'Being heard is what audiences seek from brands today'

Sujit Patil, VP & Head Corporate Brand and Communications, Godrej Industries Limited & Associate Companies talks about making ‘direct communication’ a priority for organisations

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Oct 5, 2020 8:46 AM
sujit patil

Godrej has been pioneering direct communications in India through its owned media platforms L’Affaire, Vikroli Cucina, Design Deko, etc. Direct Communication as a strategy enables brands to engage directly with audiences and influencers. It is not a replacement but a complementary approach to traditional communications based on paid or earned media.

e4m caught up with Sujit Patil, VP & Head Corporate Brand and Communications, Godrej Industries Limited & Associate Companies to talk in detail about the need for the organizations to start making ‘direct communication’ a priority.

Edited Excerpts:

What according to you are the characteristics of an owned media? Do you prefer owned media to paid and earned media?

To answer your second part of the question first, it is not an either-or choice. A robust communication strategy will use a judicious mix of owned, paid and earned media to reach its ultimate objective: create brand resonance and equity.

Research has shown that consumers today prefer to have a direct channel of dialogue with brands and there is also, sadly, a shrinking trust in media channels due to the fake and paid news. The issue of authenticity and the blurring lines between earned content and paid content has resulted in activating a sense of ‘ad-blocking’ in the minds of consumers.

 Owned media gives brands the opportunity to share stories creatively with their customers, and vice-versa albeit with more control. It builds a bridge between customers and brands to engage with each other more experientially, authentically and effectively.

At Godrej, our owned media platforms are based on three basic tenets. Authentic content creation, building communities of influencers and KOL’s to drive thought leadership and experiential engagement with our audiences.

 Why have organizations started making direct communication a priority? Is that why you have invested in the concept of owned media?

The best brand stories are weaved along with consumers. This approach enables consumers (and potential users) the possibility of connecting with the brand, experiencing the product or service, and – in particular – being a part of the brand’s story moving forward.

 Audiences are no longer content to be mere spectators, so integrating opportunities for them to express themselves is key. However, direct engagement represents a complementary approach to traditional communication strategy and is not an alternative. It subverts the cognitive ad-blocker which has developed in the audience due to rampant exposure to branded content. It’s a promise of co-creation of experiences.

How has COVID changed the way in which brands interact with their TG?

During the pandemic, the sensitivity threshold of the audience fell remarkably. Any form of vulturism or cause-washing is now frowned upon; and consequently, counterproductive. At the same time, not everything must be looked with a myopic view and be branded as opportunistic. Some stories must be told notwithstanding the risk – but only if they truly represent the values of the brand.

Therefore, brands are trying to build a strong and direct communication channel with their audience. People expect brands to be more empathetic. Communication narratives today are humbler, fact-based and research driven. If a brand weaves a narrative that is built on authentic brand connect and experiential engagement, it will resonate with the audience and increases chances of share-ability.

What is the key to a successful content channel owned by a brand?

Being heard is one of the most precious values that audiences seek today from brands. Therefore, do the RECCE (Relevance, Engagement, Content, Community, Experience) well! Customer experience and brand ethos form the core of owned media strategy. It pushes brands to create Relevancy among its target consumers to drive Engagement using interesting Content which eventually leads to Community building through Experience (RECCE).

More importantly, authenticity has become more important to drive experiences. A true owned media strategy must have an outside-in approach. The critical questions one must ask are: How does the audience perceive a brand? What are the expectations in terms of value, narrative and experience? Understand your audience, choose the right platform, make them participate and persevere towards building a long-term connection with them.

What would be your order of preference if we compare between earn, paid and owned media? Has organic media coverage lost its relevance?

I think it should be a judicious mix of these channels. Today, the lines between paid, owned and earned content has blurred. Therefore, any strategy has to find a sweet spot on the confluence of all four channels (paid, owned, earned and social).

Earned or organic media will never lose its relevance. Print will never die. In India, we have always considered printed information as a trusted source of information, and it shall continue. In fact, India is one of the only few countries in the world where the readership has been growing. Digital mediums continue to thrive as well. Therefore, I firmly believe there is enough space for all channels to co-exist.

What kind of engagement has Godrej witnessed with its owned media platforms like L’Affaire, Vikhroli Cucina, Design DekKo, etc.? What kind of content is given more leverage depending on customer engagement?

Season 4 of Godrej L’Affaire saw over 10,000 conversations on social media, reached 63 million accounts and created over 143 million impressions. 50 brands engaged with over 150 influencers from the genres of fashion, food, travel, beauty, wellness, entertainment, and design. There were nearly 400 articles, which were published in print and online media. Link to Season 4 of L’Affaire: 

During the lockdown, however, the challenge was to continue the steam and keep the audiences engaged. The KPI for us is engagement rate. We worked on a content strategy that could bring the L’Affaire community closer. We partnered with KOL’s and influencers from entertainment, lifestyle, fashion, travel and food segment and have had on an average 2 Insta lives every week from April onwards. The L’Affaire Saturday night live, Travel Tuesdays, Wilderness Wednesdays etc., have been generating authentic content with brand integrations. As a result, the community doubled during this period. Vikhroli Cucina lives brought together thought-leaders, chefs, food influencers from across the country to discuss food trends. Again our food-related brands got integrated in the dialogues. At Design Dekko, top design experts from across the world deliberated on how the industry needs to re-imagine workspaces. Over 900 architects and designers partook in on these hour-long webinars to listen to global experts; which led to better engagement and community-building.

 What can we expect from Godrej’s owned media in future? Any new collaborations or launches in the pipeline?

We are constantly working towards finding newer ways of strengthening our relationship with these communities. The fourth owned media platform is more niche-focused and is called “The Future of series”. We are already working on using digital platforms and tools to co-create authentic and engaging content for our audience. There are several interesting collaborations in the pipe-line, but we shall wait for the opportune moment to disclose further details.

 

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