The biggest analysts could not foresee that a 20,000 market (the Bombay Stock Exchange with the benchmark Sensex at 20,000) could go into a free fall. No one imagined that some of the most revered names in the global financial world would disappear overnight.
And then, I saw the darnedest sight: an ad for Merrill Lynch and Co. in The Economist. Were these guys completely cuckoo? Consider this: Bank of America Corp. paid $50 billion (Rs2.43 trillion) for this company with one leg in the grave.
Why do the really smart guys retain their marketing budgets in bad times?
• Most companies will slash their spending. The entire expenditure in the category falls. Guess what? The guy who retains his marketing spending suddenly has a much higher share of voice. When there is less noise in the market, you can only sound louder.
• When the media market shrinks, deals abound. You end up getting much better value for the same budgets.
• Your confidence infects the entire ecosystem. The trade pushes your product harder.
• Finally, when things turn around, folks will always remember the good stuff that they used in bad times.
When 9/11 happened, most airlines were dead certain that the world would stop flying from 12 September 2001. In the face of this gloom, a certain Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum (chairman of Emirates Airline) ordered $26 billion worth of aircraft. Emirates hasn’t seen a drop of red ink on its balance sheet since then. How many airlines can claim a similar record?
Apple Inc. has not cut back a penny from its original plans or got rid of a single person in an economy that will shed close to a million people by the end of the year.
In November, Bharti Airtel Ltd unveiled a Rs15 crore logo that reflected its $10 billion ambitions.
Are these guys gamblers? Or just foolhardy fruitcakes with king-sized egos?
What really separates the men from the boys is a management that seriously believes that its brands are real business assets. If you were certain that at least half the value of your business exists only because you own the word “Coke” or “Intel” or “Disney”, would you starve it?
The moral of the story is that sound offerings with quality leadership will always back themselves to win under any conditions. At the worst of times, people have to fly, borrow, stay in hotels and buy a meal. The million-dollar question is whether your (products) will be the one that these folks buy.
Ramesh Jude Thomas is president and chief knowledge officer, Equitor Management Consulting Pvt. Ltd.
As told to Anushree Chandran.