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Engagement goes interactive: Consumers write brand stories

01-March-2012
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Engagement goes interactive: Consumers write brand stories

Rather than treating them as mere by-standers in a blitzkrieg of brand communications, marketers are now seeking to put customers right alongside the brand and somehow engage him/her in the evolution of a brand.

In the process, customer engagement has a level it has never touched before – be it uploading one’s personal video for Hero MotoCorp’s ‘Hum Mein Hai Hero’ campaign or getting the maximum votes on the Nissan New Star of India contest or HT Mini’s 'Spot the Character' campaign in Delhi Metro or participating in a tweetmob – there are as many campaigns as there are brands. The whole engagement process puts the customer right in the middle of the brand story, thus enhancing brand relevance.

As Ruchira Jaitly, Executive Vice President – Marketing, Beverages (Flavours), PepsiCo India, put it, “We need to go out and try new stuff.”

Tracing the consumer engagement trail, one can recall the Maggi campaign a few years ago, wherein consumers narrated stories about their ‘Maggi experiences’, som of which were carried on the Maggi packs. Such examples now abound, which reach out to full-fledged consumer participation in actually creating the brand stories.

Brand stories are many
Hero MotoCorp has invited videos from people in India singing its new signature anthem created by AR Rahman, ‘Hum mein hai hero’. This has led to a whole host of people uploading videos of themselves lip-syncing to Rahman’s song. Anil Nair, CEO & Managing Partner at Law & Kenneth India, said, “Our motive was to tell people’s stories that naturally fit in and engage with the brand.”

In a similar vein, Procter & Gamble’s Tide Plus is inviting people to tell their ‘Tide Plus’ stories, which will feature in the brand’s TV campaign.

New Star of India has launched one of the world’s largest online talent hunts, which has fans uploading a short clip of themselves dancing for a chance to appear alongside Ranbir Kapoor in the three-minute Bollywood blockbuster – ‘New Star of India’. Although auditions have now ended, there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved. Over the coming weeks the public will turn producer and help shape the movie’s plot, choose the music, pick the wardrobe and name the characters, all though Nissan’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/nissanindia.

HT Mini was launched in January 2012, designed for people on the move. “We wanted to engage that segment of customer through the campaign. HT Mini is a new product and we wanted to create visibility for it in a fun, interactive manner,” said Shantanu Bhanja, Vice President - Marketing. HT Media Ltd. The campaign involved people dressed up as clowns or angels or a band party. If one spotted any of them at one of Delhi Metro stations, they needed to text a message and in the process also get to win prizes.

Metro stations were the perfect location to roll out this campaign because they are a hub for people on the move and usually are quite crowded. In that sort of rushed environment, where all one sees are crowds of people, the introduction of an amusingly dressed character – a superman, a pirate – is an unexpected and pleasant surprise. “We wanted to channel that sense of surprise at seeing something out of the ordinary into customer engagement.” Bhanja added.

To create awareness about its launch, Mirinda innovated with a ‘Tweetmob’, which kicked off on Valentine’s Day and resulted in impulsive conversations with a catchy topic – “What leaves you #breathless on a Valentine’s Day”. The theme of breathless was in line with the campaign idea of “Un-putdownable tastes that leaves you breathless”. The following Friday, it was #pagalpanti and the activity continued for four successive Fridays.

Recently, Crazeal was involved in the play ‘Jai and Juliet’ at IIT Delhi, wherein they had got the spectators involved in an altogether different way. Ankur Warikoo, CEO, Groupon India (Crazeal), revealed that they had QR codes on the seats which the viewer had to click and answer questions pertaining to the play. Finally, they had a lucky draw to pick the winners.

What is the brand leverage?
Rather than consumers being passive receivers of messages, engagement marketers believe that consumers should be actively and directly involved in the production and co-creation of marketing programmes, developing a relationship with the brand.

Moving on to user-generated content, Airtel extended its ‘Har Friend Zaroori Hota Hai’ concept to an online drive. They got people to identify different friend ‘types’ of friends and then submit such ‘friend’ videos. It has 20 online films selected from among thousands of such submissions.

The Mirinda Tweetmob saw two objectives being achieved. Ruchira Jaitly said, “As marketers, we continuously seek ways to engage with the consumers via innovative means.” She observed that apart from creating awareness about the launch, the second role this activity played was “to build brand connect and brand equity”. She emphasised, “We’re coming up with stuff to add value to the brand. We are building the brand core.”

The HT Mini campaign has been successful in garnering awareness about the brand. It has become very popular with readers, with numerous text messages coming in every day. Readers have started identifying HT Mini as an innovative product. Thus, a high level of engagement with the brand has been created through this campaign.

Overwhelming response
On the response received for HT Mini, Bhanja said, “We have received a phenomenal response from our readers, not only are they participating enthusiastically in the contest, they also interact with the characters at Metro stations and get copies of the HT Mini.”

As far as the New Star of India campaign is concerned, the campaign page went up from 0 to 150,000 fans in just six weeks, besides receiving over 2,300 video auditions from across India. Kiminobu Tokuyama, Managing Director, Nissan Motors India Pvt Ltd, shared, “1.5 lakh fans have shown their appreciation of Bollywood, their love of Ranbir Kapoor and their desire to take part in a totally unique campaign. We currently have over 63,000 people talking about the campaign on Facebook, which is a terrific response.” He added, “We’ve decided to reward this with a special offer – anyone booking a test drive through the campaign site will get a chance to win the actual Nissan Micra that Ranbir will drive in the new movie, complete with his personal signature. This is a one-of-a-kind prize!”

As the Hero MetroCorp campaign moved on to featuring people who uplinked their own videos, Anil Nair observed, “We don’t see it as Part 1 and Part 2, but when we conceived the idea, the interactivity was integral. The challenge that people faced was to take on the world singularly.” And they met this challenge very effectively. He too said that the response was “overwhelmingly amazing”. While they “expected people to upload 3,000 to 4,000 videos, we now have hundreds of thousands of videos and we are running out of server space”. The initial plan was to run this campaign for a month, but now “the response has been so high from small towns and parts of India that had we never thought about”, hence, the campaign has been extended to four months. It was “so inspirational for people that they were egged on to higher purposes in their lives. The company got reports of people actually quitting their jobs to follow their dreams, or giving up smoking, losing extra kilos, and so on. Besides, he confided, “the brand’s likeability scores have gone up, and sales too have been exceptionally good”.

Consumers are getting under the skin, literally, of the brands that they love. And, as a matter of fact, they are actually writing brand stories.

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