I like Sialkot. I enjoyed visiting the 19th century Anglican Cathedral, recently restored, and the hospitality of the troops at the border with India. It is a sad border, really, since there has been fighting there and Sialkot would be much richer if no border existed at all. Yet it is still a vibrant place with a new industry funded airport.
Sialkot nestles in India’s Punjab Province. While ancient Cordoba had silver and leather as the main industries Sialkot today has leather and medical instruments. The leather trade has been made famous by soccer balls, first made for the British Garrison 130 years ago, but now we see more low priced gloves for motor cycling and other sports.
In the last few year Sialkot has become famous for another thing. Exceptionally bad Internet marketing. For many years this has been Spam e-mails targeted at any one in the leather trade with a web site of any type. This has been unpleasant but easily managed along with sex enhancement and fabulous financial offers from Western Africa. But in the last year this has transferred into the area of Social Media – Facebook and LinkedIn. One careless stroke of the keyboard and one’s news stream on Facebook suddenly because loaded with pictures and news that are just pure advertising.
What our friends in Sialkot, indeed throughout the sub-continent, must remember is that Social Media is private space in which consumers spend their leisure time. Marketers have to enter that space with very great care. This is the area where we talk about permission marketing. Consumers opening up Facebook to see what their friends were doing at the weekend do not want to be bombarded with photos of shoes and gloves which are put there for commercial purposes. Just as annoying is when you get into a serious discussion on LinkedIn and up pops someone saying that all your problems will be solved if you buy gloves from Sialkot. This is not good.
“Sialkot, 30th June 2010,
We are Manufacturers & Exporters of all kind of Gloves, Motorbike gloves, Motocross gloves, Leather gloves, Ski gloves, Dress gloves, Cycling gloves, Sports gloves, Leather Chaps, Pent, Vest, Jackets and as well Tool bags.
We have well experience of manufacturing at our credit, we therefore can meet your requirements in a better way and in a perfect manner.
You are requested to direct your trade inquiries toward us for best price quotes.
With keen interest we are looking forward for your prompt and positive reply.
Mr Export Manager, this is not good at all. Being Sialkot and June 2010 being the month of the World Cup there is another message that we should send to you. Jabulani – which means “celebrate” in Zulu – is the name of the seamless machine made synthetic football made by Adidas. What it has shown is that the move to synthetic machine made balls has gone too far. In the UK John Lewis sold a traditional 1970s leather football for £35. It is perhaps for display but I bought one to play with and would have bought more had they been in stock. They bounce well, they are a joy to kick and dribble. The old issues of getting heavy in the wet and losing shape can be managed now. So if ever there was a moment for retro move back to hand sewn or partially hand sewn soccer balls now is the time. Not everyone is going to play with them; even if the price is reduced as volumes and efficiency grow they will still be expensive. But they last and will be easily affordable for all top matches down to local leagues. And they are leather, naturally!
So instead of all this unpleasant intrusive promotion why does Sialkot not undertake a total rebranding based around 150 years of leather quality and craftsmanship and spearhead it by featuring global crafted leather soccer balls. Now that would be a campaign worth running. And because it is out of Pakistan with all its problems it would have to managed very cleverly, but with some bright ideas the apparent disadvantage of the origin could be turned to a huge advantage. Forget the spam, go for the real business and win friends on the way.