Ayesha Joshi, a 20-something city dweller, wakes up one fine morning, shuts the phone alarm and pulls down the notification panel. She finds a notification mentioning leaked WhatsApp chats of employees from a certain brand. Much to her confusion (and a little curiosity), she opens it and as any gossip hungry person would do, reads through it and finds out that the chats lead to a discount offer that the brand is promoting. She has a hearty laugh and moves on with her day.
Social media starts speaking about this stunt, users resonate with the chats and soon enough, the brand is trending on Twitter. Other brands take note of this, and this becomes a new strategy for brands to interact with their consumers. A couple of days later, another brand becomes the talk of the ‘social media’ town when it promotes a rival brand on its handle ‘by mistake’. Some called it a gimmick. Some actually thought of it to be a mistake. The main point here is that, is promotion using such gimmicks the ‘new normal’ for brands?
“Social media stunts, when done with the right tone and attitude, whether serious, funny, tongue-in-cheek, witty, timely…as long as it’s transparent, authentic and true to your brand, consumers instinctively know what a brand should be celebrated for, forgiven for or criticised for, and they’re not shy to do so,” says Ajay Thrivikraman, chief creative officer, Global Clients, Publicis.
Even though traditional methods of advertising have not died down by far, most of the new-age brands (that came into the mind-space post 2010) are surely seen to be a little more inclined towards building customer buzz using social media.
Will traditional methods live to see the story unfold? Thrivikraman says, “Traditional anything will die out if it doesn’t evolve or stay relevant to the times. But as long as information is absorbed through our eyes, ears, nose, mouth, our body and our brain…it’s reasonable to assume that technology changes how we consume it all, so will our medium of advertising.” He cites the example of the “audio” medium. “Much has been said about the death of radio (still hasn’t happened). But the popularity of podcasts now means the audio medium has a fresh new relevance.”
New age brands like Zomato are forever in the quest of moments to exploit to stay relevant. The food delivery brand is often found to be a topic of discussion among consumers, regarding their relevance and engagement on social media. The brand’s Twitter handle seems like a daily conversation between people, where it engages the most with its consumers.
Paridhi Bhatiya, head, content force at Ogilvy Mumbai says that it’s all about the moment. “No matter the asset or medium, the conversations we create must be relevant to break through the decreasing attention spans of people. It is about the relevance of messaging,” she says.
When asked about why the brand resorts to this tactic more than using other ATL (above-the-line) advertising methods, a Zomato spokesperson shared that using this way, it becomes a part of everyday conversations and further becomes a part of the customer’s everyday life. “People see us as an extension of their family or friend circle and that is exactly what we want to be.”
Social media has made becoming a part of a customer’s life easier, by recreating traditional ‘word of mouth’ marketing on digital. Thrivikraman says, “Life is social. Even before social media, arguably brands had a social presence. I suppose it was called ‘word of mouth’ then. When the word travels farther and reaches more people than ever before, it’s never been more important for brands to have a social voice. If you don’t have one, there’s always a chance that someone else (maybe even your competition) will define your voice for you. Surely, that’s an unacceptable risk.”
Every brand, every creator on social media wants to be noticed, and stand out, which is why they engage the way they do. The nature of content plays an important role here. Kiran Giradkar, chief marketing officer, Nilon’s India says that the insight and contextual elements used in this kind of communication are so relevant to the target audience, that the content will never go unnoticed. The seamless nature of the content makes it worthy of sharing which works well for the brand.
Nilon’s India adopted a new method to advertise with a campaign for emoji day, with the setting of a Whatsapp group. Bhatiya says that this was done since the behavior of the consumers is to have the most engaging discussion in their group of friends with a lot of emojis. Similarly, with every moment and creativity, it is important to speak about what the consumer is experiencing or the need for a particular experience. “The subconscious mind today is absorbing too much information, which leads to consumers longing for deeper connections with brands,” she adds.
All of this eventually boils down to building a connection with the consumer. As stated by the team at Zomato, the brand has to be wherever its audience is and currently one platform doesn’t cut it. “If your content doesn’t resonate with customers then they won’t consume it,” says the company spokesperson.
A brand like Unilever’s Lifebuoy has carried out large scale campaigns, on television as well as print as a way of connecting with its audience in the past. When asked about whether the method of resorting to social media may or may not work better than the methods Lifebuoy has adopted in the past, Kartik Chandrasekhar, global brand vice president, Lifebuoy, said that it depends on the brand. “For a big brand like Lifebuoy, you need ATL plus digital but TV is still the highest reach medium. But for smaller brands, especially in the D2C space, only social media is adequate,” he told ETBrandEquity.com.
In this digital era, where networking in itself means going to Instagram, Twitter or Linkedin, brands need to identify as to how they can maintain a proper mix of promotion through a good social media presence and a good large scale traditional media campaign from time to time that is worth remembering. Even though social media did not rule the world in 2011, one cannot forget when Hero and AR Rahman came together to release ‘Hum Mein Hai Hero’.
Thrivikraman states that one doesn’t have to be “better’ or at the expense of the other. It depends on what one wants out of it. He believes that getting the mix right in traditional mass media and social media is key.
How do brands strike the right balance between their social media strategy and ATL advertising methods? Zomato executives believe that brands should just have fun. If they like their own content, consumers will too, is their matter-of-factly response.
Giradkar says that for the business that is heavily dependent on general trade, and there is perceived brand parity among the competition, a TVC campaign still makes more sense. “However, social media gives more power to the consumer, allows brands to engage and interact with them, pick up the trends and manoeuvre your product and marketing strategy. Striking the right balance of both worlds is the key to success,” he said.
At her breakfast table, Ayesha Joshi is vigorously nodding in agreement.