Ad-dendum: Marketing with, not at people

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Published: May 3, 2016 5:01:26 AM

Why people powered marketing needs to be at the heart of the agency’s strategy and not at the fringes

According to Nielsen, ‘recommendations from people I know’ are more trusted than any other form of advertising. Even if you don’t believe this, it is hard not to see the growing cynicism towards ads — after all, creating a YouTube pre-roll that people don’t skip is still every creative director’s dream. Consumers are wary of being sold to and yet, the media-advertising machinery is working hard to come up with clever ways to target users with sharper messaging. They are barking up the wrong tree, solving the wrong problem.

They are still marketing at people, not with them.

It is time brands stop worrying about how to make a viral video and start thinking about how they can get real people rallying behind them, fuelling their stories and sharing it with their social circles. While some brands are waking up to the idea of using people powered content, what we see today are just half measures. These include testimonials in ads in an attempt to look credible and the current favourite use of paid influencers, whose loyalties are bought and sold by the rate card. Leaving these aside, brands don’t seem to have a plan for people powered marketing. Word of mouth is just something that happens organically, a phenomenon that cannot be triggered by design, relegating it to the post-lunch session of the annual innovation workshop.

The good news is that it is 2016 — word of mouth is no longer this fuzzy, amorphous, naturally occurring phenomenon, but can be launched at scale with user-generated content (UGC) platforms. It’s time to bring real people to the forefront of marketing, as an essential part of the media mix that can help advertising overcome its trust deficit. And here are a few ways that brands can enlist real people in their

marketing efforts: Tap their creativity

Fashion retailer ASOS asks its fans to upload their pictures using the hashtag #AsSeenOnMe. The best ones go up on the ASOS website, inspiring millions of people with their looks. UGC is not just a fad. Look around us: people prefer the imperfect but authentic over the airbrushed and fake and Instagram’s stellar growth is testimony to the fact. And if you’re marketing to millenials, there is proof that they trust UGC a whopping 50% more than any other media. Next time, don’t just brief your creative agency, brief the crowd and you’ll be surprised at the quality of output.

Get them to solve your prospects’ queries

Sometimes handing over the wheel to happy customers is a great idea. Chevrolet Brazil, through its Real People, True Opinions campaign allowed prospects to get in touch with the nearest Chevy owners over WhatsApp. This way, prospects got unfiltered answers to their queries and gave the campaign a credible voice.

Woo the ‘superfans’; they will do the rest

How did OnePlus manage to pull off one most successful brand launches in the history of marketing, with a puny budget of $10,000? They went after the geeks — members of the android community — who were open to fresh ideas and who would go to great lengths to get their hands on bleeding edge technologies. With its campaign Smash The Past, OnePlus announced that it would give away 100 phones (with pre-production software) to its fans who would smash their old phones. The result? Over 1,40,000 phones were smashed! What started as a small group of frenzied early-adopters, quickly snowballed into a passionate community with its famed invite-only model. Till date, OnePlus is nothing without its community of ‘superfans’ who continue to power the brand’s exponential growth.

Make them virtual ambassadors of your brand

If your brand is targeting the youth, they have got to be at the forefront of your marketing efforts. After all, this is a highly motivated, super-competitive bunch who is always looking for ways to make the most of their time in college — whether it is through cool freebies or meaningful internships. Fashion e-tailer KOOVS runs a popular style ambassador programme where participants get exposure to the glamourous world of fashion — including a chance to study in London — and in return, these young ambassadors give the brand a slice of their precious timelines. A fair bargain for both.

Rally them for a cause Emojis are everywhere, yet most of us are blind to the sharp gender bias they suffer from. These innocent characters on your mobile keypad represent women as brides and beauty queens, polishing nails and pursuing such ‘girly’ interests, while professional and sporty pursuits are reserved for male characters. Feminine hygiene brand Always noticed this anomaly and asked women what emojis they would like to see. It got women around the world to suggest ideas for emojis that best represent them and even managed to get Michelle Obama to pitch in with her emoji. Empowering people to fight for a bigger cause works wonders for your equity.

As the power shifts away from brands and towards people, brands can’t afford to have word of mouth merely as an organic phenomenon. They need to rewire their thinking from marketing ‘at’ people, to marketing ‘with’ them.

The author is head – product strategy, Advocacy WOM

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