The way we communicate has changed today. Branding is a different game altogether. The strategy that was considered the right way to build a brand just a few years back is all wrong today. We, as marketers, were doing a great job all these years and then came Tim Berners-Lee and changed it all. He is the man who invented the ‘World Wide Web’. With more than 2 billion users the growth in the number of people using the Internet in 2013, as compared to 2000, has been 566%. Whoa! That’s humongous. It’s this Internet which has created a unique generation of consumers called the ‘Millennial’. People in the age group of 18-34 fall in this category. Why are they so important? Let’s look at a few quick facts. 75 million is the population of the Millennials in US alone. In countries like India and Bangladesh most of the population is around this age. What it translates into is a few simple facts. By 2022 at least 30% of all retail sales will be to this generation, and by 2025 about 75% of the total car sales will be to this generation, making this age group the most important consumers. They are the consumers of the future and as brand builders it’s critical for us to make them believe in our brands. However, this generation is very different from its parents. They live differently, decide differently, and hate being marketed to, making things very difficult for marketers. Gone are the days when you picked up a Lonely Planet or any other travel guide book to know about a new destination you wanted to travel to. Today, you just ‘google it’ and can know more about the place, and even see real time videos of the place. You read books on the Internet and buy them through Amazon. If you want to change your job you don’t go to a placement agency but to LinkedIn. If you want an education many prefer to go online than to a campus. In fact, even if you want to protest for a cause you do not need to go out on the streets rather you go to the Facebook page and ‘like’ it and voila you are a protester!
Reading, writing, travelling, protesting – you name it and it’s happening on the Internet. So, logically your brand building too should happen on the Internet.
Consider this, when someone from this generation wants to buy a car he does not got to the company showroom or collect the car company’s brochure. The first thing he does is visit various websites, at least 25 of them, and then goes to a showroom when he has almost made up his mind of what he wants. Very rarely is the salesman able to assert his influence, for it’s ‘third party reviews’ which hold more weight than the salesman.
It’s said knowing your audience is the key to building a great brand for then you know exactly what he wants. However, this time it’s going to be an uphill task just knowing the audience as these guys are different. All these years brands were built by connecting and engaging the customer at various ‘touch points’, and the traditional touch points used to be TV, print, radio, outdoor hoardings, and direct mailers. A close look at these touch points reveals that this new generation watches his favourite TV programme on YouTube, or records it on his set-top box and watches it by fast forwarding the ads. He does not wait for the morning newspaper to arrive to know what’s the latest for he can log on to Twitter and read the summaries of the top headlines, or log on to the website and get the information. With live streaming of music he does not listen to the radio but tunes in to his iPod, MP3 player etc. Be it direct mail or e-mail most of them go in the junk box if they are promotions of brands. To top it all, with new laws coming in the number of hoardings is also fast decreasing. So, if this is the scenario then how do you ‘touch’ this guy?
(a)Forget physical media. Instead think digital.
You need to think like Amazon. Once you buy from it, the second time that you go there it knows you, and suggests things to buy that you may like depending on your past purchases. This is the personalization, the customization that the consumer of today wants. One size fits all no longer works. One campaign for TV, print, outdoor, radio, et al will not work any more. They say it’s the end of ‘lazy marketing’ and marketers & brand builders have to wake up and shake up and think of new ways to engage the consumer. Thanks to Facebook and other such sites today you can break up your customer base into micro segments. Pizza Hut, for instance, discovered that it had 17,000 different types of customers and planned different online campaigns which worked for the various groups.(d)Forget creatives, think content. When Cadbury wanted to launch its new chocolate bar named ‘Bubbly’ it decided to launch it not on TV or on radio but on Google+. No expensive ads were shot using pretty models, rather just the photograph of the product and details of the product were posted. The advantage – the buzz was created and sales started even before the company spent a single paisa on advertising! Unlike traditional mediums here the feedback from the consumer was very fast which helped the company streamline its strategy without wasting time and money.
Creatives are also losing their importance as companies like Facebook and Foursquare are today teaching you how to make advertisements which will work on their platforms. Everybody can become a creative guy, he does not need to hire an ad agency for that. You can even log on to buildmybrand.com and they will customize a logo for you in 5 minutes. Anyway just vanilla advertising will not work anymore. It’s ads with good content, which clearly show the consumer why he should buy a product, are the ones that work these days.
(e)Forget monologues, think dialogues. You need to talk to him, connect with him and then market to him.
(f)Forget media planning. In the digital space media is practically unlimited so the role of media planning is limited here. Rather this time the marketer wants to know how effective their plan is. Softwares like ‘Lotame’, which help
(g)you in audience data management and track every dollar that you spent, will be more effective than traditional media planners. Google, IBM, Microsoft today offer numerous tools (like Google analytics) to help you plan your media spend.
If you want your ROI(return on investment) to be high you have to ensure that your ROR(return on relationships) is very high. The more you will invest in building relations and knowing your customer intimately the more stronger will your brand be. Barack Obama had profiled each potential voter of America and knew him inside out. As a result he could micro target his potential voters and convince them to vote in his favour.
ADVERTISING IS ON THE VERGE OF A CREATIVE REVOLUTION
A final thought. Let’s look at the most powerful brands for the year 2013. At number 1 is Apple followed by brands like Coca Cola, Lady Gaga, Amazon etc. It’s just a coincidence that these very brands are also the ones who have the largest fans of Facebook? Is it a coincidence that while Mitt Romney spent $26 million on social media, Obama spent $52 million – and we all know who won the race.
So, if you want to survive in today’s market place adopt the new rules of branding.