How to not go the Ola way

Ola’s recent commercial for its Rs 6/km offering was withdrawn after a backlash on social media.

Ola’s recent commercial for its Rs 6/km offering was withdrawn after a backlash on social media. The ad titled ‘Too expensive to take girlfriend out on a date’ shows a man drawing a parallel between Ola Micro and his girlfriend — a stereotypical woman who is shown shopping after every few seconds, expecting her boyfriend to pay. BrandWagon asks experts if the onus of being socially responsible is more on a digitally mature brand like Ola as compared to traditional brands, because the former are perceived as more socially savvy. So if a brand is aware of the dynamic nature of digital media, should it not go beyond the archetypal in its advertising too?

One wrong move can end it all: Zafar Rais, CEO, MindShift Interactive

Brands need to be cautious where they tread as one wrong move can hurt the brand image. Needless to say, the recent Ola Micro ad, which attempted to draw a parallel between a girlfriend and a cab ride (calling the former more expensive), didn’t go down well with today’s audience. Taking a step back, let’s look at brands like Lenskart that celebrated a huge natural disaster by putting out a promotional offer on their merchandise or American Swan that introduced its ‘Earth shattering offer’ at the time of the Nepal earthquake. Attempts to jump on a trend without fully understanding the implications of the same, can cause major backlash. Even Aishwarya Rai could not overpower the spite of angry audiences when she posed for a jewellery brand where an obviously underage slave-child, very dark and emaciated, struggles to hold an oversize umbrella over her head.

Advertisements reflect the values and ideologies of an organisation. One wrong move can end it all and just like in the wild, attention-hungry competitors will eat ferociously into the kill. Brands need to realise that audiences on digital platforms are progressive thinkers. And let’s not forget the power of virality.

While digital brands like Ola and Lenskart are perceived as trendsetters in the digital world, when it comes to advertising, the onus of being socially responsible can’t solely lie on them. For there are many companies with years of advertising experience that have heaps of trials and errors to fall back on. At the end of the day, whether advertising on traditional mediums or on social media, we need to comply with almost the same rules and regulations and still cater to the sentiments of target audiences while delivering a brand message.

The need is equal for brands to take informed decisions given that they appeal to large audiences irrespective of their new-age or traditional backgrounds.

To stay relevant and connect with target audiences, brands should better understand the dynamics of the audiences they are communicating to. Consumers today buy products or services because of the brand value attached, making it immensely crucial to be gender neutral in messaging.

Look at your consumers in a more individualistic fashion: Anshul Sushil, Co-founder & CEO,BoringBrands

In the era of a social media revolution, brands are born on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and more. The very initial embryonic stage of a brand to make its first breakthrough to connect with consumers happens on digital media platforms; this is where a brand’s relationship with consumers starts. Snapdeal for instance, got tremendous brand love (a.k.a. social media traffic) in its nascent years from its Snapdeal Nagar activity, remember?

Today, we live in a world wherein Snapchat rules the roost. Whether you are a startup or a traditional business house, insight and market segmentation are two pillars of any successful campaign. When these two criteria are based on a generalisation of the consumer, centered on age-old hypotheses, the campaign falls prey to the oblivion’s curse, and is eventually doomed to spark off conversations with negative connotations for the brand. Which happened in the case of Ola.

Consider these insights. Not all youngsters don hats of being rebellious. Similarly, not every couple wishes to live away from their parents (even in cosmopolitan metros). UrbanLadder’s Homecoming campaign was based on these findings. Consumer identity and influencer identity can be way different for brands on digital media forums. Great campaigns are those which are able to bring these personas alive and make them more relatable.

The key to building digital relationships is to look at your consumers in a more individualistic fashion. Communication can target insights that are focussed on a very small set of people, and these audiences can grow to become your evangelists. They can propel your brand campaigns by making them viral. Unfortunately, you cannot buy their love by using fossilised personas — even if you spend every penny of your marketing budget.


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