The term “Marketing” might be coined in the dawn of 20th century but the idea was prevalent since thousands of years. Similarly customers are also not a recent phenomenon; they would have been active since the first transaction was made. In the past century the realm of marketing had undergone constant evolution as a discipline. In the initial days marketing was a push concept where there was a constant tendency on the parts of the firms to push their products/services to the customers. In 1953 with “Neil Borden” coining the term “Marketing Mix” (4ps of marketing that is product, price, people & promotion) marketing took a leap as a discipline. In 60’s Theodore Levitt came up with the theory of “Marketing Myopia” that for the first time attempted to consider seriously the customer factor in marketing. In the coming years the significance of customers kept on increasing in formulation of marketing strategy by individual firms, 4Ps of marketing got transformed to the 4Cs (Consumer, Cost, Convenience, Communication).In the 21st century with computers and internets penetrating to individual households coupled with a plethora of popular Websites, Social networking sites, E-portals, Online communities etc the realm of marketing is undergoing a new paradigm shift. Now the customer is not only the central focus of the marketing strategy but is also the most active player of the branding exercise conducted by individual firms.
The new age customer
The new age customer is very different from his/her previous counterparts. He is much more intelligent, confident and has much more understanding of various kinds of products & brands. A stereotypical new age customer 1can be assumed to be exposed to end number of media channels, is much more tech savvy and internet friendly. It can be assumed that the new age customer has a high sense of individuality and in this age consumerism buying for him/her is a very high involvement, fun driven process. There are across 1.96 Billion internet users 2 across the world. 90% of the internet users know at least one social media and every social media user is connected to 195 friends on an average.There are 133 million blogs enlisted in the blog directory “Techorati”.These facts explain the power and influence of the new age consumers. The probabilities are always high that a new age consumer is also an author with his own blog he uses to reflect his view points. He might also be a thought leader with his own friend circle in the social media sphere he can influence, a critic using these media platforms to criticize a product he doesn’t like and a brand ambassador using positive word of mouth in such social media platforms for something he likes. The strengths and skills that have been acquired by the new age customers cannot be discounted by marketers. These customers need to be involved actively in the branding processes.
American Marketing association(AMA) defines a brand as a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers. In reality brand is much beyond that, brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot. These days with the help of Websites, E-manuals, E-brochures, Multimedia presentations, Clickable add banners interactivity between the customers and the firm increases many fold. While the customer gets a better brand experience the firm understands the behavior, interest and tastes of the customer in a better way. These interactive tools can also provide a good insight into the customer’s geographic location as well as demographic profiles.
Crisis in Mass Marketing
Given below are some of the statistics that describes the crisis in mass marketing:-
• Only 18% of TV advertisements create positive ROI.
• Average return on every one dollar spent advertising on mass media.
• TV advertising cost has increased by 256% in the past one decade.
• 90% of people who can skip TV ads do skip it.
• 65% of people believe that they are constantly bombarded by TV ads
• Only 14% of people trust TV advertisements.
• 56% of people avoid buying products from company who they think
Advantages of Interactive branding
With the help of better music, videos, texts and pictures it engages the customers more effectively.
• With the help of web2.0 platform there can be a direct communication between the firm and its customers. Customers can communicate their requirements, expectations, responses and of course judgment to firms.
• Web 2.0 platforms provide effective platforms for the customers & consumers all around the world to come together and collaborate.
• Clicks on web pages can be traced back to get insights about the profile, location, choices and behavior of customers.
• With the help of tools like “Google Analytics” large amount of data collected over a period of time can be analyzed and processed to derive consumer behavior pattern.
• These tools help in figuring out the degree of involvement of individual customers. Stuffs like time spent on web pages, comments posted, the no. of revisits made give a very clear cut understanding of individual customer’s involvement with a brand. This can help firms in profiling their customers.
• In comparison to regular mass media channels such as news papers, magazine, television commercials these web based applications and platforms are much more economical.
• In the time of economic downturns when the regular advertisement budget gets cut down, Interactive branding can provide economical and effective alternative.
Social media websites like Facebook, Orkut, BlogSpot, LinkedIn, play a very important role in Interactive branding. Social media is cost effective, has a wide range and reach and can boost immediate sales by engaging the customers. Social media provides platforms for likeminded people to interact with each other irrespective of the geographical boundaries. One of the biggest advantages of social media is that it helps in communicating the right message to the right audience. Given here is a table that describes the influence some of the most popular social media websites with the help of latest statistics.
- The average Facebook user has 130 friends.
- More than 25 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) is shared each month.
- People spend over 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook.
- The average Facebook user is connected to 60 pages, groups and events.
- There are more than 1 million entrepreneurs and developers from 180 countries on Facebook
- There are currently 110 million users of Twitter’s services.
- Twitter receives 180 million unique visits each month.
- There are more than 600 million searches on Twitter every day.
- Twitter gets more than 300,000 new users every day.
- There are more than 70 million users worldwide
- Members of LinkedIn come from more than 200 countries from every continent.
- 80% of companies use LinkedIn as a recruitment tool.
- LinkedIn receives almost 12 million unique visitors per day.
- A new member joins LinkedIn every second.
- The first video was uploaded in you Tube on 23rd April,2005.By 2006 more than 65000 videos were uploaded every day.
- . YouTube receives more than 2 billion viewers per day.
- Every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube.
- Music videos account for 20% of uploads.
Implementation of Interactive branding
Interactive branding is relatively new concept and there is dearth of strategic models to implement it. One of the models that explain it is the “COCHA” model.
• Concept: Any online material needs to have an appropriate concept. A concept that communicates the brand essence, tells the brand story well.
• Content: It should have a very engaging content with a right mix of text, images, videos, music, software, etc that can help users interact with it.
• Chanel: Rather than being a monologue medium (click ads) it should facilitate communication between the website and the users. This can be implemented with the help of social media, chat gadgets, e mail etc.
• Context: Should target the right customer at the right time and right place. Should fit their interest and use their language.
• Consumer: It should facilitate firms to extend and tighten the communication link with the target consumer base. Consumer bases can be defined with the help of profiles, communities, tastes, needs, motivations etc.
The new century heralds a new paradigm shift in branding. In the current economic crisis where advertising budgets are getting cut down drastically and mass media channels are losing its effectiveness day by day firms need innovative ways to promote its brand. Innovative ways that can engage and capture target customers in cost effective ways. Another important benefit of “Interactive Branding” is that it helps the new age customer to interact directly and collectively with the firms. The new age customers who are equipped with the best of media tools and gadgets and have much more knowledge in contrast to their previous counterparts just don’t want to have a passive role. They want active involvement in the brand building process. This further signifies the importance of “Interactive Branding”. Having said this it does not mean that regular mass media channels are not important, they are surely going to exist but the time has come where firms need to have a right mix of regular branding tools as well as innovative tools like “Interactive branding”
1. Online media gazette.
4. State of the Blogosphere 2009.