Ad-dendum: Unshackle the brand to win

Jul 08 2014, 01:22 IST
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SummaryThe era of staged conversations and corporate speak is over. Today’s brands need to be responsive to their consumers and have real conversations with fans and followers

Astand-up comedian and a travel website cannot be the best teachers of marketing practice in today’s day and age, especially since the stand-up comedian is not a movie personality and the website is not a heritage marketing company. Yet the two may hold lessons on how marketing and communication will need to evolve in the coming days.

Conventionally, marketing is about controlling the stimulus. Brands spend an enormous amount of time, resources and effort to own onespecific benefit in the minds of consumers. This benefit, once identified, is reinvented again and again so that competing brands cannot encroach upon their territory. The entire messaging strategy is crafted to ensure that one benefit that the brand owns is singularly communicated across all mediums. The conventional messaging strategy has always been a monologue. The entire media is planned to be intrusive. The brand says what it wants to say all the time and rarely is affected by what the consumers say or feel. The benefit of this model is complete control on messaging that the brand has —on what it says, to whom it says and when it says. This control over the message has been the cornerstone of marketing ever since it was invented.

This has started to change with the advent of social media. What was called word of mouth has become word of mouse today. Brands have woken up to the power of the mouse and have started to use social media actively, but the desire to control the message is still there.

Despite the need for real time conversation with fans and followers, brands have remained shackled, very few have truly broken the mould to have honest, open, free-flowing conversation with their fans.

This is where the stand-up comedian and the travel portal have shown the way. This is what happened: One intemperate foul-mouthed politician in his campaign rally spoke about wanting to deport all the non-supporters to one of our not-so-friendly neighbouring countries.

As it happens, such campaign speeches lead to a series of conversations on social media. In one such tweet the comedian (@gkhamba) sent to a travel site, he asked, “Are you offering in infidel packages… group enquiry, please revert”. The responding tweet that was sent out by the travel site was brilliant, because normally a brand in the control conversation mode would never respond like this.

“Already overbooked, business has been good today. Though we may start some charters given

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