While watching a business programme on the two sisters who run Parle Agro, a beverage giant in India, I was struck by something the young joint MDs said while talking about their new marketing campaign for a grape drink they've recently launched.
They say all marketing gurus say the worst marketing campaign is one with a bad product. This is a lesson I wish our Blackberry-totting, frequent flyer miles collecting cadre of marketing honchos in this country would keep in mind.
Just this last weekend, I fell twice for hyped, inflated marketing promotions. To be honest, I was prepared for one. A big summer blockbuster movie, Kites, with superstar Hrithik Roshan and Mexican actress Barbari Mori, had for months been promising to take Hindi cinema to glossy international standards as it boasted slick action sequences and stylised camera work. It was also being released simultaneously across the world with a record number of prints.
Alas, those marketing the movie clearly hadn't actually seen it. It would have been a decent watch if we hadn't been told ad nauseam for months before it's release how great the experience was going to be.
Unfortunately, the same evening I was in for another con job. A friend suggested we try the new Ice Lounge, a bar in posh South Delhi in which temperatures are maintained at around 2 degrees Celsius and everything is made of ice – including the glasses, the benches and the sofas. It's been inspired from the famous Ice Hotel in Europe. Entry was expensive and bought us just 45 minutes in the cool bar, probably enough to beat the Delhi heat, promoters probably think.
It was a scam as big as any I have seen. The entire lounge was the size of a meat locker at best, and so disappointed were we that we didn't even bother to stay our full 45 minutes despite the entry price we'd paid. In our overcrowded age of competing brands, I know marketing sells. All I am asking is for the pitch to have some relationship with truth. Is it because the numbers the Indian market offers negates the need for repeat customers? Is it enough simply to con first-timers to recover your costs?