The right time and place for a brand message

Written by Venkat Mallik | Updated: Jun 28 2011, 12:33pm hrs
The Erie County Holding Centre in Buffalo, USA has found a new way to finance itselfthrough advertisements featuring defense lawyers and bail bondsmen beamed to its inmates on a giant screen! People in the Holding Centre dont want to get convicted and they want an attorney. The key to effective advertising is to reach consumers at the moment they make their purchase decision. Adverts like these that are being shown at the right time and place are perfect.

In jail advertising is just one example of right time right place advertising. Advertisers and marketers have always known the power of timing. The STAS effect measures established without doubt that there is a close link between when a brand advertises and its impact on the purchase in the immediate period following the communication.

FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) brands have typically spent closer to the end or beginning of the month and on POS (point of sale) to get sales traction. Consumer durables have focused media spends towards festivals and other auspicious seasons. The role for spot deals, offers and point of sale nudging has always been important. But that is how far it got and spends on right time, right place consumer contact were always a smaller percentage of the overall marketing spend in most categories. Three key trends are now poised to create a mini explosion in right time, right place communication.

Trend No. 1 - Consumer on wheels

Consumers across India and the world are now constantly on the go. The growing wealth and social time means they take many more purchase decisions on the run and under the influence of friends. There is no influence of TV or print. These kinds of impulse decisions are now being made for amounts in tens of thousands and for products and brands which are not necessarily food, drink or from the classic impulse purchase categories. There is a whole host of new categories, including reasonably expensive consumer durables, where decisions are now made at the blink of an eyelid. Location and time sensitive targeting of communication messages which can touch these consumers on wheels closer to the point of decision are just bound to grow bigger.

Trend No. 2 - Brand Clutter

We are experiencing an explosion of consumer choice. There are hundreds of soap brands and scores of insurance brands vying for attention. Their offerings are hardly different from each other - real or perceived. As brand differentiation becomes tougher, the role for timing closer to the purchase event will only grow more important.

Many years ago we had done a series of retail observation studies for a confectionery brand. Over 70% of the people who walked into the retail outlets had made their product / brand choice at the point of sale. So the client and the agency decided to spend a disproportionate share of the marketing money at the point of sale and in building innovative new dispensers and other POS.

More recently, we did some research for a clothing brand. We stood in front of a multi-brand ready-to-wear clothing outlet and asked consumers who were walking in whether they knew which brand they would pick up. Almost 100% of them said they werent sure which brand they would pick. There are a host of retail research companies that have identified that people who come in looking for a particular brand, often go out buying another that caught their fancy!

Marketers have known these things instinctively for a while. But the best they could do was to have POS or advertise on TV in season or during buying weeks. The smarter ones also advertised when people were thinking about the category for example, breakfast foods on breakfast TV and household goods to address the housewife during the afternoon when she is free to watch TV. But this is as far as it went.

Trend No. 3 New Technology

New technology has dramatically changed how much closer to the point of purchase you can reach with a fuller rendition of the brand message and how much more personalised the message can be.

OOH (out-of-home) is the fastest growing medium alongside digital in India reflecting what is happening with lifestyles and the learning on the impact of targeting closer to point of decision or purchase. FM radio in the car and on the mobile is bound to keep growing for people on the road. GPS technology and the mobile are revolutionizing the role of timing in brand communication. So brand messaging using Bluetooth at the neighbourhood coffee shop when people are chilling out with friends or waiting for their flight at the airport are great times to target people. Sending consumers a mobile message for a specially priced menu when they are on the road and searching for a restaurant for lunch will soon be common practice in India.

Third generation, or 3G, technology, as it gets adopted, will help us to play them video commercials on the phone. We dont really need to use POS to remind people of the TV commercial we can actually play the TV commercial to them when they are close to the point of purchase, courtesy mobile internet.

Foursquare is one of the most famous smartphone apps around and is being used by marketers to reward consumers who check in at their restaurant or outlet. By combining demographic data with location information, Foursquare can help target the right people with the right message at the right time and place.

EBay recently acquired location-based media company Where builds location-based mobile apps across every major mobile device platform, including Android, iPhone, and Blackberry. Typically, these apps have listings for restaurants, bars, merchants, and events, and also have tips on places and deals based on location and past behaviour. Where also offers a location-based ad network, which allow advertisers to show their mobile ads only to people near their store, or perhaps near a competitors store once the user opts in.Tracking files have reportedly been found in iPhones and the 3G iPad which record the devices location apparently from nearby cellphone towers and Wi-Fi networks, along with the time. If this report is true my guess is it would have something to do with serving ads to the user.

Google has jumped into this bandwagon and launched a competitor to Groupon and livingsocial. Visa has unveiled a new mobile service for retailers that brings it head-to-head with mobile deals players such as Foursquare, Groupon and, now, eBay. Heres how it works: Youre out to lunch and pay with your Visa card. That transaction triggers an offer, because you have opted in and fit the parameters of the deal. You then receive a text message that could say: 50% off a regular-price item for the next four hours. Merchants can also send out an offer directly after a certain type of purchase. You use your Visa to fill up at a gas station A fast feeder hawking breakfast could send you a text for free coffee.

If there is so much action around right time, right place targeting, wonder what will keep it away from being the next big thing The whole science of how decisions get made in modern-day living needs to be reviewed and new rules established.

The author is president, Rapp India, a part of DDB Mudra