This article first appeared in Brand Equity, The Economic Times, February 6, 2019.
Last year, I recall having a spirited discussion about what a brand like Hindware could derive out of its social media command center (they had set-up one at that time), on LinkedIn. The crux was that Hindware (if you get past the beauty of the name that signifies both the country—Hind—and the human rear, which we park on its primary product) does not seem like a brand that people may be talking about, particularly on social media. But a social media command center is de rigueur for any self-respecting brand these days, since it’s not just brand mentions, but also related associations that are being listened to, for insights!
So, if I were to assume that there was indeed a social media command center for Odomos (the grand old mosquito repellent brand owned by Dabur), the team managing it would have done the equivalent of Lagaan’s Ghanan Ghanan, recently. Because, Omar Abdullah, the Kashmiri politician known for his outspoken nature said this!
The tweet went places, and entered mainstream media, the next day. Understandably, mentions of the Odomos brand name would have gone through the roof!
The closest instance of this is perhaps the use of another brand name, Burnol (from Dr.Morepen) being used often online to people in the opposite side of your political ideology to, ironically soothe their burnt ego. Or, the spike in mentions of Maruti Suzuki’s WagonR, when Arvind Kejriwal’s car was stolen.
So, what should Odomos do about this newfound spurt in brand mentions? Isn’t it something that every brand yearns for, that it was being uttered by a lot of people?
But there are problems in case of Odomos.
One, the context around which the brand name is used is completely removed from its actual purpose (much like the WagonR mentions, but unlike Burnol, where the product’s actual purpose was being touted, though for a figurative burn).
Two, the use of the brand name seems negative from a current political dispensation perspective.
There are some broad considerations, on a more practical level, though.
- Is the brand active online, on social media? If so, what tone does it have on social media? A quick glance at Odomos’s Twitter handle (a sample) shows that it simply acts like a brochure. Should that stop the brand from offering a smart repartee? Not at all.
- If the brand is in boring, broadcast mode on a vibrant, 2-way communications platform like social media, are they even geared to think of using this spike in mentions as an opportunity? Unlikely. Even if some wet-behind-the-ears agency flunky suggests this to the client/agency head, he/she is more likely to be silenced with, ‘It’s too risky’.
- However, broadcast-mode/lack of engagement need not stop the brand from using this as an opportunity. This is the one occasion where they can actually add some life into their otherwise moribund existence on social media! Obviously, all it requires is a smart, apolitical retort. But that’s not going to be easy, since India’s national preoccupation is taking offence. It requires some clever thinking to connect it back to the product’s real purpose and value, but that’s the whole point of having an agency full of creative people.
If they get it right, and promote it adequately, chances are, people will notice both mentions – the politician’s snide jibe and the brand’s comeback, and talk more about it. The media will notice it and talk about it even more.
There are brands that have made lemonade out of such lemons. My favorite one is from Chevrolet, in 2014. Chevy was slated to offer a Colorado pickup as giveaway to a baseball player. During the ceremony, their spokesperson got nervous and instead of explaining the vehicle’s actual prowess, uttered “technology and stuff”! The phrase went massively viral, with people making fun of the spokesperson.
A smart social media monitoring manager at Chevy found that the phrase can be embraced as the common-man way to explain how good Chevy Colorado is because you know, it’s got technology and stuff! The Chevy CMO latched on to the suggestion and milked the phrase for the next 5 days in brand communication. Chevy earned US $5 million worth of earned media as a result, with people, who had previously used the phrase to mock the brand, now admiring its chutzpah! All this was over in just one week, the lifecycle of the opportunity.
Other brands have tried their hand at this game too! Here’s a New York Times reporter turning a jab from POTUS into a smart comeback!
While we are at it, here’s an open opportunity for Sony, for the PlayStation. The brand mention is from none other than the Indian Prime Minister, and it’s not negative either!