Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mafia Marketing

For weeks now, we had been noticing a simmering of excitement in LL's demeanour.

He would spend hours closeted in his cabin with his EA, who would then stumble out unsteadily, with sheaves of papers spilling out of her file.

Post such a tete-a-tete, we would often see her stagger back into our workstation* with a disoriented air, blinking a little. A bit like a convict let out into the free world after long incarceration. Then spend the rest of her time feverishly typing at her top speed.

* For those who've chanced upon this only now, scroll through the archives for a description of the Workstation in the introductory paragraphs of 'The Day of the Call - I'

I didn't ask her what it was all about as she'd been working beyond her usual 5 p.m. deadline and was consequently frazzled and tight-lipped.

I didn’t mind. It was so good to have some human company in the evening hours besides the hunk of machinery that crowded in from every angle.

I knew LL would tell us himself. All in good time. Ever paranoid about leaked secrets, it was usual for him to act like we were the headquarters of the NSA**. Or that there were hostile agents out to get his cherished trade secrets. This delusion was so much part of his personality that we learned to work with it.

** Oh c'mon! You've read Dan Brown, haven't you?

Besides we'd already guessed. His desktop was littered with mountainous piles of books on branding and marketing by authors both Indian and international.

On this day, he called me in to be witness to a contract for his first literary effort. The success of the Ries' recently launched book on 22 laws had cut him to the quick. Not to be left far behind, he'd decided to pen his own, for Indian markets. He was fulfilling yet another desire to be famous, this time as an author.

Over the next few weeks, any activity that wasn't linked to his book's launch was put on the back burner.

We sent out mailers on priority basis to every unfortunate who'd ever had reason to mail us in the past. No one was spared - this included job applicants to our organisation, cumulatively numbering in their hundreds.

The uncharitable would've called it spam, which we did try explaining but he chose to be conveniently obtuse and said that he didn't understand all these new age words.

Still marvelling at LL's clever and precautionary brainwave of inviting a whole regional sales team to the book launch event ensuring that the venue would appear to be bursting at the seams by his eager fans, we also prepared to attend it ourselves.

After LL grudgingly agreed to contribute cab fare for our 'voluntary' visit to his event, we all closed the office down early, for the first time in the history of Marrkit.

LL had also the foresight to order us to buy one copy each of his book that same evening from the store.

Needless to say, the launch event was deemed a success by the store manager who was bedazzled by the record sales of the book that same evening.

But LL couldn’t relax just yet.

Like an anxious new mother, he would daily scan the 'Bestseller' lists published by a variety of newspapers.

Finally, his book entered second from last - that too in a local rag.

This was unthinkable. Clearly the world would have to be made to sit up and take notice.

The lists were based on sales of books in categories of fiction and non-fiction compiled weekly book-shop wise, which the newspaper then printed as gospel. Having ascertained this fact from the newspaper's editor, LL set his well thought out master plan into motion.

It remains the most perfect campaign I've ever seen. With a hundred percent success rate.

Directed personally by LL, with great finesse and precision.

To digress a bit, altruist that I am, here are pointers for those authors who aspire to bestseller glory:

  • Call up certain friendly college principals and tell them about how the book has taken everyone by storm.
  • Corleone style, make them an offer they can't refuse. Suggest that you would, as a friendly gesture, like to donate your book to the college library.
  • Further suggest that one book would not do for so many b-school students. You'd like to donate one for each student, but please don't tell them that as you would like to keep your act of generosity anonymous.
  • Send out an office employee, your very own trusted Sonny, to various bookstores in each suburb that happen to stock your book to place orders for it. Payments to be made only in cash, lest anyone suspect that the buyer is linked with you in any capacity.
  • Give your gang of employees the mandate to buy your book, minimum 12 copies each over the weekend, again - payments to be made only in cash without revealing names or whom they really work for. Later, reimburse the amount to each employee. Extra books thus amassed at the office can be gifted complimentary to your clients or anyone who happens to wander in at your workplace.
  • Ring up the remaining institute directors and drop into the conversation that so-and-so college has ordered 40 copies of your book for their marketing students and how they are simply cutting-edge when it comes to providing every sort of facility to their students.
  • Tell anyone else who happens to ask that you don't believe in the 'Bestseller' lists and that's not important to you at all. After all, who ever understood the TRP racket? This is much the same. What matters to you is that only one, just one person find your book useful. That is all that would make you feel completely fulfilled. Really.
  • Dial store managers of leading book shops and tell them how successful your book launch event at the other store was. Suggest that you are booked up for various other such launches but you can make time for their store if need be. Do this for all other metro cities too and plan your travel accordingly.
  • Never let anyone outside the Family, know any of this.
Follow this and success is guaranteed. If you are a marketing person***, all this should come easily to you.

*** See 'Glossary' section for definition of a marketing person.

Thank you in advance and the least you could do to express your gratitude is send me a complimentary copy of your book.

And well, some day, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me.

Nothing personal, strictly business.

Oh and before I forget, for those wondering about the fate of LL's first book, by next fortnight it had blazed its way right to the top, no less than Number 1 on the bestseller lists of the two leading newspapers.

Heil LL!


Beta said...

Ha ha. Start a literary agency :-)

Annoymously said...

And make sure ours are published first? :)

Incidentally this piece is dedicated to all the Godfather fans out there.

Anonymous said...

ha ha ha... now i know who to get in touch with wen i write my book... LL ;)

Annoymously said...

No, you gotta get in touch with me! I'm the one starting the lit agency remember? :)