Marketers believe word-of-mouth to be the oldest and most impactful kind of advertising. Yet not many have taken it a notch higher with the growing marketing options available today.
Here is where Brandie, a Sweden-based word-of-mouth platform, comes in. The platform enables brands to drive user-generated content (UGC) at minimum cost by connecting brands with real customers - who they proudly call advocates.
Campaign India caught up with Pranav Kosuri, co-founder of Brandie, who is hell-bent on democratising the world of marketing. He told us all about how the platform operates in the Indian market and what distinguishes it from influencer marketing.
What led you to establish Brandie, and how does it work?
The co-founder Douglas Andersson and I realised that every brand has built its foundation on word-of-mouth. However, as the brand grows and progresses, marketers lose track of their customers. They start spending marketing budgets on different media, some of which might not even be necessary for the brand.
We started to look at how we’re so prompt at responding to negative comments on social media, as opposed to positive ones. The crying baby gets the milk. If someone gets a bad delivery from Swiggy, the brand apologises and gives them compensation. But, if a person appreciates the meal, the brand, at most, would like the post. This happens with most brands. Only influencers and celebrities are an exception in this case. If they respond, we hound them and ask them if they want to do more.
There are no tools and skillsets for brands to interact with every consumer. What we wanted to build was software for brands to work at a really large scale, incentivising consumers to be vocal about what they feel. On Brandie, consumers can connect with their favourite brands and be rewarded for the content they share.
Your platform enables brands to drive user-generated content at minimum cost by connecting them to customers with genuine reviews. What is the minimum cost involved here?
Brands in India come to us and tell us the number of consumers they want to activate for a particular campaign. If they want 2,000 people to talk about their brand during a certain period, we guarantee that number and charge basis per consumer that gets activated. However, the price point differs concerning the restrictions put by the brand on its customer base. If they want to do it only in Bengaluru or pan-India, there’s a different price involved. It’s easier to get advocates for a renowned brand, as compared to a regional one since they’d have fewer users to source from.
However, if a brand demand specific kinds of content, it’s hard to execute, since not everyone wants to put out an advertisement for a brand on their social channels. They want to speak in their tone and language. So, the lesser the restrictions, the more the benefit.
Does Brandie have to follow ASCI guidelines to let people know when content is being promoted?
No. Since we are not actively paying someone for their opinion, it’s more like a loyalty program, like American Express, where you swipe your card and get points. However, most brands with us just want their consumers to showcase them the way they see them.
We give brands the same metrics as in influencer marketing, just so they have more clarity about their needs, but we would ideally not want to be bucketed there. We don’t want to incorporate influencer marketing, but rather get them to us.
Users sharing content related to a brand, get rewarded for their posts. How do you ensure transparency in this case? What sort of rewards are given to users?
The biggest distinction between us and influencer marketing is that we are not giving money to anyone for their opinion. All we’re saying is that if you talk positively, you will be rewarded for it. That can be in terms of loyalty-building too.
We also work with Truecaller, and if one of our advocates talks positively about it, or participates in their campaigns, they get rewarded with Truecaller Premium. That means they are customers of Truecaller which makes it a natural win-win. Apart from that, it’s also about integrity.
It might not be the best answer for brands, but people on our platform are not influencers and will not look to actively fool their friends, colleagues, and family. Our rewards can vary from premium brands highlighting the top content creators on their social media, to Amazon vouchers, and in some cases, a reward that drives a cause.
Won't some of Brandie's advocates be aspiring influencers looking to get commercialised in the future?
A lot of brands use our software to poach potential influencers. From our many advocates, they probably see 50 who are great and can also get a full list of all participants, including their contact details. They can freely take them and have individual partnerships with them. We also serve as a stepping stone for people who want to become influencers.
Since the content is mainly generated by word-of-mouth, what role do AI and machine learning play in this process?
Brands are very concerned about the content that comes out. When people share through our platform, we have photo recognition and machine learning tools that screen every single content, so no indecent or tawdry content gets through the system. The demographic for different markets are different. Through our machine learning tools, a brand can see how an advocate in a particular market speaks about the same brand differently in another market. This gives brands a visualisation to better understand their different customers and how they speak.
How many clients do you have on board, and what are their expectations?
We have around 200 clients. In India, brands have started to understand that influencer marketing is great to bring about awareness, but the trust factor is also needed. They’re still spending on influencer marketing, but what they want is this wave of consumers filling the trust factor. It’s like a plug-in to any influencer campaign they do. Currently, a lot of brands want to have UGC. When they come to us, they’re looking to make their communication more organic.
What if your advocates want to talk about a brand that is not your client?
Our advocates are always free to talk about whatever they like. We’re not creating a new behaviour. People are already talking about brands they love on social media. However, we don’t have 100% inclusion in all the markets and won't be able to accommodate brands without getting something out of it.
You are currently present in India, Sweden and Indonesia. How many employees do you have, and are you planning to expand?
We want to keep it lean and mean. We are a small team of 25 people in the company, but we still do major things. We find a few talented people who can do a lot of things and then we grow upon that. However, we are growing into 60 markets in the coming year.
What are your expectations from the Indian market, and where do you see Brandie five years down the line?
We expect every agency in India to be aware of Brandie in the coming year. This is a tool that they can implement in any campaign that they do.
For influencer marketing, they can plug it along and it won’t require using more than one or two influencers, since everything is served by technology. I hope they see us as an integral part of every marketing campaign that’s being launched.
We’re not saying that influencer marketing is bad, but we want to see brands on Facebook advertising, influencer marketing and also leveraging consumers - which is where Brandie comes in.
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