Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Leave aside USPs, interact with consumers

Gone are the days when the consumers had no choice than to clinging to daily newspapers, listening to radio stations or watching television. Now the choices are abundant – you will find newspapers and magazines of all sorts ranging from sports to economics; name any field and you will find loads of glossy papers rolled out with flashy pictures and heavy content. Talking about television – as in case of newspapers – the channels cater to all genres of interests. In case of radios, there are hordes of stations, playing per request. While the traditional media have grown by leaps and bounds, the new age media – microblogging and social networking have spread their tentacles in the hearts and minds of consumers.

USP versus contextualisation
Once it ruled the integrated marketing communication (IMC) plans. Each product was uniquely positioned in the market to win the hearts of consumers. The unique selling proposition (USP) of a product depended on the public persona of the targeted consumers.

However, the tables have turned with time. The product marketers are reading and analysing consumer behaviour to design their products accordingly. “If the USP ruled earlier, brands now need to create movements, experiences and engagement with consumer,” says Bindu Sethi, the Chief Strategy Office of JWT India, in Brand Equity, the special edition of The Economic Times. “The world is more interactive and we need to respond.”

Dhiraj Sinha, Regional Planning Director, Asia for Bates says, “In today’s world, brands need to provoke debates and engage people, and this needs a very sharp understanding of what’s changing in the culture and how people are behaving differently.”

Your brand needs to highlight the aspect of interaction with locals and develop new slogans reflecting the different product features. You now need to adapt your brands to target the major source markets.

Go online, interact with consumers
The internet has become a common platform for both the marketers and consumers. It is considered as the most important source of information by consumers. Official product websites are important point of information for consumers. Media and specifically online advertising can be powerful in creating consumer awareness and attracting them to the product websites. Social networking sites as well as specific product-related blogs, open forums, online guides, wikis and consumer communities are fast emerging and provide opportunities to initiate positive word-of-mouth publicity and strengthen brand recognition and loyalty.

Follow the below steps to start interacting and engaging with your consumers online.

  • Assess and review your current website regarding usability, graphic user interface, content, structure and marketing message and implement changes where necessary.
  • Develop website content for special-interest groups.
  • Develop an online communication plan to promote your product website and implement search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and backlinking activities to secure better ranking and promotion of the product website online.
  • Constantly update content to keep the website appealing to users; match any content with the marketing messages.
  • Prepare a list of potential online advertising platforms and invest on them wisely.
  • Identify relevant social media networks and communities, blogs and forums and develop a social media plan.
  • Analyse popular networks and work on enlarging the Facebook community through constant updates as well as fun and participatory elements such as competitions, pictures, videos, feedback loops on posts, etc.
 The constant touch with your consumers will give you clear idea of steering your marketing strategy accordingly, rather than sticking to a stubborn USP for a certain period. Go ahead and indulge in the online world and know your consumers better!


 *The social media logos have been downloaded and adapted.


Monday, 20 February 2012

Stick to roots, comply with changes, build a brand

There are logos and there are brands. Logos are simply brand elements and sometimes these are so widely recognised that other brand elements like name, character, slogan, packaging, jingles etc. are overshadowed. Many brands have changed with time, changing all elements including their logos. However, many brands have stuck to their origins and haven’t changed a bit from their day of genesis. Taking the mid-path has always been beneficial to brands. The brand should upgrade its elements with the changing time, but must stick to its origins.

Al Ries and Laura Ries in their famous book The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding say that whether the market conditions change, the brands should stick to its consistency in the chapter The Law of Consistency. However, in the next chapter The Law of Change, they advocate that brands can be changed, but only infrequently and only very carefully. The same has been followed by the world famous conservation brand WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature. The beautiful panda representing the world conservation organisation has changed with time to revitalise its image in the minds of millions of its followers.

There’s an interesting story attached to the history of WWF logo. When the group of conservationists who found WWF was looking for a logo to represent it, there was a giant panda named Chi Chi at the London Zoo. Naturalist Gerald Watterson drew preliminary sketches in admiration of Chi Chi. Sir Peter Scott then designed the world famous black and white logo of the giant panda which later became the symbol of the conservation movement.

In 1961, the WWF logo just had a giant panda and the panda was not looking straight at you. In 1978, the panda symbol was copyrighted and a © was added to the logo. In 1986, the logo was upgraded with the panda looking straight at the viewer. It helped the brand interact and create relationship with its followers more easily. Remember you interact more easily with a person who faces you from the front and looks into your eyes. Another brand element, the name of WWF in a trademarked serif font was also added. With the popularity of san serif fonts, the name WWF was replaced by WWF in a trademarked san serif font in 2000. The copyright symbol was shifted to the hind legs of the panda to balance the brand elements evenly. The same logo is being used till date with no changes. During its journey from 1961 till date, the brand has stuck to its origins with little tweaks and additions to revitalise its image among its followers. And it has been highly successful in creating the top of the mind recall among its audiences.

Apple is another famous brand which has stuck to its origins. Like WWF, its logo has displaced all other elements and has been the sole brand driver till date. The first Apple logo was designed in 1976 by Ronald Wayne, sometimes referred to as the third co-founder of Apple. The logo shows Sir Isaac Newton sitting under a tree and an apple dangling above his head. It was dedicated to the historic moment of the falling apple and discovery of the theory of gravity. The phrase on the outside border read, “Newton… A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought … Alone.” The first logo lasted only for a year.

Steve Jobs, the man who looked into details of brand building commissioned graphic designer Rob Janoff to modernise the logo which looked archaic. He was asked to stick to the origins and change just a little bit. Eventually he came with one of the most iconic and recognisable corporate logos in history. Janoff put a “bite” in the Apple logo to represent an apple, and not a tomato. Steve Jobs is rumoured to have insisted on using a colourful logo as a means to “humanise” the company. So Janoff added a rainbow stripe to the apple. Janoff arranged the colours without following any pattern as he wanted to add the green leaf at the top.

The multi-coloured Apple logo was in use for 22 years before Steve Jobs once again commissioned to modernise the logo. The colourful stripes were replaced with a more modern monochromatic look that has taken on a variety of sizes and colours over the past few years. The overall shape of the logo, however, remains unchanged from its original inception 33 years ago.

As the company started to innovate and produce sleek and cutting edge products, it needed a logo providing more flexibility in branding the products. The sleek and suave design of the monochromatic logo added to the brand value of the products.

The brands WWF and Apple stuck to their roots but upgraded their brand elements with the changing market trends. The wide recognition, customer loyalty and top of the mind recall were results of keeping the brand elements intact, with just little bit of tinkering from time to time following the market trends. Not only WWF and Apple but many brands have followed this trick to stay atop in the fierce competition, in the hearts of their loyal customers.

- WWF and Apple logos have been downloaded and adapted.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Analyse your audience well, get your messages right

Target audiences are unpredictable - it’s hard to find out their nature and intention. While designing your campaign, your main focus should be on analysing your target audiences and crafting the key messages and calls to action accordingly.

You can categorise your target audiences in several ways – primary and secondary as per the preference of your campaign – as early adopters, wait and watch groups, and rejecters as per their interest and intent.

Obviously you pay more attention to your primary audience and influence them first, moving on to the secondary audience. Likewise, the early adopters are quite easy fellows who follow you and support your campaign without much persuasion. Meanwhile ones belonging to wait and watch category are difficult to please and they can convert either into your allies or opponents. It always gives you space to coerce them and take them into your side. The rejecters are outright your opponents and in no way they can be reverted back to your camp. However, you can try your best to convert them into your allies.

Similarly, some communicators categorise their target audience into apparent, intermediate, ultimate and unintended audiences. Apparent audiences are the audiences that appear to be the target of the message. They may or may not be the real, intended, or final targets of the message. Likewise, ultimate audiences are the real, intended, or final targets of the message. Meanwhile intermediate audiences are used by the communicators to transmit the message to the ultimate audience. Unintended audiences are the ones receiving a message directed to another audience.

Whichever way you categorise your audiences, the success of your campaign depends largely on how you analyse the target audience and develop the right key messages and calls to action. To develop the right set of messages you need to know the target audience well.

First, find out the target audience’s involvement in the issue. Then enquire about their awareness of the issue. These will help you craft the right messages with much ease. It is always easier to persuade the audiences who are aware of the issue and are involved in the issue.

Find out more about the target audience’s demographics. Their age, religion, social status, family status, income, sexual orientation, education level and social class hint you on the type of message for each of them.

The target audience’s psychographics – their personality, ideology, values, beliefs and general attitudes – provide you a firm basis to craft the right message.

Their lifestyle – Do they prefer pumping iron at gym? Do they like partying? Are they bookworms? - These simple questions and similar ones make your job easier to identify the right messages for them.

Now after getting to know your audiences you just need to take into consideration three key questions – What are the barriers to their acceptance of call to action? What would persuade them to accept call to action? What is their language?

These three questions will make your crafting of key messages much easier and specific. Someone has quite cleverly put the above points into a formula. It is much easier to remember!

Analysis- Who is the audience?

Understanding- What is the audience's knowledge of the subject?

Demographics- What is their age, gender, education background etc.?

Interest- Why should they be interested in your campaign?

Environment- Where will the campaign be conducted?

Needs- What are the audience's needs associated with your campaign?

Customisation- What specific needs/interests should you address relating to the specific audience?

Expectations- What does the audience expect from your campaign?

Once you are able to analyse your audience well, the following task of creating right messages become much simpler and much specific.

(Photo Courtesy: Nikon D700 Advertisement)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

5 ways to get your story in the media

If you are in field of communications, you must have got requests and instructions to get your organisation’s stories in the mainstream media. While publishing a story in the media channels doesn’t seem to be a strenuous task, getting published the right content at right time is always challenging.

However, if you plan well and execute the plan rightly, you will be able to get your message through. Check the tools and activities and their nitty-gritty that will help you get your story in the media.

Organise a press trip
Organising a press trip to your working area gives the journalists a fair amount of first hand information about the work your organisation is doing. They can interact with the beneficiaries and stakeholders and come up with the desired story.

Two points that you need to take care while planning a press trip are – 1) plan well ahead, sketch the itinerary, make list of the persons you want the journalists to interact with, collect all background information and 2) weave stories you desire to appear in the media, brief the journalists accordingly, lead them towards your angle of the story.

The two perfect no’s during the trip are – 1) never distort the facts and 2) don’t ever try to influence the journalists and request them to write on your behalf. It would not only shatter your media relations but in a long run your orgnisation will be blamed to be a manipulator.

However, you can request the journalists to share the stories prior to publishing to check whether the designations of the people speaking for your story have been distorted or they have been misspelt or misquoted.

While organising such trips make sure that you make a good mix of local and national level journalists. And yes, don’t forget to include a photo journalist – if s/he publishes a well captioned photo in any of the major pages, your work is done. A picture is worth a thousand words!

Organise a press conference
Another easy way to get your news in the media is organising a press conference at major events. Just keep in mind few basics of holding a press meet.

Invite the journalists a day in advance – don’t forget to use all means of communication – email the invites, fax the invites and call the news desk to confirm whether they have received the invites and have assigned the reporters.

Get your press release ready, well in advance. Get the quotes in your release signed off from the speakers before finalising the release. If you want to disseminate the release in more than one language, get it translated on your own. The journalists won’t bother to translate your press release and create news out of it.

Put your message in an inverted pyramid structure, answer all the 5 Ws – what, where, when, who and why, and 1 H – how in the first paragraph itself so that the journalists get hold of your message by skimming through the first paragraph itself. Don’t forget to make your title and first paragraph interesting. These will lead the readers to the latter part. Write your story well, link all the paragraphs so that none of them appear to be off-balance.

After the press conference hand over the press releases to the journalists – never distribute the release at the start of the programme, otherwise they won’t stay and listen to the speakers. Then fax the press release to all the media houses. Always remember to send the soft copy of your press release to the journalists. Sometimes, if you are lucky, your story is interesting and they are running out of time, next day you will see your full story in the media.

Pitch a story to media
It’s not always the reporters writing your story, but you can also try it the other way round. If you can play with the words well, then you can pitch your story to the media. Prior to pitching, make sure that you have a convincing story outline. Then identify the right media that would be interested in your story. Researching the media carefully, you need to find the right person to whom you can write a convincing email pitch. While pitching the story, you need to be patient and wait for the publication. Follow up your pitch if you receive the positive reply but your story is not published for long. There are lot many people like you who pitch their stories to media, and don’t forget they have their own able reporters.

You can also attract attention of the editor and your target audience by writing a letter to the editor about a feature article, op-ed or news piece related to the subject of your concern. You can at least talk about your concerns in short.

Collaborate with journalists
One of my bosses once told me that journalists are like wild horses, if you manage to ride them well, you will reach the destination. But if you are either in the front or back, the horse will kick you either on your back or right on your face. No offence to friends from media, but you must be able to maintain a working relationship with the journalists – never get too closer nor be farther – that’s the mantra to keep yourself and your stories in track.

You can follow groups of journalists (they are bunched up into groups like environmental, sports, energy, education, gender and so on) in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (just rummage through the friend lists and following lists of your connections). Get noticed by liking and adding sensible comments to their posts – you will build relations in no time.

One of the easiest ways to educate the journalists and imprint the subject in their minds, is organising a training on how to report on the subject of your concern for the reporters. If you request the editors for participation, they will obviously send some representatives from their media. In the process you will not only build the relations but will also arouse interest on your subject among the journalists. You can collaborate with journalists’ associations to hold such trainings.

Organise interaction programmes where experts from your subject and editors can have a dialogue on the subject. This will further push your agenda – the editors will be well aware of the issue and will be positive towards the stories/articles/news pieces filed by the reporters.

Perform stunts
Journalists, especially the photo journalists are always in the look out for interesting shots. If you organise an innovative stunt at a major public place and inform the friends from media – you are sure to get a good coverage.

Engage celebrities in your work, campaigns and stunts – it will be an added attraction for the shutterbugs!