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Amitava Chattopadhyay

Amitava Chattopadhyay
Emerging Market Multinationals - Amitava Chattopadhyay


Brands crying wolf (stock out) once too many times can hurt their own brand reputation and that of their retailers’!

A Times of India article on July 29, 2014, reporting on the launch of the Mi 3 smartphone by Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer, said that “Xiaomi has claimed that its Mi 3 smartphone went out of stock in just 5 seconds, … when it was put up on sale on Flipkart today. Last week, it had taken 39 minutes for the stock to finish when Mi 3 was first put on sale by the company…Xiaomi has, like last time, not revealed exactly how many units were up for sale in this round.”
Xiaomi makes a mockery of Mi 3 sales - The Times of India
Many companies deliberately engineer stock outs to create demand as a stock out can be interpreted as a stock out can be a signal of huge demand. However, there is a fine line in managing this and repeatedly using such an approach comes across as gimmicky, fake, and an annoyance for the consumer, creating a negative consumer sentiment.

Consider this, in the first round of sales on July 25th, 100,000 people registered on Flipkart, the Indian online retailer, for the Mi3 smartphone. With two rounds completed, not all of the 100,000 people who originally registered have yet been able to acquire an Mi3 handset and, according to the Times of India, Xiaomi has “allowed more people to register for the device.” This has made matters even more aggravating for those who are waiting in line.

To rub salt on the proverbial wound, Xiaomi has now announced: “Note that users who have previously registered will have to register again for a chance to purchase” for the next “flash sale” that is scheduled for August 5, 2014.

Xiaomi twitter
Not surprisingly, consumers in India are unhappy. Some consumers have tweeted, expressing dissatisfaction about the difficulty of registering in the first place! One irate consumer, a tech blogger with 11,800 followers (twitter handle @Rajupp) has uploaded a video of his negative experience on YouTube, tweeting the link! Others have tweeted their frustration!
Xiaomi frustration tweetabout_blank copysamsung copy

Xiaomi appears very happy with the results: Manu Jain, India Operations Head, Xiaomi, said, “We are pleasantly surprised and delighted with the overwhelming response we have received from our India fans.”

I am, however, not so sure that Xiaomi will be happy in the long run. As I said earlier, there is a fine line between signaling you have a hot product, and annoying consumers through what blatantly appears to be a deliberate ploy. The negative reactions are mounting, and my take is that this is likely to damage the brand reputation of Xiaomi in the Indian marketplace. It is also likely to damage the reputation of Flipkart, since anger is likely to spillover on to the retail partner, and it has in this case!

Flipkart copy

Are shows with more tweets better to advertise on?

The media is flooded with reports on Twitter’s impending IPO and along with it articles on how tweets are being analyzed to generate insights in a variety of contexts. One particular item in the flood of Twitter related articles caught my attention. The article noted that Neilsen had compiled a new rating of TV shows based on the number of tweets the shows generated. The article argued that perhaps this new index was valuable since it might indicate the consumers’ engagement with the show and thus perhaps with ads embedded within it.

On reflecting on this, it seemed that it was too early to make a call on the value of this new metric. First of all, the level of tweeting would depend on the nature of the audience attracted to the show. Thus, shows that drew a more tech savvy audience or perhaps a younger audience is more likely to have more tweeters in the audience to begin with, thus increasing the likelihood of show related tweets. In that case, the tweet rating would have no value beyond signaling the audience composition. It would certainly be no indication of whether or not the shows viewers were more engaged with the show or with the ads embedded within the show.

If we for a moment assume that tweets about shows signal greater consumer engagement with the show, the question still remains as to its implications for advertisers. It seems to me that one needs data in this regard and one cannot make the leap of faith that greater engagement with a show translates in to greater engagement with embedded ads. Indeed, one could make precisely the opposite case. The more engaged one is with the show perhaps the more annoying the commercial breaks become since they interrupt the flow of the show. To the degree interruption is annoying; one’s negative feelings are likely to transfer to the embedded commercials, leading to poorer impact.

Indeed there is research that speaks to this issue. Work by Park and McClung (1986), shows that the more involved consumers are with a TV program the less they are involved with embedded commercials. Moreover, my own work on the impact of moods generated while viewing programs on embedded commercials (Mathur and Chattopadhyay 1991) .


C. Whan Park and Gordon W. McClung (1986), “The Effect of TV Program Involvement on Involvement with Commercials,” in Advances in Consumer Reseach, Vol. 13, ed. Richard J. Lutz, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, 544-548.

Mahima Mathur and Amitava Chattopadhyay (1991),”The Impact of Moods Generated by TV Programs on Responses to Advertising,” Psychology and Marketing, 8 (1), 59-77.

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