12 November 2015 14:24:32 IST

Is it important to be newsworthy?

Media coverage is an important part of brand-building, but it is not the only thing

Every day I meet clients who want to build their brand. While that in itself is laudable, the sad reality is that many of them, particularly in the technology space, think that brand building is merely getting their brand covered in the media. While there is no denying the fact that media coverage is an important part of brand building, it is not the only thing.

Instead of getting into the debate of what exactly is brand building, let me talk about recognising one important aspect of brand building which is getting media coverage. But it is important to remember one thing though. Successful brands have two important qualities. And what are they, you ask? The first is that they are relevant to their customers and second, more importantly, is that they are different from their competition. If I were to extend the logic to getting coverage in media the same principle can be applied. If you do different things that your competition is not doing you will make news. How does that happen? I always believe that the best way to understand anything is by examples and thankfully we have many all around us.

Flipkart delivers in more ways than one

Starting October 13, Flipkart had its Big Billion Days Sale and the media was flooded with huge ads as is the current trend with ecommerce companies. In case you missed it, here’s a screen grab:

Consumers had an array of goods to choose from, anything, whether it was mobile phones, fashion accessories or durables, and all at prices that were truly competitive. The response was phenomenal as it was the last time around. But this time around I am sure Flipkart had learnt from the earlier fiasco, where the server had crashed due to the unprecedented demand and the tremendous pressure on the server. It was a torrid time for the brand with the competition and even disappointed customers venting their disappointment and even anger in the social media. What did the brand do? It owned up, bit the bullet and said that it was sorry. The founders went to the media and apologised.

While it is the done thing for an individual to say he is sorry when he goofs on something that affects a relationship with a sibling, spouse or friend companies don’t normally do this. I wonder why? But the owners of Flipkart did precisely this and the media actually covered it prominently. Now did Flipkart do this for media coverage? I am not sure. But what I am sure about is that they got coverage because they were genuine and because other companies don’t normally own up even when they goof.

The tradition continues

Having spent so much time in the past, let me get back to the recent Big Billion Sale whose ad you had just seen in this very column. This time Flipkart did something unique. As already mentioned they got the technology right and even though the response was phenomenal, it actually resulted in sales unlike the frustration felt last time around. More significantly, the founders themselves acted as delivery boys and went on the rounds delivering merchandise. How many CEOs do you think might have done this? Again, I am not sure, but they did and this difference is really what ensured that it got picked up prominently by media as the enclosed coverage demonstrates.

And given the importance of social media today to the young consumer who is so critical to Flipkart and the host of other ecommerce brands which dependent so much on today’s young, online customer, it was a good move.

So what makes news?

I shared a couple of examples from one of India’s most visible companies today of what makes news. It does seem simple, but it actually isn’t. And why do I say that? I say that because every newspaper has only 16 pages and there are thousands of companies vying for editorial attention. Merely wanting attention is only one part of the story. The important part is to have a strategy in place that is unique and differentiated.

Please remember too that newspapers will carry anything that is interesting to their readers. TV channels want exciting visuals and this is where celebrities come in. But then not all of us can afford celebrities, which means that you have to think smart. Remember, it is easy to do a full page ad that you are paying for. It is a lot more challenging to make dominant news without paying for it. That’s precisely what Flipkart did on a couple of occasions.

Of course, companies like Infosys have been doing this for years. Your company too could do it. But remember the first, important step is to think different. So, are you ready to make headlines?

To read more from the Third Umpire section, click here .