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Three-way conversation: Brands, consumers, and potential consumers

It was 2009 when I came across CNN iReport asking people to ‘tell their stories and discuss the issues that are important to them’. This was the first time I was introduced to the concept of a brand prompting its users to create content for them. Whether the brand would use the content and how they would use it, however, was completely up to them. But, there I was, ready to share my perspective in form of pictures and stories.

From a one-way conversation to a two-way conversation

We’ve come a long way from a non-interactive one-way communication approach adopted by brands to connect with their audiences. It’s been a heavy shift to make – from brands dictating trends through traditional platforms like press releases and print advertisements – all the way to brands encouraging customers to create content that they can leverage for their own brand authenticity.

This significant shift from brands creating an unattainable ‘aspirational imagery’ to be more approachable has everything to do with how important it is to have substantial customer conversations today. Better yet, brands need a purpose and a consumer-focused strategy to fix an identified issue – whatever that may be. How is this being achieved? With the help of User-Generated Content. Once brands started moving towards a two-way communication strategy with their customers, the quality of customer lifecycle and loyalty to the brand has been given way more emphasis.

It’s all about consumer behaviour. Brands don’t spend thousands of dollars or even millions just to get that one transaction. Today, brands focus on the customer’s post-purchase journey.

Three-way conversation between brands, consumers, and potential consumers

Having spent the last few years monitoring the world of marketing, a three-way conversation is on the rise. Its been proven that two-way conversations are a fantastic way to engage with customers since it results in ‘highly personable and almost natural interactions’ with the brand. Now, brands are beginning to use this conversational approach integrated with UGC to further attract potential customers.

A brand that instantly comes to mind is Rihanna’s Fenty that launched a couple months after Kim Kardashian brands made headlines in 2017. Note that Fenty Beauty is currently on all social media giants: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

 

 

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Simply put, Fenty Beauty’s use of UGC projects authenticity and has led a to higher engagement rate when compared to its tough competitors. Not only is its content strategy on point with a clear message that resonates with a lot of people – a cosmetic line for ‘any culture, any skin tone, any race, any religion, anybody can wear it’ – its strategic use of UGC (with a super glam exclusive hashtag #rihgram) gives new life to the brand’s overarching message. No wonder, Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty has earned even more attention on social media than giants like Kylie Cosmetics and Kim Kardashian’s KKW Beauty. Leveraging fan-made content – essentially word-of-mouth in this day and age – and strategically customizing it with the knowledge of content strategy, brands can reach their full potential to not only establish loyalty in customers, but also reach new customers.

It takes customers a few minutes to give feedback on products they use, and brands are recognizing this. Chief marketing officer at Foreo, a company that makes beauty devices adds that “brands now build a following based on reviews and comments”. In fact, recent research reveals that customers who engage with UGC are more than twice as likely to make a purchase than their peers.

It’s not just cosmetic brands, a major reason for the fast expansion of K-pop’s fandom is because of how Korean agencies have repurposed fan-made content like compilation videos, vlogs, fancams and reactions to create a sense of anticipation, competition and needless to say, engagement among its fans. Today, how brands want customers to engage with them is changing. Brands of all sizes are experimenting with the way they want to create and use three-way conversations by integrating it with their marketing campaigns – all to reach their potential stakeholders.

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The Rapid Evolution Of Digital Advertising

Digital advertising has come a long way

With over 16 million internet users in 1995, Yahoo, one of the first famous web services providers, was the first to introduce search ads. A couple of years later, Google developed AdWords and the digital advertising boom became inevitable. Attempting to be non-intrusive and at the same time efficient, by mid-2000s social media channels were outsmarting each other by coming up with innovative ways to integrate ad content. But it was only a matter of time before digital ads became less productive and more annoying.

The evolution of digital advertising is evident on Facebook where it was introduced in the form of small display ads, and eventually evolved into very specific ads targeting users according to their interests and demographics. Over the past couple of decades, like its state on Facebook, digital advertising has been dwindling between either fewer but more tailored ads or more ads in general. Unfortunately, rarely do ads reach the right person at the right time. Because digital ads are increasingly looking to ‘get noticed’, they often come across as intrusive. In fact, Modal ads, ads that reorganize content, and autoplaying video ads are among the most disliked. It’s no wonder that ads are now deemed creepymanipulative, and misleading. Additionally, as a whole, web usability has improved over these past several years, but ad blocking has grown by 41% in just 2015.

It’s getting harder to capture the attention of audiences and engage with them using different digital advertising approaches. Several companies have already started investing in innovative advertising techniques and content-led marketing strategies. While native advertising is one of many strategies that companies are open to exploring, the future of digital advertising might just be AR and VR integrated advertising. Digital advertising is evolving faster than most companies can keep up and the industry is moving towards adopting strategies that aren’t invasive – rather immersive.

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Digital advertising isn’t restricted to the traditional two-dimensional display anymore.

In the recent few years, companies have started focusing on building their brand story by providing customers with unique experiences through Augmented Reality (AR).

By integrating a virtual element to their digital advertising tactics, brand giants are not only captivating the attention of a wide range of consumers – from kids and millennials to baby boomers – but also allowing its audience to view a richer, more detailed advertisement, making it possible for customers to virtually experience products – something that was never possible before.

Bringing in experiential interactions with its customers, AR is changing the way customers engage with brands.

While we’re on the topic of immersive storytelling medium, Virtual Reality (VR) deserves more than a mention. The reason VR is a more engaging, immersive approach than AR is because it makes users feel like they’re really somewhere else. Since digital advertising is all about grabbing its target audiences’ attention, virtual reality is a winner. On the other hand, advertisers are still experimenting with this new technology. Even though a recent study revealed that 74% consumers find VR ads less intrusive than other digital ad types, it might only be a matter of time that VR turns into another unwanted digital advertising technique. Another reason for delay among advertisers to adopt VR into their digital advertising strategies is the significant investment required to create a VR campaign.

It’s true that most companies are still spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in content creation and conventional display ads – reluctant to experiment with AR and VR. There is still a lot to learn from several AR and VR integrated advertising campaigns produced by brand giants and advertisers are catching up. Very soon, digital advertising will be synonymous with immersive technology that opens up a branded world for its customers to explore and manipulate.

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Why Daniel Wellington wins on Instagram

Established in 2011, Daniel Wellington is a watch company named after a British traveller. With its headquarters in Uppsala, Sweden, this brand has named its watches after different cities in England. As stated on its official website, these series of minimalistic, vintage-looking watches equipped with interchangeable NATO and leather straps mainly target young audiences. Daniel Wellington, also known as DW, although designed in Sweden, is manufactured in China with internal quartz movements from Miyota, a reliable Japanese supplier (Pulvirent, How Daniel Wellington Made a $200 Million Business Out of Cheap Watches). The founder, Filip Tysander, has been able to build a $200 million business by selling these classy-looking inexpensive timepieces almost entirely from social media promotions.

Filling the void for watch brands online, Daniel Wellington owns the current decade in terms of online popularity. Through their social media approach, DW has been able to gain over 3 million followers, leaving behind top competitors in its industry. In addition to DW’s pricing, distribution, and timing to enter the watch market, it’s communication strategy is one of its major reasons for its success (This 31-year-old built a $180 million fashion empire in 5 years – here are his secrets to success – Business Insider Nordic).

How has new media worked for Daniel Wellington?

In terms of marketing, Pulvirent elaborates on the company’s novel approach on social media – working in collaboration with social media influencers, bloggers, and celebrities, to promote their brand worldwide. Working with social media stars has been observed to build a positive brand image, gaining more customers thus generating further sales (Feng et al., Cross-culture study of the use of social media in Sweden and China). Based on its foundation on public influence and how ‘noncompany actors influence customers to value the brand’ (Holt, How brands become icons: The principles of cultural branding), Daniel Wellington has been able to achieve viral branding.

With the decline in responses from customers on conventional online marketing, viral branding positions customers as an important factor in creating a brand, hence giving them the power to ‘discover’ brands.




According to Holt, companies underhandedly connect with influential customers to further develop their brand’s value. Similar to this approach, to create its brand identity, Daniel Wellington has given out free watches and special promotional coupon codes to thousands of influencers (Mediakix Team, Instagram marketing case study: Daniel Wellington watches). These influencers or brand ambassadors who have hundreds of thousands of followers act like ‘social proof’ for the product, in this case, the DW watch. Since people are attracted to products that others engage with, having social media stars onboard as brand ambassadors has pushed Daniel Wellington to gain more number of customers.

Stemming from this type of influential marketing, is online word-of-mouth, also known as e-WOM.

As the campaign progresses and influencers share their review of the product, followers are lured to turn into consumers and further spread feedback – both good or bad (Armelini & Villanueva, Adding Social Media to the Marketing Mix). E-WOM has worked in favour of DW as this organic channel has helped the brand sell over a million watches (Lee, How Daniel Wellington Sold A Million Watches In A Year Via Word-of-Mouth and referral marketing blog). Additionally, Armelini and Villanueva mention how e-WOM is easier to manage since it is interactive, unlike traditional channels like advertising. Online word-of-mouth makes it possible for all customers, past or present, to come together as a brand community and share their reviews which helps future customers base their decision to choose the brand or not. Overall, Daniel Wellington’s collaboration with influencers on Instagram has helped it build brand awareness and increase its online visibility (Leibowitz, Why your new business needs to market on Instagram). In line with its marketing strategy to collaborate with top influencers, Daniel Wellington recently added top social media celebrities including the famous Kardashian half-sister Kendall Jenner (75.9 million Instagram followers), an accomplished model Lucky Blue (2.8 million followers), and the stylish Rola (4.4 million Instagram followers) to their influencer list (PR Newswire).

Although influencer marketing has been observed as a communication strategy that combines trust with casualness, it is also sometimes perceived as a ‘in-your-face’ kind of marketing

(Montesi, Do Influencers Have a Future with Instagram Marketing?)

An influencer at the Advertising week Europe 2016 spoke of the need to educate followers about the nature of contract between an influencer and a brand (Charles, Instagram influencer hits out at ‘annoying’ blogger tactic by watch brand). Additionally, Daniel Wellington has been criticized for over-branding. The brand is known to be fussy with its Instagram influencers as they choose those who have an Instagram feed aesthetically similar to that of Daniel Wellington’s brand personality (Gilliland, Four common mistakes brands make with influencer marketing). On several occasions, this has led to more focus on the brand image than the product itself. Thus, in its approach to appear sophisticated, Daniel Wellington can ‘overbrand’, losing its initial aim of focusing on marketing their products.

Daniel Wellington is known for its Instagram feed full of professional photography that brings in the ‘glamour’ look to the brand handle. DW’s photos bring a very stylish and classy feel to Instagram users, depicting a life of luxury and adventure (Vesilind, Instagram We Love: Daniel Wellington). In her article, Vesilind goes on to point out the five different kinds of photos published on the Daniel Wellington Instagram profile which contribute in making it a huge success: gorgeous outdoor scenarios, artfully arranged ‘flat lays’ referring to the organized pictures taken from above, aesthetically pleasing pictures of humans taken from a far, pictures with subtle hints of festive seasons and finally, adorable pictures of animals. In other words, Daniel Wellington’s sophisticated Instagram feed depicts tastefully arranged art, centered on the showstopper – the Daniel Wellington watch itself. This attractive Instagram feed entices users to follow and engage with the brand.

Instagram is notably among the top social media platforms to engage with users. Thus, making it an apt platform for Daniel Wellington to interact with its followers and encourage audience engagement. Daniel Wellington has incorporated User-Generated Content (UGC) in their communication strategy. The brand makes use of this powerful tool by encouraging their followers to post their own images of Daniel Wellington products by using their branded hashtag (#danielwellington). Every day one of their customers’ photo – wearing or focusing on a Daniel Wellington watch – is chosen and republished on their own Instagram feed using #DWPickoftheDay. This motivates customers to create their own content in the form of images or videos and publish them on Instagram in the hope to be chosen as the brand’s ‘pick of the day’ (Taylor, Daniel Wellington & Instagram). This would not only validate their work as ‘creative’ but also expose their content to DW’s millions of followers. So far, Daniel Wellington’s branded hashtag campaign, combining influencers and followers, has generated over 1.2 million Instagram photos and videos. In another article, Ojeda (How To Create A Brand That Grows On It’s Own) mentions that for brands to be successful, organic growth plays a significant role. Keeping this in mind, it’s safe to conclude that Daniel Wellington has a source of high-quality user-generated photos at their disposal, making it one of most successful brands on Instagram.

Will DW’s success with Instagram last?

To summarize Daniel Wellington’s communication strategy, the brand has been highly successful in dodging paid media as the company’s CEO never invested in traditional forms of media. The brand has established itself as one of the most viral watch brand on Instagram. Daniel Wellington started out with simple platforms as owned media like its website, and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but today, its relies on its earned media, especially on Instagram, to communicate with its most important stakeholders – its customers.

Across all its channels, Daniel Wellington’s key messaging is consistent – engaging with customers and potential customers through its social media channels, especially Instagram, where it actively encourages quality user-generated content, using Instagram influencers for ‘natural’ product placements and generating traffic through promo codes.

Despite being one of the most used apps by millennials, Instagram is found to have substantial lacking for businesses (Latiff and Safiee, New Business Set Up for Branding Strategies on Social Media – Instagram). Even though Instagram requires another platform for a customer and seller to engage in a transaction, Daniel Wellington’s communication strategy through Instagram has seemed to work to build its brand. Daniel Wellington has been recognized as an accomplished brand, however, it has been noted that brands like Daniel Wellington are the reason for the end of the Swizz watch industry. In his article, Biggs (The Swiss watch industry is doomed) criticizes the economical pricing of Daniel Wellington and how similar brands are the reason luxury Swizz brands fail to keep up. He elaborates, stating that watches today are a mere commodity, blaming Daniel Wellington for selling ‘poorly-constructed watches’, thus providing customers a low-quality watch. With a recent study revealing Instagram as the worst social media application for young people’s mental health (Fox, Instagram worst social media app for young people’s mental health), it may be possible that Instagram might not remain as popular as it is today. In which case, brands like Daniel Wellington would have to take on other social media channels to promote their products and services.

With another study revealing the decline in the sale of smartphones (Swant, 7 Internet Trends From Mary Meeker’s 2017 Report That Marketers Should Know About), Daniel Wellington would need to consider other channels to market their product since access to all Instagram features are currently available only through its mobile application. As digital media continues to grow, Daniel Wellington can possibly find itself exploring or even experimenting with other social networks or applications to grow their customer base and retain their innovative brand identity. Even though Instagram started out as an image-sharing app, with every social network moving towards video, this platform is sure to introduce advanced features as it has with its launch of the live video platform (Burgess, Instagram’s future and where Kevin Systrom goes next).

With the fast-changing social network scenario, Daniel Wellington may be expected to add and remove elements from its marketing mix. Besides their online communication strategy, Daniel Wellington’s offline presence is noticeably grown over time. Their recent Hong Kong expansion adds to their existing 34 stores worldwide. In their attempt to make the brand identity more popular on the global scale, Daniel Wellington aims to open approximately 300 stores by the end of 2018. For now, Daniel Wellington’s communication strategy seems to be working in its favour. The steps taken by the company to spread their presence offline are also considered to be quite successful with the current times. With Daniel Wellington’s founder’s investment in a new technology fund helping Swedish start-ups make a positive social impact, it can be speculated that the billionaire has a visionary approach to social entrepreneurship as well as his products (Turula, The billionaire founders of Klarna and Daniel Wellington just announced a new ‘first of its kind’ tech fund). With time, Daniel Wellington’s communication strategy that highlights its products on social media, especially through Instagram, is bound to evolve with advancements in technology.

 

This communications strategy evaluation was first put together as a part of my coursework for master of marketing communications at the University of Melbourne.

The Great Australian Road Trip

To celebrate my graduation, we decided to travel across Australia.

What better way to do that if not by road? For a second we considered taking a RV but looking back I’m glad we got cozy hotel beds to sleep in on our 12-day Great Australian Road Trip.

After touring around the city for two days, we crossed off the Yarra river cruise (an informative and interesting cruise), Queen Victoria night market (Wednesdays nights during Winters) and The Melbourne Star from our touristy checklist.

I recommend these fabulous spots to everyone coming to this city especially because you get to see the beauty of the city and taste food from around the would.

Since this was my dad’s first visit to Melbourne, I took him to my favourite place – Southbank which is a tiny walk away from Flinders station. Lined with amazing bars and restaurants along its bank, the Yarra river looks mesmerizing at any given time. Since my graduation was at the Royal Exhibition Hall, dad also got to see this World Heritage Site-listed building that also happens to be one of the world’s oldest remaining exhibition pavilion. Being a unimelb student, we’ve given our final exams here – several times in the last two years.


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If you’re curious about our trip, read on to find out the places we covered and the highlights of each destination.

Day 1: Melbourne to Warrnambool via The Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles

Distance covered: 344 km


Highlights: We started the day in no hurry but by the time we had our stop overs at Geelong and Lorne, it was clear we needed to rush to see the 12 Apostles if we wanted to see them in their glory while the sun was still out. Although it says that this famous attraction closes at 5 PM online (which is exactly when we reached), we (thankfully) found a lot of tourists still taking pictures and hanging out. The highlight of this trip was catching the 12 Apostles view at sunset. It was absolutely gorgeous. Although this was my second visit to the Apostles, you can never truly get enough of the view.

Continue reading “The Great Australian Road Trip”

The Great Australian Road Trip Video

We visited gorgeous picture-perfect locations across Australia on this 12-day road trip. Read about it here.

Continue reading “The Great Australian Road Trip Video”

Top 15 Tips For Future Students: The University of Melbourne

To be completely honest, I didn’t think it would be as hard as it was. I knew it was going to be an adventure but not as crazy and unpredictable as it turned out.

I left my amazing life in Delhi to pursue my dream to study masters abroad. By the time I was applying for a master’s degree in Hong Kong and Australia, the want to finally get the higher studies box ticked off was too much to handle – even for me. My boss, my manager, my close family were all questioning it. But in my mind, it had turned into something that just had to be done. I had loved working as a communications manager and I was now ready to, in fear of sounding cliché, expand my knowledge. Some of the regular readers know I almost quit college after my first semester. It definitely wasn’t easy, and so, to help future students out – I thought a list of tips would be helpful for future students at the University of Melbourne.

If you are someone looking to join the University of Melbourne, here are my top 15 tips: Continue reading “Top 15 Tips For Future Students: The University of Melbourne”