July 3, 2010

Social Media-Driving Results by integrating brands and consumer preferences.

                I have been away for too long. With my debut book steadily on the way to become a proper novel, I have been also working on my second book and a collection of short stories.A little bit of internship with a media orgnisation and my own assignments are also to be blamed for my laziness but neverthless it was a rewarding experience.A lot  has been happening but fristly, I hope you realise the most major loss of the marketing world this year, has been the death of C K Prahlad, the veteran who changed the very definition of the lower class. Three cheers to him and his BOP practices. Thanks to him, today companies are concentrating more and more on the rural hinterland rather than overstuffing the already saturated urban market. This has ofcourse, led to the opening of opportunities and a huge vaccum in corporate supply and users demand has been exposed.

             The other day I was on Facebook, I happened to notice RandomHouseIndia’s announcement about the launch of ‘The Betelnut Killers’-a book by one of my writing acquaintances, Ms. Manisha Lakhe. The author and the publisher were both putting up ample wall posts related to the book and the former even announced a book give away contest. With the publisher having over 2,500 fans and the author having over 350 friends in her list, you can very well decide the number of people who would be interacting with the potential launch of the book. We can safely bet that they are interested in the product because they are on the fanpage of a publishing house and most importantly in the friend list of a popular author.

              Needless to say, with more than 40,000 books under my roof (a second town hall), I added one more that day by ordering the book with a leading online bookstore which had tied up for distributing the book. Social media is not a new phenomenon from the consumer’s point of view. Ever since, users signed up on social networking sites they have been questioning practices and discussing likes and dislikes but it is only in recent times that companies have began to leverage the power of social media. We often talk about ‘meeting consumer needs’ which is such a broad term in itself. So are the marketers really listening when the consumer is busy talking to his peers online? Consumers today are somewhere between the real and virtual world, so it only makes sense for companies to not churn out an all-out virtual campaign without the proper research base and as such integrating social media with traditional methods and mode is a manner of playing safe. Organisations today also have to beware of not making it appear as if they are pushing the products too hard because social media would require a lot of pushing initially for it to actually pull.

             As Ms. Vinita Bali, MD of Britannia rightly says, “Marketers in India are following a model that there is a large population and even if it buys a little of something, it becomes a lot. The game has to move away from how many to how much.” As such, the focus should be on quality. In today’s era, revenue generation automatically becomes a long-term objective and companies dwelling on it too much are no doubt suffering from Levittian myopia. As per a study noted by Vineet Taneja, Marketing Head, Nokia India, 81 percent of consumers complain of too much advertising on TV. 60 percent trust recommendations from online discussion groups. With over 100 million blogs, 70 percent Indians between 15 and 34 years use social networks. Facebook has over 9 million users just from India itself. Facebook saw a growth rate of 230 percent last year and Orkut has been steadily enjoying a growth rate of 35 percent, though it has lost the early mover advantage alongwith sites like Hi5 and Tagged. India’s internet penetration right now is 8 percent but that means 81 million people having access to the internet. Imagine the potential! If a consumer decides to buy the brand he interacts with on the social media platform, a post is published to all his friends indicating of his latest endeavor. Apart from that, if he likes it, he is sure to put in a word both online and offline and initiate a viral chain that can spread to ten times his original friendlist.

             Author Chetan Bhagat, who believes himself to be a product of Word of Mouth narrates a tale about his book promotion event in Delhi. “My publisher put ads in tier two papers because of budget constraints. I put information about the event on my blog and Twitter. I did a survey at the actual event and we found out that 65 percent had come from Twitter, 25 percent were just walking around and 10 percent came because they had seen the ads,” announces the acclaimed author. A similar thing happened with me when I went for the book launch of Annie Zaidi's 'Known Turf' at Phoenix Mills. I received the invitation through the author herself on Facebook through an event posted and lo, I was the first one to land there (what with my enthusiasm for books.) It turned out to be a great event with Zaidi's vivid narrative and the great man called P. Sainath--I so adore-- who was the part of the panel (Book's a must read if you want to know what's really happening in true India as it is a journalist's take.)

          Neverthless, it just goes to show the strength of online platforms.Twitter has become popular as there are a number of opinion leaders and celebrities and the communication is quick, Facebook is a large platform and offers many possibilities with posts, applications, fanpages, et al. Imagine now, tying up with the popular celebs for a virtual endorsement policy. Ofcourse it would be kind of stealth marketing but then let us keep the option to the celeb and allow them to decide whether they would be able to experience the brand connect and pull it off. The Royal Challengers Bangalore Fan-club has almost 31000 engaged fans on its web-site and over 3000 fans on Facebook alone. The club has proceeded to build its own standing website first and then tie it up with social media platforms. Internationally too social media has been a revelation. Starbucks fuelled its campaign on social media after losing marketshare and status to competitors, who were still stuck with the conventional media. It ran hugely successful contests encouraging people to post photos of its posters using Twitter. Starbucks proudly states that it opted for millions of fans instead of millions of dollars as the campaign generated a buzz and is helped by its 1.5 million fans on Facebook and 1,83,000 followers on Twitter. Another case in consideration is of Cadbury which used social media to promote its twisted bar and Picnic brands. For the former, consumers were awarded after being registered as ‘agents’ if they managed to crack the game challenge that had been put up on their website. Some were given cameras to photograph themselves and create a buzz for the product and assigned points based on their achievements. Cadbury even managed to reposition Picnic in the minds of the consumer after integrating an advertisement campaign wherein the consumers had to videotape themselves eating a picnic in various moods and enjoying it. The best video was chosen as the commercial and awarded a handsome amount. It received over a million entries from all parts of the world. Back home, small time handset providers like Micromax and Lava are leveraging the power of the virtual world by running application ads while games load on Facebook or assigning sidebar ads with innovative lines.

              Social media has grown too important to be ignored now. Brands that to do so can get nowehere, a social media existence is necessary to validate your importance in the real world and support your real worl practices to develop a complete holistic marketing campaign. Social media holds a lot of promise for brands, provided they use it effectively. Some people who run the site are measuring the effects just like they would measure traditional media while some are taking it one at a time and looking at the effects in stages and at intervals. Social media has become a means of supplementing real interactions but is yet to become an end in itself. With my book coming up, no doubt, I am going to change the definition of my markets (Oh, you can LOL at that again ;))


With hugs and kisses to the Consumer,
 The Young Marketeer.

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