If you look past the advertising message in this commercial jingle from Indian mobile operator Idea Cellular, where a man in the crowd replays a past political campaign showing a different promise, you will realise it captures a very important reality in the recent Indian elections, dubbed the country’s first social-media elections. It shows that campaign strategies that may have worked successfully in the past to win the support of the electorate are no longer valid in the age of information, where those with access to technology have become a lot more cynical about the way they absorb the knowledge they are presented with, and are not shy about sharing their political opinions.
This reality holds water not only for politicians but also for brands and the way they communicate with their new-age, tech savvy customers.
The building blocks of new-age communication
To effectively communicate with customers today, brands must build their communication strategies on three assumptions about the people they’re trying to reach. First, they must assume the average customer has access to a smartphone or smart device, if not they will have so within the next two to three years. Second, they have some form of presence on social media or will have so within the next two years. And lastly, they utilise social media most frequently on their smartphones and devices to plug into the information stream.
Based on these assumptions, the challenge for brands is to rapidly find ways to effectively grow their presence in that crucial sphere where social, commerce and mobile intersect, to be able to engage with today’s customers, most of whom belong to the Internet generation.
One great example I saw recently of brands cleverly utilising the social and mobile space to engage with their users is Tencent’s WeChat. They have recently deployed virtual “ang pows”—red envelopes used to give or receive money, most commonly during the Chinese New Year—on their platform that allow users to send money to their contacts. They have even gamified the process by randomising the payments, which gives each user a different sum at any one time.
Effective use of social and mobile like this gives users a reason to stay on the platform, interact with one another, and pay for services on the other side of the screen. It is a win-win situation for a brand like Tencent, which has successfully enticed users to put money in its social-media platform WeChat. Once it is there, it can be utilised as payment for other services offered by Tencent, thus keeping the money in the system.
Thriving in a world of ‘Mobiquity’
Tencent is one of the many examples of brands engaging customers in non-orthodox ways across various platforms—most commonly over mobile. I believe this trend will accelerate within the next 12 months as we are living in what I call a world of 'Mobiquity'.
Mobiquity refers to a brand’s ability to use the mobile and social platforms simultaneously, by leveraging on their utility and ubiquitous presence and technologically advanced handsets, resulting in effective communication with customers. As a result of the proliferation and widespread availability of internet-connected mobile devices around the world, Mobiquity is on the rise. According to Cisco, by 2017 there will be more than 10 billion mobile-ready devices/connections, including more than 1.7 billion machine-to-machine connections.
Accurately pinpointing how technology will change in the next five years is always next to impossible. Yet there are many ideas and trends that act as markers to give an indication of where technology is heading. This gives brands some guidelines to prepare for the next wave of technology deluge.
Based on HootSuite’s analysis of prevalent trends today, there are three key areas brands should consider when determining their long-term strategies.
- First, mobile is a disruptive technology with immense potential but currently remains underused in Asia despite strong growth numbers. This implies there are widespread potentials and many first-mover advantages for brands that are willing to take the plunge and develop a dynamic mobile-social strategy in the region.
- Next, to communicate, brands must go mobile at some point down the road. However, their mobile brand has to be near identical to their overall, orthodox brand image.
- Lastly, authentic, immersive, and relevant content is key to creating brand advocacy and engagement.
The 'Mobiquitous' world holds plenty of opportunities for brands and those bold enough to seize them will go a long way in solidifying their long-term strategies for survival and growth.
Ken Mandel is managing director, Asia Pacific, for HootSuite