Marketing Innovation in the Digital Age
Saurabh Pandey is an avid writer and media and technology enthusiast. He has been working for about 10 years now, with organizations like, Zdnetindia, Google and Bharti Airtel. His blog SycamoreWorld is a conundrum of interesting and thought provoking content. He can be reached at sycamoreworld (at) gmail(dot) com
Marketing is a process to come closer to consumer.
How innovatively can one execute this process of coming closer to a consumer, would determine how innovative one is as a marketer.
This is how I decipher marketing!
1. Being innovative in marketing starts with listening to consumers (Not exactly)!
Don’t get me wrong, but in today’s world it’s imperative to observe a customer through all the means possible and not just do a feedback research that’s going to give predicted results.
Because it’s not always the consumer who knows the most about his own needs, or for that matter a product that he consumes!
To put things in context, imagine, how successfully Intel has executed it’s marketing program. It has always positioned it’s products at the top end of performance, and coupled with that, consistently launched new products with higher benchmarks.
Frankly, there is no specific need for me to buy a laptop with dual-core processor and hyperthreading (I perhaps don’t even know what difference can it bring to my life), but still I will think twice before buying an AMD equipped laptop or a cheaper celeron.
That’s because Intel has not necessarily just listened to customers, it has observed the buying behavior (which is simplistically, based on a feeling of consumer insecurity, that arises from less knowledge about technology and a tendency to buy products that comply with latest standards, so that they do not face any support problems later), and based on that configured it’s entire marketing strategy.
Intel is a leader, and as a leader it sets benchmarks…and changes them very frequently…it doesn’t wait for the customers or the competition to action or initiate any change/deviation.
Hence, OBSERVING a customer (see, who are the peripheral users, what are the peripheral needs of existing users, what are the peripheral products, buying behavior and see what best practices can we superimpose in our marketing) is more important than just listening to him.
Another example that comes to my mind is of one of the most impactful registration drive campaigns from Timejobs.com.
Timesjobs.com, observed two pain points,
1. Weak bandwidth/communication links: So when a person would start to register on Naukri or mosnter, many times, the connection breaks and the person has to re-fill the entire form.
2. The forms were so lengthy that, people would fill up half of it and then abandon it, to come back again and fill up at leisure.
(There was no specific complain from the customer, because for the customer Naukri and Monster were two great things that have happened to him, and if it means a little bit more effort to fill-in the form, not a problem)
Timejobs created ads that looked like registration forms and it did 2 things for Timesjobs:
1. The person can fill the form from anywhere (clicking a link from within google, or filling up a form within rediff.com)
2. It was quick and easy. (just 3 steps). A person needed to fill in just about 3 fields to get registered.
This helped in driving traffic, so much so that today, Timesjobs claims to be the fastest growing job portal in India.
Again, Timesjobs may not be a better product, but all it did was observe a latent need/consumer behavior and that made a difference.
2. Segmentise Consumers and make segment specific Product/marketing strategies
I have pondered and discussed this at my website: Sycamoreworld
For e.g.: Imagine if a company like HP ties up with a newspaper like Times of India (and their special School initiative), and say 100 Schools across India, and encourage children to come out with a fortnightly school newspaper.
The newspaper can be designed on HP-PCs using a few HP softwares, scanners and printers (they may collaborate with adobe for advanced users), and can be distributed by Times of India.
Imagine the number of young minds you can influence. These youngsters are not just the influencers today, but will be the actual buyers and users tomorrow.
Similarly this can be done for doctors, architects and other segments. All we need to do is to create a difference in terms of reaching closer to our prospects and creating an impact.
It’s a great opportunity, especially for players in the field of online gaming, blogging and social networking to tap into specific segments and leverage.
3. To be innovative, in today’s parlance means being simple and straight.
Let’s accept that today’s consumers are younger but much smarter, and they do not want sugar coated message, if you can deliver it straight, you will be able to involve them.
If you observe Google: it is not the most aesthetically designed site in the world, it does not have any content of it’s own, it will not sport flashy banner ads, or videos on the homepage. You will rarely see any ads/kiosks/hoardings promoting Google products but still, perhaps it the largest traffic attracter in the internet space.
Simple yet aesthetic design, fast and responsive service and relevant results.
So keeping Google’s case in context, what would have Yahoo done in 1998. They would have tried to make better email systems, and better websites which would be feature rich and attractive.
But Google saw two trends very clearly and early:
1. There was a mushrooming growth in content and websites on the net. This meant that in future people will need to try harder to get a specific information, since the information would be spread across millions.
Hence a need for a good search mechanism.
2. With the design revolution, most sites will sport flash, video and multimedia content, that will make sites heavier and sites will take more time to load, hence a need for a site/search engine that’s light and loads fast.
That’s what Google did.
Another important observation, which you may appreciate, : The major search sites on that era, ‘excite, alta vista and lycos, also missed this point. They tried to expand into a horizontal portal (started to present news, and jokes and other information on the search site), and look here they are now.
Again, this also links back to observing the trends (not necessarily customer trend only) and carve an opportunity out of it.
4. Marketing through Blogs
I am sure you know, people across the world tuned themselves to the blogs, when USA invaded Iraq, to know the latest and real story. It was not the CNN or BBC, but various blogs that held the attention of millions of people worldwide.
That’s the power of blogs. Blogs are considered to be an honest and personal medium of expression, hence the trust and involvement is more.
Blogs are going to change the face of communication on earth! It’s upto us when and how do we want to leverage this.
GM, Disney, Sony and various other organisations are leveraging Blogs to their advantage.
In India, we have not seen much on this front, but this is what for instance, Maruti SX4 could have done:
1. Launch an extensive online campaign calling bloggers to empanel for test driving SX4.
(Promote this offline, to build aspiration and involvement)
2. Select 50 bloggers across different platforms, and ask them to keep an SX4 for 1 week, and write about the experiences.
3. Capture videos, and photographs of bloggers using SX4 and spread them in different media as PR and ads as also post them on corporate site, youtube and community sites.
4. The bloggers eventually post their experience.
5. Integrate those blogs and promote them through online and offline mechanism and ask people to comment, ask questions and register for test drive.
This could have given low cost high impact advantage to SX4.
Marketing through Blogs is an extremely interesting topic, and if an opportunity comes I shall be glad to share more on this in future.
I am sure you all have tried similar innovations in various aspects of your corporate life. It will be great to hear and learn from your experience. Please do convey how you liked this article and share your thoughts.
I conclude by quoting Albert Einstein:
Innovation is not the product of logical thought, although the result is tied to logical structure.