Blogs and bloggers are not yet considered influential in affecting brand choice. At least, not in India. All this could change. Procter & Gamble recently flew in a bunch of ‘mommy bloggers’ to their HQ in Ohio. P&G’s baby care unit had a two-way dialogue with the bloggers and explored areas of common interest such as baby development. Makes sense for P&G with a lot riding on word-of-mouth for brands like Pampers.
Can bloggers play a critical role on brand purchase? I think on categories where others’ opinion is sought, definitely so. It is the equivalent of signing up a celebrity brand ambassador – only more believable and considerably less cheaper.
Typically, categories where the involvement or investment is high, one tends to seek opinions from others. For me, as an Apple, The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) is a must-read everyday. Automobiles, real estate, mobile phones, lifestyle & fashion, home care, baby care products, schools, laptops & PCs are typically categories where bloggers can play a role. When my wife was expecting and when our daughter was a few months old, her lifeline was Baby Center, a site sponsored by Johnson & Johnson. In fact J&J formed the BabyCenter Parenting Federation, a hub featuring 17 mom blogs. Tech blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo too are favourite hunting ground for those who seek information on new gadgets, compare products before purchase and so on. Niche categories like Automobile have their famous blogs like Autoblog. In India, the tech sites like Tech2 and GadgetsGuru are at the forefront of parting opinion and reviews. While there are several bloggers writing about technology and new media, they are known only among the ardent web crawlers. The average bloke on the internet relies perhaps on the better known big brand websites.
This could change over time and marketers are actively seeking to “influence” this sphere. I know that ‘influence’ is exactly the opposite of what blogs are meant to be – independent opinions, uninfluenced by brands. Brands like Fastrack are already actively participating. Blogging as a phenomenon is in the public eye thanks to celebrity bloggers like Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan. Corporate blogging is another trend that is likely to play catch up in India. Infosys has its own set of blogs (check out this interesting post on iPhone).
Starting to write a blog does not guarantee an immediate sphere of influence (I can vouch for it!). But writing passionately about topics that are close to your heart will bring in audience over time. And when the topic is something that other seek opinion on, the corporate world will woo bloggers too.