‘India will reinvent the way marketing is done globally’

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When the digital revolution hits India, the country will be on the viewfinder of global agencies to see what it does, says Scott Goodson of Strawberry Frog.

Scott Goodson of Strawberry Frog
Scott Goodson of Strawberry Frog

“People are not behaving the way they used to and so the agencies cannot push the envelope of traditional media for too long. People will buy what they care about. And the Internet is a space which allows them to be personal, choose friends, business associates, places, even, which they want to be updated about."

Divya Trivedi

The legend of David and Goliath has inspired a Canadian to take on the behemoths of the advertising world on his own terms. Scott Goodson, then in Europe, formed an advertising agency that is a rebel with genes, by his own admission.

Strawberry Frog is today a globally competitive agency that handles the international accounts of the likes of Heineken, Microsoft, Pepsico in the US and Running Shoes, which is all set to come to India. In addition, it recently clinched the account for Indian automobile brand Mahindra and Mahindra which is to launch in the US next year.

Strawberry Frog started off and continues to be positioned as an alternative to the big companies. But what is more interesting is the way in which the agency builds a popular grassroots level campaign online first, and then, leveraging the popularity derived from it takes the branding to the traditional mass media.

“Our DNA structure is what we like to call cultural movements. It is a methodology, a process to build a brand and to connect with consumers in the new media age,” says Goodson, who was in a leisurely mood at the recently concluded GoaFest, where he was one of the key speakers.

The process of marketing adopted by Strawberry Frog for its clients is rather unique and interesting.

Explaining the methodology, Goodson says, “We do social science studies in culture and ethnographic studies, which are very much like academic papers. We then try to find an idea that is on the rise in a culture, and based on that, we create a strategy of sorts.”

The agency goes on to create an online community, inviting people with like-minded ideas to join in and participate. This provides the agency with a ready database of consumers who might not have used the particular product yet and builds interactivity. The mass communication is then used to amplify that idea to a larger audience.

Even though the agency continues to advertise through television and print, the traditional media, the difference between them and the other agencies that do it is, as Goodson explains this: “A traditional agency will first take a product, brand it and then use television to advertise. We believe in first creating these communities and then taking it on to a wider audience base.”

The idea behind the working of Strawberry Frog is similar to that of the Obama campaign in the US, says Goodson, where Obama single-handedly built communities of people who believed in his campaign.

People who support Obama and want to raise money for his campaign, or call people to urge them to vote for him — all they have to do is go to his Web site. “His Web site is amazing. There are tools for everything people want to do and is highly interactive.”

Goodson is confident of marketing the biggest brands of the world by using only the Internet as a mode of advertising.

The Internet has a different role to play today than it did in the late ’90s when it burst on the scene like a volcano, he said. Today, there are different tools being innovated as opposed to Web sites which will be the key drivers in the market to advertise. Using the Net, a group of people who are technologically literate, so to say, who are curious about various things, and want to connect with a brand or idea globally, can be targeted.

“People do not want to live in a small world any more. They constantly need inspiration from brands and the opportunity to connect with phenomenons,” says Goodson. In the US, when Internet advertising erupted six months to a year ago, it surprised the Americans. And it is not long before something like that happens in India, he said. In fact, he thinks India is the new place for innovation, as it is on the threshold of discovery.

Today, one cannot say that New York or London is the way they want to be, as the old structures of doing things are crumbling. People are not behaving the way they used to and so the agencies cannot push the envelope of traditional media for too long.

People will buy what they care about. And the Internet is a space which allows them to be personal, choose friends, business associates, places, even, which they want to be updated about. Facebook is an excellent example of that.

So, traditional media, television and print, in that sense, are spam, he adds. They will not disappear, but will have a lot to catch up with.

“When the digital revolution hits India, people are going to think in whole new ways and reinvent the way advertising and marketing is done globally. India has a clean slate, extremely talented people, the latest technology, and in the next few years it will be on the viewfinder of global agencies to see what it does.”

Giving an example of revolutionising marketing that helped sell out the entire accounting software product of Microsoft which had remained unsold for a long time, Goodson explained how well it works.

When the agency in its consumer research found it was the youngsters and start-up entrepreneurs who were the ones most likely to buy the software, rather than established businessmen, it invited Americans to submit user-generated business ideas.

Three million people submitted their ideas, of which six were selected by famous people and consumers themselves and given a huge cash prize along with a 12-month retail space in Manhattan and all the software they needed to start their business. The campaign is still on, and everyday contributes to a large database of potential customers in the bargain.

Strawberry Frog prides itself on “being a pirate ship and definitely not the British Navy” and is all about innovation, partnership, convergence and agility. As the traditional industry is anyway “hanging together by bandage and scotch tape” in the US, the agency will continue to play up on its rebel streak and service select but respectable clients globally. It intends catering to Indian clients in the coming years with an office set-up in Mumbai or Delhi, and already has Mahindra and Nanhi Kali, a non-governmental organisation, in its bouquet of clients.

As soon as the agency can zero in on three Indian partners, strategic, business and creative, it will be ready to storm Indian advertising.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 24, 2008)
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