and Inhouse Magazines.

Custom Media isn’t the same as conventional media. I’m sure several posts of mine can validate that. Custom Media holds within itself the secret window of limitless opportunities, and in this post, I will help you unlock the world of potentials in your workspace, through the world of inhouse magazines and employees.

You may wonder if custom publishing is really one of the best solutions to keep employees happy, while increasing the utilisation rate and reducing the attrition rate. And you may want to know what exactly a company inhouse magazine is all about, and why it should interest your organisation. The truth is, it really can change the working environment in your office within a short period of time.

Inhouse magazines can help your organisation in many ways. It can be a great marketing medium, a brand builder, or even a campaign tool to promote your company’s ideas. Using inhouse magazines, an organisation can enrich and strengthen bonds between employees, consumers and clients by a large extent. Connections too, can be sustained and strengthened by a great deal.

There are several mediums of Custom Media to connect with employees. But the most preferred and beneficial options are Print Magazines and Online Publications. Most companies already provide company information to employees in the form of newsletters and official reports. So how can a good looking inhouse magazine be any different? But that’s where we hit the nail. That very difference is the key to opening new avenues of Employee Relations. While newsletters and reports provide details in a dry and factual manner, inhouse magazines weave a story around it. And we know stories are always happier and more interesting than fact sheets and reports.

Ask yourself a question, what would interest a typical employee or consumer more? Sheets of reports or a magazine brimming with interesting ideas and colourful visuals weaved together in a neat corporate magazine? To help someone understand more about your company, you need to make an understandable connection between your company and the reader. A company magazine doesn’t really need to focus only on the figures of business, especially if it wants to reach out, connect and build a relationship with the employee. It needs to be employee focussed, catering to the interests of the employee, while talking about the company goals, achievements and ideals at the same time.

It’s like the days when we were little kids at school. We’d always hate the mean and haughty teacher, but adore the understanding one. And with that adoration, came respect and fierce loyalty. All of us need a friend who can help us understand the world around us. At your workplace, you can create a mutual friend who can communicate your ideas and goals to the employees, while at the same time ensuring that you get to hear their issues at work too. This friend is an inhouse magazine, in the print form, or as a web portal.

A good looking, professionally created publication that creates an unforgettable experience for your employees is definitely going to make a greater difference in the lives of employees than a few sheets with figures and colourless pages. When you create a bond with your employees, you can create the same feeling of happiness and bonding that they would have with their own friends outside their workplace. And by putting the message across in a clear and friendly approach, in a manner that connects with them, you can definitely bring about a positive change in your office environment. As long as we can make an understandable connection between your organisation and your employees, you can use it to make them love what they do or completely hate it.

One factor that can build or shatter employee relationships, as we all know, is appreciation. Every employee wants to see their share of the pie. The designation doesn’t matter here, it’s how one is appreciated that matters. At the end of the day, every single one of us want to know that we have made a difference, a difference that is noticed and appreciated by others. And more than that, everyone who’s put in a lot of effort into their work would want to know that they did a good job. There is nothing that can bring more intense happiness and joy than being appreciated.

Everyone loves to get their 15 minutes of fame. Every hard working employee wants to be credited and be a part of the limelight, even the shy ones that don’t really want to stand under the spotlight without a little push onto centre stage! All of us love the glory of appreciation. Have you ever thought about how happy your employees would feel if they could be appreciated through a company magazine, with their pictures in it? Have you considered how special and motivated a particular team would feel if their achievements were featured in a glossy magazine? Imagine the little things that you could do for them with an inhouse magazine that would improve their work experience by a large extent.

Is there enough appreciation and happiness in your office? Striking a balance of friendship and office rules can be difficult, but with a custom publication, not only can you create a happier team that would enjoy their work, but you would also be able to improve the attrition rate and the employee utilisation rate of the company. All you would need is a few months to see a difference in the employee behaviour, and less than a year to see the growth curve of loyalty and work happiness shoot the charts.

With custom publishing and inhouse magazines, you can involve the employees on a personal level, and make them feel like they’re a part of something that’s bigger than themselves, their cubicles or even their team.  With a custom magazine, you can make them come together and connect with everyone in the entire organisation. You can make them love what they do every single day. And most of all, with a custom magazine, you can make them feel appreciated all through the year!

One comparison you should always remember is that a company magazine is like driving a car. You can drive around town in an old Maruti 800 or a classy new Audi A8. You’re driving around town, alright, but tell me this, which car would make you swell with pride? Company magazines have the same effect on employees. If your magazine is a good one, your employees would love talking about it, and would be ecstatic if they’re featured in it. But if it’s just another magazine that’s bordering on average or (gasp) mediocre, then your employees can’t help but cringe when they hold the magazine in their hands, and your company is bound to face the inevitable “employee dissatisfaction” moment.

If you want good results in the productivity curve, you should be considering and visualising an excellent in-house magazine or a website with exceptional editorial quality and photography to match the likes of internationally backed media houses. Internal teams with little or no experience in the publishing industry won’t do you a bit of good. And remember, when you have an internal team, you’re going to make a few people who are the unqualified “editorial board” shuffle tasks with their existing job profiles. At some point of time, the multitasking may overburden the editorial team, and then, boom! Magazines, just like company turnovers, are only as good as the present one. If your new magazine issue is a bad one, that’s going to create a lot of negativity and bad gossip in the campus.

On the other hand, a great magazine will show a marked increase in the improvement of employee satisfaction, utilisation rate, work happiness and a lot, lot more. So if you were to ask me if your company should have its own inhouse magazine, I’d definitely recommend it hands down.

Starting a magazine is not an easy option though. I’m certain you’re wondering if this is even worth a thought, or whether it’s an affordable option. You may even wonder if spending on employees issue after issue is a feasible option. But with the returns that you would be able to see in just a matter of months, you’d be wondering why you didn’t start an inhouse magazine years earlier!

Confetti Media has been working on several inhouse magazines over the years, and has even provided several additional benefits for its clients and their employees. And that’s not all, using strategic marketing associations with different partners, Confetti Media has also been able to create monetarily profitable magazines for their clients, wherein the companies don’t have to pay for their inhouse magazines after a certain period of time, and Confetti Media would create a self-sustaining environment to let the magazine generate revenues and profits for the company by itself!

All these pointers barely even scrape the surface when it comes to planning and creating strategies for the production of an in-house magazine. I’ve got a huge bag of tricks that I can share with your company if you’re interested in launching a company magazine. But for starters, all you need to do is get in touch with me! I’m the kinda guy who loves partnering with companies, no matter where you are on the map.

So you want a magazine? Get in touch with me.

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Branding tips for new companies. Learn to brand your company using social media, networking and people skills.

Understanding how to brand yourself, or your company, especially if you’re an entrepreneur or a new company hitting the big times, can seem like difficult work. It’s easy to make mistakes, and mistakes in branding usually leaves you with a burnt spot that takes significant time to fade. This is especially important for freshers who don’t know much about creating powerful or advantageous associations. Here are ten tips that everyone who wants to brand their company like a celebrity needs to know.

1. Promote Yourself

Do you have something that makes you or your company unique? Then let the world know about it! The world is filled with far too many ordinary brands and people. If you have something that gives you the edge, show it off! You may be selling the world’s fanciest homemade leatherwear or you may be creating the cheapest efficient computer software. Gucci, Prada, Wal-Mart and Big Bazaar are all big brands in different levels, you know. As you long as you got it, you flaunt it.

2. Go Online Networking

Join those networking communities. Most companies tell themselves that they’ve got a great product, and should just wait for customers to come to them. If Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook would have waited for you to find him, chances are, you would never even have heard of Facebook, let alone use it. Remember, the best products are not the ones that are the best. They are the ones that are good, and marketed in the best manner.

3. Have a Good Blog

Can you put two sentences together that make sense without making someone sway to sleep? If you can, chances are, you can blog too! Today, blogs are a great way to reach out to people in your interest group. Even if you find it difficult to create a good online impression, don’t fret. The golden goose takes time to hatch. There are two types of blogs that people use. Personal Blogs. And Professional Blogs. Never ever mix them both. Your friends read your personal blog because they’re personal and well, your friends are personal. A regular reader on my blog who’s interested in custom media wouldn’t really care about the little vacation I took last week, well, not unless that trip gave me an excellent business idea.  Keep your friends and associates far from each other if you want to do well in business. Friendship and business just don’t mix. You can discuss your business ideas in professional blogs, and who knows, one day, you may be able to come up with an exciting idea that might get heads bobbing in unison. But in any case, by keeping a professional blog, you can forage useful connections that can help you create far reaching associations and new partnerships with key players from across the globe.

4. Moo in Purple!

Bring home the Purple Cow. Seth Godin has written all about this in his book, The Purple Cow. But you can use one key point that I have learnt from that book. Market your brand with remarkable ideas. If you have something that clearly distinguishes you from the rest of the world, then that makes you special. Come up with outrageous ideas, it can be funny or serious, or just plain outrageous. But that one outrageous factor can become your selling point. “Hey, have you heard of that place that sells little pizza idlis (Indian rice dumpling)?” Now you’ve got a conversation going.

5. Are you in the right place?

Is there anything like coincidences these days? Or are they all a series of opportunities that were created consciously or unconsciously? Celebrities aren’t famous because they were born to be famous. They worked hard to get there. Business tycoons didn’t get that title in one day. They earned it through years of hard work. For any company that needs to build a brand, work your way up by being seen in the right places. Participate in key events and seminars in your line of work, and understand the new innovations that have cropped up while you had your head buried in work. Meet people constantly, and exchange ideas as often as possible. Don’t give all your ideas away though. You just need to skim the surface with your ideas. If you’re ingenious, the surface of your ideas would be enough to impress others.

6. Meet key decision makers outside your field

Here is a case of a typical media person’s disease. When I started my career in media, I met a lot of people from the media. Far too many, actually.  But what could I do with people in my own field? They aren’t going to be my friends for long. They’re all going to be competition as I work my way up, pushing them down, one at a time! Let’s be frank, is there any other way to get to the top? Associates in the same line of work are good to have, but friends, no. Over the years, I started meeting key decision makers from fields that I had little idea about. Now I meet all kinds of decision makers all the time, and we learn about each other’s line of work, and figure if there is any potential in associations, now or in future. This not only helps me in understanding how to work with different fields, but also in creating fruitful associations between different associates of mine. So meeting new people outside your line of work isn’t a bad thing, it can actually help you build a stronger network and make bigger plans by involving more associates and companies into the picture.

7. Create business associates, not friends

Friends are those pals you know since your younger days who’ve been hanging out with you for years because you both have a good bond that’s based on something beyond your professions. Business associates are friends too, but they are ones that you’ve been able to bond with because you both have a common interest in what you both do for a living. So they’re both technically the same, they’re friends. But these friendships are based on completely different things. If a friend from school talks about you with their friend, they’d say, “Oh, that guy, you should have seen him in college, all he wanted to do was get drunk and party every night.” If a business associate who’s now your good friend talks about you with their friend, they’d say, “Oh, that guy, he comes up with the best media strategies. He’s definitely one you should use if you need a media campaign.” You pick the better option for a brand building campaign.

8. Remember that friends don’t sell for you

If you want to brand your company, don’t use your friends. Coaxing friends to sell for you or promote your company can actually lead to disastrous results. You can see an older post of mine to know more about the negative impact of friends in a branding campaign by clicking here.

9. Talk about Brand You

In quite a few meetings that I’ve had with companies that sell products for online mediums, one of the biggest bummers that I have come across is that their marketing teams talk more about their clients than themselves. “…using this product, my client has done this… using this product, we were able to draw the attention of this Big company, blah, blah and more blah…” I get the point, but if you’re one of those that use the name of your clients to sell a product or a service, remember that you’re not leaving your prospective client with anything to remember about you. If you’re good, you don’t need to prove your point all the time by telling a new client about your other clients. Create conversations around you and your brand. If that’s not enough to keep a conversation going, you’ll just have to work harder to create a bigger You.

10. Be Unique. But don’t be yourself unless you’re something big!

Don’t be yourself. You may have heard people say otherwise, but really, don’t be yourself unless you’re someone out there making heads turn like Richard Branson, Vijay Mallya or Donald Trump. Being yourself is a good thing to win dates or hook up with potential partners, but in business, you need something else. You need a differentiator. What sets you apart from the others? What is your trademark style, or what is it that makes you so damn cool? Adolf Hitler had his little moustache and shorts that set him apart and Fidel Castro has his Cuban Cohibas. Be different, and you’ll be a brand that will be remembered.

Branding yourself or your company can be a tricky affair, but if you can pull it off, and put your money where your mouth is, you’ve got nowhere to go but on top!


How to promote your company with innovative marketing ideas and strategies?

The Best Advertising Ideas

In life, we’ve all learnt quite a few things. And some things, we’ve had no alternative but to learn them the hard way. When it comes to innovative advertising though, there are five pointers that all companies interested in advertising and branding have to understand.

1. Tried and tested isn’t always the best approach.

2. Just because it’s working for everyone else doesn’t mean it will work for you.

3. A unique and innovative idea doesn’t always make a favourable impact.

4. Every company needs to create an interactive medium that can negotiate the company’s interests and the interests of the consumer.

5. The most efficient ROI advertising campaign is the one where there is interaction between the brand and the consumer.

Traditional branding and marketing ideas have been around for years, but now we’re beginning to understand that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best. These days, several upstart entrepreneurs are able to come up with creative ways to advertise and make their presence felt, so much so that several companies in the big league have been forced to hastily reassess their strategies to compete with the little fish.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen, but effective advertising is difficult. And advertising is a good thing, otherwise no one will ever know you exist. Word-of-mouth and viral marketing is a means of advertising too.

But how do you go about it? Just because everyone is advertising in newspapers doesn’t mean you have to do it too. It’s a good option for awareness, but the ROI is low, and can stoop really low at times. When Capt. Gopinath wanted to launch his helicopter venture, Deccan Aviation, he was strapped short for money to afford a full-fledged print media campaign, and as he says in his book, he couldn’t even imagine spending money to advertise through the television medium. Advertising was an expensive proposition, but he had to reach out and let people know his company existed or he’d burn out of funds. He spent considerable time on this problem and realised a simple fact. He needed a niche advertising medium that would give him the maximum efficiency. He realised that all people who flew in an airplane don’t fly in a helicopter. But all people who flew in a helicopter did fly in an airplane. That gave him his niche audience. All he had to do was reach out to people who flew in an airplane.

Quite a few years ago, there were two established music channels in India, Channel [V] and MTv. Channel [V] was in the forefront though, and MTv was just unable to cater to any specific audience. And to make it worse, their shows weren’t really garnering any attention from the public. MTv needed a facelift. In came spanking new shows, great veejays, new themes, a channel that’s able to laugh at itself, and connect with a niche audience, and out went the traditional format of “play-songs-all-day”. Then followed shows like Roadies and Splitsvilla, and as it has been said before, the rest is history. Today, MTv India has the strongest young urban following and great niche advertisements that help it stand out from the other channels. With a little tweaking, MTv was able to create a niche audience out of thin air, and hold their attention with innovation.

Levi Strauss is a well known brand across the world, and though they haven’t really focussed on a strong online presence as most other youth centric brands have, they are able to create innovative offline campaigns that have been making a noticeable difference in their sales figures. With the recession looming large over most customers’ heads, the sales of branded jeans had inevitably slumped to a trickle. Levi’s realised that customers didn’t really hate jeans during the recession. They just found expensive jeans to be quite steep for their dry wallets. Something had to be done, and fast. Levi’s India understood that people would buy the jeans, just as long as it doesn’t hit their pockets too hard, in one blow. It was a simple insight, but simple ideas are usually the most overlooked ones. Levi’s introduced a new concept, the EMI initiative. Using this concept, customers could pick up their favourite jeans and pay for it in instalments. And all of us know this, what doesn’t hurt our pockets, makes it better. And better it did, because now the customer could keep their money, and wear a new pair of jeans.

We’ve seen changing tides in Indian politics too. If Obama can, well, so can anyone else. Or that’s what L.K. Advani thought. But just because it worked for Obama doesn’t give reason enough for any other electoral candidate to try a similar process, even with a few tweaks, of course. In the last national electoral campaign, Advani and his party spent over two and a half billion rupees in an extensive online campaign to promote his party. But even with that kind of resources, it only made the online users dislike him all the more. His online brand managers seemed to have overlooked a few simple facts that even a fresh entrepreneur would look into. But there’s no point brooding over history.

On the other hand, another political party took another path. Every company needs to create an interactive medium that can negotiate the company’s interests and the interests of the consumer. Advani tried using the online medium, and failed. The dominant party chose another unique medium. They used a young, dynamic potential leader called Rahul Gandhi. And was he a forest-fire or what?! The magic trick worked, and his party was able to tap into the younger audience that wasn’t even remotely interested in politics. Catch ‘em when they’re young may be a good campaign for Seventeen magazine to generate advertising revenue, but when it comes to a nation like India, it definitely would lead to a lot more. And that’s loyal fans for several years to come.

Silk soy milk positioned itself and branded itself differently, so did Ben & Jerry’s, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and a host of other successful brands. And they have been able to bask in the sunlight while the others huddle in the cold downpour.

Skittles wanted to innovate, so they launched an online campaign keeping Twitter users in mind. And failed miserably. They forgot two crucial factors. They forgot their target audience. They didn’t realise that the best branding and advertising campaign is one where there is a two-way interaction between the brand and the consumer. And made one big assumption. That they were bigger than the consumer.

Even the biggest brands, with their vast weaponry of strategists and brand builders, can make the clumsiest mistakes. And at times, the smallest one-man-army entrepreneur can send a shiver down the core of their competitors’ strategies. That’s the beauty of a good advertising and branding idea. It can come to anyone. Anyone who can clearly understand the problem from all aspects, and visualise the perfect solution. All this, while considering all the movable elements that dictate the efficiency of the strategy. And once you’re able to do that, I assure you, there will be no looking back. It doesn’t matter if there are goliaths, fire dragons, or monstrous scheming competitors in your path, the perfect advertising idea can create a ball of invincibility around you, and take you right to the top.

But then again, that idea in your head, do you really think that’s the perfect answer to all your questions?

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10 simple questions to find out if your company needs a custom publication.

Here are a list of ten questions that every company contemplating on the big question, to publish or not to publish an in-house magazine, has to ask itself. Go ahead, in the next few minutes, you’ll know whether  custom publishing can make a difference to your company. Or Not.

1. Are you convinced that mass market advertising is just not worth it?

Have you seen the signs? Look around. Most companies spend millions of dollars every quarter on advertising. But on a closer look, the Return On Investment on this mode of publicity is outrageously weak. On the other hand, we have companies like Burger King and Red Bull that are legendary for their marketing strategies. Most readers spend an average of 50 minutes reading lifestyle magazines. Readers indulging in custom in-house magazines spend an average of 35 minutes on a particular issue! So if you’re spending millions annually on gatefolds in lifestyle publications just to catch a magazine reader’s attention for around 10 seconds, think about it. With a custom publication, you’re spending a fraction, and getting the attention of a genuinely interested reader for 35 minutes, which is calculably, a 21,000% increase in reader attention!

2. Do you have a Scattered Target Audience?

Are you involved in the hospitality or tourism industry, or something along those lines? Target audiences in cases like these are varied and spread across the world. To a certain extent, reputed hospitals in India too have similar scenarios of catering to patients from all parts of the world. Where could traditional advertising help in such cases? The ROI in such cases would just not fit the big picture. A custom publication that’s distributed on a regular basis to specific representative bodies and places of information across the world can make a huge difference and actually generate a lot more talk, and several folds increase in Return On Investment. In-house magazines also have a bigger impact once it’s in the hands of a happy customer who’s taking the magazine across the oceans.

3. Do you want your customers to have a nice time?

Companies that deal directly with their customers over a longer duration than regular interactions want them to have a good time. Industries like aviation, hotels, tourism, luxury spas and resorts think of innovative ways to keep their customers entertained. Are you a part of this industry? You may have brochures and fancy checklists that talk about your company. You may also have a horde of glossy magazines for your guests’ entertainment. And you may also be spending a fortune on advertising, branding, and awareness campaigns. Now that’s a lot of investment! But a custom publication, created in the right hands, can help you achieve all this and more for a small fraction of the overall expenditure!

4. Do you have a large customer base?

Many companies in the world can boast of a huge database of customers, but how many of them can brag that they still have a huge database of return customers? A company publication is great to have if you want to remind your customers about your company, and also keep them updated on your new products. Big Bazaar and Metro are great examples to validate this point.

5. Do you want your customers to talk?

There are quite a few good brands that have the oomph in them to make their customers talk. And talk a lot. Swanky restaurants, a new line of fashion clothing, they’re all in that happy list. But more often than not, there’s not much a loyal customer can do even if they’re exceptionally happy with the company. They can blog, yes, but that’s only a small percentage of extremely elated customers who’d take that pain. But a good testimonial and a feature article from a satisfied customer would do wonders for you, and please your happy evangelical customer too. And guess what, good evangelists are known to create a snowball effect and create a lot more evangelists for you. With custom media, you also have a classy magazine to do the talking in the hands of your army of evangelists. The world will participate in conversations about you, one evangelist at a time!

6. Do you have frequent updates?

Are you a part of one of those companies that have updates or news every now and then? We’re talking about companies involved in clothes, cosmetics, resorts, corporate offices and others along those lines. Innovative organisations in fields like biotechnology and medical science have regular breakthroughs that need to be communicated with its members and the world around it. If you’re doing the world a lot of good, it’s probably time you let the world know enough about your company. Haven’t we all had enough of Cricket and Bollywood?

7. Do you want to favour your special customers?

Every company has its own favourite or preferred customers. Do you have them too? Perhaps, you may be in need of the assistance of custom publishing. Maintaining a steady flow of die-hard customers will only ensure the creation of more. Several mega stores, banks and credit card companies have their own premium members and use custom magazines to interact with them. And you know what, not only is it a self-sustaining medium, it also generates profits for you! That’s two birds with one stone for you.

8. Does traditional advertising really help you?

There are a few niche segments where broadsheet and glossy advertising doesn’t really make a difference. The only thing that makes a difference is word-of-mouth. Are you a part of an organisation that runs along these lines? Schools, colleges and hospitals, much like custom media applications, are systems that run on recommendations, ideas and results. No amount of advertising can replace a few good ideas and recommendations. And custom magazines are the perfect medium to exchange ideas, talk about new technologies and theories, and also show off recommendations and praises.

9. Do you have a product that’s exclusive or just too niche?

Are you one of those entrepreneurs who have all the funding and just launched a new niche product? Perhaps, you could be a breeder of equestrian gallops, a yacht builder, a maker of large manufacturing units, or something along those lines. A Times of India full front page or an Outlook pull-out may be expensive and worth the number of eyes that screen the page, but are all those eyes your potential clients? A small, badly created magazine may cater to your niche, but is it any good for your branding? A custom publication can have a gargantuan impact when compared to any other medium, especially when you’re involved in niche segments.

10. Do you want your customers to remember you?

Most companies want their customers to remember them. Well, unless that particular customer in Hannibal or Attila the Hun. In that case, the company’s better off not having that customer in the first place. But without drifting any further, do you remember the time when you went out for dinner and halfway through dinner, the maitre d’hotel walks to your table and offers you a complimentary drink of the finest scotch in the house?  It felt good, didn’t it? Warm and fuzzy! Moments like these are hard to forget (at least the first few times for some of the seasoned cheapskates who want it all for free). So when you’re the boss, think along the same lines. Gifts like a complimentary, informative magazine filled with relevant features are an interesting gift to get, and it’s informative. And if its published and loaded with little exotic wares like one of those fancy fragrance gift packs, who’s not going to love it? And ahem, who’s going to forget it?

Bonus Tip: Additional Revenues

A custom publication isn’t just about branding, awareness, and increased customer-company interaction. It can also generate a lot of additional revenues. If you cater to a sizeable target audience that fits into a niche segment, there will always be potential advertisers that want to use your publication to reach out to your exclusive “guest list”. And chances are, in due course of time, in some cases within the very first issue, the profits you make by accepting advertising offers could actually be more than twice the amount you’ve spent on the magazine! Trust me, a new magazine that is published by my company, Confetti Media, has already seen close to 200% profits in the very first issue. Are you interested in knowing more about it? Write to me, I’ll send you one!

The Verdict

All said and done, traditional media isn’t dead. It’s still one of the good ways to reach out to the general audience and increase awareness about a particular product. But what matters is whether or not it’s worth the effort, considering the low efficiency of ROI, and the inefficiency of traditional media when it comes to niche markets and luxury services. Considering these circumstances, Custom Media applications and in-house publications cost a fraction of traditional media investment, and deliver more. A lot more.

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Tips on Barter and Incentives

Can you use your friends to promote your product? Find out how you can make word-of-mouth campaigns and social media tactics work for your business.

Ever since we’ve been watching sitcoms like Friends and Desperate Housewives, we’ve come to understand that friends are always there for us, have been, and will be. A few have even come to believe this ever since their baby days, when friends would draw graph charts for each other or complete another friend’s homework assignment.

Is life all that rosy and happy, even in business and advertising? If you launch a new campaign and look at your friends just like Puss-in-Boots looks at Shrek, will they sell their soul to help you achieve good results? Heck, will they at least take the pains to even tell a few people about your product? Perhaps, you’d say they would.

But as a seasoned oak that’s been bracing the strong winds of branding for a good amount of time, I’ll reveal a shocker.

Fact: Friends never sell for their friends.

Could it be true? Yes. It most definitely is. Friendships look pretty in sitcoms, but in the world of advertising, they could give you more trouble than good. I met a fresh entrepreneur at a business networking event, and he had the three most important things in the checklist to be a good and successful entrepreneur. Passion. Determination. A great product.  But unfortunately, he had nothing else on his side.

After the initial introductions, he told me about his publication and how he was going about to make it work. He asked me if it was worth telling others about his publication. I was surprised. Here was an enthusiastic kid with a good idea that could take him places, and there he was, asking if he should let people know about it. Of course, he should! I told him he should let people know about the idea ASAP! And he should definitely spread the word.

About a month later, he called me and told me that he was a failure. Apparently, the very next day after our meeting, he mass-mailed all his friends in his 200-odd member mailing list and told them about his new publication. He asked all of them to forward the mail to all their friends, and pester those friends to mass mail it forward to their friends and so on. Basically, he wanted to grow like rice on a chessboard! He even added a P.S. note saying “Please, please, please, please, guys, please forward my mail so people will think my book is a good one. With you guys to help me, I can seriously make it big through word-of-mouth. Thanks a lot for all the help. I really can’t do this without your help. You guys are my best pals! And hey, don’t forget to delete this part of the message before fwding! :-)”

You can probably figure what happened next. A few friends did forward his mail after deleting his P.S. note as real good friends do. Most of his good friends didn’t do anything more than glance over it once. Quite a few others smirked to themselves and forwarded the mail along with the P.S. note!

With all the drama though, he got no calls, and my guess is that his mail probably didn’t cross the first two chains to achieve a strong chain-mail status. What went wrong here? How could best friends not help? There’s always the jealously and the what-if-he-becomes-bigger-than-me syndrome. But most importantly, keeping the advertising perspective in mind, what would his friends get if they promoted his book? The simple answer is a big blip. Nothing.

The most basic concept in the world is that of Barter. We’ve been doing it for as long as we can remember. And another important concept that matters is Incentive. If a barter doesn’t work for someone, they look for an incentive. If that doesn’t come into the picture, people don’t promote. A simple, straight fact.

If you decide to retweet an article or tweet-follow Guy Kawasaki or follow Ashton, it’s probably because you think it makes you look better than the others around you. It either makes you more knowledgeable or better connected, and you want to let people know about it! You don’t do it keeping your friends’ sole interests in mind. You do it for You! So why should your friends be any different?

Fact: Friends never sell for their friends. Business associates do.

On the other hand, if you really want your word-of-mouth campaign to start off on a successful note, tell your business associates about it. There’s a big chance that it may show you better results if your idea is a good one. There’s always a good incentive in this picture. And as long as people can get something by associating with you, they’ll gladly pull your cart for you.

By talking about a good idea, your associates can pass the word around to people who may be interested in your product. This makes that particular associate seem well-connected and informed, which increases their brand value. They will talk about you as long as they think your idea is worthy enough to talk about. That’s Barter.

On the other hand, some associates may talk about your idea with their own business associates in the hope that they may be able to crack a deal in between and obtain a commission. That’s Incentive.

There could be several other reasons too. Perhaps, to impress someone, to gain brownie points for being well informed, to be in your good books, or plainly, to suck up to you! All this as long as you and your idea seem worthwhile. So word-of-mouth, my friend, can be just as fickle as fame. But what matters most is that IT WORKS!

Friends are personal contacts, and they’re great for a good time. Business associates are professional contacts, and great for your business. Never mix business and friendship. This is just one of those things all over again. So if you want to take your company to the next level, remember the fact about Barter and Incentive. As long as you have one of these, who needs friends?!


Things you should never do while custom publishing an in-house magazine for your company. Using an in-house magazine for any of the purposes mentioned here could turn out to be disastrous for your company’s branding.

If you’re convinced that custom publishing is the ideal path for you to connect with your customers, and want to publish an in-house magazine, well, that’s a great start. There’s a lot of good that your company can get from a custom magazine. But at the same time, it can turn around and hit you right between the eyes if you misuse a company publication. Here are twelve “what-not-to-do” pointers when it comes to publishing an in-house magazine.

1. Go unprofessional

This is probably the biggest factor you need to consider while publishing your own company magazine. In your own line of work, you must have heard the old adage, “If you can’t do it yourself, give it to someone who can”. Employ a team of qualified professionals to work on the magazine internally, or contact a custom media house to publish it externally on your behalf. As an added perk, you may also be able to generate additional ad revenue to self-sustain the magazine by tying up with a custom media house.

2. Never go unqualified

Today, everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. Good for them. But is that good for you? Don’t publish your magazine by tying up with just about anyone who says they know to write and design. At the end of the day, a custom publication is a very strategic medium where every single page has a direct consequence on your profits. Underqualified people can publish brochures and booklets, not custom magazines.

3. Assume you have all the PR you need

You can’t get any further away from the truth here. An in-house publication is a start, but it’s by no means, the means to the end. Follow up your custom publication activity with additional activities to pack a power-punch.

4. Brag about yourself

Launching an in-house magazine is a proud moment, but try not to take it over your head. Just because you have the editorial control doesn’t mean you have to exploit all of it. Remember, Spiderman’s uncle once said “with great power comes great responsibility”. Try to keep the directors’ and boss’ family pictures and tall tales to a minimum. This is a company magazine, remember? Not an “I’m-paying-for-it, I’ll-stick-what-I-want” self promo piece.

5. Glow too bright

You’re obviously proud of your company and achievements. An occasional air-punch or thumbs up is a good boost of morale. But let’s not stretch the facts too far and take the tales of glory to far-fetched heights. Brag about your company in your magazine, but do it discreetly and professionally.

6. Promos galore!

An in-house magazine is a means of communication between the company and the customers. It’s not a regurgitator of promotions. Company advertisements and self-promotion pieces should not exceed twenty percent of the total number of pages. Anything more than that and your magazine loses its credibility.

7. Badmouth competition

This is a rather self-explanatory pointer. Much like we know that a person is judged not by how they treat their peers, but their subordinates, this is similar. When it comes to companies, people judge them by the way they talk about their competitors. So if you want to be respected through your publication, talk about your achievements without overly comparing and gloating over your success and your competitors’ losses in the pages.

8. Straying away…

This usually happens when an underqualified team is delegated to work on the custom publication. Unfortunately, for many writers who aren’t qualified in the custom publishing industry, sticking to the core ideology and long-term strategy of the magazine can be a hard task. But no matter what, retain the core focus of your in-house magazine. Your readers don’t want to read page after page about celebrity gossip in one issue, and read about luxury tourism in another issue. If they did want that sort of content, they could buy a mainstream magazine instead! Stick to your niche, and provide your readers with interesting, relevant information that focuses on your industry.

9. Partial distribution

This can be loyalty roadkill of the worst kind. If you’re publishing a magazine for your customers, or for a certain niche segment of your preferred customers, be fair to all. When you’re going to take the pains to publish a magazine for a few customers, print enough number of copies to ensure that you have spare copies to distribute the magazines to all your preferred customers. You don’t want to hear from a few disgruntled customers who are rather annoyed at being treated unfairly for no fault of theirs.

10. Rebuke customers

You may have a point to prove or a settle to score with a certain segment of the public or a few irate customers who would have created an issue about your company or a product. You definitely would have to bring up the issue in your publication. It’s always better to nip any gossip in the bud. But sort it courteously, making your customers aware of certain developments without insulting public sentiments.

11. Publish low quality mags

Deciding to launch an in-house magazine may only be the first of many strategic decisions that have to be made under careful consideration. However, one of the more important aspects of a publication is the number of pages and the quality of the publication. If you were a customer of a company that provides a thin, centre-pinned magazine with low quality paper, what would you do with it? Roll it up to swat flies or drop it straight over the stack of old newspapers? You be the judge.

12. Go Sleazy Sleazy

Unless you’re a company that promotes mature content, stay off the minimally attired covers, peek-a-boos, the oops! and the teeny swimsuit spreads. At the end of the day, you’re publishing a magazine that will stay on the coffee tables of your customers for quite a while. You wouldn’t want your customers curling their toes or shuffling awkwardly when a visiting kid starts flipping the pages in front of his parents, would you?

The round-up

With these twelve pointers to avoid in mind, you’re almost ready to launch your own company magazine. But for the finer details that are specific to your company, well, call a custom media strategist who can help you add the right content and play the right strategic game. But however you choose to go, a magazine has always been one of the finest ways to firmly pave your path to success, positive customer feedback and branding.

P.S. If you’re looking for a custom media strategist, I know a really swell guy who’s all that and more. Look at the top right corner of this page. You’ll find him!!

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How did Custom Media become the new King of Media Strategies?

How can Custom media strategies help your company? Why is Custom Media better than traditional advertising? Find out all the answers to why Custom Media is the real king of Media Strategies right here.

Primitive Advertising

Mankind has always been into the business of advertising. Perhaps, from the very first time we started communicating with crude hand signs. If there’s something we have that’s better than what’s available around us, that’s worth a brag.  It’s not too difficult to imagine what our ancestral primates could have been bragging about to each other. “I. Big. You. Invisible. Ha. Ha.”

But today’s modern age has given us a lot more to brag about. But bragging out loud or keeping things a wee bit subtle, we can call them all Advertising. Well, by definition, advertising is letting someone know you have something that they want. Even if they don’t want it, we’ll shove it down their throat anyways. That’s Advertising.

Enter the cycle of Advertising

We’ve been living in this cycle of advertising for a long time now. Around ten decades ago, there weren’t too many products to advertise. There were a few brands of toothpastes and a couple of colas. Clothes? We had neighbourhood tailors for that. But a few people had a few things that were worth advertising. And a few other clever people came up with ways to advertise things. Today, we call these two categories of people, Big Companies and Advertising Agencies. The decades rolled on, and it started coming closer to the ‘80s and the ‘90s. Advertising was on a high by now. People wanted new things. They wanted colourful clothes, innovative bath sponges, and instant noodles. Oh yeah, they wanted noodles!

Everything was so exciting in the early years. Make a mistake, and you bloody well would have made a creative invention. Blotting paper, dry cleaning, revealing clothes, Jim Carrey, they were all mistakes that we’ve come to love with time. Back then, people were hungry for new products. But good entrepreneurs were only a handful. So any product that was advertised was lapped up in a hurry.

Enter the New World of Entrepreneurship

Today, entrepreneurs are even more common than employers and employees put together! They’re everywhere, so much that it’s become an infestation. We have new products all the time. Create web browsers, and you have a horde of browsers in no time. Create Hotmail, and there comes even more mail providers. Make Orkut, and now Foursquare. Today is a bad time for entrepreneurs and manufacturers now.

But the consumers are having the time of their lives. They’re ridiculously spoilt for choice with all the things that clever people think are “worth advertising”. And that creates competition between the products. A good decade or more ago, all the making-products people and the advertising-products people sat together and hit upon an idea – Advertise more, more people will buy. It worked before. It’s going to work again!

And they increased their budgets and came up with clever ways to draw the customer. And it worked! Customers started buying products because advertisements made it look cool. VIP Frenchie’s “what’s he got that I ain’t got?!” was the mother of all underwear revolutions in India. Life was good.

Enter the Internet

Then dawned the era of the Internet. And with it came internet imagery of women. And mail. And web sites. Life in advertising didn’t change. A little over a decade ago though, people started exchanging ideas over the internet. And around the same time, people started getting bored of seeing more advertisements than their favourite soap operas on the idiot box, and being bombarded with flyers and crashing into billboard hoardings while driving. And any layman would know what happened next.

Money pumping brands started seeing a decline in their sales. They panicked. And pumped more money into advertising. It didn’t work. Advertisers panicked, and started creating innovative advertising campaigns to counter the effect. It worked to a certain extent. But the budgets were unimaginably huge. Something was missing though. People weren’t swaying to the tunes of the advertisements anymore. For the first time, advertisements were made to sway to the people’s tunes.

Enter the Immunisation

People had become immune to the traditional forms of advertising. It just wasn’t working. Mass advertising was passé. The Regular Joe didn’t want to be advertised to anymore, he wanted to be connected to. And thus began the new Revolution of Custom Media. Advertising agencies didn’t understand most of it. To a large extent, they still don’t believe it. But today, it’s been seen time and again that the companies that connect directly with its customers are the ones that are thriving.

And that’s where Custom Media strategies take over the throne from traditional advertising. While traditional advertising has always focussed on the product, the essence of custom media is the customer. By focussing on the customer directly and exchanging ideas and feedback with them through different channels like custom in-house magazines, regular publications, social media drives, or personalised campaigns, etc., a company can create a better bond with the customer and increase brand awareness and loyalty.

If you’re still not convinced, think Redbull, Burger King, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Orkut, or Foursquare. These are brands that focussed on a new and innovative custom media strategy to connect with the people. They didn’t need megabucks to become some of the most powerful brands in the world. They racked their brains to connect with their consumers, they used Custom Media. As long as you have a powerful custom media strategy that’s unique to your company, you can take it to every single consumer that needs it, and make the money! It’s all about the perfect custom media strategy and nothing else. Even mega brands across the world have now started producing their own in-house magazines to cater to their customers. That’s the big difference between custom media strategy and traditional media strategy.


While all advertising campaigns have been revolving around creating content about the product, custom media companies across the globe have been creating content that caters to the customer. Traditional advertising agencies may still find it hard to create compelling content around the consumer, but a custom media house is years ahead of traditional media, with experience in creating customised content that sells directly to the customer.

Today, it isn’t an advertisement that sells a product, it’s the customer. If the customer is happy, chances are, the company’s going to be happy too. After all, it’s all about word of mouth and what the company would be willing to do, to go the extra mile for its customer and prospective customer.

The King.

All said and done, the word is out. Custom Media is out there to make a difference in the world of Company-Customer relationships. Custom Media is here to remind the Big Company that it isn’t the brand that makes the consumer bigger, it’s really the other way around. So take a bow, Custom Media, the new King has finally taken its rightful place. And you know what, something tells me the customers are going to be a happy lot too!


Are media trends predicting the end of Fashion magazines?

Media trends show that Custom Media is the best alternative to low advertising returns in glossy magazines.

Once upon a time, magazines were one of the uber-cool answers to big fashion labels and mega brands. But all this came to a grinding halt with the arrival of the new medium, a.k.a. Social Media. It came quietly like the calm before the storm, and shook the entire world of traditional media.

I remember the time when Cosmo India launched an almost thousand page magazine for Diwali a couple of years ago. That was something really, but unfortunately for those who didn’t see that day, you indeed must fret. For it will not happen again.

A year ago, fashion publications were having the time of their lives. They were heavily sought-after by all brands, the new and the old, the big and the small. But today, after the wave of recession has receded and life seems to be crawling back to normalcy, magazine readers have almost completely forgotten that they once used to splurge on fashion magazines. They’ve moved on, and seem to believe that they don’t need a fashion magazine to tell them what’s hot or not anymore. Readers now have reputed blogs and websites that give them the same information. And what’s better here? Social Media sites and blogs are updated more frequently. And the icing on the cake, these are written by media fashionistas and they’re really genre specific!

Mercifully, there was just one really good reason to pick up a fashion magazine though. A reader needed a fashion magazine to check out the new arrivals and haute products that are hitting rodeo drive and a few other smaller drives in town. But that’s where we have the killer blow.

I came across a link in a tweet from a friend (you can find the link on my ‘twitter faves’ on the right). It’s good news for Custom Media, because surveys estimate that in the UK alone, custom media would be worth £1bn by 2013, and is projected at a growth rate of twenty two percent even with the global slowdown hovering over our heads. That’s a seriously high growth rate considering the rest of the fashionable publishing world is clinging on to a hope of mere survival in the near future!

Several leading labels like Karl Lagerfeld (for Chanel), Acne Denim, Yves Saint Laurent and Forever 21 have already started publishing custom in-house magazines that are running successfully and showing favourable results to their brands. It’s a better alternative to traditional magazine advertising, considering the limited choices that advertisers have in terms of premium positioning. A Louis Vuitton Galliera wouldn’t really cringe if it’s printed adjacent to Megan Fox in her new Armani campaign, but what if it’s in a sticky spot next to Daisy Dee ling-a-ree? Bummer, right?

Big brands all over the world are asking themselves the same question too. Are ads in traditional print magazines worth the money, and is it good for power branding? The spanking new and easier solution? The all new In-house magazine shows the way…

So will the other brands flow suit and start their own publications to cater to their customers, or will they stick around with their traditional Inner Front Cover page advertisements with Miss Daisy Dee for company? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

I believe that publishing an in-house magazine at least once every quarter is a fresh way to reach out to a specific audience, as long as it’s complimented with other niche social media campaigns. Better this than to lose potential customers in the battle for brand recollection with other competitive brands and better in-house magazines.

And hey, if it isn’t working, why is everyone else doing it?

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Think out of the box to find out what your customers really want from your company. Henry Ford did it. So can you!

While we’re walking down our yellow brick road to fame and glory, we’ve all heard the famed adage, “the customer is king”. And most of us have lived by it. But is it always right, especially now, in this age of extensive social networking? Can we still trust our customers blindly and give them what they want? Today, a brand can connect directly with their customer and find out exactly what a customer wants. No more guesswork.

Thinking about it, do customers know what they want? I’ve had to deal with this problem one too many times in my line of work. Clients tell me they want to provide a specific solution to their customers’ problem. And when I suggest ideas to them that may seem a tad out of the box, most of them are ecstatic, while a few go into panic mode. Speaking about the ones that go into panic mode, they are the ones that want specific solutions. It’s not a bad thing to give a customer exactly what they want, but is that the best we can do? That’s the big question about your loyal customers and whether we can trust them blindly. Do customers really know what they want?

This reminds me of Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, and what he had said about his customers, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a better horse.”

Ford’s customers would have been jumping with glee had he given them what they wanted, a better horse. But Ford thought beyond what his customers wanted from him. He gave them a car!

Ford probably would have asked himself why they needed a faster horse. Because they wanted to go somewhere faster. He would then have asked himself if the horse even mattered in the equation. His customers may have wanted a good horse, but give them good speed, and frankly, my dear, they wouldn’t give a damn!

Now that’s one of the pioneer “out of the box” strategies. This way, you don’t give your customers what they want, but you surprise them with a better idea that not only solves the problem, but gives them an alternative that’s way better than what they wanted. By understanding what your customers really want, and not just focussing on their social networking updates, any company can build itself an extremely satisfied and loyal set of customers who will turn evangelists for your cause!

So are you brave enough to think beyond what your customers are asking for, and take the plunge to find a better alternative for them? If you want my opinion, I’d say go ahead and take a plunge. You know it’s worth it!

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Publishing in Buffalo? Or Custom Publishing in Bangalore?

Understanding the world of Custom Media and Outsourcing.  Is content outsourcing for the better, or for worse? It’s your call.

Last year, American president Barack Obama unveiled a new proposal to end tax breaks for American companies that shipped jobs overseas to countries like India, China, and the rest of South Asia. Many people cheered the move, but it was criticised by several others like the Wall Street Journal and the LA Times. Leaving the over-discussed fuss and the technicalities around the most hit sectors like BPO, let’s take a look at the world of media outsourcing.

Media outsourcing is definitely happening. And many articles that most Americans or people from other countries assume to be truly patriotic may actually be written from a time zone that’s five and a half hours ahead of GMT a.k.a. India. It’s been happening even before the term outsourcing was commonly used. In the world of media, we have a sugar-coated word to replace the word “outsourcing”. It’s called Freelancing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a full scale, well structured Bangalore based media house that is producing magazines for an American company or a few individuals who work in a common room. It’s always called Freelancing in media terms.

Every time I interact with a curious client outside of India, five times out of ten, the client’s wary of any prospective associations. Media jobs in India have a history of being tagged with low quality and suitable for nothing more than technical content or user manuals. But that’s all in the past. The new Indian media house is anything but inferior. Flip through the pages of any magazine published by a reputed media house in India, and big chances are, you’re going to be impressed. Let’s not get into talking about fly-by companies that are launched by regular writers who couldn’t hold on to their job in the first place, and decide to jump into the bandwagon of launching a media house. Of course, they suck! I’m talking about Indian companies where their publications or other media ventures do the talking.

If you’re a media professional in the UK or the USA and have cherished a dream of launching your own publication house, or if you’re the head of corporate communications for your company and want to launch a custom publication but don’t have the funds for a full blown team, what are you going to do about it?

Think outsourcing? For the price of a couple of good writers, you could have a glossy publication printed, published and delivered on schedule to your office, all the way from India. And not many people know the story but you. So is outsourced media publishing a good option to test the waters? One may disagree, keeping in mind the speculation about loss of prospective jobs within their own country. But think about it, if not for hushed-up custom content outsourcing, would some companies have launched their magazines or in-house publications in the first place? I think not.

And let’s not even get to talking about media houses that have been suffering due to the economic slowdown. Outsourcing of Custom Content from Bangalore may seem like a job-stealer. But in the long run, as a company grows, it inevitably has to create more job openings in its own country too. This has been discussed with respect to the BPO industry in several other blogs, but I couldn’t see too many pages about outsourcing and editorial content.

Editorial Content outsourcing has been happening for a while, and it is only going to increase in future. No more is the world a small place. With the advent of social media and networking, it’s no surprise to see a company based in London or New York with employees from all over the world, sitting at home in their pjs and working on a project.

But is it the right approach to having your own publication. Well, that thought, I’ll leave to you. To each their own!

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Vinod Srinivas Confetti MediaVinod Srinivas is a leading media strategist and consultant. As the co-founder of Confetti Media, one of India’s leading custom media houses, he has partnered with several organisations to create successful media strategies over the years. Being one of the pioneers of Custom Media solutions in India, he is one of the most established experts in the application of Custom Media.
This blog discusses the relevance and profitable utilisation of Custom Media, and has definitive and illuminating posts on Social Media, Custom Publishing, Content Marketing, Custom Publications, and new innovations in the world.

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