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Guest Article: The Brand is just a coincidence

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Guest Article: The Brand is just a coincidence

…it’s the product that actually matters! Well, before I incur the wrath of all the brand custodians reading this article, please allow me to clarify.

Through this article I intend to explain the precise reason that differentiates the good, the bad and the ugly in BTL (Below the Line). Many of my friends concur (in private at least) that they perceive nothing in BTL to be good and that it’s only about the bad and the ugly. While interacting with students who are at the cusp of academics and a career in advertising/ media agencies, majority of them would agree to work in an advertising or media agency, but would be apprehensive about working in a BTL agency. Even many seasoned brand custodians within the advertising and media agencies prefer ‘hands-on involvement’ when cracking the communication routes and would delegate the BTL rollout of the brand’s campaign to the ‘team’.

So, why does BTL get treated like being the underbelly of marketing, which is best not talked about in highbrow circles? In reality, it’s the success in this part which contributes the most to the brand and its custodian’s happiness. Let’s take a sneak peek into the world below.

Don’t underestimate BTL
Inspite of all the apprehensions harboured by students and professionals as mentioned above, today more and more brands are joining the BTL bandwagon. And it’s professed that in future, BTL will command 50 per cent of the marketing budget for any product category. But why?

“Advantage of using BTL is that you get an opportunity to have a face-to-face interaction with the customer, who gets to feel and experience the product.”

“BTL works because it’s an active media rather than passive, you can engage one-on-one with the customer and take the process of communication forward through awareness.”

The above two statements could be heard from any brand custodian who has a favourable opinion of BTL.

If we were to try and derive the meaning of BTL from the above two statements and also from our understanding of the term, BTL would mean nothing but an experiential opportunity/ tangible representation of the brand’s promises, beliefs and philosophies.

This promise, belief and philosophy of the brand can be experienced and understood the most with the increasing congruence of the brand’s communication content and lifestyle’s context in which the audience receives it. A shampoo brand offering ‘test head bath’ situations in a shopping mall is introducing the brand to its TG at a time when the TG is not using the product as part of her daily lifestyle, that is, nobody visits a shopping mall expecting to have a head bath. Therefore, such a BTL effort would be perceived by the TG as an unwanted intrusion. However, the same ‘test head bath’ at a beauty parlour or salon comes as a welcome situation for the TG to actually experience the brand. The beauty parlour/ salon situation offers a much greater congruence of the brand’s communication content and lifestyle’s context of the audience. Therefore, this BTL initiative is more likely to succeed. Here, the success is governed by the fact that the TG at that point in life is willing to submit herself to engage with the brand and revel in its experience.

Product first
Please note, in the salon situation mentioned above, the consumer is actually open to be engaged with the product first… and the brand is just a coincidence!

Creating a situation, wherein the TG engages with the product at that point in life as a ‘natural habit’, is thus the success mantra for BTL initiatives. And, the brand should just be a coincidence!

We, therefore, need to identify opportunities within the consumers’ lifestyle, where the brand can come in as a context and not as an intrusion. Lifestyles have changed dramatically, thereby substantially increasing the number of consumer touch points for brands. It has thus become imperative for the marketer to have a composite marketing strategy to make sure that the brand engages the consumer at maximum of these touch points.

As mentioned earlier, BTL means experiential opportunity/ tangible representation of the brand’s promises, beliefs and philosophies. ATL also conveys the brand’s promises, beliefs and philosophies, but primarily through the use of ‘words & pictures’ and ‘look & feel’.


ATL = feeling the brand experience, and

BTL = experiencing the brand feeling

In ATL, one ‘sees’, ‘hears’ and ‘reads’ to feel the brand experience, while in BTL, in addition to these, one also ‘touches’ and ‘smells’ and thus experiences the brand feeling.

In BTL, the brand is experienced through all the five human senses. So, the communication and the brand is easy to retain and easy to recall. Therefore, BTL is the more effective way of communicating the brand’s promises, beliefs and philosophies.

(Bitan Chakraborty is Marketing Head at Hiland Group.)


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