Sunday, 20 December 2015

5 Digital Marketing Trends: 2016

It is that time of the year when everyone is busy forecasting the new black. So here I am keeping up with the season.  I am no expert and nothing gives me the right to forecast a subject as complex as digital marketing trends. But as a keen observer, I am hazarding a guess about the shape of things to come in 2016. 

#1: Back to the dominance of a single screen
According to forecasts, India will reach 236 million mobile internet users by 2016. Not a figure comparable with television reach but when it comes to changing behaviour purely on the back of convenience and economics, you know which device will dominate.  

What does it mean for brands
To win, brands will have to invest in 2 things - gain an understanding of the unique features this device has to offer and how the consumers are interacting with their devices.  Basis these, brands  will need to innovate offers which will secure their place in the consideration set. While the same technology is available to everyone, it's the sheer brilliance of creativity that will help winning brands succeed.  

#2 Trend : Vernacularization 
India's next million online are going to be folks whose language of choice is their mother tongue. Their comfort comes from reading and interacting in their own language. Currently internet content in Indian languages account for only 0.1%. If you decode Sundar Pichai's recent talk in Delhi, companies such as Google will push for a lot more of vernacular content online.

What does it mean for brands
Going vernac will no longer be a choice. With the growing popularity of internet among the masses, every form of owned media - social assets, apps or websites will slowly require vernacular content to engage with consumers in their language.  Moreover mass brands will need to focus less on the oh so cool ideas which appeal to South Mumbai and focus on authentic content and conversation which is relatable to the masses in south Bihar.

#3 Trend: Mobile Payments 
When the big boys such as Apple, Google and Samsung all get behind a trend, it is bound to see some hot action. Rumour has it that Microsoft is also dipping its toe in this water. I won't be surprised if millions of smartphones in 2016, especially those made for the mid to low price points, comes integrated with features and apps for mobile commerce.

What does it mean for brands
Once this goes mass, the initial hiccup of merchant acceptance will slowly melt away in the face of consumer benefits that this mode of payment offers. The speed and flexibility of this payment mode will make it the choice of the new generation. Brands will have to take a hard look at their loyalty programmes to cater to the users of these services. Devising mobile coupon loyalty programmes basis location and interests could be a good starting point.

#4: Search
It's no secret that Google is now experimenting with video ads in search results. Additionally, modern search engines are receiving more and more queries from digital assistants such as Siri, Cortana and Google Now. Spoken language queries are hugely different from typed queries. I guess spoken search queries will mean a new type of long-tail keyword queries - stuff that mimics spoken dialogue will emerge.

What does it mean for brands
Key words are passé. Gear up for video ads suited for new age search and brands which still insist on writing pages should perhaps contain more colloquial, conversational content. Don't waste time. Go look for an agency that can handle the new layer to the complexity of search.

#5: Live Mobile Broadcasting 
Language agnostic, easy to use live streaming apps such as Meerkat and Periscope will become the preferred platform of communication not only peer to peer but also with brands. Authenticity of the video based content coupled with the power of nowness (real time content) will help it to get ahead of text heavy mediums.

What does it mean for brands
It's the age of intimacy and no brand can run away from it. Brands that win will leverage the opportunity to showcase their human side by offering consumers the chance to interact with people behind their products, get fast feedback on R&D from real users, live Q&A between decision makers and consumers and a whole host more will perhaps become the order of the day.

So yup, a very exciting time lies ahead of us. We have loads to do. Even if some of these trends don't go mainstream in 2016, they soon will. As with most cases digital, consumers are leaps ahead of brands and we, the people behind the brands, have a lot of catching up to do. Good luck!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

5 Totally Cool Social Media Campaigns

I am totally and absolutely in love with the awesome campaigns that are being created for social media world over. Here are a few of my favourites based on their unique use of a social channel of their choice.

Brand : Taken3 
Category: Film and Entertainment 
Media : LinkedIn 
Idea: Movie star endorses 'special set of skills' on Linkedin

This one is special because we don't see promotional campaigns on LinkedIn often.
20th Century Fox chose to promote the film Taken 3 with a very clever contest that has the business networking site at its heart. To invite participation, it kicked off with a video in which Liam Neeson's character Bryan Mills urges viewers to go to a special page and follow a set of instructions to participate in a contest. The prize for the winning entry was fairly unique. In Liam's own words, he promised to "find your LinkedIn profile, review it and record a video of myself endorsing your particular set of skills." 

I think its a crazy and creative way to generate conversation (Imagine Salman Khan or SRK endorsing your skill on Linkedin via a video! Woohoo!) about a movie through a contest that costs almost nothing but have many people want what it offers. 
Winner Announcement Watch Video

Brand: Abarth 500 
Category: Automobile 
Media: Twitter
Idea: Too Fast To Follow

This turbocharged hatchback from Germany chose not to use twitter in the conventional way. Instead, it used  the medium uniquely to reinforce the brand proposition. Fans who tried to follow the vehicle's official Twitter page got a message saying that no one can follow the Abarth 500 because its just too fast. Instead, they were invited to a thrilling test drive on a real race track via Twitter's direct message. Thousands of people hit the follow button to get invited and excitedly twitted about their experience. The clever idea was promoted through a hashtag #ZeroFollowers.
Watch Video

Brand: Puma 
Category: Fragrance  
Media: App   
Idea: Say It With A Dance

To connect with the youth, Puma created an app called Dance Dictionary to promote its Sync range of fragrances. Puma collaborated with freestyle dancers from New York to compile a dance lexicon. The app allows users to select words and phrases which are then translated to dance moves which users can share via any social network or email. While its common for people to use songs to communicate, this was perhaps the first time that dance was used as a medium of communication.  
Watch Video  

Brand: Nescafe
Category: Beverage
Media: Digital Video and Facebook 
Idea: Modern Art Of Conversation

Nescafe partnered with Faizal Lulat, an artist from London to create bespoke pieces of art based on conversations of 30 high profile bloggers. Shot in London's oldest coffee house, Jamaica Wine House, the digital video shows the bloggers having a conversation over coffee. While they talked about their different passions, Lulat creates colourful pieces of art based on the conversations.  

This activity was extended to Facebook with people able to win their own personal piece of art by posting five words that describe them best on Nescafe Dolce Gusto's Facebook page.  

Watch Video: Modern Art Of Conversation

Brand: Dove 
Category: Personal Care  
Media: Snapchat 
Idea: Snap away your insecurities 

This brand has an unfair advantage in this list, being among one of my favourite brands. I am absolutely blown by how seamlessly the brand leverages each medium to take forward its proposition. 

As a part of its Annual Self Esteem Weekend, Dove invited participants to send in their 'snaps' and solicit conversations regarding their insecurities. Dove and its 'self esteem ambassadors' provided real time advice and feedback which helped the participants regain their confidence in themselves and their looks.  I really liked the idea for the way the brand leverage the ephemeral nature of the media. With each action of disappearing snaps, more room was created for positive thoughts.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Live Mobile Broadcasting: The New Kid On The Block

It's no new news that live streaming apps such as Meerkat  and Periscope that enable users to broadcast live from their mobile devices are the next big thing in social media. As with anything new, the marketing world is awestruck with this new kid on the block. Some are fascinated, some are bewildered while others are skeptical. While not the most popular choice, but certainly no twenty first century marketer is ignoring this new tool. The authenticity, intimacy and the nowness that apps offer, makes it very relevant to all marketers and especially to those whose audience are below the age of 25. 

With a plethora of tools already available and some yet to be used to their full potential, why are these apps attracting so much attention? Here is my take on the matter. 

1. Culturally, we prefer audio visual information over verbalisers. 
So far social media has largely been text heavy with opportunities to 'share' audio visual information which have been crafted by others. For the first time, these apps offer a chance to lay people to create audio visual information easily. If the success of photographs and emoticons on social media is anything to go by, it is only a matter of time for live broadcasting apps to go from early adopters to  mainstream. In these matters, consumers are always a step ahead of marketers and to stay relevant, marketers will have to adapt this new platform at the earliest. So everyone is keeping an eye out to see how the journey is taking shape. 

2. It is a humanising medium  
People today, especially those below 25 want to watch authentic content which are unscripted and real. Especially when it comes to brands, people want to connect at a human level. Even if it is half-baked and raw, people want to get a glimpse of behind the scenes, meet the people behind the products, have a meaningful dialogue with the brands of their choice. The authenticity and intimacy that a live stream creates is unparalleled. Since every 21st century brand's KRA is to humanise, there is definitely a lot of interest in a medium that bolsters the opportunity. 

3. The power of Nowness
The medium is designed in a manner that the content producers interact with the viewers real time. For the first time there is now a super fast expressway for brands to connect with people directly and have a real time conversation like never before. Fast feedback on R&D, real time response by customer care and live Q&A between brands and people are some of the sure shot success measures of any new age brand. 

While brands today realise the power of this emerging social media tool, there is an inherent hesitation to jump in. A lot of them are sitting on the fence to gauge the initial success of other brands and learn from their mistakes. If I had the powers to decide on behalf of a brand, I would definitely dip a toe by now without any delay to leverage the power that this medium offers. 

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Coffeeshopification of workspaces

My first experience of a workspace was in the early '80s in Calcutta. As a little girl I would sometimes tag along with my parents just to satisfy my curiosity about the place they called home from 9 AM to 5 PM on weekdays. I have rather faint but intimidating memories of large oak paneled walls, men in formal attire and lots of paper files. Even on Saturdays, the place wore a high degree of formalness and discipline.

The bada sahabs and the minions lived in two separate worlds under the same roof. Large wooden doors isolated the two worlds. Bada sahabs’ jobs were to do something very important called ‘think and discuss’ and no efforts were spared to insulate their world from regular office sounds such as the ones made by clacking keys of typewriters or a stray laughter, lest they interfere with their important work. Their oak paneled offices had large wooden tables on which multiple telephones and leather bound files were neatly arranged. There would also be a round bell on the desk that would be used to summon a minion with a thump of a hand.

Junior management, reverential to a fault, sat outside. Thick paper files jostling for space on unkempt tables. There was no concept of interdependence. The well-attired grey haired occupants of the oak walled cabins ‘knew it all’ and the bush shirted men who sat outside surrounded by Godrej Steel cupboards were still learning the tricks of the trade. Men inside instructed the men outside to do and they did, without a question.         

Technology as we know it today had not invaded the offices. Perhaps telex machines, Casio calculators, black telephones and Remington typewriters were the only 'tech' gadgets in the office and there was an army of people especially hired to man these gadgets. Use of these facilities were only available in a confined space called ‘office’ and one had to be present in an office to dispense their duties.    

Cut to the post liberalisation era. Technology in the form of desktop PCs had begun to permeate offices.  Every day more and more work was being done on Microsoft Word, PPT, Excel and so on. Official communication was being sent via Lotus Notes and more conversions were being had over handheld Nokias. The concept of a specialized army to man the gadgets was slowly giving way to a more DIY culture.

While there were still two separate worlds, the barriers had begun to come down. The oak panels had been replaced by glass, the attire had become a shade casual and calling people by their first names was totally acceptable.

I am almost sure that the change was not brought in as a gesture of benevolence or cultural modernization but as a result of the need of the hour. With more and more work becoming technology dependent, the older, tech challenged folks needed the tech savvy upstarts to exist. Just as the young bunch needed the older folks to grow. This interdependence led to workspaces becoming more transparent, both physically and metaphorically. 

Cut to 2015. Walk into any modern day office and there is a high degree of chance that you will mistake it for a coffee shop. Colourful walls made of steel meshes instead of bricks or glass panels, fluidity of space, world-class modular furniture, absence of cabins, et al reflects the times we live in.

The office space is now just a place for people to jam over coffee and come up with bigger and better ideas. It is a place to socialise offline -  exchange thoughts, meet people. 

With portability of devices and a positive move towards paperless offices, hot desking is de jour. Offices are being redesigned to be multifunctional spaces. Just like its occupants, the spaces too need to have the ability to change roles in a moment’s notice - from a work-station to a meeting room to a party zone. 

Thanks to technology, dependence on a defined workspace is shrinking every day. Armed with our smartphones, we carry our ‘office’ in our pockets at all times. I do more work over Whatsapp messenger, a cross platform mobile app than I do using any other device.

The only sounds that one hears in offices today are sounds of ticking minds manifested through music, YouTube videos, conversations and no one wants to be isolated from it. Hence the only job of an office wall has now been renegaded to being a canvas for creative expressions.

While we live in exciting times, I wonder where are we headed?

With increasing concerns over global warming, real estate prices and the ever  increasing  need to cut down commute time, will it finally lead to a complete demolition of the physical space called ‘office’ and move to an app based virtual meeting ground? If so, what impact will it have on human behavior and corporate culture? Curiously looking ahead to a time not very far from where we stand now.     

Monday, 24 August 2015

5 Golden Rules of a Great Client- Agency Relationship

In my 17 years of career, I have dabbled in various roles - from advertising to being an entrepreneur to heading the marketing function of a start up life insurance company. But primarily at heart, I have always remained and will remain a Account Management person. Over the years I have handled marque accounts such as Unilever to small entrepreneur led businesses. No matter what the category is or how big the account size is, one thing that is key to success has been great client relationships. 

I am going to list down 5 golden rules of relationship building I have learnt over the years. While they all seem pretty obvious, unfortunately, with time, we tend to forget the golden rules and my effort behind the blogpost is not be preachy but perhaps reminding myself of the rules too.  

1. Building Credibility 
We are in the business of selling something intangible. We sell ideas. Clients don't get to see the final product before they have coughed up millions of Rupees and committed themselves to the idea. They are bound to be hesitant about buying something unseen or unheard of before. Our primary task is to build credibility for ourselves, our creative partners and of course, the agency we work for. Credibility can only come from one place - consistent delivery and performance. Its a tough one. But once we earn it, rest is cake walk.

2. Passion for Client's Business 
This sounds like a cliché. But the truth is, more we know about our Client's business, the more they feel we understand their world and can really help them. Secondly, sometimes, we get so caught up in delivering day to day that we lose perspective of the over all picture. We efficiently deliver but seldom pause to think if what we are doing is effective. Understanding of effectiveness comes only with the understanding of client's business. 

3. Mutual Respect 
A healthy Client - Agency relationship is one in which there is a space and opportunity for debates and disagreements. But oftentimes we lose respect for one another because 'we' were right, and 'they' were wrong, 'we' had a great idea 'they' refused to buy, 'we' are not treated as partners. If we believe that there is no 'us' and there is no 'them' but just a group of people working towards a common goal, we will learn to respect one another.   

4. Accountability 
Agency and Client relationship should be about doing the right things for the brand. The day we put awards before solutions for the client, we will lose the relationship. Similarly, if we don't flag off a wrong decision, we are not being accountable to the brand.   

5. Great Work
Last but not the least - we must always put the best work on the table. Clients hire us to do what they can't do. Its our job to guard against lazy work,  safe work, uninspiring work. It is our job to to ensure the work connects with consumers and above all, the work drives business results. 

Great relationships make an Agency stand out. A great relationship leads to great work which builds reputation and consequently recommendations. Great relationships make us feel good about the work we do. above all it offers a second chance, no matter what. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Ironical interdependences

I don't watch much television but whenever I do, my attentions peaks during commercial breaks. Occupational hazard. Being in the business, I like to watch ads. Funnily, the maximum number of television  ads these days seems to be of various e-commerce portals and mobile phone based entertainment. Yup, one needs the big screen to drive people to the smaller screens.

Drive down from Bandra to town. Perhaps the only things that outnumber potholes on busy Mumbai streets are billboards. Another occupational hazard. I focus more the billboards that the potholes. And guess what, most the billboards staring down at me are the ones urging me to rush home to watch a programme on television. They are omnipresent and inescapable- bus backs, kiosks, bus shelters - the works! The outdoor media seems to make most of their revenue by helping television channels shop for eyeballs.

Funny but true. These ironical interdependence make up much of our society today. 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Of lions and fishes!

So the much celebrated advertising festival held at Cannes every year just got over. The company I work for bagged 69 lions this year. Looking at the well crafted ideas I marvelled at the industry I am so proud to be a part of!

But reading some of the reports on scam work, stollen ideas etc I can't help but wonder what makes creative geniuses stoop so low? Global recognition is a powerful motivation I agree, but, what happens after the undeserved lion enters the office? What benchmarks do these 'Gods' set for their juniors? Do their clients respect them? Will their business partners ever think twice before cheating them? who and how will this malice stop? Are we doomed to marvel at every creative work with niggle of doubt regarding its orginality?

Who cares? The. negative reports will die out soon. What will remain are the sparkling lions. The people behind the scams will move on to their next job at astronomically high salaries where they will be encouraged to pull more scam. The work they produce will continue to be aimed at the jury and not the consumers. After all what do poor people who buy detergents, shampoos and everyday household goods know about creativity!

What we will lose out on are the talents who genuinely want to build brands and want to solve their clients' problems. People who will perhaps never have a lion to show. People who will never make it to the cover of popular trade journals. People who will never be celebrated for their ideas at a a global level purely because their ideas did not have the sheen to wow the goras who form the bulk of the jury.  They will lose faith and move on to baking cookies and writing books which no one will perhaps ever read.

Here's hoping that before the next lion is awarded, we clean up our act so that the next fish that is served up does not stink like the one this year.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Now Banks Are Doing It The Way Apple Does It

Tech futurist, Brett King’s interview opened my eyes to the way technology is changing the banking world. He said something rather interesting - with 25000 fintech start ups around the world, in ten years the biggest and the fastest growing ‘banks’ will be technology companies. Amazing! A little reading up on the subject absolutely astonished me about the new trends in the BFSI category. Here are some key trends which I would like to share: 

Game Changing Service Experience  
The new banks are not really banks. They are merely customer interfaces of white labeled FDIC insured banks. Check out Simple and Moven. Two new age banks who have completely revolutionized banking. They are not just transaction oriented digital terminals of brick and mortar banks. Simple and Moven are both revolutionary experience providers. Apple of banks, if I may say so.

Just to give you an example of their level of ‘customer centricity', a much abused word in the financial services sector, Simple’s Safe-to-spend feature tells the user how much she can spend today without hurting tomorrow’s plans. When users want to know their bank balance, the app does a simple math – it subtracts upcoming bill payments, pending transactions and any goals that the user is saving for and then presents a more accurate picture of how much money can be spent today.

Digital transaction slips enable users to attach memos, photos and notes. The user can attach these via the Simple app or website to create a diary which records where they spent, on whom and why.

Peer to Peer Loans
Leveraging peer to peer sharing trends which is extremely popular among netizens, online platforms such as Faircents enable people to take a loan from othe individuals at a lower rate of interest. The lenders get higher rate of interest than they would have got had they kept their money in a bank’s Fixed Deposit account. What more, the interest amount is completely flexible. If you are willing to take a very high risk, you could earn as high as 36% on the money you lend out. The service provider earns a small fee from the transaction for scrutinising the borrower's credentials and ensuring safety for the lender’s money. 

Banks really need to watch out for these platforms. As per Rajat Gandhi's article in ET, despite two rate cuts in 2015, about 70 banks have still not cut their interest rates and passed on the benefits to their customers. While the poor in this country regularly die as they are unable to service their debts, our top ten banks have an average profit margin of 30% and have been growing at over 25% for the last ten years.   

Thinking Like A Designer
Banks such as Fidelity are increasing employing new age methods such as Design Thinking. To develop a new product or even customer interface, banks now think like designers – observe customers in mutidisciplinary teams, develop ideas iteratively and evaluate these ideas using prototyping. Apple captured this spirit in 1997 and the rest is history.

If you visit Fidelity’s My Money website, the simplicity of the user interface, the dejargonised content and their compeling proposition communicated through videos – will blow your mind.

Customer Reviews
Brands such as USAA actively let users rate and review their products online just the way one would review a film or a gadget. I was surprised to read that they are one of the few retail financial institutions which allow people to review their products! No wonder, they have 84.7K twitter followers and 794K fans on Facebook. For the size of its assets and audience, they have a tremendous ratio of fans.

According to a recent CGI report titled 'Understanding Financial Consumers In the Digital Era', people expect a lot more than just digital services from their financial Services brand’s online assets. These expectation will only be met by understanding people’s behaviour outside the limited world of finance.

In face of stiff competition from upstart fintech start ups, established FinServ brands need to take a hard look over their shoulders to keep from going the Nokia or Kodak way. Perhaps, just like the fintech companies, they too need to look at Apple for inspiration. 

Monday, 25 May 2015

Kill the business card

We don't write letters on paper. Printed magazines are passé . We choose to send e-greetings or whatsapp messages on festivals and birthdays. Electronic payment options are making paper money history. Why do we still exchange business cards?

In these days of technology where we can't breath for a second without the assistance of a mobile phone, should we not develop the good practice of exchanging contact coordinates digitally? Why kill a tree to let people know how to reach me by email?

While I love my business card only if purely for its aesthetics, from now on, I pledge to pass on my contact coordinates only digitally. Join me guys if you love your planet as much as I do.