Mumbai: Blue trademark splashes of My Pepsi. My Can swirl all around us. If that’s not up close enough, commercials invite us to get intimate in our boudouir with the i-pill. Even Reebok has just launched a campaign called I am More to go after the womenswear segment..
As for Apple, it’s now dotting the Rs.I’ beyond the iPod and iPhone, with a new iPod family of iPod Nano, iPod Shuffle, and new iPod Classic. Coca-Cola is fizzing
worldwide on its MyCokeRewards loyalty marketing scheme which is extending across broader experiential marketing. Even Nike got beyond its Just do it rallying cry for a while, with an ad assertation: I can.
Personal rush: From My Pepsi. My Can to iPods and YouTube, the emerging I motif in India is a fallout of a free market—freed from a non-monetized mindset—and about the domain of personal expressiveness.
Welcome to the I, Me or Myself-themed advertising in all the self-focused avatars of these personal pronouns.
Says Santosh Desai, CEO, Future Brands, Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd: “The process of consumerism works through picking people embedded in collective zones such as rituals, customs, habits or in societies with little degree of brandedness, and building connectivity at individual level. Yes, people do need groups at some level. But, now it’s the consumer who’s in charge; the ‘I’ is in control. The emerging I motif in India is a fallout of a free market, freed from a non-monetized mindset. Now, money creates the democracy and a new hierarchy of class not based on caste.”
According to Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults, the I branding happens in spaces where consumers interact with the product directly and where there’s a clear need to build relationships. This includes personal electronics such as laptops, portable music devices and items of personal consumption—a single-user drink such as a Pepsi, he says.
“The I is still in a stage of transition in India, while in the West the I is marooned, an island. Our I is not yet detached from the We, which is discretionary and based on who we choose to assemble around us. It’s a joint stock family, akin to a joint stock company where everyone has a stake,’’ adds Desai.
The Rs.I’ is emerging as mnemonic almost for all things young, passionate or cutting-edge digital. Cyberspace is already an ego trip of YouTube, Itune, MySpace, etc. The I before an electronics or digital brand cues into iconic, trend-setting values, say some brand analysts. A crowd of such names, however, can erase the magic.
This personal rush is driven by a surge in content co-creation or consumers increasingly creating content as bloggers, YouTubers, etc. We can choose the endings of certain TV serials or ads for brands such as Nike and Dove, or even help write the script.
The earlier rule where 20% of the consumers did 80% of the work has turned turtle. Now it’s 1% of influentials who discover and disseminate brand information online, in twists of word of mouth or viral marketing, says Nishad Ramachandran, vice-president and group creative director, I-Contract Advertising.
So, an igoogle customizes your search. Online games, such as Ragnarok or sites such as Second Life.com, permit you to customize your online game avatars. The ‘OhMyNews’ newspaper in South Korea has 60,000 people involved in creating the daily. And UK’s The Guardian has a small tabloid which lets you create a small paper of your own to read on the metro, cites Ramachandran. (Even Mint lets readers vote every day on a story they are most interested in reading in-depth the next morning using a Web poll called Readers’ Choice.)
Says Pranesh Misra, president, Lowe Lintas India Pvt. Ltd: “A new Indian mindset is developing from collectivism to individualism. This I-trend is youth-led and will go across ages in time.”
Both Pepsi and Coke are jumping on the ‘me’ and ‘my’ approach. Punita Lal, executive director, marketing, PepsiCo India Ltd, outlines the goals of My Pepsi My Can: “Today, the consumer is seeking variety and doesn’t want more of the same. This means that we have to constantly tantalize our consumers by offering them products that are exciting. With the launch of the sleek new Pepsi My Can, Pepsi is redefining its engagement levels with the youth of today. The can reflects the style statement of today’s youth and also gives them a platform to express themselves.”
The new Pepsi ‘My Can’ will offer also youth an opportunity of being on a special Pepsi can. Consumers need to display their “cool” quotient by answering simple questions related to their world, lives, dreams. Twenty selected contestants will get to upload their videos on a Pepsi zone at Yahoo for a nationwide online poll. The Top 10 winners will get to be the new faces of the special edition of Pepsi ‘My Can’, says Lal.
Outside India, Coca-Cola has been striving to deliver a compelling brand experience online with its MyCokeRewards programme. Carol Kruse, global interactive chief at Coca-Cola Co, has said the programme has seven million members. It’s evolving beyond a loyalty programme into a larger customer-marketing communications effort aimed at delivering unique experiences based on individual customer interests and behaviour, via a website.
This self swirling is about the domain of personal expressiveness and it’s a driving, inexorable force of individualism, notes Desai. It’s visualized as concentric circles radiating outward: at the core surrounding the individual is the I and family, surrounded by one’s area, then city and finally the world. In times of war or catastrophe, the I accelerates from the self to country zone, says Bijoor. This is reflected in communications too, witness the surge of patriotic brand messages during 11 September in the US. “The narcissistic movement in branding is cascading deeper and targets a niche of society currently—it’s about ‘my’ society,” he says.