Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Digital Branding

Digital Interactivity

By Harish Bijoor

Q: Why is digital media in such good focus today? And what is new here?
-Jyothi Virwani, Mumbai
A: Jyothi, the visual appeal of digital mediums cannot be matched by any other medium. Immediacy is hot. In the sense that the medium is closest to the point of purchase, or on way to purchase. It is an excellent reminder medium as well.

Further, it is also a medium that can build two-way interactivity.

What’s new?
Today, we have technology available where a digital signage can actually not only transmit lovely visuals and offers, but can also read who is watching it at a moment of time and dish out specific advertising. For instance if the sensor detects a woman in the mid fifties watching the medium, the product that can be shown to her digitally will be something relevant to her rather than items of irrelevance.

The medium can be used to research out consumers and consumer reactions even. Therefore the applications are many. Privacy issues remain though, and therefore such interactive digital signages need to have up-front communication aimed at viewers that is totally transparent.

The most recent and the most exciting development in the digital signage media is this. I have indicated the true-blue value-add possibility of interactive signages. Here, as you watch the signage, the signage watches you as well. Its complex algorithm will assess your sex, your age, your social class by way of dressing, your attitudinal stance by way of how you sport your hair, etc. In turn, it will dish out advertising that is specific to you and not umbrella advertising that is more often than not irrelevant, irritating and myopic.

Q: When a crisis hits a company, what is the process of communication that needs to fall into place? What if I had an Enron or a Satyam happening in my company?

-Vasanth Panigrahi, Hyderabad
A: Vasanth, God forbid! Let’s just hope we don’t have too many of these happening.
Just in case, it does though, the process needs to be quick. It needs to involve those who are close to the top. Close to the real center of information. Once quickness has been established as a norm here, it is important to use every neutral tool and vehicle to advantage. A neutral tool would be capturing everything that is written on the crisis and presenting it on a common platform for all to see. This will swathe the entire effort with credibility, and will not be seen to be a Goebbelian method of PR activity.
Once this credibility has been achieved, communication needs to get interactive. It needs to answer every question that is raised. Such questions can come from Opinion leaders, the media, employees, and the lay public even. Every constituent needs to be respected and given an answer that is right, and an answer that could be cruel in its impact even. People want the truth. Never hide it. Say it the way it is. Once said, truth has a way of settling down in the psyche of the individual. Do not molly-coddle hard fact. Do not clothe hard fact. Just give it out naked!
Set up an independent Ombudsman to assess the role of this crisis communication team even. Listen to the Ombudsman. And let this crisis-communication auditor come from a neutral source. This will be a rich process then.

Q: Indian retail has just about matured. What do you see to be the important factors that will contribute to its success further?
-Joseph H Hoover, Trichy
A: Joe, I am not sure I agree with you. Indian retail is not yet mature. It is at its most immature adolescence as of now.
Immediately however, Indian retail needs to adjust its mentality for Indian conditions. We need to be multiple-formatted. Every chain needs to have multiple formats and must not rely on niche formats such as the mega super-marts. In the early days, such a focus on single-formats will work, as the low hanging fruit of the ready-made consumer in urban markets is plucked. But things will dry up soon. Smaller format outfits need to be a reality for every chain sooner or later. Non air-conditioned retail is something that cannot be missed.
A partnership of big retail with small must not be missed as an opportunity. Imagine if an Aditya Birla Retail contracted 2, 00,000 existing small kiranas to partner in their retail spread. Every one of these small kiranas would get the benefit of an organized front-face in terms of branding and of course the benefits of mass sourcing. For the retail brand, this would mean a quick 2, 00, 000 outlets that sport the brand name of the company. Also, this would mean 2, 00,000 business people in small retail continue their livelihoods. They would bring passion and a deep understanding of the local market for the big retailer. Every outlet could be co-branded. More-Ghanshyam Stores and a More-Shetty Stores!
Indian retail inroad can be made by the big player only on a win-win format of big and small. And not to the exclusive benefit of the big alone!
My prediction is that in the next six years, the face of Indian retail will look very different from what we see today. Today's big ones might just vanish altogether. Bubbles burst, you see!
Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

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