Archive for social media marketing

Mass among the Niche

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Internet with tags , , , on July 15, 2008 by manuscrypts

An interesting post here sparked off an even more interesting discussion on twitter, which made me think about online entities’ relationship with mass media in general.

The above post talked specifically about the 2 gaming entities –  zapak and games2win and their contrasting styles. What interested me was the part about the surge that happened (in number of users) when zapak started using mass media for brand visibility, and the fact that a few months later, G2W is catching up, without having used mas media.

So, the question I’d like to pose is how relevant is mass media to pure play online entities, say an Ibibo or Seventymm for example. It is increasingly becoming a trend for offline entities whether it be media companies or cola giants or watches to have an online presence. While social media and the search for conversations have played their part in recent times, this need to be online started way back from the time that plain vanilla banners and site takeovers became available. This could be mainly due to the understanding that a filtered and discerning audience exists on the net, and this audience is quite likely to be an early adopter and an influencer in his peer group. But does it also work the other way around?

At this juncture, we have an internet penetration figure of 4.5%, but in absolute numbers it is about 49 million net users. ( Juxt Consult 2008 ) Thats quite a good number.  But yes, compared to the total population, it is fair to think that we miles to go. Perhaps that makes online brands look for offline brand visibility, to get the scale that they seek. But will it work the way it did for zapak?  A surge during advertising and then a drop, which clearly means that they got the ‘wrong’ kind of users, which necessarily means spillage.

Going forward, the net will become increasingly fragmented. Services and products would start catering to the niche and the long tail would really be exploited to the hilt, online. It would also become easier for new users to figure out how to get what they need on the net. In such a scenario, how relevant would a presence in mass media (in the form of advertising or content or any other association) be for a pure play online entity? As an awareness creator? But once the guy is online, wouldn’t he come to you anyway if you’ve done your work online well?

Having said that, it makes sense for say, a Holiday IQ or even a makemytrip to be present in say, an NDTV Good Times or a Discovery Travel & Living. There are great ways to work in sync. The other scenario is where you have a direct competitor and the service/product that is being offered is for mass consumption, so mass media gives you the additional advantage. The third and last option I can think of is when the service/product being offered has so much of potential that a no internet user is dragged online.

But in general, if the net is going to be conversation based with WOM and specific user communities playing a major role, then the efforts and money would be better spent online than offline. Would love to have your view on this, as always. 🙂

until next time, organic offline and inorganic online?

Social Ambassadors

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Internet with tags , , , , on June 30, 2008 by manuscrypts

Yes, it is the age of conversation, but in India it is also the age of brand ambassadors. And not just the average Joe Ambassador, but ones who blog. I, for one, subscribe to Big B’s blog, because, from his posts, i think he is a natural. And even if this is true, he’s doing justice to the job.

Anyway, after blogging for a while, it was quite understandable that with his hectic schedule, Big Adda should make his life easier by giving him a mo blog. And now he’s having a blast with microblogging @160 characters. Updating multiple times a day and speaking his mind.

The entire activity set me thinking. So, what happens when the transparency of social media meets brand ambassadors?  How would, for example, the Big B (as brand ambassador) react, if God forbid, a pesticide (Pepsi) or a worm (Cadburys) issue erupted again? What role would he play? Blogger or Brand Ambassador or a boring diplomat? Assuming that he uses the products he endorses (okay, stop laughing!!) would he sometimes play the dissatisfied customer?

I got a glimpse of perhaps what lies in store, thanks to this entry of his. A tale that most bloggers would be familiar with. Sit and write an entire blog post and the server conks out without saving!! In this case, he was blogging on Big Adda. Bad publicity, I would think. Thankfully, someone there was smart enough, and pretty soon we had another entry, this time thanking a Big Adda official. Wonder if they’d do that for mere mortals though 😉

But back to the point, in an era of instant communication and celebrity bloggers, would brand ambassadors  now have revised contractual obligations that draw a clear line on transparency? One that would bring brands back to the familiar comfortable opaque territory that they have been operating in? Or will the celebrity be true to the spirit of blogging? (read the poetry – header on Big B’s blog) 🙂

until next time, brand bloggers 🙂

The long tales of brands

Posted in Brand, Internet with tags , , on June 9, 2008 by manuscrypts

A few days back, I read a post by Seth Godin. To summarise, it was about how people in general, and especially marketeers, put on a show, on purpose. That might be simplifying it, and while he does say that “if you’re transparent about your motivations, putting on a show is productive and highly leveraged”, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the last line in the post is an advice to think about the above, when you’re putting up a booth, answering the phone etc.

It was a bit disconcerting, because it wasn’t exactly what my notions about social media and Brands 2.0 in general were. After all, how could sharing and collaborating be based on something that’s fundamentally a show? While the audience could accept this in say, an entertainment show, would the same happen when they were dealing with brands and people? Isn’t the ‘brand’ supposed to be a promise to the customer?

I do agree that it would be naive to believe in an utopian way of functioning, but social platforms and the new ways of communicating could take us quite close to it. Thankfully, i was quite buoyed by another superb post from Chris Brogan. While the post gives more personality examples than brands, it stresses the need to be really ‘you’, and I think, that should apply to brands as well, because in a highly connected world, it doesn’t take too long for the roleplay to be seen as exactly what it is, and the true brand DNA to come out.

Rather than trying to build a story about a fictional character, wouldn’t it be much better to make the brand’s story interesting with its core characteristics? It is a perspective that would affect the way brands behave, even in a relatively less connected country like ours- the brand endorsements, the blind ‘branding’ without any idea of context, the fine print in communication, the sales guy’s promises, customer service and every thing that creates a brand experience would have to be done keeping the story in mind, and doing it in such a way that the customers believe in that story and communicate it themselves, by choice.

Meanwhile, less connected we may be, but that doesn’t stop us from having our own brand tags. Do take, part, the results would be fun.

until next time, what you say can and will be used against you 😉

Social Media Marketing/ DM 2.0

Posted in Brand, Internet, Social networking with tags , on May 29, 2008 by manuscrypts

There’s a very interesting post I read at WATBlog, interesting because while I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve not been able to put my finger on it correctly. Harshil, in his article has, and while he’s not answered his questions by way of solutions, the issues that have been raised are quite fundamental.

To summarise, it’s mostly about the ‘abuse’ of social media, by treating the platform as well as the communication on it, as commodities. The current usage, if i read it right, is that a brand manager knows he has got a filtered audience thanks to say, a common interest, but the way he communicates to them, is just another rendition of what he does through say, dm. Which essentially means branded spam. And that doesn’t bode well for social media, definitely not in the long term.

I agree, wholeheartedly. But I also feel that it speaks a lot about the times we live in. In this age, when attention spans are in a downward spiral, how many brand guys are willing to look at a long term view of brand equity? If buzz is the buzzword, is it a sustainable thing? Or is it seen as something which has to be milked for all its worth?

Most companies have a very ROI way of looking at marketing. I’m not being judgemental here, in some cases it might be even justified. To simplify lets look at two scenarios – an old product and a new product. In the case of a new product, how many stakeholders would be willing to buy the story of a social media marketing strategy whose tangible returns are in question? In the case of an old product, the immediate question would be why bother with these fads when we have TV, print and Outdoor. Oh, you are digitally passionate? Fine, adapt it for some Orkut Shorkut also.

The ideal scenario is when Social media marketing, and internet in general, would stop getting treated as another item in the adaptation checklist of a marketing campaign. because its not for campaigns, its for the brand and will span not just many campaigns, but perhaps many stages of its lifecycle also. When you have a group of passionate users (of a generic service, not even a brand) in say the ‘adventure’ space (that was mentioned in the Harshil’s post), the idea should not be to send a one way communication to them. Stop thinking of it as a messaging service, instead get them to share experiences, be a facilitator for their treks, provide free gear, get feedback, improve the product, become an active participating member in the community, figure out the long tails, make customised products for specific interests, make them feel so damn good about the product that they take ownership, become evangelists, and even recommend it to friends of their who may not even have made it to their social media group. Yes, every brand guy should ideally look at tangible gains, but are you willing to let go first, and learn some patience?

Let me also add an uncomfortable angle to this, the human one. How many brand guys would think of being married to the brand beyond say, 5 years? (and thats optimistic). So, what looks better on the resume? A measurable short term activity that yielded a quantifiable response, or a strategic long term activity thats still in nascent stages?

until next time, socialising ain’t easy