Here’s a question: do you like a haddi in your kabab? How about a big pothole right in the middle of a road? Of course you don’t. No one does. And that’s exactly why most people hate ads. There you are, trying to enjoy your favorite programme and all of a sudden someone ambushes you, selling something you have absolutely no interest in. Yes, I’m sure it’s very important to clients that their new detergent magnetically removes stains or that their new cereal will sh*t-start my morning, but trust me, when I’m in the middle of an episode of Castle, that’s the last thing I want to hear about.
So is that to say we should stop advertising altogether? Of course not. What it means is that like any successful industry, we need to take a step back, re-evaluate and adapt to changing trends. I’m not talking about taking the harassment online and provoking innocent Facebookers with poorly animated banner ads. I’m talking about changing the way we approach and engage audiences altogether. For example, what if we stop interrupting and start integrating by creating content that audiences actually want to seek out and enjoy? Seems impossible? The truth is it’s already being done. It’s called Coke Studio.
Coke’s deafeningly loud presence
Let me be honest: although I’m a Coca-Cola fan, I’m actually not a follower of the Coke Studio series at all. But despite that, even for someone like me who generally avoids mainstream media, Coke Studio is pretty damn hard to ignore – impossible actually. Almost everyone I know (music-lover or not) is already talking about the ongoing season as if it’s the only music show on TV. They know the songs, all the artists, and have their own personal ratings for each season. But that got me thinking. What did Coke Studio do that MTV, Channel V and all these other music channels didn’t so many years ago? Why did it take a brand like Coke (that wasn’t in any way exclusively linked to music) to bring out the avid music enthusiasts of Pakistan?
Back in 2008, while all the big brands were busy scrambling for our attention, Coke took the road less traveled and decided to revive Pakistan’s dwindling music scene by launching Coke Studio (a ‘studio-ized’ adaptation of Brazil’s live concert platform Estúdio Coca-Cola).
Instead of invading our living rooms and bombarding us with contrived reasons to guzzle down cola, they made the smart choice and gave Pakistanis what they were looking for all along: quality entertainment And they did so without the overbearing product placement and commercial values that audiences have since grown to resent.
Were they the first brand to ever ride the music train? Certainly not. But Coca-Cola stuck to its guns and created quality content that people have come to love passionately.
Let’s face it, today Coke owns the music platform. Pepsi, Clear, Nescafe and more have all tried to follow suit but were met with limited success.
Coke Studio, on the other hand, has become a staple of Pakistani pop culture and the fans can’t get enough. When they’re not glued to the TV watching their favorite acts, they’re almost certainly downloading videos and MP3s of their favorite performances online. Needless to say, Coke Studio’s digital presence has catapulted the brand right into the hearts, minds, phones and iPods of millions of music lovers across the country, which is more than most brands achieve in a lifetime. And just like the drink itself, the show’s success has already transcended borders, picking up speed in India and the Middle East. They have even started their own dedicated music channel here in Pakistan (take that MTV).
If you want your brand to succeed, stop interrupting and start integrating. Take a page out of Coke’s book and learn to sit down, shut up, and let the music do the talking.
Shut up and listen Look, it’s simple. People want to be entertained and new media avenues such as torrents, online streaming and Apple TV have empowered audiences to select the content they want to see, when they want to see it, while skipping ads in the process. Instead of clinging to the traditional mode of advertising, smart brands (like Coca-Cola) will learn to invest in becoming part of that content, gaining substantial loyalty along the way. Yes, print, radio and TV are still very much alive, but why waste time and money fighting over column space and airtime when audiences are busy pursuing their favorite content elsewhere?
The bottom line: if you want your brand to succeed, stop interrupting and start integrating. Take a page out of Coke’s book and learn to sit down, shut up, and let the music do the talking. For all you know, to most people, your TV commercials are nothing more than a much-needed bathroom break.