Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Got killer instinct to spare, dude?

This morning, I read about the appointment of small-town boy, MS Dhoni, as the Indian captain in the coming ODI encounters with Australia and Pakistan. A little later, at, I came across what I thought was an amusing online adver-game, Book of Deviants, meant for 18-34 old male “deviants” evidently with no moral objection whatsoever to mindless mayhem. By the way, I chanced upon the game while listening – irony of irony! – to mushy Rajendra Kumar love songs sung by Mohamed Rafi. The object of this role-playing game is for the short, pudgy, scythe-wielding monster, Little Deviant, to beat, mutilate and murder spineless “Sheeple” – people who don’t drive Toyota Scion, in other words. As the player progresses through the ascending levels, he keeps collecting Sheeple blood in a tube. At the last and highest level, he can use the blood – horror of horrors! – to fuel the Scion factory. This deviant behaviour by Toyota has earned the ire of the blogosphere. “People that find it offensive are not our target,” Simon Needham, co-founder of ATTIK, the game- designing agency, told the online magazine Slate. This is an example of a recent viral marketing gambit. The question often raised about viral/word-of-mouth marketing revolves around the measurability – and trackability – of its ROI. The detractors of viral/WOM marketing accept that it can create brand awareness but doubt if it can generate market share. Can marketers identify and/or spawn brand evangelist – those consumers who actively promote their favorite products and services to family, friends and business associates? Can their effect on the bottom line be measured? How can viral campaigns link to existing loyalty-marketing efforts? Is a cool viral video really all you need to create customer advocates—or are agencies who sell viral services simply blowing smoke? Before there was the printed word, broadcast media and the Internet, WOM was the only way to sell the wares. So actually it’s as old as the hills (or, is it Jurassic Park?). Two recent examples of WOM successes at share building and awareness building respectively were the 2003 Pabst Blue Ribbon beer 134% sales spike and the 2004 20-million-hit Burger King website Nearer home is the Unilever Sunsilk Gang of Girls online initiative with its unique online Makeover Machine: It harnesses the upsurge In broadband usage in India to use the power of social networking and WOM as well as user-generated content for product promotion. A noteworthy evangelist initiative is P&G’s Vocalpoint where 600000 “connector moms” share new product knowledge with more than 20-30 other women every day. A 29 May BusinessWeek article reported a doubling of sales in test locations as a result of the Vocalpoint initiative. Then there is BzzAgent, an essentially smaller, brand-neutral version of Vocalpoint with an army of 300,000 agent volunteers who receive coupons and sneak previews of new products and evangelize the client’s marketing message to an average of 12 other people – just the first-generation contacts. The next generation percolation will be an average of 4 people, as the BzzAgent experience shows. (P.S.: According to an eMarketer research report, there are currently 33.2 million Indian Internet users. That’s 2.9% of the total population, to be precise. The broadband households and penetration are 3228000, i.e., 1.6% of the total households. The comparable Internet user estimates from comScore, Internet & Mobile Association of India and JuxtConsult are 22.8, 42.5 and 30.3 million respectively. & The GOG website was designed by the award-winning web designer

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