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No longer possible for brands to take a backseat on wider conversations around social justice and sustainability: Benjamin Soubies of Talkwalker

In an interaction with BestMediaInfo, Soubies, Managing Director - APAC and Japan, Talkwalker, shares how the platform is enabling brand strategists to stay ahead by zeroing in on clutter breaking themes that are emerging in consumer conversations

Benjamin Soubies

In the year 2022, and in line with the expectation of pandemic recovery, brands are likely to return with breakthrough products and campaigns in an attempt to make up for lost ground during the pandemic.

However, Benjamin Soubies, Managing Director - APAC and Japan, Talkwalker, told BestMediaInfo that brands and marketers that will be the most successful, in 2022 and beyond, are the ones who will be able to build bridges between the communities they care the most about, and speak out on the issues that matter the most to them. In other words, brand inclusivity is now brand critical.

He said, “Brands should take note that emerging from the pandemic period is a more connected and more socially-conscious consumer. We saw in a recent Deloitte survey that 68 per cent of Indian consumers would like to purchase more locally sourced items, with 74 per cent purchasing from brands that responded well to the crisis. It’s no longer possible for brands to take a backseat on the wider conversations around social justice and sustainability, and this drives home the need for consumer intelligence solutions that will restore for brands some oversight of consumer sentiment, as well as their values and priorities.”

Also, if in 2019 consumers were still showing up at brick-and-mortar shops, today 49% of Indian consumers prefer e-commerce, he said. Plus, consumers are more connected than ever, and they are also spoilt for choice. They want more personalised content, faster service, and a better experience. And they want it now.

Whether it’s preparing for a cookieless era, creating consumer connections in metaverse-type settings, or tapping into a matured influencer marketing ecosystem - there are plenty of new challenges for brands and marketers to take on in 2022. Consequently, brands will also aspire for customer-centricity.

But in a market as diverse as India’s, and with the proliferation of digital media and social media platforms in recent years, it has only become more challenging for brands and marketers to signal above the noise. Leveraging consumer insights to inform brand management and strategy enables the delivery of clutter-breaking products and communication.

When asked how Talkwalker can help brands on this front, Soubies said that its analytics can help marketers discover which platforms and audiences they need to engage with, and the messages and content for them.

“Talkwalker’s Consumer Intelligence Acceleration Platform combines a multitude of internal and external data sources with AI-enabled Blue Silk technology, to provide brands with the most expansive view of consumers. This enables deep listening, whereby brands can derive actionable insights based on the real-time analysis of billions of customers’ signals across tags, text, video, images, and audio, covering 187 languages. These efficiencies improve reaction time to consumers’ on-ground feedback, enhance customer experience, and create clear-sighted paths for our clients to promote their brand through the design of products and experiences that are personalised and differentiated from their competitors,” he said.

With the pandemic situation, consumers have grown accustomed to the blurring of lines between their virtual and physical realities, and Soubies finds them (consumers) desiring more seamless and integrated experiences going forward.

The applications of AR and VR technology that we already see today, are an example of the baby steps being taken towards metaverse connections.

“What we expect to see in 2022 and beyond is the acceleration and proliferation of these cases, as consumers become used to interactions in more immersive, phygital realities. In the Asia Pacific region, including India, we are no stranger to the integration of AR and VR technologies as part of our buying experience. Whether it is virtual test drives by auto companies like Mahindra, virtual shopping with Flipkart Camera, L'Oréal’s make-up try-on apps, or virtual fitting rooms, we already see a variety of instances where the physical world is becoming heavily augmented and influenced by the virtual,” he added.

But amid this rise of digital consumption, how should brands who heavily rely on traditional mediums for communication stay relevant?

Traditional mediums like print and out-of-home (OOH) advertising still have their place, but their share of consumer attention is far reduced, Soubies said.

Indian consumers today spend an average of 2.5 hours on social media per day, and 49% leverage social media as the main source when researching brands. This means that brands without a digital strategy are missing out on a great deal of mindshare.

He said that brands that are hesitant about embracing a digital strategy may be fearful for legitimate reasons. It can be easy to feel that control of the brand narrative is compromised when the floodgates of new digital and social media data sources are opened. In fact, even brands with an existing digital strategy are often playing catch-up when it comes to their consumer intelligence process.

Overall, he said, “It’s important that marketers get started somewhere with a digital strategy that at least complements their traditional advertising and PR practices. And, by leveraging AI-enabled consumer intelligence solutions to augment their digital strategy, brands can develop a distinct competitive edge.”

Also, it’s a common misconception that consumer intelligence can only be leveraged for defensive purposes such as reputation and crisis management. The platform has been leveraging the same for brands to derive better growth.

Festive seasons are the perfect example of events when brands can instead leverage consumer insights to drive brand growth and profits in a high-stakes and highly competitive scenario. With consumer spending peaking during festive seasons, consumer intelligence tools can be leveraged for competitive intelligence, trend analysis, campaign strategy, and overall brand management in order to help a brand grow its share of the festive sales pie.

For instance, Talkwalker’s consumer intelligence technology has been used by several brands to conduct analysis of fan communities and sentiment surrounding celebrities -- producing data-driven recommendations on which influencers to partner with in order to drive the most profit during festive sales.

The platform has also worked with beverage companies to create their seasonal menus, based on flavour trends derived from the analysis of online consumer conversations.

With consumers forming communities both within and outside of the brand bubble today, Soubies suggested brands tap into the pulse of their consumers, by tracking sentiment and conversation themes that emerge from these online conversations and interactions.

Social listening and media monitoring tools are critical to any brand with a digital strategy, looking to scale their share of voice. When asked if brands are investing enough in social media listening tools, he said that budgets are growing in tandem with the digital transformation journey that many brands are embarking on.

“Many industry and category leaders have matured in their digital transformation journey and are fast-outgrowing tools with the traditional social media management and monitoring offerings. The need of the hour is greater breadth and depth of consumer insights and analytics,” he said.

However, there remains a lot of room for brands to develop best practices when it comes to social listening and consumer insights, he added.

For example, many teams could still be measuring simple app metrics such as the number of likes, views, and shares. Talkwalker users, on the other hand, are able to access additional layers of insight through advanced analytics tools.

Soubies suggested brands pick the right metrics to measure the success of the campaign. Whether it is the number of occurrences of movie posters across the web or the number of times a logo appears across YouTube videos – the platform is pushing the boundaries of what brands and marketers are able to track and report as part of success measurement.


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