10 Feb 2017 13:51 IST

The viral bird gets the worm

Many marketers are taking a digital-first approach as it reels in early adopters

Amit Gope, Group Head (Marketing), at plywood products firm CenturyPly says his religion is now digital. What converted him? “The evolution of the sphere itsef! It’s an effective, and all-encompassing medium now, far more measurable than TV, which is a blind game,” he exults.

Medium of education

Gope’s challenge is to make plywood a consumer category. Paints and bathroom fittings were once considered a low-involvement category. Not any longer. Consumer education played a big role in enabling this transformation and digital can play a big role here, believes Gope. Not only does CenturyPly want to tell consumers what the difference between a good and a bad door is, it reaches out to influencers – architects, designers, dealers and retailers – through this medium.

Havells recently launched a campaign for its wires that went digital first. Vijay Narayanan, Senior Vice-President – Marketing, Havells India, says the target group for his product is aged 25-45, which makes up 54 per cent of the Internet audience. They have multiple devices at their disposal and on average, spend 4.5 hours on them. They spend at least three hours on the mobile as against 1.5 hours on the TV, he says. Their social media usage extends to more than two hours per day and they use the mobile for entertainment and daily needs too.

Catch them early

Digital-first helps brands attract early adopters, which is very important in the early part of a brand’s lifecycle, says Yashovardhan Gupta of Torero Corp. Torero holds the exclusive global licences to make, distribute and sell accessories for 10 brands, including Police and Cross pens. He says digital is crucial for any brand trying to enter the market.

Virat Tandon, CEO, Mullen Lintas, which made the Havells TVC, finds that digital makes conversations easy. It moves people emotionally, and offers viewers the opportunity to share and discuss the campaign; TV is one-way despite the large reach.

“It helps to know whether the campaign is resonating or not, and offers scope for improvement. It is empowering.”

Havells’ Narayanan says, “It makes economic sense to test my video. If there’s a backlash, it comes out immediately on social media. It’s more a venting zone but there are many positives,” he says.

Image management

Torero’s Gupta points to another important advantage with digital-first campaigns.

“Digital access can help present the brand in the way it wants to be portrayed.” He believes social media is best used when the brand ties up with celebrities. Police had a good run when it ran a campaign with Brazilian footballer Neimar Jr for its sunglasses. There were several tweets, retweets and posts. “The reactions are manifold, the word of mouth generated is tremendous,” he observes.

It’s the word of mouth that marketers seek to capitalise on. CenturyPly’s Gope recalls that when they launched their Khushiyon Ka Rang Manch campaign first on digital a few years ago, it helped the brand create goodwill with the target audience.

They followed this model for the next four campaigns – digital first, TV next – and recently for Durga Puja, launched a digital-only campaign called Heroes, celebrating carpenters who are crucial to their business. It got them lots of mileage in terms of brand affinity, over 1.10 lakh views, created a lot of sentimental value and earned them Effies too.

There are digital-first launches as well. These work very well for higher-interest products such as watches, bikes and cars. There are communities devoted to these interests online so it’s easier to find and target them there, have a preview for them so that it creates a buzz.

Brands which are internet-based entities themselves, either in e-commerce, online payments, media brands, travel or for youth are suited to think of this kind of approach. The advantages are of cost, targeted campaigning and accountability. The negatives are that of scale and stature, says Anil K. Nair, CEO & Managing Partner, Digital Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi (DLKSS).

Digital-first campaigns create an engagement model which can present and reinforce the brand’s perspective using opportunities when they arise. “They are topical and contextual and they don’t have a very long shelf life, but they are timely conversations with the target,” says Mullen Lintas’ Tandon.

Staying power

Interestingly, a long shelf-life is one of the main reasons Apratim Chattopadhyay, Co-Founder, MD & CEO of social entrepreneurship Support Elders, which helps elders live independently, prefers digital campaigns. “My blog and my website can be accessed anytime, anywhere, can be reused, promoted and targeted, unlike a newspaper or a magazine. TV campaigns have an even shorter life,” he says. Apart from costs, targeting is far easier.

DLKSS’ Nair says digital media allows for better campaign deployment flexibility and segmentation-based targeting, and is no longer considered a cheap option.

Havells’ Narayanan says his company has increased spending on digital marketing 70-80 per cent year on year. CenturyPly’s Gope says almost 10 per cent of his TV advertising budget is spent on digital, though what really counts is the way marketers ensure the content is effective.

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)