Digital and the power of the community

Sanjeev Jasani, VP, OgilvyOne, New Delhi writes in.

Alcohol is a restricted category where advertising is not permitted. How do you then get consumers to sample single malt and then spread the word. How will the typical surrogate advertising model work here?

In a first of its kind event, over two hours across India, Canada, the US, Taiwan, Sweden, Denmark, Russia and Britain a quirky get-together was held. Whiskey experts, bloggers all, were on twitter for a single malt nosing and tasting session to choose a ‘special 2010 edition’ single malt. Virtual tasting? Not quite.

Here’s how it worked. A set of four casks of single malts was shipped to various parts of the world. All four casks were American oak hogheads and all were filled from the same batch on September 25, 1978. Under #Vintagereserve, the organizer first rallied the tasters around on Twitter, then started on the nosing. Questions like “On nosing the first cask, what aromas can you pick up?” there was no stopping the tasters after that. It was a blitzkrieg of 140 characters of eloquence, capturing in multiple tweets the oaky, cedar cinnamon aroma and the fruity, peachy, even vanilla custard one. As the aromas were opened up, followers were allowed glimpses into what goes on in choosing what a distiller will bottle, an almost voyeuristic experience. The event worked both as an awareness camp for the uninitiated and a successful bringing together of whiskey experts. The point to remember is that each person tweeting that night had hundreds of followers so one can imagine the ripple effect. What a wonderful way of getting your customers to experience your brand and then honestly tweet about it to the world. You have to be brave to be able to do that and most companies shy away from that.

Consumers are more likely to believe people and sometimes people they don’t even know rather than believe brands. It’s time brands get bold and leave the decision making to the consumers. Infact they are the ones who build our brand. Let them decide. Focus on your product and service instead and let them do the advocacy. If they like it they will spread it. And spread it will like wild fire. You cannot force consumers to think in a particular way about your product.

So if a detergent brand makes a TV commercial which shows consumers taking a wash challenge, would they dare to do this in the real world? Where there is no technology to make one shirt look whiter than the other? Can a telecom business that claims they have the best network, take a network challenge and allow common people to experience and talk about the brand?

I think a lot of companies are scared to even attempt this incase they backfire. The power of the community can make or break your brand. And technology today can spread the message really fast. Use it wisely and you will see great results.

Digital campaigns can build great engagement models and can go a long way in building your brand if used wisely. Don’t look at digital as the last leg of your plan. Don’t restrict digital to simply building a fancy microsite supported with banners and social media thrown in for flavor. Think brand strategy, be brave and use the consumers to advocate on your behalf.

If one has to make full use of the digital medium one should not restrict it to the virtual world alone. Take it into the real world as well and integrate. In my mind the model is that of engagement using social media, digital technology and the real world all three coming together to form a unique experience for the consumer.

3 thoughts on “Digital and the power of the community

  1. Amit Gupta says:

    I agree that there are very few companies who can take up such bold and daring actions . But anyone who is confident about their product and service can use it to their advantage because its no one else other than people/customers who can make or break the brand .

  2. Sanjeev says:

    well said amit. cheers!

  3. Gaurav Tiwari says:

    Dear Sanjeev,

    Rightly put.. and a good example… I think in today’s age where consumers are empowered and have an outlet for their opinions, and where people even unknown are trusted more that the brands spending billions to gain consumers trust. Its important that brands are genuine and approachable in their efforts, and be careful about two things. Firstly, the engagement should be a natural progression of what the brands stand for and not be a forced effort just to tick the engagement box in the marketing plan. Secondly brand needs to fuel conversations and give the community an experience of the brand / product even if its virtual.
    Good example is the coke happiness ambassadors campaign.
    Thanks for sharing your views!

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