Call it the powerful word of mouth squared, if you will, but person-to-person talk in the digital medium is slowly emerging from the shadows to be the primary tool to reach out to customers for many corporates.
They call it digital marketing. And social media – Facebook, Twitter, online communities and the like – is their weapon. An Assocham survey in October showed that companies now spend as much as 30-40% of their marketing budget on social media.
Witness its power: India’s car market leader Maruti Suzuki recently launched its new car Swift entirely on the social networking site Facebook. In other words, Facebook publicity replaced the traditional grand road shows, media campaigns, gala parties and glitzy launches.
“It is not just about generating awareness about the product. Companies are increasingly using digital marketing as part of their brand re-positioning and placement strategy,” says Ranjeet K Laungani, vice-president of Nielsen, India.
Besides Swift, all Maruti brands now have a distinct online presence, thanks to the company’s social media campaigns. Its small car Ritz has cultivated two million Facebook fans in just three months.
“In order to connect with the customers or potential customers, we generally try to keep these campaigns very interactive,” says Mahohar Bhat, vice-president of marketing at Maruti Suzuki.
Maruti is certainly not the only auto major with a digital drive. Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) ran an innovative campaign in the form of a ‘Guess the Price’ contest ten days before the launch of its XUV 500. The contest received a whopping 1.15 lakh entries, leading to virtual stampedes at M&M dealerships. Prospective buyers just could not wait to get their first look of the XUV500 and to test drive it.
Online marketing harnesses the powerful word of mouth, albeit in digital format. Used in the run-up to the launch, digital marketing has been found to be very potent and effective.
So much so even Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, has sharpened its focus on the digital space during the launch of the Etios.
Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director of marketing at Toyota Kirloskar Motor, says that digital marketing is now critical to marketing a new car.”Buying decisions may happen in a showroom but the whole process on the digital platform helps in influencing the potential customers.”
Apart from social networking sites, companies are using smartphones as an advertisement platform.” As you enter a mall, you start getting information on your smartphone about what is on offer. This individual focus has the potential to influence the purchasing decisions of the customer,” says Laungani of Nielsen India.
For, prospective buyers often miss advertisements in the press, on billboards, so on. But it is difficult to miss a deal offer on mobile phone.
Digital marketing will only attract fatter budgets in future, say observers. “Goods and services worth about `23,000 crore are traded currently on the social networks across the world. The figure is likely to swell to about `1.35 lakh crore by 2015 with India’s share likely to cross `10,000 crore mark during the course of next 3-4 years,” says D S Rawat, secretary-general of Assocham.