brand storyteller, content strategist, thought leader
Behind the Words
For as long as I can remember I've enjoyed stories about people and places. I devoured books as I grew into my teenage years and my love for reading was inherited from my mother who read avidly and passed on her joy of reading to me and my sisters. I went on to read History because stories of conquest and accomplishment, great victories and crushing defeats, of valor and heroism were an endless source of fascination to me. From studying history and political science, I pivoted to business studies and pursued an MBA.
I sought a career in branding and marketing communications before pivoting again to explore curriculum design and content development in the product management space. Today I write about people and products in business. With Professor Mohan Sawhney at the Kellogg School of Management I have written about key topics in Product Management in both startups and established companies, and helped design and develop a graduate course in Product Management. Presently, I’m collaborating on an online course on Product Management launching soon – stay tuned! I'm also the organizer of Chicago Women in Product Meetup group.
. Feel free to contact me directly if you would like to learn more about me and my work.
My Case Study Publications
The following is a collection of writing projects I’ve worked on in my career. Each piece is unique in style and content, and represents a company or protagonist grappling with a distinct decision problem. Together, they help illustrate my journey as a writer. I hope you enjoy my work, and I invite you to contact me with any questions or inquiries.
ONEPLUS: CROSSING THE CHASM IN THE SMARTPHONE MARKET
In early 2016, after the success of its first two smartphones, the OnePlus One and OnePlus 2, China-based startup smartphone maker OnePlus was deciding how to build on its early success and grow into a global contender in the highly competitive smartphone market. Technology enthusiasts and geeks had flocked to purchase the first two generations of its smartphones and expectations were high for the company's next product. The company's founders, Pete Lau and Carl Pei, faced the challenge of broadening the appeal of OnePlus to address the mainstream market without alienating its core customer base. "Crossing the chasm" from the early adopters to the mainstream market involved addressing three interrelated questions: First, what segments should OnePlus target as it sought to grow beyond its loyal fan base? Second, what value proposition and positioning strategy should it adopt to appeal to these target customers? Finally, what distribution and marketing communications strategy should it employ to make best use of its limited financial resources? A key consideration in formulating its strategy was to stay true to the company's culture and mission of "Never Settle" by charting its own course and not emulating the strategies of much larger competitors like Apple,
HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE - USING DIGITAL AND SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BRAND STORYTELLING
After the successful release of the first Hunger Games film in 2012, the film's distributor, Lionsgate, was preparing to release the next movie in the series, Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Fan expectations had grown after the success of Hunger Games and Lionsgate faced the challenge of keeping moviegoers interested and engaged in another Hunger Games movie. In an era marked by the rising popularity of digital and social media, Lionsgate knew that attracting fans to a sequel meant pushing the boundaries of traditional marketing tactics. Digital brand storytelling is about using digital media in a holistic way to tell a brand story and build excitement for an audience. Brand storytelling seeks to make a connection with the audience by giving them an emotional experience that resonates with them. While Lionsgate was aware that traditional marketing would need to be blended with a digital campaign to bring in moviegoers, it also needed to strike a careful balance between the two and choose the appropriate platforms to tell a cohesive story. Should Lionsgate launch a brand storytelling campaign to appeal to fans? Lionsgate's comparatively small marketing team gathered to brainstorm about how to execute such a campaign and position the film for another big success.
KINDLE FIRE: AMAZON'S HEATED BATTLE FOR THE TABLET MARKET
This case is intended to illustrate to readers the challenges faced in 2011-2013 by Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, as he guided his company into the exploding tablet market. Faced with the tough decision between focusing on the e-reader market-which Amazon had come to dominate with its Kindle product line-and making a foray into tablets-for which it had no expertise-Bezos chose the latter. Amazon sought to combine platform assets to create an end-to-end experience that would let users find a "sweet spot" in the mix of features and services. This strategy involved critical decisions such as selecting a customer segment to target and a positioning for the new product, dubbed the Kindle Fire, as the tablet market rapidly evolved. The Kindle Fire was designed to put the full Amazon experience right into the laps of customers, and Bezos was betting that his customers would see the Kindle Fire as the physical manifestation of all things Amazon. To achieve this, Amazon was willing to heavily subsidize the Kindle Fire hardware device. The key assumption was that the superior end-to-end experience Amazon had carefully created would lead to incremental purchases of content as well as physical products and services, and the margins thus gained would outweigh the hardware subsidy.
WMS: REVENUE MODEL INNOVATION FOR GAMING SOLUTIONS
In 2014 WMS Gaming, a manufacturer and seller of slot machines to casinos, was considering a redesign of its existing revenue model. As technology evolved and customer demand for gaming solutions intensified, new and innovative revenue models were being adopted in other technology markets. Most notably, the subscription revenue model, in which customers paid a monthly subscription fee rather than a large upfront fee, was becoming widely adopted in the software industry. Product manager Dayna Stone had the task of evaluating several revenue models and recommending one that most suited WMS's business needs and at the same time took customer needs and wishes into consideration. Complicating this decision were several factors that would have to be kept in mind. Americans' love of gaming had led to a mushrooming of casinos, which meant increased competition for casino dollars. Yet the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath had weakened demand for casinos. In addition, casinos, depending on the type of customers they attracted, differed in their appetite for innovation and maintenance of their slot machines. Students will step into the shoes of Dayna Stone as she undertakes the task of weighing these factors and selecting the right revenue model.
MOTOROLA'S DROID 2: THE PRODUCT MANAGER'S DILEMMA
After it introduced the extremely successful Droid smartphone into the market in 2009, Motorola quickly moved to develop the next-generation Droid 2 before the next wave of smartphones (including the rumored iPhone 4) flooded the market. The development process was moving smoothly for the company when Verizon, its biggest partner, dropped a bombshell. It wasn't happy with the mechanical camera button on the Droid 2 (citing customer feedback) and wanted it to be changed to a software button like the iPhone's. This request immediately placed Motorola in the proverbial horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, it couldn't brush away the request of its biggest and most important partner. On the other hand, changing the camera button now would mean delaying the Droid 2's entry into the market. Should the Droid 2 team remove the camera's hardware button in favor of a software button per Verizon's request, or not?
MODU: OPTIMIZING THE PRODUCT LINE
Israeli entrepreneur and inventor Dov Moran envisioned the creation of a mobile device that was a small, stand-alone, fully functional mobile phone that could be slipped into a variety of enclosures, or "jackets," that would provide added functionality and better reflect the personalities of its users. As the development of the Modu phone began to take shape, Moran and his team decided that to ensure the success of the new phone's much anticipated launch, Modu would develop and market the accessory jackets itself. The question now was which of the eight jackets to develop and what factors should be considered in making that decision. The case is about how to estimate optimal product-line extensions after accounting for experience curve and cannibalization effects of products that share similar features, cost, and price. This will require quantitative analysis that estimates the effect of the experience curve and cannibalization on cost, revenues, and ultimately profit. The issue is how to optimize profits by choosing an ideal set of products.
BEST BUY: CREATING A WINNING RETAIL CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
After a successful run for many years as a resilient consumer electronics giant, Best Buy was under intense pressure at the end of 2014. Even as competitors like Circuit City melted away, Best Buy had been able to withstand the onslaught of online behemoth Amazon and discount retailers like Target and Walmart. However, its competitive position was threatened as online shopping became more popular, particularly among millennial customers. With a new leadership team, Best Buy had recently undertaken bold initiatives to expand and refine its online presence and position itself for success. These initiatives had produced encouraging results, but Best Buy needed to do more to stem the loss of market share to Amazon and to become more relevant to millennial customers. To address these challenges, Best Buy approached the Kellogg School of Management to solicit ideas from student teams by sponsoring a Business Challenge competition. The teams came up with several strategic initiatives. Best Buy needed to evaluate these initiatives on two criteria: First, how well did these initiatives leverage Best Buy's privileged physical assets (stores, salespeople, and Geek Squad services staff) to create a winning customer experience? Second, how effective would these initiatives be in attracting and retaining millennial customers?
VMOCK: PIVOTING TO SUCCEED AN SCALE IN A TECHNOLOGY STARTUP
In 2010, Salil Pande founded VMock, an online product that helped MBA students prepare for job interviews. Students could upload their video interviews and get feedback from mentors and peers. Four years later, VMock pivoted from an interview feedback product to a "Smart Resume" product that focused on improving resumes. The pivot was based on the insight that job candidates first needed help fixing their resumes before they could obtain and prepare for interviews. Further, the interview feedback product was difficult to scale as it relied on human feedback. The Smart Resume product, on the other hand, was powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence technology, making it more scalable and allowing VMock to evolve its offering from a product to a platform for managing careers. VMock had forged strong relationships with top business schools in the United States and Europe and its Smart Resume platform had been well received by the market. Now Salil and his wife (and head of product development), Kiran, had to determine the next step in the company's evolution. They realized that the time had come to take their business to the next level. But they were faced with several options on how to go about scaling VMock. Should they market directly to consumers or should they use partners to scale their user base? Should they create a solution for employers to help them recruit and manage talent? What revenue streams should they focus on to maximize growth and profitability? These strategic decisions would be key to the survival and growth of VMock.
"To write well, express yourself like the common people, but think like a wise man"