Brands change tack in India

20 September 2011

NEW DELHI: Marketers such as Ford, Research in Motion and Nestlé are running campaigns based on consumer testimonials in India, where celebrity advertising has long been the norm.

Ford, the automaker, has launched a new campaign, Swap Your Drive, featuring feedback from drivers who tested one of its vehicles for a week, but own cars made by other manufacturers.

Anurag Mehrotra, VP, marketing, at Ford India, told the Business Standard: "There are people who have come into our showrooms but not settled for our brand ... We had to devise some way to bring in the avoiders who have not even experienced the cars once."

Alongside print ads, video content will be uploaded to social media sites, and QR codes have been added to models in dealerships, which visitors can scan with smartphones to view the same material.

"We needed to find a way to amplify testimonials. It is not just one more creative for us but our rallying point from now on," said Mehrotra.

Toyota, the carmaker, has adopted an approach not unlike that of Ford, while Tata Steel, a unit of Tata Group, included staff in ads for its "Values Stronger than Steel" corporate campaign.

Research in Motion, the telecoms group, followed a similar path after insights from its Facebook page and in-store sales teams revealed the popularity of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).

As a consequence, the company filmed customers of varying kinds – from cycling enthusiasts to disc jockeys and small retailers – using this service, and hosted the resulting content on YouTube.

"We wanted to convey to non-Blackberry users the advantages of owning a Blackberry," Krishnadeep Baruah, marketing director of RIM, said. "We found that the BBM was helping widen the sphere of influence of its users."

Akshar Pillai, co-founder of Mind Heist Media, an agency which worked with RIM, suggested the rise of social media has exerted a profound influence.

"The understanding that a purchase will originate from a perceived benefit advocated by a peer rather than an aspirational figure who has been paid to sell it, is of relatively recent vintage in the mainstream advertising space," said Pillai.

However, Nestlé, the food group, asked consumers to send in stories and memories of its Maggi noodles, which went on sale in the country 25 years ago, and used selected responses in TV ads and on packaging, rather than focusing on the web.

"A brand needs to have that credibility so real users can come forward and swear by it," Shivani Hegde, Nestle's general manager, foods, said. "We don't want to restrict a campaign to just the internet because for Maggi, the communication has to have mass appeal."

Data sourced from Business Standard; additional content by Warc staff