Thursday, June 18, 2015

10 lessons from Bollywood for blockbuster Content Marketing

Ever wondered why cool stuff quickly clicks on the Web? Attracting and converting audience into loyal customers could do well if we look beyond the traditional, canonical ways of producing content for marketing. While original and honest content always remains classic, nothing stop us from reusing and repurposing it creatively for different products, services, brands and lines of business. Look at the Bollywood genre of movies, they have not only carved a niche in world cinema for their content and style of presentation but also remained unbeaten at the box office.

Bollywood, a moniker for Hindi film industry in India is one of the largest film producers in the world. Now attracting investments from Hollywood, it is synonymous with mass entertainment and popular culture, ruling the hearts and minds of millions of Indians all over the world. From humble artistic beginnings over a century ago, the industry has evolved as the indisputable hub of commercial cinema supporting several allied businesses like music, fashion, travel, television, sports and so on.  The movies may be criticised for being inane and unimaginative with stereotypical characters and predictable storylines. But then, how has this vibrant industry sustained stupendous profitability for so long? It is interesting to see how this content based industry has captures the imagination of the audience and keeps them coming, asking for more. Here are 10 lessons from Bollywood that can spell success for Content Marketing and contribute to continued sales growth.

Just get into action: Lights, camera, action! Understand the pulse of the audience; weave action into your story. Don’t just tell, show how it’s done and how results are achieved. Nothing like a fast-paced thrilling drama that drives the message and keeps you hooked. Make your pitch in line with product performance and quality of service.

Repeat the success formula: You need not struggle to produce something unique all the time, why this obsession with thinking outside the box? Most people like things to be predictable; it gives them a sense of see-didn’t-I-tell-you-that feeling. Consistent and quality repackaging hides the age of the content, and you never know how clichéd stuff with same ingredients contributes to brand recognition, retention and recall.

Keep the story to the minimum: Who has the time and who likes to put in effort to understand convoluted plots and hidden messages? Nobody wants things to drag on, convey your core message without beating the bush. Don’t tax the mind of the audience but let the story have its heart in the right place. It definitely helps in top of the mind recall.

Break the monotony: No matter how creative you are, popular stories have mostly been simple and sequential. The path to build up the climax need not be filled with dead serious linear narrative; intersperse it with light hearted moments, funny anecdotes, and snippets of human follies. Remember Bollywood never misses plugging in a song or a comic scene even in the most unlikeliest plots.

Think escapist and aspirational: No harm in being an infotainer! Blend the real life with the reel life. Weaving an incredible story with aspirational characters is sure to keep your audience glued, let Bollywood style romance rekindle your passion for your profession.  This arouses curiosity in the audience and gets them prepared to receive the actual marketing message with a smile.

Emphasize on dialogues: What is said and heard has lasting impact on our minds. Include catchy one-liners, pet phrases that make the audience open a dialogue with your brand. The success of movie is also reflected in how the characters and their dialogues gets memorised, become immortal, how actions get aped and imitated and how images get etched in people’s mind and how they become trolling memes.

Believe in heroes and heroines: To make your brand the superstar people want to die for, elevate it to a persona that has larger than life features and all the qualities attributed to a super hero or heroine. But this should not sound like an advertisement that verges on exaggeration. Forget about actors and acting, let the star power do the talking.

Dream individually but realize it with a team: Content marketing is a team activity. It is interdependent. Sync up with the graphic designers, video producers, writers, client and all other stakeholder to realize the goals. Remember, movie makers and dream merchants have always had an entourage of talented artists and technicians to support them.

Keep the box office in mind: Numbers matter! What is the use of marketing that doesn’t lead to sale? To ensure that your content converts, increase the size of your audience, reach far and wide, go where they are, exploit different media, be social...listen to them and draw them towards your mission. Only then you restore the business investors’ faith in your marketing pursuits.

End on a happy note: It’s all about making your audience happy, as it is said in Bollywood, if it’s not happy, then it’s not an ending. Happiness is contagious and triggers positive action. This is a great booster for creating huge fan base that can turn into sales opportunities.

Taking inspiration from Bollywood, every brand has the opportunity to become a part of the celeb-culture. The recipe for blockbuster content is simple and sweet, it'll definitely ensure that your audience get converted to loyal fans.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Now, what after Maggi noodles?

Yesterday, my weekly grocery shopping at Ratnadeep Supermarket turned rather thoughtful. Reason: several crates of Maggi noodles being pulled out of the shop and were waiting to be loaded into trucks for reasons rather controversial and dubious, at least for me. It was sad to see the usual racks of Maggi being left empty and other brands of noodles sitting there comfortably, as if they are 100% safe. Why target only Maggi? Are competing brands 100% safe? Is there a hidden agenda in this whole story? Will Maggi make place for truly-authentic-India dalia or paratha or some such thing? 

We connect with brands emotionally and Maggi for me was synonymous with convenient instant food for those no-mood-to-cook days like it must have been for millions of bachelors, bachelorettes, students, office goers, families, canteens, hostels, fast food joints, highway eateries across India. And, particularly in India, a country that swears by indigenous, fresh homemade wholesome food, Maggi did to noodles what Xerox has done to photocopying. And, when the food brand becomes synonymous with the product, over a period, it gets ingrained in the ethos of culture and cuisine, like it happened in Maggi's case.  I don’t know if Maggi was an addiction for many or was it just convenience and comfort? Whatever it was, it was revolutionary in the history of Indian food habits: while some may feel triumphant that they’ve safeguarded people’s health by forcing its withdrawal, others might miss this 2-minute magic that was handy and helpful in time of domestic distress and kitchen crisis.

Charges levied against Maggi could be really based on samples evident of higher-than-permitted quantities of MSG or excess of lead or whatever. But the way in which this 2-minute saga that changed the identities and lives of many other brands, especially in the ready-to-eat segment is highly remarkable.
  • For a whole generation, it was Maggi that introduced us to instant "Noodles" that was otherwise something from China, served in Chinese or Indian restaurants apparently, on a la carte menu.
  • Maggi can be credited by making 2-minuteness and instantness a precondition for the success of  easy-to-cook category of food segment
  • Thanks to instant Maggi, the humble oats started rebranding itself  with Masala and flavoured oats competing with the 2-minuteness of Maggi. Especially when Maggi was being frowned upon by those champions of wholesome, fiber rich food.
  • Even the staunchest supporters of wholesome food did not hesitate to try the wheat flour, rich-atta variant of Maggi, that was touted to be superior than the popular one based in maida.
Accepting the fact that Maggi was found to be violating the standards set by national and international regulating bodies, how do ensure that other brands in the same category are conforming to the limits of MSG or lead? Why was it not tested all these years? If excess lead in some Maggi seasoning tastemaker is attributed to the lead composition in the onions used therein, how can we be safe from this source of lead? Don't all onions come from similar sources and how much of onion is taken in daily in every Indian family?
  • What about other food items that are not from international and reputed brands, that are locally made? Are they are conforming to standards in their ingredients?
  • And, the huge road side vendors selling what not in the name of chat etc...what about the oil used for deep frying that gets reused again and again?
  • What about the food served in local mess and canteens, which are frequented by thousands of office goers who unquestioningly eat everyday without thinking twice about the quality of oil or masala?
  • Then, there is the packaging to go with food. Especially in urban areas, where freshly cooked food is packed and supplied in several types of polythene, especially the take-away types - are they all safe? Who's regulating them?
  • What about the rice, dal, vegetables etc that are grown with several hazardous chemicals and pesticides and leave their residue even after washing and cooking - aren't we all consuming that daily without questioning or controlling it?
  • What about....well, the list of questions can go on...
Seeing Maggi being pull out is sad and seems to be a soft target. In one stroke, if the government and other authorities can instantly make all the Maggi vanish from our country, very soon we’ll be told to eat depending on such sweeping verdicts. At present no other product can fill the vacuum created by Maggi, remember it had 70% market share and it may not take long for them to relaunch themselves like it happened with Cadbury chocolates some years ago. Till then, think about eliminating other sources of MSG and lead that we may be taking in seemingly innocuous ways, everyday!