Is Modern Marketing Intrusive?

This question was asked by my co blogger Shackman as the topic for this week’s Friday 2 on 1 posts.You can read about his own thoughts on the subject at his blog.

My answer was instantaneous – “Yes, of course it is.” And I would like to add here that it is inevitable too. Let us just learn to grin and bear it.

I was a Marketing professional for most of my life and have handled a great deal of marketing methods including intrusive marketing as it is now so elegantly called. During my active days however the kind of intrusive marketing that took place was in-your-face kind, of loud and overt variety, unlike the modern subtle subliminal targeted messaging. For instance, most of the advertising that used to happen was the shot gun variety, where it was hoped that some percentage of the people exposed to it will register it and buy the product or service. Today however, marketing is more focused and can appeal to the correct audience without too much wastage.

Today, a great deal of marketing takes place on the web via email, social networking sites and via hand held telephone devices that keep beeping announcements. Television and movie hall advertising is active but more the shotgun variety and less efficient than the other kinds, as advised to me by a much younger Marketing Professional. And the beauty of the hammering is that it is consensual! In other words, we agree to be bombarded by advertisements when we install applications in our computers and cell phones by agreeing without reading the fine print at the time of installing / downloading the applications. Let me give you another example. Being dissatisfied with yahoo group’s current level of efficiency I recently had to set up some email groups on the net and accessed emaildodo for the groups. While this site offers all that one can expect from a group mailing system offers, it comes at a price. If one does not want to pay the price, one has to accept that the mails on the site will be subject to advertising messages at the bottom. Since we did not want to pay we agreed to see the ads and so get to see some very interesting messages on our mails!

Another aspect of modern Marketing is how mechanised it has become. For instance, if I went online to read a review of a book that I have heard about, I keep getting the book advertised on facebook every time I go there. Similarly, when I wanted to investigate a pair of sandals about a year ago, I went online to find out what would be the choices available. I still keep getting advertisements on my page on facebook whereas someone else on it at the same time, does not get the same advertisement. This is called focussed advertising and is supposed to be more effective but, I find it intrusive and annoying and hence do not buy the product thus advertised.

And as I just finished writing that paragraph, I got an alert on my mobile phone and when I opened it I found this very attractively produced message – “Mend your broken heart; Music heals everything. FM Channel xxxx” Do you think that I will ever listen to that channel which presumes that my heart is broken? You can’t get any more intrusive than that can you?

Miscommunication.

Cheerful Monk’s post on the same topic reminded me of a hilarious incident from the late seventies.

My readers must recall those days of telephone switch boards with telephone operators cum receptionists with hundreds of calls to attend every day. In the office where I worked in Bombay as it was then called, the operator, a veteran of many telephone battles and personal friend to many of our customers who used to visit the office from various towns of Western India could speak very good English but only the street Hindustani of Bombay.

One day there was a great commotion as everyone in the office could hear her shouting repeatedly that there was nobody called Ghatkopar Saheb in the office and asking the caller to correctly mention the name of the person.

Ghatkopar is a suburb of Bombay and quite infamous even in those days. Finally, the top honcho of the office got involved in the matter and found out that the caller was a gentleman with some speech defect and was in fact asking for Rajgopaul Saheb!

For quite some time after that, I had to bear with being called Mr. Ghatkopar by that worthy who apart from being my boss was also a personal friend.

What Frustrated You Most Last Week And Why.

A friend recommended that I read a book on India that he felt would be of great interest to me. I went online to find some reviews and was convinced that I would indeed be interested and so went online again to purchase it.

First I tried Amazon, and then two other online book sellers with no success.

I went back to the book’s reviews to find out the publisher’s name and was relieved that it was published by an organisation with a branch in Pune. With some difficulty and the help of another friend I located the telephone number of the shop and rang them up to find that they do not have it in stock either. I was further adviced to get it from Chennai where the head office was located and I went back online to find that they had a website. I could not find any way to order a copy on line but was lucky enough to find a link to send feed back to them.

In the feedback mechanism I expressed my difficulty and sent the message off. Within half an hour, I received a message from them guiding me as to how to order online and I was finally able to order online.

You would think that the story would end there. No, it does not. The seller would not accept payment via my bank and so I had to opt for a credit card payment which I never use for online purchases. I then found that they would not accept Master Cards and my Visa card is under replacement procedure so I had to use my son’s Visa card.

No, the story does not end there either. The payment portal was having some problems loading and despite a number of attempts I was unable to make payment. The next day, I tried again and failed so I used the feedback mechanism again to send a message to the seller that its payment portal was not functioning.

Finally, two days after the whole story started, I was able to order and pay for the book which now the seller informs me is on its way to me.

Do I really need to continue as to why I was frustrated?

The topic for today’s 2 on 1 post is from fellow blogger Shackman. Please do go and see what he has to say on the same topic here.

Money To The Dead!

Some of my readers will remember my post on mail addressed to my late father advising him about his life after superannuation.

A friend who remembered the post has now sent me this photograph. Please click on the image for a larger resolution.


State Bank Of India is one of the world’s largest banks and India’s largest. It is a public sector bank with good reputation for customer service. My late father and I had a joint account there for four years as he trusted them and we never had any problems with them. My dealings with them on the few occasions that I had to go to them were all handled with efficiency and good cheer.

This however is another instance of not applying one’s mind to an important matter.

Customer Service.

I bought an electrically operated recliner from  a leading furniture maker of India in 2003. This is a US$1.323 billion (2015) revenue company with 12000+ employees.

The recliner is in great shape and is my favourite perch. I spend a lot of time on it. At the time of purchase it cost me Rs.28,419.00.

Some time ago, the upholstery of the chair started giving way and while it does not prevent me from using the chair, it is annoying for it looks ugly.

I approached GI with a formal complaint on their website and received this message in response,

“Dear XXXXXXXXXXXXX,

Thank you for connecting with XX.
We are in receipt of your email and our Pune branch team will get in touch with you for further clarifications shortly.

Thanks & Regards,
Customer Care Team
XX
Your query given below.
Name : Ramana Rajgopaul
Mobile :XXXXXXXXXXXX
Email : XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
State : Maharashtra
City : Pune
Pincode :XXXXXXXX
Query : Reupholstering Recliner Single Seater.
Product Enquiry :Home furniture
Organisation :
This communication (including any accompanying documents / attachments), is intended only for the use of the addressee(s) and contains information that is PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL. If you are not the intended recipient, you are notified that any dissemination and/or copying of this e-mail is strictly prohibited and you are requested to delete this e-mail immediately. Communicating through e-mail is not secure and capable of interception & delays. Any one communicating with GI by e-mail, accepts the risks involved and their consequences. The Company is neither liable for the proper and complete transmission of the information contained in this communication, nor for any delay in its receipt. While this e-mail has been checked for all known viruses, the addressee should also scan for viruses too. Thank you for your co-operation.”

Not receiving any further information, after a few days, I rang up their customer service helpline and they promptly located my complaint and confirmed that someone will contact me shortly. After a while, I received a text message on my phone giving me the telephone number and name of a representative who will visit me within 24 hours.

When nothing happened after 24 hours, I rang up the representative on his phone and his immediate response was “Shit”, I will come tomorrow morning.

He came the next afternoon which was a Saturday,  and took some photographs on his mobile phone and transmitted them to some one after speaking to the responder. He left saying that I will get a quotation on Monday as it was the week end after collecting Rs.350.00 as charges for the home visit.

Nothing happened on Monday and on Tuesday, I called the local number that the representative had given in the receipt for the charge for the home visit. I was told to wait for a few more days as the model of chair in question was an obsolete one!

I finally got a quotation from them on the 20th as follows:

Spares Seat Assembly 22570.00
Spares Back Assembly 10259.00

Total 32829.00

Below this was given various other charges for labour, tax, transportation etc totalling in all to Rs.40,151.00

On receipt of this mail, I wrote to them the following letter on 21st January, 2018.

“I refer to your confirmation email dated 5th January 2017. I finally received an estimate from XYZ Services Pune for re-upholstering my recliner chair.

You can see from the quote that I reproduce below how absurd the quotation is.

Have they understood the problem at all? Has there been some breakdown in communication somewhere or is this your way of informing me that you cannot re-upholster the chair?”

As I write this on the 30th January, 2018, I am yet to get a response from them.

My Book Binder.

I get paper back books not available as hard cover copies bound by a Book Binder about two Kms away from home. I have been doing this for a couple of decades. Due to parking problems near his shop however, I have stopped going there personally and send our help Mangal with whatever book that needs to be bound. This is more efficient as she lives just two doors away from his shop.

There are some books that I keep separately from my others for being on matters spiritual / religious and these are inevitably bound in black rexene covered cardboard covers like this one below.

I recently got a copy of the book Hindutva by Savarkar considered to be the guiding spirit of the Hindu Right movement in India.

Since only paper back was available I bought it and sent it to be bound in Black just like the one shown above. To ensure that there will no mistakes, I sent a black covered specimen along with the book with Mangal.

This is the original cover of the book.

The binder called me after he bound it to get it collected and on asking if he had followed instructions on covering it in black rexene, he said no he had not but had in saffron coloured rexene. On further enquiry and on expressing my disappointment, he said, that he could not bind the book in any other colour as the topic was Hindutva and Saffron is the colour of Hindus. This is what the bound book looks like now.

I quietly accepted defeat and have got the book now standing out among a host of black bound books.