When airwaves get clogged with messages of all kinds and sound levels are too high to distinguish a voice from noise, brands need to rethink their communication strategy.
While television and print still figure predominantly in the media plans of most brands (simply because no other platform provides comparable mass access), some marketers are trying innovative, sometimes freaky, ways to break through the clutter and head straight for the mind space of their target group.
Tata Salt, for instance, wanted to make a splash among consumers, but salt being a simple, low-spend category, the brand managers didn’t want to invest heavily on communication. Also, they wanted to touch base with their end consumers in a casual environment. So what did they do? They advertised on popcorn tubs in multiplexes and big cinema halls. “We also put our messages (advertisements) subtly on shelves carrying recipe books in libraries,” recalls Sam Balsara, chairman, Madison Communications, the agency that handles the media for Tata Salt. “Popcorns have salt in it. So we found a direct fit with the brand and the product. Then, these days popcorns are served in fancy large tubs in most of the big cinema halls, which gave us ample space to broadcast our message,” he adds. Indeed, the popcorn tub not only offered the best strategic fit between the message and the medium, but also presented a unique opportunity to involve consumers in a friendly and uncontested atmosphere. As for the library, it was probably the most efficient way of communicating directly with the end consumer. “Readers picking up recipe books are most likely to be the users of salt and what better way could there be of reaching them,” says Balsara.
In their attempt to catch consumers in their most receptive moods and in relatively uncrowded spots, brands, in fact, are going to the most unthinkable places. For instance, Zapak.com and Playwin, two online gaming companies, chose to advertise on the walls of men’s urinals. Zapak’s catch line: How far can you shoot? “There is no way one could miss a message so strategically placed,” says Balsara. And it is likely to leave consumers amused rather than irritated as they are when they receive unsolicited business calls on their phones from eager banking agents selling credit cards.
Tata Salt and Playwin are not the only brands to have devised interesting ways of communicating with their consumers. Many smart marketers are discovering unusual ways of cutting through the clutter to make the right impact on the right audience.
For instance, Itch Guard, an anti-inflammation cream manufactured by Paras Pharmaceuticals, advertises inside buses and on walls of buildings and historical monuments, where vandals would scribble nonsense. Indeed, it is a superb opportunity to present the brand in sync with its message.
Similarly, Bharti Airtel provides noticeboards in schools and colleges to encourage students to express themselves, which, in fact, is its advertising tag line.
“We wanted to put our brand at a place where consumer involvement is more. Then, providing consumers a medium to express themselves is our brand promiseWe found a right opportunity in noticeboards to underscore our positioning,” says a senior marketing executive of the company.
Bharti Airtel also ran a campaign in Mumbai recently where it got its corporate logo painted on some local trains. The strategy, according to the company’s ad agency, was the right way of promoting brand recall.
Advertising agencies and brand managers say that at a time when consumers get 1,500-2,000 messages a day, it is imperative for brands to do something out of the ordinary to catch consumer attention.
Says Sunder Raman, managing director, Mindshare, a top media buying agency: “Advertisers are only trying to keep pace with the changing realities of consumers’ lives. Unlike the olden days, today there are diverse consumer touch points available and it makes eminent sense to exploit these.” Indeed, all one needs to tap these opportunities is to think outside the box.
This is exactly what Publicis India did when it recently ran a campaign for Planet M, a music and entertainment company. “We painted the zebra crossings leading to their store in black and white in a way that they resembled piano keys,” recounts Nakul Chopra, CEO, Publicis India. “The only cost we incurred on this campaign was that of painting the crossing,” he adds.
Getting desired eyeballs at minimal cost is the most significant aspect of such innovative advertising efforts. “It doesn’t make sense for companies (such as Playwin) catering to a limited audience to advertise on mainstream media platforms. It, obviously, doesn’t make sense to blow big bucks on buying air-time on TV when you are communicating with a smaller group,” says Mindshare’s Raman.
Interestingly, such “unusual” initiatives cost brands a lot less than advertising on conventional platforms.
Buying a 10 second advertising spot on television costs a fortune (prime time ad spots on leading general entertainment channels cost between Rs50,000 and Rs3 lakh), whereas these initiatives cost between Rs500 and Rs5,000 per campaign. Says Basabdatta Chowduri, chief operating officer for Madison: “These efforts are not about costs. They are about standing out. They are about making the right contact with the right consumers.”
No wonder then that places lsuch as airports have become hubs for commercial messages. Brands are using everything from travel carts to boarding passes to serving trays to toilets inside the airplanes to catch their patrons’ attention.
While advertisers such as HDFC Life Insurance and Western Union Money Transfer are using boarding passes to flash their messages, Etiquette, a tissue paper brand, is advertising inside toilets. Not just that. Brands such as Sun Micro Systems and NDTV have their logos painted on aeroplanes(**).
Says Sanjay Shah, CEO, StarSight India, a media buying agency: “Such platforms provide an opportunity to capture consumers’ dead time. When the audience is doing nothing but staring at the surroundings, it is probable that they will catch the messages around. One is also likely to get their 100% attention because there aren’t too many distractions around.”
Indeed, there is little escape when an ambient coffee shop serves your beverage on a flyer from World Space, when road dividers illuminate both the road and a message from Allahabad Bank, and when the betel-stained corners of your building’s walls carry a cancer awareness sticker.