IN THE beginning it was B2B. Then came BC2. Today it’s the day and age of C2C branding. Brands now are gradually starting to make a foray onto the world wide web, as blogs and community websites are catching the attention of Indian marketers. Be it Cadbury’s Meethamoments .com, Unilever’s Indian subsidiary Hindustan Lever Sunsilk’s Gangofgirls. com or Pepsi’s The blue Billion. Brand marketers have morphed their efforts to weave branding element in consumers e-lives. User-generated contents is changing the advertising and marketing paradigms. As Cadbury India director, marketing Sanjay Purohit says that the digi-media is clearly evolving as a critical touch point to reach, inform and influence consumers. And it would be a wise ling-terms e-strategy to optimise such a medium in terms of its direct impact on the actual purchase behavior.
The target audience is clearly the youth under 30 years: an average age of population generally found at such websites. Although the initial rumbling for such a new kind of marketing are seen mainly in FMCG space, market watchers say that it is only time before there the cascading effect is seen towards other sectors such as automotive. However, in the present scenario , brand are looking at web portals for value addition to the traditional means of advertising and marketing than seeking volumes growth from marketing through such alternative means.
“Take the Blue Billion community for example,” explains Pepsi’s executive director-marketing Punita Lal,”while such sites act to create a consumer pull towards the brand, other media then are used to publicise their existence to the consumers. They would never replace the tradition advertising media, but helping getting a large addressable under one roof.”
Despite brand managers being buoyant about the advent of yet another media for connecting with end consumers, India’s Internet numbers may not present a rosy picture for mass-market products. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), India had nearly 37 million internet users till the latest count, which is still considered a small number for brands to cash in on marketing through the Net. Out of the 37 million a mere 14% of the netizens are active bloggers. Also in a market like India, being online does not necessarily equate with blogging or accessing community websites. The IAMAI says that nearly 45% of the Internet users primarily access the Internet for using e-mails, while in the macro picture for Asia, 40-50% of internet time is spent on instant messaging and e-mailing. Says an India times spokesperson, “The numbers game works both ways. On one hand, such type of online advertising can only release its true potential in India, when the country’s internet population reaches a critical mass. At the same time, blogs and community websites run by brands are a way to attract more internet users and improve the marketing prospects on such channels.”
While India is still getting its act together for such a move, globally such marketing strategies have already crept into marketing mix of various companies. Considers this: by the end of 2006, it is estimated that nearly $280 million will have been spent on advertising and marketing on social networks sites in the US alone. The total marketing spend on social media is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 106.1% from 2005 to 2010, reaching $757.0 million by 2010, says a research report from PQ Media. Online advertising via blogs and social networking websites has garnered huge support in developed markets. However, not all brand promotions on the web seem to have worked. While user groups seem to have worked very well for brands like Levis, Harley Davidson and GM; the same may not be true for Wal-Mart’s efforts towards driving a community-driven pull. Explains marketing consultant Harish Bijoor: “Such type branding activity works better for single product brands, rather than multi-product brand names.”
Whatever be the case, not only is technology changing the way people communicate, work and interact, it is also changing the relationship between companies and customers. And as we move forward with the internet revolution, companies will realise that user experience makes all the difference. What brands are now starting to realise is that the next generation in marketing is all about marketing the consumer live the brand as opposed to buying it.