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Wandering Thinker, Pondering Writer, Communications Professional, Aspiring Author. Travelogues @ http://srinistuff.com, Personal Blog @ http://srinistuff.in 

March 31, 2014

Is social media the end of paid media?


My answer to the question on Quora: Is Social Media the end of paid media 

No, it's about being smarter and being more focused as many have pointed out in their answers. Recently I read an interesting blog about  Facebook Organic Reach Plummeting. What's more interesting is the comment thread and as many would have pointed out in the thread, Facebook as such is a big challenge, but traditionally Google has found a really interesting way to integrate all these attributes and making paid media better overall. The key is of course to find these aspects and fine tune it and ensure that throughout all media you are using these tactics. Rinse - Repeat


  1. Focus on Acquisition and methods to directly reach out once you've paid for Social Media.
  2. Targeting should be integrated via all other mechanisms too.
  3. Drive optimization through focused rather than spend money on bombarding across all channels and media.
  4. Learn what your user behavior is and customize your spends.
  5. The goal should be to get them back to your properties and engage with you on your own turf. Advertise to get them off of FB and onto your site to download your whitepapers, watch your videos, sign up for your newsletter, buy a product from you, attend your conference, etc.(As mentioned in comments)
  6. Convert your fans and followers to an owned list or something you control.
  7. "I think most business owners have no problem with paying Facebook for advertising, I believe the primary problem is having to pay to get new fans, and then pay again to reach the same fans you just paid for. Then repeating this cycle again and again. Most small businesses are willing to pay for Facebook advertising, but they simply cannot afford to promote every single post." Interesting comment on the blog by Zach. 

This basically is a problem with Facebook and the same is very well addressed via Google media buying and adwords. 

So if you look at it overall,  the thing Facebook avoided for a long while and now suddenly is trying to get at (Extort brands via strong ad tactics) will cost them for sure, while Google will smile their way into advertisers' pockets.

March 30, 2014

Product Design and Branding - Kinder Joy

I certainly have seen some really good product designs in the physical goods space, and of course with technology coming up big, mobiles and other devices are really popular when it comes to product design. But one product that has been a clear revelation for me is this chocolate product plus DIY toy for kids.

Kinder JOY - WITH SURPRISE



Was doing groceries when I spotted Kinder Joy! Costs Rs. 35 for one piece of egg in India but crazily popular among kids and I'm sure same is the case across the world. Now many advertisers and Marketers know how much of a rage this product is within its target group!  So I picked it up to do some product design and brand analysis. Here are some of my observations.Feel free to add your thoughts!  A lot of these might not even matter to the actual consumers (Kids), but would be intriguing for the decision makers. 

Branding: Branding right on top with an intrigue,  "With Surprise"  Standard,  intrigue and feeling of mystery inside my meal, which has worked wonders even when I was a kid. (lucky cards, sorat, scratch to win)
 
Enticement: Mystery and audience engagement continues inside with the ???  Marks all over and creating further curiosity.  On the other half of the egg, they only talk about the product, which only contains the egg white resembling cream with chocolate. Decluttered even from the audience thought process. If I want to find out what the surprise is, I'll forget about the other part, and choose to eat it later. Minimalistic and easy flow of consumer thought tapped into. 

Product Detailing: Simple,  visual representation of make your own Jerry the mouse. Now he mouse detailing is so much that you even have stickers for its ears, musical notes for his accordion and bright colors for his hat. 

Hook and Value for Money: Most kids obviously buy it for the toy. They don't care about what they eat, mostly I'm  guessing. At 35 bucks, parents won't mind it either as it's creative, small, engaging their kid, and most importantly its as if giving a simple affordable toy which educates/helps utilize their logical mind. Much like simplified Lego. 

Product Information: They've also mentioned warning for kids below 3 years at least in 2 places within product. Packaging design is so concise, small, accurate and yet contains value worth so much. Also the small leaflet contains instructions in many other languages, a QR code too, for parents if they want more info. 

Lastly, the overall satisfaction for kids is as good as a Happy meal toy, only more as, they  assembled it and they can keep collecting such toys. Great brand recall, customer reuse and repeat tactic. 

Great stuff from Design thinking perspective and also Marketing it well! What say? 

February 05, 2014

Using Quora to Market Your Business

Original article written on Social Samosa

Quora is quite a rage when it comes to driving loads of knowledge with a pinch of perspective. It uses Social Networking to classify various topics of interest in order to open an avenue to many intelligent minds across the world so that they are able to share their knowledge, opinions and most importantly create a channel to discuss topics of interest with a dash of first hand experience from users who’ve been there and done it all.



Come to think of it, Quora provides a lot of insights and knowledge and probably bears a close resemblance to Wikipedia (minus the perspective element), stock exchange or some other business community forums and curation tools including the likes of Reddit and Digg.
I would have said, Yahoo answers, a decade ago, but as much as I’d like to compare it to the only former alternative that many say would come to this social networking site, it quite frankly doesn’t make the cut and a lot of us know why. So much so that even LinkedIn Answers has shut down and Quora is ruling the world when it comes to providing perspective driven knowledge to many users across the world.
So how, you may ask, can businesses take advantage of this amazing site? I’d like to share with you some aspects that would help businesses grow, build their communities, create awareness amongst niche audiences, provide help with research information that you want, and a lot more.

Building your Brand on Quora

One of the best aspects of Quora is the fact that it gives each and every one an opportunity to create their own brand and provides such perspective about several aspects of what’s happening to the brand and the company which may not necessarily always be  found on press releases or on the company website. Add the brand name and Quora in your Google alerts and you’d be surprised to find out what kind of buzz is out there about your business.
The key, of course, is to be able to monitor how many questions are being asked about your brand, company or anything that’s related to what your company does. Go ahead and answer specific questions that may have been asked about your company. If you’re the community manager for your organization, take up the responsibility of researching upon specific questions directed at your organization.
Run them by relevant departments, and go ahead and provide inputs to the readers and the audience who are clued in to that question. Other than that you may also choose to focus on topics that could be of interest to your target audience. For example, there are many topics that would be relevant to your industry and that’s your cue to go ahead and be the expert on behalf of your company and help the community members.

Researching perspective driven insights for your brand

Yes, you have Wikipedia for a lot of the questions that you are looking for, in general. If you’re working on making a document, trying to analyze certain elements of the market for your business or say you’re looking for experts to help your brand out with respect to research related aspects, then Quora is the right fit for you.
Of course, while a lot of the World Wide Web is a great resource for knowledge and information that is abundantly available out there, Quora will allow you to find and sort information, people and, of course, a lot of material knowledge based on real time, current and perspective driven insights which you may not find elsewhere. Reading someone else’s answers based on their personal experiences gives you the perfect dose of granular details that might be hard to find on any other source across the Internet. So that’s quite the added advantage you get for doing your homework on the right platform.

Industry trends from the experts

While Quora has a collective base of domain driven knowledge of various business related topics which marketers can use to their advantage, it is also full of genuine experts who share their vision without particular perks for themselves, sharing expert opinions that would matter to your brand.
Most importantly, there is a great chance you could find great curated content that would help you prove a point or two if you’re doing research for something niche and particular within your target group, product or to help you market your brand better.

Competition Analysis

Typically I wouldn’t say that Quora is the best platform to find out what the competition is doing, however one edge that Quora might get in this aspect is to research and get to know what other competitors are focusing on, especially if there are answers about their company and inside news / strategy that is being shared on their work.
User cases that are shared on Quora by competition or what the competition has done being out in the public domain could be the best  way to understand, analyze and figure out how you could use that to your advantage.

Traffic, Eyeballs and Audience

One of the major advantages about the Quora ecosystem is you’ll get to know exactly what kind of an audience is viewing a particular question and how popular the question is. There are also opportunities to promote a particular question or an answer to a certain set of people within your following. This will give businesses a clear picture of how you are targeting the right kind of people whom you need to reach out to via your opinion, content and expertise.
The credits, as a currency, typically give you the opportunity to target your specific answers which could contain links to your website, or anything information worthy to allow people to benefit from and at the same time drive traffic towards your specific links. A lot of times, SEO and indexing is highly driven via Quora. If you choose to answer the right question, there is a huge probability that the same question might be the query of many looking for answers through Google and the top result then would be a Quora answer.
Some of these aspects are of course intertwined and there is an element in Quora which empowers brands and businesses to drive their communication, messaging and more importantly allows them to engage with the very specific niche community which you wouldn’t find on other social networks as easily as you think, even LinkedIn for that matter, especially if you have B2B brands. But the most important element of using Quora for business is the attribute of knowing that the consumer of your content is highly intellectual and at the same time a curious kind of a person.
The kind of content you share for your business or personally needs to be out there with a certain level of accuracy, insight, perspective and more importantly be helpful to those who are reading it. And if you’re the one who’s consuming content, you need to understand that while most of the perspective driven insight could provide you with some real answers to the question you’ve asked, you also need to account for the margin of errors and the holistic picture that it is able to provide you.
Having said that, while the benefits of using Quora are many, do consider using this social network as an extension of all the attributes you would use under ordinary circumstances. 

Image Credit: Social Samosa

January 16, 2014

Enhancing the Customer Experience through Social



Original article was written for Business2Community.

Marketing has always been about driving your brand towards your customers and reaching out your messaging through various channels that have been available to marketers across various eras of marketing. Be it any tools that traditional marketers have used or media they chose to engage with their customers, it was always about talking to them and trying to deliver your communication with the best impact possible. Throughout time, the struggle has always been about creating a recall value for your brand and letting your customers know what you aspire to do for them and how the brand could change their life. The AIDA model as popularly known always looked to reach out to your audience by creating awareness, generating interest, desire and then get them to act upon your marketing messages to finally buy your product. But sometimes, in today's era, I ask myself this question, "Is it only about creating an awareness through generating interest and then creating that desire?" The answer, as much as I try to resonate with what's happening out there, is always different.

How so? You may ask, what has changed in this current scenario and what is making the difference in today's customer as opposed to the earlier ones. There lies the answer. Your customer today has become a lot more aware of his surroundings and a lot more intelligent than you thought they were. The idea is not to create awareness as he's already aware of what's out there in the market. Probably focus groups are not the best way to approach your customer because, your market is so vast and the intelligence and emotional quotient of your customer is so disparate that you'll hardly be able to nail it when it comes to the messaging. Your customer doesn't need to be told what they want. They already know it. Your customer doesn't need to focus so much on generating that interest as he already has a keen attachment, affinity and attachment in the kind of products he consumes. Your customer most of all, doesn't need to really know what he's buying, cause he's already made up his mind!

So what we need today is creating an enhanced customer experience in the products he uses and giving him a dose of that enhancement you shall add to his lifestyle by pitching your product to him. Unlike traditional marketing campaigns, or drives to generate the awareness of what features your product focuses on, your ability to create an innate sense of desire, a sense of fulfilment and a sense of overall satisfaction the customer shall get by using your products is what is the need of the hour. Top technology brands like Apple, Samsung, Sony have tried to focus on these aspects more than anybody else. In fact, smaller brands in different spaces like Uber, AirBnB, Pebble, Blend Tech, Fitbit, have always aspired to create that innovative desire to give the customers something different and something worth imbibing into their lifestyle. At the end of the day, what's important for brands to understand is to disrupt the equation, create something innovative and build a desire to not just 'want to use your product' but to create a 'need for your product.' Many local brands are doing that really well if I may say. Coffee shops giving free Coffee but charging for WiFi because the need of the customer is not coffee, but a place to sit and indulge himself on his smartphone, tablet or laptop while finding an excuse to go somewhere out there and work is what brands should realize. As a customer, I don't need to buy smart products, I need products that will make my life smarter. Wearables have become the talk of the town and this technology is here to stay, especially after #CES2014.

What brands should realize is that the innovation is required not because people want to be aware of something that they didn't know, but something that will innovate and make their lives simpler. Innovation has become a tool to help customers aspire for things they didn't know existed or didn't imagine to change their lives for the better. Marketers need to understand that and try to change their way of thinking. Rather than focus on traditional surveys, target demographic profiling or building a messaging of the brand via identifying, breaking down and building a great marketing strategy to let their customers know about their products, they should simply inspire people to think differently and boom! Your product is sold! Innovations from KickstarterIndiegogo are getting so much traction that traditional product builders would wonder, how the space has shifted. More than the marketing aspect, the customer experience has become BIG! Are you ready for that change? Is your brand doing something different to create that great customer experience in this socially connected world? A question I always want to ask myself while working on my brands. What about you?

Image Credit: Social4ce

December 20, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Social Media Professional

This original article was written for Social Samosa here


You wake up, get ready and head off to what seems to be a really hectic day. You have designs to line up, content to create, ‘strategies’ to make, Powerpoint templates to select, presentations to make, conversations on Twitter, LinkedIn and forums to participate in, ‘contests’ to run, ‘trending activities’ to conduct, posts to schedule, communities to build, and most importantly, client calls/meetings to attend to.

Yes, sometimes that becomes one of the most important task on your checklist. We’ve seen far too many cliched infographics depicting the day in a life of a Social Media professional, memes depicting ‘What I do at work,’ ‘jokes’ made around advertising and social media profiles, the ‘eat, breathe, live social media’, type T-Shirts, and to top it all, we have to hear the gurus of advertising and the know-it-alls tell us how Social Media is just another fad.
But I guess all of that is history now, with the lines between social, digital, mainline etc being blurred. “Integrated Marketing/Advertising” has a nice ring to it and is here to stay. What’s more important today is that belief; Belief in what you’re doing, which makes a huge difference to your job and a lot more to what your brand is saying.

Being a Social Media Professional

Truth be told, being a social media professional isn’t easy, wouldn’t you say? That’s partially correct, but a lot would really depend on how you perceive it and how you build on that perception to drive what you really want to do at the end of the day.
Build real value for your client, and I don’t mean that in terms of ‘ROI’ or what kind of numbers you build for your client, how you impacted their overall marketing tactics or for that matter, what you really did to build brand awareness for your client.
Adding real value starts in understanding, and begins with you achieving a clairvoyance of sorts about what exactly it is that your brand needs. Not what you think will generate an ROI of sorts, or what you think will create ‘buzz’ on Social Media and ‘Digital platforms’ as many would like to say. But what is it that your ‘brand really needs.’ Figuring this out goes a long way in the future along with helping you meet the desired goals you set for yourself. Not as a Marketer, Advertiser, Brand Manager, but simply as an artist.

Creating Value

Visualise yourself as an artist who is out to create great art in every single things he does, like I listed above. When you’re thinking about all of those things and ask yourself what it is that you’re doing that creates value, you are doing a commendable job.
You know it’s really good to sometimes stop and think about what we’ve done and in retrospect you’ll plot a really amazing line of what’s worked for you and what hasn’t. But don’t just analyze the statistics, or the numbers, or for that matter the affinity you created amongst a community on the social web, but also the kind of art you created day in and day out. What matters is how you focus on it with this perspective in mind.
Well, you may say that’s a far fetched way of looking at things, but truth be told, after working for over four years in this field, there is a difference in the way I perceive things today. No, I’m not talking about just ‘thinking out of the box’ or ‘there is no box’ approaches towards the creative or not so creative work that we do.
I’m talking about the way we look at every single thing when we work on those amazing campaigns we build or choose not to, the way we really drive engagement for our brands or maybe not. Every success, every failure have a lesson in them. The right way, or let me call it a better way of looking at it is to just step outside, give yourself a bird’s eye view and see where you’re heading.
A lot of times, we end up doing things we may not be really confident about. We end up pushing that limit between a force fit creative or something that really won’t work for a brand. I don’t know about you, but I always cringe at the very idea of a ‘trending activity’ because that will add nothing but a few hours or days of brand awareness!

Needs of a Brand

Well that is really great, excellent if you may ask, in the current scheme of things. But what next? How many times do we actually capitalize on these activities and campaigns to try and decipher something impactful for the brand? That should matter more to you than anything else at the outset. Not those appreciation mails coming in from your client or commendations from your peers. But what next?
Well, there are always those times when you need to deliver a pitch presentation on a given day that would have probably been better off if it was a day earlier. Ideas are never scarce, and mostly not completely bad and unusable, but what sometimes affects us is how many of them are really going to add value to our brand.
Yet, we go ahead and tell ourselves that we’ll improvise later, we’ll try and console ourselves that this is one instance and it would probably not impact the brand as much. I’m sure all of us have been there at some point in time. If not, then truly awesome! You’ve already crossed that threshold and seen the different side of the horizon!
I guess creating a sense of awareness for yourself and your brand helps a lot. Realizing what you’re doing is impacting your brand in a certain manner helps seeking the right answers to the right questions that you would go ahead and ask yourself rather than just doing what you think might ‘work’ for the brand for the time being. So don’t lose this battle, because eventually you might end up doing it so often that you’d have been defeated long before you even knew there was a war coming.
Yes, there are a lot of us who have challenges, and we face them with the hope of learning something new, creating something great, build something fantastic for your brand. Something that it needs, if not every single day, probably once in a while–to know that there is someone like you out there, who connects with what it’s trying to say.
Yes, we do say the wrong things sometimes and make mistakes every once in a while. Sometimes, our mistakes are noticed by the entire world, and sometimes too insignificant to be spotted by anyone.. But in your heart, if you are self aware about the things your brand needs and what you can give to them, you’ve gone a long way ahead.

Social Media and Marketing

I’ve been trying to figure out what this beast called social media is for quite a while and I must say, I have really enjoyed dissecting the minuscule observations, learnings, insights, and trends that, often I’ve forgotten to think of how it really mattered to the brand and how and when we should start learning from our mistakes and probably from others as well. And hey, that’s quite a thing.
Marketing as such, has evolved a lot, and so has advertising, say from the ‘Mad Men’ era, especially with it being part of many cycles of evolution. Yes, there’s a lot to learn and we’ll see a lot of changes happening, being part of it at this stage and we’ll probably see a lot of changes in the way consumers consume content, products, services and for that matter your interaction with them as well.
Cultures shifting, patterns changing, trends being disrupted and for that matter, the medium of interaction divulging into each other and crossing lines that were originally set with a niche in mind. That will stop existing and we’ll have a unified way of looking at how we simply communicate with our consumers.

Conclusion

When that day comes, I’d like to ask you all to remind yourself where you started and traverse into your own journey to realize how much you’ve achieved. The things you thought were amazing, will now be of amusement to you, to the point that it stops being funny. You’ll achieve a sense of perspective in that you’ll get an understanding of how things were different and how they’ve changed. In fact, I’d say, don’t wait for that day to come. Be a futurist, today! Tell yourself to stop doing the things that really don’t make a difference to your brand but indulge yourself in asking yourself a simple question.
“What is it that my brand really needs?” “And where do I go from here?”
Just these simple questions haunting you when you wake up, get ready, and head off to what is seemingly a really hectic day with designs to be lined up…. (Fade out)

Just ask yourself…. “What is it that my brand really needs?”

August 02, 2013

Curiosity in the Social and Digital Day and Age!

"At the end of everything, there lies an inherent element of curiosity within everyone. One that we as humans are willing to explore beyond our known capability..."




The original article was written for Business2Community

Today, every bit of advertising and marketing that is shoved down upon our throat has an element of curiosity that everyone tries to explore as marketers. What is more baffling than anything is the fact that they know, as humans, we are bound to go click on that link, go visit that Web site, go download that app, play that game, check out the new social network, go view that video that everyone else is talking about! 

Everything from a small engagement to a great idea always relies on exploring that element of curiosity among their audience, however very few realize that it's not always about the idea itself or the fact that 'curiosity' will keep it popular or gather the eyeballs that they aspire to gain! Forget about curiosity in day to day marketing or advertising, we have the element of curiosity in every aspect of life that keeps us pushing hard, hard at our job at our work and at every aspect of our life. Heck we even went to Mars, all because of this curiosity!

In digital advertising and social media, we've done and dusted the exploration for curiosity for the sake of curiosity, right from the uncovering of campaigns, to puzzles, to mysteries to treasure hunts and more importantly the 'Like This' to Find out 'That.'

But the true element of engagement is driven from something more than just titillating those consumer senses and driving more in providing quality communication and create something that adds more value, than just relying on the curiosity of your consumer. There has been a lot of time that has been spent in research, there certainly has been a lot of time spent in understanding your consumer and what drives them and most certainly their curiosity! But today we need more time to understand what keeps that curiosity going. It may not always boil down to a fluke that ended up becoming popular for a unique reason, but also depend on that method to madness on why it became successful in the first place. Be it Psy and his Gangnam Video, The Harlem Shake, a Kolaveri Di or greater campaigns of the likes of Blend It, Old Spice, Tippex or many more... 

Understanding what keeps your consumer driven when it comes to something beyond that curiosity! Yes everyone quotes Steve Jobs today, now that he's gone and they may be right, just as he was, 'Consumers don't know what they want.' 

But they certainly have an element of curiosity, which can be fed by us marketers, and the key lies in resonance and driving that curiosity further than just what the product messaging is or the core communication of the brand is. 

To me it is more about the philosophy behind what you are trying to sell, rather an idea and a belief that they are willing to buy! 

Image Courtesy: Genelu.com

July 31, 2013

Social Archives and Digital Legacy - Data Miners' feast!

"We are not just viewers of incidents in our timeline... But witnesses to a past that shall be etched among the archives of our digital history." 



Some day we'll realize how those words make more sense than ever. Today we are certainly in an age where every piece of content that we view/share/read/write and create within our social and digital networks we tend to forget the overarching theme of how this will shape the future of Internet consumption and how constantly our lives are going to be driven by the legacy that we leave behind. 

Every day and every moment we thrive in this world that is as digital as it gets, we are striving hard to communicate and contact to a world that is built in this realm so open and so evidently 'out there' Privacy is a word beyond a realm without any real strings attached and most important element in today's consumption of information is the fact that curating has become a key component more than anything else. 

Digital footprints make more easy to find and track rather than actually trying to profile someone in a hypothetical analysis. While a very good thing for marketers who are keeping a close eye on their subjects and building their products and brands to touch the right pulse, it's all the more creepier for people who are subjected to targeted consumerism via digital media. 

We all have not just become a part of a timeline that we can view in retrospect, but also witnesses to a past that will always be with us and in the Internet archives so as to give leverage to not just ourselves but to a lot of data miners out there. 

The day isn't far away that every transaction carried across the web has critical importance and every transaction giving priceless information about target consumers and behavior profiles would transform into some sort of currency. Heck, even Bit-coin mining would probably provide opportunities to share,sell personal data which is no less than the golden eggs that this digital chicken (Read:Consumer) lays for marketers. What say?

Image Source: Social Business News

July 19, 2013

How would you persuade anyone to use a 'Social Media Website?

This was an [A2A] I received on Quora for this question


The Web site he has is frendsdom.com

[A2A] I've been part of promoting a few Social Networking sites and early adopter to enterprise social networks within my organization, so from my experience penning down a few things that would / would not work especially when you want to thrive among a competition of social networking sites as such. Personally I'm of the opinion that there's too much connectivity and too much networking happening. People should reverse the trend and offer products that are more niche and closed group and non-intrusive per se.

  1. Social Networking is out there. I don't need a new network to connect on to the same people or for the same purpose. (So after facebook, orkut, hifi,myspace etc. Why did twitter,foursquare, goodreads, Quora, whatsapp, (closed social networking), G+, Line, Kakaotalk, Sina Weibo etc become popular? For their individualistic reasons and problems they solved. What's different from others? Try to make that possible.
  2. As far as promotion goes, don't shove it down their throat. It should be intuitive and give me a reason to use the network than just using it because it's there.
  3. Again, points (I don't think that's a good idea, unless it's in real time value of some sorts, yet it could sometime feel overwhelming at times.)
  4. As Abhirup Dutta mentioned it's important to answer the "problem statement" that inspired you to create this site as the solution.
  5. I saw this: "Find People: Find people of your interest from anywhere in the world." at the very bottom. I think this is something you could really rely on and revolve your entire network per se around this fundamental aspect.
What it is is less important more than what it can offer and what it drives. Build your product, offer the problem and promotion becomes easier then. Rest is BAU.

July 18, 2013

Consumer Trend through Social

An interesting behavior that always was popular and will be popular is identifying or creating consumer trends through behaviors within the market in any industry. That is a popular process and there are billions of dollars spent on making sure that any particular brand actually goes ahead and gets its consumers and target market right. 

Today Social allows a very good opportunity to identify that trend. Certainly it's been a popular aspect with the likes of Big Data and social media monitoring / online reputation management existing in that space. But the more fascinating aspects of consumer trends is through deep rooted study via tracking and identifying consumer behavior through understanding what they want what they like, what they do what they share with others and most importantly what their tastes are. 

Certainly this process is of an interesting order and a lot of brands and a lot of research goes into identifying individual customers and understanding their behavior. Unlike generic results via social media monitoring this would involve deep and further study on specific customer behavior. This is a space that will certainly go to the next level and brands will start getting into it via social all the more. Social media ethnography as it would be popularly known is certainly looking interesting and general interest about it is picking up. 

April 17, 2013

Consumerism and Advertising: Building Brands as Products, not Commodities


The original Article was written for Social Samosa 
Consumerism is increasing day by day especially when it comes to mass marketing and advertising being shoved down consumers’ throats. It isn’t any different on social media either. As a marketer, it is important to introspect if your consumers are really listening to what your communication is, or if they have become zombies brainwashed to buy your product. Do they rely solely on brand recall without having knowledge of or believing in what they are purchasing? Market trends keep shifting and a brand that has strong recall today can be history tomorrow.
So, the real question is how do social media marketers or advertisers communicate with and engage consumers without really having to generate the hype of consumerism around them?
I’ve always believed that communication is always about the consumer, whether in social media or in mainline communication. Making the product stand out in your communication is more relevant than just influencing the consumer or key influencers surrounding him. The communication should not only seek to break the clutter but should also make fundamental sense.
A very good example of this is L&T Insurance’s ‘Likh Ke Doge Kya?’ campaign. I had the opportunity to listen to Ms. Deepali Nair of L&T Insurance speak at the Computer Society of India IT 2020 Conference, about how they worked backwards on the entire campaign, tailored it to suit Facebook first and then ran it on television. It was an interesting campaign and very successful too.
It wasn’t about what consumers want, but what consumers aren’t really asking for. In hindsight, I am sure that, ‘Likh ke doge kya?’ is a question they always ask insurance providers. It also takes a look at how fallible the whole insurance business is, especially when it comes to claims, terms and conditions and queries. In this case, it wasn’t about shoving another insurance product that no one knows about down the consumer’s throat, but about making a firm commitment that queries would be responded to within X amount of time, and they would give it in writing. What stood out in the campaign was the promise of execution – exercising ownership and being accountable.
So, what should we, as marketers, be doing?
Research what consumers don’t know
Keep doing your research. Don’t stop doing that at all. But change the way you do it. It is about time we started looking beyond what the consumer is telling us and try to gauge insights by reading between the lines – what the consumer is thinking but not saying.

Of course there will be rants, cribbing and negative sentiments on social media. Invest time in resolving those. But don’t miss out on what the consumer isn’t telling you. And yes, by all means, classify your consumers based on demographics, but don’t obsess over the behaviour and decision-making of your target group. Yes, consumers may not know what they want, but you do. It is all about thinking backwards.

Don’t listen to what they’re saying. Listen to what they aren’t telling you.
When it comes to social media, ORM has always been the tool to listen to what the consumers have to say about brands and what consumers have an opinion about. But it doesn’t mean that ‘listening’ only involves market research, gauging sentiments, categories and keywords. Try to analyze what is lacking in the market. As advertisers, we may not have a control on the product, but we always have a control over the positioning.
Don’t give them a reason to talk! Talk to them!
The trick is to engage consumers by being proactive. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you are there as a product and brand to listen to what they are thinking and not saying. Before discussing the product or brand, ask them interesting questions. Use promoted posts to create a focus group testing within your communities. Yes, focus groups aren’t always accurate. But, be blatant about the questions that you ask – questions, the answers to which, you, as a consumer, would know but perhaps, hesitate to speak up. Consider crowdsourcingas an option but don’t feed your consumers, let them feed on the existing situation.
Don’t just shove a product down their throat! Ask them why? Why are they really using your product, as opposed to any other product? Do you really know what your differentiators are? Have you used the product yourself? Have you sat through the product brief and tried to identify if there is any difference between your product and any other product that the consumer would know about? No? Well then, do that. If there are no differences and you are just another competitor, it is more likely that the brand recall, advertising and how far your reach goes will be decisive factors for the consumer in making a purchase decision.
But if you talk to your existing communities, you will get the answer. Use that to your advantage. Create a campaign on any social media platform using any tool available to find out WHY does your consumer buy your product? Based on the responses, engage with the consumer accordingly and use it as a reference point for your next communication.
Trends change but buying behaviour has one element that will always remain constant – the ignorance that drives those trends. Use it to your advantage. What I am trying to say is perhaps futuristic but very simple. Every campaign, advertisement, billboard or hoarding that reaches out to the masses is reflecting the consumerist sense of behaviour, which is today, what is making the product or brand irrelevant. But social media has the power to change that – by genuinely engaging with the consumer. This change will not only benefit consumers but also, create a larger and more profitable market in the long run.
Interestingly, the other day Gautam Ghosh pointed me to this blog about ‘Collaborative Economy‘ by Jeremiah Owyang, suggesting how brands are already creating a shared market space amongst consumers and using it to their advantage. Rather than over-spending on products that they don’t need, consumers have let better economic sense prevail and have decided to share their needs. And that is what consumers would prefer in the future.
So what will make or break your brands is, ‘Is your brand truly unique and doesn’t need a recall to be purchased by your consumers.’
Do you know of any brands who are doing this well? Let me know.

Consumerism and Advertising: Is Your Brand Only a Commodity?


The original Article was written for Social Samosa
Consumerism? What’s That?
Here’s what Wiki says:
Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts.
It is certainly something that drives all of us to constantly keep buying and have the craving to buy time and again. With a bend to figure out, what to buy, when to buy, how much to buy and how often to buy, consumerism has certainly been part of our lives since kingdom come. Interesting to notice how it is primarily driven on the basis of what others are buying and on the sheer influence of a majority of factors in the market. Have you’ve watched this movie ‘The Joneses,’ You’ll know what I mean…
Some key factors that affect the purchasing decisions are:
  1. What purchases are happening and what the market trends are.
  2. How buying behaviors are affecting lives of people in your region.
  3. How advertisers both on Social Media and offline are influencing the consumers.
  4. Price point and offers / how much more do I get if I buy this today.
  5. Finally there is the ‘I need this because I ‘NEED’ this.
Yes, a minimal thought is given these days by consumers on ‘need to have’ as opposed to ‘want to have’ because of the ridiculous amount of money brands are spending on advertising, giving deals and discounts and a lot of other factors to increase consumption and consumerism. That is also rolling out on Social / Digital Media. But in the bargain, the true question to ask is… 
Are your consumers really listening to you? Or have they become zombies who are brainwashed to buy your product based on incessant levels of advertising? As an advertiser or marketer we certainly need to create the ‘want to have’ aspiration for our buyers. But as a product builder, it’ll always be the opposite of it unless, you are someone like an Apple Inc.
It is always a good thing to really reach out to your consumer and engage them within your community and target group. It’s also important to focus on the ‘Big or Small’ whatever data you analyze and engage with them one-one. Being there for your consumers, rather than shoving something down their throat through sometimes insignificant or even irrelevant forms of advertising, including Facebook andLinkedIn media buy. It is ironic that the same marketers and advertisers are consumers themselves at the end of the day be it on digital, social or mainline media.
Speaking of which, there’s an interesting story I have to tell. One that I observed in a grocery store while I was out to buy a couple of things to eat as a consumer. I usually get a lot of insights out there. Some things that you could really use as a marketer/advertiser especially if you want to understand your consumers better.
So here’s what happened:
I was waiting in the queue before checking out with my purchases. There was a father who was with his 2 year old son in front of me and there was a mother with his 9 year old son behind me in the queue. (Approximate ages of the kids)
Scenario 1
The father ( approximately 37 years old) had a fairly empty to medium filled trolley. He had picked up an ordinary packet of candies maybe worth Rs. 20 for his 2 year old kid. Then the kid saw a big Dairy Milk in the rack, which probably is worth Rs. 30/40 bucks. As soon as he decided he wanted it, the kid wouldn’t let go of his packet of candies either, suggesting that he wanted both. But the dad, persuaded his 2 year old to trade the packet of candies for the Dairy Milk!
Scenario 2
The mom (approximately 34 years old) was waiting behind me, her trolley was generally full of stuff that you’d buy to consume on a daily basis, the vegetables, the packet of cereals, milk, butter/cheese, eggs, a huge bottle of cold drinks, some fruits, and probably a few cosmetic items. Her 9 year old son walked in from behind and he had 2 bars of Snickers, the smaller ones which would probably cost Rs. 10/20. She just told him to drop it in the trolley with no questions asked. So, what does one intercept from this observation? Many things probably and different people would come up with different interpretations. But one good thing about both the scenarios playing out at the same time was that it probably gave me a pretty hands on perspective on this buying behaviour.
This is what I can speculate.
Father knows Dairy Milk and has a better brand recall about the product. Keeping in mind the Indian parent buying behavior especially when it comes to chocolates I’d like to say Dairy Milk is always viewed as a premium brand of chocolate, no matter what it costs. And hence the intuitive need to haggle with a 2 year old kid to get rid of the candies packet.
In this case, Snickers, it may not have had a bigger brand recall with the mother and she wouldn’t really mind his kid buying those two packets as they anyways looked small.
These were my first two thoughts on impulse to interpret the behavior that I witnessed.
But if you come to think of it, there could be a multiple amount of permutations and combinations that might have affected the purchasing and influencing decision.
For example, 
  1. What is the mindset of the father/mother?
  2. What is the spending power of the father/mother?
  3. What was his original intent of entering the grocery store and what he was willing to spend on extra purchases?
  4. How strong are their impulses, their gender and age and the kind of purchasing patterns they have etc.
  5. And of course, it would very well happen that the father and the mother both were just giving in to their kids demands, only difference in both of their behavior could have been the fact that the brand made a difference in their purchase.
So whether it is purchasing necessities, requirements or luxuries and indulgences, in our day to day lives, we all and I mean all of us consumers in the current economy and the conditions in India and worldwide are always affected by brands and brand recall certainly carries a lot of weight when making our purchases. I mean, that’s a given and I don’t even need to talk to this audience about it. We all know that.
Be it in mainline advertising or Social Media, our lives have dwelled within the breakup of our Target Demographic, the kind of things he/she buys, what age group he falls in and speculating what kind of things he/she likes, who are his primary/secondary influencers and what additional things are they interested in. That is our life 24×7, 365 and we all burn the midnight oil trying to decipher the consumer as if he/she was some code or a pattern sitting in front of our MacBooks, Desktops, iPads and laptops like the ‘operator’ from the Matrix.
Very few brands, let’s say Apple and mainly thanks to Steve Jobs, will take a call and say ‘Consumers don’t really know what they want.’ and if we were to do something that would appeal to them, then we aren’t really making a dent in the universe. We are mainly subverting our product to fit in and shove it down their throat for their consumption, actually consumption till the point where they actually puke until there’s no return.
So what am I trying to get to?
A few fundamental questions that I’d like to ask myself when it comes to Social Media or any form of marketing for that matter. I remember about a year and a half I wrote this blog post on brands getting their communication right.
I read that again now. Interesting to note that, this doesn’t change even today. But yes, I’d like to differ on one perspective.
Consumerism hasn’t yet reached its tipping point and most certainly all the things that we have been doing in the past will continue to stand. But what will make us and our brands more than just a commodity and as products to ‘stand out‘ is how we productize our services and servicize our products, something I learnt from The Purple Cow. Remember the irony I brought out in the beginning?
So the questions that will still linger in one’s mind are :
  1. Do consumers make decisions based on brand recall and communication?
  2. Or consumers have their own wandering mind which no matter how hard we try, we cannot decipher and the trends will keep shifting depending on the herd mentality of the consumers.
  3. Lastly, how do we really communicate to the consumer especially when we don’t have control most of the times over the product as marketers / advertisers
In a separate post, I have answered these questions in a different way, one that’ll help your brand be more than just a commodity, be it on social media or offline. I have written about how we need to build brands as products not commodities.