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Guest column: The future of commerce is brand commerce

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Guest column: The future of commerce is brand commerce

It is proven beyond doubts that the future of commerce is brand commerce, which is very much away from transactions. Brands will be everything in future. Successful ones will be rooted on incredibly rich human insights and consumers will not only love those but will actually become their ambassadors too. I remember a study sometime back by an advertising agency group which went around the world to ask consumers whether it would make any difference to them if any of the brands on their list (which had all the famous brands of the world) disappeared from the face of the earth.

The result was startling.  Barring just a handful, consumers were perfectly fine to let go all the others.  That was not just a simple research. It really meant a lot. We don’t need to go far for answers as to why some of the top companies of the world are already getting replaced and in the next decade most of the others will also be replaced. Some are hearing the alarm bells, some are ignoring and some are acting. 

So when I say insightful ideas, I don’t mean ideas to “sell” something to the consumers.   There’s a big realization that connecting with consumers to trigger conversations which is fundamental to this constantly connected convergent world, can only happen through story telling as stories can be retold and will also make people act. But how do brand owners produce such stories? How do they assess story opportunities? Much like digital in the initial stages began and ended with a website for many brands, content begins and ends with a couple of videos for many clients. Currently agencies with limited bandwidth occasionally create a script. The production cost leaves the brand owners who do not have deep pockets, with nothing much to get the consumers to see the content. A winning idea, distributed properly gets a life of its own. Others die out. And the brand owners are skeptical for the next experiment.

What’s a winning idea?

Unfortunately, only very few of the new age digital brands have their raison d’etre carved out quite well.  So the big challenge is still with both the traditional brands as well as many of the new age brands. The challenge becomes worse for the traditional brands as most are still falling on top of each other to “sell”, while the number of ad avoiders is increasing rapidly.  The “sell” push from the new age brands is currently somewhat acceptable to the consumers as most are laced with big discounts. Coming back to the winning idea, to begin with, it is extremely important for brand owners to answer two simple questions—the first, what’s the purpose of the brand’s existence in this world, beyond the functional benefits?  And two, how does the brand contribute to making the world a better place?  The earlier a brand owner finds answers to these questions, the better equipped will he be to create the bridges of relevance with the consumers.  Once the purpose is identified and articulated, the behavior must reflect in everything in the organization. There has to be a sense of purpose and pride in the brand equal to or more than just the quarterly results.

Brands can become the tissue between technology and consumers

One of the other important things brands must do to be relevant is to embrace technology to further strengthen the purpose it stands for. In my opinion, many brands can actually become the tissue between technology and consumers. Technology can solve many business challenges, technology can actually help produce insightful stories for brands, technology can help save advertisers precious financial resources and technology can also help advertisers look better than their competitors. Example, an airline can move away from selling seats to passengers to taking care of health of their most valuable consumers, normally busy executives with paucity of time. Collaboration with a fitness band where calories burnt becomes air miles to be redeemed for various services can produce meaningful story opportunities.

The debate on whether eye balls or profiles will have no relevance, soon!

Traditionally every advertiser has Below-the-line (BTL) budget which is spent mainly for certain events and other on ground initiatives.  But almost 70% of the people the brands are supposedly connecting with during such events have no relevance to the brands at all and aren’t likely to spread the message in any manner.  But is there scope for brilliant content here, which can be consumed by million others? Can a static brochure become a live content for someone with a smart phone who walked into a retail show room? Can real fun moments captured on a holiday become an asset for the travel company, which organized the trip? Yes is the answer to all such questions.

Platforms like facebook, which have clear identities of millions of people, coupled with incredibility rich insights can help produce some stunning connection opportunities.  Imagine the potential of such identifies owned by clients, say a bank with deep insights about their top 5000 customers.  Using the same information, it is possible to find a million more people exactly alike and each of that million people can be spoken to in the same way or in 1000 different ways, real time, based on further insights?  Can the definition mass media change to smaller masses of conversations? – this is addressability, going for profiles and not just eye balls. 

Navigate brand owners to invest in today as well as the future in right proportion

Star TV is premiering content on HotStar before it hits their traditional TV platform.   Apple was reported to be in discussions with global broadcasters to start streaming service on their ioS platform across devices.  YouTube and Facebook surely understand the potential of video. One claims over 400 hours of content being loaded on their platform every hour and the other talks about 4 billion video views on their platform.  Most of it is produced by charged up, enthusiastic, young minds.  Is there an opportunity here? Marketers confirm native ads are working better than display ads. SPUUL, Eros Now, Jiyo or HOOQ are only a few of the OTT platforms.  There are many more. As the cost of data and smart devices drop and access points increase, consumption platforms will change too.  Internet of Things (IoT) will be a reality.  Is there an opportunity here for brands?

Embrace disruption, in a meaningful manner

How are communication specialists advising their clients? What kind of investments should their clients make in things for the future today so that they secure a piece of it?  Is there an example of an agency telling one of their clients with not so deep pockets that they want to embark on disruptive strategies to combat the high spending competition? In my view, normally just some numbers are presented to justify actions.

Disruption doesn’t mean getting everything topsy turvey.  Experiment with a fraction of the budget which in all probability will get you incomparable returns.

My vision

My vision is to create a service which at the heart will help brands find its purpose and will then combine content and technology through the power of stories to deliver an unimaginable consumer connection opportunity for brands.  This is exactly the reason why I made a decision to break the boundary walls of a comfortable job.

The Author is Ex -Managing Director, Vizeum India (Dentsu Aegis Group). He recently, after a 6 year stint, quit to set up a disruptive brand-consumer connection service.  Through a series of articles in e4m, beginning with this, he promises to explore brand building in the digital era where story telling meets with content and technology.

(The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of the publication)

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