The Great Driving Challenge: A perfect marriage between traditional & new-age marketing

Some brands definitely know how to use social media for an effective promotion campaign. While lots of Indian brands are still wary of social media or are trying to figure out how to use it beyond forums and customer complaint management, here comes a very engaging online cum offline reality campaign from Mitsubishi Motors which has set an example for social media marketing in India. They have launched a marketing initiative “The Great Driving Challenge” as a promotion strategy for launch of its sports car brand “Cedia Sports” and what makes it really unique is the way it has integrated its online initiative with the offline one.

The Great Driving Challenge is a web-centric campaign where couples are asked to apply for the challenge on Out of all the applicants, top 100 will be selected for the next round based on public voting & the quality of their profile on the website. These 100 will be further narrowed down to 25, then 9 & finally 3 by a jury set by the promoters. The final 3 will go for an all expense paid drive in the Mitsubishi Cedia Sports car allotted by the company. The challenge is to drive 3000 kilometers in 10 days and tell the world about your travel experience through your blogs, twitter & other online social media forums. Well, name “Driving Challenge” sounds like some sort of driving race or sports rally, ain’t it? But this is definitely neither of it. In fact here the winners will be decided based on number of posts (videos/ blogs/ pictures) uploaded by the finalists during the drive phase & quality of their posts uploaded. The final winner will get to win a cash prize of Rs. 10 lacs! Interesting, very interesting! You can read more details of the contest rules here.

I think I liked almost everything about this campaign. But some aspects which are surely worth highlighting are:

  • Content / Word of mouth: In an era where content matters so much & online word of mouth can make or break a brand, I think this is definitely a unique way which Cedia has adopted to create content & positive pages online. What a better way to generate online buzz than blogs & tweets these days. To add to that the whole contest is based on the quality of content.
  • Effective targeting: This was a launch of a “sports” car & I think Mitsubishi did a great thing by taking a social media route as that’s where today’s young urban Indian is available. It’s really great to observe a shift towards digital medium for as important campaign as launch of a new product.
  • Cost effective: As per the official reports, this website was a huge success in its first few days itself. The website was launched on 22nd June’09 and received 2.06 lacs unique visitors as on 8th July’09. Well, definitely huge number of hits in a very cost effective way. A launch campaign to create an equivalent buzz if done through only a traditional media route would definitely have costed the company more.
  • Online & offline synergy: This initiative definitely proved that digital campaigns are not mere extensions of traditional ones. In fact in case of The Great Driving Challenge, the initial buzz was on online medium with actual execution being on ground – a perfect marriage between new age & traditional marketing so to say.

Overall an exemplary initiative for sure, let’s wait to hear for some statistics from Cedia to know the actual impact of this campaign.

Why marketers should use Twitter?

Update on 30th May’09: ssp

I had personally joined twitter more than a year & half back but was not an active user of the account then. Initially, I just used to read updates from the people whom I was following & then slowly got into posting my updates too. In fact I became totally active (rather addictive ;)) almost after six months of opening my account & the more involved I got into this the more I realized the power of it. Very soon I opened an account on behalf of the company where I work & started tweeting about the updates of my company. Well, what started just as an update mechanics is now converted into a full-fledged customer interaction medium. I’m totally amazed at the viral effect & the potential of this medium from promotion & customer engagement point of view. I occasionally keep on reading about twitter & it’s phenomenal growth etc., but based on my personal experience with twitter I think I have come to a conclusion that this medium is definitely a must for every new age marketer who wants to be in touch with his net savvy (or shall I say tweet-savvy) customers. Here is why:

  • Creating & Tracking Brand Buzz: I have found twitter to be one of the best mediums for being updated with what people are writing about your brand. I’ve used  other popular alert services including the ones for twitter too but I find the “search” option on twitter to be really a smart way of being updated about at the moment” buzz of your brand. It surely gives a real time insight into your customer satisfaction, dissatisfaction, needs & gaps of your service.
  • Word Of Mouth (Or Tweet of mouth :-)) : While a negative tweet definitely harms your image but a positive tweet followed by different retweets surely leads to excellent word of mouth marketing. There is this one guy who was having problems with our service, I read his negative tweet which he had written just 2 minutes ago, I immediately escalated it to our internal service delivery head & in next 5 minutes the guy got a call from our service head. The guy got so impressed that he immediately tweeted about the power of twitter customer service. In next 15 minutes when his problem was solved he ensured to mention the prompt action taken by our company in so many tweets of his and was all gaga about the service attitude & brand promise of our company. Thanks to all his retweets which gave us a positive boost to our brand that day. After that my SD head ensures to search for keywords related to our service every 2 hours 🙂
  • Competition Tracking: If your competitor is also active on twitter, then toh wah bhai wah! Isko kehte hai chandi ho jana! Easiest & fastest way to be abreast with what competitors are doing as well as how many customers are dissatisfied by your competitors is to search your competitor related keyword in twitter. I’m telling you it’s a very effective medium for competitive taka-jhaki 😛
  • Customer Feedback / Suggestions: It’s definitely a very quick medium to seek feedback before any new launch or for announcing any new update / feature / product etc. And thanx to tweet-savvy customers they give you some very genuine feedback immediately.
  • Potential Targetting: Highly effective medium to reach out to potential customers too, check out who is looking out for your kind of service & reach the potential TG in a smart way.

Serious word of caution: When I say it’s an effective medium for marketers to promote & engage, this does not mean it should be used as a free tool for SPAMMING. Beauty of twitter is that twitter users till date DETEST spamming a lot. So, don’t go ahead posting only URLs or your service related promotions. You’ll only lose the interest of your followers & it just takes a few micro seconds to “unfollow” your brand. If it is fast method to engage, it is equally fast to un-engage. So, think again before you start abusing this medium. Key is to interact, talk, engage personally & tweet something which your followers can look forward too :). If you’ve captured the attention, you can definitely promote your brand in a more involved way.

Twitter launches “suggested users”

Today morning when I logged into my twitter account, I found this new tab “suggested users” in find people section. It has to be a development between yesterday to today as it was not there two days back when I had clicked “find people”. But what is interesting is that there was no formal announcement or whatsoever on twitter main page about it, quite a silent launch of a new feature from twitter! Though there are lots of external tools and apps for twitter but twitter on its own has hardly launched anything in recent times. So, when twitter launched something on its own I must say I was having somewhat high expectations from it but when I used this tool I didn’t find it much useful. In fact I can’t understand the logic of this recommendation at all. So, is twitter recommending these users to me based on my profile or my friend’s list profile or the nature of my updates? The algorithm is not at all clear. And to add to that what disappoints me further is that I am getting quite common suggestions for my both accounts – I maintain two accounts, one my personal account and second on behalf of my company where I work. There is hardly any similarity between these two accounts, neither in terms of following / follower list nor in terms of updates or profile. So, how come the users suggested are having so much similarity? So, is it just a set of some users which twitter is recommending to everybody in different permutations and combinations??? And some of the other recommendations are absolutely bizarre, have a look on the two scrnshots:


Changing with times: Amar Chitra Katha

Recently while doing some grocery shopping in one of the retail stores, I glanced on TINKLE digest which was kept on the billing counter itself…and well, as usual I couldn’t refrain myself from buying it (Pssst…Shhh with a hidden face I am accepting that though I’m in my late 20s but I still can’t resist comics like Archies, Tintin, Tinkle etc… :P). Anyways, the comic was as interesting as ever but something which caught my immediate attention was the back cover page of the book. The page was heavily promoting online shopping of Tinkle comics as well as e-comics and contest on their website . Hmmm, looks like they have also revamped their website now and that’s why aggressively promoting their e-content.

Curious enough I clicked their URL and the first impression was WOW! Well, lots of changes as compared to their earlier website. Being a Tinkle fan, I had checked their old website once or twice earlier but there was nothing much for me to go back again. But new UI definitely gave an impression that even this 42 year old Indian Comic giant is changing with times. Not only they have changed the look and feel but they have introduced some other interesting features as well which is giving the website overall a modern outlook. I spent quite some time in navigating through the new website and here are some of the things which I personally liked about it:

  • Homepage looks neat and nice. Navigation is quite easy now.

  • Focus is not only on promoting its own content but rather creating user generated content as well. One section clearly focuses on inviting story as well as illustrations from users. Another section is focusing on contests. Very interesting features from customer engagement point of view.

  • Online shop with free delivery anywhere in India. Also offers and promotions depending upon the seasonality. As of today, one can see a Diwali gifting banner there.

  • ACK Pedia which is going to be a user-generated repository of information pertaining to people, places and culture of the India. Considering their credibility in offline medium for Indian legends, folktales and parables, if they do it rightly I’m sure they can become the authority in online space as well.

  • Recommendation Section which they are planning to launch in which they will not only review their own books rather other books as well as other edutainment related products. Good feature as per me.

Well, lots of good things but there are definitely some other things which have got some scope for improvement, like:

  • The home page loads very slow. I have tried it on high speed connections as well but not much luck. They need to look into their performance.

  • I think comic illustrations need bit of revamp. While it’s good to see our good old characters but to suit the taste of today’s generation kids and compete with likes of western ones like Tintin and all, definitely some new character and new content needs to be introduced with a bit modern kinda illustrations.

  • I know the world has moved towards complete English comics but still I think a section of Hindi comics can give them bit of edge in Indian market.

  • The content needs to be refreshed bit more on their homepage, I think as of now major changes are happening once a week, but in today’s fast changing times it would be good if they can manage to change some content daily.

  • It would be a good idea to launch a weekly contest instead of one generic contest with prominent highlighting of weekly winners.

  • I think there is a huge scope of improvement in their edutainment content in digital forms like DVDs, VCDs, video gallery on their own website.

But overall I liked this initiative of Amar Chitra Katha and yes, now I do have reasons to go back to their website again and again. Hope they manage to impress their actual TG i.e., kids and teenagers and they also feel the same about this revamped website :-).

Social Networking Sites more popular than Porn Sites???

Well, this news in ET yesterday caught my immediate attention which reads something like this – “Social networking sites are the hottest attraction on the Internet, dethroning pornography and highlighting a major change in how people communicate, according to a Web guru. Bill Tancer, a self-described “data geek”, has analysed information for over 10 million Web users to conclude that we are, in fact, what we click, with Internet searches giving an up-to-date view of how society and people are changing. Tancer, general manager of global research at Hitwise, an Internet tracking company, said one of the major shifts in Internet use in the past decade had been the fall off in interest in pornography or adult entertainment sites. He said surfing for porn had dropped to about 10 per cent of searches from 20 per cent a decade ago, and the hottest Internet searches now are for social networking sites.” (Source: Economic Times dated 22nd Sep’08)

Prima facie it looks like a good news, isn’t it? Atleast parents of growing kids and admin guys in corporates can heave a sigh of relief to read this, they need not worry about monitoring their kids and employees respectively and brooding over their wasting time on internet by searching and surfing adult contents. As per Tancer’s assumption, young people aged between 18-24 are spending more and more time on social networks and hence they are not left with much time to spend on porn sites… Hmmm interesting observation but is it the reality??? Don’t you think this is a very theoretical assumption? Well, we all know that almost all social networking sites are full of porn and adult content, infact I think its all the more easier to access such content through these social networking sites. I know of parents who have put filter for certain URLs in their home computers but of course have allowed sites like Orkut and facebook as that’s where their kids prefer to spend most of their times, now isn’t it true that most of the teenagers these days can access any kind of porn content on social networking sites like orkut or video sites like youtube? Infact finding girls / boys, contacting them, sex-chatting, dating etc have become so easy these days through these sites and almost all possible information are available at one place only. Now why will the searching of porn content not go down when everything is so easily accessible now? Social networking sites are definitely getting more and more popular day by day and yes youngsters are spending more time on such sites than specific porn sites these days but isn’t it because of apart from other X reasons like bonding with friends, finding old friends etc, youngsters are surfing lots of porn content on these sites itself? Well, atleast I strongly think so and feel porn is another spicy hook for social networking sites being so sticky apart from other reasons like friends, hobbies, games, applications, networking etc etc etc.