BrandSutra: When marketers ride a wave

Who doesn’t like riding a wave! Well, marketers certainly do when they leverage an event or news story to create communication around it. Topical advertising’ or moment marketing’ latches on to any conversation that’s already happening or a story that’s unfolding amongst your target audience to convey your brand’s message. With this, the objective of any communication to stimulate conversations and meaningfully engage the customer gets achieved. Topical advertising’ fits in very well by ‘riding’ the moment and not seeking to make a new beginning.

Topical communication can at best be a ‘booster’ to your brand’s core message. By its very definition, the messaging lasts as long as the topic is relevant. A sharp brand manager with smart topical communication would have cut the clutter to make a mark by then. The customer is constantly bombarded with promotional messages across multiple platforms and has a very small attention span. So, with topical messaging, the brand leverages a ‘trending moment’ that the customer is seeking to engage with, unlike the ‘regular’ and ‘pushy’ promotional message which she may detest.

Here are some pointers towards moment marketing and how to get it right:

  • Be alert, agile and anticipate: Timing is of essence. The right moment can strike anytime. When Felix Baumgartner’s space trip was delayed due to bad weather, KitKat leveraged the moment and their campaign went up almost immediately.

BrandSutra: When marketers ride a wave
  • A typical cycle of approvals won’t cut the ice. So, either empower your agency and brand head to be nimble and to take quick decisions or ‘anticipate’. It’s amazing how Amul gets it fast and right with timely one-liners and humour almost always since 1966, with the Amul girl in her trademark polka-dotted frock becoming the toast of town.

  • Ride with finesse - be tasteful: Humour and entertainment are the best way to approach topical advertising. However, a social message with topical advertising works just as well. When Lifebuoy released an ad urging people to wash their hands during the pandemic, they also mentioned competing brands: “Please use any soap nearest to you. Not just Lifebuoy, buy any soap like Lux, Dettol, Santoor or Godrej No. 1.” Customers loved the brand’s honesty and marketers loved the ingenuity. Similarly, Hero MotoCorp released an ad post the surgical strikes of 2017. It rode the patriotic fervour gripping the nation then and paid rich tributes to our soldiers by showing a co-passenger in a bus saluting an Armyman.

  • A Voltas Beko ad released in the time of #WorkFromHome, urging families to share responsibilities equally at home, somewhere touched a chord.

  • Use the best medium: If you have a great idea, it doesn’t have to be advertised through Print, TV, etc.; you can propagate it through social media at a fraction of the cost, or through viral videos. In fact, social conversations work better at these times. Twitter conversations by domestic airlines - then grounded by lockdown - in April 2020 were glorious, humorous and so topical. Customers who were equally keen to fly post the lockdown cheered them all.

  • Brand as the central character: Go topical if the ongoing conversation is relevant and reinforces the brand’s core message. Tata Tea’s legendary ‘Jaago Re’ campaign still does the rounds on social media during elections. And then, there are the predictable ones which appear during festivals, Mother’s Day or similar and just talk of the theme touching an emotional chord… though the brand may take a back seat.

With a great creative for a topical promotion, your ad recall may be high, the brand manager may get ‘likes or shares’ but she runs the risk of the brand being forgotten if the message is not in sync with core values the brand stands for.

  • Synchronising your brand’s messages to evolving news stories or current affairs will allow the brand to showcase its sense of humour or sense of responsibility and build a strong connect. But that’s at best tactical and can be a one-off event. The trick lies in achieving a fine balance between topical or moment advertising and the regular thematic campaigns so that the brand is continuously engaged with the consumer. That’s a wall which only a few brand managers have managed to scale.

(The author is a senior professional in the corporate sector and writes on varied topics that catch his fancy. The views expressed here are his own. Twitter: @sandeepbangia)

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