Mobile Conversations 2010: Are leads the right yardstick

By Sapna Nair , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | March 29, 2010
The who's who of the digital industry discussed whether leads are a valid currency today

While all forms of communication are directed at pursuing the consumer to either buy or make a repeat purchase, the key task is to reinforce loyalty and build brand imagery. Leading names in the digital industry discussed the effective use of the medium to enhance customer engagement with a brand at Mobile Conversations 2010, an event organised by afaqs! on Friday, March 26.

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Sankalp Mehrotra, business director, Affle, observed that the digital medium is often looked at as a medium for persuasive communication. Can digital be used to achieve other objectives? When using the medium, is lead really a valid currency? He posed this question to a panel comprising names such as Max Hegerman, president, Tribal DDB; Albert Pereira, head, Phone Valley; Ramesh Natarajan, deputy country manager, South Asia, DHL; and SP Narayanan, vice-president, marketing, Idea Cellular.

Mehrotra's point was that consumers were evolving and becoming smarter. To expect them to click and fill up a form to generate leads is not an appropriate approach. Hegerman said that leads are important but they are category centric. "What's important is to look at the medium in a long term perspective. The challenge is to make clients understand how mobiles work and make innovative campaigns for the medium," he said.

Narayanan observed that often, marketers desire instant results from the medium. "Before making the sale, it's imperative to engage the customer, build awareness and make way in the customer's consideration set. Mobile is at a great advantage as it is the closest medium to the customer but it is not being used to its full potential," Narayanan stated.

He cited the example of auto maker Land Rover in the US, which used the medium effectively. The mobile campaign was implemented in three stages with the ultimate objective of getting consumers interested for test drives and further results in sales. There were three videos made in stages; the first one let the consumer experience the car; the second stage told the consumer to identify the nearest dealer by entering the zip code; while the third stage had the customer speak to the dealer using the click to call facility.

Out of the 100 people who were contacted, 89 per cent saw the video, 8 per cent entered the zip code and 3 per cent wanted to be connected with the dealer. "Although very few people called the dealer, the awareness built was very high," Narayanan said.

Natarajan of DHL said that while mobile is a great medium for lead generation and branding, devising a relevant communication is very important. "Every brand has a story to tell but who is the customer and is it relevant to him are questions that need to be addressed," he said.

Hegerman reiterated the same point and said that engaging and communicating with only those who are interested makes it a more meaningful conversation.

The common complaint was that there wasn't enough education about interactive ways to communicate with the customer, apart from banners and videos, as also the need for reaching the customer in the relevant context. Narayanan said that spam messages, sold at very cheap rates, are giving mobile advertising a bad name and spam anyone and everyone.

"We need to correct this by reaching out to people who are interested in a way that is non-intrusive and respectable," he added.

Pereira gave an example of an activity undertaken for sports brand Puma. For the Euro Cup, Puma implemented a campaign called Celebrate the Goal. For this, it created small ringtones for each of the playing countries. Customers were able to download the ringtones at Puma stores by typing a code. The customer also had to name five friends who would be interested in the ringtone.

During the Euro Cup, when a goal was scored, the customer's phone would ring with the ringtone and on answering the call, would be connected to his friends on conference call.
"This was a voice based campaign that worked wonderfully. It operated on the pull model and created strong engagement with the brand," he said.

The consensus drawn was that leads may not be the reality any more. A more structured process involving familiarity, engagement and awareness, which enables a two way communication with the customers, is critical and much more meaningful.

Mobile Conversations 2010 was organised by afaqs! in association with Affle and 160by2.