Insight: The New Face of Marketing

I was excited to be a part of the thought leadership event organised by the ITSMA with InformationWeek as the media partner. Knowing that this one was positioned to give out insights on where marketing is headed had me more curious about what was the discussion going to be like. There was a good mix of representatives from several IT firms and its always great to be in a room full of marketeers!

The event started off with a session by Dave Munn, who elaborated on the top priorities for marketeers. Interesting stats shared indicated that only 9% of CEOs actually use marketing data. But, on the whole the perception of marketing has improved for this year as nearly 78% of the audience they survey voted in favor, 20% had the same view and only 2% had a lowered perception. Now, that is the challenge i see whenever i’m talking to any other function. Marketing always needs to emphasize on the value they are driving for other business units/functions. Some of the top priorities for marketeers this year are:

1. Building thought leadership & dissemination of the content created for this

2. Managing brand reputation

3. Aligning sales & marketing

In terms of the budget being allocated for marketing, content creation took the top spot. For digital marketing the priority of allocating monies was: Website, Search, Online Advertising, Online Communities & Social Media. Digital marketing was also one of the key marketing areas that saw an increase in budget allocation. Most of this was taken out of the cuts in sponsorship,  direct mailers, advertising or public shows. A remarkable point was that nearly 25% of the overall marketing budget goes out to external agencies as fees/payments. Dave also listed the 5 mandates for marketing this year:

1. Measure & communicate metrics: Its important for marketing to contribute to business outcomes & provide predictive insight.

2. Become data & technology frontrunners: Invest in skills, build omnichannel marketing, foster the potential of data & analytics and lastly increase awareness with the c-suite.

3. Improve relevance & personalisation for the customer: Track for insights, provide customised marketing and make use of personas. This involves rendering different treatment when you talk to CMOs/CFOs/CIOs.

4. Enable thought leadership selling: Use sales teams to provide insight about client needs, enagagements and discuss challenges with marketing. Marketing also needs to manage & train SME’s to increase the awareness of our offering.

5. Build adaptive culture in marketing: Marketing needs to be proactive & collaborate within the functions. Companies should build a reward based culture to value business contribution from marketing.

The later session by Ramkumar Ramamoorthy was also rich in terms of the takeaways from his experience with the sterling work he has done at Cognizant. The impact of investor and analyst relation teams cannot be discounted. The last session was a panel discussion with key members such as Jyoti Singh (Genpact), Lavanya Jayram (Zensar Technologies), Kulwinder Singh (Synechron) & Sujit Janardanan (Amazon Web Services). Key takeaways from this discussion was about how marketing ROI is being measured (metrics differ everywhere), value being added through marketing (engagement matters on social & business matters in place of leads), investments matter in place of cost as that can be used to justify customer retention value over time.

Overall, i think it was an excellent session as it refreshed some of my own learning to reinforce the same. On the other hand, we picked up some good examples that were good to know and i also bumped in to some people i worked with earlier! All in all the new face of marketing looks good to be worked with in the future 🙂

Why tagging is important for Instagram?

So you’re out for a jog and can’t help but notice totally distracted photo junkies like me on the lookout for a #photooftheday scene waiting to be snapped. Yes, we #instagrammers as most people would like to hashtag their pictures to are just waiting for that dew drop to fall, kitten to purr and flower to bloom. Add to that coffee shots, stills of my shoes and just about anything thrown is in the most absurd of formats. Cover it up with a filter (my fav is Lo-Fi and at times Amaro) and you’re good to go!

Now, Instagram just recently introduced its photo tagging feature. So earlier, i could tag my friends in the description. However, if you’re likely to receive a lot of comments then heaven help the friend in sifting through!

Coming to why this is important:

1. Users: Users can now directly tag friends in pictures that will make it easier when a group of people are tagged as the photo will then appear in their photos too. (Bound to make a lot of lives simpler)

2. Business/Brands: Brands can stand to gain here as users can simply tag them in photos of themselves. In a way they would also need to be cautious and keep a hawk’s eye out for any deteriorating content being floated around.

3. Crowd sourcing: As many would know, user generated content is the way to go. In this way for a business perspective, this move by Instagram could prove to be fruitful.

4. No Advertising: Facebook acquired Instagram, so changes on simmilar lines were foreseen. However the good part is that since Instagram is free of any form of advertising, users & brands alike will have to be really quirky and innovative with content to engage.

So, there you have it. Tagging will make it easier and increase the overall shares and activity on Instagram. Now, i got to go and grab a mocha mugshot!

Why should you ‘Check-In’ on Foursquare?

Chances are, that you’ve heard of Foursquare: the location based social networking platform. Almost every social media junkie you’ve met is right now, at this very moment checking in to his/her favorite spot. I like the fact that on social, you’ve got platforms that are specific to the purpose. While i may not want to share my coordinates with everyone in my Facebook friends list, Foursquare let’s me share it with a select few.

However, there is much more to Foursquare than just being another platform to engage bleary eyed students, tech – enthusiasts or common people. Recently it raised funds through debt financing to further propel its growth plans. While all of this may show that there is value to be garnered, I have some points to ponder:

1. ROI : Yes, its the ‘word’ for anyone in social media. Foursquare in its 4 years of existence has received $110 Million in financing. Out of these venture capitalists have powered up to $70 Million. But, if you look back at the total revenue for last year, Foursquare made just $2 Million!

2. Valuation: It’s paramount to check for decent valuations and projections/forecasts for the firm you wish to invest in. According to estimates, Foursquare was valued at $600 Million. This just baffles me.

3. Growth Life-cycle: Typically any platform such as this goes through the following stages:

  • Introduction: Pitch/Launch at a influential event. The way Twitter did back in ’07, Foursquare was launched in SXSW ’09
  • Steep Growth: Backed by early adopters and influential base, there is an exponential growth that is seen
  • Monetization: Logically, the next step where you begin to reap monetary benefits out of the base you have acquired
  • Quick Exit: If there is any hint/indication of the platform not growing further, the plug is pulled out quick enough for a painless exit.

From these stages, we can see that Foursquare has crossed step 2 in a sluggish way. They are still trying to crack monetization. The main playing field they have is 50 Million data points, through which they can get marketers to put ads and target users based on their location. I guess by using this as an API they should be able to reap some benefits. Currently the total user base is estimated at 30 Million (actual active users are unknown)

4. Funding Options: Now the reason why they had to go for Debt Financing? From my basic finance course back at the B-School, entities typically tend to go for equity/VC funding. The risk of paying back is much less, plus the valuations on sheet look good. Debt is the route taken up when all other modes fade. So, does this indicate at a lower valuation or estimates being revised downwards?

5. Gamification Vs Review App: The gamification part comprises of earning points everytime you check – in. If you’re a mayor, flash around your coin and earn goodies at your favorite restaurant. Else you’re engaged by earning badges. However, Foursquare wants you to leave tips which serve a tiny reviews for the place you’re at. Be it a tourist spot, restaurant, bus stop or the daily commute train station, you can simply leave your tip to guide others around. I don’t think Foursquare should take up this route as there are several other popular apps that serve the purpose. Its important to differentiate their offering here.

So my personal take? I think Foursquare is here to stay if they crack the monetization bit. It’s also crucial that they don’t take that objective to the hilt like Facebook. While its lovingly designed in NY and SF, it will take a lot more to get the love from users all across the world!

Facebook’s Home Window?

So the much hyped “Facebook Home” event took place yesterday. This was a finality of sorts to the rumored Facebook Phone that had created quite a buzz off late. While, there was nothing on the hardware front, Facebook has come up with a software that should be able to further refine the user experience.

It was quite intriguing to have made the assumption that there would be a new phone. That’s cause Facebook is software centric and it wouldn’t make much business sense to compete on hardware with a much evolved and highly competitive market scenario. Hence, they made the correct logical choice of sticking to software. What exactly does this mean for us?

Since the update is to be rolled out on a select few Android OS phones, the experience is going to be reserved for a limited number of handsets. On the OS front, Facebook has everything to gain. The home screen will be more people centric, building around what is most relevant to the user. In the midst of the brouhaha, smaller apps are bound to get pushed in to a corner. While this could prove to be good for people who need a limited number of options, the more app crazy user such as me would find it cumbersome to keep going in to layers to use apps.

To an extent, this is pretty similar to the tile interface that windows phone have. This is a big debate, as to whether Facebook just stole Microsofts idea. Afterall they do have a huge base of nearly 700 million users that serve as a potential playground to roll this out to.

I wonder if this would actually be path breaking or is this another cog in the Facebook machine to justify that there are shreds of innovation that are in progress. After all, its backed by investors who would want to see some tangible development. While its still unclear as to how advertising would sit within the entire interface, there would surely be means to drive revenue. Going by the way the Windows OS was bluntly ignored, it would be interesting to see how Facebook Home pans out in terms of adoption levels.

Why Honey Bunny works for !DEA.

I think one of the simplest ways to leave an impact on any target audience is to have an oversimplified message. Zoozoos made absolutely no sense, but conveyed human emotions with ease. Similarly successful campaigns have been built over the simplest of things.
The new !dea campaign does exactly the same. Their basic message seems to be that here is a network that actually works across the country in the remotest of locations. To tie the different elements and bring in a localized flavor at the same time, what could work better than the simple notes of music.
We as a country have a rich heritage of traditions and music is one of the most important elements in our culture. Starting from any mom’s gentle hum, to the singing cab driver and lady servant murmuring songs as she dusts upholstery at home everyone has some song on their mind. The jingle used in the advert is building on a unique observation of the same. 
The reasons why this clicks are:
1. Appeal: Music being the most important element work well with emotional appeal
2. Awareness: It’s a jingle afterall. All that’s required is for someone to be exposed to it once. They need not even watch the commercial. The tune is bound to stick for sometime.
3. Usage: Jingles can easily be used as ringtones/call back tones thus promoting usage catching the average consumer totally unaware.
4. Recall: With visuals specific to different culture and tying the same jingle in different ways, !dea had killed both issues with one shot.
Only time can really tell if this campaign would go on to be as successful as other major ad mammoths. However this sure has caught widespread attention and people of all age segments from kids to senior folks are loving the jingle. It would rather be interesting to see how !dea will supplement this campaign in the future.

Nike Ads: Why do they Captivate?

As any avid cricket follower, you may have seen the recent Nike Advertisement shown extensively during matches. Brilliant concept by JWT wherein they show a bunch of kids along with a few prominent cricketers thrown in, each chasing the eternal cricketing dream across India. I feel this Ad stands out when as compared to others which are being run in similar slots. Nike, how do they go ahead and “Just Do It”?
Flashback to the late 1980’s, picture a boardroom (every client service execs nightmare) and a bunch of ad guys and aggressive Nike employees arguing. The agency was Wieden and Kennedy, where Dan Wieden remarked, “You Nike guys, You Just Do It”. A phrase that they say is now advertising history. Another important form factor is the Logo. The swoosh is more than just a checkmark. It portrays the willingness, determination and airiness of an athlete. Nike stressed on aligning its brand strategy towards being more than just a sportswear company to an overall fitness provider. This can be seen through their Ads that targeted obesity and were more shifted towards women as well. These moves only strengthened their brand further.
Coming to the recent Ad on Indian Television, there are 3 strong elements that I feel work towards this:
  1. Background/Setting: Fast paced transition of a bunch of cricket enthusiasts from the wake of morning to bowling the first ball, with all their grit. 
  2. Thoughts/Emotions: Unison of goals irrespective of which region and steadfastness to achieve them, dreaming the same dream. 
  3. Cultural References: Music by Taufiq Qureishi that encapsulates the Indian Spirit. 

But from a marketing perspective there has to be a more analytic take on this. As any communications student will tell you, there are three important stages when it comes to the Hierarchy of Effects:
  1. Cognition(Associated with thinking)
  2. Affective(More on the feeling aspect)
  3. Behavioral(Linked to Doing)

Nike’s Ads work best on the third level. Being a powerful brand with high recall and association of the logo and tagline the average consumer is already aware of the brand, carries a subtle amount of interest for the product and has the desire to someday own a pair of Nike shoes. All of this to be more fitter and lead a healthy lifestyle. These cover the first three aspects of the AIDA model in communication theory (Awareness, Interest, Desire & Action). The last stage Action, which involves a behavior shift is clearly targeted in the Nike ads which compel the viewer to “Just Do It”. Here, you see the tagline itself is a Call to Action of sorts. 
Coupled with well executed advertisements, strong branding and marrying the local culture by showing visuals from urban India to the dingiest of chawls, gullies near the Ganga and all the way up to scenic Ladakh they have embodied the spirit of the average Indian who will do all it takes to catch every match, watch as each ball is bowled and jump with euphoria every time we secure a win.