Blog: 2017 in the rear view mirror; 2018 in the windshield (Part 4)

In part four of this series, the author says that today's brand fans are likely to recruit the future fans for the brand

Dec 15, 2017 05:27:00 AM | Article | Sandeep Goyal

Pavita Puri is one of India’s most well-rounded communications people. She today heads branding & marketing for The Indian Express, a brand with not just unmatched attitude but strong opinions too. Pavita has been my protégé : I was her first boss at Rediffusion more than 20 years ago. Pavita went from strength to strength over the next two decades ... from heading the Airtel business at Rediff for years, to a longish stint at Lintas before she made the switch to the Express. Pavita has always had maturity of thought and great depth in thinking. It was a privilege for me to invite Pavita to write for Campaign. In the piece that follows, views expressed by Pavita are entirely her own and do not in any way have anything to do with The Indian Express. 
Pavita Puri, Brand Head, Indian Express Group
2017 was forgettable for the Indian economy. The year was a breathless stutter with industries and consumers trying to play catch up with the slew of changes that the government brought in – demonetization, RERA and GST. Spends were low if not nearly frozen, with consumers and corporates alike. Expectedly this did not bode well for us in the media industry as well. 
The year ends on a positive note, coming on the back of the Moody’s India rating upgrade, the jump up the notches into the top 100 rankings on the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index and an economy that is slowly finding its way through the GST regime. 2018 will hopefully, be better. 
Not all was gloom and doom in the year gone by. 2017 saw immense boost to technology companies, those savvy enough to innovate and predict the change needed. Fintech saw phenomenal boom --Paytm, Mobikwik, Razorpay, Lendingkart and more continue to grow and integrate themselves into consumers’ habits, even as the nightmare of demonetization fades. 
Jio changed the data consumption game in the country. Its aggressive data plan marketing grabbed consumer attention, and forced competition to rethink the data game. Suddenly consumers who were very okay with 3GB data now demanded (and got) 150GB a month. Video streaming, without buffering, is now at hand. And in every hand. 
Which proved to be the game changer for OTT entertainment/sports brands. From global biggies like Netflix and Amazon Prime, to home-grown platforms like Hotstar, Voot, ALT Balaji and more coming in. With the ever-constant presence of YouTube. And if there is a marketing word of the year, it has to be ‘content’. 
We are spending more time streaming content on smartphones, rather than watching it on TV or reading about it in print. Content is the golden bandwagon that brands across categories now look at exploring.  From entertainment to news services; sporting events to knowledge brands; luxury to FMCG — all categories are hedging on creating content that helps them connect better with their users. With consumers in the driving seat, marketers are calibrating plans accordingly. 
Brands are experimenting with advertising in the digital and social space – longer ads, creating stories, heightened emotional quotient, integrated product placement and more. Brands are trying to find avenues to push discovery of content or help the consumers discover it for themselves. 
Content creators have an opportunity to build a relationship with consumers like never before. With access to data analytics, insights into consumer behaviour/preferences, content creators can personalize product offerings. They know more about who their users are and what they want. 
Mature brands are innovating to offer a ‘lean forward’ interactive engagement, giving consumers a tangible, tactile brand experience. Not just online, brands across categories are increasingly using these consumer insights to engage better offline too. Many online businesses today have an offline avataar – Amazon bookstores and Pepper Fry studios are two examples. Events as engagement platforms are a popular format to share the lean forward marketing experience, more so since live events are shareable experiences and play into consumer desires for recognition and influence. 
Going ahead, brand marketers who succeed are likely to be those who focus on bringing together people not just to hear what the brands have to say, but to meet each other, to share, to participate, to discuss and to debate. 
The formula for business success is shifting radically. It is no longer enough to develop content for eyeballs or mere reach. Content needs to engage consumer minds, to touch them emotionally and offer value that is beyond material transactions. Consumers are likely to prefer brands that respect their intelligence, that can help them grow, that can be useful. 
Marketers will need to invest in tools that will help them understand the deepest, most direct insights into their consumers. Brands that translate that insight into meaningful engagement, will have tapped into the growth currency – building a community of avid fans. 
Avid fans who are socially, economically and emotionally invested have the potential of driving business value. These are fans who will continue to buy into the brand even at a premium, because they cannot get enough of the content they love. More so, they will share it. They will post about it. They will talk about it. They will defend it. They will recommend it. Today’s brand fans are most likely to recruit tomorrow’s. 
Companies that focus singularly on the most enthusiastic brand fans could potentially find it to be a key driver of profitable growth. 
Cheers to 2018 being the year of growth. 
I agree totally with Pavita when she talks about fans. Fans as ambassadors for brands. Avid fans who are socially, economically and emotionally invested. And that companies that focus singularly on the most enthusiastic brand fans could potentially find it to be a key driver of profitable growth. Her message for 2018 is simple but lucid : know your customer; understand your customer; embrace your customer; love your customer.
This is the fourth piece in this year-end series. Look out for more.
(Sandeep Goyal has been 33 years in the advertising and media business. He has seen many sunrises and many sunsets. He thinks year-end assessments are good as a report card; year-beginning predictions are a good road map to new destinations.)