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How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing beyond just our rigmaroles? Share insights that can further the common understanding? Or, at the very least, point at things that need to be set right. View Point - an exchange4media platform, will fill this void and become a source of understanding, action and perhaps some inspiration.

... And then there were blogs


Preeti Chaturvedi, Manager, Mktg & Biz Dev., GIST
Justin Rabindra, VP, Training & Knowledge Mngt, Ogilvy One Worldwide

Consider this.

Case 1: Robert Scoble was your guy next door, a techie working for NEC and badgering Microsoft on his hugely popular blog till Microsoft in an act of daredevilry went ahead and hired him to be its ‘technical evangelist’. Scoble today has a reputation that would give our tech czars a run for their money. He is a cult figure in the global blogosphere and an author of the international bestseller ‘Naked Conversations’, which has been covered in the likes of ‘Fortune’ magazine.

Case 2: “Hello and Welcome to my site. Finally, I have got down to launching it and it’s probably a result of my blogging experience over the past few months.” Those words can largely be ignored, what with one blog seeing the light of the day every second! Except that this is the welcome message on his personal blog by Aamir Khan himself!

Case 3: Stonyfield Farm, a little known organic dairy, saw the wonders of blogging when its four blogs gave it the popularity and consumer insights to make it a globally recognised organic products company.

Blogging is making waves and how! Blogs are making brands, damaging reputations, granting anonymous individuals their 15 minutes of fame. It has moved way past the early ripples and it would not be unreasonable to say that blogs are creating waves in the world of business by reconfiguring the contours of communication.

The new digital age consumer is increasingly aware of when and how he is being marketed to.

What has happened as a result is that traditional advertising effectiveness has steadily declined. Marketers are trying to constantly come up with customer centric events, viral campaigns, loyalty programmes to hit the bull’s eye.

Blogging has come into this new communication mix as a duck takes to water. “While blogging has been around for a while in the US and Europe, its growth is a recent phenomenon in India, especially in the case of ‘blogging in business’. Blogs build communities and communities create blogs – in a sense, it’s a virtuous cycle that has the potential to grow on its own,” says Dhruvkant Shenoy, Country Manager, Middle East, Monster.com.

And indeed, there has been a reconfiguration of marketing theories and practices. Companies are realising the value of conversations and are trying to sell to communities of consumers. Sunsilk Gang of Girls, is one of the best examples of how a leading Indian company (Hindustan Unilever Ltd) created a highly successful integrated marketing campaign with the Internet as the focus. The Gang of Girls online community has around 10,000 bloggers already.

From FMCG to travel and IT, organisations are listening to the buzz in the blogosphere. It is fascinating how Infosys has actually incorporated blogging into its corporate branding mix. One of the early converts to the cause of social media, the IT leader has around nine blogs and some of its top brass like Nandan Nilekani are part of the team of bloggers at Infy.

The empowerment of consumers and individuals is one of blogging’s biggest gifts to citizens in the Web 2.0 era. And the who’s who are in agreement. Sun Microsystems is one of corporate blogging’s biggest success stories the world over, supported by none other than Jonathan Schwartz, its dynamic CEO. Santosh D Souza, Chief Technologist, Sun Microsystems, India, shared his perspective, “To blog or not to blog isn’t a question any longer. The question is how to use the corporate blog to effectively deliver the message.”

Blogs have given customers the freedom to decide how and when to communicate with a company. Several companies like GM have actually started involving the customers in the product creation stage by encouraging them to come up with product innovation ideas. GM’s Fastlane blog is an example of this.

Companies like Microsoft have successfully deployed blogging, both for internal and external marketing objectives. Its Channel 9 gave influencers in the software industry an insider’s perspective on the company through daily video profiles of employees in each product development team. One of Microsoft’s biggest challenges has been its brand image as a software behemoth and employee bloggers like Robert Scoble have lent it a human face. The impact that this has had on Microsoft’s corporate brand has been very tangible as an article in ‘The Economist’ said: “(Scoble) has succeeded where small armies of more conventional public relations firms have been failing abjectly for years. He has made Microsoft, with its history of monopolistic bullying, appear marginally but noticeably less evil to the outside world.” Microsoft and GM’s blogging exercises are fitting examples of how marketers are deploying blogs for both corporate branding and product innovation.

And it’s not mere word play or empty jingoism here. There are concrete numbers as well. In a recent survey, MSN polled 1,000 visitors on its portal to come up with the finding that over 39 per cent were aware of blogs and over 49 per cent read blogs to be entertained. Blogging is riding high on Internet steroid. The number of Internet subscribers has increased from 25,000 to 2.9 million in the period 1997-2006; with usage from the 18-35 age group segments accounting for 50 per cent of the Internet population. The MSN report reveals that out of its surveyed base, 85 per cent were below 35 years of age. There is a clear signal from such data that the blogging phenomenon in India is largely driven by a young and net savvy urban population.

(Preeti Chaturvedi is Manager, Marketing and Business Development, GIST, while Justin Rabindra is VP, Training and Knowledge Management, Ogilvy One Worldwide)

 
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