Remember campaigns such as Utterly Butterly Delicious and Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye during the ’90s? It was a different era when marketers could engage with consumers through traditional methods. Marketing has come a long way since. The advent of the information superhighway has truly changed the way consumers and subsequently marketers behave. Marketing today is not about talking at consumers; it is a two-way dialogue. A dialogue that isn’t purely a message the brand wants to convey, but a story that echoes with masses.
What remains unchanged is the importance of a good compelling story. In the current digital era of conversations, marketers are persistently conversing with millennials and Gen Z. They share one common thread with brands — self-expression. They are a generation on the hunt for purposeful goals, bespoke experiences and meaningful dialogues, and are looking for brands to inspire them with relatable content and stories. They are self-aware and do not need brands to show them who they are but instead want brands to understand their underlying drive, and give them the inspiration and impetus to take the conversation further; hence ushering in the era of co-creation.
Beyond functional benefits
No longer are brands competing on functional benefits. In this digital era liberated by social media and countless formats, brands are expressing through storytelling, making content and creators the language brands use to communicate. Consequently, most impactful brands being appreciative of content as more than a marketing strategy prefer a tool that crafts cultures and builds communities. From tech to consumer and lifestyle giants, connecting with consumers begins with understanding their nuances to successfully tap into beliefs that drive the generation. Brands that recognise these shared values crack the ability to capitalise the right sentiment and create a sweet spot where brands and crowd-culture collide.
Trendsetters such as Airbnb, Uber, Apple, Starbucks, Coke and Oreo have created striking and longstanding relationships with their consumers through the route of communities. Moving from interruption to interaction, these brands have changed and challenged the global forms of traditional marketing — huge billboards and massive elaborate TV campaigns, which bear in mind a purpose. Right from Oreo’s classic Dunk in the Dark challenge to Coke’s Share a Coke and Airbnb’s Live There campaign, brands have been at the centre while consumers do the actual talking. Apple’s game-changer campaign Shot on iPhone got its audiences to vouch for its product; it went on to become one of the most creative billboard campaigns of this decade. From co-creating with consumers to co-
creating with creative minds in the digital realm, we are nurturing stories beyond the limits of individual imagination.
The future of co-creation
The fact that millennials and Gen Z are channel agnostic and consume content across spectrums, has given an impetus to the rise of content creators; and brands an opportunity to connect with their audience. Brands are doing so through relevant and interesting multi-format content stories. The success of this route is also evident from the fact that online video distribution providers plan to continue investing in programmes that support creators, and encourage diversity and distribution of their content. This is made possible by a channel base with over a million subscribers. Content creators have over time built an audience base and credibility through creativity, relevance and conversations. Relevant and localised content distributed through the right platform using real time insights is the kind of content the new gen double tunes into.
India’s prominent content creator and comic group, AIB, known for its hilarious and refreshing take on topical events like net neutrality, politics, elections etc, is now on every marketer’s speed dial. With over three million subscribers on YouTube and heaps of fresh content churned out in regular fashion, AIB has taken the video streaming bandwagon by storm. Another great example of new age storytellers would be the Facebook community page called Terribly Tiny Tales. A platform that started with short compelling stories with and without brand associations, now produces audio and video content through crowdsourcing. Similarly, there is a growing community of independent content creators who have created a niche for themselves. This conversational thread is the changing face of marketing where it has evolved from just a support function to being the focal point; and has definitely gained popularity in every marketer’s strategy. The recent DAN-e4m report quotes the current digital media spends contributing 15% to the total ad spend of Rs 559 billion, and is expected to reach 24% of the entire market by 2020.
The convergence of channels, marketing and technology has redefined the ins and outs of building brands in the modern world. Marketers are deploying massive budgets behind digital formats and content co-creators as the snowball effect of being able to effectively measure and target utilising the cyber space. Various brands can vouch for how sustained efforts have delivered not just business but measurable business outcomes. No more are creators promising views, but instead delivering measurement metrics rooted in conversations and engagement that convey the soul of a campaign.
The future of co-creation is going to be bigger than traditional marketing, given that our infrastructure supports the growth rates. With brands realising the power of co-creators, there will be a plethora of brand associations creating a clutter. To my mind, breaking that clutter is going to be the biggest challenge for a marketer and this will give birth to the next generation of marketers.
The author is marketing head, Bacardi India