Saturday, 29 November 2014

Is Technology Making Today's Youth More Lonely?

My niece is a single child. Her teen years seem to be very very different from mine. Unlike my childhood where I had a brother, multiple cousins, ‘building friends’, ‘family friends’ and various other segments of friends, her primary and only set of friends her age are her school friends. Her time outside school is spent between multiple screens – watching TV, messaging friends and browsing Facebook. I often wonder, is she growing up to be a lonely child.

It was quite reassuring to read a researches by two Australain schools - Griffith University and the University of Queensland. They say, no lonliness is not increasing. In fact, quite on the contrary – loneliness is on a decline with every passing generation.

Their data points out that recent cultural shifts like urbanization, increased social emphasis on personal success, freedom arising from greater economic opportunities and parents placing less emphasis on raising obedient kids – has led to greater sense of individuality. Individualism, in turn, reduces the feeling of loneliness. Increasing self reliance, self esteem and decreasing interest in human interest – decreasing loneliness. 

Tonight,  I will go to sleep a happier aunt knowing that perhaps my tech saturated niece's tech based social interactions are perhaps making her more adept at social interactions than I ever was or ever will be. So, cheers to yet another plus point of technology. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

9 things to remember for your email marketing campaign

In the arsenal of marketing tools available today, email marketing is one of the most difficult ones. From catching the receiver's attention to dodging spam filters - life can be really difficult. However, it is also one of the most popular ones. If you do manage to get the receiver to click on the mail and spend 15 seconds of her valuable time, you would have got a lot more in terms of engagement than multiple thousand GRPs spent on your television campaign.

Now, that sounds like music to your ears. Doesn't it? But how do you manage to do it? How do you get her to not only click on the email but actually engage with it? For people who keep their eyes open to the world around them, there are multiple ways to get clicked. Here's my top nine tips:

1.  Write. Rewrite. And Then Again Write The Subject Line
Subject line is where the magic lies. I suggest that to ensure your email is opened, you must research the motivators, spend disproportionate amount of time crafting the copy and above all talk about a great benefit - do all that it takes to make the subject line absolutely irresistible. But confine that irresistible sentence to a mature statement sans multiple exclamation marks and other signs and symbols found in a teenager's Whatsapp message box.

2. Make Sure The Content Is Valuable  
A subject line can only ensure a click but if the content is not valuable enough, hope in hell your emailer will ever get clicked again. Keeping this in mind - always draw up a great email strategy. Detail out everything you know about your TG and the information they are most likely to look for online. Incorporate that in your email cleverly and you will be home and dry.

3. Make It Graphic But Don't Forget to Use Text    
Yes it is true that netizens like to consume graphic messages a lot more than volumes and volumes of text. But remember, not all mail boxes load images automatically. So to ensure both the challenges are tackled - use a well coded HTML instead of an image heavy design. And don't forget to add a little bit of text or else it may not escape the strict spam filters.

4. Always Optimise For Mobiles
Today more mails get read on a mobile device than calls get made from them. So, it will be rather foolish to not agonise about making your email campaign mobile friendly. And if you are doing that, don't forget that the top 2 to 4 inches of your emailer  is your prime property - use it well to communicate the key points that will get the rest of the email read.

5. Sound Human
Each time I receive an emailer, I wondered if there is a secret robot that writes emailers to customers. Really, there is no substitute for a well written, human sounding emailer.  Why do we often forget the importance of pushing up the EQ when writing emailers?

6. Keep Your Text Short
Attention span of your favourite gold fish is 9 seconds. Your consumers' is even lesser. Keep the copy really short. Also, don't forget to make it as scannable as possible. No one reads every word any longer. People just scan through texts and move on.

7. Don't Forget To Make It Sharable
If you are going to take the effort to make the content useful, don't forget receivers may just want to share the useful information with friends and family. Don't get me wrong - your emailer will never go viral. However there is a possibility that someone just might find your information useful and perhaps may want to share. Make it easy for them to do so.

8. Ask To Be Added In The Contact List
In today's world,  Spam filters are way much more advanced than email strategists and email crafters. So while there is every chance that your email will fall into incorrect hands, never forget to ask the receiver to add you to their contact or mailing list. That way you will avoid being caught by the spam filters and your message will get delivered.

9. Never Forget To Add A Gratification  
Oops I almost forgot. Never ever forget to reward the guys who have actually stopped their world from spinning to open your email. A little gift at the end of the emailer always goes a long way.

So if you are embarking on a new journey of email marketing, I wish you good luck. And if you are an old hand, please do write to me and let me know other tricks which you find useful. Always happy to learn a couple of new things. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

What makes 'viral videos' contagious?

Armed with data on growing popularity of YouTube and observations on consumers’ love for viewing and sharing videos online, every communication agency today receives briefs to create ‘viral videos’. Now how do you create viral videos? It is like asking a director to make a ‘hit film’. Going viral is an outcome. It is not a marketing communication tool. 

I have been curious for a while now to know what indeed does make a video go viral. There are as many answers online as there are ‘social media experts’. But the one that I found most insightful was that People don’t share facts. People share feelings.

Although the Internet is an infinite library of information, the most popular things shared online typically aren’t very informative. They are content that inspires awe, anger, amusement and sometimes even horror. For a video to go viral, it has to latch on to a powerful human emotion. Why?

Researches in social psychology show that people often share strong emotions as a means of fostering connection and solidarity. For instance, if I am angry about something and you get angry about it too, we can bond over what we are feeling. According to Jonah Berger who has conducted many researches in this area, the Internet reflects this ancient social instinct. The only difference is that, when online, we can’t express our emotions directly as we can do face-to-face. (Most of us find it difficult to express genuine joy in 140 characters.) Instead we spread emotions through videos using images of others as a proxy. 

Case in point: Chaplin movies where most of his earlier work has several 'viral' moments. Example - shoe eating scene in Gold Rush to communicate extreme hunger, the automatic feeding machine in Modern Times to communicate corporate exploitation and the shaving scene in The Great Dictator to counteract the drudgery of work. Each one is tied to a deep human emotion that one can easily relate to. By sharing these clips I can communicate a lot without saying a word. This is what makes #GharWaliDiwali, #ItAllStarts, #Kissanpur such great hits. 

So next time you get a brief to create a 'viral video', you must stop to think what is that most powerful emotion that will resonate with your consumers and how can it be delivered by amplifying your brand's values. If the emotion is captured well, the virality will take care of itself.  

Monday, 13 October 2014

Hi Dad! Can you please tweet me some money?

Picture Courtesy: Reuters
Social Media is making life simple everyday. Not only can you advertise to the world what a cool life you lead, now you can even borrow money from Bank Of Dad via a simple tweet. God bless social media!  

This week, Groupe BPCE, France’s second largest bank announced that it is teaming up with Twitter to allow its customers transfer money via tweets. The service known as S-money offers Twitter users in France a new way to send money to each other, irrespective of their bank and without having to enter the beneficiary’s bank details, with a simple tweet. S-Money service allows money transfer via text message and relies on the credit card industry’s data security standards. 

The news comes close in the heels of their previous announcement about incorporating ‘buy buttons’ that let people make purchases directly from marketing posts. 

With decline in user growth and jittery investors breathing down their neck, it seems like Twitter is pulling out all stops to win the race by enhancing value to advertisers as well as focussing on non ad revenue focused strategy. Looking forward to more of these innovations from Twitter.   

Source: TOI 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Three reasons why we Indians prefer Facebook over Twitter

Social Media is one of the main reasons behind India’s 250 million people being online. 86% claim to visit social media sites and if reports are to be believed, on an average, Indians spend 217 minutes daily on various social media sites.

Yes, we love social media, albeit some sites a little more than the others. Facebook has 108 million monthly active users. Since January 2014, it has added 16 million users – roughly one new user every second! However, unique visitors of Twitter rose from 3.9 million in 2013 to 4.2 million in 2014 accounting for a y-o-y growth of 8.7%.

Why do we prefer Facebook over Twitter?

After observing and asking around, I have found three key reasons: 

1. It’s social Vs. Media

Facebook is like a telephone. It is based on a two-way relationship. By granting access to our Facebook page, we allow other people to be a part of our lives as it happens. From last night's dinner to what I think about the country's politicians, we discuss it all. The joy of Facebook engagement comes from reciprocation via likes and comments from our friends.

On the other hand, Twitter is like a customised newspaper. It is about time sensitive information and opinions. Just like viewership and circulation figures of traditional media, the gratification lies in the number of followers and the power to influence the people who follow us. But most people are happy to 'influence' or share their opinion with friends and family who are already connected to them on Facebook and chat apps such as Whatsapp and do not feel the need to 'influence' the janta, leaving it to the journalists, film stars and politicians.  

Facebook is more ‘social’ while Twitter is more 'media' and no prizes for guessing who will continue to win until the perception changes.

2. Brevity is not a part of a Indian’s soul

Twitter is a great place to debate for people who feel strongly about certain issues. However, we Indians feel that 140 character limit makes most conversations shallow. A good debate or a point of view needs a few more words than that. Don’t get me wrong. We are not ramblers. Just expressive and emotional!  

3. It seems like a traffic jam

Ever been in a rush hour traffic jam in Mumbai? It seems that’s what the newsfeed look and sounds like to most reluctant Twitter users. The only difference is that it moves too fast. The constant stream of opinions is harrowing. Specially on a mobile, the word heavy, picture and video deficient news stream is a tad too daunting.

For most people, the joy of social media lies in the voyeuristic pleasures of peeping into the lives and minds of people they know and not in the opinions of the people they don't knowTwitter is perceived as a great platform by those who want to influence and those who want to get influenced. Despite its video and picture sharing features, it is still not perceived as a medium for the hoi polloi to communicate the banalities of everyday life. So as long as Twitter carries the weight of a serious medium, we Indians will spend more time on Facebook. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

The Importance Of Being In Beta

While looking for an important document this morning, I found my little BlackBerry Curve buried under a few files inside a drawer.  I loved this little phone. This was my first smartphone, my entry into the world of nonstop access to Internet on the go!  

I remember a time when only senior management and other god like creatures had the power to posses this super efficient handheld device. Their emails, which they sent on the go, invariably let the receiver know their status in the corporate world, as a tag under the email would mention that the mail had been sent via a handheld BlackBerry. While some sneered, others envied.

I must admit I envied every BlackBerry enabled individual. The way their fingers glided over the Qwerty keypad, access to emails at all times and above all, the label that screamed that they had arrived in the corporate world – was a matter of aspiration for me.

As time went by, as certain as measles, chickenpox and common cold in childhood, a corporate BlackBerry happened to me. But pretty soon its magic wore off as around the same time, I acquired a first gen Android phone with a touch screen – the novelty of the time. 

Looking at this dead device on my table right now, I am thinking of all the iconic brands, people, companies that have fallen from the limelight only because they mistook their current success as eternal. Size or popularity no longer guarantees immortality. In every category, the rules are being rewritten everyday, not by the leaders but by the nimble and agile upstarts.

The only way a brand – be it a person or a product can hope to survive in today’s world is by being in Beta always. There is no running away from re-invention. It is a new value that everyone has to imbibe. Stability and conformity will only lead to one state of certainty - death. 

Before your brand is put in a little box of nostalgia that contains valuables such as Ambassador cars, typewriters and even a BlackBerry phone, it might be good idea to look around and see if you and your brand is ready to be in a state of perpetual beta. If not, then its time for a shake up. Time to change. 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Storytelling In The Digital Age

Attention span of a goldfish: 9 Seconds. Attention span of a netizen: 8 seconds.

The more we are bombarded with content, the less likely we are to spend time with any one piece – be it a beautifully crafted article, a photograph or even a video. We like it crisp and bite sized.

While the Internet takes over our minds, the heart is still human and wants pithy little pieces talking about love, heartbreak, friendships, everyday joys and sorrows. It's the same desire that once made Shelley and Maya Angelou a much loved part of our bookshelves. This has led to the new format of storytelling championed by communities such as Terribly Tiny Tales and Katha Cues.

Terribly Tiny Tales is a community of unpublished writers who write a tweet sized story everyday and publish it either on social media or on their website. These 140 character fictions have cast a spell on me.

Katha Cues on the hand is a story telling meet up where groups of people come together – some to narrate and some to listen to the stories. Well narrated stories of everyday occurrences – the only condition is that each story has to be narrated in less than seven minutes.

These kinds of modern formats of storytelling once again proves the old saying that brevity is indeed the soul of wit. The concept is indeed witty.    

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Mobiles Make Good Business Sense

According to a recent UN report, six of the world’s seven billion people have a mobile phone. Only four and half billion have access to a proper toilet. This ubiquitous, indispensable and omnipotent gadget is one of 20th century’s life-altering inventions. It seems to be as essential as food, water and shelter. Consequently, no marketing arsenal is complete without a mobile strategy.

I have to admit that as a marketer, I was a bit perplexed about how to reign in the beast? The obvious answers seemed suitably ridiculous. So I went about looking for examples from around the world to understand how are people making the best use of this device.

After going through loads and loads of researches and case studies, I have arrived at one conclusion that Mobile is not technology. It is consumer behaviour. People kneel at this technology’s altar not for the love of science but because this technology helps them fulfill some basic human needs such as love, safety, belonging, confidence, achievement just to name a few. Each individual, demographic, culture, socio-economic group has a unique relationship with their mobile phones. Understanding these relationships can help marketers arrive at suitable solutions to meet their business challenges.

Here are a few examples of how brands across categories have observed consumer behaviour to arrive at mobile-based solutions to help their businesses

#1: FMCG: Driving up consumer engagement with the brand
ALL, a US based detergent brand’s marketing objective was to drive up consumer engagement.

To arrive at something refreshingly different, the team observed proud homemakers - their core audience, as she went about her daily life. At the end of the research, the team hit upon one powerful insight - the 21st century moms are mobile addicted family chroniclers. With the help of her mobile phone, she constantly chronicles life’s memorable moments – big and small.

Tapping into the insight, the brand launched an app that turns mobile devices into professional quality movie making machines. A campaign called ‘Summer Play’ was launched this summer to encourage moms to download the app and shoot professional quality video featuring their kids at their dirtiest and most fun moments. She can enter her films in a content called Summer Fun Video Content where the winner stands to win a $1000 toy shopping spree.

The contest is currently on and is attracting a huge number of entries everyday from allover the country – boosting engagement scores.

#2. Retail: Enhancing Customer Experience
House of Frazer is a British Department Store group with 60 stores across UK. Realizing the growing importance of customer experience as a key differentiator, the store wanted to provide its customers a meaningfully differentiated experience.

To meet its objective, the brand closely observed its shoppers to understand their interactions at various touch points within the store. Their observation led them to discover that today’s smartphone toting tech savvy consumers are consultative shoppers even in-store. They use their mobile phones throughout their purchase journey - to discover more information about products, check out competitive retailers’ prices, read reviews and seek opinions about their purchase decision from friends and families while they shop.

Leveraging existing consumer behaviour in a way that would help provide meaningful value to their consumer as they shop, the retail chain introduced Beacon embedded Mannequins within the store. iBeaconis – an indoor proximity system that enables shoppers to look up price details, in store product location, even direct the user to the store’s website for additional items and offer rewards. It also encourages shoppers to share their favourite products on social media.

Apart from a higher customer satisfaction, the technology helps the store gather analytics about its customers and its products as well.

#3. Print Media: Increasing revenue 
In today’s fast paced life, the habit of leisurely morning newspaper reading is becoming a thing of the past. Moreover, people prefer to consume bite-sized news on the go. Decline in newspaper circulation means decline in ad revenues – mainstay of the industry. The challenge was to get back the readers.

Close observation of people’s morning behaviour led to the discovery that office commuters today are headphone junkies. They have switched from reading newspapers while traveling to listening to music, podcasts and audio books.

Tapping into this insight, Tribune, looked towards technology for help. With the help of text to speech technology, they convert news articles to audio files for easy listening. The audio content is pushed to consumers via an app called Newsbeat.

Newsbeat pulls in thousands of articles everyday from hundreds of newspapers including The Washington Post, The Los Angles Times and websites such as CNN. When setting up the app, users can pick their preferred news sources and topics they’d like newsbeat to track. While the app is free, the content is not ad free – generating the much needed revenue.

These examples have helped me open my mind about the possibilities of using mobile phones to meet business challenges. These examples also reaffirm my belief that whenever in doubt, peep into the consumers’ life as most often than not, the answer to every business challenge lies somewhere between consumers’ life, modern technology and the product benefit.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

5 tools to consider while marketing to a tech savvy audience

The digital savvy audience today has about 8 seconds of attention span compared to 9 seconds of that of an average goldfish! Look around and you will notice that everyone who is or could be your consumer owns about 3 digital devices and is constantly switching between screens for information and entertainment. As the digital touch points increase and the attention span continues to spiral downwards, the challenge for every marketer today is to find new tools that will help optimize the potential of the 8 seconds. As a marketer in the digital age, here is my list of 5 essentials tools of marketing to the tech savvy audience:

#1. Mobile as a key device
Of the various screens and gadgets, the mobile is the most crucial one today.  It can complete the loop by not only creating preferences and driving demand but also helping shoppers to complete a purchase. With increasing penetration of smartphones and an increase in app usage – there are now multiple ways to reach your consumer one-on-one.

In India, where the official literacy figures are dodgy, mobiles are a god-sent solution to reach the unlettered masses. HUL’s Kan Khajua Tesan has amply demonstrated the power of mobile phones in reaching the media-dark corners of the country.      

#2. Engaging Content
Fresh, pithy, in-the-moment content in the form of informative articles, how-to-videos, reviews, infographics, memes, e-books, podcasts to name just a few - available via multiple, easy to access channels is the bare essential of engaging with consumers today.  And don’t forget there are about a 1000 brands trying to get a share of eyeballs in the same 8 seconds, so planet-conquering ideas presented through superlative graphics and well crafted copy really does help matters.    

#3. Video   
A research by YouTube claims that soon 90% of all web traffic will be video. The ideal way to reach the attention-starved audience is using succinctly created videos which communicates messages in an engaging manner. Consider ‘showing’ your message to wow your audience even if that means using 6-second vine or a 15-second Instagram videos.  I personally feel that visual content also gives brands a face – the much needed human connect while engaging the digital audience. Here are 5 examples of brands using Instagram video effectively for business.  

#4. Social Media
People spend more time chatting, sharing, updating, uploading and interacting on multiple social media sites than consuming any traditional channel   It is essential to engage people via as many platforms as possible as each channel plays a different role. Wondering why you need to be present in every channel? Here is an example which captures it pretty well: 

#5. Social Media Listening
Social media listening is like a giant focus group that is on 24x7. Except that participants are not being prompted with questions – they are expressing their own opinions in their own environment to their friends.  This decision relevant tool of modern marketing can be an invaluable source of insights and has the power to help brands steer conversations to their advantage. 

With an in-depth understanding and creative use of these 5 basic marketing arsenals, marketers today should be able to optimize the potential of the 8 seconds.