A Solution has many names – 360 degree Communication, Total communication, Multi-media Plan, Media-neutral media platform, Media surround etc. These could all mean very different things to different people. A media planner may look at ‘other media’ to deliver the incremental reach that would have plateaued in traditional media. A buyer could look at Solutions as a means to do innovative stuff which may not be possible in expensive mass media vehicles. A brand manager would look at supplementing the mass media activity with digital media in order to ensure ticks in check-boxes of things to do. While these may very well be part of a Solution, none of them completely define a Solution.
What it is not!
A Solution is not just a multi-media deal. It is not a check-list of media or media vehicles to be necessarily used as part of the plan. This kind of an approach would usually result in extending the mass media creative into other media without any attempt to examine the distinct strengths of that medium or an attempt to leverage these. Nor is a Solution a bringing together or consolidation of all activity within the media group in order to demand a lower rate. A Solution in that sense is not a buying tool.
A True-blue ‘Solution’ – Brand Focused
A Solution should be focused on the brand and should try to solve brand issues or problems. A Solution does not necessarily have to have all possible media or vehicles but should be a judicious mix of media required to achieve the brand’s marketing and communication objectives. It is usually a synergistic execution of the communication across media but need not be necessarily so. For instance a shampoo brand like Sunsilk may have a campaign running across TV and radio trying to establish the variants and the unique features of each variant while it may run an unconnected online activity like Sunsilk ‘Gang of Girls’ which would have a different communication objective of attempting to build a community and a closer identification with the brand. The online activity is a part of the whole and solves a unique brand issue or problem.
A Solution works in a way such that the sum of the individual parts is greater than the whole. This is also called the media multiplier effect and a Solutions approach takes it to a level even beyond that with each element solving some brand issue and the whole effort delivering more. This is the reason that Solutions are not a consolidated, discounted buy but one where the marketer should be willing to pay a premium. Very often a Solution would have an innovative or creative element and almost always a fair bit of customisation. This would actually come at a premium versus the norm of consolidation of business delivering better value to the client or agency either in terms of more savings or increased value-adds.
IMC leads to Solutions
Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) is the execution of diverse marketing activities as an expression of a common marketing strategy. It is a process of synergistic execution where each element of the marketing mix plays its role towards attaining the brand goals or objectives. Product design, packaging, consumer advertising, database marketing, personal selling, trade advertising, trade promotions, consumer promotions, sampling, product placement, demos, events and public relations (PR)—all have their part in the marketing plan. IMC leads logically and seamlessly into solutions which is its media version.
Why ‘Solutions’ if 85 per cent + of the money continues to be spent on Print & TV ?
With brand proliferation and a bitter share battle being fought in the market place, the trick lies in being relevant to the consumer and in being able to deliver a value proposition that can’t be replaced. Differentiation, practicing the art of Niche marketing, Narrowcasting or Consumer Segmentation is therefore the key. Marketers are moving from an ‘All things to All people’ strategy to an ‘All things to Some people’ or a ‘Some things to Some people’ strategy. From mass brand like Lux and Lifebuoy, we now have a moisturizing soap for the older woman, a fairness soap, an anti-acne soap, an anti-bacterial soap and even soap-free face washes. Even a herbal soap like Medimix is now available in 4 variants.
With so many choices, a brand needs to be well differentiated and relevant to the consumer. Conventional advertising may be too passive and marketers are more and more looking at going beyond conventional brand communication and providing the consumer a richer brand experience in a competitive market. Traditional high reach delivery media are seen to be passive and not as effective in delivering engaged eyeballs. The consumer is much more mobile and is exposed to a large number of unconventional media vehicles. Both the agency and the client are therefore looking at a more 360 degree approach for the communication plan with multiple touch-points for the changed consumer.
Interactive, customised brand communication makes for a ‘touch-and-feel’ experience that delivers a richer brand experience for the consumer and delivers a more engaged audience to the marketer and allows for a check on the response to the brand and communication unlike conventional media. “The multitude of media options is both a challenge and an opportunity. It gives us several more streams to connect with our consumers. That’s the opportunity view. Given the choices that consumers make, it calls for greater creativity—in ideas as well as execution. So, the old approach is surely not enough anymore. And that is the primary reason behind our focus on 360° communication. It is certainly more engaging and effective:” Rahul Welde (Vice-President Media, Unilever).
The explosion of media choices and the resultant audience fragmentation has driven up overall costs for the marketer. The marketer now needs more media platforms and higher budgets to deliver the same (or even lower) reach! The pressure is on the marketer and Accountability is the need of the hour with the marketer needing to know exactly where each rupee of his advertising budget is going and what it is delivering. Most Solutions have an in-built response tracking mechanism which is actually able to measure the effect of the communication. This is far more valuable to the marketer as it actually goes beyond measuring advertising exposure to the effect of the advertising and links up to ROI.
India will have 500 mn phones by 2010. Juxtapose this with about 130-140mn TV homes and even with a multiplier of 5 per household, mobile owners would actually be in the same ball-park as TV equaling the mass reach delivery of television! With this kind of potential for digital media, all marketers want to ensure that they are future ready when it comes to talking the digital language. Youth have the advantage of growing up with technology, rather than having to learn it! A ten year old child can give you a five minute crisp management summary of why the PSP is more ‘Technologetic’ than a Gameboy! And the differences between the Playstation and X-box, and the absolute necessity of having both! Most brand marketers realize that understanding technological changes is critical in order to keep up with the youth.
The youth consume media differently, wanting more control and a dialogue, ensuring communities, social networking and blogging becoming the new buzzwords. A passive mass media communication gives absolutely no chance for a dialogue to happen. A brand marketer has to incorporate non-conventional media in the communication plan if he wants to connect with the youth. Solutions allow marketers to experiment with digital media on a smaller scale as part of the overall communication plan and scale-up participation basis results.
The BTL Potential
The effect of a percentage reduction in price (promotions) on purchasing is almost nine times that of the similar percentage increase in the advertising budget. Promotions are used by brand marketers to shore up sales in the short term. “60% of my budgets go into BTL. That’s a significant budget, waiting to be tapped into”, said Hemant Malik (Marketing Head ITC Foods). Apart from the ATL budgets, this is additional revenue for the media partner to target. Agencies have been quick to spot this opportunity, and are trying to grow revenues and cross the line by offering event management and on-ground activation through specialized divisions as part of their services.
Marketing managers moving from an ‘all things to all people’ strategy to an ‘all things to some people’, or a ‘some things to some people’ strategy, has brought the targeting abilities of media vehicles under the microscope. Niche media are already advantaged in this regard. Solutions allow a mass media brand to target smaller sub-groups. A media group can chose existing offerings in its portfolio and create customised activations to put together target group focused initiatives.
Solution selling requires a different mindset from the usual sales orientation. It requires an understanding of the client’s issues and problems, a thorough knowledge of the media brand and then the ability to connect the two. It is important for the Solutions team to have an understanding of how marketing works and it is also important to have an ‘ideator’ or at the very least a person with a creative bent of mind in the team who can generate the innovative ideas that need to be part of the solution.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating and execution is everything in a Solutions deal. A badly executed activation will not get the advertiser the response he was expecting. This actually has a hugely negative impact on the media group imagery and capabilities. A media group should offer Solutions only if they have a strong back-end events and activation team to execute the ideas and confidence in the possible response from its user base.
Solution’s Star on the Ascent
With the growing need of advertisers for a Solutions approach, more and more media houses are gearing up to serve up a Solutions fare. Agencies are setting up specialist cells to go beyond conventional media. Agency structures too are changing with a Business head trying to integrate the various divisions for a more Solutions and 3600 approach.
Media groups too are expanding their footprint to go beyond delivering readers and viewers to delivering markets. Most major media groups have been consolidating and extending their portfolio to have a more multimedia presence over the last decade. Times group has always tried to leverage its presence to offer cross-media deals to clients. Red Cell was launched by the Times group to deliver 3600 integrated brand solutions to clients and agencies. The Jagran group now has extended its presence to a multimedia, pan-India level, the deal with Mid-day being a major fillip in its endeavour. Network 18 and the Bhaskar group are other players who have woken up to the potential of this approach.
Emvies, the Ad Club Awards for media excellence is the barometer of the rising popularity of the Solutions approach. Winning Media Strategy cases a couple of years ago were more research based. For the last couple of years, winning cases have been ones which have a ‘360 degree Solutions approach’. A few years ago a new category was introduced at the Emvies aside from Best Strategy, Best Research and Best Innovation – Best Integrated Campaign!