Mayank Pareek’s job has been fairly easy of late. As Chief General Manager, Marketing, at the country’s largest automaker, Maruti-Suzuki, his job, of selling cars, has rarely been easier.Despite rising commodity prices (and, thus, car prices) and stiff interest rates, cars are still moving out of showrooms rather fast. But, Pareek has not been resting, and Maruti has been playing around with the Internet—not just sticking up banner advertisements at large websites or text-based ads through Google AdSense—by encouraging his team to interact with consumers using a host of online services.
“We have put up videos on services such as YouTube and have actively seeded discussions on online forums using social media. This is where the consumers are, this is where they interact; so, it makes sense for us to have a group on Orkut or Facebook,” says Pareek.
When Maruti recently launched the Swift Dzire sedan, it had a comprehensive teaser campaign online and invited people who clicked through the campaign to watch a live webcast of the event, and, according to Pareek, over 80,000 people did. “We have found that a large majority of people who are buying the car were actually influenced by our online campaign and visited the products website.
Format makes it easyIt isn’t just Maruti-Suzuki. Several large companies, selling everything from manufactured goods, to consumer products and services, are using the Internet to reach out to consumers. “The digital format makes it easy,” says Shailesh Rao, MD, Google India, “and this phenomenon will just increase as people start seeing actual results.”
But how does a company like Google, which depends on text advertising revenues, deal with the fact that companies, like a majority of web users, like the thought of doing things online for free? “We have tied up with partners on YouTube India and they are not paying us,” Rao jokes. “But I believe that traditional web advertising will co-exist with free services. So, if a car maker puts up a video of its car on YouTube, there will be contextual ads on the sidebar, maybe from a rival car maker. I think web advertising gels well in such a scenario.”But given the limited reach of the Internet in India—the country has a claimed Internet reach of 46 million users and an active (defined as those who access the Net at least once a week) user base of 32 million— can the web be an effective marketing medium? “Nobody is suggesting that traditional advertising will wither away and die,” says Rao, but Nokia India’s ‘Go To Market’ Head, Vineet Taneja, has an interesting argument. “What is interesting in India is that Internet penetration is spreading, particularly in smaller towns and cities. And marketers have to realise that dismissing the Internet as a predominantly ‘urban’ phenomenon will be dangerous.”
Nokia India has successfully run campaigns riding the web, including an ongoing one (on http://www.remixrahmansada/) involving music composer A.R. Rahman where users can go online to a website, remix tracks from Rahman’s latest movie and win a session with the composer. “These campaigns have been hugely successful because we have added a social element in every contest by allowing peers to review entries,” Taneja says.
But he admits that it will be the mobile device that will really transform marketing in India in the nearfuture. The loudest votary of that impending change is Sanjay Kapoor, President, Mobile Services, Airtel. “The potential of the mobile phone is tremendous. Suppose a new movie is released and the producer wants to promote the music… why can’t he use a call-back tune as promotional material? In return for a user playing that call-back tune, the production house can give him free airtime or money.”
Mobile telephony, too
In fact, Group M, India’s largest media-buying house, has already seen a level of success in its mobile campaigns. “Last year, we did a campaign for ICICI Bank where we had to generate 20,000 leads. By placing ads on prominent mobile portals, we generated 72,000 leads in a month,” Thadani explains. But it is not just banner advertisements; Thadani also explains that Gupta’s idea of call-back tonebased advertising is not fantasy and can even be customised based on the caller’s profile.