I came across a lot of my Twitter friends tweeting with #JazzatBIC hashtag last weekend. I knew Honda was planning a Jazz relaunch and as a fan of the model (though I never bought it as a replacement to my wife’s 7+ year old Honda City – they took it out of the market by the time I decided I’d buy it!), I was keen to know more about what was new in the relaunched version, and more importantly, if they would price it right, at least this time.
I knew that I won’t get answers to that in a blogger engagement, like the one at BIC, so I promptly muted the hashtag and searched the net for reviews.
But… not before stumbling on this tweet, from Gaurav Nabh, head of Quasar India.
Now, I completely understand the sentiment around ‘power of digital’, ‘power of social word of mouth’ and so on. I won’t even question those.
My only concern is pitting one against the other.
Is it worth crowing that a car has been showcased to bloggers before it has been showcased to,
Let’s take one at a time.
Dealers help Honda sell. They are the physical public interface for Honda. Assuming people see the bloggers gushing about the car after the drive at BIC and assuming one of them (many of them, perhaps) is intrigued enough to know more, she’d have 2 choices.
1. Go to Honda India’s website and read more about the new Jazz.
2. Walk into a nearby dealership and check out the car, or even better, ask for a test ride.
If the car hasn’t been showcased to dealers, how would they react to a prospective customer walking to seek information after seeing gushing tweets online?
Next, press. This is a bigger concern for me.
If this was about a new bubblegum brand or a new brand of inner vests, I wouldn’t be this perturbed. This happens to be a car.
And cars are something most mainstream media outlets cover, professionally. They have an automobile beat, with paid professionals covering that industry, from a business and consumer perspective.
Does this tweet intend to say that these paid professionals in a media outlet covering automobile sector (with a history of auto reviews) are now less important than bloggers, who are not as organized an outfit as media is, who are not paid to do this professionally over a period of time? (no offense to the bloggers/tweeters who were at BIC that day).
I do understand the sentiment – make the brand seem pathbreaking. So, ‘Honda rewrites rules’. But at what cost? At the cost of media that Honda needs to go to right after the BIC event, to launch the car?
Isn’t that a bit like telling mainstream media-based film reviewers that they can review the new film a week after bloggers have seen and reviewed it? Sure, certain confident media reviewers won’t mind as long as they have a steady/solid audience waiting for their views, but even then, won’t they find the exercise a tad outdated?
What media wants is exclusivity and access, to sustain interest amongst its audience. Bloggers/tweeters with a solid following may behave like media too and may want similar exclusivity – I agree. It may be a question of who the brand can afford to antagonize.
In any case, dedicated auto-bloggers will be clubbed under media these days – the ones who were at BIC last weekend were normal people like you and me with no specific history of automobile reviews or views. They are known for their diversity across a range of topics – not car-centric. For them, it’s a badge of honor to proclaim that they had been invited to an exclusive Honda event. And showcasing that badge of honor on social media works both ways – for them, they showcase themselves as part of a much-wanted set of online influencers, and for the brand, the vehicle gains in awareness.
And finally – public. This, I get it. You cannot showcase it to the public withour the support of your dealers. Or, specific offline marketing. And that can wait.
The question is not so much about whether bloggers are the new mainstream media (with a similar reach) as it is about whether it is prudent to pit one against the other.
Having pitched similar tactics to multiple brands over the years, I’ve seen a lot of mainstream media journalists make a face when we tell them that there is a blogger engagement event too. That’s understandable, but most savvy media folks have made peace with that by taking their offline fanbase online and compete with bloggers/tweeters on a similar turf.
I’ve also advised clients to keep the engagement (at least for a preview/launch) with media, and with bloggers, close to each other – say, morning and afternoon. That way, both segments find it compelling enough to attend the event and gain something exclusive to inform their respective audiences.
Incidentally, Gaurav seems to have been misled by the Honda spokesperson who spoke during the blogger event at BIC if you go by other versions of the ‘exclusive’ story that came out that day.
When someone pointed out that his enthusiasm about the vehicle being showcased first to bloggers (before media and dealers) is misplaced, Gaurav retorted,