The Economist’s India marketing strategy has run for a year. How has it done, is the question Campaign India wanted an answer to. Read on and discover.
To those familiar with the iconic advertising for The Economist, the made-for-India campaign which broke in India almost exactly a year ago was surprising, to say the least.
It still had the critical elements of the ‘grid’; the entire campaign sported the colours that The Economist ‘owned.’
Considering the departure from the tried and tested, and considering the fact that there was no special pricing offered in conjunction with the campaign, Campaign India decided that it was a communication exercise worth keeping track of; the entire marketing effort was worth keeping tabs on.
What did The Economist expect to achieve through their advertising and marketing strategy? The primary objective, says Suprio Guha Thakurta, was to raise the awareness levels in Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi and the National Capital Region. The secondary objectives were to increase sampling, increase subscriptions and to reduce the cost per acquisition of the subscriptions.
The India cover issue sold a whopping 43,000 copies
The awareness was created largely through their disruptive A-Z campaign. The campaign, when presented internally (and ALL campaigns are finally cleared by the editor) “caused some discomfort because of the seemingly dramatic departure from the tried and tested,” says Guha Thakurta.
Using traditional media alone was not economically viable, because of the broad definition of The Economist’s reader. “He is difficult to put in a box. Age 35+, male, living in a metro – and not restricted, as one might feel, to corporate top management. We have fashion designers, copywriters, project managers, MBA students. All Ideas people.”
The broadness forces the marketing strategy to look at Economist readers in India as “psychological needles”. “Obviously, to find needles one has to raid the entire haystack and reaching a very large number of people, getting them aware, interested, create desire and then to get them to act is impossible to do through only traditional media. It’s just too expensive,” says Guha Thakurta.
“So we started a mobile updates channel - a first in The Economist world. This is a great way for people to sample our content. Everyday a message is sent out at 11:00 am to the channel members. The message is either a summary of the Leaders in the current week’s issue, or a snippet of a couple of interesting stories. There is always a call to action, directing the person to read the entire story by picking up a copy from the newsstand, or visiting www.economist.com or even m.economist.com (which has been launched recently).This channel, launched four months back, is showing great promise, and today we already have 35,000 members on it,” he adds.
Create awareness, find the needles in a huge haystack – and there is still another issue that needs to be dealt with. “When we started marketing in India ,” says Guha Thakurta, “we realized that one of the biggest problems we faced was our price. People who had not sampled our product found the price to be a barrier to trials. At the same time, we also found out that our single most effective source of subscriptions was through www.economist.com. What this told us was that people who had sampled our content online were most likely to subscribe to the newspaper. Hence, a lot of our subscription effort was driven to get people to sample and in generating trials.
We did this in the following ways:
1. Driving traffic to www.economist.com through online campaigns and our mobile channel
2. Introducing a trial pack @ Rs. 1100 for 12 weeks
In addition to the above, we also entered into some effective partnerships such as Jet Airways, ICICI Bank Credit Cards, Deutsche Bank, etc. In all these partnerships, we made exclusive offers to their customers, with benefits which were linked back to the partner brand (for example, a Jet Privilege member who bought a subscription to The Economist was given Jet Miles).
We also used the Internet as a sales channel. We sought out online databases of people who match the profile of our reader, and sent out Electronic DMs to them. This has been a very successful channel for us, with CPAs being much lower than other channels.”
While a few physical direct mailers have been experimented with, most communication is in the virtual world
Let’s get down (especially as we’re talking about The Economist) to real numbers on the effectiveness of the marketing strategy. If the first task was to raise awareness, take a look at the graph on growth of visits to their website.
A true measure to awareness-building for us is page views and unique visitors on Economist.com, which in the last year has grown by over 100%.
“A true measure to awareness- building for us is page views and unique visitors on Economist.com, which in the last year has grown by over100%,” says Guha Thakurta.
Page views and visits are all very well, but revenue, obviously, will be the ultimate measure.
The Economist, like all publications, has two cells that they need to focus on in an excel sheet: subscription + newsstand sales and advertising sales.
In the last year, the South Asia pages have seen as many as 25 new advertisers, including Oberoi Hotels, Kotak, Coca Cola and Edelweiss. Measured by number of pages, the growth is an impressive 73%.
The growth is despite the fact that, unlike a lot of publications targeting the same reader, The Economist has an audited circulation figure that pales in comparison to those of Indian publications. Guha Thakurta sees no great disadvantage here, saying, “The Economist is a value sale and the enlightened advertiser and media person gets it.”
It is the area of growth in subscription and newsstand sales which is a final testament to the effectiveness of the marketing strategy.
In February 2008, the average monthly sale was 16620 and, in February 2009 the figure submitted to the ABC is 23183!
(The projected 2008-09 average circulation is 19% higher than the corresponding figure for 2007-08).
February 09 figures for circulation when compared to February 08 show a growth of 39%; the subscriptions show a growth of 26% and the newsstand sales show a healthy 15% increase.
Not a bad end-of-the-year report card.
And The Economist’s advertising agency, O&M (Sumanto Chattopadhyay has all the work done for The Economist on his MacBook all the time), works closely with The Economist to create cost-effective communication that works. The six TVCs created and produced by O&M cost a beggarly Rs. 14 lakhs.
London must be watching the India campaign with interest.
Costs per acquisition down, healthy increase in advertising sales, newsstand sales and subscriptions, and an absolute budget that is almost miserly.
With uncertainty being the only certainty in the coming year, The Economist should be high on every decision maker’s reading list.
With the foundation for growth in place, The Economist’s financials for India should be an interesting read as well.