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Buzz Power 2008: Word of mouth in digital media

By , agencyfaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | February 15, 2008
The second session focused on the growing role of digital media such as online forums and blogs in word of mouth marketing

The second session of Buzz & #BANNER1 & #Power, a conference organised by agencyfaqs! and Kingfisher at the ITC Grand Central in Mumbai on February 14, was on The Changing Nature of Word of Mouth: From Physical to Digital, anchored by CVS Sharma, senior vice-president and director, Arc Worldwide (India). The panellists included Seema Modi, general manager, marketing, Heinz India; Faisal I Farooqui, founder and chief executive officer, Mouthshut.com; Siddhartha Roy, chief operating officer, Bigadda.com; and Yateesh Srivastava, marketing director, Centurion Bank of Punjab.

The focus of the session was on the evolution of consumer opinion from offline to online conversations in new media such as the Internet.

CVS Sharma Sharma started off with the challenges that brands face while communicating with the consumer. These challenges include media fragmentation, media inflation, consumer scepticism and product innovation.

Sharma showcased the case study of Verb Yellowball, in which 5,00,000 yellow balls were dropped in a city in the US, and a website was created where people could write about what they did when the ball was passed to them. The idea was to encourage outdoor activity among youngsters. The campaign resulted in 20 per cent people recording how they played ball.

Starting off among the panellists, Seema Modi, general manager, marketing, Heinz India, said, "Buzz is not about the brand or medium or consumer, but about the originality of the idea."

Seema Modi She added, "The set of influencers today are completely different as the younger generation is influencing purchases in categories of products that are expensive, have a social image and even longterm financial decisions." She went on to describe how the face of communication is changing from dissipation to participation and how entertainment is becoming predominant.

Next on the panel, Faisal I Farooqui, founder and CEO of Mouthshut.com, said, "Word of mouth (WOM) is about exhibition. It's about showing off, which is inherent in human nature." He added that everything that is said on the Internet is captured and stored, making digital media measurable.

Faisal Farooqui Farooqui described how cultural influencers are now peers and not traditional experts. "Peer endorsement converts to wisdom of the masses," he said. Farooqui also spoke about the growing influence of blogs and how new media content is largely user generated.

Siddhartha Roy, COO, Bigadda.com, presented some interesting international case studies. He talked about the Pepsi FIFA World Cup 2006, for which Pepsi prepared the 'Da-da-da' anthem. The official online video received about 0.5 million views, while a video created by Chinese youngsters on the anthem went on to receive more than two million views.

Roy also referred to a viral video created by Cadbury UK, showing a gorilla playing drums. Though the video had nothing to do with the product, it received more than five million views and gave Cadbury much needed mileage after a product controversy. His final example was about the eight short films that BMW created for the Web, which led to a 30 per cent jump in sales in Europe for the car company. Roy concluded saying, "The market to consumer communication does not work as much as consumer to consumer communication."

Siddhartha Roy "The biggest differentiator," he said, "is the democratisation of media."

Yateesh Srivastava, marketing director of Centurion Bank of Punjab, talked about how digital WOM has become more of a personal platform now, especially with the emergence of social networking sites.

Srivastava warned against trying to control the digital environment as million of users can be impacted in a nanosecond. He added that bad news spreads faster on the Internet, and that it's difficult to control consumers' resentment once the genie is uncorked.

In the question and answer session, Sharma asked the panellists whether digital WOM can be used as a standalone medium. Farooqui agreed, saying, "With technology becoming ubiquitous, people will not think twice before looking up product reviews online."

Yateesh Srivastava Roy concurred, "What consumers are saying online becomes part of advertising as people tend to believe consumer testimonials."

Modi, however, felt that FMCG products cannot depend on digital WOM alone. Srivastava clarified that the web was not the only platform for creating buzz; it could be created through any medium.

The event was sponsored by Kingfisher, NIA and Orienta Cine Advertising.