17 November 2014

Experiential. Digital. Activate! If you throw peanuts, you get monkeys.

I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years and like many in our industry, I am sick and tired of having to justify the value activation and events deliver! It’s true that many clients not only get it, but also get it enough to reap the benefits of the results. But many other clients don't.

By many a yardstick, our business is the toughest business in the marketing communication gamut… yeah, yeah, everyone thinks they have a tough life but seriously, from a business perspective, running an activation/events business is pretty damn tough. If you were to analyze our business with Michael Porter’s 5-forces model, you’d pretty much decide to shut down the agency and open a kirana store. Everyone who can put pressure on the agency, and many can, to get their pound of flesh does.

Agencies and the industry are unable to invest heavily in key elements like quality of people (creative, strategy, planning, technology), creative resources, technology, SAFETY, vendor development, quality of materials, training of temporary manpower…. the list is endless.

Unfortunately, what is playing out is a sad game of short termism that is leading to deep long term damage to the industry. With the almighty squeeze that the 5 forces are playing out on agencies in the business, its becoming harder and harder for agencies to invest in what’s good for the business and for clients’ brands.

In such a scenario, the stakeholder who should support and bolster the agency is the client; because it's the client whose brand and asset is at stake and who stands to gain the most from the agency thriving and delivering better results. Many clients, unfortunately, are looking at quick gains to get the most out of their money NOW, rather than looking at investing in the agency and its resources to be able to get value for their brand in the medium term.

How can clients help activation/event agencies?

First, develop ‘non-short-term’ relationships with agencies, and make some level of financial commitment to such relationships. Such commitments allow the agency to have a medium term view and invest in resources that would then contribute positively to clients’ brand building.

Second, Instead of calling for multi-agency pitches, which is counter productive because agencies are investing in pitching rather than the process of building clients’ brands. Trust in your agency’s ability, give them more information and ‘gyaan’ about the brand, and make them a strategic partner. It will pay back in dollops!

Third, respect intellectual property of the agency. Just because an idea has no physical form does not mean it belongs to nobody. If your agency does not have the ability to execute the idea you have presented, “buy” the idea and get another agency to execute it (if you like). Investing in intellectual property develops stronger relationships and develops the industry at large.

Fourth, pay fairly for the value you are getting. Negotiation and driving value is all very well, but no agency or business is going to take on projects that make a loss. If the client is going to beat the price down, the difference will show in quality, for sure. You may get a great value deal 1 time out 10 but you will end up paying for it the other 9 times.

HELP us help you, I say to all clients, help us to deliver better, deliver more, deliver faster for your brands.

Atul S. Nath is the Founder; Managing Director of Candid Marketing, founded in 1995. You can follow atul’s musings on twitter @atuln

13 October 2014

Experiential Marketing in the Mobile age

“I hear and I forget…I see and I remember…I experience and I understand.”
- Confucius

Sample this – Johaan, a regular 23-year-old, wakes up in the morning to the sound of the radio alarm on his smartphone. On his way to work, the mobile again updates him on the mails waiting for him while outdoor communication, from various brands, vies for his attention. At work the PC is his gateway to the world, assisting him on all ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ needs. There is a blurred line between official and unofficial anyway!

On a typical evening his attention is divided between the television screen, the conversations on the phone (he doesn't call it his mobile or cellphone cause he’s never used a landline!), as well as the Internet through his laptop.

The unresolved question now is Рhow does a marketer activate him effectively? (communication is pass̩, marketing is all about activating consumers now), he who is pressed for time and space-of-mind and does not devote himself completely to one medium of communication?

Against the Indian population of 1.25 billion, there are over 800 million mobile connections. It is estimated that of these, 92 million are active mobile social users – that more than the population of Germany!

Just like the real world provides an opportunity for marketers to sell to consumers and activate consumers, just the same the Internet and mobile world provides an opportunity to sell and activate. The key to the connect on-ground and on the mobile is the experience. In such a scenario, experiential marketing is assuming more importance for brand to create a connect with the youth. Experiential marketing focuses on providing touch points to a consumer that are personal and encourage two-way dialogue. The mobile phone is unique in its ability to be both – personal and provide engagement.

Along with the newfound self-confidence that young India has in itself, consumers are smarter and have unprecedented access to information and data. Advertisers have long used the approach of one-size fits all within a demographic segment, and relied heavily on creating generic mass media messaging. But they are now learning that they need to be more attuned to the demands and desires of specific target audiences.

The plethora of marketing directed at young consumers has invariably made them develop a shield towards marketing related communication and a shorter attention span. The world and all our screens are one giant advertising communication billboard today and not all of it is interesting and very little of it is intelligent and targeted. If a marketer does not manage to capture the consumer’s imagination quickly, and bring them into the inner-circle of activation, he may never get a second chance with the same consumer.

The new iOS and Mac Yosemite OS have the ability for a user to work seamlessly or consume media across Apple devices on a document or email or anything one may be doing. All one has to do is flick between devices and keep working or consuming media, marketing and activation must keep pace with this to seek and keep loyal consumers.
Consumers are living their lives across physical and cyber worlds seamlessly, seeking information, evaluating purchase options and then finally making brand decisions. Consumers don't think in terms of the stores, malls, traditional trade, modern trade, mobile, internet, PC, tablet etc etc. Its all one huge hotch potch to them and that's what we have to jump into and talk to them and activate them for our brand.

Brand Activation agencies are in an enviable position of owning the last mile for our clients’ brands, few other brand custodians understand the consumer better at the moment of truth. Now, if the agency can layer on to this an ability to understand the mobile behaviour and world of the consumer…..

Atul S. Nath is the Founder; Managing Director of Candid Marketing, founded in 1995. You can follow atul’s musings on twitter @atuln

07 September 2014

Top 10 joys of being Johaan's father (just about 75+ days into being one)

....in no particular order

1. Getting him to go to sleep when he is particularly restless, patience, a lot walking around, humming, rocking. And then finally he's asleep.

2. He's asleep, almost. He opens his eyes. Looks straight at my face. Seems to be reassured. Goes back to sleep.

3. Papa and Mama holding him.

4. Watching Ruch feed him, such a loving experience for both Johaan's mama and Johaan.

5. Burping him after his feed multiple times a day, slow and steady.

6. Walking up to stand next to his cot, his eyes are wandering, focussing on nothing. He looks at me, looks away, looks at me again. Smiles, laughs.

7. The first selfie with both of us in United jerseys!

8. Having him lie down on my chest and holding his little fingers.

9. Falling asleep along with him.

10. Massaging and bathing him in the morning, especially if he is well fed, Such a joy and he loves it!