Building e-commerce brands the FMCG way

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Myntra, the Bangalore based e-commerce company launched a new TV campaign recently. Created by Happy Creative Services, the TVC  ‘juxtaposes new-age fashion with old-world grit‘ and positions the brand as ‘the fashionable new age‘. The execution is slick and a welcome departure from the typical ‘fashion’ advertising. Of late, several e-commerce sites have taken to TV advertising: FlipKart,CleartripBigRockMakeMyTrip and SnapDeal to name a few. All of them have visible online advertising and extensive e-mail marketing plans. But in India there’s no getting away from TV advertising to reach out to a larger audience and build traffic for an e-commerce site.

Building online properties or e-commerce sites in India through marketing activities – either online or offline seem to have gone through 3 phases. Years ago, Sunsilk Gang of Girls was perhaps the first big online properly built purely on the back of a massive ATL campaign. I guess the crores spent on promoting the community site was justified as it in a way helped create a halo around brand Sunsilk. Brands like too have benefitted immensely from their brand-building TV advertising. Some that followed suit haven’t had much success: remember BigAdda?

Then came the phase of building online properties without any support from mass media advertising – the recession seems to have played its part. RedBus for example, has built the brand purely by delivering a great product and appropriating a niche in the market. We seem to have entered a new phase now. Brands which hitherto have built a customer base purely through product superiority, service and word of mouth (and perhaps some online advertising) are seeking to reach out to new consumers. As with FMCG products, television is still the best bet in India. In the US, the trend is similar: E*Trade spent heavily on television to establish the brand. EDS was a regular during the Super Bowl and most of the ads were mammoth productions. Amazon on the other hand, took a cautious approach: they went online in 1995 but the first major TV campaign wasn’t out until 1999. Zappos (now a subsidiary of Amazon) too was largely built on the back of online marketing and seem to have produced TV ads in 2010.

But as we’ve seen with several online brands, television advertising alone is no guarantee to increased traffic & monetary success. I have noticed advertising for AOL India, Rediff, Indiatimes and several other brands in the past. Some ads motivated me to try them out but the product did not offer any reason for me to stay on. In contrast, my preferred choice for online travel bookings is Cleartrip – a preference created in my mind long before their TV advertising. In fact, I thought the TV ads were self-indulgent and offered no specific reason for a potential new user to consider Cleartrip.

I know of several diehard Flipkart users who’ve formed a positive opinion about the brand through sheer product experience – not through any TV advertising. I think successful online brands have either been first off the block in a space (IMDB comes to mind) or have offered a genuine, tangible product difference and a great user experience. Sure, there comes a stage for market expansion and reaching out to the first timers. There I feel a specific benefit – ease of use, range, savings etc. must be conveyed. How does the advertising for commerce brands score on that front? Do comment.

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