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May 31 2011

The Economic Times- Brands Going Social to Network with Digital Generation


NEW DELHI: Shah Rukh Khan-owned Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) couldn't make it to the final of the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League, but principal sponsor Nokia isn't complaining.

Reason: Its IPL campaign on Facebook with the slogan 'KKR tension mat le yaar' was a raging success, according to Viral Oza, marketing director, Nokia.

The campaign, which encouraged fans to recommend fun and innovative ways to reduce stress levels of the KKR team, got 2 lakh entries from fans, says the company.

Every medium has its advantages for marketers, but social media has the power to transform a campaign into a religion. And the biggest brands in the country, from Nokia to the cola giants to FMCG behemoth Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), are spending big bucks to make an online splash.

For three reasons: Such communication is innovative, interactive, and immensely customer-friendly. Film maker Farah Khan will agree with that.

Last September, consumer products giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) was cornered when the new mother tweeted about a shortage of Pampers diapers in Mumbai. Within 24 hours, P&G sent her a month's supply of Pampers Active Baby diapers to avoid any negative publicity.

Kainaz Gazder, marketing director at P&G India, says the response to Khan's tweet is a "testament of how we are leveraging this medium to address the needs of our consumers".

Khan is not the only consumer who is benefiting from the power of social media. A Nielsen Company report reveals that 30 million online consumers in Indian are members of social networking sites; 20 million of these spend time on social networking sites daily; and Indians spend more time on social media than they do checking personal emails.

According to the survey, a social media presence connotes, among other things, a sense of cool. For marketers, that's a trend too hot to pass up. "Advertising is a communication platform; digital media is an engagement platform—that's the clinching factor that no marketer can afford to ignore now," says Ramswaroop Gopalan, country manager at SapientNitro.

Dedicated agencies for digital media SapientNitro, one of the world's largest integrated marketing and technology services companies, has worked with some of the biggest digital advertisers, including Citibank, Unilever, Coca-Cola and Vodafone.

According to Sam Balsara's Madison Media, which buys media for telecom giant Bharti Airtel and cigarettes-to-hotels group ITC, internet advertising has reached a take-off stage in India and will grow two times the rate of the overall advertising market.

Madison estimates that in 2010, internet advertising (excluding search) was at Rs 680 crore, which is expected to climb to Rs 917 crore in 2011. Online advertising grew 50% in 2010.

In contrast, overall TV advertising spend was Rs 10,530 crore in 2010 and expected to increase to Rs 12,600 crore this year. According to digital marketing agency Webchutney's digital media outlook report, FMCG, which accounts for 42% of overall ad spend, spends 9% of it online.

Leading the FMCG charge is Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL). HUL's Facebook page Axe Angels for eponymous deodorant brand has 1.6 million members within a year of being launched.

The company says this has done more for the country's largest deodorant brand than what traditional advertising has been able to achieve. Coca-Cola's latest launch, music property Coke Studio, has 1,07,000 fans on the Coke studio@MTV Facebook page without a single song being released till now.

HUL, Coke and Nokia are some leading advertisers who have engaged dedicated agencies to work on their digital creative and media-buying campaigns. HUL has been activating online campaigns for brands like Axe deodorants, Dove soap, and Cornetto ice cream.

But the edgy Axe deo campaigns are the biggest online success. Srinandan Sundaram, category head (deos & oral care) at HUL, is clear that digital is the space to be for Axe. "The younger target groups are today living a virtual life far more than a physical life and we need to be there for them wherever they are." Sundaram adds that digital offers scope to have conversations rather than just one-way communication in case of traditional media channels.

Beverage and snacks major PepsiCo has more creative and content agencies on its roster for digital campaigns than for traditional advertising. It has agencies such as Hungama, Zapak and Digivasi for digital while all traditional advertising is with JWT and, to a smaller extent, BBDO. "Our spends are bound to go up in this space because that's where our target consumers are spending their time," says Sandeep Arora, category director for colas and media at PepsiCo.

He cites campaigns like Pepsi Change the Game and a reality-based promotion for its lemon drink 7 Up in AP as its big successes Coca-Cola on its part says it will invest 'ahead of the curve' in the digital space. Says Wasim Basir, director – integrated communications and marketing at Coca-Cola India: "We understand the effectiveness and engagement potential of this medium and spends are progressively going up."

Coca-Cola's creative accounts in the digital space are split between Sapient-Nitro and IRIS Worldwide while Interactive Universal has its media planning and buying mandate. Samar Shiekhawat, senior VP (marketing) at United Breweries (UB), says, "Online advertising and monitoring is not something you also do, but what you specifically do."

UB's Kingfisher beer fan page on Facebook crossed the one million fans milestone two months ago. India's largest carmaker, Maruti, recently used Youtube to get consumer feedback on one of its campaign. "The feedback was instant, otherwise we would have had to wait three-four weeks," says Shashank Srivastava, chief general manager (marketing), Maruti.

Social media quite clearly is the flavour of the season, but brands have to be careful that they're not mindlessly hopping on the bandwagon. "You need to be careful of what you are putting online," he says. Adds Shiekhawat: "If something doesn't work you need to take corrective action."

Just being present on Facebook is not enough. Being present in an unpredictable and innovate manner, being able to engage with consumers—as against talking down to them—and a thorough understanding of the medium itself are an imperative for a brand to stand out amid the clutter.


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