08 May 2013

Branding 3.0

By Anvar Alikhan, Senior Vice President and Executive Creative Director, JWT Mindset


In 2003, singer Barry White and comic actor John Ritter died of heart attacks within a few weeks of each other. Their deaths were followed by an extraordinary amount of buzz about “CVD”, or cardiovascular disease, generated on the Net, in the media and in public spaces. This swelled into a full-fledged movement called the “Boomer Coalition”, named after the baby boomer generation that seemed to have got together to fight the cardiovascular disease cause. It was a wonderful thing to have happened, but nobody knew quite how it had been triggered off. Not until Scott Goodson wrote this book recently, and confessed that it had been his doing: he was the one who had triggered that movement, on behalf of his client, Pfizer, which had a range of innovative products for treating CVD, and wanted to raise awareness among the baby boomers, the group that was at the highest risk of the disease.

Welcome to the concept of “Movement marketing”, at the leading edge of which are Scott Goodson and his company, StrawberryFrog. It’s a radical new way of going beyond the usual consumer insights that form the cornerstone of the conventional communication strategy, to identify a wider cultural movement – or an “idea on the rise in society”, as Goodson puts it – and then being able to ride that movement, shaping it into a major wave as you go.

Goodson goes on to explore how, having identified a cultural movement to ride on, one can then engage today’s cynical consumer. And the secret of doing that, of course, is: not targeting the consumer with any selling message, but encouraging her to work towards the cause or passion that’s close to her heart — making your brand an indispensable enabler in the process. How subtly you do this is the key to success, or to failure. All this has become possible today, for the first time, thanks to the new media options available to us – social media, online content, blogs, Twitter, virals and apps, supported by events, promos, giveaways and on-the-ground activities – which form a convenient platform upon which the members of the movement can come together. Conventional media, like TV, is used only tactically, if, indeed, it’s used at all. The campaign that results from all this is rather like a political campaign, except that it’s created for a brand.

It’s not an easy game to play, because the old familiar rules don’t apply any more. You are not in the driving seat any more, the consumer is; you’re merely sitting beside her and facilitating her as she goes off in her own direction.

But the biggest hazard in movement marketing is the risk of the brand behaving in a manner that’s seen as “un-authentic” or overtly commercial by the members of the movement. And if that ever happens you’re in trouble, as they will quickly turn upon the brand, quite mercilessly; and the pay-off, rather than being positive, can become stingingly negative. Yet, in a world where consumers are becoming increasingly cynical, and products increasingly commoditised by technology, this – like it or not – appears to be the way of the future.

Goodson obviously knows what he’s talking about. After all, his company has created case-study campaigns for global clients like Procter & Gamble, Coke, Pepsi, Microsoft, Walmart, Pfizer, Morgan Stanley and Emirates Airlines, and some of those cases are presented in this book. But one of the clients he seems to be proudest of, interestingly, is the Mahindra group.

One of Goodson’s core beliefs is that in order to come through as being completely authentic – a fundamental requirement for success in movement marketing – a company’s first task is to convert its own people to the cause, before it can convert consumers outside (for example, long before Apple launched the “Think different” campaign in the marketplace, it had clearly established that idea within the company). And that is the kind of thing StrawberryFrog has evidently been working on for Mahindra. Its ambitious “Rise” campaign case is discussed here in some detail: how the idea emerged from research, which showed that its people felt the need to “rise to the challenges of today”; how this was crystallised into a manifesto and sold into the organisation; and how the programme was then rolled out internally, through a variety of workshops — as well as externally, through the online “Spark the Rise” programme, which invites people to submit ideas for social and technological change. These ideas are then voted upon and funded by Mahindra for implementation.

It’s unusual in a book like this to find that one of the most important cases discussed is a case from India. But then India seems to figure prominently in the way StrawberryFrog looks at the world: it currently has two offices, in Amsterdam and New York, and is in the process of setting up a third, in Mumbai. The company has been talking about it for a long time, but maybe it’s a question of not finding the right people to drive it. As the Pink Floyd song asks: Is there anybody out there?

This article appeared in Business Standard, June 7 2012

No comments:

Post a Comment