A double-edged sword

Brands are jumping onto social media marketing in too much of a hurry. Is this medium not a double-edged sword?


Devaki, for sure! Totally. But this is good. Brands must ride the good with the bad. Social media is, hopefully, run by real consumers more than planted and paid consumers. If that is true, true democracy will prevail in marketing as social media tell brands what they must hear, but were hitherto too distant to hear.

I do not believe negative word of mouth can spread far and wide if there is no fire to stoke it. Social networks are good because they are reasonably fair and democratic. A spade will be called a spade and not a sickle or a gun.

The problem with marketing and marketers today is that all of us want only the positive.

It is important to understand that the consumer is a positive and a negative person packaged into one body, mind and soul altogether.

There will come times when consumers will want to articulate the negative as well. At such times, your brand will be nine points positive and one point negative. This is good for the brand.

Brands must learn to ape the lives of their consumers. No consumer is perfect. The perfect being is a myth. if your brand is too perfect, sit down and re-engineer the brand. The brand must be equally fallible and real and alive as is the consumer. Consumers forgive small faults. I go the extent to say that brands that have perfect offerings must engineer small faults that will come by time and again. Brands must get as real as their consumers are.

The negative impact of word of mouth is a reality that brands must be prepared for. Brands need to step off the pedestals they live upon. Social media is a great step-down ladder for brands.

Should certain products be advertised on TV, like flavoured condoms?


Sarma gaaru , there was a time when the national broadcaster (who had a monopoly), Doordarshan, had relegated family planning and Nirodh condom advertising to the late night slot in India. The idea was that the children of the country would be asleep by then and only the adults could view the advertising of an adult-use product. Good thinking then.

I do believe that thinking was right for the generation it was centred in. Today, children need to be taught about the condom as a basic health initiative early in life, considering the society we live in.  The condom has become a necessary part of prophylactic education.   This overt need was necessitated by the AIDS epidemic that entered our lives and led to mass-based television advertising. Not long ago, even the DAVP had the condom man shouting from the idiot box that the one who used the condom was a real man. To that extent, condom advertising in the country has now come of age. While Nirodh advertises with gusto the social service messaging, the brand offers variants that it possibly does not advertise as much. Private players such as Durex will ask the whole of India the question, have you done the Rex? Kama Sutra will show the sensual side of the condom, and there is unabashed communication for dotted, ribbed and flavoured varieties. Now ‘glow in the dark’ condoms have joined the party.

Now, the question is whether products such as flavoured condoms must be allowed to be advertised. I do believe we do live in a generation that believes in choice. This choice is not only about basic products, but about advanced products that come with bells and whistles as well. The flavoured condom is one such.   Yes, the idea of a flavoured condom itself does propagate thoughts that are not necessarily related to sex the staid old way alone. Yes, it does plant thoughts of every kind in consumers’minds. But then, this is a generation that believes in making its own choices. The flavoured condom is testing the waters of the edgy and the real. The young seem to be liking it. Why must only your chewing gum be flavoured? Why not your condom as well? And if it is, why must it not be advertised?

(Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. Send your questions to cat.a.lyst@thehindu.co.in )