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This study makes an attempt to understand the business of ‘skins' and the various ways it can be made a part of Ambient Media to offer more branding opportunities to advertisers. This involves various forms of skins, its multiple applications, and the ways in which it can provide branding opportunities.
Skins are the 2nd generation products that can be applied to any external surface and are printed and used for personalizing or branding devices or surfaces. The concept of skinning was introduced in the US 5 years ago. Since then the product has found its way in Europe and South East Asia. The business of skins is at a very nascent stage in India. The scope of this dissertation is to analyze the use of ‘skins', where every surface is brought to surface quite literally, as a medium to interest and engage consumers. With ‘skins', no space is left mundane and dull as long as there is an opportunity to style it and brand it.
The research undertaken for this purpose was exploratory in nature. It was broadly executed in 2 Phases. The first phase was the stage of Secondary Data analysis wherein extensive review of existing companies and practices in the domain of skins was conducted. This is to investigate various business models around skins. The first phase also included Primary Research by interviewing consumers through a qualitative, depth interviews. This facilitated a grasp on what the consumers think about brands and their innovations in branding. It is primarily to check how different mediums affect them, and what affects them the most. Phase 2 of the Research Design involved in-depth qualitative interviews of 5 Brand Managers and 5 Industry Professionals (mix of Media | Advertising | Retail | Industry Veterans). The Phase 1 Primary Research results will be used to provide better insight into the interaction with B2B respondents.
These interviews were helpful in getting insights to substantiate the secondary research and the consumer surveys. Once the data had been collected, it was analyzed to facilitate opportunities and make generalizations. The factors that companies would take into consideration were Licensing of brands, Personalization through Brand Designs and various Manufacturing processes that enable production of high-quality skins. Also, new technological innovations that can aid skins to be developed as more functional and engaging for the customers were necessary. Based on the findings, certain models were identified and conclusions were drawn.
With the media industry growing, new forms of media are sought after regularly. This study enables one such potential form of Ambient Media to make its way into the advertising plan of Brand Managers. Although a lot of international companies have made their contributions to the medium of skins, its time India opened up to this phenomenon.
The need to be different, which stems from the need to be noticed leads to multiple changes in the environment. Some of these changes are fads, the others determine the future. Seen from a brand manager's perspective, some of these basic human desires can lead to a plethora of opportunities for them. One of these opportunities is discussed below. It deals with the domain of modified aesthetics.
As more and more portable gadgets and other forms of electronic and technological means are consumed by us every moment, their usefulness continues to expand. But just carrying the latest gadget which looks like everyone else's version of that latest gadget is not enough anymore. So why not personalise it. Better still why not use the investment as a branding opportunity. Not only gadgets, there are innumerable surfaces available today that are waiting to be utilised. Advertisers have the opportunity to brand all surfaces through skins. These surfaces can be identified as:
§ Wall skins: walls, cupboards, mirrors, drawers, doors, etc
§ Fleet skins: cars, cabs, biked, aircrafts, trams, buses, trains, etc.
§ Devices skins: laptops, mobiles, music players, all appliances, etc.
The idea of making electronics or any other product more personal is that the real world can also start acting more like the online world. Similar to how one can change their online profile anytime they want, so can they have their most loved brands or their favourite images on their phone or car! These products known as ‘skins', not only make your common device look stylised, but also protect it. These skins that can be pasted on any exterior surface are soon becoming extremely popular within a very short period of time. They are a dream come true in the ‘customization' arena.
This application has created waves worldwide and is now revolutionising the way mundane products are being presented to the world. Apart from this key use, there is the Branding Opportunity that ‘skins' bring along. While personalisation is fast becoming popular, it is not the key issue here. What the scope of this dissertation is to analyse this innovation as a new format for Brand Managers. It will not only open up new branding prospects, but also be included in the fast and upcoming category of Ambient Media.
Ambient Media is the name given to a new breed of out-of-home products and services determined by some as Non-Traditional or Alternative Media. Ambient media advertising is a way of overcoming traditional method of advertising to get the attention of the consumers. Ambient media in a larger scale define the media environment and the communication of information in ubiquitous and pervasive environments. The reasons why Ambient Media has grown are:
1. Decline in the power of traditional media
2. Greater demand for point-of-sale communication
3. Ability to offer precise audience targeting
4. General versatility
While some see it is a fiendish way of getting an ad message into every nook and corner of our lives and on to anything that moved, yet it was the sector that was growing outrageously through the 90's. It was argued that ambient alone never made any brand famous, and marketers would soon get tired of this faddish and whimsical medium. However, such judgements were not possible as ad revenues were unstable and fast changing.
Also, as media proliferation made it harder to get attention, advertisers look for other ways to place their brands before people. This can be via all sorts of locations and methods and often close to the point of sale. This is where ‘skins' can come in and enable brand managers to make their brands be seen. As it is put over everyday use products, the opportunities will be numerous.
In today's day, when one travels, it can be seen that all around, commuters work and play away on laptops, PDAs, iPods, mobiles, blackberries, sometimes all at once. Mobiles and pervasive media have truly reshaped the practices of travel. This provides tremendous potential for a business like Skins to enter the market. Apart from public spaces to use ambient medium, individual's personal surfaces can also be used as a fresh medium of branding. Laptops, iPods, Mobiles, etc. all are new opportunities in the ambient media world which can be used for branding through skins. While it is true that Media images change the way we see and experience a city, why not make it aesthetic and meaningful.
Until now, out-of-home activities that engage the consumer like hot air balloons with slogans, digital out-of-home, and life size mascots for brands, etc. are considered the norm for Ambient Media. However, formats go out of fashion very soon, and newer ways to brand and reach consumers are sought by marketers.
In earlier times, brand positioning and promotions through mass media did the trick for marketers. Customers flocked to buy the brand that was advertised and that's how many successful brands were created. However, increasing media clutter and reducing customer attention spans have resulted in decreasing effectiveness of traditional practices. Therefore modern brand managers have started using techniques like Brand Inclusiveness and Brand Engagement to conquer customer hearts.
Brand Inclusiveness: The brand can become a part of the customers' lives through a planned presence. For example: a mobile phone or a laptop is personal belonging of a customer that is highly significant in today's world. What better way of brand inclusiveness than to Brand these gadgets itself. Skins as a medium can be used by companies to as a branding opportunity by sending the loyal customers a skin each for these gadgets. These skins can be customised as per the customers' gadget model and can then be used as both a branding and well as a style statement. The loyal group of customers would be proud to sport their favourite brands' skins on their phones or laptops. This is a high level of brand inclusiveness for companies, where they can manage to convince their loyal customers themselves to become their brand champions, and hence, brand managers.
Brand Presence: Customers live busy lives and the brand needs to touch their lives in relevant ways. This requires the brand to be present at places frequented by customers. This can be done through a number of ways:
§ Skinning cabs in urban cities with the branding of various products of services that are targeted to the cab-using population of the society
§ Skinning Public Buses with the branding of various products and services that are targeted to the us-using population of the society
§ Skinning tables at coffee shops with brands that compliment a coffee or such an environment
§ Skinning conveyor belts at airports
§ Skinning Elevators at public spaces like Corporate Offices, Government Buildings, Residential Societies, etc.
§ Skinning PCO booths, etc.
Brand Engagement: Brands have realised the importance of the interactive approach t engage customers. This can be done through various co-creation ideas. So while, interaction can exist individually, a mix of skins (visual) and interaction can do wonders for a lot of brands. While skinning the vehicles or other such ambient forms can be a standalone practice, brand engagement would take this idea further. For example- If the cabs are skinned by a Credit Card brand, then the cab driver can offer pamphlets of the passengers. If the cab is skinned by a Chips brand, then free trials can be offered in the cab to the passengers (in case of a new product). Also, the passengers of a skinned cab can send an SMS to receive further information about the brand, to receive a catalogue, free trial, etc. A lot of ways to engage the customer are possible after the initial visual of the brand through Skins.
Concern for Customers: Customers want their favourite brand to show concern for them. In this regard, there is a special kind of Skin called ‘Gripper'. A gripper has two parts. The small skin sticks to the back of the mobile phone, while the big skin sticks on any surface which has an angle. Mobile Phone brands or Telecom providers can use this product with a social message. The gripper helps hold the phone to the surface on the bigger skin. This will help highlight the use of mobile phones while driving, as the driver can stick the phone on the angled surface which provides holding the phone while driving. The phone often slips from the car's dashboard, which now will be held in place by the gripper and enable the driver to take some calls on loudspeaker.
Also, Wall Skins can be used at key public places by brands in order to give out social service messages to the public at large. These wall skins can come in all sizes and will create large scale awareness if put at strategic places.
Hence, the inclusive brand image focuses on touching customer lives in a relevant manner. The brand needs to engage customers and the use of interactive media comes handy for this initiative. Hence a brand can conquer the hearts of consumers by showing concern and being available at all times, all places.
The scope of this dissertation is to analyse the use of ‘skins', where every surface is brought to surface quite literally, as a medium to interest and engage consumers. With ‘skins', no space is left mundane and dull as long as there is an opportunity to style it and brand it.
As we see that Media is evolving from Digital to Pervasive to Interactive, every brand needs to speak to the consumer at different touch points, so as to keep the consumer engaged, yet not be disliked. One example of ‘skins' in the form of Auto wraps that is seen in the recent times in India is the branding on Cabs and other vehicles. For example: Meru cabs run campaigns of different brands for different periods of time. Here the Brand Alliance between Meru and the advertising brand leads to recognition in the marketplace. Clever messages can be put up for different target markets, giving brand managers an innovative medium to engage the consumer. It generated street level advertising.
What are skins?
Skins are the 2nd generation products that can be applied to any external surface and are printed and used for personalising or branding devices or surfaces. The concept of skinning was introduced in the US 5 years ago. Since then the product has found its way in Europe and South East Asia. Following are the basic features of skins:
§ Currently, the Skins are made up of vinyl that is digitally printed and post printing it is cut either as per general dimensions or cut as per the device. However, this manufacturing process can change a per technology used or requirements
§ Skins are available for mobiles, laptops, portable music players, gaming devices, cars, and any other external surface
§ Skins are available in general sizes and custom made, where the skins are per-cut based on the device
§ However, the concept of skins is fast changing as per various different manufacturing processes used. There are new hard cover skins also introduced in the market
A combination of fixed designs and the option of personalised designs is made available
The complete product range will be:
1. Skins made up of Vinyl
2. Skins made up of different textures such as Leather, Canvas, Jute, etc.
3. Skins made up of Gel
4. Grippers used to hold a certain product kept on a surface at an angle
5. Wall skins
6. Hard Cover skins
7. Electro-statically charged skins
More and more technological innovations are leading to different types of skins being launched. However, all of these can be used as an Ambient Medium by companies for Branding.
The major manufacturers of vinyl skins are: 3M, Avery, Kodak, Mactech. However, there are other numerous vinyl manufacturers present in the market.
More and more technological innovations are leading to different types of skins being launched. However, all of these can be used as an Ambient Medium by companies for Branding.
Cell phones, laptops, MP3 players, iPods, Blackberries - all these personal electronic devices have changed the way we go about our everyday lives dramatically. Millions of people around the globe have embraced these changes and are sure of staying at the receiving end of cutting edge technology. Because technology inspires passion, people who are passionate about their gadgets are more often than not passionate about other areas of their lives such as music, sports, movies, art, fashion, etc.
Skins result from this passion. People get a chance to express themselves and personalise their electronics which helps them reflect their favourite interests. School children can skin their laptops to display their school colors or logo, cell phones can be skinned with their favourite design, Music Players can be skinned with their favourite artist, etc. The opportunities are tremendous.
A large variety of skins are available for a wide range of electronic devices and new technology. They can be either individually designed or branded. Branded skins are a new way of companies to reach out to the customers. Brands such as Disney, NFL, Star Wars, Superman, etc. can be bought through licenses and sold to interested customers through multiple sales nodes.
Some articles have been reviewed to understand the Ambient Media market, gauge trends in the same, and determine need gaps for a product like ‘skins'. “India will overtake China next year to become the fastest growing advertising nation”, Jones, S. (2009)
Skin Care: The Sensual Surfaces of Objects
“Aesthetic modification of product form is common practice in industrial design. Designers are trained to create beautiful products, which not only provide an aesthetic experience to users, but also lead to enhanced profitability”, Boradkar, P. (2004). In fact, the desire to increase sales in a market that was flooded with too many goods is what led to the practice of industrial design.
This practice of alteration of the basic form of a product is often referred to at the ‘stigma of styling' by industrialists and designers. However, according to this article, these changes undertaken by the designers are limited to the external surface of the object. The term used here for external surfaces or shells of objects is ‘skins'. These skins can have multiple meanings that are created by the designer, user, critic, etc.
Virginia Postrel, in her book - The Substance of Style, has argued that aesthetics has become a significant and an omnipresent component of everyday life in the US. She has gone on to say that it is clearly visible that we are increasingly becoming fond of beautiful surfaces in case of objects, environments, interiors, and our own bodies. There are multiple proofs to this theory of dependence on aesthetics - the popular profession of image-making, the makeover shows on television, innovations for the perfect product, the perfect look, etc. Style has seeped into our lives. This according to her is skin care.
It provides sensation and protection from the external environment. It is constantly in a process of change and regenerates itself on a regular basis.
The five major categories that signify the primary functions of object skins are: Protective Skins, Informational Skins, Sensorial Skins, Technological/Intelligent Skins, and Mythical/Fetishist Skins.
My topic of study here is the ‘Sensorial Skin' which includes Visual Skins. These skins arouse admiration, fear, curiosity, contempt, etc. Social meanings of these graphics and designs can be traced back to the context, object, user, etc.
Hence, the article concludes that the process of styling or creating new skins is often practised in design consultancies and corporations, where the products only change appearance without any added utility or other value. Creative operations are performed on the skin to stimulate desire, but these are often justified as attempts to satisfy a wider range of user needs. This is said to be the role of commodity aesthetics to the ‘sexing-up' of the object.
As ‘skins' is the prime area of study, this article gave insights on the concept of a skin. Now, we move on to the next few articles on what is happening in the Media World and where it is headed, to understand the broader aspect of the use of ‘skins'.
The Future is Ambient
“Ambient Intelligence deals with the embedment of media in the natural environment on people”, Lugmayr, A. (2006). Embedding media into peoples' environment indicates the need for the creation of a new form of media.
The article explains ambient media to create a mix of real-world objects in the natural environment of the consumer and also digital objects which are of any arbitrary form. The key feature of ambient is distribution rather than storage. There are 5 principles of ambient media mentioned:
1. Ambience - media object is a service oriented asset space
2. Intelligence - smart technology for content aggregation
3. Distribution - distributed across a wide area of networks
4. Self-organisation - aggregated either automatically or collaboratively
5. Pervasiveness - accessible anytime, anyhow. Anywhere
The conclusion here is that: Ambient media is the future of multimedia which allows natural interaction and easy access to content anytime, anywhere, and anyhow.
How Ambient Media
Ambient Marketing is now making its way into the brand manager's mind and fast becoming the new marketing communication discipline. Companies are looking at more and more ways to connect with the consumers, not only in private spaces, but also out-of-home. The article says that this sort of marketing can be called anything, but the challenge lies in taking it to the street level.
Greg Aithurton, Nintendo's marketing manager says ambient exists in non-traditional media formats without direct interaction, whereas experiential goes a step further and actually interacts with the consumer - engaging them directly.
“Just slapping your logo on a pavement and hoping people will think you are cool won't do very much. But if you can touch someone in a clever and relevant way, it can be really effective.”
The article says that ambient is not only about advertising in an unexpected environment, but the environment has to be relevant to what you are doing, and the unexpected has to fit well with the brand.
Another issue mentioned is that such marketing is good only for a couple of months, then it becomes passé and the consumers become aware of it, hence it blends into the mix.
The end note here is that ambient, experiential, or any of these sorts of marketing is not about measurement. It's more about who you target. It's not necessarily in a position to need to be measured.
Brands are accepting of ambient's limitations, along with its unique capabilities. The key selling point is that an ambient campaign can deliver what many other mediums cannot - a closer touch point to consumers.
Ambient Media - How the World is Changing
Over the years, the competitive environment has multiplied and technology is on fast rise. However, only the media arena has changed, while communication planning remains the same. We are in a world of outstanding media possibilities, where non-traditional marketing has kicked in, and brands do not fail to surprise/shock us with their expert forms of presenting the message.
From using light-reactive inks, lenticular prints, 3D holographic images to Bluetooth and infrared technology, and PR stunts, ambient media has not failed to make itself noticed. Whether this is a Gimmick or a Strategy is discussed widely amongst media owners, as they get more and more clients and agencies that not only want gimmicks to work in their favour, but are also desperate to produce substantial campaigns that create long-term appeal.
An analysis of approximately 4500 case studies from 1997 to 2007 including ambient media show, that very few brands had a strategic approach while majority of cases are one-offs and some look like festive scams.
Whether these new formats are called ambient media, non-traditional media, branded utility, or experiential media, the effort should be part of a strategy that is based on a right idea. However, this ambient media should be part of the future communications strategy in order to make sure that these challenging efforts adapt to current trends and in turn to people's lifestyles. Otherwise, any violation from the trend will lead to the advertiser's worst nightmare - ignorance!
Reaching the right Consumer
Over the past decade, ambient advertising has become ubiquitous. Brands are seen jumping at the chance to experiment with novel media as fresh ways of promoting their messages to specific groups in appropriate environment. As wrap around ads on Taxi's and posters inside changing rooms are delivering on marketers goals, the common principle is that brands have less money to work with, so it is vital that money works harder.
The article mentions three important routes to success for an ambient medium:
1. Timing is vital. This means reaching someone just before they are about to do something else
2. The mindset of the consumer when they receive the message. This means that brand message placement is crucial
3. Lastly, it is important to match the environment with the brand message
Brands that advertise on niche media should be able to surprise, excite, and engage. Hence, advertisers should be wary of reaching the saturation point and thus losing effectiveness.
Centre of Attention
This is a time when TV audiences are fragmenting and new technologies are being launched, which enables us to avoid traditional advertisements, there is Ambient that can deliver captive audiences. Just when the consumers are poised to make a purchase, ambient cites its flexibility and capacity to be highly targeted, and delivers. Apart from that, there is little evidence to show that ambient media irritates consumers.
According to this article, some of the most successful examples of ambient activity are seen in trains, stations, step and escalator advertising, train wraps, tickets, etc. In supermarkets, there is trolley and basket advertising, floor ads, etc., all of which can influence shoppers at point of purchase. While today's ambient sector includes products such as mirror stickers, ATM receipts, carrier bags, etc., there is also an opportunity to market brands on tabletops at restaurants, bars, etc.
The strength of the medium is that it converts a static message into an interactive one. Hence the need to develop newer formats every year, as marketers want the novelty for their brand, and not be the second or third to use an idea.
The literature reviewed here analyses in detail the different ways, in which Media is evolving, the growth of Ambient Media and varied practices. There are studies on the growth of Ambient Media in different countries, its acceptance by Brand Managers, and the successes of certain brands. However, what is not mentioned is how to make this ambient medium more consumer friendly by way of interactivity. My area of study being skins, the gap I wish to fill in with the help of this dissertation is how would a product like skins fit in the “Ambient” domain, and what are the possible ways of making this product more functional and more interactive for the consumer as well as the brand.
To understand how Skins as an Ambient Media can be made more interactive and functional for brands and customers
* To study how far ‘skins' will be considered as a branding tool by brand managers
* To find ways to convert ‘skins' into an engaging and interactive medium for advertisers
* To analyse the trends of Ambient Media and if ‘skins' as a format can be included within its ambit
My study is primarily for the B2B customers. The customer base is divided into:
* Brand Managers who will use ‘skins' as a branding tool
o Media Agencies - They will sell ‘skins' as a new Ambient Media format
o Advertising Agencies - They will buy ‘skins' as a new Ambient Media format for their clients
To do the above study, the following methodology is chosen:
1. Secondary Research
The research will be primarily focused on investigating the various business models around “skins”. This will give me a better understanding of the following:
a. Different applications of “Skins”
b. Different manufacturing process
c. Various features of the product
2. Primary Research
It will be qualitative in nature, using depth interviews.
This is to get a grasp on what the consumers think about brands and their innovations in branding. It is primarily to check how different mediums affect them, and what affects them the most.
* 10 men and women in the age group of 16-30
* 10 men and women in the age group of 30-60
1. Primary Research
This involves in-depth qualitative interviews. The Phase 1 Primary Research results will be used to provide better insight into the interaction with B2B respondents.
* 5 Brand Managers
* 5 Industry Professionals (Mix of Media | Advertising | Retail | Industry veterans)
Discussion Guide for Consumers
Objective: To understand what consumers perceive of branding and how different medium affects them
Lifestyle and Pattern
§ Where do you live?
§ What do you do?
§ What is your typical day like?
§ What personal gadgets do you own?
§ Which are your 3 favourite brands?
§ Why do you like them?
§ Do you buy them yourself?
§ Would you endorse these brands to others?
§ Do you like seeing advertisements?
§ Do you pay attention to a new form of advertising?
§ What medium affects your purchase of a brand the most?
§ Do too much media and too much branding bother you?
§ Have you heard of Skins?
§ What are the different kinds of skins that you know of?
§ Would you notice branding through Skins, like, car skins, walls skins, laptop skins, etc?
§ Would you purchase a skin yourself?
§ Would you use a skin branded by your favourite brand?
Phase 1 (a) - Secondary Research
Current International Practices in the domain of Skins
AMBER MEDIA GMBH
This is a Germany based agency that specialises in innovative ambient concepts. It was founded in 2002, and has since then established itself in the out-of-home segment.
Amber Stix enables the advertising slogan to be placed directly in the desired target group's immediate environment. It provides a surprise effect without disturbing the target. It offers a wide range of innovative possibilities and reaches whoever one wishes to reach with their advertising slogan. It ensures that the brand stands out from the crowd by trying out an innovative and an unusual approach.
Its product - Amber STIX
Amber STIX are adhesive skins that have an extra strong electrostatic charge. These Stix adhere due to their static charge alone. Hence they are different from the conventional adhesive skins. They don't have to be pressed to the surface. They can remain in place for more than 6 months and can be recharged when needed.
AMBERMEDIA_amberSTIX_4 amber 3
Aldo Branding in front of the store Blood Diamond outdoor branding
Some of the features are:
§ Adhere to most surfaces
§ No residue left
§ Bubble free
§ Can be repositioned
§ Removed and attached several times
§ Can be recharged with Amber STIX charger
§ Can be perforated
§ 100% recyclable
Skinit, Inc. provides a large product line of branded vinyl skins for personal electronic devices. It is based out of San Diego, California. Skinit branded products can be offered by OEMs, global retailers, distributors, Internet portals, online shopping sites, etc. It is made with premium 3M material. Skinit is the global leader in business-to-consumer and business-to-business personalisation technology platforms and on-demand manufacturing for corporate clients. Skinit has hundreds of designs, famous brand names in sports, entertainment, art, etc. Skinit powers more than 19 personalisation programs for Fortune 1000 companies. These companies are in the field of medical, retail, home appliances, consumer electronic and graphic industries.
They believe that with more people showing off their gadgets in public, it makes sense that one wants to stand out in a crowd. These skins help one quickly customise their gadgets to match their style. These skins, which additionally add a little scratch protection, are made to fit perfectly around the curves and crevice of the device. They do not damage the device and leave no residue.
One example of Skinit branded skins that recently were quite a hit:
The Twilight Saga: New Moon Skins
On October 20, 2009 Skinit announced the launch of its exclusive collection of New Moon skins for electronic devices and wall skins. This was a branding activity carried on by Summit Entertainment for their second Twilight movie. It enabled their serious fans to choose a design for over 3000 compatible devices. And there were also wall skins available in life-size cut-outs. They are photo-quality life-sized graphics that any fan can apply in his/her room wall.
This kind of an activity is what is catching up fast in the international markets, and will very soon enter Indian markets. It provides a vast opportunity for brand managers to use a product like Skins as an ambient medium, by enabling customers themselves to endorse the brand through their personal devices.
Gela Skins based out of Toronto, Canada is using patented 3M adhesive skins that are primarily removable covers used for protecting and customising any portable device. They work with artists around the globe to create for their customers, a huge gallery of skins for iPods, Laptops, Mobile Phones, etc. The adhesive allows one to reposition the skin so as to get the perfect fit. They defend the device with a durable anti-scratch and an anti-UV coating.
Recent News on Gela skins branding activity:
Marvel Comics and National Geographic
Gela skins has partnered with Marvel Comics and National Geographic on the 5th February, 2010. Their National Geographic range of skins will be based on iconic images of wildlife, nature, sea, space etc. While Marvel designs will feature legendary characters which include Spider Man, X-Men, and the Iron Man. Both these are leading animation and photographic companies in the market that will offer the consumers a new variety of professional art and designs of their choice. This is a branding concept in order to decorate the mobile technology and will help brand managers reach their fans.
Marvel Characters as designs on Laptop Skins
MyTego is based out of Winnipeg, Canada. A Tego skin is a thin and tough vinyl covering that is flexible and can be customized in any way imaginable. It is a completely removable skin and it easy to apply. Tego is a leader in customized skins for portable customer electronics. It has skins for the laptop, mobile phones, netbook, playstation, nintendo, ipod, xbox, iphone, macbook, etc. The device remains full-functional with specific cut-outs for the screen, buttons, keys and also the access to the battery.
Louis Vuitton branded Gel skin
The mass customization model is used by them. They have developed a complete patented production system that allows for individual manufacturing as well as mass-production manufacturing. Recently MyTego skins are available for Nintendo DSi. They went on sale in April in United States and United Kingdom. This kind of brand association provides opportunities for a skinning company to partner with various brands and launch their skins. These skins are later available on an online template so that the customers can start designing their own Nintendo skins.
Also, Tego designed a one-off vinyl skin for an acoustic guitar to mark the release of the new CD by country music singer Johnny Reid. While producing skins for guitars is a little difficult, musical instrument brands may produce the template for guitars to an exact measurement. This can help brand guitars through skins.
They are based out of Detroit. They use 3M vinyl to manufacture skins which contains patented non-visible air release channels to ensure that the customer get higher gloss bubble free application. The other features of the product include pressure activation, repositionability, and slideability. These skins are removable adhesive-backed vinyl covers for protecting and customising the devices. They provide anti-scratch and anti-UV coating with all their skins. This helps the design to stay in place and can't be smudged or smeared. The color of the skin remains bright and vibrant, lasting for around 5 years.
The various types of skins offered are:
1. Cell Phones
2. MP3 Players
3. Laptop Skins
4. Netbook Skins
5. Bluetooth Headsets
6. Gaming Consoles
7. Gel Skins
8. Scratch Resistant Skins
9. Clear Protective Skins
10. Screen Protector
11. Wall Skins
12. Other Miscellaneous Devices
Macbook branded Laptop skin
A Singapore based company, Gar skins was started in 2006. They are the pioneer of made-to-measure skin products in Asia which can be applied by anyone onto their devices.
They have over 600 ‘Asia focussed' designs for various devices. Through their network of in-house designers and freelance artists worldwide, their designs are created with novelty and exclusivity. Their majority of customers come from Europe and US.
Their expertise in template creation, their strict quality control requirements and operational commitment has enabled them to acquire partnerships for distribution in Asia. They localise the skin products at individual country level and innovate regularly. They have created Garguard for Mobile devices and notebooks.
They have also introduced innovative skinning concepts like Textured Skins through various materials like Leather, Canvas, Jute, etc. and the world's first Embroidered Skins. This enables Gar skins to offer companies another way to capture the consumer's attention. The consumers will be seen carrying the company's name and logo on their personal devices, and hence become a new source of mobile advertisement.
Recently Gar skins partnered with HTC Mobile Phone Company to introduce HTC ‘Design my style' Tattoo phone covers. They designed and manufactured HTC Tattoo customised phone covers and the web service for a customer to purchase or redeem the same. This kind of a company partnership enables branding opportunities for both the Brand and the Skins Company.
It was founded in 2005 and is headquartered in Michigan, United States. It deals in oversized wall graphics which can be used to decorate flat surfaces such as walls. They come in all sizes. While Fathead deals in various products ranging from Skins to personal gear, it primarily started off with Wall skins. These skins are life-size high definition and precision-cut wall graphics that are made of hyper durable vinyl. This material is fade resistant and easy to put up with the special adhesive that is at the back. It can be moved from wall to wall without any damage. Their product range includes logos, players, helmets, vehicles, characters, etc.
The branding and licensing arm of Fathead has acquired a lot of brands in order to create their wall skins. Some of the Fathead license agreements are with NFL, Disney, Nickelodeon, Warner Brothers, Marvel Characters, Columbia Pictures, Harley Davidson, etc. They have recently introduced a new line of home decor products that include everything from graphics for children to general sports graphics. It is an innovative concept used for branding, where the brand gets to share space within the house of the consumer/fan. It is fast growing internationally and has tremendous opportunities in India as well.
Hannah Montana branded wall skins David Ortiz life size wall skin
Skin Jam is a Singapore based company which was founded in 2006.They have now spread to multiple countries and have also set up shop in India. They work with experienced professionals from different industries. While they offer everything that other skinning companies do, their business model is a little different. Instead of providing custom made skins for the customer to use, they take the device from the customer for a couple of hours in order to cut their uniform sized designs as per the customers' device model. They offer thin skin wraps that blends with all gadgets and their film lasts for as long as 5 years.
Laptop Skins from Skin Jam
Current Indian practices in the domain of Skins
This Delhi based company manufactures removable vinyl skins from a local material. They do not use 3M or any other certified material. These skins protect and customize portable devices. They have multiple design categories like Music, Art, Devotional, Sports, Holiday, Children, etc. It is one of teh very few laptop skin companies in the country and it is yet not fully functional.
This is a Bombay based company that offers ultra-high resolution full-color designs that they print on premium material. This material is UV resistant and has a protective layer for durability. All skins are repositionable and movable. They have an adhesive backing for easy and fast installation. They sell only laptop skins in the standard size of 14” * 10.5”. If need be, teh buyer can trim the skin a little to fit the device. They offer the skins to business as well. However, as yet it has not picked up due the companies limited range and resources.
From this International and Indian Secondary Study we cans see that while the International Skinning Market is relatively evolved, the trend is only just catching up in India. Most of the companies abroad have tied up with major hardware brands in order to gain a firm foothold in the electronic devices segment. However, Indian companies are still struggling with the manufacturing processes. It is also seen that the industry abroad has moved from just skins to different types of skins like Electro-statically charged skins, textured skins, Gel skins, etc. The primary research will give us a fair idea of the consumer understanding of the product in India.
Other practices in similar industries/Current companies:
The company is headquartered in San Francisco and is on a mission to personalise every electronic device in the world.
The company has over 200 designs and it customizes the phone with either one of these designs or with the customers own artwork. Their designs include their licensed brands like NBA, The Simpsons, MLB, Tattoo Johnny, etc. What it does differently from other skinning companies is that unlike a skin, they provide a replacement for the faceplate of the customer's phone. A skin is an addition to the current body, while a Coveroo is a new hard cover for the device. The design or the brand is engraved on a new faceplate, just like the one that comes with the phone and it is send to the customer by mail. All major brands are supported by Coveroo like iPhone, Blackberry, Motorola, Samsung, etc. The technology used is laser engraving technology and a HighColor process that gives the device a high-quality, non-fading design. It does not come off on peeling or rubbing.
It is a fresh way to reward employees, help word-of-mouth through customers, or to keep valuable clients for the business. Companies like American Red Cross, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Bloomingdales, etc have used Coveroo. It also helps companies give customised devices to its new employees, prevents theft, resale or confusion.
The company was founded in France in 1985 and since then has worked towards delighting its customers with innovative designs and twists that they provide to everyday products. It has multiple shops in United States.
They specialise in personalising everyday use products like toaster, hairbrush, thermos, wallets, umbrellas, other stationery items, etc. It's primarily a brand for children. They have various designs that they skin these products with. It is using skins used by the skinning companies to personalise a series of products for the customers. So while it is not selling skins, it is using skins as its main merchandise to use on its other products. It has set up a small shop at Select City Walk in Delhi.
Skinned Make-up case for girls Skinned thermos
In October 2008, Cellucom, India's leading retail chain for mobility solutions launched its mobile accessory range in limited edition. It was designed by India's top fashion designer, Raghavendra Rathore. It was launched on the opening day of the Lakme Fashion Week. Cellucom was participating in the Fall-Winter 2009 season of the Lakme Fashion Week.
The contest called ‘Second Skin' was introduced in order to invite the most creative talent in India to design laptop and mobile accessories for Cellucom stores. Leading designers from the Lakme India Fashion Week participated in the contest. A jury consisting of experts from the world of media, fashion, and telecom chose Raghavendra Rathore as the winner. Cellucom launched an exclusive range of designer mobile and laptop accessories which included laptop skins, mobile skins, mobile slip-on cases, etc.
As per the study then, the market for Mobile and Laptop accessories was valued at 2% of the telecom market which results to 20000 crore. This is expected to grow. This activity meant great potential in the designer accessory business in India and the sale of Laptops and Mobile Phones have only seen a growth over the years. Skins was a significant part of this activity, and brands as big as Cellucom and Raghavendra Rathore endorsing it meant that the category had a lot of potential.
Some Live Projects that are on currently in the country and some that have been done in the domain of skins are:
CNBC TV18 has been seen using Skins on their computers that are used by the News Reporters. These skins are a way of ad revenue for the news channel. The brands that have been seen on TV where the skins are used for branding are: Airtel, Forbes, in.com, etc. These skins/stickers do not fully cover the back of the computer screens but yet they garner a large number of eyeballs. It is the latest approach to branding and using free device space, through the ambient medium. Custom made laptop skins have a huge opportunity here.
Royal Challengers Branding
Royal Challengers in the first season of IPL were seen using the Ambient Medium through skins. They used 3M vinyl as skins to brand a lot of free surfaces. This led to a huge excitement about the team and its players during the IPL season amongst the crowds that witnessed such a branding activity undertaken by the team. Here are few of the images of the same:
Kurkure ‘Masti' Express
In 2007, in a path breaking initiative, Kurkure had partnered with South Western Railways to brand 3 summer special trains oringinating from Bangalore. These trains were called ‘Kurkure Masti Special' as Kurkure, belonging to PepsiCo aims at creating mast family moments. These trains would help branding of Kurkure to those families that travel for a summer vacation and create fun-filled Kurkure moments. The brand name Kurkure was featured along with teh trian name in all the announcements, on reservation charts, on tickets, coach indicators, destination boards, and all other information.
This activity generated huge ad revenues for the Railways as well as proved to be a great branding action undertaken by the brand. The rail ministry was of the view that this branding concept was doing well for them and they planned to extend this branding service to more trains in order to be able to increase revenues without increasing fares. However, in June 2008, The Railway Ministry said that no longer would this branding activity take place as it was creating confusion amongst passengers.
Pepsi Blue Billion
In 2007, the Blue Billion campaign was launched by PepsiCo for railway advertising. It was during the ICC Champion's Trophy, when blue coloured trains carried the lucky contestants to the match venue. This was done to cheer the Indian team on three routes. However, these special trains were only for the contest winners, unlike the Kurkure Masti Express.
‘Airtel Rajdhani Express' ran from Delhi to Bangalore featuring a host of additional amenities and services for the passengers. Airtel had tied up with Indian Railways to provide exclusive voice-based railway inquiry. This along with special customer service enabled Airtel to brand the Rajdhani as ‘Airtel Express.'
Phase 1 (b) - Consumer Surveys
Consumer Trends found through respondents in the age-group 16-30
§ Metro Living
While most respondents live in metros, few of them travel to small towns for either work purposes or to meet relatives
§ Media Explosion
A clear indication of over exposure to media is seen in the respondents' daily regime. There is the radio which they listen to voluntarily at home or while travelling, then there is television which gets their eye-balls either during morning or nights for the working class or all day long for others. As most of them are out at public places at least once in the day, they experience different things different times. Sometimes they see new hoarding at old locations, or get pamphlets thrown at themselves on the road for some launch or promotion.
Cell phone remains the most important part of most of their lives. Very few respondents were using a Blackberry. They mostly use their laptops at school, work or at home. More and more of them own personal gadgets like a car, a music system, a bike, an electric shaver or a treadmill.
This included Tommy, Vodafone, Dairy Milk, Google, Apple, Tigi, AMG, Honda, Dove, Penguin Books, Chanel, And1, Levis, Lotus, MAC, Zara, Blackberry, etc.
It was seen that while some respondents brand choices depended on the brand campaign, message, advertisements on the Television, etc. the others thought the use of the product was the only way to like or regularise its purchase. They would refer to personal recommendations or online reviews before they went ahead and made a brand their favourite brand. Then were some respondents who also went with a certain brand perception that existed in the market regarding certain brands like - Apple is for class and innovation; Zara means style; Ferrari defines power and speed; Sony offers superior performance each time, etc.
While most respondents bought their brand of choice themselves, some which were aspirational brands were a part of their future plan. Some expensive brands like a Blackberry or Sony Tv were also bought by the respondents' family for them. Some said that they would endorse what they like, others believed that the brands need no endorsements and will sell for themselves.
Interesting advertising was almost the unanimous point mentioned by the respondents. While they enjoy advertisements, most of them look forward to something different coming their way. Internet and Outdoor came across as significant two mediums.
70% of the respondents know what a ‘Skin' is and 30% of seen it live. The ones who have seen say that there is some or the other form is which they would like to use it; either as a laptop skin, or for their iPod, for their Treadmill or Music player.
§ Branded Skins
50% of the respondents said they would like to use a branded skin, not to endorse the brand, but if the message is very strong, and the design is aesthetic and appealing to their taste.
Consumer Trends found through respondents in the age group 30-60
§ Most of the respondents in the age bracket 30-60 were urban residents
§ While 50% were salaried employees, another 30% had started their own business, while the rest 20% were housewives
§ Most of them owned a Blackberry, and were addicted to it
§ Some of the gadgets owned by them were:
o Cell Phone
o Coffee Maker
o Washing Machine
o Personal Vehicle
o Lazy Boy
o Music System
§ It was seen that in most cases, their lunch was the least time consuming activity in a day, while travelling was the most time consuming activity. This enabled viewing various forms of Media for them, which the majority of them quite liked
§ Favourite Brands ranged from Domestic appliances like Braun and LG to Luxury Brands like Beetle and Mont Blanc
§ While the other set of respondents (16-30) had more aspirational brands in their list, this set of respondents went by experience and quality in choosing their favourite brands. Service, emotional attachment, brand trust, and promise along with the quality played an important part in their choice
§ Most of their purchases were self sponsored, with some guidance taken either by family members or close friends
§ While they did like seeing new ads released in the market, they were also relatively bothered by the clutter that existed. It meant that at any time some brand was trying to reach out to them unwarranted. It disturbed their daily lives that were quite busy and they were of the opinion that if required they will go to the brand, they do not over enthusiasm and information overload from everywhere
§ However, the housewives differed in their views. They believed that the more effort the brands out in, the happier they are. They required the media, cell phone messages, newspaper adverts and radio jingles to make them aware of what's happening where and help them make the best choice
§ Most of the respondents trials or purchases were based on personal recommendations, word-of-mouth, family member's insistence, or online reviews
§ 60% of the respondents are aware what a ‘skin' is. While 20% have also used it during their international visit
§ Few respondents mentioned that while they have seen designs on devices and surfaces before, they did not know about the term ‘skins' until recently
§ While the respondents who have experienced a skin on their phones | laptop | wall, are of the opinion that they appreciate the product, the rest were willing to give it a try
§ Most of the potential skin usage was on surfaces such as washing machine, iPod, Car, Bike, or Cupboards
§ On being asked whether they would endorse a brand through skins, there was a mixed set of answers received:
o Some said if they were extreme fans of the brand and if the skin design looked appealing, then yes
o Some said that they would not endorse a luxury brand through skins as the brand symbolises who they are. Showing it off through skins was not something they agree on doing
o While others said that for professional reasons they would endorse a brand, for instance: on a company laptop; however for personal consumption they would like to customise their own devices
Phase 2 (a) - Brand Managers Interviews
Brand - Dell
Concerned person - Mr. Anil Bhatnagar
Position - Product and Brand Marketing Manager
I met him along with my guide to discuss branding and partnership opportunities with Skins. Dell is a popular Laptop brand. On seeing the product, Mr. Bhatnagar informed me that he knew about the existence of skins. The US arm of Dell was in a partnership with Skinit. Skinit is a US based skinning company. Dell has not brought the skin partner to India as yet due to logistical obstacles. However, the concept of skins was well sold to him and he showed enthusiasm for the same.
Mr. Bhatnagar believed that personalisation of devices is the new direction to take. It is going to be very soon seen that no device and no surface is left blank. There will be branding and designs on each and every empty space. On talking to him about Ambient Media, Mr. Bhatnagar was of the view that while he provides superior quality laptops to his customers, a skin will only help enhance the value of that offering. The customer will find new meaning to his device. He also said that if Dell India was to go ahead with something on the lines of skins, he would require all skins to be custom-cut accordingly, in order to show the Dell logo on the laptop. That takes care of the Dell branding according to him, and sometimes even adds more prominence to an otherwise redundant laptop brand. He said the deal would require the skinning partner to design an exclusive range of skins for Dell customers. And this would be sold by Dell through their various sales channels like online, offline, corporate customers, etc.
Speaking of corporate customers, Dell also led us to Infosys. According to Mr. Bhatnagar, Infosys buys Dell laptops in bulk for their employees. So that led to a special requirement for Dell to skin all those laptops with Infosys branding on them. This leads to a Double-Loop branding. In the entire discussion, the major concern for Dell was the product quality and warranty as the skin is applied put on a superior quality Dell laptop. However, this was solved because of the fact that the skin is made of premium quality 3M vinyl and 3M provides guarantee for the same. So the back-to-back 3M guarantee enables bring equity to this new product.
Brand - Kings XI Punjab
Concerned person - Ms. Carolina Bajaj and Mr. Nikhil Bardia
Position - Group Communications Manager and Team Marketing Manager respectively
IPL is one of biggest properties in the country currently. On meeting the IPL marketing team for Kings XI Punjab, I realised that the business for Licensing and Merchandising is picking up in the country. The team rights can have a lot of value very soon. Kings XI Punjab was in the process of signing up with partners for Merchandising rights. While they have various partners for t-shirts, mugs, caps, etc. they saw Skins as an innovation in their line. The team was enthusiastic about all kinds of skins such as - Laptop skins, Phone Skins, Grippers, Wall skins, Gel skins, etc. They wished to do player branding and team branding through these skins. The skins could be a good way to generate fan following for the team and its players. Mr. Bardia was of the view that while teams crave for fan based loyalty during the IPL season, a product like skins can ensure that by enabling the fans to put the team skins on their mobile phones or laptops or walls and hence create a great branding platform for the team.
While Ms. Bajaj liked the concept of skins, her concerns were about the sale of such a product during the season. She believed that skins can enable the team to practice branding all year round, which one aspect was missing currently. However, other than that, the skins could be sold either online through their official site of through a team's stall at the ground. While on the topic of branding, the team also wished to launch an exclusive product range for their paid fan club. While it would be a huge opportunity and medium for the team to brand, they would require a royalty from their skinning partner in order to sell their property rights to the skinning company.
One of the biggest craze abroad in the domain of skins is life-size wall skins of their favourite players during a game. This was an area that could definitely be entered into by the IPL teams.
Brand - Microsoft
Concerned person - Mr. Rahul Dutta
Position - Marketing Manager
Microsoft - Mr. Dutta was aware of skins as Microsoft had tried something on these lines with Skin Jam. Skin Jam is a Singapore based company that has set-up shop in India. However, the Skin Jam deal did not work out for Microsoft as teh business model was not feasible for Microsoft in India. The time required for installation was high, which meant the customer needed to part with his/her device for 2 hours and wait for it to get skinned. This did not work well for Microsoft and the deal was a failure. As Microsoft deals in both hardware and gaming, Mr. Dutta was still keen on doing something with skins. Especially for their mouse and Xbox. The Microsoft mouse is worth Rs. 3500, and it is primarily bought by corporates in bulk. The color variants of this mouse are only Red and Black. According to Mr. Dutta, this is often a problem, and he believes it can be solved through skins. While individual customers can choose their designs from a fixed set of designs, more importantly, Corporate Branding will be enabled through the skins. Microsoft expressed desire to sell the skin as an Add-on product with an Add-on price.
Apart from this, I also gathered that Microsoft has international deals with Skinit and Gar skins to design and brand the Microsoft skins for Xbox and other products. However, these deals did not enter India due to logistical constraints.
Brand - Nokia
Concerned person - Mr. Ravi Kunwar
Position - Head Branded Retail
The Nokia meeting was on similar lines as the Microsoft discussion. However, I will be stating the key highlights of the same:
§ Nokia as a brand is enthusiastic about skins
§ They believe it can become a complimentary product to cell phones and help sell some models faster
§ Mr. Kunwar was of the opinion to test market the skins concept through their 10 concept stores in various cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Bombay, Hyderabad, Indore, etc.
§ Depending on the customer response, he wished to take it forward to all Nokia Priority Dealers (700 in number)
§ Nokia internationally has dealt with Coveroo (hard back skins) however, in India, they wish to try out Vinyl skins for their handsets
Brand - Leeds University (Bhopal)
Concerned person - Mr. Abhishek Mohan Gupta
Position - Marketing Director
When a sample of skins was sent to Mr. Gupta, he was of the view that the product was an innovative way to enable internal branding of devices. He mentioned that the University provides the students with laptops as a part of the fee. Mr. Gupta asked if a skin could be designed for the University students only with the Univeristy's logo. A sample design was shown to him, and he used the product on his personal laptop. He said that he did not face any problems with the installation, liked the concept and placed an order for 100 such skins for all his students. He mentioned that the University will not charge the students for teh skins, and all students will sport the University's brand on their laptops.
Brand - World Sports Group
On sending the samples of skins to World Sports Group, I spoke to Sanjeev. He was it the marketing team of the company. While the interaction was short, he was of the opinion that the product has finally come to India, and better late than never.
They were looking for ways to enable employee branding within the company. He said that a skin is a nice opportunity. They said that just a logo on a classy leather skin for laptops would do wonders for the brand. It would help the employees connect, enable branding to third parties, and also make the office more stylish!
Phase 2 (b) - Media | Advertisers | Retail
Company - Cool Maal
Concerned person - Mr. Malay Parekh and Mr. Dino Morea
Cool Maal is a merchandising initiative by Dino Morea and Malay Parekh. Both are partners in the business which aims at signing sportsmen and Bollywood stars for their merchandising licences. This is a new concept in India and has seen a lot of success internationally, where more and more companies are coming up to garner revenues from selling merchandise of popular properties to the fans and consumers. Cool Maal is yet in the strategising stage. They are in the process of signing stars and currently have Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni as a part of their team. From my interaction with Mr. Malay, I gathered that Cool Maal is also close to signing Shahrukh Kahn for his line of merchandise.
On showing Skins as a product to the two partners of this new company, I got the following responses:
§ They showed interest in the product and the product range
§ They mentioned seeing the product from a Chinese manufacturer, however, they were not certain about the quality which prevented them from going ahead with the deal
§ Skins would give an innovative edge to their product range which primarily comprised of - key chains, mugs, t-shirts, mouse-pads, pens, caps, etc.
§ The quality if assured as the skins I showed were made by premium quality vinyl manufacturer 3M
§ It provided tremendous opportunity to the company to brand their stars and offer something new to their customers
§ Mr. Malay mentioned that Cool Maal could become a bulk buyer of skins just like a Media Company would buy the product from the manufacturer
§ Cool Maal takes care of the designing aspect of its entire product range
§ Ambient Media was something they had not looked into, and skins provided that opportunity to them
Brand - Vijay Sales
Concerned person - Mr. Nilesh Gupta
Position - Managing Director
Mr. Amit Mohta, my guide to this dissertation had a personal contact with Mr. Gupta. He fixed a meeting for me to discuss skins, the ambient form, branding opportunities and the retail possibilities of the same through Vijay Sales.
On seeing the product, Mr. Gupta was of the view that it had a chance to sell through organised retail as firstly Vijay Sales was in the business of selling Electronic Devices, and secondly, skins was an innovative concept to personalise products for branding. As a retail veteran, he asked me to design a stand for the entire product range. He agreed to help run a Test Market for the product in Vijay Sales top 4 outlets in Bombay. We could stock Laptop and Mobile skins through this test market for one month. Speaking with Mr. Gupta provided a retail market perspective to this product. The result of the test market which was recently carried was that around 20 laptop skins and 30 mobile skins were sold over a period of 30 days. While these skins were purely design based, ambient media is well used by enabling the users to apply the same on their laptops and cell phones. Branding by companies through skins gets more validation in terms of doubts as to whether the product will be accepted, sales would pick up, concept would be well received, etc. However, this said, teh branding still needs a strong message and a stronger campaign to be able to capture audiences through branded skins. This activity helped understand this dimension of the opportunity lying in the form of skins.
Mr. Rajan Nair
Red Palms Consultancy
Mr. Nair has worked in some of the most creative agencies in the country like Contract, Enterprise, Ambience and TBWA Anthem. He was also working with Madison for a short time. He has created some campaigns and worked on well known brands. Some of them are:
§ Raymond's (The Complete Man campaign)
§ NECC (Sunday ho ya Monday...campiagn)
§ The Economic Times (The Power of Knowledge campaign), etc.
Working on so many brands and with so many creative agencies, he gave a rounded perspective to skins. According to Mr. Nair, he had seen skins before once, but never used the same himself. He believes it to be a very powerful medium and an innovative concept that will work very well. He mentioned how some years back, while he was with Camlin, he proposed Camlin to shift its main business from making Geometry cases with equipments to making the boxes to keep the equipments. These boxes would contain changeable inlay cards which primarily are skins so that the kids can change the design as an when they wish. This idea sprang up due to the invasion of multiple Chinese products in the market that launched some or the other fancy angle to a geometry box. Mr. Nair said that since that time, he knows that the concept of skins would eventually catch up.
While personalisation would remain the main business making proposition of skins, he was of the opinion to blend both branding and customising aspect for customers. This would ensure some form of connect that a customer would feel with the product; at the same time ensure successful branding. For example: skin non-obvious surfaces such as cupboards, desks, servers, etc with brands that the customer identifies with, still keeping in place the customers design choices.
He also mentioned that there is a lot of scope to buy the licences of major properties/brands in India such as the recently launched Manchester United cafe in Bombay. Skins can enable bulk merchandising through such fan following leading to branding. While branding is more often intangibles, according to Mr. Nair, skins will help bring the physical form to it. However, all said, skins is still a static product to ‘only' brand. Some engagement or innovation through either the message or the creative needs to capture the audience further.
Mr. C D Mitra
Mr. Mitra has over 20 years of experience working across all functions of Marketing Communications on diverse consumer categories and multiple geographies. His expertise lies in the field of Advertising and Media. A discussion with him on the business of skins was enlightening. He had some academic inputs to offer. According to him, the skin business for branding should be structured into 3 parts. This framework will help a potential company to undertake the project in the right manner. The 3 components to it are:
The use of skins as a branding initiative will emerge from a marketer only if it meets the marketer's communication objective. This communication objective will differ from brand to brand ranging from brand affinity to brand intensity to brand awareness. There are multiple marketing and communications objectives a marketer may have. However, the concept of skinning will be undertaken only if the target consumer is clearly reachable and affected through the product. It depends on what surface is being skinned, how it is being skinned, how long is it being skinned for, etc. Unless the brand sees meaning in reaching the consumer through skins, it will not endorse the medium.
The customer point of view depends on the benefit derived out of such an activity. If a brand wishes to invade a customer's private space by skinning it, then the customer must also endorse the idea. This can be done by means of aesthetic value, monetary value, functional value, etc. If the customer derives some value which is more than the effort expected of him/her, then skins will work for brand managers.
The relationship the brand holds in the consumers mind makes a huge impact on the branding initiatives by brand managers. There are 3 types of brand relationships for a consumer:
a. A brand that is so high in the consumers' perception that a consumer would pay to be seen with the brand. This means the brand's badge value is very high
b. A brand that is at the border-line of acceptance in a consumers mind. This means that a consumer may not pay to be seen with it or use it, but if given for free or with a benefit attached, then using the brand in public is no detrimental to the consumer's image
c. A brand that is below border-line of consumer acceptance and the consumer would not want to be caught with the brand, endorsing it, or using its freebies
However, what works is the deep emotional connect that a consumer may have with certain brands, brands that define the consumers' personality and are essential to his/her identity. These include huge fan clubs such as Manchester United or Louis Vuitton. So as long as the skin enhances the product and provides something extra to the consumer over and above the brand, it is a positive relationship.
Also, according to Mr. Mitra, there should be a triangular fit between the brand - design - customers. If this fit ceases to exist, then the concept will cease to work.
Mr. Mitra was of the view that skins should be avoided on surfaces that can be easily spoilt such as Washing Machines or Coffee Makers, etc. Also there is higher chance of viewership in case of mobile devices than the static ones. Some potential examples of skin tie-ups can be teh South Fan Associations for stars like Rajnikanth or the Institutes that offer laptops as a part of the program to its students. While more opportunities can be explored, Mr. Mitra hold the view that it is subjective to the brand, but teh concept has strength.
This dissertation was on the lines of an Industry Project where I have tried to explore opportunities for a product like ‘Skins' as an Ambient Medium and a sound option for Branding. However, it can be concluded from the above study that while Skins as a business had tremendous potential in India, it required complementing support from the industry players. There can be various aspects that can be initiated through skins such as Personalisation, Employee Branding, Internal Company Branding, External Branding, etc. The main crux of the business model depends on the passing the Intellectual Property Rights of the brand to the Skin manufacturers. This enables the Skin Companies to use the brand designs in order to maximise on both the brand value and the personalisation objective of the customers.
Limitations of the Study
1. Manufacturing Limitations:
As the study was product based, as a part of the secondary research I saw videos of the manufacturing facilities of international players in the skins business. From what was seen, it is visible that they are using sophisticated front-end as well as back-end processes. Whereas, on meeting a skin manufacturer in Bombay, Mr. Parkar who manufactures skins for Top Skin, it was seen that he is using a plain and simple process, using inferior quality vinyl. The printing is through a digital printer which does not give the high-end product quality. This was a limitation, as the skin business is new in the country and very few players are manufacturing the same.
2. Customer Limitations:
The entire thesis was based on hypothetical responses by the customers in the domain of endorsing brands through skins. The primary research enabled me to obtain the views of the respondents on skins branding. However, this research can only be authenticated through actual usage of the product by the consumers.
3. Geographical Limitations:
While most of the work was done while in Ahmedabad, there are a few interviews that were taken from a couple of other cities. This restricts the national perspective one can get on such a market specific study. Most of the respondents interviewed were Ahmedabad based, barring a few. This makes the study geographically limited in its perspective.
4. Time Limitations:
The study was done in a span of 4-5 months. This time frame restricts the amount of data that can be gathered for a market study.
5. Expert Limitations:
The access to Industry Experts was restrained as the Skins Industry is untapped in India. There were no Skinning professionals available who could provide their inputs for this study.
6. Hypothetical Scenario:
As the product requires the real market to speak of its scope, the study entails only a hypothetic situation. The industry professionals interviewed offer their views on the concept, however, it all comes down to the real launch and experiment. This could not be undertaken and experienced through the study
1. There was little or no literature available on ‘skins'. Through this study, I attempted to create a ground for future interested parties who would like to explore the business of skins in India. It is a composite repository of the skins industry that was not available over the net
2. Ambient Media is fast catching up in the country. However, industry professionals are of the view that it is in need of newer means to reach potential consumers. This study helps identify one such potential approach
3. Skins can get static with use. The study attempts to identify global practices in the domain of skins and how it can be made more functional and engaging in our existing landscape
4. The study contributes some expert views on the product which helps authenticate the use of ‘skins' as a future medium of branding
5. As the market for skins is a nascent market, and while it is established that there is a lot of scope for personalisation through skins, the study has discovered scope for branding through skins and enable advertisers to acquire more eyeballs and garner maximum involvement for their brands
6. Through this dissertation, I have studied various business models and designed a hub-n-spoke model for the skins business where hub is defined by the base product skin and spokes are the various means in which skins can be used, i.e. - personalisation of devices, walls, fleet, other surfaces, and consumer durables
7. After studying the business models of multiple international players in the business of skins, the following Revenue Models can be exercised:
a. Conversion Fee Model (this would be purely manufacturing for interested clients and charging the manufacturing fee)
b. Consulting Fee Model (skin manufacturers can provide consulting services on various applications of skins and through multiple mediums, on a case-to-case basis)
c. Application Fee Model (skin manufacturers can provide a 360 degree solution to the client which includes conversion, consulting, and installation)
8. Media Buying and Selling Model (Since surface media will now emerge as a new media available for advertisers, skin manufacturers can buy this media and in turn sell it to various advertisers. For e.g. - A skinning company can buy various forms of skinnable surfaces available for branding, such as CNBC laptops, and these spaces can be sold to the advertisers
9. Since licensing is a new concept picking up in India, skins can be a new entrant in the merchandise portfolio. It can be identified as a new medium for branding and will be a fresh change amidst mundane products like caps, t-shirts, key chains, etc. Also, in the merchandise portfolio, skins will evoke a huge number of eye-balls due to sheer frequency of usage of the device in the public domain.
10. A Study revealed that a company based out of Bombay had done a strategic tie up with Chevrolet Spark whereby the company was using the car as a skinning surface to generate potential recurring ad revenues from clients like Vodafone, HP, Dell, etc. The company bundled this revenue stream in the form of a discount to the end customer buying the car which contributed 80 percent of the EMI paid towards the car. As a result of which, every customer buying the car became a mobile hoarding for the advertiser. This practise can be taken to other devices, such as laptops.
1. Further research into the various manufacturing processes for skins
2. Research into various technological aspects that help add more utility to the product, e.g. - Gripper
3. Research into ways of making skins more engaging for the consumer
4. Investigate new surfaces that can be skinned
5. The Las Vegas Consumer Convention 2010 mentioned that skins will soon become electronic. They will be called e-skins and it will be in the form of a digital surface on the devices. This kind of research will enable to take the skinning business forward.
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