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Is social media a boon or a bane for marketers?

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At the 2nd Indian Marketing Awards organised by the exchange4media group , top marketers engaged in the most relevant topic of discussion in today’s times. Building brand loyalty in the age of social media is the biggest challenge most marketers face today. Putting forth their diverse views were marketing veterans like Vivek Sharma, CMO Philips India, Sandeep Aurora, Director Marketing and Market Development, Intel, South Asia and Apurva Chamaria, Director and Head of Global Brand & Digital Marketing at HCL Technologies. Shantanu Bhanja, VP-Marketing at HT Media brought in the perspective of the media while Prema Sagar, Principal and Founder, Genesis Burson Marsteller contributed her views as a communications specialist.

The onslaught of digital media in the past few years has subverted traditional best practices in marketing, making marketers relook at their marketing plans and unlearn some of the rules of the game. But what came under the scanner was whether brand loyalty was under threat due to the digital platform. According to Bhanja, loyalty for legacy brands like Dettol, Godrej was not under threat as they had been built over generations. In fact, durable brands made use of digital to connect with audiences. Apurva Chamaria, a strong proponent of digital, terming it an honest medium said, “Digital sharply brings out the divide between different brands, their authenticity. It serves as a great levelling field.” He also spoke about the importance of digital in building communities. The discussion was strongly in favour of digital which most marketers felt was an opportunity for brand building and two-way communication.

Panel--2As consumers resort to researching and shopping online, they have a greater propensity to switch to a better deal at the expense of brand loyalty. But marketers can use social media to improve their communication with consumers. In the digital age, engaging intelligently with consumers was critical for brands. Commenting about the role of influencers in the lives of consumers, Prema Sagar said, “In these times, influencers have a great role to play. Every brand should also have a clear focus. Do they want to influence the consumer or do they want to drive purchase? It is not possible for the brand to achieve all the goals at the same time. Brand engagement was most important.”

Describing how Hindustan Times was in a transition mode, Shantanu Bhanja said, “Digital media can be seen as a great opportunity. At Hindustan Times we have adapted to the technology and are building a digital newsroom.”

But what happens to brand loyalty when disaster strikes in the form of a mistake that gets amplified on social media? Apurva of HCL said, “Every disaster is an opportunity on digital”. Panellists agreed that it was best to be honest about any disaster and not beat around the bush. As Vivek said, “Consumers are way ahead of brands and marketers. Better innovation and communication was needed to keep them satisfied.” He also stressed on the importance of improvement in services and the need to build better products in order to keep the customers coming back.

Instead of seeing it as a threat, marketers today needed to view digital as an opportunity to connect with consumers. The panel was moderated by Sandeep Aurora of Intel who has been with the brand for 16 years.

By Rashi Bisaria

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