How brands are using social media’s storytelling abilities

By: | Updated: September 29, 2015 12:08 PM

Brands have realised the significance of social media and its peculiar demands. Utilising the social channels’ storytelling abilities, they are creating an image of a more personal and reachable entity

social mediaBrands have realised the significance of social media and its peculiar demands. Utilising the social channels’ storytelling abilities, they are creating an image of a more personal and reachable entity

Tho doesn’t love an underdog? A Cinderella story, if you will. Last year, the story of a stammering comedian premiered online and generated a flurry of social conversations. The comedian turned a disadvantage into a gift and sparked off more than 5 million views online. The campaign was ranked amongst the top 10 YouTube ads in India in 2014. The ad was created by Nestle Foods, for its coffee brand Nescafe. The company, after tasting the sweet fruits of its labour, has now come out with another online story—the story of an unemployed cartoonist. To his chagrin, he finds that the publication he works for has decided to drop cartoons altogether. He then decides to reinvent himself and publish his work online and develops a label in the process. The campaign has already delivered 3.9 million views.

A Nestle spokesperson says that both digital and social media are an integral part of their strategy. The recent #WeMissYouToo campaign for Maggi noodles has been exclusively designed for and launched on digital and social
media. As a part of the campaign, six short films have been launched which reflect the spontaneity and affection between consumers and Maggi noodles. “The campaign has already garnered over 7 million views on digital and social media platforms,” says the Nestle spokesperson.

Hard to believe, but this is the same company that found itself in the docks a few months back, for its ‘inadequate response’ to reports of lead and MSG (monosodium glutamate) in its Maggi brand of noodles. And that is the tricky thing about social media. You never know when you are not listening adequately. Add to that, different units of a single company may react differently to social situations.

“Social media marketing should ideally be on the top of the marketing matrix. Brand Maggi was decimated in a matter of days, just on the back of social media conversations,” says Brand-Comm chief executive Ramanujam Sridhar. Reputation management, clearly, is now every company’s lookout. “You can’t just dismiss social media marketing as a discipline that concerns the millennial brands alone,” adds Sridhar.

Consider these facts. Advertisers worldwide will spend $23.68 billion on paid media to reach consumers on social networks this year, according to figures from eMarketer—a 33.5% increase from 2014. By 2017, social network ad spending will reach $35.98 billion, representing 16% of all digital ad spending globally. The EY Social Media Marketing India Trends study reveals that brands across industries have realised the significance of social media and its peculiar demands. In FY14, social media constituted 18% of online promotional spends, which stood at Rs 495 crore, up from R295 crore in 2013. About 90% of organisations reached out to in this study are planning to spend as much as 15% of their annual marketing budget exclusively on social media, up from 78% organisations in 2013.

Social media spends are expected to be more than 15% over the next few years, as per brand experts.

In India, social media marketing has long been considered to be the pre-occupation of GenNext brands. A yuppie watch brand or a radio cab service or an online ecommerce site needs to be ‘socially charged up’ because by definition, they are millennial brands—run by millennials and catering to millennials.

Tripti Lochan, chief executive of digital firm VML Qais says that new age brands are not just using social, they are “inherently social”. “They are digital products which have been created with the digital-first consumer in mind. Their functionality and user experience mirrors the usage trends of this consumer,” she says.

Brands like Uber and Ola are primarily using social media for three things – online reputation management, acquiring new customers and creating advocacy. Suveer Bajaj, co-founder and director- media operations, FoxyMoron says, “People on social media tend to talk more about taxi service when they have any grievance. That’s why it is important for brands such as Ola and Uber to have a solid online reputation management strategy in place to deal with negative sentiments of any unsatisfied customer.” He says that social media lets brands like these address consumer grievances directly and manage customer relations. At the same time, these brands are utilising social media for customer acquisition by inducing free trials. They create interesting content to promote offers that appeal to existing as well as potential customers.

But the real story that is unfolding is in sectors such as fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs), banking and finance, and automobiles. While some are coming up with applications that integrate with social platforms, others are using bloggers and influencers, and there are still others that have quirky activities and contests, to cash in on the viral factor.

“The behemoths, while battling in their traditional turfs, are looking at creating deeper and more intrinsic brand stories, utilising the social channels’ storytelling abilities,” says Ranjoy Dey, head—digital, Havas Media India. With the consumer connect already being there, these brands create an image of a more personal and reachable entity for consumers through social media.

In the banking segment alone, there are several attempts to go social. Ping Pay—an application by Axis Bank allows customers to send, ask for and receive money via Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, email and SMS. In January 2015, ICICI Bank launched ‘icicibankpay’, an initiative that enables its customers to transfer money to anyone in the country who has a Twitter account, check account balance, view last three transactions and recharge prepaid mobile.

Kotak Mahindra Bank has KayPay, among the world’s first bank agnostic payment products for Facebook users to send money to each other instantly. ICICI Bank also has a social banking product called Pockets, which talks to digital audiences.

Insurance brand HDFC Life says that it was always important to harness people’s passion while on social media. “A case in point was our World Cup #MyTeamMyPride campaign, which was the second most buzzed about one, during the WC 2015 amongst all sectors,” says Sanjay Tripathy, senior executive vice president at HDFC Life. “People engaged with their passion for cricket along with us and we had several Sar Utha Ke Jiyo moments, when the team played well. It was a very subtle but effective way to spread our brand values without lecturing anyone on financial necessities.”

Pepsi had launched a rather disruptive crowdsourcing campaign on social media titled ‘Crash the Pepsi IPL’. The contest invited fans to make a 30-second commercial showing their love for Pepsi, with the promise that the best ads would be aired during the IPL matches. The brand tapped into communities of content creators on the internet like bloggers and YouTube users to help spread the word.

In recent weeks, an innocuous video featuring actor Sonam Kapoor has been appearing on all news websites and she is advising people on how to handle relationships. She says in the video, “Break ups are so liberating. If you are in a messy relationship, break up.” Little does one know that this is a marketing ploy by L’Oreal in order to get people to ‘break up’ with styling products that are inadequate. The subtle advice: opt for L’Oreal instead ‘because you are worth it’. Satyaki Ghosh, director, consumer products division at L’Oreal India says that no one would really associate the video with the brand and yet the message syncs in beautifully. “We launched the #Swipetospice Twitter campaign where we asked viewers to use our product Baby Lips endorsed by Alia Bhatt and post pictures, with quirky Bollywood lines,” says Ghosh. Sales went up by 30%. The brand also has a dedicated channel on YouTube that gives makeup and hair colour tutorials. “We pride ourselves on our social marketing skills. We are in aspirational categories, which makes it essential to do some serious social listening,” adds Ghosh. The brand tends to employ endorsers who are active on social media even otherwise.

Del Monte is working with digital influencers in order to increase awareness on continental food. The brand launched into a social campaign called ‘Italian Escapades’ which was done in association with Indiblogger; it engaged with top bloggers and food enthusiasts across the country to create original, unique and innovative pasta recipes. Del Monte received around 200 unique recipe entries in the process. Yogesh Bellani, chief executive at Fieldfresh Foods says that the campaign reached over 2.4 million people on Facebook while 1.1 million people were reached via blogs and videos. “Social media for us is a key driver to build brand awareness and brand preference for Del Monte,” says Bellani, “and at the same time drive category specific objectives—educating consumers on the (Italian) category, creating awareness about our products and engagement for two-way communication with the relevant consumers.” For instance, WorldFoody.com is the brand’s specially created portal for food lovers that is used to amplify such initiatives.

Different strokes for different folks

A social campaign for Head & Shoulders executed by L&K Saatchi & Saatchi India urged men to be masculine and to “stop using their wife’s shampoo”. Several women’s groups reacted negatively, but according to Anil Nair, chief executive and managing partner at L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, at least there was a reaction to the campaign as it had an element of debate to it. “It is important that you are convinced about what you want to say,” Nair says.

In the auto segment, Mahindra & Mahindra collaborated with ‘48-hour’ film festivals to create multiple films around XUV500 and the theme of ‘memorable stories’, using both amateur and professional filmmakers. It conceived India’s first iPad adventure e-zine with over 25,000 downloads, meant for serious off-road and adventure enthusiasts. It has also converted TV commercials into Facebook apps where consumers can place themselves and friends in actual ads and share these online. “Social allows for instantaneous communication,” says Vivek Nayer, chief marketing officer, Mahindra & Mahindra. For its XUV 500, it actually got viewers engaged and allowed them to choose the soundtrack. The teaser for the TUV 300 launch saw the SUV crashing through the door of an old fort and this was viewed more than 50 million times on YouTube.

Josy Paul, chairman, BBDO India says that no campaign is comprehensive enough today, unless it has the social component. “Almost all our movement ideas start out on social media. We use the medium to test consumer opinion.

It’s a focus group of 90 million respondents,” he says. Based on feedback, the agency re-arranges elements in the messaging mix. According to Paul, this strategy has worked for Gillette ‘Women against Lazy Stubble’, Ariel ‘Share The Load’, Whisper ‘Touch the Pickle’ and Visa ‘Dream To Advance’ campaigns. “These are fully integrated campaigns using multiple touchpoints but they started out on social media,” he says.

In the case of Whisper sanitary napkins, more than 2.9 million women pledged to ‘Touch the Pickle’. Whisper’s share of voice grew from 21% to 91% in its category. The Ariel ‘Share the Load’ campaign surpassed all objectives: the campaign received over 1.6 billion earned impressions. “Consumer engagement increased three times – the highest ever (fed and led by social media). Ultimately all this drove preference for Ariel that resulted in unprecedented sales.

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