Beneath all those ‘likes’ …

Harish Bijoor | Updated on October 18, 2012

Often, the Net-enabled are but the top layer of target market.

How reliable is social media in terms of listening to customers and their woes?

_ R. S. Sampath, Chennai

Sampath, social media is both reliable and not reliable as a listening tool.

Social media is a listening tool, for sure. Accurate or not is a point of debate. The key point to remember is that social media today is populated essentially by the Net-enabled. They are really the top end of the heap of consumers in the market. They represent the niche top-of-the-pyramid of consumers. The real mass set of consumers lies buried deep under them. To that extent, when you listen to social media and all the noise within it, it’s the rumble of that upper layer. Half the time this is not representative of the entire audience for your brand and its consumption. You need to be careful to that extent when you base your plans on the social media listening posts set up by you and your company.

I keep warning people who work in this space. It is important to get to the granularity of social media sounds. It is important to see the top big lumps for what they are at the top of the heap and not get carried away by them. It is important to segregate and look deeper. It is important to put weightage on social media sounds on the basis of the true-blue demographic numbers of your consumers. It is important not to get carried away by the hype built by digital marketing agencies with an agenda and interest in the space. Have your own realistic agenda instead. An agenda driven by who your real consumer is.

Are bookstores going to go out of fashion? I worry for this trend.

- Parvathi Iyer, Bangalore.

Parvathi, I worry on this count equally.

I do believe bookstores are being challenged today. This challenge essentially comes from the e-shopping format for books.

In the old days, we used to browse for books and their reviews on the Net and buy them at physical stores. Today, we browse at bookstores and place an order on Flipkart. The pattern of buying has turned turtle. This is affecting sales across bookstores in the country. The fact remains that you can buy books cheaper on the Net than in brick-and-mortar stores. This is affecting volumes, throughput and most certainly margins are under pressure as bookshops are forced to discount.

The big reason for this shift is really e-shops! Other reasons are high rentals, low walk-ins and book readers’ lack of time to browse and buy with patience.

The bookstore segment is sadly being pushed into a niche, pushed to the precipice by the e-shop at large.

What is guerrilla marketing all about?

- Shinie Motha, Trissur

Shinie, guerrilla marketing is typically that avatar of marketing that adopts the nifty and smart as a cornerstone of marketing action. Guerrilla marketing is marketing that does not follow the long and straight line. Instead, it follows the line that is crooked and circuitous. It is all about the element of surprise, the element of stark action, and the element of doing things differently converging to create marketing action that is distinct and memorable. This is my definition.

Guerrilla marketing commenced in India very early. Possibly during the early Sixties, when many brands of detergents entered the market and started poking fingers into one another's eyes. And then in the Seventies when colas took off in India, and eventually, over the years, brought in some guerrilla action. There was indeed “nothing official about it” in most guerrilla marketing. The detergent players remain the pioneers, and then came the cola guys. Some eight years ago, many of the aviation players adopted it as well. Guerrilla marketing action is for everyone to use. It makes for a laugh, and marketers love to cock a snook and get away with it.

Guerrilla marketing is typically low-cost. You typically take off on someone else's mega campaign and you capitalise upon your competitive brand's expenditure that has already been expended.

Are singles important in the Indian market today? Do marketers focus on them at all? Or is it the family that is important?

- Arpit Khanna, New Delhi

Arpit, looks like you are feeling left out by the marketer at large.

Let me assure you, single men and women are very important consumer groups. Singles spend with a greater degree of abandon than married ones do. Married consumers tend to think family first and self later. Singles are reasonably self-centred and progressively narcissistic in their buys as well. There is a greater degree of focus on grooming, wearing the right brands and flaunting them as well. Singles flinch less at prices as well.

The single person is, therefore, a marketing opportunity no one can ignore. Don’t feel left out.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Published on October 18, 2012

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