Saturday, August 03, 2013

Paid Media Versus unpaid: A Debate

Paid Media versus Upaid!

By Harish Bijoor 

The brand manager is in a dilemma today. In the old days, all media was paid for. Today, you have yet another avatar on the rampage, “earned media”. While paid media is what you buy as advertising in every form, earned media is what you earn as coverage in media that is viral, editorial in guise, and C2C (consumer to consumer) in reach, credibility and consumer buy-in terms.

The dilemma is simple and complex at the same time. The simple dilemma point is which one to back? Which one gives your brand the bang for the buck? Which one is trusted more? Which one delivers sales? Which one delivers image? And which one damages the brand more, when push comes to shove?
The complex part of the dilemma is measurement of efficacy. How do you know which avatar of media did what for your brand? How do you know what paid media did for you as opposed to earned media? And how do you plant your marketing bucks on each? In what proportion? And how deep must you be in earned media?

The dilemma of the brand manager will continue. I will however put my weight behind paid media for now. I do believe paid media works better for brands in today’s context. Paid media is specific, controlled by the brand to the point of a science, is dished out with consistency which a consumer is used to, and by and large, credibility of paid mediums remain reasonably intact to date.

Yes, advertising is being trusted less and less by consumers. Yes, advertising is seen to be something that promises the stratosphere and offers the sky. However, advertising is yet to reach the bathos point in India in terms of credibility and credulity norms. To that extent, all paid mediums are still trusted, except paid PR. Paid PR sadly has hit the bathos point in India with consumers switching off any communication that looks overtly paid for in PR terms.
Advertising on the other hand does not suffer that status and stigma as yet. Consumers are aware that all advertising is paid for by the brand, and this paid-for status is overt and in the eye. There is no subterfuge. The consumer does believe today that it is the right and privilege of the brand to advertise itself overtly. In many segments, advertising is seen to be a form of public service as well, as it is informative and disseminates what is wanted to be learnt by the consumer.

Earned media is however a tough cookie to understand today. It is totally amoebic and totally un-solicited. While in the early days, what you earned through such media exposure is considered “editorial” in nature and “use-centric” in output, a little while down the road, there is consumer distrust here as well. As tales of brand interventions in “earned media” space gain grounds, and as consumers understand that many a tweet and many a Facebook mention and   LinkedIn message could be “bought” as well, the USP of earned media dies.

My point is a simple one. The consumer loves brands as of now. He/she understands and appreciates the role, power and utility of paid-for advertising that is overt. He/she distrusts paid PR fundamentally because it is not overt, and hides behind editorial material that looks part editorial and part paid-for. The consumer hates being cheated. The consumer is fine being told clearly that this is a paid medium and this is not.  On the other hand, when it comes to earned mediums, the consumer is today not very convinced that what is “earned” is really earned, and what seems earned is really not paid for as well! Touche!

At the end of it all, lets remember, the consumer is not a moron. She is your mistress, if not your wife!

The author is a brand-strategy specialist  & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Twitter @harishbijoor

Thursday, January 03, 2013

What's ahead for Brand India in 2013?

Get Inclusive, Or Get Excluded

By Harish Bijoor

The Mayan era is done with. And looks like all of us have survived it. And how.

As the year 2013 dawns, what’s ahead for us in Brand India?

Plenty ahead, provided the mindset is to reap the plenty. Read a lot in those words, as this ‘peek-ahead’ piece of mine is all about reaping the opportunity that lies in the largest of the masses rather than the old approach that has held us in good stead over the last several marketing decades of “reaping the niches”.
The year and indeed the decade ahead of us in marketing terms is all about looking at market opportunity with a different set of spectacles altogether. If I were to summarize it all for the Twitter-Gen of today, I would put it simply in 31   characters: Get inclusive, or get excluded.

The idea is a simple one. An old one as well. One berated by many a thinker over the decades, but seldom listened to by a nation that was plucking the low hanging fruit of market opportunity that lay with those with early-money in their hands.

Now however, since that opportunity seems to be drying up, time to think different and look at the masses with a keener glad-eye than before.

The world is today all of 7 Billion people. 1.2 Billion of them reside in India. Maybe a lot more than that as well, as I firmly believe our population fact is an understatement rather than a statement.  Of the 7 Billion in the world, as much as 5 Billion are people a typical marketer would put outside of the active branded consumption mindset. This mass is really, really large. This mass is one that is growing not only in terms of size, but aspiration as well. The opportunity ahead is therefore in this big mass. 

If you look at India in particular, this mass could be as large as all of 840 Million people. 840 million people waiting on the precipice of a brand buy. 840 Million people who have a rather skin deep penetration of brands today. And most of these brands that have penetrated their lifestyles may be in the realm of telecom, telecom services, and basic FMCG products. Imagine the opportunity ahead as this mass booms in terms of aspiration to buy and aspiration to consume. Imagine the opportunity ahead as this mass moves from products to services. From the basic to the value-added segment as well. The opportunity ahead is large. Very large.

Look at India today. In many ways modern India has been built by brands that started their early work in the first few years of the last decade. Look at telecom. Telecom brands have helped place 942 million handsets in the hands of as many as 670 Million people in India. The halfway mark has been breached. Look at the telecom service providers who power these handsets with basic and value added services. Look at every FMCG player in the market who has quietly built a super-structure of active consumption of brands. India is a nation of 1.2 Billion bellies and bladders. As many bellies, that much the opportunity for food. As many bladders, that much the opportunity for every kind of beverage.  And guess what, the Indian at large has not only belly and bladder. Add to it thirty-one other body parts that crave for branded solutions. The hair for hair oil and hair dye alike, the skin for moisturizer and vitamin creams alike, and lots lots more.

The real opportunity ahead is looming large, and lies in India’s under-penetrated categories. The opportunity lies equally in rural as in urban. Our big asset is population. And population is an asset that delivers slowly. Its time to deliver has come. The marketing and brand fraternity needs to wake up to this opportunity and leverage it to advantage.

There is a problem though. The opportunity is out there in terms of numbers, but this opportunity can be leveraged only by those who do believe in ‘market creation’ exercises, rather than ‘market reaping’ processes that have dominated past decades. Time to change that mindset altogether. And this is difficult.

Markets of the future that lie in the realm of the bottom 5 Billion of the world population opportunity, will need to be created, rather than reaped. And that is a mindset that needs to dominate 2013. Create first. Reap later. The era of Instant gratification for the marketer is over.

The trends that will dominate market creation activities in the years ahead will be aided and guided ably by systems and processes that are falling into place. The UIDAI Aadhaar, its financial inclusion goals, its real pan-national roll-out and the tools of schemes such as the DCT (Direct Cash Transfer) scheme of the government of India, will all help and spur the movement of market creation. 

Think of it this way. Till now, as much as INR 3,50,000 Crores was reaching the bottom end of the market as subsidies and transfers what were less efficient and leaky in its delivery pattern. As the subsidy regime gives way to DCT, it simply means one big thing for the salivating marketer in India. When subsidies are doled out, the consumer got kerosene and had to use it. The consumer got rice and fertilizer and pesticide alike, and had to use it or re-sell it at suboptimal prices. Now, if DCT kicks in finally, it means there is that much money in the bank accounts of the consumer. This money will find its way into consumption. And this consumption is going to spur market opportunity further. As more money hits consumer wallets at the bottom of the pyramid, more expenditure happens. And as more expenditure happens, a lot happens.

As India becomes an opportunity that is getting bigger and bigger, marketers need to however remember one big trend point to tread carefully for the years ahead.

The marketer needs to get inclusive. The marketer needs to think of the masses that are larger than what he defined to be his masses. The marketer needs to reach out to potential consumers and non-consumers alike. Every brand offering needs to have two avatars. One for the potential buyer and one for the non-buyer. The marketer needs to molly-coddle the non-buyer as well today, with the hope of him being a vital part of his future market. Marketers that forget this basic tenet will get excluded from consumer mindsets.

In the future, you cannot depend on your advertising to buy markets. You will instead need to depend on your good market creation work to put together your markets. The India Marketing Rubik’s cube is in your hands. You need to create the right picture on every side of the cube. Every side. Not only the one side you were comfortable with all these decades.  You need to get more and more inclusive.

In short, get inclusive. Or get excluded. Touché.
Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Twitter @harishbijoor