Perspective | Brand mantras altering; high consumer connect is the focus!

With the technological revolution that the 21st Centaury has experienced, it can be easily christened as a ‘Digital Centaury’. This, we believe is not only for the youth, but also for market custodians. No matter what and how the brand is, for marketers today, a basic and a ‘must’ market strategy is targeting consumers on the digital medium.   

Brands that are low on consumer involvement are also seen adopting various innovative strategies on the digital medium to create a direct communication with their consumers. These brands are using digital platforms not only to interact directly with their customers but also to get involved in their daily life through developing various communities and offering them more than just the brand’s products.

Adgully caught up with some industry custodians like Harshil Karia, Co-founder & Online Strategist, FoxyMoron, Deba Ghoshal, Marketing Head, UPBG (Unitary Products Business Group), Voltas, Nimesh Shah, Head Maven, Windchimes Communication and Subhash Kamath, managing partner, BBH India to get some more and in-depth understanding on the subject matter.

Speaking on how brands are becoming sensitive towards creating a direct connect with the customer and how they are using digital media in the most optimum way, Deba Ghoshal opined, “Social media has fundamentally changed the way in which consumers experience brands. Consumers expect their brand experience to be seamless, no matter where they encounter the brand, regardless of the channel, especially considering the advent of smart phones. In a high involvement category like air conditioners, which has a significant post sales engagement, brands are exposed to peer / social recommendation, where consumers make purchasing decisions based on their personal / social network. Recommendation from friends and relatives is a very important factor behind the brand choice for air conditioners and consumer durables. In order to be effective, brands must give consumers a reason to share, and recommend it further.”

“We at Voltas have directed efforts at employing a social media strategy that connects and supports the user experience, and forms an important touch point that acknowledges and acts promptly, thereby leading to a positive engagement cycle. We have attempted to make social media fit into our overall paid, owned, and earned ecosystem effectively. Strong social media pushes boundaries and allows for speedy interaction between key stakeholders,” Ghoshal added.

Sharing his thoughts on the topic, Harshil Karia said, “Going back to an earlier era of advertising, every branded advertisement on television was considered as a piece of entertainment. A consumer got ‘rewarded’ for his/her time by viewing a great advertisement on television. In the current scenario, with consumers becoming more aware and expectations growing, television and print advertisements now have a pressure to deliver the key proposition (in some cases including price) in the least amount of time”. Karia states that the onus of building that relationship lies largely with social media. “The first obvious reason is that social media has unlimited time – unlimited is a misnomer – but has ‘more’ time than TV definitely. So, films for YouTube will be increasingly more important as media pieces. And it becomes the one key place where users will get return on time and be rewarded for having a relationship with the brand. The result could be something as emotional as the ‘Jad se Judein’ music video by L’Oreal Paris; something as obnoxiously funny as the ‘Not so Sweet slap in the mall’ by Cadbury Bournville; or even pop-corn entertainment such as the ‘Baby Lips Kiss Song’ by Maybelline New York India, which drives you to watch it repeatedly”, he added.

Shah is of the opinion that almost every B2B product / service has a great amount of awareness amidst it consumers. “When something as generic as petrol got branded, that for me was the epitome of branding. People are very conscious and careful about the money they spend and the brand they choose. Hence, online medium provides an opportunity to the marketer to start talking about its brand and begin the process of getting involved with the consumers. Though it is a smaller percentage of both marketers and consumers involved in this give-and-take, but the numbers is gradually climbing up to the scale. Also, from a brand’s perspective, digital is a very cost effective medium facilitating the marketer to reach his niche targets and leaves no space for excuses for a brand to not to engage online! Marketers, also need to understand that the medium offers digital segmentation which could work in favour of the brand completely”.
So what makes a ‘social’ relationship really matter are the small things that go into creating and maintaining a meaningful relationship. At the heart this value exchange is content – the tone of voice of a brand’s blog, responses to comments or even the daily tweets. Elaborating further on, Karia said, “Brands are obviously expecting favourable word-of-mouth through meaningful and personalized conversations. Some brands are building communities via the digital medium as Castrol India.”

Taking an example of Castrol India, the brand, which by uniting either bikers or cricket fanatics across the country, have successfully made their product a part of a biker's lifestyle. Through 'The Grand Indian Roadtrip' and 'Cling On To Cricket' campaigns, conversations were initiated with fans and consumers that appeals, resonates and builds a community with the common passion of biking and cricket. ‘The Grand Indian Roadtrip’ had 5 superbikes travelling across the country for 52 days meeting top bikers and riding with prominent biking communities across India. Never before have biking communities like Harley Owners, Super Bikers and local riding groups come together in one place.

In its 'Cling On To Cricket' campaign Castrol Activ got all of India's cricket fanatics to cheer for the Indian Team during the ICC Champions Trophy 2013. Fans had the opportunity to share their wishes with the Indian Team at the stadium with their tweets displayed on LED boards in the stadium. This campaign, most importantly got fans to support the team on and off the field throughout the game.

Giving an overview of the working of how brands would perceive and utilise the digital marketing platform, Subhash Kamat said, “One needs to understand that not using a medium, television for example, and if a brand is strongly present on the digital platform, does not necessarily mean that they are targeting the youth. Instead, being on social media, it is much easier to target the right audience / consumers. For a brand like Castrol; doing something interesting and innovative online, will unable then to identify and locate an entire community that are not only brand consumers but consumers who relate to the brand, thus giving then a good opportunity to engage specifically with them discarding ‘untargeted’ audiences. Hence, understandably, social and digital platforms, may be lower on reach, but are definitely high on engagement. In advertising on the whole, a television ad of such a brand is viewed by all; ranging from young men and women to senior citizens, who may or may not be the right audiences, thus causing wastage in advertising. So, all in all, it makes sense for a brand like Castrol and other to have something like a Facebook which would attract the correct consumers (example a biking community from Mumbai or any other city) and thus engaging and building a relationship with their consumers”.   

Although tasting success, a resulting question which arises is that what are the returns that these brands are expecting from these conversations? We have all heard about return on investments, but what about return on relationships?

Kamat is of the opinion that returns are measured not in terms of sale, but also on various other parameters like involvement, engagement, interactivity.

Sharing his thoughts on the same, Ghoshal said, “A step in the social media direction begins with a real understanding of the market, the target audience, and the brand’s overall business objectives. A consistent interaction with brand users and prospects, allows marketers to assess need gaps, by understanding where consumer’s expectations and brand’s current digital footprint are misaligned. With a steady presence and clicks working round the clock, we have been able to capitalize on conversations that lead to positive testimonials. While responses to online ads are fleeting, conversations are thought through, and judged by the speed of response, and action on ground. In the Air Conditioning category, on line reputation management (ORM) is critical for the success of the brand, especially when after-sales-service plays a vital role in the second purchase.”

Shah stated that brands need to plan and operate larger strategic goals to draw together appreciation and bonding from their consumers. “Building basic awareness, strengthening visibility, developing dealer base connect, launching new products / services should all be the notion holding an online focused marketing campaign”. Citing an example, Shah mentioned about Royal Enfield, a cult brand among numerous bikers, but had arrived at a stagnant position for dome years. “About 5 – 7 years back, Royal Enfield enthusiasts built online communities and today the brand is back and how! One need to note that nothing can happen sporadically and that one should not expect miracles to happen in this space. It is consistent, clean, sharp planning and execution that would build relations over a campaign!” 

At the core, a marketing strategy's content should always have conversations that not only convey a brand’s message and vision but also creates a movement which gets its fans to constantly talk positively about it.

Karia opined that marketers should always remember that its audience wants to hear you. “They want relevant conversations that make them think. Never underestimate the power of your audience. Therefore, humanising your brand is a necessity in today’s competitive business market. This will create a loyal audience, brand evangelists who will respect the brand and be prepared to shout from any corner of the world, of how wonderful the brand is! This phenomenon is simply known as ‘Return on Relationship’ – a term coined by Ted Rubin, a leading social marketing strategist; wherein a consumer spends enough time interacting with your brand and the brand in turn celebrates that relationship by becoming more meaningful.”


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