Does your brand really need Social Media?

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Mark Ritson, an Associate Professor of Marketing and brand consultant wrote a thought-provoking article in Marketing Week, lampooning the herd mentality of marketers who use social media for their brands, just for the sake of it, irrespective of the fit. By way of explanation, he writes:

I can appreciate why 2 million people follow Google on Twitter and what those consumers get in return. But most brands don’t have the newsworthiness, broad appeal or dynamism to have any chance of making Twitter work for them.

Reminded me of an apocryphal client-agency story. When a client questioned the need for advertising to create a brand, citing Google as an example, the agency retorted that the client create a product like Google first. Proving two things: 1. it all begins with the product and not communications; 2. there are still people in advertising with a spine.

Anyway, with ‘newsworthiness’ Mark has raised a pertinent point. All of us in advertising (yours truly included) have at some point pushed for a digital or social campaign for a brand without fully buying into the need for such a campaign. Several FMCG brands rely on television, rightly so, to make an impact with their audience. But those targeting the youth often get tempted to use digital or social media in the mix – led by the belief that ‘our target audience spends time there’. Fair enough. But several questions remain unanswered: why should the target audience engage with your brand in the digital space? What experience or new news are we offering them that we haven’t offered already on television? What will be the reward for the audience?

When I mean ‘product story’, I don’t necessarily mean a product advantage to be conveyed through social media. Most FMCG brands are parity products anyway. What I meant is the idea which becomes a reward for those engaging with you on social media.  In the case of Hippo, the reward is entertainment through the quaint humour of the brand (read a nice post by fellow blogger Kartik on the same). Parle G too has a Twitter account where they have taken forward the ‘genius’ idea. The brand has universal appeal – it is seen as a nutritious food across all classes, ages.  The advertising property of  ‘G maane genius‘ appeals mainly to kids perhaps. Does taking forward the genius platform on Twitter, really help? Maybe it’s early days yet and over time Parle G can provide ‘newsworthiness’ on its Twitter feed too. But when you are dealing with everyday, low  interest products it is easier to make the TV commercials entertaining (and therefore rewarding) to the consumer. A mere presence in social media doesn’t make it rewarding for the consumer. Lesson learnt.

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