In January 2019, Gillette released their new DVC – The Best Men Can Be. This marked their transition (or at least start) from ‘the best a man can get’ to ‘the best the men can be’. From masculinity to standing up for social issues. From product marketing to purpose-driven marketing.
Purpose-driven marketing – being an opportunist?
There has been a significant uproar about this DVC. Many marketers and a few publications have criticized Gillette for being ‘opportunist’ and milking the #MeToo movement. Few have also voiced that Gillette’s take is a sweeping generalization of their own core TG – men. And hence not the ideal marketing message either.
On the other hand, significant others (the majority) have appreciated the brand for standing up for the social issue despite it being a complete shift from the communication that was pursued for years.
There will always be people taking sides, for or against, such campaigns. Today many of us are also eager to term them success or failure basis the creative or the video views this DVC is generating. Some of us are also pointing towards the sentiments of online conversations it’s triggering.
I personally believe that the success of such campaigns or initiatives should not be measured in mere numbers. Or even feedback on how good the particular asset has turned out (sentiments). Such campaigns must be looked at in a long term i.e. if the brand has supported this with other relevant messages and more importantly with tangible actions.
Believe in cause
It’s a good sign that brands are now standing up for causes and are bold enough to use conflicts as a central theme in communication. However, the intent must not be of short term gain, especially in digital media. Brands must back this up with sustained efforts. They could be creating a platform, facilitating conversation and actions or direct financial aid.
Consumers and digital audience, in general, are smart enough to see through the hollowness thanks to the incredible exposure and access to information. And hence, when it comes to purpose-driven marketing, the actions are as important as the intent (message) itself. And if not, will that amount to really anything?
After the Pulwama Attack, social media platforms were naturally flooded with very sharp and sentimental views. Most of us were talking about martyrs, their sacrifices, and as a country, the resolve and decisive action that we must take to avenge their deaths. The nation was angry, outraged and these sentiments were not superficial.
Brands, these days, strive to humanize themselves. This is especially true for digital platforms where they want to be a part of the organic conversation. And no marketer really wants to let go of a single opportunity of #momentmarketing in social media. But when it comes to real issues like national policies, politics, or real societal urgencies, brands often play safe.
No easy choices
What do you think brands (i.e. us marketers) should be doing here? I understand as a corporate entity operating in various geographies, it would be difficult for brands, to express such sharp views. But should they operate in a complete silo and pretend as if nothing has happened and continue with their regular content calendar? Or should they not post any update for that matter? Or should the brands go ahead and condemn the attack the way most of their TG has done? And be one of them (humanize the brand in real?).
There are a few brands that have come out and supported the government or military in tangible ways. Paytmmade it easier for its users to donate funds, Reliancepulled out from the production of Pakistan Super League. But most of the brands have stuck to the first two ways i.e. of operating in a silo. This may not be the wrong thing to do as their opinion probably won’t have any effect on policies and actions.
Humanizing brand needs action
I am not saying that it’s possible for every brand to contribute in a tangible way. And definitely, just a social media post is not enough. But when the audience gets to see that these same brands come up with interesting stuff to capitalize on moments frequently, it won’t be long when such silence will be considered odd.
If humanizing the brand is the ultimate goal, marketers must not operate in a silo. They must act as the eyes and ears of the organization and relay what’s happening. Try and drive tangible actions – and of course not in haste. And these actions could be positive as well – like contributing to relevant causes that are directly or indirectly related to the frontline.
Do brands need to respond to
such real issues (on social media)? Or there’s no merit in doing that? What do
As a marketing student, brand management was the most enticing profile I could imagine. We were told that a brand manager is the most important principle driving force behind the brand. How wrong I was!
No, I am not saying that the brand manager is just for the namesake or don’t have the veto at a critical juncture. But working with an appliance brand for almost a decade has taught me that while a brand manager is the director of this movie called brand, the real star (the crowd puller) is someone else.
The text-book defined a brand as a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers. But over the period I have realized that brand is nothing but trust – the emotional connection between product or service and the end-user. One can always glorify this connection from the ad campaigns or PR but spare a minute to understand the origin of this trust. This trust comes from 2 things – the inherent product quality and the brand’s efforts to ensure the customer enjoys the product the way they have promised (i.e. sort out all the jerks, niggles if need be). And who ensures this? Your service vertical!
Be it consumer durable giant or savvy IT solutions provider, service is the first if not the only function that is in direct contact with its end consumers taking care of all the hygiene factors for the brand. And this is just the tip of the iceberg for service vertical.
Have you ever thought that the interaction between the service executive and customer is the only real conversation between an organization & the market? Yeah, there are other regularly practiced avenues (market/consumer research) but aren’t you interested in ‘market reality’? In this sense, the service vertical is a great listening tool for any organization. If the service executives are trained well not only in repairing the products but also in customer handling (just the way the sales guys are), they will be the best brand ambassadors. The celebrities one hires for promotions are maybe a necessity in today’s market condition but they are just the promoters. They might help to achieve financial goals in the short-term but there would hardly any benefit once the contracts are over. But if you invest little time & effort in training service executives and consider them as organizations’ eyes, ears, and most importantly voice, they would be the real image builders.
But sadly & irrespective of the sense above paragraph is making, in reality, the service vertical is not the charming hero (or even a second lead) but one of the extras in a movie. In all of the organizations, I have worked with (read: most of the Indian organizations), service vertical is always treated as a secondary function & someone which doesn’t contribute anything tangible to bottom-line. And just for sake of bottom-line, revenue generation targets are given to service vertical which at the end of some month are even more critical than customer satisfaction index. And precisely this approach is eroding the brand value of such organizations. In today’s fiercely competitive market where the meaningful product differentiation is getting harder to achieve due to technological advancements, an effective service vertical would be the game changer. Organizations must focus on changing this culture and transforming service vertical into a front-end customer-centric function similar to sales.
Why do Indian customers choose Toyota over Maruti, Samsung over Micromax while doing so pay a premium? Shiny products, fancy advertisements? That would not be the complete answer. These brands have not only have built quality products but have imbibed on consumer’s minds that they would go that extra mile to ensure the best user experience and to do so have extremely strong service verticals.
In my opinion, its time that every organization should focus on the service vertical. And one doesn’t need to hire a fancy consultancy to understand the ‘how to’ here. Start with empowering them – build the confidence that they would be taking the center stage and would the brand advocates. Let them have to say in product and campaign designs. It’s good to have a star salesman of the year but better if you have a star serviceman as well. And the basic would start working as units – have combined conferences of marketing, sales & service (this surprisingly most Indian majors don’t do)!
To sum it up:
Service vertical can be an effective listening tool to understand market reality
Service executives are the real brand ambassadors & critical in shaping opinion about the organization – they are the image builders
Organizations should focus on Service and make a star out of them
Practiced right will generate positive buzz in all stakeholders
Considering service vertical as one of your brand pillars or drivers is a win-win strategy. It would not only give an organization a competitive edge but also create goodwill in all stakeholders – which is one of the most important assets.