Marketing in the Post Advertising Age : It’s Not About Advertisements.

Amul’s story or that of its advertising campaign is of course not unknown to anyone. But what is surprising is that most brands haven’t picked a cue from it!

[Editorial Note: As traditional marketing and advertising mediums get replaced by digital media, are there cues that marketers can pick up from the past? Tarun Mitra, the founder of social learning platform LurnQ takes a look at some of the successful campaigns to glean insights.]

About a month ago when the nation tuned in to watch, what was purportedly the most awaited political interview of the decade, a certain brand was watching him close. Very close indeed. And close at the heels of airing the particular interview, the brand released yet another jewel for its iconic advertising campaign.Najawab Interview Amul

Amul, the brand of dairy products is really as apolitical as it gets. But over the years there is little that it hasn’t dipped its fingers into. The image of the archetypal blue haired moppet wearing a polka dotted dress has grown to cover billboards from the late 1960’s. The ‘Utterly Butterly’ and the country’s darling who refuses to grow up is India’s longest running campaign. And in being that it is Amul’s biggest takeaway, even greater than its products.

Amul’s story or that of its advertising campaign is of course not unknown to anyone. But what is surprising is that most brands haven’t picked a cue from it! Just how has one brand managed to stay topical and in conversation with its consumers for more than half a century? Just how has the brand managed to capitalise on its recall value? Just how effectively has Amul established its name in the psyche of the Indian as the ‘taste of India’? These are simple questions that every marketer must ask and ponder upon.

What worked dacades ago, works even better now

If one looks at the media ecosphere today, the traditional media is at odds with newsfeed. No longer are people stopping to look at billboards. Nor are they cutting out print ads for future reference. And they are definitely not waiting for commercial breaks to entertain them.

The average consumer on the street looks at advertisements as distractions that need to be done away with. Quick and fast.

So where and how does the marketer ‘connect’ with his consumer? Where is the value addition? And why should a consumer leave his preference for a particular brand and switch to another?

Long before social media (people’s media) made dramatic in-roads into people’s lives and psyche, Amul captured the pulse of the people. Beyond the rhetoric of being a leading dairy brand, it gave people a chance to discuss. It’s satirical campaign spoke the mind of the people. It gave fodder to people’s conversations and Amul the brand found consumers even in those who did not consume its products!

Amul’s decades old strategy became a natural fit for the new media channels because it was always based on consumer centrality.

Customers Don’t Want Ads, They Want Conversations

The rules of marketing are changing very vigorously. From what was once a one way communication from the seller to the buyer, we are in an era where the customer controls the message. The marketing challenge is to create a message that resonates with consumer psyche in a way that sparks delight, trust and loyalty among consumers.

Ok, cool. Now how does one do that? Here are just a few examples:

Be exceptional

When was the last time you watched a flight safety demonstration with attention? If you think you know it all, then take a look at one from Virgin Airlines. In less than 2 weeks post its release in October 2013, Virgin Airlines showed this safety video to 5.8 Million people without having them step into their airplane. With people without having them step into their airplane. With 430,000 Facebook shares, 17,000 Tweets, this ingenious tactic generated viral conversations.

Checkout the new Virgin web site. It gives the consumers the opportunity to drive the brand, rather than the brand leading the consumers. To take things to the next level; Virgin recently announced the first ever airborne social network This is a strategy is to be a clear alternative to existing choices, by creating a space so far untapped by other brands.

Be off pattern

Competing in the FMCG sector is no mean task. How else can you position yourself other than make tall promises of beauty? So when Dove turned the image in the mirror, heads turned and how!

With the remarkable campaign Dove Real Beauty Sketches in April 2013, Dove decided to conduct a compelling experiment that explored how women viewed their own beauty in contrast to what others saw. The initiative was built on an insight into the tensions and contradictions in the consumers lives.

No suprises that it got over 160 million views, stayed on top of social media converstions and won the Titanium Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions.

Huddle to Co-Create

The truest test for any brand is to remain connected with its consumers. After all a sense of belonging can do wonders. For a brand to facilitate bonhomie of sorts it is critical that it provides its consumers a movement where they can join. Collaboration leads to co-creation, not just of a pro-community of consumers but users who merge with the brand to better it in ways.

Take for instance, My Starbucks Idea campaign. Aptly named as “Inspired by You”, Starbucks hands the buck back to the consumer by saying, “You know better than anyone else what you want from Starbucks. So tell us. What’s your Starbucks Idea?Revolutionary or simple – we want to hear it. Share your ideas, tell us what you think of other people’s ideas and join the discussion. We’re here, and we’re ready to make ideas happen.”

And it isn’t just another campaign either. Starbucks duly lists out the ideas that it has worked on, showing the consumer that it is committed to its consumers’ feedback.

Create or Curate

“Red Bull gives you wings” – so says the energy drink brand. Taking a wing from its own company slogan, Red Bull organises the Red Bull Flugtug where participants enter to fly home-made, human-powered flying machines. Since 1992, Red Bull has successfully organised Flugtag in over 35 countries across the world. The event garners a huge crowd every year. The flying machines barely fly. But what remains is the brand name associated with this very popular brand.

Today’s self educating consumer are more than half way through the buying process even before they speak to your sales team. The consumer today is an empowered individual armed with the weaponry of smartphones, tablets, go-to blogs for reviews and analyses and social networking sites that works as great sources for referrals and connections. He is an informed and ‘socially-educated’ person who makes his choices based on a 360 degree view of what a brand has to offer. Not just the product alone, but its identity and value.

Going back to the Amul campaign, the brand in 2013 launched a 3-D version of its moppet in an ad. Bringing to life a known and well-identified character, the Amul girl in this spunky new look has a clear agenda – to showcase its products. In the beginning of 2014, Amul launched another ‘slice of life’ advertisement – Har Ghar Amul Ghar. The fact that Amul is the largest food brand in India and the world’s largest pouched milk brand with an annual turnover of $3.2 Billion does not come as a surprise. Being topical, being part of conversation works.

Brands are not built by advertising alone. Neither are consumers only those who buy a product. Today, a consumer is anyone who is consuming your brand and its identity. It is time that marketers realize the fact that in today’s perpetually connected society consumers control the buying journey. It’s up to marketers to map the journey and become part of it. So before you take your brand to the consumer, try to determine where society is heading and explore how your brand can add value in meaningful ways.

[About the author: Tarun Mitra is the Founder & Ex-CEO of LurnQ, an open social learning platform. Previously Tarun led global expansion of Aptech as Vice President. You can connect with him on twitter.]

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