The Future For Brands – Talk To Them !

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Humans are the most social of all animals. We love to talk and interact with others. It is one activity we crave for and if are deprived of it, we could sometimes lose our sanity too. Well, advertisers are realizing this fact too; i.e., if they do not interact with their consumers, they could lose their market share to those who do so! The latest development in TV ads is helping advertisers do just this. Technology is being used to change ads from being a one-way communication process to two-way. It’s time that companies realized that not many are watching their ads. Think about it. Every time there is an ‘ad break’, we use it for a ‘loo-break’ or a ‘mobile checking break’ or a ‘what’s-on-in-other-channels- break’!!! This is making many big advertisers turn away from TV.

 Take a test… try to remember the last few Nike commercials you saw on TV. Chances are that you will not be able to clearly remember them, for the simple reason that Nike is no more big on TV. Nike’s spending on TV and print has dropped by 40% in the last three years, though its total marketing budget has increased and is today at a record high of $2.4 billion. Nike has shifted its focus from expensive celebrity endorsements and has started making more interactive online marketing plans that encourage the user to communicate directly with the company. So those are the products like Nike+ running sensor and the Nike ‘FuelBand’ that are its key areas of focus today. The one division that has doubled its size in the company (from 100 employees to 200 in just 6 months) is Nike Digital Sport. The company spent $800 million on ‘non-traditional’ media in 2010. Rather than spending on the Super Bowl as it had traditionally always done, Nike feels that it makes better sense to focus on its online communities. It is here that most of its consumers spend their time (and not in front of the TV). It is here that it can get 200 million visits everyday, as compared to that one Super Bowl Sunday when 200 million Americans watch the game. It is here that Nike encourages millions of its users to post their workout details and in return gives them fitness tips, helps them share their workouts with friends, et al. This ‘conversation’ helps the company know more about its customers and helps it plan better marketing strategies.
Considering the fact that today, more than 5 million runners log on to Nike to check their performance, Nike has followed the right strategy. It’s not surprising that in spite of Adidas and Reebok merging and becoming one giant organization and in spite of so many new and hot upstarts in tow, Nike remains the world’s largest sports company; for the simple reason that it has stayed connected to its consumers.
Campaigns Vs Conversations
Everybody is waking up to the fact that passive one way communication will work no more. So Microsoft has gone ahead and made this very passive medium, i.e. the TV ad, into an interactive one. It’s introduced the NUads on its gaming console Xbox 360 Kinect. It’s the new hands-free gaming experience, which requires no controls except your hand gestures, making everybody in the family from the 6-year old to the 60-year old enjoy it. On this platform, it has launched these interactive ads.
The ads that are streamed on the Xbox are different from your regular ads, for they ask you to participate in opinion polls, and even give you the results instantly. They ask you if you want to share the ad on Twitter, and once you say ‘Yes’, it takes just a wave of your hand to post it on your account on the social networking site of your choice. An advertisement for a TV show will ask you if you want to put a reminder on your phone, so that you don’t forget to watch it. Again, a swipe of your hand will send the information of the show timing on your mobile phone and set an alarm to remind you to watch the show. This and various other interactive activities have been built into the ads so that you no more watch them passively, or worse, still walk away while the ad break is on.

 
There was a time when companies talked and customers listened. Today, with these NUads, the customer talks and the company listens.
Apple – The Game Changer
The one company that has always believed in changing the rules of the game is Apple. Even its marketing strategy is a ‘game changer’. The last time Apple invested heavily in making an expensive ad was its ‘1984’ commercial. After that, it has focused on creating news around its product launches. When Steve Jobs announced that he was unveiling a new product, there used to be a mad scramble to be a part of that event. His carefully crafted words ensured that everybody was talking about his new invention. As a result, people queued up for hours outside its retail outlets to be able to buy the product. Apple could have reduced the rush and sold products online, but that wasn’t newsworthy. There’s no brand that attracts queues outside its stores the way Apple does. Steve Jobs was among the first to understand the power of PR, the power of creating a buzz. These queues got people talking about Apple, increasing the excitement around each of his products (even Samsung, Apple’s arch rival, could not help but talk about these queues in its ads!).

 
So obsessed are people with Apple that its users believe that it’s the best without even considering the competition, for they say, “If Apple says it’s the best… well, then it is!” This perception was built not with ads, but with conversations between people. Slick PR efforts, over the years, have helped nurture these conversations.
 
The bottom line is that if people talk about you, then you will survive. 
People need to talk about the product or service for it to succeed. Marketers are going a step further and trying to engage people in a conversation through their advertisements. It’s the new way to catch people’s attention and get them to share details about themselves. The better I know you, the better I can sell to you. The future belongs to the brand that can make consumers talk about it or talk to it.

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