Based on a different branding mantra that entails not just connecting to the audience but interacting with them as well, big and small brands are now turning to social interactive tools, like blogging, to advertise and market their products.
Says Neeraj Goyal, senior marketing manager of Johnson & Johnson India: "Bloggers have a loyal following and tapping into that base through readership is a good way to create word of mouth and conversation around the brand and its core idea."
"Blogs are written and read voluntarily and therefore they bring a lot of credibility to the brand idea. It also helps in engaging with consumers to co-create. Candid comments and reader's take on an idea through this medium is also a very good opportunity for the marketers to have a reality check," Goyal told IANS.
Johnson & Johnson India thus used blogging as a medium to market their product, sanitary napkin, Stayfree.
"Stayfree's brand idea, 'it's time to change', and its belief that only you can change things that irritate you is the keystone for our strategies. We believed that having real and credible brand advocates like blogging will help the campaign go viral," he added.
The route which brands usually take is to invite bloggers to try their product and then share their experience. Readers leave behind comments and, depending on the feedback, more information is supplied and new strategies planned.
Personal care product Dove, for instance, organised a bloggers' meet in Mumbai, in which the participants -70 percent women- were treated to Dove Hair Spa, the product they wanted to advertise.
Following this, the participants wrote about their experience and generated a readership, whose main audience were those in the 25-35 age group - also the brand's target age group. Besides blog posts, there were also tweets and Facebook posts. The campaign reached 4.3 million people.
Automobile company Tata Motors used a similar platform to market its vehicle, Tata Sumo Grande.
"To help bloggers gain first-hand experience of our SUV - Tata Sumo Grande, 10 bloggers were invited to two Tata Motors showrooms where they could drive the vehicle to the venue. This not only encouraged bloggers to test drive the vehicle but also helped them understand the various features of the car and get answers to their queries by our representative," a Tata Motors spokesperson told IANS.
This, he said, helped them market their product and get feedback faster.
These interactions enhance our understanding of customers at ground level and thereby help us to devise right strategies with respect to product, communication, pricing and retailing. It also helps us in converting prospects to retail faster," he said.
Terming this trend as a result of opening up of the social media, Ayesha Durante, Country Manager-Marketing of HP IPG India, said: "Social media and blogging outreach complement the conventional communication tools. Our communication campaigns today seamlessly straddle the domains of traditional as well as new media and are designed to reach our audiences through channels they are present in and in formats they are interested in."
So does this mean that celebrities are not doing the trick any more?
"Celebrities do have a lot of reach and, depending on their personal success, they are still effective as far as advertisements are concerned. But for the online consumer base, very few buy on impulse and most buy on the basis of someone else's experience. This makes blogging a very effective means of communication," said Renie Ravin, managing director of IndiBlogger, an umbrella body of bloggers.
Arvind Passey, a blogger, who writes for Samsung mobiles, compares himself and those from his community to a columnist of a newspaper. "Bloggers have a niche readership and their opinion has a loyal following...this is almost akin to the kind of following any good columnist in a print daily would have," he told IANS.
"Thus any blogpost has the power to travel straight into the heart of the most focussed group. I use words, pictures, and videos to take the shortest route to a potential customer's heart and give him all the information that he ever wants to have. There is no pretension, since I am not a paid employee of any organisation."