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Remedy to Media Madness : How to make noise without blowing horns April 2, 2007

Posted by shahriar amin in The Media Factor.
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Every once in a while a new media appears and life, as we see, never goes back to the same old habits. Radio came and book readers were suddenly aware that it’s a lot easier to listen than to read. Then TV came. The power of audio and video presentation simultaneously grabbed people’s attention like none before. Then Tim Berners-Lee invented World Wide Web. Information era broke upon us with its suffused glory and everything changed.  Two years ago, five of the most potent words for advertising in
Bangladesh used to be “Get it on mass media.” That was 2 years ago. And the saying, fortunately for some at the expense of many, is still in practice. Currently we have just too many TV channels, too many newspapers and way too many billboards to get anything out of the so called “mass media”. Simply put, people are exposed to too many media. Our hectic schedule is getting more hectic. Our simple life is no longer simple anymore. Magazines no longer demand attention. Weekly dramas are no longer a must see.  Media is expanding. Our attention time is contracting. This is definitely not what it used to be anymore. 

A new day has come 

Yes. The age of media fragmentation and media clutter is here and advertising will never quite be the same. The homemakers are switching to Sony TV in place of Local channels. The youth is moving outdoors increasingly equipped with their cell phones. The busy executive is coming home late, never quite having time to take a glance at the magazines. One fourth of the newspaper is full of ads which no one has time to read. Among which two-third belongs to mobile phone tariffs and rates, which, despite best efforts, none can quite remember.   Yes, these are definitely changing times for the advertisers in Bangladesh, an era that poses a new set of challenges. And to cope with those challenges, brand builders and advertisers need to put that their thinking hat on and step out of that box with some real strategic thinking. 

When reality bites 

Realistically what can you achieve from the extra finance that you are putting on your media? For example, say you are a Tea manufacturer and seller who want to increase the Out of Home visibility of your brand so that people remember your name. For that, you set out to find a medium sized billboard at a high-traffic location. A medium sized billboard in one of the key strategic spots in Dhaka costs at least 500,000 Taka for a year. And if you are really, really lucky your billboard will fight with no more than 6 other billboards surrounding yours. On any given day, you expect one person from your target group to see your billboard ( instead of talking to any worthy companion sitting beside him), see all the other 6 billboards surrounding yours ( considering that average exposure time will range from 1 second to anything traffic jam permits), like your message enough to make a mental note of it so that he can remember it (despite having enough worries on his plate from work and back home), and remember it long enough to keep it in mind until next time he purchase tea (despite looking at 30+ billboards, 60+ newspaper ads and a little bit too much TV advertisements between the time he sees your board and actually make a purchase).  If that is not a tall order, nothing is. And if you are a smart marketer, you should not put 500,000 Taka of your treasured budget into something as probabilistic as this.   Getting the facts straight  Advertising people will have to measure up to the fact that in a few years time, 30 seconds TV commercial in BTV or any local channel will not be the medium, but simply a medium. Media choice is already heading west. And of course, if you are true to your segmentation strategy, there will always be a segment which you will not be able to reach through traditional media – print, electronic, outdoor. The answer is of course not to start advertising in Star TV. Very few companies can put up such financial muscle power. And even if they do, the ROI figure will be anything but encouraging. The answer lies in inventing and utilizing alternative media to get customer attentions. As a way out of the media clutter problems, two obvious choices are – Inventing new media and employing existing media in innovative way.   

Innovative Media Choices 

Here is a quote worth keeping in mind from none other than the advertising legend, Bill Bernbach:  “What was effective one day, for that very reason, will not be effective the next, because it has lost the maximum impact of originality”.  Being original and innovative in your media choices is probably the smartest thing you can do for your brand, visibility-wise. The best thing about being innovative is people remember you for being interesting and first. Here are a few suggestions that can turn things around for you. 

Sound Marketing – Sound scores more than sight 

If you remove the logo from your communication, will your customer still recognize your brand?If you are the owner of most of the brands that thwart our senses in Bangladesh, chances are the answer is negative. And there are ample reasons to be. Branding so far has been dominated by stimuli for one sense and one sense only – the eye. And while beauty lies in the eye of the beholder – too much beauty may result in clutter and cause boredom. The symptoms – you start seeing and not really looking. The result – brand messages no longer interest you and you turn it off.According to Brand Guru Martin Lindstrom, “Brands are all about emotions and as we happen to have senses, my theory is simple. Leverage on these [emotions], instead of discarding them, as all our senses combined create a substantially stronger message than if we only leverage on one or two.”  The target prospect might be turned off by too many things to see. That leaves us with an option of letting him “hear” the brand – not only seeing it. And that is what Sound Marketing is all about. It is about creating identity based on sound, and market it to the extent that every-time the prospect hears the sound, it amounts to 1 brand impression. In a city full of billboards, this might be the perfect strategy. Remember the Nokia message Beep tone? Well, who doesn’t?  How about the Windows OS start up tune when computer opens? How many of you recognize the Airtel theme, one that is prepared by A.R. Rahman? These are all powerful Sound Marketing examples, one that has broken conventional media wisdom and created instant brand impressions that are  hard to match. In recent years, consumer purchase decisions have become more weighted towards emotional attributes rather than functional benefits. Music is a powerful medium that can bring the emotional qualities of products and services to life and help activate a Brand promise. In that respect, Sound Marketing serves dual purpose: it helps break the clutter by appealing to a totally different sense (the ear) with the brand message, and  it helps the brand to emotionally connect with the customer. In an insanely visually crowded society, this might be the sanest media choice.  Product Placement – Say it on the Screen 

Every frame in the TV is a branding opportunity. Therefore rather than making a mundane TV advertisements, marketers can place their brands inside dramas and movies. This is heavily practiced in the west, a trend that India is fast catching up. As the Aston Martin Brand Manager, you will love to see another James Bond movie in the making, knowing that James Bond driving an Aston Martin in one of the chase scenes will probably do more for your brand than all your TV ads combined. In a movie released last year in India, titled Bhagban, the movie creatively integrated five brands in the screen: ICICI Bank, Tata tea, Archies, Ford and Tide. The movie showed actor Amitabh Bacchan as a retired employee of ICICI Bank and Salman Khan owning a Ford showroom. Film and Drama are not that popular in our country as it is abroad – but it is fast creating popularity. A couple of years ago a movie called “The Bachelor” received cult status among youth in the country. Such movies can be a fantastic opportunity for Lifestyle brands like T-shirt or cell-phone companies – as half of the movie was about people talking in cell phones. In the same way, fast emerging popularity of soap operas represents great opportunities for brand marketers to create necessary associations for their brand. The Brand can appear in the movie or drama in various ways. The star of the show can openly claim that he uses the product / service, he can recommend someone to use it, or the star appears in the frame consuming the product. Whatever mode it is, such creative representation of the brand will ensure visibility of your brand. Also this is a good way of endorsing your product in the media, without having to spend a lot. 

Go 1 to 1 with Mobile Phone  Here is a prediction – mobile phone will be the next big media in Bangladesh.  With more than 8 million subscriptions in the country and a growth rate of more than 100%, it seems hardly a prediction anymore. And the implications are simple. Everyone has a mobile phone. Just capture your advertising messages in a 160 character SMS or an MMS, and send it to your target audience.  One thing guaranteed – it will definitely reach your intended audience, a crucial achievement considering that in mass media you can never assure that your desired message reaches your desired audience. It is smart, innovative, personalized. Most importantly, it is very cost effective, considering the low cost of SMS / MMS in the country.  Before that however, you need two things. You need the mobile numbers of your prospects and you need a mechanism to send an SMS / MMS. The latter is easy. You can either initiate a partnership with any of the existing mobile operators or use their system to send SMS / MMS, or you can buy a connection and send them manually from that connection.  Getting the numbers of your prospects poses a potent challenge. This is where the usefulness of having a good database of clients comes handy. In Bangladesh, such data is not made publicly available by government, nor can they be commercially purchased from any source. Database marketing, hence, is a tricky business in the country. Having a good valid database is the key to having effective SMS marketing. Therefore if you can’t create your own database of existing clients and future prospects you can do either of the following:[2] 

  • Create a partnership with Mobile phone operators and use their customer database
  • Create a three-prong partnership with a mobile phone operator (to send the SMS), and with a service or utility company who also maintains a good database. Banks often have a good customer database. So do Internet companies like Bangladeshinfo.com, direct marketing special agencies like Interspeed Direct, direct marketing oriented brands like B&H etc. Such partnerships often help all 3 parties.

However, before initiating this kind of media usage, it is essential to get the permission of the customers, clearly stating that they are willing to receive advertising messages from in their cell phone. Usually, customers like to receive some kind of benefit (Lower call or SMS rate) for agreeing to such terms. In that way it turns out to be beneficial for everyone.


[1] Return on Investment[2]

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