While there is a definite place for advertising as a brand affirmation tool, it is also true that in order to build a brand in the current day; you need a lot more than a long-lasting campaign. In a technology stricken age, building a brand or changing consumer behaviour is no longer a sprint. Companies need to be heard in a market where a thousand others are yelling. The advantages of mass media advertising are many: it allows you to have a heady launch, control your message and splash the message in as many media depending on the size of your pocket.
In this scenario, what place do other components in the communications process, like PR or below the line, hold?
Says Anil Khera, Director-Sales and Marketing, Sansui, “At one time everyone felt that the only way to build lasting brands was through mainstream advertising. But now the realization has dawned that there are significant others within the marketing mix. PR consultancies tell an organization’s story to the public; they promote significant services and products, get through to the press on a topical issue and put forward a viewpoint on behalf of an organization. They also serve as catalysts for company policy. PR effort helps make your message believable so that your advertising will have credibility when it hits.”
However, he points out that one reason why companies do not totally relying on PR is because “it takes time and does not necessarily work on your schedule”. As he explains, planting new ideas or changing minds is a slow process, and the “media has a mind of its own”, and is not subject to any control.
Khera thinks that direct marketing is fast gaining ground, riding on the potential thrown up by Internet and email. Call centre technology too has enhanced the scope of DM. “Here, the only drawback is that the effort is a lot more strenuous. This brings me to the point that PR and DM can be effective tools if used well and over time. But if you need quick results, then it has to be mainstream advertising,” he observed.
Saugata Gupta, Marketing Head, Marico, feels that in the case of a niche brand or when fending for localized markets, the answer could lie solely in PR or direct marketing. “But if you are a national mass brand with overwhelming needs, you ought to concentrate on mainstream advertising. PR and below the line then would be effective seconds,” he said.
He pointed out that only a handful of brands have made it big on account of PR and BTL: Coffee Shop, Barista, Body Shop (PR and effective word of mouth) and Reader’s Digest (direct marketing.) “The majority of brands have been built through mainstream advertising alone as it is a quick medium that delivers instant results, which is why advertising is rated as a lot more effective by marketers,” he remarked.
Sanjay Grover, Marketing Head, HPCL, feels that PR as an activity cannot be subject to much control, which is why it can’t be slotted as the number one resort. “You can build a buzz for your brand through PR activity, but let’s not forget that the Indian media is not subject to any control. Generating positive PR may not ensure positive news reports. Similarly, events are localized initiatives which may hold ground only for a particular city or some number of cities. DM uses extensive resources, and results are stretched over time. So, the safest bet is mass media.”
He agrees with Gupta that brands built through PR, word of mouth or BTL alone are just a handful in number. “As a marketer, I recognize the importance of PR, events, DM or PoP in the marketing mix. But can these be rated above mainstream advertising?” he asks.
The brand consultancy perspective: Kiran Khalap, Co-Founder, Chlorophyll, points out that the size of the PR industry in India is 1.5 billion while the size of the advertising industry is 1000 billion. “Clearly, the overwhelming 1000 billion figure is not going to vanish in the near future, even in the light of the enormous strides taken by the PR industry. The same is the case with ‘the significant others’. Advertising and the other components of the marketing mix shouldn’t be seen as mutually exclusive; they complement each other. For best results, use each of them in accordance to your brand prototype.”
So, whatever be your prototype, advertising still reigns as the strongest communication plank, while all the ‘significant others’ follow.