Sunday, November 13, 2011

Marketing at source : the no-nonsense marketing

Kumar raunak | IIft, delhi

Marketing at source : the no-nonsense marketing

Whenever we think of marketing campaign, the two ubiquitous words across the marketing fraternity, things that first come to our mind are glitzy television commercials, giant billboards at posh locations and high profile celebrity endorsements. These product promotion tactics have captured much of the creative bandwidth of most of the marketing managers associated with companies from diverse sectors. The underlying philosophy for these marketing and advertising tactics has been that launching a high decibel mega campaign on television and other forms of media creates a pull effect among target consumers and draws them to the distribution outlets. This philosophy indeed worked when we had lesser number of competing brands and products in every sector and some of the communication media were relatively new, like television. Take for example Hamara bajaj campaign by bajaj scooters in the late 80s and early 90s when the television medium was relatively new and the two wheeler market was not cluttered with umpteen brands. This campaign actually established bajaj scooters as a household name by creating the desired pull effect. Same holds true for HUL’s lux campaign with stars like Hema Malini and Madhuri Dixit when celebrity endorsements had not picked up in a big way.
Cut to present time and we find a plethora of brands with glitzy and whacky advertisements on television and in newspaper dailies making use of each and every spot available. Same holds true for billboards and hoardings at posh locations. Now the issue is how much impact do such campaigns have on the minds of target consumers, especially when we take into account the fact that in a small span of time, let us say during 3-4 min commercial break on television he is supposed to watch numerous ads, remember them and recall them while making purchasing decision. It is also a herculean task to measure the impact of these ads in quantitative terms. Also one big issue in this regard is that many a time when these ads are aired in the midst of any popular show they act as irritants from the point of view of consumers and more often than not they nullify any eye catching effect that was built into them to attract viewers. To counter this many advertisers thought of using more and more celebrities so we had Aamir Khan endorsing Coca Cola and Shahrukh Khan endorsing Pepsi, HUL roped in former Miss India and model Mehr Jessia Rampal for ponds cosmetic products in response to another former Miss India and Universe Sushmita Sen’s endorsement of P&G’s Olay cosmetics products. This excessive use of celebrities by almost all the brands has again robbed this tactic of any novelty that it promised in the beginning.
So what should be the way forward? Marketers and brand owners themselves seem to have come up with an alternative which can be termed as the concept of marketing at source. This is fast becoming a trend on the marketing and advertising landscape and is being increasingly used by advertisers and marketing managers.
What is this concept all about?
This concept entails intercepting the target consumers at the right location and the right time in a more direct manner than what traditional forms of advertising allow. This enables greater impact of marketing and advertising on consumers while ensuring that they are engaged in an entertaining way. To illustrate this there are two examples that really stand out.
Under this campaign which was launched in September 2010 the women commuters in local trains in suburban Mumbai were served delicacies prepared with Knorr ready to cook spice mixes. This idea of serving hot and fresh delicacies to women commuters on their way back home after a day of hard work clicked with the consumers.
Over here what HUL was trying to do is to influence the influencers and break the clutter. In India the decision regarding the purchase of kitchen items is taken primarily by the women of the house, so by actually providing them with a memorable experience of Knorr ready to cook food items, they hoped to create a strong recall and ensure repeated purchase. It also broke the clutter in processed food category which has players like Nestle, Britannia, ITC, Frito Lay etc. Instead of going ahead with any run off the mill television commercial or print ad, it made direct contact with the source of its market and revenue i.e. middle class women commuters and it did so not by pestering them but by making the encounter a unique and entertaining one and this created a favourable image of the product.

In its bid to promote Maggi noodles in the rural markets, nestle organised a programme wherein the representatives from Nestle travelled to rural areas of UP and Bihar and showcased to inhabitants the process of preparing Maggi and then they were served piping hot noodles. The entire idea was to educate the rural consumers about the product and create a powerful impact by making them taste hot and delicious noodles. Again over here Nestle chose to give traditional forms of advertising and marketing a miss which could have been making use of hoardings, distributing pamphlets, or advertising on radio. Rather it sought to educate consumers about a never before used product in a more direct and engaging way.
In both of the examples the idea worked because consumers were directly impacted by the campaign and were made to feel special, so next time around when they go to retail outlets the memory of this experience would in all its likelihood make them buy the product and use it and hopefully trigger repeated purchases.
Prerequisites of a successful marketing at source
There are certain things that marketers need to keep in mind while implementing this idea-
A large number of dedicated sales forces would be required to make direct contact with the source i.e. end consumers. For example in case of HUL’s campaign, they needed a large number of sales personnel to serve delicacies to commuters in different local trains and on different routes.
Good distribution network and product visibility- to cash in on initial strong recall after the campaign, visibility and availability of the product in the retail outlets via strong distribution network is needed because if consumers ask for the product and do not find it there is a likelihood that they may switch to some other product.
Complementary use of traditional forms of advertising- to say that the traditional forms of advertising are passé would be naïve. Once the initial recall is created through marketing at source, at this point traditional advertising would kick in, in the form of television commercial and print advertising to reinforce the positive memories of the product and convert it into a purchase decision.
Innovative and out of the box thinking is required to make direct engagement with the consumers an exciting and memorable experience for them because this task is quite unlike sales promotion where either free samples are doled out or hefty discounts are given which trigger short term sales. Over here the idea is to build long term association with the consumer by starting the relationship on a memorable note which can be used to build upon a strong relationship.

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