The virtues of virtual marketing: Trust but verify

Dr Bibhas K Mukhopadhyay & Dr Boidurjo Mukhopadhyay *

"Ingredients sourced locally" or "banking with care" or "our supply chain is green" don't tend to create buzz as much it did back in early 2000s. Essentially, it all comes down to trust.

People tend to trust and judge what others have to say, which means when they hear about something from a friend or previous consumer, they're more likely to buy.The digital transformation involved putting more resources and focus on consumer targets and insights.

Marketing transformation involved shifting from the broader goal of satisfying customers to fundamentally delighting them byusingimproved data analysis to better understand (current and future) needs and wants of customers. Instead of getting most of its insights from retailers as it did earlier, companies have now shifted to listening to customers.

Word of mouth marketing (or WOMM) is a process of Influencing and encouraging organic discussions about a brand, organization, resource, or event.It can make or break a business that is further amplified by toxic use of social media.McDonald's unfortunate reception in its early days in Paris or the KFC scandal is a quick testimony.

If word of mouth marketing is done right, the business may not need to keep an extended Ad budget; customers will share their stories (good or otherwise) across their social media and connections if they are happy with the customer service, quality of products or services, quick and hassle-free delivery – a core stakeholder doing all these for free is definitely better than the stubbornly stuck and overpaid billboard.

Research shows that 92 percent of consumers will believe a word from a friend or trusted individual over advertising, 20 percent-50 percent of purchases are the result of a word-of-mouth recommendation, and 81% of consumers are influenced by their friends' social media posts.

Only about 10% of consumers trust brands. Not very hard to imagine, 70 percent of consumers read online customer reviews when considering a brand. However, the fact that both the developed as well as the developing world, marketing high has not only been considered from the point of view of being an integral component in the context of economic development, but as a rich gold-mine as well (earning foreign exchange which is described as claims on a country by another held in the form of a currency of that country).

Reaping adequately from modernized, highly fluid and fast-changing global business/commercial environment does depend on its abundant natural/ human/ technological/ financial resources as well as crucially on the very ability to undertake expanded task of adapting to befitting marketing strategies.

Not the clich้s 4Ps, butthe power today instead lies with 3E - Engage, Equip, Empower. Firstly,companies learning to directly engage with customers (current and prospective) byasking them to leave a #yesahashtag or tweet or post on Facebook to share a link with others, are some of the many ways how target customers could be engaged.

It is hard to come up with an advertisement of a company that is not on the popular social media platforms, in a rather toxic way. Secondly, equipping customers with a voice or a platform to share what they think and how they feel about a product or service.

From travel sites, massage and flotation centres to restaurant, leaving feedback online on a company's site – makes customer the King. Previous customer reviews could surely guide potential ones to know if there is a likelihood to be treated as a King (of good or bad times!).

Most companies, certainly not all, actually uses this feedback to develop their products and services along with using the data to provide 360-degree employee feedback when necessary. Finally, empoweringcustomers in different ways to express and share their opinion and immediate reaction.

Companies like Starbucks, for example, runs in-store promotional on new beverages and ask visiting customers to try it for half-price (or for free, even) and leave a feedback that would determine whether the product would ultimately go to the menu next week. True power is also with customer ratings for ordering online food deliver or ride-hailing services.

The global marketing landscape is constantly shifting and evolving – in response to consumer demand, rapid technological innovation and a deluge of content and platforms. Capturingattention of the customer is one thing, but to what extent the initial novelty lasts is the immediate after.

Today, a one-minute video is about 52 seconds, considered too long. Microsoft has found that, since 2000, the average person's attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds. Research supports the so-called 'goldfish effect' of social media – 33 per cent of viewers stop watching a video after 30 seconds, 45 percent by one minute and 60 per cent by two minutes.

Another distraction – 85 per cent of Facebook videos are watched without sound, suggesting consumers prefer muted ads. Consumer products giant P&G – one of the world's largest advertisers – increasingly uses 5-6 second formats to quickly convey the brand and the benefit, while Heineken has recognised the need for videos to have 'thumb-stopping power' by telling their stories within6 secs on Facebook.

Typically, a user-generated content is freely and willingly created and shared by everyday consumers, while word of mouth is the organic sharing of information or opinions about a product, company, or brand, from one consumer to the other. For the hospitality sector, getting customers to write reviews is one powerful way to facilitate the spread of word-of-mouth marketing.

With various e-tail platforms in India and the giant Amazon, they build customer trust by showing them that a verified customer offers their endorsement of your brand. Therefore, looking ahead, leveraging consumer generated media for a company or brand's marketing significantly boosts word-of-mouth marketing. Today's dominance of IMC [Integrated Marketing Communication] keeps track with the everyday changes.

Posting a video, for example, no doubt promotes brand awareness, increases consumer understanding as well as enhances conversion rates. Though a picture is worth a thousand words, yet, according to Forrester, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. What's so good about video that it can convey the equivalent of 3,600 pages of text in just 60 seconds?

Of course: businesses should use whatever resources are at their disposal to contribute to society in a constructive way. This has to be kept in mind in as much as, according to a recent corporate social responsibility (CSR) survey, 96 per cent of people believe that it is important for companies to have good social and environmental policies.

Culture, leadership, organisational values and beliefs play a crucial role in designing any form of marketing and the choice of marketing communication. Some of the most popular banking ads are made by HSBC, and their slogan 'HSBC. The World's Local Bank' clearly impresses the importance of speaking Glocal (global firms with a consideration for local markets) language.

On the other hand, a company like Nike never really talks about their product in their Ads, instead they focus entirely on athletes and achievements of great sportsmen.

Language (let us forget what landed A&F into serious legal problems), Colour (coca cola still dominates with its logo), Values (Tom Shoes, 'one of one' offering one free pair of shoes to a poor child in a developing country when you pay for your pair) and Leadership (socially responsible, participatory and ethical) all are determinants to successful brand building and designing Ads.

* Dr Bibhas K Mukhopadhyay & Dr Boidurjo Mukhopadhyay wrote this article for The Sangai Express
Dr Bibhas K Mukhopadhyay is Prof of Management, Dr Boidurjo Mukhopadhyay is International Development and Management Economist based in London, UK
This article was webcasted on March 05 2020 .

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