1. Ad-dendum by Devendra Deshpande: Being part of consumer conversations

Ad-dendum by Devendra Deshpande: Being part of consumer conversations

There is an insatiable appetite for relevant content in the digital space. How do we speak what the consumer wants to hear?

Published: April 19, 2016 6:26 AM

‘Content is king’ is an overused term which most brands adhere to like the rule of the Bible. Though this stands true in the present digital era of content onslaught, a key challenge for brands is to come up with ‘content that is king’ and that is relevant and relatable to the consumer.

Here is a story to give us some perspective. Once upon a time, there lived a king who walked naked on the streets thinking he was wearing the best clothes, a brand new and amazing suit, which he believed would be invisible to those unfit or stupid. A kid pointed out loud saying “Hey! He isn’t wearing anything at all!” But the king did not pay heed to the kid even though he suspected the assertion may have been true.

The point — the king is the brand and the kid is the consumer. Had the king understood what the kid had to say, he could have saved himself from embarrassment.

How do we hear what the consumer has to say? And how do we become relevant to the same consumer?

Being a part of the conversation: what they are talking about

Fifteen years ago, content could start conversations. It was an era when primetime ruled and the bahus were mad and the saas was bad. Back to the present decade. TV is no longer the only medium to define content. Content definition and distribution has changed. It is a whole new world today, a world which is multi-format, multi-platform and multi-channel. It is a world that is interconnected with blurred boundaries.

Whether a particular brand’s content is king and distribution is queen or vice versa, does not really matter in this scenario. The surfacing fact is that in the digital ambit of audio, video and text there are millions of conversations happening by the second.

This means that people are talking, irrespective of whether the brand is a part of the conversation or not. The other way for brands to look at this number is to see these conversations as opportunities that are present for a brand to participate in. Hence, the onus is more on the brands to be relevant to the content and not vice versa anymore.
Take the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup …conversations happening around social media in those 45 days were no secret. IBM came out with its 24×7 newsroom on Twitter, churning out exciting insights and became a part of those conversations.

The best way for a brand to tell a story is to infuse a topical issue or insight with popular culture and by design, brands find their way into digital conversations.

In the recent past, #PapaHainNa (SBI Life) or Chal Udte Hain (Castrol) have been great examples of brand storytelling. Also the recent Red Label transgender band or Power of 49 (Tata Tea) are powerful examples where the brand stood out for telling stories on topical issues of LGBT and women rights respectively.

The common thread binding all these powerful campaigns is an insight which is relevant to the consumer and in tandem with the brand ethos, which is then combined with a pop culture element that stands out and breathes life into the insight. Lastly, the focus is put on the brand and not the other way around.

Unfortunately, most brands still see online content through the lens of television. The digital medium is about engagement through relevance and storytelling. Concerns like ‘my logo is not visible’ are just going to push back the brand from the consumer.

Long term conversations: Brand focus

Once the brands create content which does not ‘shamelessly’, but seamlessly fit the conversations, a sustained engagement can ensure that the order changes and communities start centering on the brand. This is long term.

Like the focus cannot always be on simply creating the ‘hero’ content, measurement metrics cannot be just views or measurements of exposure. The key here is to measure not just views and numbers but actually understand the level of audience reaction and engagement.

Brands have their own challenges to address their current market realities which include dipping volumes, competition, share of voice etc. They have to walk the thin line between short term reality and long term goals which few manage.


So the kid’s (consumer’s) advice to the king or brand would be as follows:
* Data (listening) backed content creation. Once we listen to what’s trending and what’s hot and act accordingly, then we are a part of the conversations
* Sustained conversations to lead into community conversations around the brand
* Metrics to move from exposure (views) to engagement (reaction)

By Devendra Deshpande

The author is head –  content plus, Mindshare

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