Marketing at Crossroads: Why Content is Key and Who Takes Credit

The marathon B2Bento chat conversation with Vikas Gulati from Vserv.mobi and Sanchit Sanga from Mindshare, concludes with the role of content and content strategy in marketing, effective attribution techniques, and some words of wisdom for the new crop of graduates entering the business world.

(B2Bento: Anol Bhattacharya, VG: Vikas Gulati, SS: Sanchit Sanga)

B2Bento: It all ties back to the content strategy. If you don’t have a content strategy then even the 100k fans you have are not worth much. You need a content strategy that is friendly to the social world, and a proper editorial schedule. Don’t have the same gobbledygook like “next generation paradigm shifting” etc. on your social sites as you may have on your corporate website. Having it interspersed among my personal updates does not have any parallel. Even on mobile, content matters. What is the content strategy’s importance and what would you say to a marketer who doesn’t understand content?

VG: Fundamentally if you haven’t understood your consumer and what he’s looking for whether he’s going on Facebook or using mobile, you’ll just have garbage-in-garbage-out. You won’t meet any of your objectives. The reality is that consumers don’t want to log on or use a medium to see ads. On some of these mediums or media options ads are intrusive. Sanchit mentioned how Facebook is not designed for ads. It’s absolutely true. Take me. I’ve been on Facebook since forever and I’ve never clicked on any ads. I’ve never logged into it from a PC. I’ve been accessing it from my mobile. There’s no advertising on it. That’s a reality and half f the consumers in emerging markets are doing that. That goes to show consumers are so focused that if you look at my example, people are just focused on content. That goes for mobile as a medium or any other channel.

Mobile consumers who download apps, music, and office applications don’t go on to the medium thinking they want to look at ads. That’s not their agenda. Marketeers then have to find a way in and that is through content. That’s the starting point and that’s what we tell all our brands and marketers. We tell them not to run a simple plain vanilla banner campaign. You’ll accumulate clicks and likes but that doesn’t do anything. Start tying it back in terms of what levels of engagement you’re going to get, what your results are likely to be and what objectives you’re trying to achieve. Historically, brands who have always worked on their content strategy e.g., Coke with their Coke Studio (popular in South Asia), are the successful ones. They are going to be the ones loved by the consumers.

Brands who have always worked on their content strategy are the successful ones.

SS: Look at the Old Spice campaign on YouTube. It was a creative not a media idea. People love to share it and they did share it. Content that adapts to different devices is a big factor. You can’t have the same message on TV, print, and mobile device. The theme needs to be the same but it needs to adapt to the vehicle its going in. It needs to adapt to the consumer you are speaking to. Consumers are expressing their intent and you have that info. You can’t have one message talking to Anol, Vikas and Sanchit. Each of us are in three different segments. We are at different life stages when looking for products or services. The brand needs to adapt its message to the consumer. Vehicle-based adaptive messaging and consumer-based adaptive messaging is the key.

B2Bento: In my experience in B2B it’s all about content. Impulse buying exists in B2C but in B2B, nobody decides to buy a new data center or new equipment for their plant. It’s all driven by content. Unfortunately Asia is lacking in content in both B2B and B2C. In B2C, the content is often a poor mimic of the western world. Very few places has geo-specific content or identity especially in Singapore. India is a mature market in terms of content marketing. Where do you think is changing? Are people moving towards content? How are marketers and agencies working with them reacting? What’s your experience?

SS: Speaking as a media agency we inform creative to create the content. We do not create the content. Based on the signals we pick up from the digital world we try and power the creative solutions and ideas as that’s what the consumers are looking at. That understanding is coming from us. As far as development of content goes, by and large we do not get into that space

VG: But you do form strategic partnerships with publishers, etc.

SS: That’s right but by and large the execution and development of content resides with the creative agency. We can empower them with information and insights but the eventual idea and the production of that idea lies with the agencies. We have had a certain degree of success working more with boutique agencies versus standalone old-school large outfits. More and more, the likes of Mindshare and media agencies are working with standalone creative shops due to the flexibility of more adaptability of media content. Smaller agencies tend to be more flexible and nimble in their thought process and understand our way of media, instead of the old-school way of looking at creative.

B2Bento: On the topic of big data: fifteen years back, we had print, TV and radio. Now we have far too channels and all have different touch points to the single consumer. There are social, digital, web banners, billboards, TV, etc. Now the question comes, which one converts better? What is the attribution model we are looking at? If we look just at the digital space, it’s getting more and more complex. What will you be looking at, going forward? Adobe and Google Analytics are also looking at this, but this is a fundamental question. First-click model, last-click model, and so on, but how do we get to that point?

SS: Again this is a topic of massive interest to me as I work on attribution models that straddle the digital and real world media vehicles. Clearly there is evidence that search takes away most of the credit for a conversion. We are trying to quell that myth as the last-click attribution model is extremely self-defeating. You tend to see that more and more search queries (40%) are driven by TV and 30% by print. Search, for example, is usually given all the credit for the conversion when it is usually the last click or step taken by the consumer to convert to a brand or service. What we are trying to do is aggregate data from TV (the GRP data) and we are looking at certain measurement criteria for print through which we can track consumers coming in from a print ad.

We are also looking at other forms of display and social to give equal weightage to each media form through a scientific model which is more econometric-driven. If you stop doing all other media, your search will never trigger a conversion. So that is a model we are working on and we are working successfully with a lot of e-commerce clients where we have done pilots, where we’ve switched on and off certain mediums to look at cause-and-effect and it’s fairly evident that the last-click model is self-defeating. It’s also showing the “surround sound” effect of marketing. Each medium has a role to play. It’s not like TV or print is going to die in the near future. Each medium will play a certain role but data liquidity will enable you to invest the right amount in the right space over time.

Every medium has a role to play in the “surround sound” effect of marketing. The last-click attribution model is extremely self-defeating.

VG: Again the problem is nothing new. It existed even before digital happened. There were attribution problems that marketers faced. Is TV working? Cinema, radio, outdoor, etc? How do I quantify that. At least TV had GRP or reach numbers for print. How do you qualify and quantify Outdoor? Even then there were solutions around. There was a metric model being used. More sophisticated points were used by guys with bigger budgets for research. All you need is to think logically about your consumer and how they go about making a purchase. Do you make the decision based on a single search or does a consumer have a decision-making process? Does that process involve the newspaper or TV? Is he talking to his friends? If all that is part of the process then they all have a role.

It all boils down to whether you need a process in place to take what each medium is doing and there are ways to do it but marketers are not putting the science into play behind it. They are not willing to invest or accept it. If they want to do it they can. The last click model for instance, has been proven to be futile. The fact of the matter is that I may have searched through a referral. The next day I’m checking out, say a hotel reservation. I just go on to google because I don’t want to remember the website name. Google just happens to be the gateway for anything and everything. This last-click model is futile. Ask any consumer and he’ll tell you that. The debate is a no-brainer.

B2Bento: Let’s end on a definitive note. To the new marketers coming in…you are established marketers and can predict some of the things not everything…what would you say to the fresher graduating?

VG: I would say I wish I were you. The guy coming out of college is a lot more tech savvy. When he does an MBA it’s not just a one level MBA. He’s been involved in tech from birth. The level of opportunity is a lot more immense. We just put out a case study of a young college guy based out of Tamil Nadu (in India). You can google him. He was offered a job by a huge MNC with a big salary. He chose not to accept that. He started developing apps and using our platform (no promotion intended) and today 3 months out of college he’s earning fifteen time what the MNC was willing to pay him. He gets up when he wants, works at his own will. One thing I would tell them is do what you really want to do. If ever there was a time to do something that time is now.

SS: Our learning curve took us 10-15 years and that curve has disappeared for the new kids coming out. They have a distinct advantage over people like us who had to learn different sides of the world to reach where we are today. Because of that advantage I’d urge them to be entrepreneurs rather than marketers in a large company. Certainly they have the option of looking at the world of marketers. But I say entrepreneurship, because in South East Asia, there’s a dearth of entrepreneurial spirit and Singapore can be a great test bed for some of them to try out some ideas and thoughts that came to us much later in life.

Singapore can be a great test bed for some of them to try out some ideas and thoughts that came to us much later in life. If ever there was a time to do something that time is now.

VG: Economies across Asia are growing. You can see the numbers for yourself. Most of the consumers are opening up to products and services. There’s a whole window of opportunities to create your own products and solutions. Technology was not always accessible before. Now there’s the cloud. Setting up a company ten years ago was a lot more complex and costly than it is now. Today you can sign up with Google and you get to access to all their services for free. All you need is some ingenuity and your ideas, and the world is yours to capture.

Ed: And that brings us to the end of the Marketing at Crossroads conversation. Please send us your comments and questions and we will have the speakers respond to you. B2Bento thanks Vikas Gulati and Sanchit Sanga for their time and valuable insight and sharing thought-provoking ideas. Watch out for the next conversation on B2Bento!

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About Asuthosh

Asuthosh has had an all-encompassing stint in GetIT, from projects to account management, consulting, business development and client relationships. His sense of storytelling coupled with Engineering background enables him to design marketing solutions and convey a wide range of information across a wide audience spectrum.

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