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Amitava Chattopadhyay

Amitava Chattopadhyay
Amitava Chattopadhyay

Hello. Welcome to my musings about the world of branding, marketing and innovation. Apart from my research and publications in the field—case studies, journals, and articles / interviews in popular media—you will find here my opinionated commentary on related themes from around the world, especially about brands from emerging markets trying to make it in the big bad world of multinational competition.

In the Media

Coverage at South China Morning Post

  Apr 10, 2015

When build­ing a brand it’s the expe­ri­ence that matters

Experience matters. We live in an experience age and brands can no longer build strong positions by providing clear functional benefits. In research I undertook with a former colleague, Professor Peter Darke at York University, and then student and now professor at Queens University, Laurence Ashworth, we showed that exposing consumers to irrelevant experiential cues, e.g., asking consumers to listen to music genres they liked versus disliked on a given portable CD player influenced their choice of portable CD players. Consumers chose CD players that were objectively inferior on functional benefits like battery life and weight, two important characteristics of portable CD players, when they listened to disliked music genres on them, even though the music experience was irrelevant to choice. Consumers would, after all, never listen to a disliked genre of music on the CD player once they took it home!

Recent Coverage


Turn­ing your Busi­ness Around in a Declin­ing Indus­try: Lessons from Movie Theatres


The movie the­ater busi­ness offers insights as to how firms can find new oppor­tu­ni­ties for turn­ing around dying busi­nesses by under­stand­ing con­sumers and their needs bet­ter. For movie the­aters in the US and West­ern Europe, view­er­ship peaked in the late 1940s and has since slid by 80% or more, depend­ing on the mar­ket. Tele­vi­sion made the ini­tial dent, fol­lowed by home videos, and most recently the likes of Net­flix and Ama­zon Prime. A com­mon thread that ties all the com­pe­ti­tion together is the tele­vi­sion set. Given this, movie the­aters have recently built on their offer­ing to give movie view­ers an expe­ri­ence that can­not be repli­cated on TV at home.

First came the big screen the­aters and sophis­ti­cated sound sys­tems, which cre­ate a more immer­sive expe­ri­ence. Tech­nol­ogy has pro­vided THX, IMAX, and 3D expe­ri­ences, expe­ri­ences that can­not yet be matched on home sys­tems. Some the­aters today are offer­ing a 4D expe­ri­ence! At these movie the­aters the seats respond to what one is watch­ing on the screen with piped in smells, smoke, and even water sprays!

But, tech­nol­ogy is just the begin­ning. Movie the­aters are doing much more to bring back the crowds, and they are suc­ceed­ing. Recently, my wife and I went for a movie at a the­ater that offered a dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence. On arrival at the the­ater, we were ush­ered to a table in a thought­fully lit space laid out with tables just like one might expect at a nice bistro. We were brought a menu that offered treats that were more bistro-like, going way beyond the basic fare of “Coca Cola and pop­corn” that has been the main­stay of the snacks and the­ater rev­enues. The menu offered the oppor­tu­nity to have our own bot­tle of chilled Moet et Chan­don cham­pagne, canapes, a cheese plat­ter, burg­ers, and much more.


We ordered cham­pagne and canapés and were served at our table with the cham­pagne chill­ing in a bucket of ice. When it was time for the movie we were escorted to our seats inside the the­ater which was next door. And what a seat it was; they made busi­ness class seats on most air­lines seem basic an they offered an almost-private view­ing expe­ri­ence. Reclin­ing in our plush seats side by side, with our own blan­kets and pil­lows, we soon had some­one bring the cham­pagne and canapés from the table out­side to our the­ater seat-side.


Sip­ping on cham­pagne and nib­bling canapés, ensconced in a super com­fort­able seat, and watch­ing a movie together was spe­cial. We enjoyed it thor­oughly and, impor­tantly, look for­ward to doing it again! Per­haps not every time we watch a movie, but cer­tainly from time to time, as an evening out on town!

So, what are the lessons here? First, the movie the­ater indus­try appears to be seg­ment­ing the mar­ket and devel­op­ing tar­geted offer­ings. For cer­tain audi­ences and movie gen­res, the 4D expe­ri­ence makes a real dif­fer­ence. Think teenagers and young adults at an action or hor­ror movie. For, other audi­ences, for instance, cou­ples, the oppor­tu­nity to enjoy a movie accom­pa­nied by one’s favorite bev­er­ages and fin­ger foods might be a real draw.

Sec­ond, in devel­op­ing the tar­geted offer­ings, the the­ater busi­ness is con­sid­er­ing the tar­get con­sumers’ con­sump­tion expe­ri­ence. It’s not just the movie and its abil­ity to draw, or the screen size, or the sound, or…, which has been the con­sid­er­a­tion for decades, but the total in-theater experience.

Third, the ben­e­fits com­bi­na­tion offered is dis­tinct and, impor­tantly, coher­ent. The tech­nol­ogy (e.g., IMAX and THX) and crea­ture com­forts (e.g., seats) are sig­nif­i­cantly supe­rior. There are entirely new ben­e­fits, never pre­vi­ously offered in movie the­aters (e.g., 3D, 4D, fine foods, wine and cham­pagne, blan­kets, pil­lows). And, ear­lier main­stay items like pop­corn have been elim­i­nated! To cre­ate an authen­tic expe­ri­ence one needs to keep in mind what goes together, offer­ing supe­rior and new ben­e­fits on the one hand and bal­anc­ing it with the reduc­tion or elim­i­na­tion of other and often con­flict­ing ben­e­fits. In this case din­ing while watch­ing a movie and pop­corn do not go together, and the movie the­ater has wisely removed pop­corn from its menu!

Last but not least, it’s not focused on tech­nol­ogy.  It’s look­ing around and com­bin­ing expe­ri­en­tial aspects from dif­fer­ent indus­tries – restau­rants and air­lines, to name two, to offer a com­pletely new expe­ri­ence.  If you haven’t been to a movie the­ater recently to take in a movie, go check it out. You might be in for a very pleas­ant surprise!


  Aug 17, 2014 | Musings

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When building a brand it’s the experience that matters

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