With the Internet and the mobile phone infiltrating our lives, we have entered a new phase of the economy, called the conversation economy.
You might say man has always conversed with his fellow beings. But the Web, cheap digital technology and the mobile phone have increased the frequency, duration and ubiquity of conversations. Now anyone can converse with everyone!
In the last 36 months, like most digital literates, I have started conversing more through GTalk, my blog, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter (not much), Facebook, and LinkedIn. And of course, we can’t forget the ubiquitous SMS!
Conversations are now the building blocks of some brands, services and new categories... In this conversation economy, ad agencies and marketers need to unlearn many of their roles and tasks.
1. From communication to conversation
In the good old days, youth brands would communicate with their young audience through cool television commercials, or TVCs. Young people would consume the glossy, celebrity-laden ad. But there was no talkback mechanism. Today, if one doesn’t like a commercial, one can crib on a blog, comment on YouTube and Facebook, send instant tweets to all friends. The consumer can even make a viral spoof on the brand, which can potentially be more popular than the original brand content.
2. From audience to communities
Conversation leads to relationships and relationships lead to affinity. And affinity creates communities—be it on Orkut or BigAdda. On digital platforms, people are not passive audiences any more. They are more like communities. Communities of Shah Rukh Khan fans, M.S. Dhoni fans, Nike and iPod fans, etc. And the young are driving this conversation. Often one finds that the consumer is leading, the marketer is following!
3. From messaging to meaningful dialogue
It’s not enough in the conversation economy to merely know how to communicate to the right target group. Marketers must learn how to hold a meaningful two-way dialogue. Even basic tools such as the agency brief needs a disruptive facelift!
We must ask—how engaging do people find our brand conversations? Is our tone right? Do people exchange our messages with their friends and friends’ friends?
We need more conversation architects for our brands. And almost anyone can potentially design the new brand conversation—the consumer, the marketer himself, the ad agency, the digital agency, the mobile VAS (value-added service) provider, the public relation guy… And every piece of the brand, even lowly packaging, can have a lively conversation with the consumer! Think Apple. Research agencies are trying to measure the return on investment (RoI) of this conversation.
But the past metrics may fail to measure the new dynamics of this conversation economy.
We know how to measure brand investment. But we need to learn how to measure brand influence.
The author is senior vice-president, Mudra Marketing Services, and head of strategy-Tribal DDB India
As told to Anushree Chandran