Marrygold: Misplaced Perception Due to Cultural Differences
Expectations and perceptions of customers are the consequences of a firm's marketing communications. This is accentuated when the firm provides a service that is dependent on the changing perceptions of culture, traditions and heritage. In the Indian context, Marrygold, a boutique matchmaking firm provides an interesting study into these aspects of branding. It proves the significance of segmentation, targeting and positioning in devising the brand name of an organization and other branding tools that are used to communicate and appeal to the target society.
Indians live (or so is it said) their culture, traditions and heritage in every walk of life. Political parties have been formed, governments have risen and fallen and generations have fought over this simple but emotionally engaging concept. Hence when one ventures to create and deliver a service that embraces the changing culture and philosophies of the society, one has to be very careful that the enterprise finds favor with at least a major section of the society, if not the society in its entirety. Marketing the service plays a crucial role in gaining this acceptance. The case in point here is a boutique matchmaking firm called Marrygold. The firm had to bring about a change in its name and also rethink the kind of customers it wanted to target and position itself differently in the minds of its customers simply because its initial efforts in promoting itself did not cater to the Indian mindset.
The Evolution of the Matchmaking Industry
Biblical reference of human evolution says that God Himself found a match for Adam! Hence one cannot trace back to the origins of match making as an industry. But what one can be sure about is that the process of finding a match, irrespective of the time that it is operated in, is very engaging to the stakeholders. The evolution in this process is evident from the gradually increasing roles of the potential brides and grooms in finding their own matches as compared to the traditional domination of their families in this decision. Relatives and friends who were the major intermediaries are being slowly substituted by organized marriage brokers and websites.
The Need Gap
Relatives and friends who were the prime intermediaries in the matchmaking process are being slowly substituted by organized marriage brokers and websites.
Better education, opportunities and westernization in India has led to increased interactions between members of opposite genders compared to a generation before. The increased career focus of these educated men and women often result in marriages being delayed to later stages of their youth. Rarely has any matchmaking intermediary in India focused on the educated, late marriage seekers and given them personalized services in helping them find a match rather than just providing a bunch of available profiles. Managing a database that is based on objective criteria such as caste, religion, age etc, is very simple in this high technology age. However, the fact that such people are expected to give more importance to similarity in thoughts and ideologies more than traditional factors such as caste, creed and language, strengthens the need for a specialized service.
Marrygold: From Dates and Honey to Marriage
Established as Dates and Honey in Bangalore, Marrygold offered personalized matchmaking services. While personalized service was their unique selling point (USP), Dates and Honey also promised confidentiality of personal information and reference check from parents, friends and colleagues to attract and retain customers. In addition to this, Dates and Honey had other unique services that differentiated it from other matrimonial portals. The firm used the power of Buzz1 marketing, to achieve popularity among bachelors and teenagers.
Dates and Honey intended to position itself as a service organization that could facilitate its customers to meet with an emotional match so that they could understand each other and possibly marry. However, the name "Dates and Honey" gave a completely untrue picture as the firm was perceived as a dating agency. As a consequence, the firm could not reach their target clients. To top it all, the Indian culture did not approve of casual dating and thus it received strong opposition from the older generations. This created a very unfavorable climate for Dates and Honey to function as a business.
The debacle led the firm to rethink its strategy and positioning. The firm wanted to associate itself more strongly with elements relating to marriage. This gave rise to a rebranding initiative and led to the choice of the name "Marrygold" that represented the auspicious aura surrounding the flower marigold. This gave the firm a much needed serious disposition and thus improved its brand image that was now accepted by the society. It was now perceived as working in the match making domain for marriage rather than dating.
These actions of the firm can be analyzed through the lens of theory to find ratification, if any. Segmentation, targeting and positioning and other marketing concepts can be employed to form the basis for recommending further actions to Marrygold to establish itself.
Different Needs, Different Matches
A marketer can rarely satisfy everyone in the market, more so if the product or service is niche. Philip Kotler, the marketing Guru, defines2 Niche as a narrowly defined customer group seeking a distinctive mix of benefits.
"Small business is uniquely positioned for niche marketing. If a small business sits down and follows the principles of targeting, segmenting and differentiating, it doesn't have to collapse to larger companies."
For example, Scorpio, a sports-utility vehicle (SUV) was launched in India by Mahindra & Mahindra in 2002 to satisfy the distinctive requirement of those customers who prefer luxury and comfort. Marketers divide the market into segments in order to identify and profile distinct groups of buyers. Such segmentation of a niche service like personalized matchmaking is not a straight-forward task. The segmentation based on demographics yields a set of groups that have minimum intra-group variance and maximum inter-group variance. Thus it would not be possible to conclude if one of these groups could be targeted. Therefore, the "User Status" based segmentation methodology is adopted for this study.
The segmentation is based on the types of the partner seekers. The customers can be segmented as
- Just In: These are the prospects that are old enough and are settled. They are open to the idea of marriage; however they are not actively seeking for a partner.
- Active Lot: These are the people who are actively looking for a partner.
- Late Takers: These are people who are slightly old for marriage and consequently struggle to find a match, compared to the other two categories. This segment can be further sub-divided into
- Caste Conscious: Conservative prospects who have caste as a parameter for selection
- Open: Open minded customers who might give some importance to finding a match from the same religion, but definitely do not consider caste as one of the parameters.
Zeroing in on the Right Segment
The Just In segment of customers are generally young and do not express a compelling need for the service that Marrygold offers. The Active Lot segment also uses a small leeway since they have not yet crossed the so called "marriageable age".
However, the Late Takers segment will find Marrygold's offering very attractive. The empathy and understanding that Marrygold assures makes them more comfortable in accepting the service offering. There could be more reasons for the members of this segment remaining single than what meets the eye. Thus, they would be willing to pay a premium if they find the service satisfying their needs with the level of understanding they expect. This makes the Late Takers segment most attractive for the firm and it can be concluded that the firm should target this segment exclusively.
Friend, Philosopher and Guide?
Points of parity (POP) are associations that are not necessarily unique to one brand but may be shared with other brands. For instance, VISA and American Express share similar types of credit card facilities like gold and platinum cards. In the case of Marrygold, the POP is that it offers diverse profiles to its customers and facilitates meetings between interested parties.
A point of differentiation (POD) however is essentially a feature of a product or service which consumers believe cannot be found in other brands offering similar product or service. For Marrygold, the POD is its "Personalized matchmaking" proposition - every client is interviewed personally by the owners, and suitable matches are handpicked based on their understanding of the personalities of the concerned people.
Keeping this in mind, Marrygold should position itself as a "Friend, Philosopher and Guide" and put forth a value proposition of being there to help and facilitate the process of marriage after careful scrutiny of the situation without falling prey to external influences. However, a firm positioning decision is not even half the job done. Communicating that proposition clearly through the branding exercises is of utmost importance.
Marrygold should position itself as a "Friend, Philosopher and Guide" and put forth a value proposition of being there to help and facilitate the process of marriage after careful scrutiny of the situation without falling prey to external influences.
The two main qualities that influence the success of Marrygold's positioning as "Friend, Philosopher and Guide" are trust and confidentiality The challenge is to translate these into a clear and crisp brand identity statement. This brand identity statement will solely influence the brand image generated by Marrygold. One such statement is
"A humane, sincere and classy path to lifelong companionship"
This statement assures the customers - current and prospective - that the firm provides matchmaking services in a humane and sincere manner. This also helps in differentiating the firm from the league of other available matchmakers and emphasizes the fact that it looks at providing this service in a caring and friendly manner.
Services are always delivered and consumed at the same time. Unlike goods, one cannot have an objective proof of quality in services. The delivery is also intangible and this makes it imperative for service firms to consider all the parameters that affect the perceptions of target customers before making its offering, so that the expectations and perceptions match, thus providing it with the required trust and support to grow and serve.
Marrygold, the firm under study offers a service that caters to a section of the society whose perceptions about culture and traditions are changing. In its initial years as "Dates & Honey", the firm evoked criticism due to misplaced perceptions of its service. However, on repositioning as Marrygold, the firm attracted its target group successfully and created a buy in even among the section of society that initially opposed it. This proves the significance of the basic steps of segmentation, targeting and positioning in a firm's marketing process. Marrygold was lucky to have managed a successful repositioning. However, a bigger business house might have found the same process impossible to execute as lost goodwill is tough to regain.
Nagasimha Balakrishna Kanagal is an Associate Professor in the Marketing Area at IIM Bangalore. He holds a PhD in Management Science from The University of Texas at Dallas. He also has a M.A. in International Management Studies and M.S. in Management and Administrative Sciences from the same university. He earlier has completed his MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and B.E from Bangalore University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Debabrata Ghosh (PGP 2007-09) holds a B.Tech degree in Mechanical Engineering from Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore. He can be reached at email@example.com
Nisha Jayaram (PGP 2007-09) holds a B.E degree in Electrical and Electronics from RV College of Engineering, Bangalore. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cherian Joseph N. (PGP 2007-09) holds a B.Tech degree in Electronics & Instrumentation Engineering from Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore. He can be reached at email@example.com
Shyam Patwari (PGP 2007-09) holds a B.E degree in Electronics & Communication from National Institute of Technology (NIT) Surathkal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shyam Sanker P. S. (PGP 2007-09) holds a B.Tech degree in Computer Science from National Institute of Technology (NIT) Calicut. He can be reached at email@example.com
Chandra Prakash Tiwari (PGP 2007-09) holds a B. Tech. in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Marketing, Matchmaking, Segmentation, Targeting, Positioning, Branding, Indian culture
- Buzz marketing technique attempts to make each encounter with a consumer appear to be a unique, spontaneous personal exchange of information instead of a calculated marketing pitch.
- Kotler et al, Marketing Management - A South Asian Perspective , pp 204, 13th edition, Pearson Education Asia Pvt. Ltd.