Word of mouth (WoM) is increasingly
finding its way into the promotional strategies of most brands. However, they have to be coupled with simplicity and innovative media. The post-lunch session at Buzz Power, an initiative organised by agencyfaqs! and Kingfisher at the ITC Grand Central in Mumbai on February 14, offered a word of caution to marketers that promotions are double edged swords, loaded with the power of having an adverse or positive effect on any brand.
The session, Do Promotions Create Positive Buzz for a Brand?, was moderated by Kiran Khalap, ad man and co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand & Communications Consultancy. The panellists included Abdul Khan, vice-president and all India marketing head, Tata Teleservices; Andrew Levermore, chief executive officer, HyperCity Retail; and Gunjan Srivastava, senior director, marketing, Philips Consumer Lifestyle.
Khalap vouched for WoM, quoting figures from a Nielsen study. WoM, according to the study, was estimated to stand at $1 billion in 2006 and has grown by 35 per cent in the last year, he said. The study, according to Khalap, voted for WoM, with 78 per cent of the people sampled (26,000) taking recommendations seriously - a figure that is 15 per cent higher than the second most credible source, newspapers.
Khan's advice comes clean and straight: There should be credibility and communication should speak the truth and nothing else.
Besides authenticity, the other issues Khan said were important for the success of a promotion were resonance, perceived exclusivity and paradigm change. He cited the Gmail example to drive home the power of a community that starts on its own. The popular email service became popular only because of its exclusivity factor, as it opened to users not on a registration basis, but only by invitation.
Levermore, the next speaker, shared his retail experience. According to him, shopping in India is more of entertainment. "Indians shop as a family. They spend more time in stores. Forty per cent of the purchase in India is done on impulse," he said.
All this, he added, means more retail oriented promotions that, in turn, will get more returns. In spite of such virtues, the task for marketers is not easy. For a retail promotion to be effective, it has to be "innovative and supported by attractive communication, proper placement and ample trial inducement".
He gave examples of some bizarre promotions - a cold drink free with a deodorant or a glue stick free with orange juice. He said this should be avoided at all costs. "This is an area which marketers need to look into and try and match the product and the promotion," he said.
Gunjan Srivastava, senior director and customer marketing manager, Philips Consumer Lifestyle, pointed out that promotions need to be strategic and, in addition to improving monthly sales, should help in longterm brand building. "More than 70 per cent promotions fail because they are not supported with adequate budgets. Indeed, it would be much better to run fewer programmes that are strongly promoted than a larger number of sub-optimal efforts," he said.
Answering a question from the audience whether the company was looking forward to localising its programme, Srivastava answered in the affirmative. "We are internally discussing to come up with hyper-local programmes," he said.
However, he said that all consumer promotions need to be completely integrated across all media - outdoor, retail, newspaper, radio and television. "The interactive media - the Internet and mobile - will assume far greater importance with increasing penetration and services like SMS. Localised media like radio, supported by interactivity, can be used to increase participation," he added.
Echoing Khan's words, Srivastava too stressed on the credibility of the offer. "Most consumers want to be sure of a high probability of winning and the credibility of the offer and that of the brand play a key role. Gifts that they can relate to are more persuasive than unfamiliar incentives, however attractive," he said.
The universal message from the session was to couple innovative media with simple messages - simple messages work the best - to help break through clutter and urge quick action.