No discussion about the ‘new advertising’ is complete without someone uttering the word ‘conversations’ in the context of brands and social media. Frankly, no consumer in his right mind would want to have a meaningful conversation with a hotel, airline, ISP, telecom provider or a college brand. But there is a mad rush from brands to be part of this conversation – Facebook page and Twitter feed (the former being most preferred) being the conduit. Another ‘c’ word that often gets mentioned is co-creation, where it is implied that consumers actually play a role in brand communication, creating it together, as it were. I don’t see that happening either. Another habit is to mention ‘digital marketing’ as if to treat it as an appendage or add-on to regular marketing. Today, there is just marketing, in which many channels (traditional mass media, web, interactive platforms, digital devices, mobile apps) play a role.
The consumer is in a position to comment, critique, complain, compliment and share brand’s content. There is no conversation or co-creation in their true sense. All of brand’s communication today (even the traditional 30-second TVC) is content which the consumer can simply passively consume (on TV or on YouTube) or share if found interesting, comment or critique if she wishes to or compliment (on the rare occasion) through a commenting system or social media networks. The conversation, if we can call it that is largely related to complaints or service redressal. Sure, marketers need to listen to what the consumers are saying about their brands in social media spaces and take corrective measures when necessary. But The most important ‘C’ of all would be the content which is of some value to the consumer – be it in the form of entertainment or utility.