Fascinating most observers is the fact that the fastest growing companies own nothing they offer in the real world. For instance, Facebook as a media owner creates no content; Uber as a taxi company owns no vehicles and Airbnb, an accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Not surprising then, how their customers and most of today’s mobile dependent population find the digital platform their biggest ally in decision making.
For all travellers, Airbnb is a rental accommodation site that brings to you home stays and local living, and is now a travel company — upgrading its services to help people interact and discover interesting cuisines, unusual things to see and experiences to have in a new place. All of this information is gathered from local experts and perhaps from other travellers too. That’s at the core of what makes advocacy the champion of new-age relationships. And rich fodder for marketers too.
Freshness is the opening line
Travellers and food lovers have forever wanted to expand their bag of memories. And intrinsic to that is locating or eating something new, exploring new attractions through listicles, knowing about the ambience and so on.
Truth be told, haven’t we often searched for local flavours that bring a land alive when we decide on a destination? TripAdvisor was the go-to place for me for more than a decade.
But a Google search today for Samarkand or top things to do in Gordes will give you a few good pages of ideas. And most of them come from other travellers who have hit the road and immersed themselves in experiences that now become a part of your bucket list too. All this because it’s not sold to you but seems authentic, local and personal. It’s one-to-one communication, even when you are reading an unfamiliar traveller’s post. New shared experiences from world over on everything are making our lives richer.
Authenticity nullifies angst
A genuine individual experience online is worth more than all product and brand advertising. Likewise, a negative review can bring things down. We have seen much of this for years in the automobile sector. Influencers who were four and two-wheeler experts played a great role in getting most of the uninitiated to know a lot more before making the purchase, through magazines and events. But today, not just experts but also enthusiasts and their real-time unpaid reviews help car buyers decide between a crossover SUV and a premium sedan. Not just that, even helping with the variant and colour. All of which is read on independent opinion pages, social media and so on.
Genuine feedback helps. And when one is paying large amounts of money, it helps to know that the decision is worth every penny. Credibility comes these days often from the vox populi, since they don’t shy from speaking the truth about what works and the pitfalls too.
If you are a parent, you’ll understand this in a jiffy. In nuclear set-ups across India and even where traditional approaches to parenting thrive, the digital space is a mothers’ best mate. In the absence of the familiar fallback options, many moms are online, exchanging notes on what’s the best food to tackle a health issue for her six year-old or sharing pregnancy woes and remedies to boost the child’s weight. Voices of other concerned mothers are extremely soothing and a boost to the new mom.
There is outsourced childcare advice from across the world to fill the gap of a parental figure in a new mom’s life. Amazing how comfortable one can be with a complete stranger turned empathiser. Doctors and nutrition experts often join these conversations. Many brands have created pages that even curate some of these views. They have mothers sharing their perspectives, reviewing products, and writing about their wows and woes.
When Zomato first came by a few years ago, I found a great place to finally access my city’s innumerable eating joints. Today, I can’t help but access the websites of some select food bloggers I totally love. They have taken my eating experience to a new level. In my mobile feed are well-written and visually appealing updates of their food journeys, loaded with delicious recipes from a cooking class done on a holiday, pop-up gourmet events they have been to, new places serving molecular gastronomic treats and so much more. I converse with them on their blog to get my version of their recipes right too. This for me, a complete ghar ka khana loving non-foodie, is a life experience shift.
What a world to live in. Where customers are now marketers!
The author is CSO & managing partner, Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi