It’s been a great year

The very first year of existence is generally uneventful for new start-ups. For a whole year, majority of start-ups spend equal time on finding their place under the sun, and on finding actual paying customers for their product or services.

Evoc turns one today. Our first year may go down as largely uneventful in the larger scheme of things; however the anniversary calls for a reflection on where are we today, juxtaposed against where we wanted to be in the first place.

Evoc was borne out of an idea – to establish the gold standard in communications consultancy. It’s an idea, a vision that we feel strongly connected to today, more than ever. I’d like to believe we have taken more than baby steps towards this vision after a year. Of course, we need to walk, run and sprint towards it as we grow bigger this year onwards. I am also proud of the team that we are building at Evoc; I love working with all of them and I would hazard a guess that the feeling is mutual. Continue reading

The most important goal for mobile marketers

Speakers at the Dream 500 million smartphones event last week sought to debate on two important drivers for smartphone adoption in India. The first driver was pricing; the argument being that a smartphone priced at below Rs. 5,000 had a significantly higher probability of mass adoption in India. The second driver was language customization; or can local language UI and keyboards will get people, who do not know English well, to consider buying (and thereafter using) a smartphone?

Both are interesting points to consider. However, our contention is that while both pricing and language customization are among the growth drivers; however, they are not the most important ones. Continue reading

Why online communities die

Even the mighty Facebook, the world’s third largest ‘country’, and one that constantly gets press as an addiction, is no longer impregnable. A recent survey found US teens are ditching Facebook for Instagram; the latter has become the most preferred social network for the teenagers. Reports predicting Facebook’s demise have been surfacing for many years, variously observing how the network has alienated teenagers or how user interaction is going down. Twitter in the meantime is grappling with issues of its own. The world’s leading social networks are mortals too.

In fact, the reason why US teens today prefer Instagram over Facebook can be inferred. As we previously explained, social networks like Facebook and Instagram primarily deliver value on the ‘social interaction’ attribute (please refer to this post for an explanation on the three types of value that online communities generate for their members). Now, for the teens, Instagram is perfectly serving their ‘need’ for social interaction; teens are able to post pictures that tell their friends (followers) what they are doing. Continue reading

Building online communities: Questions to ask before creating one

Back in the nineties, online communities organically grew around gaming, particularly around the gaming consoles from Sega, Nintendo and Sony. Users would spend hours discussing new games, hacks and tricks and gameplay for the most popular games of the day. Right from those days of Bulletin Board Services (BBS), Usenet newsgroups and IRC, consumer brands in general and Internet companies in particular have always thought of creating and nurturing online communities around their product or service as an exercise that drove significant business value. Sometimes, building a thriving online community was their raison d’être (the gaming companies were a prime example).

When explicitly building a community around a brand, the marketer seeks four key benefits:

  • Provide an owned brand-building platform to attract new customers, and retain existing ones (particularly earn reputation, trust and loyalty)
  • Help increase the value a customer gets from the product/service by meeting her information and social interaction needs
  • Create a self-sustaining platform for information and knowledge sharing among the customers, so that the brand’s role is kept to a minimum
  • Glean intelligence from community users for strategic marketing decisions (Xiaomi is a good example here)

The strongest online communities grow organically, started by users themselves. Artificially creating new communities, or scaling up an existing one is not exactly a walk in the park. Getting new users to sign-up is an uphill task. Even if that is taken care of by exploiting all the levers on disposal, getting those signed-up users to stay active and contribute to a community takes the real grind (just ask Google+).

We now therefore explain what can brands or Internet companies can do to build successful online communities. Continue reading

How Flipkart bungled its Big Billion Day: lessons for marketers

We are sorry to interrupt our regular programming to bring you this special post on a few critical marketing lessons from Flipkart’s ‘Big Billion Day’ fiasco. In this post, we observe how the basic rules of services marketing and brand building were ignored in conducting Monday’s event. This surprises us, as we simultaneously acknowledge and appreciate the enormous time, money and efforts invested by the Flipkart team in bringing this colossal sale to bear.

In many ways, we can sense the missing inputs of a seasoned branding or marketing strategist in planning and executing the ‘Big Billion Day’ (BBD) event, which could have ideally saved the day for Flipkart. Without much ado, let’s point to some obvious and not-so-obvious observations and lessons from the BBD event, so that you, as a marketer, don’t have to repeat these mistakes. Continue reading

Building new communities: overcoming the network effect

This is the first of a multi-part series on the relationships between brands and online communities.

It’s nearing the end of September 2014 and many of you would have already secured, or at least requested for an invitation to join Ello, the all new Facebook-replacement social network that counts ad-free and privacy as its USPs.

As of today, Ello is the rage, but as some of the early media reportage wisely points out, the new social network’s real challenge is to retain the early adopters as active users, while continuing to draw in new users in hordes. Purely out of curiosity, people in these early days will sign up to see what’s it about, but will they stay after a week or two?

The answer lies in whether Ello can fight and ward off the network effect, which is well-known to favour incumbent networks with a high number of users. Think of Google+ (G+) and all of its (largely unsuccessful) efforts to gain user acceptance in the face of Facebook’s (and even  Twitter’s) runaway popularity. While G+ succeeded it in getting users to sign up through various tactics that are perhaps a topic for another blog, it wasn’t able to get them to stay and actually post updates like users do on Facebook. Continue reading

The point of brand personality

Do all brands have a personality? Do all of them need one? A brand personality is simply a set of human characteristics associated with a brand – think Virgin’s fun and irreverent personality vs British Airways’ warm, comforting albeit a staid one, or Johnson & Johnson as a nurturing and caring brand vs Harley Davidson’s rugged one.

To the first question we asked, the answer is: brand personality is a continuum, where on one extreme lie brands with sharply defined personalities, and the other extreme has brands with vague or barely recognisable personalities, or perhaps no personalities at all. A majority of brands fall in between, and there are many who do not evoke any human-characteristic associations.

So how does this work? Brand personalities are often influenced at the category level. Virtually all categories that add to consumers’ self-imagery or self-expression lend themselves to developing strong brand personalities. Therefore, brand personality is often defined in terms of consumer’s self-image – actual or idealized – as is seen in the case of cars, clothes, smartphones and the likes. For example, people choose between an SUV, a sedan or a roadster often depending on how they want to express themselves. The buyer for a Mercedes is a lot different from the one scouting for a Porsche – simply because her choice of the car says a lot about her self-image. The same principle applies for clothes (think of different personalities for Levi’s, Calvin Klein and Diesel jeans) and smartphones – as the following popular meme vividly illustrates. Continue reading

Why content curation matters

It’s a paradox of our times that people still crave for a good read or a watch, even when they are drowning in the content deluge, especially online. Even as mainstream content consumption increasingly shifts to online from TV and print; the volume of new content being generated online and pushed out to people is astounding. A section of people have responded by expanding their content consumption windows – they now spend more time online reading, watching videos or catching up with their feeds than ever before. Others, more pressed for time, will consume whatever content catches their fancy, or is ‘out there in front of their eyes’ – which partly explains the success of Buzzfeed and the likes.

In this age of click-baits and the Internet reactions like @savedyouaclick, we urge you to be a lot more pragmatic about your own content marketing plans. The consumption of the content you create depends on many factors; including but not limited to who you are, how reputed and credible are you, how interesting and relevant are you, and how interesting and relevant is the actual content you create, the platforms you use for publishing and the distribution mechanisms you deploy. Big corporate or personal brands will often dominate the public discourse by sheer dint of their personality alone, leaving a precious tiny window for millions of others to get their point across. Continue reading

How Xiaomi built its brand in India

Chinese phone company Xiaomi recently sold a few thousands of phones to eager Indian buyers in a matter of seconds. Xiaomi hosted two online sales in two weeks on partner’s website; and saw over 100,000 people register for the sale. Remember, this is a brand that is new to India, alien to most India-based buyers, has not spent a penny on advertising, and had only announced its entry via a press conference and its social network presences. Who then spread the word around and persuaded no less than 100,000 people to register for the sales?  Continue reading

How email trumps social marketing

Here is a pro tip for all marketers planning their digital marketing strategy – maximise your attention on email marketing, while still glazing over social media marketing (SMM), in your overall mix. As antediluvian this suggestion may sound; conjuring up imaginary visions of thousands of frustrated users hitting the ‘Report spam’ in their inboxes at the sight of your next promotional email; the home truth is simple – email marketing works significantly better than marketing on social networks. A full 38 times better. In other words, for every customer acquired through Facebook and Twitter combined, a firm is likely to get 38 customers through email marketing!

That is what the customer acquisition data from online predictive analytics firm Custora showed for the second quarter of 2013 – corresponding to 70 million users. Granted this data is limited to US consumers; but the magnitude of difference makes it near impossible to believe that the situation in India would be any different. Continue reading