Is the digital age becoming a hindrance to brand loyalty, is new age media giving too much power to consumers? A high-power panel discussion at exchange4media’s Indian Marketing Awards 2014—presented by Hindustan Times and powered by Colors - on Friday sought to decipher this, debating on the topic “Is brand loyalty dying in the digital era?”
The panel comprised top CMOs from various industries in addition to Prema Sagar, Principal and Founder, Genesis Burson-Marsteller. As part of the panel, Apurva Chamaria from HCL, Shantanu Bhanja from Hindustan Times, Sandeep Aurora from Intel, and Vivek Sharma from Philips shared their points of view on the topic from their respective industry perspective.
The moot point of discussion was that most welcome the advent of technology, while others feel there is an information overload, and that people are getting stuck in out-of-context discussions involving brands, in turn creating negative images. A brand’s ultimate goal is to create customer loyalty. Integrating the power of digital media with broader marketing efforts, brands are now putting personal, one-on-one relationships at the heart of their efforts to build lasting customer loyalty.
The panel kicked off with discussing the most recent series of events that took place in New Delhi—the Uber case. With Uber hogging the limelight all over social media, the panel felt that Twitter and Facebook were the right platforms for the brand to react and respond to the allegations, and negative comments.
There are two ways to react to a controversy. One is to be direct and transparent. And, the second is to wait for another controversy to pop up and take centrestage, said Prema Sagar.
“In a crisis situation, it is important for a brand to respond, and respond immediately. If that response window is missed, it becomes very difficult to rebuild the brand image, and garner similar loyalty,” she added.
She also pointed out that one cannot miss the role of influencers and bloggers in creating brand loyalty. “It is this section of the digital media that is responsible for the simultaneous growth of brand loyalty.”
Sandeep Aurora, Director, Marketing and Market Development at Intel, agreed. “One has to be absolutely direct, and not beat around the bush. Every company makes mistakes, but it can be used to enhance brand loyalty further.
“To grow your business, increase brand awareness and attract new customers, you may be targeting an audience that’s not yet familiar with you. If they’re not familiar with your business or owned media, you need a way to reach out to them,” he added.
According to Shantanu Bhanja, VP-Marketing at HT Media, newer brands have to struggle more than the older brands since their brand equity is lower than that of the older and prominent brands.
“The graduation of technology to 4G, and services such as e-commerce will help not only build the brand, but also strengthen brand loyalty, if executed and used properly,” said Apurva Chamaria, Director & Head of Global Brand & Digital Marketing at HCL Technologies.
Sales is helping brand communication, felt Vivek Sharma, CMO, Philips India. “Young consumers are researching all intended purchases online, comparing them with relevant brands, and then making purchases offline. So, specialized stores are critical, since 60 per cent of Indian consumers still like to first touch and feel the product before buying,” he pointed out.
Overall, in this day and age, to be effective brands need to constantly listen, engage, measure and adapt. As the digital landscape changes so does the online ecosystem. So, brands need to stay in-tune, and adapt marketing efforts to reflect the changes to garner brand loyalists.