September 2003.Osaka, Japan.12 storeys above the ground, football is defying gravity. The highly creative campaign by Adidas was one of the first cases of viral recognition through the www. Social Media announced its presence as a new addition to the existing conventional field. India has recently warmed up to the brilliant possibilities of user generated content (UGC). Driven by enterprising efforts of insight-laden consumers, UGC showcases an emerging trend for the future. Social media encompasses several facets. From Social Networking sites to Wikis, Digging to Blogosphere, Marketing as we know is on the brink of undergoing a sea-change.
Let us look at what drives this exciting media. The single most differentiating factor is the neutrality of UGC. Unmindful of conventional media’s censorship UGC tells us what people really feel. Moreover as shown by media outfits recently, consumer participation thru blogging and SMS response can act as tools for opinion building. Take the Priyadarshini Mattoo or Jessica Lall case for example. The Singur controversy played in the public imagination thru ample media exposure as well as opinionated blogging. Social issues have received overwhelming response from the users and they have mostly yielded positive results. The neutrality factor is also very important from a marketing communication. Peer delivered content has immense ability to build opinion for branding solutions as well.
Surveys in Europe have shed light on growing distrust in advertisement. In contrast, people are much more willing to believe their friends. This phenomenon has been recognized and acknowledged by the giants of the industry. Chronic attention deficit has been attributed as the principle reason. Capturing a potential consumer has become increasingly difficult with the proliferation of media. UGC offers a solution. Blogging and relatively non-intrusive advertising on social networking websites is the future path to tread. On a flip side though, UGC can be deliberated through profit objectives by dummy bloggers. This is a fallout of the otherwise widely appreciated “no-control” policy.
But intelligent response and open debate also results in highly discerning consumer viewpoints to which the marketers should give credit. An unbiased understanding of the consumer is an essential feature, earlier not credibly captured. “CrowdSourcing” is fast emerging as a reliable metric. The Aegon-Religare KILB campaign featuring Irrfan Khan was according to Google one of the hottest debated topics at the time of launch. This PR angle is nascent and begs to be exploited. Awesome publicity can be achieved by the power of net conversation. Another recent example is the Idea Mumbai launch campaign.
The concept of mystery shrouded advertising is by no means an alien one. However what was lacking then was the consumer insight platform and hence suitable response from the Media. Lack of attention span meant attrition from memory. The emergence of Social Media and UGC in the spectrum, with its capacity for dialogue, is a potential alleviator. This vibrant, compelling and insightful platform is important for another reason. It targets consumers as individuals and not as demographic sectors. In fact UGC or the loosely termed Social media is on its way to supplementing the myriad holes in the existing media fabric.
Published on October 2008 http://www.exchange4media.com/viewpoint/viewpoint.asp