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Guest Times: Your advertising budget as you do not know it

Shivaji Dasgupta, founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory, argues that every brand must develop an ‘E2E’ strategy expanded simply as ‘Experience to Endorsement’. Brand owners need to change their fundamental approach

Delhi | March 6, 2017

Shivaji-Dasgupta Shivaji Dasgupta

Is your real advertising budget what you spend on the consumer or what the consumer spends on you? While conventional thinking insists on the former, intuitive and logical evidence veers towards the latter, especially in the era of real-time digital conversations empowered by the rising importance of peer opinion in purchase decisions.

According to the Indian Brand Equity Foundation, the value of the Indian advertising industry is Rs 63,000 crore. The total value of consumer spend towards consuming advertised products and services would be a mind-boggling multiple as an aggregate of turnovers. Suddenly the constraint as well as alibi of available funds vanish and thus our fundamental restrictive approach towards communication.

Let me now share the thinking why every brand-owner to change their fundamental approach.

It is certainly true that our level of involvement with any product or service is highest when we are experiencing it. During the two-hour flight from Delhi to Mumbai every aspect of Jet Airways is being carefully scrutinised. At the time of eating a Cheese Burst Pizza, the Domino’s Pizza brand is closest to our mind and not just the stomach. During an appendicitis surgery the truth or lies about Fortis Hospital comes effortlessly to the fore. There can no better appreciation for the Lenovo ThinkPad than the act of actually working on it. It is the cycle from order to delivery that helps formulate the finest view of any e-commerce provider. While attempting to monetise a mature insurance policy the lofty value proposition of the company faces the ultimate test.

Whatever be the quality of the trailer or build-up, only when a movie is reviewed does interest truly accelerate. The superior quality of a Nestle Alpino over its Mondelez peer is evident clearly when two bites are enjoyed. If a family holiday to Bengal does not evoke sweet memories, then the multi-million-rupee Shahrukh Khan endorsement remains a piece of fine craft. Thus, in every category imaginable the ultimate quality of brand engagement happens when the customer is in the process of a paid transaction. The urge for rational and emotional accountability of expenditure becomes the most powerful attention-grabber, in no way comparable to the erratic regard for a paid advertisement with artificial story-telling in a usually cluttered environment.

Now consider the established evidence as above in tandem with a well-acknowledged recent development: the increasing power of peer referral over paid communication powered ably by scalable social media. This is a pattern which started with ‘soft’ services like dining, holidaying and partying that extended soon to technology products and services. This fuelled a fundamental human bias towards trusted advice over transactional solicitation. Especially in India where the endorsement of a known person is vital towards the selection of any decisive engagement including schools, hospitals, tailors and grooms. As the same individual is playing the double role of referrer and buyer, he takes the view of others as seriously as he wants his opinion to be considered, thus creating a cycle of credibility that promises to be an integral element of future consumer behaviour.

So, how does one successfully make brand experiences work as brand endorsements? In a strategic and creative manner and not out of instinctive habit that is currently the norm. Every brand must develop an ‘E2E’ strategy expanded simply as ‘Experience to Endorsement’. This is an induced yet non-intrusive way to collect and circulate user experience during the period of usage. Imagine TripAdvisor and Skytrax reviews prior to check-out or landing being rewarded with a tangible reward unconnected to the positivity of the reportage. To be replicated by restaurants, ice-cream parlours, beauty parlours, nursing homes and many others. An imaginable innovation being a legal and friendly way to convert verbatim feedback to documented and shareable posted opinions. Digital billing formats like tablets to immediately capture intuitive feedback prior to completion of the transaction. As this concept gets popular newer ways to convert experiences to endorsements will be swiftly devised.

Quite naturally the services sector will be an earlier adopter than FMCG, durables and automobiles. It does not take exceptional imagination to conjure friendly ways to implement the same principles, like an in-built software in cars that will track driver delight through intuitive and interactive formats. The routine service maintenance interaction in every category becomes a structured venue for feedback with appropriate rewards for quality of response. This can then be shared through the appropriate social media channels to complement the role of experts. Quick-Response Cameras in Selfie Mode to evoke spontaneous reactions in modern trade to become the acceptable norm.

Most importantly, what must change is the mind-set of brand owners to consider their advertising budgets to be the sum of consumer expenditure and not client expenditure. This would divert their strategic focus to influencing conversations during consumption that will be replayed especially in digital formats. This will be the most prolific and credible source of recording experiences considered most valuable by consumers for exercising choice.

This, in turn, will help brand owners to constantly modify and re-craft their product delivery. Invariably and rightfully paid communication will become the source of necessary information and desired imagery – the significantly lesser component in the unimaginably wide playing field that is the advertising budget. For that of course every brand must urgently formalise its very own E2E strategy so that the delight of a single user is rapidly converted to the wisdom of every user.

(Shivaji Dasgupta is the founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory with interests in consulting, training and writing. Till January 2017 he was Executive Vice-President and General Manager of Contract Advertising in Gurgaon. In a career spanning 20 years he has also been associated with Enterprise Nexus, JWT and Rediffusion, advising a wide range of organisations across every sector. He believes firmly that inspiring, intelligent and imaginative strategy must remain the fundamental foundation for brand management. He can be reached at: shivajidasgupta@inexgro.com)

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