Swati Mohan, Business Head, India, National Geographic and FOX Networks Group, talks about the success of National Geographic’s MISSION BLUE, an initiative to address the cause of water scarcity, developments post rebranding and more. Edited excerpts:
What are the developments post the rebranding exercise in India on the business side as well as content side?
On November 14, National Geographic witnessed the biggest ever global re-branding of all time, that brought together the ethos, spirit and legacy of the brand under one unified proposition – FURTHER. This mirrored not just the continued efforts to bring forth a deeper and better understanding of the world around us, but also marked the consolidation of the many assets of Nat Geo and depict it as ONE National Geographic (channel, magazine, travel, licensing, books, digital etc.) 7 months post the re-launch, we are delighted that both our global and local efforts have managed to achieved great success, beyond our expectations.
We focussed on three things:
1) Going further as a multi-platform brand:
The content that we produce cuts across all storytelling assets across platforms like Digital, Television and the Magazine.
Our Facebook channel has the highest number of followers be it within Infotainment, English News, English movies or Hindi movies.
Promos for our shows like Mega Kitchens and Tirumala Tirupati garnered over a million views within 24 hours of launch, organically. This is more than what a lot of popular Bollywood releases achieve today.
Our digital engagement numbers have increased by 26% since the rebrand.
We have also syndicated locally produced content across the world in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Russia, UK, North America and South East Asia among others.
2) Going FURTHER with Story Telling & Story Tellers:
- Hollywood’s Oscar winning talent like Ron Howard, Morgan Freeman, Leonardo di Caprio came on board to tell the most critical stories of our time in new storytelling formats of scripted drama.
- We do believe this new format of storytelling resonated with our Indian audiences as well as India contributed the most to Global reach of Mars (40% of 63.6 million).
- In a genre that commands 1% of television viewership, promos for Inside Tirumala Tirupati managed to reach 15% of Indian internet users. It also became the infotainment genre's most watched show ever – 3 times the previous highest rated show in the genre.
3) Going Further with Purpose:
We spoke about the most important issues of our time with Before the Flood, Parched, Years of Living Dangerously globally and in India initiated one of the biggest local campaigns around water conservation, which saw some great names across industries coming together to speak for this cause.
We partnered at the Goafest as green partners to raise awareness among the advertising fraternity who would act as influencers for change.
National Geographic Mission Blue was of course one of our key local initiatives this year to drive the agenda of purposeful change.
And we walk this talk even as employees working for the brand – as we live by the Nat Geo CODE, and ensure that each employee stands by our purpose to conserve the planet through slight changes in our daily habits.
How has the Mission Blue campaign worked for National Geographic?
Mission Blue is National Geographic's endeavour to go further as a brand and inspire change, and this initiative helped us reinstate that. The response to the initiative has been phenomenal. Today, National Geographic actively participates in eminent forums to spread awareness about conservation and creating a sustainable planet. We believe that it is this initiative that has reinforced our core philosophy of moving ahead with purpose, moving beyond just a television channel.
How does it change the way people perceive the network today?
The idea was to initiate a thought and inspire change, and we are confident that we will see results. We can already see some good response, in terms of engagement, the way people have reacted to the campaign and the number of pledges we have received. It is a great start towards a larger goal.
For Mission Blue, we had content support and we also created a documentary called ‘The Last Drop’, throwing light on India's water crisis. We also celebrated water heroes associated with the campaign. Most importantly, we could influence brands, mobilize the consumers, filmmakers, credible bodies like TATA Trusts and Water Aid.
For over a century, National Geographic has been committed to driving purposeful change in society. This initiative is a firm step towards the same goal of driving change, by spreading awareness and empowering Indian citizens with the knowledge they require to conserve water.
Our partnership with TATA Trust also helped create real on-ground impact. This ensured a supply of safe drinking water for a person in rural India for every pledge taken under this initiative.
This speaks volumes of the impact of this initiative, so far.
What is the impact/outcome of the campaign?
The response to this initiative has been very encouraging. Collectively, people have pledged close to 200 million litres of water, by making small changes in their daily habits and reducing their water footprint.
In terms of storytelling, we associated with renowned, award-winning film-makers such as Imtiaz Ali, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Hansal Mehta and Madhur Bhandarkar, to create short films in scripted format. These films were made available for viewing on Hotstar, as we wanted to make the content accessible across platforms.
The outcome, in terms of numbers, is as follows:
•With over 1 lakh pledges in 50 days, among the very few social campaigns to have come close to such a number in terms of action
•The campaign creative garnered a million views and trended for 5 days on YouTube
•PaniPath was amongst the top 10 popular Hindi movies in the league of latest Bollywood releases starring A list celebrities on Hotstar
Once the campaign ends in June, what happens next? Does it continue next year?
Water is one of the crucial issues in India and there are numerous other causes that need attention as well. We have the right brand and assets to support and sustain long term change. We are looking forward to more such initiatives in the near future.