Guest Column: What worked for content marketing this Diwali? – Neeraj Singhal, Outbrain

With an increasing number of Indian consumers turning to digital platforms to research, and make purchases for their Diwali shopping, content has indeed become indispensable for brands hungry to attract and retain customers, writes Neeraj Singhal, Director-Sales, India, Outbrain

e4m by Neeraj Singhal
Updated: Nov 14, 2016 8:12 AM
Guest Column: What worked for content marketing this Diwali? – Neeraj Singhal, Outbrain

Marked by colorful rangolis, lanterns, fireworks and delicious food, the Indian festival of lights – Diwali – was celebrated last weekend in India. It was also commemorated by many around the world; thousands gathered at London’s Trafalgar Square to soak in the festival’s positive vibes and charms, and the façade of the United Nations headquarters was lit up for the first time, in bright blue, with the words ‘Happy Diwali’ projected on the building’s walls.

From a consumer’s standpoint, Diwali signals the start of the holiday season, with online retailers and e-commerce platforms offering lucrative deals and discounts. Even the big offline retailers which have been feeling the heat from aggressive e-commerce players, were pre-empting inventories and improving their store ambience to spur consumption. Apart from raining deals, however, Indian brands are also creating more content around the festive season in order to build recognition and drive further demand.

In a recent study by Twitter and TNS, it was revealed that 85% of Indian consumers prefer to shop online, and 52% would follow a brand on Twitter in anticipation of exclusive Diwali promotions, deals or discounts. Clearly, with an increasing number of Indian consumers turning to digital platforms to research, and make purchases for their Diwali shopping, content has indeed become indispensable for brands hungry to attract and retain customers.

Here are three examples how content marketing has worked for brands as they engaged with consumers this Diwali.

Keep it short and sharp

As content marketers, most of us know the basic strategies of creating engaging content. We strive to create stories that entertain our audience, give them some sort of practical value, or form an emotional connection, amongst others. But increasingly, we are also seeing a preference for short-form content among consumers; with the average length of video viewed in India being below 20 minutes, according to a report by Ernst and Young - titled Future of digital consumption in India.

The convenience of consumption continues to drives this evolution, and this has nudged content producers to focus on snackable content.

Netflix, a global provider of streaming films and television series, is one great example. With the intention of taking a dig at other brands, Netflix India teamed up with Bollywood actor and director Anurag Kashyap to showcase stereotypical scenes that brands use in their Diwali commercials. To complete the depiction, Netflix paired the scenes with hilarious narration pointing out the cliché that brands typically portray, from a well-adorned home, to family members lighting diyas together and the ‘perfect husband’ showering his wife with expensive gifts.

In just a minute, Netflix was able to effectively inject humor and convey its ability to offer viewers an advertisement-free experience - away from the repetitive, mundane advertising that so often clouds our screens.

Keep it relevant

Brands sometimes get caught up with the products and services they offer that they forget it is the content around the product that enhances the user experience. Today, consumer purchase behaviours revolve around research and peer-to-peer communication, with 92 per cent of consumers relying on recommendation from others, even from sources they do not know first-hand - according to Adweek.

Knowing this, brands should focus on developing content to build long-term relationships with their audience. Indian ecommerce site Snapdeal is a case in point. The brand underwent a major rebranding exercise prior to the Diwali festive season,unveiling a new logo and brand identity. At the heart of the new positioning was to understand the real needs of the users; that each purchase extends well beyond just a transaction. This was encapsulated and expressed as 'Unbox Zindagi'.

Leveraging the momentum around its new brand campaign, Snapdeal rolled out the Unbox Diwali Sale during the Diwali season, offering special offers to consumers on products across home appliances, electronics and furniture categories. Throughout the sale, Snapdeal took the opportunity to reinforce its key message: as a brand that is more than just great deals.

As shared by Saurabh Bansal, VP & Head of Categories at Snapdeal in an announcement made in September around the Snapdeal Unbox Diwali Sale, the idea was to “provide our (their) consumers millions of opportunities to ‘Unbox’ their aspirations while availing exciting offers, including the chance to save still more through our (their) partnership with leading banks.”

Keep it original

It might sound cliché, but one of the advantages of creating content is in keeping it original. As we spend more of our day-to-day life in the digital world, seeing fresh content on-screen keeps it comforting and engaging.

This approach is echoed in an online film by smartphone brand OnePlus, which was launched as a prelude to the Diwali season. Taking a step further from its typical invitation-based sale approach, OnePlus focused on creating content that first and foremost, resonated with audiences’ real life experiences and moved them emotionally. The video then goes on to highlight subtly the phone’s Dash Charging feature, and signs off with the message: “Dash charge your happiness”.

By taking the road less travelled, OnePlus was able to stand out from other consumer electronics brands, which had purchased full page ads in newspapers to announce their Diwali offers – be it fresh launches or attractive discounts. And as a result, the video crossed more than 2 million views in three days, with the hashtag #OnePlusDiwaliDash trending continuously for two days.

Visibly, we are witnessing a marked shift in the way brands reach out to consumers during the feel-good Diwali season. Rather than promoting the product’s functionalities and pushing sales, brands are leveraging new-age creative mediums in order to break through the festivities. However, as brands get fixated on maintaining that ‘festive’ tone of voice, and as themes get increasingly repeated over the years, our hope is that next Diwali, the creative sparks fly even higher.

(The author is Director-Sales, India, Outbrain)

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