We humans are so delighted to see a live brawl happening in our streets / arguments happening between our colleagues in office / politicians spilling venom on each other / journalists dragging each other to the mess. Can you stop for a second and recollect how many such arguments / brawls etc do you remember as of now? You might have even favored a particular party in such instances, but rarely does it affect your course of life after few days.
Now, let’s fast forward to the much hyped news of e-commerce giants trolling each other. If you are a digital / social media marketer, I am sure you couldn’t have missed to watch those pictures on your social media channel feeds or countless times shared on WhatsApp. Thanks to the coverage of this troll by mainstream media channels, may be few other common people were also exposed to this gimmick by e-commerce players.
Some journalists / bloggers tagged this as ‘ambush marketing’ (I seriously doubt if they understood what the term really means!), some of them were busy rehashing photoshopped (pardon me for this commoditized term!) images and gimmicky titles to drive traffic to their blogs / some of us happily shared / retweeted and may be even made this the topic of conversation during our lunch / tea / smoking breaks.
So who won this ‘war’ / ‘ambush marketing’ / ‘troll’ ….? Or may be the right question should be who benefited the most from this?
Snapdeal and Amazon? Really? Can each of them attribute the sales that were driven ‘only because of those troll centric billboards or tweets or Facebook posts? Oh yes, marketers would vouch they established ‘top of the mind recall’. Again, my argument would be was a pre-event and post-event research done to establish by how much basis points did awareness or recall (aided / un-aided) improve? Not to ignore the digital marketers who would have set up listening tracks for their campaign hashtags and prepared jazzy reports to convince their top management about XX millions of impressions attained on those hashtags. In worst case some of the evolved analytical digital marketers would have tracked sentiment analysis or incremental visits to the website during those particular days and so on. But, lets step back and reflect even if all above metrics were higher for those 2-3 days, is it in anyway feeding for future sustenance of the brand? How is it strengthening the brand image? Do Snapdeal and Amazon want to be known as brands that are ever ready to snap at their competitors? On one side Snapdeal is spending crores of rupees to rope in Aamir Khan and creating Snapdeal TVCs while on other end engages itself in such, what I call ‘cheap tactics’. On the other hand, I am surprised how did Amazon India get into this mess given their global stature.
How about investors? After multiple rounds of evaluation, investors agree to fund startups and ultimately this corpus is spent on taking a dig at competitors. I wonder isn’t there any governance for such spends where huge amount is spent on creative strategy, execution, media buying etc. just to play these gimmicks to garner eyeballs of few thousand people, rather than invest this sum for better product development or sensible brand building exercise. Are these spends by any means justifiable to investors?
Marketing teams? It definitely helps this breed as they get an opportunity to splash their Facebook walls and Twitter feeds pretending how proud they are of working at their organization who has ‘supposedly succeeded’ in trolling their nearest competitor. May be they will adorn their CVs with these campaigns, but I am sure there would be few of them who would have felt a pinch of salt while executing them.
Creative Agencies? Another set of people who would have partied hard after being applauded by their bosses, clients and their fellow colleagues in other agencies. What have they made? A comprehensive justification to raise retainer in the next year and a case study which they would bid at next year’s any award function for a coveted crown! All these e-commerce giants are backed by agencies with extremely good track record and still its surprising how agencies just keep ‘short term objectives’ in mind. Well, having worked at two agencies before, I can visualize that the only reason they would be doing is to milk some extra bucks from clients, without giving due consideration of brand’s long term image.
Media publishers? The last and the most profitable stakeholder in this entire drama. Well, they would have very well cleared off their unused inventories at a premium considering the golden opportunity. Obviously, they have the least say in the entire value chain to suggest if a brand should engage themselves in such exercises or not.
Let’s now consider the final scapegoat (customers): Even before I share my views, please read these views of two industry veterans on this episode.
Apart from the fact that whether the end customers really keep track of these events, it is extremely debatable that whether such events have an impact on customer’s purchase decision cycle. Even a positive impact on customer’s consideration set would play a huge role after such gimmicks, however that remains a debatable topic. Some of the articles suggested that we have witnessed such incidents in traditional media between Pepsi vs Coke or Rin vs Surf, well my argument to those bloggers is ‘whether the scale of Pepsi, Coke or Rin is same as investor-funded these miniature e-commerce players?’ It makes no sense, on part of these e-commerce players to spend exorbitantly to just satisfy egos of their CEOs or Marketing Heads, with no tangible proof of benefit for the business.
My view is that brands should better concentrate on building their brand image rather than investing (rather wasting crores) in such activities that neither have tangible short-term benefit nor does it add value to the brand image in the long term.