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In-depth: Will digital’s flirtation with traditional media prove to be a long-term relationship?

The interdependence of digital and traditional media seems to be growing. Recently, formal wear brand Blackberrys went on-ground with its marketing campaign. The question is whether this can breach the consumer mindset

Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | March 30, 2016

Blackberrys-innerwear

On Valentine’s Day this year, apparels and formal wear brand, Blackberrys, went on-ground with its marketing campaign. Its agency, Grapes Digital, sent its team out around Delhi, asking women what kind of innerwear they would like to see their boyfriends in. The campaign was for Blackberry’s innerwear range, ‘Bang On’.

On-ground campaigns have become a trend over the last two years and they often go beyond marketing a product. Blackberrys, for instance, converted the responses of the women gathered on-ground into a digital campaign. The strategy apparently worked. Consumers, it seems, love listening in to the verdicts of other consumers on a brand.

Other brands like Bajaj, Fiat, Ola, One Plus Two, McDonald’s and YouTube seem to be veering towards the route taken by Blackberry. YouTube, which is a digital experience, has, for instance, been organizing a FanFest in India for last three years to connect its ‘fans’ with their ‘digital stars.’ The strategy, no doubt, widens YouTube’s reach beyond the digital media.

The online and on-ground connect is obviously a drift that is helping brands gain more traction. Satya Raghavan, Head of Entertainment Content at YouTube India, though does not think so. He pointed out that YouTube is a platform where creators posted their videos to gain traction. The videos were made in the comfort of the home – or to be more specific, on-ground – only the consumption of the videos was on the digital medium.

Anupama Mandloi, Media and Entertainment Consultant, felt that in this day and age it was dangerous to limit a marketing framework to either one medium or the other, implying that brands gained traction both online and on the ground. According to her, both traditional and digital marketing strategies would need to work in synergy to reach out effectively to consumers.

Passive though the digital medium is, digital marketing has resulted in a more substantive engagement with the consumer, she felt. Digital and on-ground marketing initiatives could together breach consumer mindset about a product or a show, Mandloi felt.

The online and offline affair

Vandana Verma Vandana Verma

Vandana Verma, Head of Leo Burnett Experience, said she staunchly believed that the offline and online marriage is the new way forward. Giving an agency perspective, she said, “A lot of our brands are engaging with consumers for digital campaigns because it brings them closer to their consumers. A consumer would want to know the experience of another consumer, and that is more credible than an ambassador saying it. Of course, ambassadors have their own say because of their popularity. But this marriage is now seen in a lot of brands.”

Verma cited examples of Leo Burnet clients like Fiat, Ola and Bajaj that have been able to build impact through the two-pronged strategy. She iterated that the digital and on-ground combination was essential for engaging consumers with brands.

Kedar Teny Kedar Teny

Kedar Teny, ?Director, Marketing and Digital, ?McDonald's India, West and South, said that with digital turning more mobile (through the phone mode), it was important for brands to engage with consumers through different platforms. On-ground advertising or marketing played a significant role when consumers really connected with brands to share real life experiences, he felt.

The digital grapevine

Raghavan felt that word of mouth played an important role in any campaign. While everything on YouTube was organic, video creators reached out to the world through the digital platform and that’s how word spread. Mandloi seconded the opinion and reiterated that word of mouth communication played an important role in marketing.

Anupama Mandloi Anupama Mandloi

Word of mouth, she cautioned, really kicked in effectively once the product or content had been launched. “The initial marketing effort to drive awareness and information regarding the product cannot be achieved just by word of mouth. That would be like shooting an arrow and hoping it lands on target and triggers a fireworks display,” she commented.

Both Mandloi and Raghavan concurred that video shares were the new digital equivalent of the word of mouth campaign. Once upon a time, word spread when someone picked up a telephone and spoke to another person. Now the same people need to simply key in their messages to one another. Only the form had changed – but the strategy of spreading information by word of mouth – had remained just the same.

Monetizing the offline and online switch

Satya Raghavan Satya Raghavan

Brands obviously, will continue to go offline from online and vice versa, but could the model be monetized? Raghavan, who often takes online campaigns offline, is confident of the model. “Everyone wants a 360-degree approach. Brands want it, creators want it. While consumption happens digitally, the connect happens on-ground,” he said enthusiastically

Mandloi said that the traditional and digital synergy was at present essential for a healthy pay-off in terms of footfall/video shares/tweets/favourites/views/purchase. She pointed out that broadcasters spent large amounts of money in traditional marketing to reach the targeted audience. By adding a digital call to action – like an invitation to like the show's Facebook page, for instance, or be entered in a competition that allowed consumers to win prizes or interact with their icons – brands cultivate an environment for interaction and engagement.

The digital engagement, incidentally, is also a great way of collecting data on relevant consumers for future use. The more focused the marketing on the right consumer base, the better the monetization, Mandloi felt.

Long-term affair?

Verma and Raghavan concurred that the interdependence of digital and traditional marketing methods was the long-term model. Verma said he had noticed the trend for close to three years now and was sure of its longevity because it gave brands a better connect with their consumers. More than a 100 million Indians have access to the internet at present, through either broadband connection on the desk top or lap tops or their mobiles telephones, which surely is huge number for any marketer.

It is also true, however, that the hundred million and more Indians who habitually use the internet barely make up ten per cent of the total population of the country. How effective then, could the digital partnership with traditional marketing strategies possibly be? Not very, felt Mandloi. She was certain that the on-ground and digital marketing interdependence would not prove a long-term model till India achieved the ideal extent of internet connectivity.

The interdependence of digital with on-ground marketing methods does seem to be a long-term affair. Since the bandwidth of the age-old strategies are much wider at the moment than that of the digital medium, brands will perhaps, bank on which ever medium that works best for them.

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