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Terribly Tiny Tales is a community of unpublished writers who write a tweet sized story everyday and publish it either on social media or on their website.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.   

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Sometimes the answer is heaven sent

I am an atheist but a believer of filial piety, a concept put forth by Confucius, the Chinese philosopher. I was very close to my grandmother and I believe when she died I earned myself a god. You may think I am nuts but I truly believe that she keeps an eye on me at all times and whenever I need her, consciously or otherwise, she is there. Here’s what happened this evening.

An unusual Saturday evening, alone at home with no plans, I decided to curl up in bed with a book. Approached the bookshelf in my bedroom to pull out a book that I had started reading a while ago but had not finished reading. As I tugged at the book, another book which was tucked away somewhere on another shelf, came tumbling down. Since I had already read this book a couple of times, I mindlessly picked it up and was about to dust it and put it away when something told me to flip through it again. I thought why not? The book, Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, would be perfect to kill an hour before bedtime.

Those of you who have read it know that it’s a small book of about a hundred odd pages. Took me less than an hour to finish.  But coincidently, I found the answer to a challenge I have been struggling with for over a month. I have been going nuts looking for the right answer. Without going into details, all I would like to say is that the book simply reaffirmed that in life, it is essential to trust one’s self and it is critical to be true to one’s self.  It is perfectly all right not to lead the life others expect you to.

Suddenly, I remembered every word of the book. I remembered reading it on a train ride back from town after work over a decade ago. I remembered finding the answer when I was faced with a similar dilemma back then. It was also reassuring to remember that even then I had chosen to do what my heart wanted me to do over what was expected of me and I had survived. I had been happy. Ruffled feathers had smoothened out overtime.

How is my grandmother or heaven related to this little episode? Of the many bookshelves that line the walls of my tiny apartment, this is the one where I keep her photograph and it’s a mini shrine. The books on this bookshelf are mostly work related and not one I would approach on a Saturday evening to dig out something to read. Strangely, today I did. Well, if this is not serendipity, I don’t know what is.