Dogs in the White House and frugal product management

Trump was the first US president in a century not to have a pet at the White House.  This became the theme for an ad run by Biden supporters “Choose Your Humans Wisely”. It’s a lovely example of how good marketing dovetails with good product design – highlighting every positive attribute, the long tail of attributes as it were. Pun intended. I saw a product from VLCC at a local cosmetic store. It was a Throat and Neck wrinkle cream. It caught my attention for being so specific, and I asked the owner of the shop whether it actually worked. She replied that you should put it on, then go for a 30 minute walk, twice a day. That’s when it works. Wouldn’t it be great if we could bake in exercise as a product attribute?! This is of course an example of marketing stepping in to fill in a product deficiency. Or take the case of Sebamed which has been allowed to continue with its pH of 5.5 campaign. Sebamed has only one hammer – that of pH – and is beating every nail in sight with it. What is surprising is that brands which don’t have pH anywhere in their product design or marketing story, are responding to this – completely against the tenets of efficient (and effective) product marketing.

I conducted a session on Frugal Product Management for the Institute of Product Leadership. It’s an extension of my thinking on Frugal Marketing. It is important that the product design and roadmap consider the marketing approach and build in the key elements as much as possible. For example, referrals are a frugal and effective way to get sales. But not many products are designed to be referred. It is an integral and easy to find feature in the Uber App but not as common as it should be across others. In the session I shared two principles – Think Sharp, Think Broad – which seem contradictory but each has an important role to play. If you’d like to watch a recording it is available at and a copy of the deck is available at here

I’m working on my book, No Money Marketing, (yes, finally finished updating it!) and it puzzles me why frugal marketing is not more prevalent. Frugal doesn’t mean cutting corners or spending less money in absolute terms – it just means you have to think differently and look harder for your resources. While the Top 10 in any category certainly have benefits to offer, there can be many gains in working with #11. Even more so in a fiercely competitive country like India. Just look at the winning Indian cricket team – BCCI contracts a grade C player like Washington Sundar at Rs 1 crore, while a grade A+ player like Virat Kohli gets Rs 7 crores! Yet Grade C can produce a win too. Indeed, looking beyond the obvious can create more unique, personal, memorable experiences because of the serendipity.

Page 3 was often the most viewed page in a newspaper, after the front page. Today, with the focus on being on the first page of search results we’ve stopped looking at it. But it’s pretty hard to be even on the page 2 of a search. You’ve still got to be pretty competent. So look at the tremendous value we ignore when we don’t look beyond the obvious!

Happy searching!

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Jessie Paul is the Founder and CEO of Paul Writer, a firm she founded in early 2010 to raise the bar for marketing in India. Previously, as Chief Marketing Officer of Wipro’s IT business and as Global Brand Manager at Infosys, Jessie has been recognized for her contribution towards putting the Indian IT industry on the global map. With over 18 years in services marketing, including a stint with Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, Jessie is considered an expert in brand globalization and has been named one of the most influential business women in the Indian IT industry.


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