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'The new media is an unstoppable platform to conduct businesses'

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | January 11, 2010
The optimum use of social media in brand building was well debated by the panellists at the eighth Digital Marketing Roundtable in Mumbai

The eighth Digital Marketing Roundtable gripped the audience and the panellists in an interesting debate about the optimal usage of social media to build a brand's image in a competitive age. The roundtable was held at Sunville Banquets, Mumbai on January 8.

The panellists were people from diverse backgrounds and with varied experiences, including V Ramani, co-founder and vice-chairperson, Ignitee Digital Solutions; Sanjay Tripathy, executive vice-president, marketing, HDFC Standard Life; Abdul Khan, chief marketing officer, Tata Docomo; Quateel Ahmed, senior vice-president, advertising, S Kumars; Rammohan Sundaram, founder, chief executive officer and managing director, Networkplay.in and Vijay Iyer, director, strategy and brand solutions, Komli Media.

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Tripathy started the discussion by saying that he believes in the social media where everybody gets a role to play. Giving an example of two different brands, he said that Dell can use it differently and Ajanta Tooth Brush can use it in its own manner. In short, different elements can be used, depending upon the brand.

Khan said that he personally feels that the whole market is going towards Web 2.0 and only passionate people engage with the medium - people who are innovators and who are well aware of what to do next.

Iyer expressed the sentiments of the prevailing market in a few words, saying that the category which has shown immense interest in Facebook is telecom. The Indian market is expanding in all shapes and sizes and evangelization becomes a must in this scenario. On Facebook, the front page can be sold to anyone. Evaluating the present situation, he added that the Internet will eat up the space of other media.

Iyer opined that if banners are removed and if click-through rate (CTR) becomes the measurement tool, one won't get enough clicks. Social media, Facebook in particular, is about the group of people one knows but where advertisers are concerned, many questions still linger. A whole lot of advertisers ask questions such as how long they can be on Facebook and if it is possible for one year.

Tripathy shared HDFC Standard Life's experience with Facebook, saying that a contest was launched which asked people whether they wanted to do something for their parents. The response was overwhelming as about 5,000 people circulated the contest amongst themselves. In this case, digital plays a huge role in marketing strategy. The website should be strong to increase brand awareness, especially to engage a person. One such example is Google Alert, subscribed by people to know news and to engage in an activity. One should be capable of creating ideas and then utilising the appropriate tools, along with the advertising strategy.

Iyer stated that whether it is brands or individuals, the new media makes a difference to both. Top brands want a presence on Facebook and special pages are created for the advertisers. Facebook is also expensive, so many players shy away from advertising on the networking site. An agency in Mumbai cracked the banner last month but had to close down within four hours because of enormous rush.

Ahmed of S Kumars spoke on the personal front, mentioning his Facebook experiences about a friend who posted pictures of gliders. Indirectly, the place where the friend spent the vacation benefits from such posts on a social networking site - and so does the glider company. Another one was about an FHM cover posted on Facebook, where actor Amrita Rao posed in a sexy avatar. The comments written in that particular context drew attention to the magazine, too.

Ahmed expressed that although the market penetration is not high for the medium, now the space is growing and at various stages, as consumers happen to exist, so are the advertisers and agencies. Social media is diffused and goes to a larger medium of audience. To build a brand, one has to have a brand identity and then client deliverables are met.

Khan made it clear that there is a huge opportunity in working with technology and there are ways to get to it. According to a survey, people accessing Twitter worldwide on the phone are 80 per cent and the same in India is less than 10 per cent. Khan added that the Tata Docomo brand is all about inspiring as it gets an audience in the age group of 22-24 years. Docomo is only six months old and the company also had an offline Twitter festival in Mumbai recently. Khan also mentioned that it is a fancy in today's world to own social media.
Ramani also spoke in favour of smaller brands, saying that enough has been done in intrusive marketing but it is a different call for smaller brands. While admitting that smaller players cannot perform in the way the big ones such as Docomo, he emphasised that it helps to own social space in today's world. He suggested ways to groom, to look good and stay connected with the audience.

Sundaram said that Dell believed in reaching to the audience. A brand's reach is a million times bigger than an individual. Looking at a simple example from the past, he said that Cadbury's spent Rs 100 crore to convince people that its brand is not infested with worms. The company also got Amitabh Bachchan on board to convince millions of Indians. Social media was not huge at that point of time but if such an incident occurs today, the company will definitely take shelter in social media.

Tripathy answered a very simple query by saying that the majority of marketers do not know how to advertise on the digital medium. Even today, many cannot understand the meaning of things posted on Twitter but he is hopeful that things will change with time.

Khan concluded with an interesting piece of information which highlighted the changing scenario. He said that Google is the biggest brand in the world. However, it is approaching others to advertise in a college contest - and that is a refreshing change!