Brand with a world view

In Feels & Fields in Marketing, I had written about my view that the sustainable advantage in data driven marketing over the long term might be lesser than an approach where the brand is marketed as a worldview – reflected in thought and deed. A couple of nuances I’d like to point out here. One, the reason I feel so is because from the evolution of digital media thus far, the end game of new platforms/technologies arguably seem to be a version of a “cost per” arms race, and that end game is reached rather fast. Two, I don’t strictly see data and story telling as an either/or. It’s just that I don’t see a lot of justice being done to the latter thanks to the focus on the former, and I also see the dumbing down/tempering of messaging to access a larger mass.

However, I’ll admit that putting down ‘brand with a worldview’ into a generic framework is a rather challenging. But I have seen quite a few examples – personal experiences as well as larger campaigns – that highlight various aspects of this approach. The new POTUS has in fact, provided quite some fodder for this. Hardly surprising, since his usage of extreme stances contributed majorly to his victory.  More

On the first death of Facebook Commerce…

Towards the middle of last year, I’d written a column at afaqs on how social and commerce were in a relationship. A few months later, I revisited the premise on a tangent and wrote an article for Kuliza titled “Social + e-commerce ≠ Social Commerce“. (pg 25)

All through last week, after the Bloomberg report, in which a Forrester analyst phrased it as “But it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar“, I’ve been reading post after post proclaiming the demise of what has been called f-com. (Facebook Commerce) It finally made me tweet this

I realised later that a similar statement had already been made – “Opening a storefront does not mean you have a social commerce strategy…” ~ Justin Yoshimura. In fact, f-com itself should only be one part of a brand’s larger Facebook strategy. The advice being given to brands, along with the news of the demise, is that they should make their own e-com sites more social. Fair enough, but what I don’t get is the mutual exclusivity. Indeed, if brands have adopted an f-com strategy that basically allows users to buy the same things available at their e- store, I wonder why they thought users would flock there. Yes, it does give the brand visibility, proximity to the customer, use of the social graph (like, recommend, share) etc but to the user, there’s really no value. In fact, f-com checkouts are apparently much slower.

Examples of ‘inherently social businesses’ (entertainment, music, games) are being taken as exceptions to the closure trend. IMO, every business (arguably) is inherently social, the trick (actually the hard work) is in finding the social context. Many brands have created value through fan-exclusives, (Heinz) CRM initiatives (Starbucks) free sampling (Pantene) etc. I can understand that coffee is probably social, but shampoo and ketchup?

Part of the fault is to do with the astronomical predictions on the kind of sales these Facebook storefronts were going to generate, part of it is to do with the trigger-happiness that unfortunately shadows most of everything on social platforms.  If brands learned to also pay attention to interest graphs on the network, and create scenarios that use the inherent (and phenomenal) social graph and new features like friction-less sharing better, Facebook can play an excellent role in the overall e-com strategy. As always, the answer is in focusing on user behaviour and experience and not allowing technology and fads to create a myopic vision. The old adage holds – Fail fast. Learn fast. Fix fast.

until next time, f-c’mon

More than fizz and froth

While the recession hits the economies worldwide, the cola giants have been trying their bubbly best to get the fizz back into the lives of their target audience, through hope and optimism campaigns.

Pepsi began proceedings with its new logo, accompanied by a tagline “Every generation refreshes the world”. You can catch an entire set of creatives in this New Year video. On an aside, the (yet to be proved conclusively) brief for this campaign has caused much amusement. You really have to take a look – it is bizarre and includes everything from gravitational pull and thr relativity of space-time to Mona Lisa and the Bible!! (via psfk) Meanwhile, Coke rolled out its ‘Open Happiness’ campaign a few weeks later, complete with a massive campaign and 2 new Super Bowl spots, prompting the question “Who smiled first“. The answer turned out to be Obama, but Pepsi claimed that finally Coke was following them. Coke pointed out that it had started using smiley logos six months back.

Critics have been skeptical about Coke moving away from the ‘Coke side of life’. Pepsi, they say, having always been a youthful brand has been able to bring out a more buoyant and less laboured campaign. In India, they’ve decided to be totally Youngistan, with SRK no longer a brand ambassador, leaving us stuck with Ranbir Kapoor’s adventures. Some respite recently from Dhoni and gang, with the baap connection.

Meanwhile, these campaigns also made me wonder whether typical mass media communication and feel good campaigns are indeed the way to connect during such troubled times,  more so when I read this article by Tom Martin in AdAge. It talks about “the simple human need to connect to others.”

And that brings me to a brilliant campaign I’ve seen (virtually) – froth brand this time, instead of fizz- Starbucks’ “I’m In” campaign, (in association with ‘Hands On Network’) “ an initiative to make it easy to participate in the President-elect’s call for national service.” The campaign allows a person to pledge five hours or more of community service toward a local volunteer opportunity of choice. It rewards the person with a free coffee. The goal is to raise pledges in excess of one million hours of service from all over the country. You can catch the results here. This is what is correctly described as ‘marketing with meaning‘ – which includes several facets – social, personal, storytelling, disruptive, responsible, each of which gives individuals different sets of incentives to be part of the campaign. Starbucks timed the campaign brilliantly – Obama’s inauguration week, and got itself an Oprah Effect. It has all the ingredients required to make a consumer want to be associated with the campaign, and has used the social web very well.

Now I’m not sure of Coke/Pepsi in the US have tangible renditions of the happiness theme on ground, but I know several campaigns in India which have paid lip service to excellent themes/ideas and have ended up looking superficial. In the times and circumstances we live in, there are excellent opportunities for brands to genuinely do good to society within the sphere of their category, and thereby increase their equity in the consumer’s mind.  (Jaago re is a great example) I wonder how many brands will see this.

until next time, a lot can happen over coffee :)

PS. While on fizzy stuff, did you hear about the RSS launching cow’s urine as a soft drink? Called gau-jal, its undergoing laboratory tests and would be launched “very soon, maybe by the end of this year”. Sumant suggests Mo (rarji) Desai in low riding jeans, basketball jersey and bling, as brand ambassador, and I suggested the tagline Pee yo! Wonder if Coke and Pepsi are pissed 😉