Aishwarya Ramesh
Social Media

When brands banter, who gets the last word?

In the past, messages from brands have always been one-sided. Brands disseminated information through various advertising mediums and consumers took it at face value. Now, social media is changing the conversation and how it takes place.

PhonePe, a digital wallet company, was unexpectedly affected by the Yes Bank crisis. PhonePe relies on Yes Bank’s UPI platform to process transactions. So, when the Reserve Bank of India placed a moratorium on Yes Bank, PhonePe services were rendered unavailable. Rival digital payments company Paytm Payments Bank took the opportunity to invite PhonePe to leverage its UPI platform.

Some social media users interpreted Paytm's tweet as a friendly offer for help and opined that PhonePe's response (below) was uncalled for.

Other users opined that it was a fitting reply, and considered Paytm's tweet a publicity stunt and a bid to make it relevant in the context of news that is trending. Irrespective of who had the last word in this argument, the fact of the matter is this - social media has dramatically changed the way brands talk to each other. Nowadays, brands no longer exist and operate in isolated silos defined by their category. They are increasingly watching what their competitors are saying, doing, and how they interact with peers and consumers alike.

A classic example of two brands that have taken their banter to another level - much to the enjoyment of other social media users - is Zomato and Tinder. The two brands are from different, almost unrelated categories and they play very different roles in consumer lives, too. One is a food delivery service and the other is a dating app that aims to connect like-minded individuals. Others can most certainly take a leaf out of their book when it comes to light-hearted banter that benefits both the brands in the conversation.

Recently, when Zomato changed its display image on Twitter to 'happy' delivery boy Sonu's picture, Tinder tweeted this out.

Also Read: Zomato's 'happy rider' Sonu steals hearts on social, his smile figures on Lay's packs

Another service that both Tinder and Zomato both frequently interact with in India is Netflix. Netflix India frequently tweets and replies to Tinder India. In the case of these three brands, the roles that they play in a user's life are well connected. The phrase 'Netflix and Chill' is used to describe intimate scenarios by Tinder users and Zomato because, well, let's face it, no consumer is going to cook with an ongoing 'Netflix and Chill' scenario.

Tinder also acknowledges user-generated memes and content on Twitter, and is often seen replying, retweeting and engaging with users. The social media executives often take these memes with a pinch of salt. Most of the time, they are indirectly acknowledging that a conversation about their own brand cannot take place without mentioning these two names - even though they are not direct competitors. Here's an example of some memes Tinder India retweeted on Valentine's Day.

In the run-up to Valentine's Day, Tinder India and Netflix India created a thread of cute, funny banter that appeared to be a pre-planned coordinated social media conversation.

Many users called it 'cute' and one user brought another brand into the mix, too.

It's not just the new age digital-first brands that are concerned with changing conversations. In the past, messages from brands have always been one-sided. Brands disseminated information through various advertising mediums and consumers took it at face value. Earlier this year, afaqs! interviewed Sunil Kataria, CEO - India and SAARC of Godrej Consumer Products. During the conversation, he stressed on the importance of building an authentic digital presence for a brand and explained how consumer perception of brands have changed, thanks to the digital medium.

Also Read: "Indian consumers are unreasonable": Sunil Kataria - CEO, Godrej Consumer Products

"Consumers listen closely to what others are saying about the brand and there is a higher belief in what’s being said. This is a big shift that has been brought about by social media and other channels of information. Earlier, if a brand put out an ad campaign, they would just believe it, but now there are other ways in which they can verify the claims that the brand is making. That’s all become possible, thanks to social media and access to technology. In fact, I’d rather rely on advertising less and pay more attention to what people who use my brand are saying about the products," says Kataria, who has over two decades of experience as a marketer.

He also mentioned that consumers don’t want brands to speak solely from an advertising perspective. "Earlier, the motive was to induce trials in consumers, but now there’s been a shift in that role. The ROI of these campaigns has definitely come down. If you’re only on one channel, there’s no way to create consumer awareness since consumers have no other way to access information about your brand. Earlier, they would believe an ad campaign, they’d go to a shop and pick it up. Nowadays, consumers have access to multiple sources of information. The role of a mass media campaign is about building salience, at best. The role of getting into the consideration set of a consumer, and hence induce trial – this has shifted a lot to other pivots," says Kataria.