Social Media

Brand, Marketing – 2014 and beyond

These are not really trends or predictions, it’s more a set of drivers and their impact on the domain of brand marketing.

Technology: Disruption is an abused word, but I think technology is the biggest disruption that marketing has experienced. Yes, it has been so every time a new medium cropped up, but this wave is special. In this largish bucket, I’m dumping everything from the Internet of Things (IoT, which, in addition to really smarter devices and spaces, will also, I hope, give the entire domain of social a reboot) to 3D printing (HP’s entry, scheduled for mid 2014, should push this further in the mainstream journey) to wearable tech/techsessories (Google Glass is the poster boy, though development is happening on various fronts) to Social TV. (a classic example of how social adds itself as a layer to existing media platforms and augments it)  I also add to this the advancements in devices – specifically mobile, which is already forcing marketers to quickly rework their strategy to adapt. The reason I used the word disruption is because by fostering a new kind of phenomenon like say, the collaborative economy, and getting ready to challenge traditional manufacturing, technology is going beyond its role as an enabler and changing brand experiences.

Marketing Technology: While the first point was about technology in a relatively generic sense, this is is about the application of technology and associated tools in the marketing domain. This is everything from marketing automation to web content management to advertising technology and so many, many more things which will probably make a move towards mainstream in 2014. This very popular image would give you a vastness of this domain. With the kind of data that phenomena like IoT and wearable tech will spew out, and the levels of customisation that customers expect, everyone, across domain would have to at least attempt Amazonian levels of efficiency.  Also, increasingly, technology will help us integrate offline with digital. (example)

We can scream buzzword, but big data exists, and we’re only taking baby steps towards harnessing it. I can already see the first levels of it in social media advertising, where intelligent tools and dashboards allow not just better and real time targeting but also better analytics on everything from planning to attribution, to aid decision making. Extrapolate this to multiple media platforms, devices, delivery channels within each and think of the possibilities. I think the domain will move much faster because of two reasons – one, the fragmentation of marketing channels and the impossibility of managing it with only manpower resources, and two, the marketer’s ROI obsession. To quote Scott Brinker, “software is the new fabric of marketing” I see the ‘big’ in big data moving on two paths simultaneously – qualitatively big that would help in personalisation, and quantitatively big that would help in scaling. (mass customisation for larger audience sets, better targeted)

Agile Marketing: Yes, we have borrowed it from the software development guys. No, it’s not really new, nor is it surprising because if marketing is getting a technology influx, it is only obvious that software processes might be a good way to approach marketing. Everything that I have written above will ensure that by design or not, marketers will increasingly be forced to adopt this methodology as the days of predictable media platforms draw to a close. In a dynamic business environment, where new platforms are popping up regularly, and even known platforms are changing their rules constantly, the only way to cope, let alone thrive, would be to run various simulations continuously,  iterate and develop incrementally, break silos and communicate effectively, and have flexible frameworks that can be more responsive to the speed of the change cycles.  What I hope to see this year – at least at an early stage – are software/tools that are customised to the requirements of marketing. But irrespective of that, get ready to sprint! (read more)

Promotainment: Roughly, the phenomenon formerly known as advertising. Thanks to everything above, creativity will need to be channeled differently. In YouTube’s top trends for 2013, three branded videos managed to capture a place for themselves. But this only covers part of the story. Mere entertainment will not be enough to bond with the consumer, for sufficient pull to happen, brands will have to define a purpose (business and beyond) that will resonate with consumers, and treat it differently according to contexts. These contexts could be platforms, locations, topical opportunities and a host of other things, with each experience adding to the perceptions of the consumer. Experiences and ‘content’ need to be created for each of these contexts, and brands need to reboot the way they handle communication. (The Making of a Content Brand) The other key player in this mix is privacy – everything from transience (eg. Snapchat) to the ‘negotiation’ with consumers on what information they share to get what benefit. Customisation as per contexts and audiences and yet cohesive within the larger purpose framework. Not an easy challenge. (A wonderful take on this, and more from Vyshnavi Doss – Brand Avatars)

Marketing Organisation: I came across the fascinating Big Shift concept and the three ‘waves‘ – foundation, flow and impact – only recently. The third wave is how organisations respond to the fundamental shifts in knowledge and the flow of information that are characteristic of the first two waves. While this is a larger institutional shift, its impact will also felt in the structure of the marketing organisation. Add to this, the transformation required for agile methodologies and a fundamentally different content marketing process, and the existing marketing silos have no choice but to evolve. Technologists, ROI drivers, specialists in different kinds of brand experiences – real time, real (offline) and otherwise, data wizards to analyse the tons of data streaming in, CRM folks, creative people and many more will be part of this new structure that realigns the marketing domain to fit the new business landscape dynamics. (a good illustration)

These subjects, and in my mind, one of its results –  social business – will form the majority of this blog’s content in 2014. We’re at the cusp of an extremely interesting era in brand marketing, thanks to radical shifts in pretty much everything happening around us – what I keep referring to as institutional realignment. Here’s to an exciting year ahead!


 until next time, have a wonderful 2014!

The evolution of work and the workplace

I spent Rajinikanth’s birthday  at Jaipur, all thanks to one of my favourite bloggers – Kavi, who, in his official avatar, invited me to his organisation’s annual HR conference. The theme of the conference was Evolve Connect Enhance, and I can honestly say that many of my perspectives were enhanced during discussions about the real  implications and challenges for organisations, brought about by radical changes in the business environment.

For now, I’ll let the talk do the talking!  (transcript below the ppt) Do comment with your thoughts!


Final Talk Points by manuscrypts


until next time, work it out

To be a content brand

I had a bit of an epiphany when I read this superbly written post on Snapchat and the nuances of storytelling. In my last post on the utility of a brand, I had pretty much glossed over ‘delivery’ because it was one part of a larger framework. (and a post that kept getting longer after I began writing!) While determining the larger purpose of the brand and its ‘job’ in a consumer’s life is important, it is also equally necessary to ‘deliver’ this to the consumer in relevant contexts, especially because we live in a world which has not fully learnt to combat  ‘filter failure’. I think ‘content’ strategy has a large role to play in this.

The corporate narrative, referred to in the last post, is a constant work in progress and I fully agree that over a period of time, it will deliver all the advantages that the post mentions, but I do have a couple of different perspectives on the ‘narrative vs stories’ points in it. One, I think stories contribute to the larger narrative (either by collectively forming one or adding to an existing one) and probably don’t deserve to be separated from it. Two, I believe that stories are the devices which make the corporate narrative relevant to the consumer by adding context. This is even more pertinent because narratives are rarely linear in the way they are consumed now. Even not advertising is content that would influence perceptions.

The brand narrative

A brand’s narrative is no longer one that is broadcast to a user base that the brand considers its audience. In fact, thanks to the internet and then social, only a few contexts are now dictated by the brand, the rest of the narrative (in the consumer’s mind) is built by his/her ‘experiences and the best a brand can do is aim for cohesion. The consumer seeks/finds a need that the brand fills in his/her life. This need can be anything along Maslow’s hierarchy, and more. This, I think, is where stories play a crucial part, because the more the stories- from brands or other users – the more contexts a consumer finds to fit the brand into his/her life stream.

The narrative of a brand in a consumer’s life is fluid, and it is cohesive stories that will define its evolution. It has probably always been so, but the explosion of self publishing has meant that brands have to not just get heard above competitors, but the user’s stream on various platforms too. The fluid narrative also means that the big idea every quarter (or year) is no longer enough. (or necessary, though that is debatable) It takes a ton of stories to build a perception and get a community to interact with the brand. But when they do, there is potential for magic. (ask Ikea) It also, only takes a whiff of controversy for it to be forgotten. This calls for an adaptive, agile methodology and some solid content structures that the brand can use to frame user contexts.

Surprisingly, there is good news

The good news is that social platforms do offer a better way to customise delivery according to a user need. That we still use these to broadcast and target according to pre determined audience segments is the beginning of bad news. But at some point when the race to mould the day’s popular social platforms to the existing paradigms of marketing segmentation ends courtesy saturation, hopefully ad tech will move more solidly towards delivering content and experiences that are an answer to the user’s needs. IBM’s trait tattoo based on tweets is a start. Further good news is that thanks to Facebook and Twitter, brands are slowly realising the need to create content that goes beyond broadcast. They are being forced to balance business agendas with the user’s needs.

But, wait

The bad news for marketers is that platforms are exploding and each has its own milieu. The content objectives and strategy are essentially different because user contexts change between platforms and even within it according to time. Right now reach trumps relevance thanks to the measurement parameters of an earlier era, but I’m guessing that will change soon as everyone begins to do the same thing on Facebook and Twitter. Further bad news is that marketing is not really structured or resourced for the changed communication scenario.

Probably the worst news is the mindset and I have seen at least a few fundamental challenges to begin with, in addition to a few myths. One, brands still have the communication baggage of an earlier era. This manifests itself in a campaign based approach, the quest for perfection, the endless approval cycles, and a broadcast flavour to every piece of content, among other things. Two, thanks to Red Bull, everyone wants to get wings and start flying on the first day, as if there is a user waiting to hear the banality that is about to be uttered. It takes months to experiment and get a sense of the fitment of the content’s function (business needs with the objective to inform/entertain/inspire/persuade… the user), its form, (blog posts, tweet, FB post, videos, infographic, polls etc) flavour, (tonality) and frequency (timing) that will appeal to various users in various contexts – what is referred to as the ‘voice of the brand’. The last is the application of measurement parameters that were built for an earlier marketing framework.


However, all of this is part of the evolution, and given that the learning curve gets steeper by the day, brands will have no other choice but to catch up. The flip side is to be irrelevant, and no brand can afford it.

until next time, discontentment

P.S. function, form, flavour, frequency make 4 Fs. One more for F5. (refresh)

The utility of a brand

After the ‘social product‘ post, the brand guy in me wanted to reconcile this evolution of the product with the brand story. After all, ‘network effects’, ‘purpose’, ‘community’ etc are essential parts of the brand story as well. But I thought of stepping back a bit before moving forward.

The ‘tyranny of the big idea‘ is oft discussed here and the more I see platforms evolve, the more I feel the need (for brands) for nuanced strategy and propositions that are relevant in various contexts and take into account the radical change that is two-way communication. (as opposed to broadcast) I think this is an inevitability of consumption fragmentation as well as changes in attitudes/behaviour/expectations, and sustained nuanced propositions is one of the key ways to create ‘network effects’ across platforms.

In this context, I thought the ‘Moving Forward’ section in this insightful post titled “Killing Big Strategy” captured it perfectly. Also, through it, I came across something that helped link the product-brand stories – “Finding the right job for your product“, a fantastic alternate perspective on traditional market segmentation, and some excellent lessons in defining competition and positioning. Not to forget this gem from Drucker “The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it is selling him.”

So where does this all begin? Though ‘purpose’ is increasingly being used as a buzzword  and also espousing a corporate-centric view (unfortunately) I still get to see a lot of relevant literature that does more than lip service. At a broad level, this little framework of Purpose – Delivery – Resonance, for instance, is a good start. There are many needs that brands fulfill and many reasons why they are loved, and these could start as pointers for a brand to figure out its purpose. John Hagel’s “The Untapped Potential of Corporate Narratives” offers some excellent perspective on how user-centric narratives gets several ‘pull’ factors to work in tandem and offer numerous sustainable advantages. The examples include my usual favourite – Nike, and this is a subject I have touched upon earlier as well, (1,2) though not as eloquently. :) If you think about it, this is also another way of ‘finding the right job for your product’.



On delivery. Russell Davies’ “Activities not audiences” draws the distinction between users and user needs and calls for focusing on the latter. Again, another rendition of a product doing its ‘job’. This post, titled “Brands: One System Of Touch“, explores the misalignment of brands which view customer experiences in isolation, by channel, whereas customers of course view and grade their experiences cumulatively. This is a good starting point to think about what needs to be changed internally to deliver a cohesive, relevant and useful experience to the consumer.

In the meanwhile, I came across quite a few examples of brands adopting the ‘product doing a job’ approach even though it might be an isolated exercise at this point –  Hermes’ silk knot app, Volkswagen’s and Audi’s Augmented Reality apps to repair/know the features of their cars. While they might seem too self serving to qualify for the concept under discussion, they’re definitely a step in the direction. Uber’s response to a bus driver strike with free rides might be a more evolved example. Another one might be Ford’s platform to ‘hack’ its car hardware and software. Many more examples of ‘branded utility’ can be seen here. I think that in the looming collaborative economy, platforms like Google Helpouts will help brands become a real time utility in their domains.  Interestingly there are also examples of brands (Citi, Kleenex) which are trying to create value beyond their core purpose/utility. Levi’s’ ‘School of Make our mark‘ is another example.

The last bit in the framework (though the framework also mentions differentiation, I see it as something that needs to be built into purpose and delivery) I referred to earlier is resonance. I think these above experiments will not only help brands learn what it takes to build sustained resonance in various consumer contexts but also how to amplify this to potential consumers who might share similar needs. This will require learning and application beyond the conventional mass reach tactics employed currently. The corollary is that measurement paradigms would also need to change. I could see this being aligned to all the points mentioned in this superb post –  ‘The Future of Marketing‘ – messages to experiences, rational to passion, adaptive strategy, simulations, brands to platforms.

To bring it all back to the link between the social product and the brand, I now (again) see technology (including social) as an enabler in the product and marketing road maps – working in tandem to deliver the brand’s purpose and help it augment resonance.

until next time, utilising brands

The Social Product

A few days ago, I read this post that cited studies on consumer sentiment (US, UK) about brands being present on social media. There are plenty of interesting perspectives and nuanced insights but one key takeaway is that consumers feel there is a glut of companies on social media, though it seems the younger age group feel that presence on social media adds to trust. Around the same time, I also came across the theory of peak advertising which begins with the decreasing effectiveness of online advertising and moves through various stages to suggest alternatives to the current business models that sustain the internet.  Collectively, it would seem as though the (generic) advantage of just being present on social is plateauing, or probably even going down. There are obviously brands that are using these platforms effectively, but increasingly, social is being used as media and this is easily replicated by other brands. At a larger level, the advertising barrage on social is also reducing effectiveness. That led me to think – before the utopia of social business, what opportunities does social have beyond the traditional marketing, advertising media based approach, enterprise collaboration, and social CRM?

In the second Myntra post, I’d written about how I felt that ‘product’ was best placed to deliver sustainable business advantage. Though it was related to the website/features in that context, I’m now considering if this is applicable across the board – to physical products as well. Also, the more I see social evolving on customer care, marketing, advertising and sales, the more I think these are becoming hygiene. I have omitted marketing because I think there is scope to build a unique brand and thus some business advantage in the long run. However, I also think that this marketing will have to significantly integrated with ‘product’.

In this context, I found this Forrester post titled “There is no Internet of Things” extremely interesting. Though we’re in the early stages of this phenomenon, I think it’s a good time for her to have raised the point of fragmentation and apps/brands working in silos. There are some excellent examples and scenarios in that post that make it a must-read. The conceptual answer to this is in the title of this HBR post – “The Age of Social Products“, and it makes a great point on ‘shared purpose’. “In an age of social products, competitive advantage comes not from product features but from network effects.” (though at this stage, I do think it’s both and not an either/or) Nike, as mentioned in the post, (and as usual) continues to be on the cutting edge. The common theme in their case is that the product + community (user+developer) offering only uses popular social platforms to augment, and is not dependent on them.

The current approach to social (media) is either to use $ or influence. I’m not sure there’s enough importance given to the network and the effect that’s created over a period of time. As this superb post states on the subject of disruption and diffusion states, “It’s not the nodes, it’s the network” In that light, I feel social products might be able to do more justice to the promise of ‘social’ than its current avatars, especially social media. I did think the same way about social platforms earlier, but we live in hope!



until next time, objectifying social :)

P.S. I was reminded of a term coined much earlier – social objects. In that context, it was anything that could be a conversation starter, and the focus was more on its ability to connect people around a subject of common interest. Social products have the ability to take that connection and give it a platform where even people who are not in the same time and place can be part of the conversation. This is beyond its ‘utility’ not just as a product but also as a device that talks to other devices and makes itself more useful. I’m actually thinking of that ‘bottle of memories’ I mentioned in an earlier post, probably in a smarter avatar – like this or this – but also ‘tagged’ (say, using an augmented reality app) with the people who are part of the stories associated with it. Now, at some point, when I see the bottle, and get particularly nostalgic, I could use the same app to see what those people are up to, and quickly ping them to start a conversation about the good old times. In the collaborative and sharing economy, think of the possibilities! (If you’re interested in this sort of thing, you should like this post) When I think about it, what we probably need to accelerate this is a browser (what it does for the web) equivalent.

Social @ Myntra – Part 2

continued from Part 1

Creating, correcting and maintaining brand perception and resolving customer issues were fundamentally the objectives when operating in the customer care and brand domains respectively. But this was not an end in itself. The end objective of the business is revenue, and that makes up the remaining story.

3. Product: In this context, it includes the website itself, and the various features/enhancements/new products (eg. gift cards) that get introduced on a regular basis. Including social buttons on the home page and product pages were a given, though getting them above the fold was a mission I lost! The first major change was switching from FB Connect to the Open Graph. The potential applications, using social and interest graphs, are phenomenal, but we never progressed that far. At a basic level, I had slotted activities in this domain under acquisition and retention, and we have only implemented a small portion of the former. The easiest application of the social graph was using it for social proof. Kuliza’s Echo made that job relatively easy for us. It not only helped seamlessly amplify word-of-mouth, but also gave us a lot of data on consumption. One of the plans was to integrate this with Elevate, another Kuliza app – but inside Facebook, to try and beat FB’s throttling of organic reach. :) Another application of Echo, which should soon see the light of day, is a Fab-like social feed. If a user has registered on Myntra using Facebook, he/she would see the actions (Likes, Purchases, Wishlist additions) of his/her friends on a separate feed inside Myntra. Our expectation is that this would prompt more social actions inside Myntra and accelerate word-of-mouth inside FB further. This was actually a Phase 1 of a larger plan I had in mind. Let me explain.

While brand and customer connect can provide a strategic advantage on social, I’ve always felt that it was in the product domain that social could provide a sustainable strategic advantage. This came from my notion that ‘loyalty’ existed when the exit barrier for a customer to leave Myntra was high enough to beat any sustainable offering from a competitor. ‘Brand’ is one standard way to achieve it, but it is relatively less tangible, and in a commoditised marketplace, it would take more time. Generic discounting is not sustainable. I think, in this context, ‘Product’ can reach this ‘barrier’ in lesser time, and at lower costs. An ideal in my mind was using the social, intent and interest graphs of users from across various platforms to build a personalised experience, and through that, a gamified customer acquisition and retention architecture inside Myntra, (thereby minimising dependencies on other platforms) and then using social media to amplify relevant actions to further drive acquisition. But this approach has a high dependency on changes in the existing product and every new product/feature having relevant social features baked in (or at have it in the vicinity on its roadmap) to contribute to the larger agenda of the architecture. It also takes a mindset and backing. I did have a rough blueprint, but at this point in the e-commerce wars, this approach probably seemed a nice-to-have. :)

4. Sales: Conventional notions claim that social media should not be used for sales pitches, but from my humble experience, I’d beg to differ. It’s just a matter of what-when-how, and how much. From generic product pitches on the Facebook Page as part of the larger content strategy, to custom links on Twitter, we have consistently shown and tracked revenue from social channels. Even Pinterest and Google+ are contributors! I must admit that in the larger scheme of Myntra’s monthly revenue, these are insignificant, but let’s just say that the total contribution are in double digit lakhs every month. In fact, it reached a point where we were given a budget to see if we could scale it. In this context, I have to mention this brilliant idea by S – she used customer generated product images from our Pinterest ‘Shopped from Us’ board every week to make sales pitches on Facebook! Works like a charm. :)

The area where there were a few attempts, but didn’t really pick up was enterprise collaboration. We managed to build a fairly large community on Yammer, but what I’ve realised is that it needs champions at the highest level in all parts of the organisation using it on a consistent basis for it to be sustainable. I also had this grandiose vision of using Google+ and circles to connect customers, Customer Connect teams, Partner brands and employees in general, but this one was limited to a word document! This is an area that I believe to be a must-have as we evolve towards social business, but in the larger list of priorities, is still a few steps away.

That gives a broad view of what I’ve been up to for two years. The generic point I’m trying to make through the two posts is that from basic business outcomes like customer satisfaction and sales to more nuanced ones like brand perception and sustainable strategic advantage, social can and should play an integral part. There will be differences in terms of scale, strategy, resources etc depending on the domain, maturity of the industry/organisation, target audience and so on, but the important part is to begin because the brand/organisation needs to evolve as well. Social media has shortcuts, I’m inclined to think that social does not. These are days of nascence, and social will continue to evolve – enterprise social networks, social business, big data, the Internet of Things (add buzzwords to taste) and more will all have their hype cycles and age of maturity. By all means, measure ROI, but remember, we spend on movie tickets, we invest in mutual funds. I think we’re clear on the expected time frame of returns in both cases.



Myntra will remain dear to me, like all the other brands I have worked on, but it will probably have a more lasting signature, because not since my days at GIM have I experienced such a rewiring of my worldview. This stint has given me oodles of confidence, friends whom I hope will last a lifetime, and relationships of trust that I will cherish.

Before I end, the last hat tip – to the super S, who joined the team mid last year and has since then, proven time and again that she’s the best social ‘investment’ we made, and made this little social adventure a total joy! “I used to believe that we are here to teach what we know. Now I know that we are here to teach what we are meant to discover

until next time, </ head – social media> :)

Social @ Myntra – Part 1

[The intent in writing this is manifold – primarily my obsession for chronicling, and it being my way of expressing gratitude. But since this might be useful to other social practitioners, I have uncharacteristically added text highlighting and such, and also sought to bring some semblance of order as opposed to the regular free flowing text :)]

Almost exactly a couple of years back – Autumn Winter 2011 – the blog had an update on a new assignment. I can only vaguely remember writing the post, but what I have not forgotten is the excitement at the opportunity – to experiment with concepts, ideas and hypotheses. I have been blessed with great bosses, they have wanted to hire me again. So the first hat tip is to S, not just for believing I could chart a social agenda for Myntra, but for using his auctoritas in the organisation to ensure I got a runway good enough to attempt a flight. The second hat tip is to Mukesh, Myntra’s founder-CEO, who nearly stumped me with his first question as I was about to begin my huge social roadmap presentation (towards the end of Oct 2011) – why does Myntra need ‘social’? It was a very fundamental question – it not only underlined what I had in mind, but also served as a subconscious beacon during my stint.

We began with stating objectives. The idea was not to create a silo out of social, but to tie its objectives and strategy to various existing domains, and therefore business outcomes. This would ensure that social could create a strategic business advantage in the long run, and also meant that we could use domain specific metrics to track the progress of social investments.

The best advice I got, again from Mukesh after the first presentation, was to prioritise, because there was so much we could do. Thus began the planning – focus areas, time frames, strategy, resources, measurable outcomes. Our focus areas were primarily four – Customer Connect, Brand, Product, and Sales, and everything we did had a link with business metrics in these.

1. Customer Connect: Before anything else, this domain had to be addressed. The rationale was simple – until we resolved the issues that customers were sharing, there could be no conversation on any other topic. We began with a shared Google doc, taking complaints from Facebook and Twitter, getting them resolved internally, and then communicating back on the relevant channel. The objective of solving customer issues quickly could easily be measured by standard Customer Satisfaction indices around the number of issues resolved and average turn-around-time. By April 2012, the excel sheet process became crazy enough for us to opt for a more robust approach. After evaluating social CRM options at varying levels of complexity, we began using Get Satisfaction in April 2011, one of the first e-commerce companies in India to do so. It allowed us to seamlessly integrate with Facebook, and later Twitter, via Hootsuite. The metrics began looking much better since then!

2. Brand: In the absence of consistent brand campaigns, social automatically becomes one of the few media platforms available to create a perception about the brand. There are many aspects to this, and among all focus areas, this is the domain which is evolving most rapidly, and in which there’s always something to do.

Listening: Unlike broadcast media, social platforms have conversations – about the brand, to the brand. The best example in the Myntra context is the reaction to our first Lisa Haydon ad. (details) Before ORM became a buzzword and a zillion tools were spawned, the choice was simple for frugal social folks – Hootsuite vs Tweetdeck. We chose the former, and continue to use it even now. Though we did try out many tools, we couldn’t really reconcile the amount we would have to pay with the value we could derive from them. Finally, Unmetric has been brought on board because they manage to give a view of the brand vis-a-vis competition, and also actionable insights.

Branded Content: I had been a blogger for 8 years when I joined Myntra, and have always considered it the original social platform. Style Mynt was my first major project at Myntra. (details) Born on December 1st 2011, with no further investments in manpower, (because there were people in various departments who were interested in, and could write well about fashion)  and costs that only included theme and hosting charges. It not only gave Myntra a platform to express fashion thought leadership and style advice with utilitarian value, but also provided content for social networks and served as a good medium to build relationships with partner brands. (eg. with behind-the-scenes brand focus posts) . End-to-end project management was fun, especially content planning and tweaking themes, and I was even de facto editor until April, when we saw that this kind of content creation had tremendous potential, and hired a full time editor. Later, the activities on Style Mynt also resulted in video content. On Twitter, we created lists and constantly curated them – one of the applications is the Myntra #LookGood Daily. The objective in all these efforts is to create a strong association between Myntra and fashion/style. There are many ways to measure this – blog subscriptions and visits generated to Myntra from the blog, questions in the brand track for evolved brands, and for others, the share of voice in relevant keywords which can be tracked using monitoring tools. Though not the primary objective, Style Mynt has been a contributor to revenue as well, and Thinglink needs to be mentioned in this context. (details)

Social Media: Or rather, social as media. In 2011, Facebook and Twitter were the only platforms that were considered serious enough to be active on. We tracked platform metrics (Likes, PTAT, Followers) because they were surrogates that gave us an idea of the reach of our content and even brand salience to an extent, all the while conscious that they were a means, not an end. The content strategy on both were in a constant state of evolution, until it found its current version which aims to balance infotainment, (with creatives made specially for social) content marketing and selling pitches. Facebook Insights, though by no means perfect, gave us indicators of the efficacy of the content we were sharing. ‘Social as media’ is also where the much vilified hashtags on Twitter can play a part. All our hashtags have had a clear objective – to create some buzz around a tactical or strategic initiative. (examples) Their reach can be measured using free/paid tools. Also to be mentioned in this context – we are connected to over 60 of our partner brands on Twitter.

We tried out an interesting Foursquare experiment as well, to emphasise the fashion destination positioning – leaving tips at retail outlets of partner brands on seasonal trends. Being a fashion brand, we got active on Pinterest and Instagram early too. We’re probably the first Indian e-com/fashion brand to have season collection videos on Instagram. We were present on Google+ because it had a rub off on SEO as well, but in addition, there is much potential for creating excellent branded content using Hangouts. (and its On Air version) On YouTube, we began with content curation until we got our own videos. But even given that, at this stage, I’d have to say that it is an under exploited channel.

The value for the original two can now be measured in terms of reach metrics (brand) as well as revenue. The others are in a nascent stage, and will evolve rapidly, I’m sure. Earlier this year, Franchisee India gave us an award for the Best Use of Social Media & Communication Strategy. In terms of ‘vanity metrics’, when I started out, we had 5.8L Likes and 984 followers, and were non existent on the other platforms! Now, we have over 1.5m Likes, 13000+ followers on Twitter, more than a 1000 followers on Pinterest, 500+ on Instagram, 400+ on Foursquare, 600+ subscribers on YouTube and 3000+ on Google+.

Corporate Brand: Style Mynt had taken off very well, and blogs were in tremendous favour within Myntra. :) I pitched that a corporate blog would allow us to showcase values, culture, and build trust, within the organisation and among consumers. Myntra’s corporate blog is now a year old and continues to do exactly what I wrote it aimed to do in its About page.  The benchmark continues to be the Cleartrip blog, but this one is a labour of love at this point. I’m confident though, that having a place to air the brand’s side of the story can only do good in the long run. I’d also recommend the use of Quora – you cannot be present as the brand, but if you can get 2-3 management team members to be active, it could do a lot for you.

Blogger Outreach: Fashion is a domain of specialisation for many bloggers, and we began associating with them pretty early. From guest posts to sponsored contest giveaways in the initial days to a more organised and rigorous blogger outreach program for reviews more recently, we have tried a lot of stuff. They’re invited to our events, their posts get promoted via twitter, we have a board exclusively with their posts on Pinterest, and they even get #fridayfollow tweets from us. We have built relationships and there are plans in the pipeline that for more concrete ways to take this further – providing value to both parties. These efforts help in associating Myntra with fashion, catering to the bloggers’ niche audiences, and generating positive buzz about Myntra.

This has proven to be longer than I expected! Therefore, to be continued..

That’s the plan for now

This ‘what could have been’ post on FB Platform and the broader theme of ‘move fast, break things’ made me think about planning – brand as well as business, how technology is reshaping it, and the fine balance that is required to ensure business growth goes hand in hand with retaining the trust of the ecosystem.

Brand planning has always been an interest area, and I’ve had the good fortune of knowing a few brilliant planners, and learning what I could from them. Still continue to. A simple search would throw up a number of planning frameworks, and many of the fundamentals would still hold.  However, technology is throwing open more options in terms of manifestation/output. I found some good perspectives in this article which is about that CMOs can learn from technologists. The fundamental theme is dynamism. But such are the challenges that they remind me of We are trapped in our inadequate mental models ~ John Edwarrd Huth (via)

I’d think that brand narratives are (also) shaped by the story telling devices at their disposal. As Mitch Joel points out here, the nuances of marketing vs advertising need to be understood as brands struggle to transition from the mass advertising era. One-way media allowed a linear flow, but current platforms demand flexibility, and customised rendition across contexts and platforms. If consumers are the new media, the stories should be ones that they can identify with, fit into their personal narratives, and therefore inclined to share.

Many of the familiar narrative devices have focused on getting attention, but that is increasingly difficult. It’s not that ‘awareness’ can be ignored, but not only is it not enough, but attention for the sake of itself cannot work. I really liked this post (again by Paul Isakson) where he encapsulates the thought in the title itself Adding Value > Getting Attention. The > works not just as ‘greater than’ but also as ‘leads to’. Or, in other words, Be the Company Customers can’t Live Without.

In a highly fragmented media and consumption scenario, how does a brand/business know what to focus on and when to shift from it?A wonderful blog I have discovered recently is that of Paul Isakson. This post, for instance, throws light on the need for the brand to stay true to its own story, and therefore focus on specific audiences. Another of my favourite posts focuses on something that I have always believed in and liked – the back story, and its relevance for brands. What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow ~ Buddha

To get there involves a cultural change, and tectonic shifts. I also think that this will force brands to think about scale. In a mass media world, a brand could get ‘reach’ by throwing money. That can still be done, even on social platforms, but when attention is not the only thing that matters, the challenge is to build relevancy and scale it – across time. That requires new planning frameworks, and possibly means a



We started with FB, so let’s go full circle. Even as late as last year, there was massive skepticism around Facebook’s ability to adapt and thrive in the mobile space. In the last earnings call, they reported that mobile had contributed 41% to revenue. (read) It would seem that Facebook knew its story, what to focus on,  and stuck to it.

until next time, refresh

The questions in Big Data

In my last post that touched upon Big Data, I had mentioned how the seeming intent of Big Data is to synthesise actionable insights from processed and unprocessed information at touch points related or unrelated to the enterprise, and then use it to target consumers better. While this is probably true for the short-medium term, I read a wonderful perspective at GigaOm by Beau Cronin on its true potential – the path to building the equivalent of global-scale nervous systems. As I tweeted after I read it, it reminded me of something I’d written a couple of years back before I’d heard of #BigData – if we could actually use data to go beyond that to answer life’s profound questions. Before we go into the subject, here’s a nice video by OgilvyOne titled “Big Data for smarter customer experiences” (via) though it’s skewed more towards the experience rather than the data.

Beau Cronin has mentioned several possibilities this would give rise to, and the post made me think if something like the hive mind concept would mesh into it as well – a sort of hybrid neural network. He has also pointed out the hurdles we would face while we get there – gathering, processing and conversion into actionable insights, and how phenomena such as priming,expectations, and framing matter so much in how we perceive our physical and social environments. In essence, a fascinating read.

I was particularly intrigued by framing, and began thinking about it in the context of the unstructured data – tweets, posts, mails, videos – that is a major component of Big Data. The fundamental question being – is it unstructured because we’re framing it ‘wrong’? Based on the enterprise’ intent and not the users’? Ironically, I couldn’t frame the questions right until I met the ever-brilliant S, who has always maintained that the answer is easy to find once the question has been framed right. He has developed (Tulpa -to build or construct in Tibetan – is the concept he enlightened me on while we were discussing semantics) something that at a rough level mashes the MECE principle with Frame Semantics and the entity-relationship model. There’s IPR involved, so no more beans shall be spilled, but as always, I learned much from the conversation.

In essence, structure can definitely be derived from what we currently call unstructured data, provided we frame the queries right. I can intuitively begin to understand that in the era of data abundance, the only way we can make sense of all of it is by focusing on an intent that is derived from a common purpose, so that the sources of data (users) will be more open to help solve the challenges of data collection. The processing and inferences that follow would yield the best results when the right questions are asked. I have a feeling that the questions asked by a business in an earlier era might not cut it.

until next time, role models

Revisiting Social Commerce

It’s been more than 2 years since I wrote about social commerce on afaqs, and since then, there have been massive changes right from the definitions to the operations of social commerce. Karthik’s recent post on the subject led me to think about it again.

I’ve always felt that most of the popular definitions of social commerce have constrained its actual scope. Back in 2011, facebook stores accounted for most of the social commerce discussions. These days, it is mostly referral traffic and sales from social, and that too, in terms of last-touch attribution, as the Ecommerce quarterly (that Karthik cites) would suggest. While I’d not contest EQ’s methodology or assessment, I think it’s only fair to point out that there have been a great number of exceptions. (read; Disclosure: that list includes Myntra where I work) I’m not a fan of how Facebook has throttled what we used to call organic reach, but if you want to read about how Facebook helps target users at different levels of the funnel, Zappos serves as a good example. Facebook’s Custom Audiences and FB Exchange products allow different ways of targeting consumers. Twitter is a bit late to the party, but their products also have excellent potential from what I’ve seen, and they’re moving quickly! (already into retargeting)  YouTube is already a big bet for advertisers, and Pinterest is already being used by scores of Etsy users! (read) From small experiments, I also suspect that Google+ is a potential top rung player. Even if you’d like to leave the $ out and consider (for example) only organic (eg. Open Graph actions) there are case studies evolving. (example)


So, can commerce be driven through social channels – advertising as well as organic? An emphatic yes would be my answer. Yes, it might score low if one considers only last-touch attribution, but hey, many of Facebook’s strategic PMDs are getting a handle on multi-touch attribution. (Kenshoo is an example) One should also consider that other traffic channels like search, affiliates etc have been around for longer and have tried and tested models. The point is rather simple – if we judge social’s contribution on the basis of models created for an earlier version of the web, it would not measure up. We’re at a stage where both technology and tools are still evolving to help measure social on terms that balance its uniqueness with the needs of the business. The good news is that the little that I have seen of Facebook’s strategic PMDs has been inspiring!

(Image via)

But I think using social channels as sources of traffic/revenue for commerce is still not capturing ‘social commerce’ in its entirety. Though arguable and reducing in favour, I’d still label many group buying options as social commerce. (example) But to me, the elephant in the room is  p2p commerce. Though the collaborative economy is more vast in scope, I’d put it in the same bucket in this context. (do read Jeremiah Owyang on the subject) From Airbnb to RelayRides to Loosecubes to TaskRabbit to even KickStarter, commerce is now happening between individuals with everyone playing creator, buyer and seller as per context. While the $ is inevitable, trust and one’s network itself are becoming currencies. Yes, these also use social platforms for extended reach, but this is inherently more social than the pure commerce play of brands.

It is interesting to see social platforms working on these lines as well. Facebook’s Marketplace was probably a bit ahead of its time, but nothing stops them from bringing it back. I read recently that Google is planning to release Mine – a service integrated with G+ that allows users to keep track of “belongings” and then share those with friends in different circles. (via) Yes, there will obviously an Android App. It’s not just these platforms, I’d think that Amazon is slowly approaching it from a different direction as well. (read)

To sum it up, commerce has always been social, it’s only the dynamics that keep changing.

until next time, commercial breaks