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Bajaj V and Paper Boat set trends in content marketing

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MUMBAI: In the current state of disruption in the media and entertainment industry, two things have come forth as absolute truths -- firstly, the need for brands to adapt and explore non-traditional marketing; and secondly the power of pure undiluted content.

Be it GroupM’s This Year Next Year report or the KPMG - FICCI 2016 report, pick up any recognisable marketing study, and one can tell where the M and E industry is headed with double figure digital growth rates.

Going with that idea, several brands and marketers are toeing the lines of content marketing. But few have gone ahead and taken a leap of faith with content and storytelling being the main focus.

“We are used to seeing brands sponsoring television programs. ‘Buniyaad brought to you by Colgate’ is an example. But there is nothing ‘Colgate’ in Buniyaad. Whereas in the case of long format digital videos, the kind of content brands would go for is somewhere related to the concept of the brand. The format of digital allows you to experiment a lot more at a far lesser cost,” shared MullenLowe Lintas chairman and CCO R. Balki, on why it is viable for brands to produce their own content on digital.

When asked, Balki named Leo Burnett’s campaign for Bajaj V as his favourite in the last year. At the same time, he referred to ‘Sons of Vikrant’ as a campaign, not a documentary. “Anything which is released around the bike is all part of building the brand. And that is why I say it is one of the most beautiful works I have seen recently.”

When Bajaj released its new model for the commuter segment backed by the inspiring story of INS Vikrant, the power of weaving a story as the two wheeler’s brand identity was instantly revealed when record breaking units of the bike were sold on the very first day.

But it didn't end at that. Soon the brand launched a 16 minute video titled ‘Sons Of Vikrant’, conceptualised by its creative agency Leo Burnett, documenting the lives of the war veterans who were once aboard the warship.

Bajaj Motorcycles marketing VP Sumeet Narang said, “As we delved deeper into Vikrant and started talking to people who worked on it, we realised that there are many untold stories and memories behind the naval battleship INS Vikrant and its heroes. Since we had brought back the essence of Vikrant in the form of V, we realised that the onus was also on us to bring these stories together and share them with the nation.”

The video was launched through a gala event where the who’s who of the media and entertainment industry were invited. Amidst the glitz and glory, the anecdotes of life on INS Vikrant and war stories successfully created awe and inspired attachment around the warship. Suddenly Bajaj V wasn’t a two wheeler anymore, it was a story everyone wanted to own.

“With Sons of Vikrant, our idea was to bring out the untold stories of INS Vikrant and the war veterans and share the feeling of pride with millions,” quipped Leo Burnett south Asia CEO Saurabh Varma when asked about the concept of releasing a documentary as part of the awareness building for a product.

“To create this documentary, we met many people who were part of the war to learn their stories. The footage ran into hours, which we had to bring down to 16 minutes," Varma added.

Though the digital platform, without the time constraint, does lend itself for more creative exploration, it isn’t necessarily the long format that is working for the brands. As per Balki, digital audience is far more ADHD than a television viewer, with little patience for the content to take shape. “If the story is very well integrated with what the brand stands for, the content will bring benefits for the brand hugely, irrespective of the length of the video.

“Fundamentally if you have a terrific piece of communication, the brand will benefit from it irrespective of the length of the video. Unless the film is very riveting people lose patience quickly. Some creatives grab on to the digital media thinking and finally they don't have to fight with the client for the extra five seconds. I don’t think so. I feel a lot of the long forms we see are boring and could have been done shorter. If one wants to go beyond 60 secs they better have something compelling,” Balki simply stated.

While Bajaj went the non-fiction way to bring out the real emotions people had for the warship and subsequently the bike, Hector Beverages’ flagship brand Paper Boat drinks, dabbled in non-fiction recently to achieve the same.

The three and half minute video called Rizwan: The Keeper of the Gates of Heaven instantly transports the viewer into an incredible fairy tale of superhero saving the day that evokes all senses.

“Paper Boat as a brand often speaks of different tastes and smells that can trigger memories, it is an important part of our brand communication. I realised that short films and features are a great way to tell such stories,” shared Paper Boat marketing head Parvesh Debuka.

Soon Paper Boat’s agency Humour Me came up with Rizwan, written by Dhruv Sachdeva, which strongly resonated with the brand’s identity and therefore the brand went ahead with it.

It has only been five days since the film has been put up on the brand’s YouTube channel and there are already 7,00,000 plus views, with positive comments like i forgot i was watching something else and this popped up” following the video.

When asked how effective this brand communication has been compared to the traditional marketing tools, Debuka said, “It is hard to compare as the metrics are different. A brand communication is supposed to deliver a certain thing. Our 20 second spot for the Chilli Guava flavour did extremely well as well. It served the purpose of spreading awareness that we have that flavour. On the contrary Rizwan has taken our storytelling a notch higher, in terms of screenplay, the cinematic experience, in terms of animation. It is no longer creating awareness but building a bond.”

Debuka is not opposed to the idea of brands producing their own content and exploring further visibility options with it. “For starters, a video such as this when released on the digital platform, garners way more eyeballs organically than what it would take to be visible on television. But as a piece of content it can be shown on television, and even cinema theatres for that matter, but then we will have calculate distribution cost, etc.”

Going by the cost as well, a brand might come out with more in their pockets when making a video for the digital audience as opposed to putting up an ad spot on television. This window for a more ROI centric marketing is driving brands to go the content way. “Obviously when you end up making a TV commercial, you spend a little more than you would spend to make a film like Rizwan,” Debuka shared.

Given the fanfare these brand produced contents have created, more brands are likely to explore the area more extensively and start producing their own content. One can’t help but ask if that will affect the way advertising industry works.

“Agencies have to reorient themselves for the digital era. We are going to see more and more digital thinking in the works. It is no longer about marketing in digital platform but it is digital in marcom thinking. That's a fundamental shift, and those that make this quick shift quickly and swiftly will survive. I wouldn’t say that agencies and other stakeholders in the system need to feel completely threatened by this new trend of brands making their videos. But since the industry is at a cusp of disruption now, some casualties are expected,” pointed out Vizeum India MD Shripad Kulkarni.

While there is growing enthusiasm to see more work like Paper Boat’s Rizwan and Bajaj’s Sons Of Vikrant, industry veterans are also cautioning brands against jumping the content marketing bandwagon simply out of the herd mentality. “Often we see that people absorb good content for its own sake and completely forget the brand. Therefore the story needs to be well integrated with what the brand stands for, therein the content will benefit the brand hugely,” shared Balki.

Echoing similar sentiments, Debuka added, “The primary requirement is how strongly enmeshed is your brand in the story. Whether it is told on television or digital or radio or even on the print platform. One has to ask if the brand can own that story. The content that a brand produces should be a natural extension of the brand communication. If that is not to be, then none of the mediums will work for the brand.”

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