Only-on-collateral branding is dead, engagement is in

Imagine a scenario where scores are awarded only for fours and sixes. Singles, doubles and runs between wickets are totally disregarded. Would you like to watch such a cricket match – where the power packed action of running between wickets, the mighty spin on the track, the altercation between the players, 3rd umpire reviews, bouncers, the appeals and all the emotions are all missing? This is exactly the difference between ATL macro-level marketing which is very top view or approach vs the Micro Marketing (largely in shape of BTL) which is all about the action on ground, people, emotions, engagement, reactions and whole host of human engagement.

Micromarketing that are well known include gully cricket, events in residential societies, corporate events like CTC, contests / festivals in colleges, school contact programs, hospital programs to reach out to expecting mothers or even kitty parties! All of them have one thing in common. These are very highly targeted and specific events aimed at elevated levels of engagement with the audience the brand is interested in with an objective of lead generation and brand stickiness.

In a diverse country like ours, we could be doing several 100s of events under a single initiative. Any brand manager worth his salt in India will find BTL marketing laborious and tiring, but in comparison the expensive ATL route, would prefer it better as an avenue to generate leads. The one thing therefore why micro marketing or BTL has been lacking so far is the absence of scale.

Micromarketing is heavily dependent on people and events. Here are some of the factors that affect micromarketing which are possibly the reason this approach is not as popular as ATL:
• Scale – They tend to be taking very long to achieve economies of scale. Usually the numbers run in thousand or possibly a couple of lakhs. Rarely we speak millions here when it comes to BTL
• Analytics – Unlike digital, measurement of success varies as the clients can customize it to suit their purpose. Leads generated from BTL are difficult to quantify as against ATL where you can justify effectiveness to creatives, buying and planning models employed
• Speed of implementation – Roll outs are sequential and this doesn’t allow large numbers to happen in a month vs a single day implementation of an ATL campaign to reach millions
• Notionally expensive – BTL activations are expensive since cost per contact are higher despite engagement levels and therefore results proven to be effective beyond compare

In my own experience, Standard Chartered chose to sponsor the Mumbai Marathon as a title sponsor. Unlike other banks and this is about a decade back, we were the first to engage with an on-ground sport where the entire city would be engaged. The bank also sponsored bigger events like IPL to ICC but none came close to the engagement levels of the Mumbai Marathon. Our corporate brand recall was highest because the event instead of any other campaign, product or leadership. The positive image as a bank we gathered was again of multiple returns on every dollar spent, no ATL campaign could have come close to that.

As founder of engage4more, we are creating a channel with corporate IPs like CTC, BB, Super Chef and Money Symphony. Engage4more produces 2000 events engaging over 25 Lakhs corporate population over different tastes. Right from display, games to engage, lead generation to pure sales, our channels make that all happen and too with captive audience of corporate houses that are heavily guarded. Most of the company’s investments have towards building an outreach team, data, digital assets, notification tech on mobile. Also, a convergence on TV channel has created disproportionate participation so much so that all are paid participation format which isn’t heard of in BTL Micro Marketing.

More than half a lakh of corporate employees have participated in our IPs so far in various initiatives with brands ranging from Blackberry, TVS, ITC, Edelweiss, Dabur, Sodexo, Datsun, Garnier and Bajaj Electricals to name a few. Brands have been able to create integrated engagement by branding in events, social media, displays, innovative games, lead generation and finally sales. The company thrives on pure micro-marketing built on formats, technology and analytics.

My recommendations to leverage the emerging power of micro-marketing:

• Balance the focus between ATL and BTL: This needs to be done at an educational level. Management institutes and marketing focused schools are skewed a lot towards ATL. There needs to be an equal focus on ATL and BTL right at inception, so we have professionals who understand the need for both, at the right times
• Brand managers need to get equal weightage for ATL and BTL activations at a KRA level
• Experience Vs engagement: I heard this term brand experience way too often which didn’t challenge the brand managers and agencies enough. We need to have one huge value to be delivered is ‘Brand engagement’ and not brand experience. A lot of money has been spent in the name of experience, its time now that deeper engagement should be considered to bring out the right kind of value for a brand. Thankfully a great dealf work is already happening but there is still a huge scope to connect
• Digital competes with BTL and micro marketing: Currently to attain scale a great deal of budget is going towards digital which is already become very clogged and now the micro-marketing business needs to grab attention and make the best
• Need to invest in formats and technology: While the challenge remains to attain scale and customization, to attain this it is important to adopt modular engineering, automation and technology for repetitive tasks and also incorporate analytics to make each task quick and cost efficient

So just like a balanced inning in cricket, a brand manager in today’s day and age, needs to take quick singles, convert singles in doubles and hit sixes for brand boost. Agencies need to plan BTL a lot more than today by not just thinking labor driven growth but format and tech enabled scale. Micro marketing is here to stay, to deliver bigger than before because engagement and not reach is the name of the game!