Mobile marketing firm Brandtone entered India in late 2013, with Unilever as its first client. A year-and-a-half down the line, Mandeep Singh, Managing Director, India of Brandtone India Services LLP tells us about mobile marketing making the move from tactical to strategic campaigns and why marketers should test it on a pilot basis with firm KPIs
Brandtone, a Dublin-based mobile marketing firm, established its presence in India towards the end of 2013 on the back of its partnership with the Anglo-Dutch FMCG biggie, Unilever. The mandate was to help the biggest ad spender in India use the power of the mobile phone and build long-term, oneto- one relationships with consumers. From three members, the Brandtone team has now grown to 10. Talking about the ride so far, Mandeep Singh, MD - India, Brandtone India Services LLP says, “The journey has been excellent and we have expanded our scope of work. We have expanded our customer base beyond HUL and now work with GlaxoSmithKline, SABMiller, Club Mahindra, United Spirits and also handle the healthcare business of Siemens.” With a global clientele that includes Kellogg’s, PepsiCo and Kraft, Brandtone is also in talks to have these clients on board in India.
TACTICAL TO STRATEGIC
A huge population and the prevalence of feature phones led Brandtone to focus on emerging and developing countries, and it is currently present in 16 countries. However, with these countries increasingly adopting smartphones, the company’s offering has accordingly evolved to address those needs. Though India has around 680-700 million unique mobile phone owners, mobile marketing is still at a nascent stage in the country and “very tactical” in its application. In other words, most campaigns are redemption-based and are mostly SMS, missed-call or Interactive Voice Response (IVR)-led campaigns. With over 70% of mobile phones in India being feature phones, SMS and IVR are prevalent ways to reach out to consumers. Singh says that the Brandtone proposition is “strategic”. He explains, “We harness the power of mobile and big data to build sustainable engagement of brands with their audience. We help brands build connections and then we transform these connections into relationships.” With the focus shifting from mass marketing to de-massified, personalized and targeted marketing, Brandtone seeks to understand consumer profiles, their purchase patterns and in case of traders, like mom and pop outlets, the focus is on understanding stocking and selling patterns. This data in hand then helps deliver the right message to the relevant audience at a right time. While the initial offering was largely consumer-centric, Brandtone now offers integrated mobile marketing campaigns.
HOW DOES IT WORK
The basis of every interaction with the audience is underpinned by some sort of value exchange. The value exchange can be either tangible such as free talk time, free vouchers, etc., or intangible such as giving out recipes, tips or even a meeting with a celebrity. On the need for value exchange, Singh says, “If a consumer is interacting with a brand through the Brandtone platform and provides sufficient information about themselves, then we need to give back something to that customer. That is very important; otherwise there is no hook for the person to come and talk to us. However, the focus is on sustainable engagement and not free talk time or vouchers.”
A campaign uses a consumer or trader offer as a vehicle. Every product that is in the offer goes into the market with a 10 or 12-digit unique code inside the pack which is unique to a particular SMS. While a customer enters the campaign through a promotion, the IVR is triggered when the consumer calls in and the person is profiled only after explicit permission is given by the customer, thus forming “an asset” in the form of a “permissioned database”.
Singh says that Brandtone is compliant with TRAI guidelines in India as well as European data laws and unsolicited calls or messages are not made or sent. In addition, all campaigns are measurable and the focus is to close the loop to purchase. He says, “You can measure the efficacy and ROI/ROMI of the campaign. We allow brands to achieve their tactical short term goals but also help them achieve their long term strategic objectives. We are very focused on brand success parameters like their sales growth, market-share, penetration, etc.”
Learnings picked up by the company so far have helped Brandtone create a unique guide that helps enhance its offering and build its database. For example, important learnings on what time of the day people respond, what day people are likely to respond, what should be the length of the IVR, to the kind of the value exchange for a particular product/ category and even the kind of questions that need to be designed to get the brand the relevant information about consumers, have helped fine-tune their offering. Says Singh, “Today, we have got a permissioned database of around 18 million consumers in India. And around a million plus permissioned database of traders in India, which we can crossleverage. We can cross-pollinate this database for different, non-competing categories.” The data gathered on the customers is segmented into buckets and messages delivered based on the needs of the customer. This way, the loyalist of the brand is treated differently, the switcher is treated differently while any customer with a possibility of upgrade will be treated differently.
Commenting on its biggest client, Hindustan Unilever, Singh says, “Unilever has been a phenomenal partner. We have learnt the art of mobile marketing together. For the last twoand- a-half years, we have had campaigns across categories, across SKUs and it has been a tremendous journey and learning process. We have successfully partnered with Unilever globally and in India and have tremendous respect for them as a partner and client.” Consumer campaigns have been executed for Unilever brands like Vim, Close-up, Bru coffee, etc.
A cross-border learning from its sister concerns was on trader campaigns - how to use the consumer journey and transform it into a trader journey and then leverage the trader database. In India, trader campaigns were undertaken for Lipton Taaza and Bru coffee and the trader campaign for Bru coffee in South India profiled and enrolled around 9,00,000 traders in the region. Singh says, “We understand the traders’ stocking and selling patterns. Unilever has the data to work on and draw insights from it. As a result of this campaign, the sales growth has been good and there has been an increase in marketshare and distribution in South India.”
ESTABLISHING A KONNECT
Brandtone also offers its online platform Konnect to marketers. Konnect is a tool that provides a real-time daily understanding of how a campaign is behaving. It provides instant data on key variables such as how many people have entered a campaign, from which geography, what time of the day, which day of the week, how many have permissioned on a daily basis, etc. This data helps marketers review campaign performance, understand consumer behaviour and take action against key insights while the campaign is still on. Konnect also allows marketers to segment data real time. So a marketer sitting at his desk can see for example, ‘x’ number of switchers or ‘y’ number of loyalists and then decide to focus on the switchers. In future, Brandtone is looking at the possibility of enabling marketers to create campaigns by themselves using Konnect as a tool wherein the marketer can choose the targeted segment and type in a message in 160 characters and the message will directly go to the IVR or SMS.
ARE MARKETERS LATCHING ON?
A mobile phone is literally an extension of one’s hand and a personalized device which should automatically make the platform a go-to for marketers to deliver their messages. But are marketers taking up this medium? Singh says that while there is ‘conscious optimism’ from marketers to work on mobile, they are still very much risk averse, adding that marketers need to keep faith in mobile marketing and give it a shot. While the mobile platform is used for running tactical/ brand-building campaigns, mobile marketing campaigns are still not focused on building connections/data and then retargeted on the basis of that data. Another misconception prevailing is that mobile campaigns are expensive. Singh clarifies that these campaigns are not expensive but involves investing in building databases that can later be leveraged and the cost of building database can be ammortized in a span of a year across brands and categories. Singh says that the cost per engagement is much lower than people perceive it to be and adds that the buying has to be at the CMO level and not at the brand level. He says, “The buying has to happen at the CMO level because an individual brand head will focus only on his/her brand. The brand manager can cross-pollinate data only within the brand or within the category while the CMO will look at the overall umbrella portfolio and cross-pollinate data across-territories and SKUs (stock keeping units).” He adds, “My suggestion to CMOs will be - try and build a database on your largest selling product or SKU where you get the maximum amount of data. You can then cross-leverage that data for your niche categories.”
Singh believes that marketers should test mobile marketing on a pilot basis with firm Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). He reiterates, “Let’s run a pilot which is the representative of the population/market and if the pilot is successful as per the mutually agreed KPIs, then we must have a scale-up plan alongside. The Brandtone offering is highly differentiated.”
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