I see that my take on Pantene has not gone down well with quite a few people. I was also told on DM and email that it could have been a lot more constructive.

I agree. So, here goes.

If I stop nitpicking, what could they have done right – right, as in, according to me? I’m not an expert and I’m simply applying some common sense to this process.

1. The core idea is old – just do a Google for ‘mystery shampoo’ and you will notice that Pantene’s idea is as old as 2007/2008, outside India. So, there’s not much of a mystery in this internet-age, for this idea. But, this is a marketing need, so let me not contest this.

2. The use of online tools – a microsite, a Facebook page and Twitter, besides ‘buying’ space in brand ambassadors’ media (actresses’ twitter profiles) – is a good idea, no doubt. But could the message have been different for online medium compared to what it was in print and TV?


Because, on TV and print, the brand only talks down to the audience. There is no interaction and if I were allowed to generalize a bit, adverts are not the first reason why people watch TV or read a print publication. The ads may be a secondary, incidental activity. These help the fact that the brand can continue to talk down at its audience.

Online, things are a bit different. The medium is intended to be participative and brands can be scrutinized based on the messages they share. Talking down to people can only take a brand so much, online. But, given the nature of the medium, tweaking a regular talking-down-to message to make it ‘seem’ like more of talking-with can help the brand.

Two important considerations here.

One, is the brand or its product category low involvement/ low engagement? A shampoo is low involvement, at least based on common sense, if not marketing-speak. If it is low involvement, why will people talk to the brand when it does, online? Are there enough talk points at all, to sustain a conversation?

Think about it from a common sense, real life perspective. There is a party going on and you are a marketer selling shampoo. You want to introduce the shampoo to the people at the party. If you just barge in and create a small podium of your own in a corner of the room, will people come to listen to you?

Yes, if you have a flashy enough podium and perhaps offer some freebies. Will they stay to listen to what you are saying? That depends entirely on what you say. If all you say is ‘you try, you decide’ that is a no-brainer for every shampoo, toothpaste etc and may not be deemed interesting enough to stay on and listen and most importantly, to spread the word. But, if you talk about people and their issues with hair care, chances are, they might stay on to listen to you.

That is the key. Social media is about people. Brands are incidental to the discussion between and about people.

That said, the second consideration is towards high involvement/ high engagement products/ product categories. Products like cars or gadgets have multiple talk points and inherently interest a lot of people. They can indeed get away with product-centric talk, unlike a shampoo.

It is hence important to gauge the nature of product or message and use content appropriately, wherever online.

To make sure I make this post constructive enough, here’s a free gyan – the thumb rule is 15:1. For every 15 times you, as a brand, talk about others…your industry…your space etc, you plug yourself, once. 15 is a random number, it could vary for every product or product category – the point is to offer more and ‘seem’ interested and helpful, before plugging blatantly.

Common sense again – you are talking to a friend and if you talk only about yourself all the time, the friend may no longer be one. Unless he or she is expecting some money from you, of course.