Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Building consumer-cultivating brands

Published in Nov-Dec 2014

Breaking away from the barriers of conventional marketing thinking.

Let me start with the example of BMW. In 2001 and 2002, BMW created a series of eight short films made by well known filmmakers (Ang Lee and Guy Ritchie to name just two). These films were known as The Hire; they lasted no longer than 10 minutes and could only be seen on the internet.

The trailers for the films appeared on television and sent viewers to the website where they could see the films in their entirety, which starred the same actor (Clive Owen) driving the cars and highlighting aspects of their performance amid all manner of car chases and plot twists. Because it was kind of an underground thing, young people started to discover the films and then download and share them with friends.

BMW could have aired the films on TV, on DVDs, or run them in movie theatres (in the slots before the feature films) or do any number of other things. But they did the surprising thing of choosing a method of distribution that was limited by intent. Restricting content and making it hard to access was one of the rationales behind the campaign. What I like about this case is that it broke so many fundamental marketing principles. A classic rule of marketing maintains that if you want to reach a broad audience, you need mass advertising; if you want to reach a smaller audience, you do niche advertising. Yet, these marketers realised that the best way to create an impact with a young audience was to make it inaccessible and let them discover it on their own.

Classic marketing wisdom doesn’t always hold true. Take another piece of conventional wisdom; brands need a consistent brand message. In the US, BMW is a relatively new brand (30 or 40 years old in terms of its American presence). The yuppies who bought their BMWs in the 80s now have their own kids who are never going to buy a car their parents owned. This explains why BMW decided to manage multiple brand messages (the reason for the eight short films) for different audiences and use the internet as a form of distribution.

Conventional marketing wisdom therefore needs to be re-examined. What I like about the BMW case is that it is a completely different way of thinking about customers; it’s an invitation, not a heavy sell. You can download the films and keep them – you don’t have to buy the car. And they are enlisting people to become marketers for them, by making it easy for them to share the films with friends. They are generating goodwill in a non-aggressive way.

I am sure that had BMW been marketed in Pakistan, our marketers would have gone the TV and print ad campaign route. However, supposing for a second that they would have made these short films, I can bet that they would have worked relentlessly to develop a strategy across different media starting with a big burst on TV and then driven their agency to integrate the creative idea across all ATL and BTL platforms. That is more or less the standard approach to marketing in Pakistan, no matter what the brand challenge.

A lot has changed in the last 10 years, the only constant being our marketers and their marketing. Yet if they are to see breakthrough results for their brands, they really need to get out of this outdated TV and print ad mindset. The lines between ATL and BTL have blurred and they need to think beyond the line. Yet they keep drawing those lines. 360 degree campaigns fall flat today but they still want to do a 360 degree campaign, when a simple single 30 degree idea can work miracles if given all the focus.

Look at what Philips in India recently did during the Jamai Shashti, a festival celebrated in West Bengal that is dedicated to sons-in-law. Philips decided to promote their shavers as a gift option during the festival. As part of the pilot scheme, two local radio stations were roped in. RJs spoke to audiences about the festival and recommended Philips shavers as gift options. This was followed by a targeted missed call campaign to personalise the message. It was the mix in the strategy that worked. A company may create awareness using mass media, but may leave a hook for targeted messaging.

So there you have it. No point in thinking TV or print, the trick is to think results and how best to achieve them and this requires a fundamental shift in marketing mindset.

Marketers need to get out of the habit of trying to get a message out to a large population by blanketing swathes of people simultaneously, mostly using one-way mass communication. Today, there are a host of options available that makes such mass marketing too crude.

The key distinction between a traditional and a modern ‘consumer-cultivating’ company is that the former is organised to push products and brands and the latter is designed to serve different customers segments. In the latter, communication is two-way and personalised, or at the very least tightly targeted at thinly sliced segments. Today more and more companies have access to the information and insights they need to make a consumer-cultivating strategy work. The days of easy marketing are over.

To conclude, our marketers need to start thinking afresh and openly as they embrace their marketing challenges. There are many new things they can do to achieve their marketing objectives.

So be brave, be creative and be a true marketer. Imagine, inspire, influence.

Shoaib Qureshy is CEO, Bulls Eye DDB.