Friday, January 13, 2012

A NEW YEAR, A NEW START!

Another year, another chance to accomplish all that we could not in the last year, another hope, another new beginning! Yes, every new year brings about a sense of freshness with it and lots of hope and high spirits. It’s the time to think afresh, plan new things, change your outlook and approach your problems with a more positive mindset.

Every year promises something new and every year witnesses a new change. This year too, we as marketers should be ready to face new challenges and plan new strategies. The rules of doing business are going to change and if we want to stay ahead, we better be prepared.

THE VIRTUAL WORLD WILL OVERTAKE THE REAL WORLD

The traditional way of marketing has changed. Marketers will focus more on the new media and the traditional will take a back seat. This change is for good and will intensify even more as marketers discover more and more innovative ways to reach out to the consumer online.

Last year (in June, 2011) the marketing genius Nike premiered its new ad campaign titled “The Chosen” not on TV, but on Facebook. The campaign was used to launch a video contest, which asked people to submit their videos of extreme action sports (like snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding et al) and create the maximum buzz around their entries. The finalists were then judged by a group of professionals within Nike and the winner was selected; the winner was titled the ‘chosen one’, for he got the chance to live like a Nike Pro athlete for a year. Apart from the very interesting and engaging campaign, the point to be noted is that Nike decided to launch its campaign on Facebook nearly three days before it featured the same on TV during the NBA finals.

Not just shoe brands, even cars are using the social platform to debut their goods. Last year, Ford unveiled its new model – the Ford Explorer – not in an auto show, something that it has been doing consistently for the past 50 years, but on Facebook. It even randomly selected a ‘fan’ to give away a free Explorer! If you consider the fact that Ford has been doing relatively well as compared to its competitors, it seems like the choice of spending twice as much as its competitors on digital media is not a bad choice at all.

This month (January 14), Ikea is hosting a “Bring Your Own Friends” (BYOF) event in its stores in USA. Every time you ‘Like’ the Ikea page, the company makes a donation to the non-profit organization ‘Save the Children’. That’s not all; once you like the page, you get to see the various freebies and discounts that the retailer is offering in its various stores on January 14. You are then asked to invite your friends to the event happening in the stores on the day. For every invite you send, you become eligible for various contests and have a chance to win a free ‘shopping spree’. To add to this, the company pledges to donate $1 to ‘Save the Children’, whether your friend/s turn up for the event or not. Yes, earlier too, Facebook has been used for social causes by companies, but this one goes a step further. Ikea is hoping to increase ‘in store foot traffic’ using Facebook. This only goes on to prove that the coming year will see marketers using the ‘social platform’ more aggressively. If your brand has a page on Facebook, it’s time you made sure that it becomes more interactive and engaging, for that’s going to be the key to success in the future. Or else, God help you… well, literally. The most engaging and interactive pages on Facebook have been those dedicated to religion, with ‘Jesus Daily’ leading the list. At more than 4 million interactions weekly, the page leaves all other pages way behind. This just proves that if you have content that is engaging, you have takers too (after all, there are 800 million people on Facebook and each could be your potential consumer). God could help you get some good ideas for this one for sure!

One of the key factors to keep in mind would be ‘online engagement’ between customers and the brand. Apart from the number of followers, it will also be important to keep your followers engaged this time. When your consumers are being bombarded with so many messages, it’s critical to focus on loyalty and make your brand’s ‘voice’ the loudest and the most unique. One way of doing it online is to keep interacting with them. The cosmetic company ‘Benefit’ did just that. With no marketing on TV or in the print media, Benefit used only the ‘virtual platform’ for all its marketing endeavors. Using fun and quirky online content and giving away freebies and having beauty sessions online, the company built an awareness around its products and kept its fans engaged with the brand. It asked its fans to review its products on its Facebook page and even rewarded its most active reviewers. These ‘reviewers’, in turn, told their other Facebook friends about this brand; and soon, Benefit became the most talked about brand in the virtual space. It’s akin to generating ‘word of mouth’; just that this time, it’s happening online, for that is where most of your consumers will be in the future. All the rules of marketing will remain the same; however, the one who is able to adapt these rules to the ‘virtual world’ will be able to stay ahead of the competition.

It’s going to be an era of the ‘virtual’. Be it brand building or increasing market share, everybody is thinking ‘virtual’. Starbucks launched a ‘mobile payment system’, which turned the smart phones of consumers into wallets. Every time a customer ordered from Starbucks, his/her account was automatically credited; and discounts, if any, were applied. Starbucks claims to have 3.6 million customers who have joined this program, very aptly named ‘My Starbucks Rewards Programme’. This will be a year when ‘virtual innovations’ will help companies reap rich dividends.

THE CONSUMER WILL OVERTAKE MARKETERS

On the flip side, the consumer of tomorrow will be very difficult to impress. He has seen it all and is armed with the technology and the know-how for avoiding your advertisements and marketing messages. You need to be totally different and very creative to actually get his attention.

One strategy that most marketers have been seen adopting is ‘shocking’ the consumer. Most of the times, it has worked. Remember the recent ‘Unhate’ campaign of Benetton, which featured some of the world’s top leaders who were not the closest of friends kissing each other on the lips? The campaign featured photos of Barack Obama kissing the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy kissing Germany’s Angela Merkel and the Pope kissing an Egyptian man. The latter did not take too kindly to it and the Vatican has vowed to take legal action against Benetton this year. But from the marketer’s point of view, the campaign worked as people remembered it, and reacted.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) had released an ad that showed dozens of planes bearing down on New York with a tag line that read “The Tsunami Killed 100 Times More People Than 9/11”. The copy of the ad continued to state “The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Preserve it.” The advertisement, which was created by Brazilian design firm DDB Brasil, was globally condemned by all and had to be hastily withdrawn. Considering the fact that this advertisement appeared just once in a small local paper in Sao Paulo, it was pretty effective, for it had the power to generate a global buzz.

Consumers of tomorrow will appreciate brands that push the boundaries. Diesel did it with its “Be Stupid” campaign, which was loved by the youth everywhere. Whether the ‘shock tactics’ will work or not is debatable. However, one thing is for certain – you need to think really different. You need to be hard hitting to get noticed and be remembered. Only the best will get a reaction from the consumers, and the rest would be conveniently ignored.

The consumer of tomorrow will be impressed by the truly responsible marketer. One who genuinely takes care of its customers and the environment will have more loyal consumers. Brands like Nike and Garnier (French beauty brand) are recycling their products and the consumers are loving them for it. Nike has already recycled 25 million pairs of worn out shoes. Garnier recycles its packaging and uses it to make playground equipment. The consumer tomorrow will like you and remain loyal if, along with a good product, you show him a good recycling plan.

Be responsible and be honest if you want to impress the consumer of tomorrow. If you make a mistake, accept it. Last month, Tata Motors called back over a lakh Nano owners for an upgrade to change their starter motors free of cost. As instances of the car catching fire increased, the company took this action. Toyota, too, did the same when it called back all Etios sedans manufactured before October 8, 2011 to check their filler hose and replace them if found defective. Again, of course, it was done free of cost. More than service, it’s an intelligent strategy to build goodwill and reduce the damages done to the brand’s image.

The coming year is going to be filled with new challenges and new ways of doing business. This time, the old ways will not work. Only the one who is daringly innovative and supremely aggressive will survive.

It’s time to give your brand and your marketing plans a face-lift. It’s time to do new things this new year and discover a new you!

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