[PR Channel] Flashmobs & guerrilla PR in the digital world

16 Jan,2012

By Pranav Kumar


Flashmobs in India are a rare thing – but when they do happen with the right construct, the impact is well, viral. I’m talking about the now legendary ‘Mumbai flashmob’ where two hundred amateur dancers took crowds at Mumbai’s bustling Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station by surprise in late November 2011 by breaking into a stunning dance performance to a popular title track from the Bollywood blockbuster Rang De Basanti. The ensuing video assumed viral dimensions, trending across the Twitter-verse and attracting over 2 million views on YouTube.


Flashmobs don’t happen every day in India. The closest we get (sort of) are politically-inspired rallies and other forms of activism that keep the nation tethered to its television sets (such as Anna Hazare’s Gandhian-esque style of revolt against graft and poor governance in India). Though the two don’t really compare in either purpose, ideology or scale, both do evoke public response and represent the widespread generational change currently sweeping India. All of this stems from a need to be heard, a need to make a change based on newfound confidence in a growing India. And none of this would happen if the country’s mainstream (read ‘traditional’) and fast-growing social media dynamics weren’t as conducive with mass penetration and growing adoption.


In connecting the dots with these sweeping phenomena, we as public relations and digital communications practitioners can seek inspiration, think above and be even more creative in what we do.


The Rang De Basanti gig in Mumbai is emblematic of the continuing spurt in social media (no surprises here). India’s over 100 million internet users now represent a sizeable audience and, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Co, will triple in size to 350 million by 2015. Smartphone adoption growth is pegged at 15 percent YoY and the mobile device is simply a huge enabler of internet access as opposed to current PC penetration (roughly 8 percent of population). On last count, India had close to 800 million mobile subscribers.


Mumbai’s flashmob makes another point – the growing popularity of online video consumption. According to the Asian Digital Marketing Association, half of India’s internet users now watch videos online. In a country where traditional media continues to rocket its way up unlike most markets (2011 growth was at 18 percent for newspapers), social media is certainly not outpacing it but assuming increasing importance. Integrated campaigns are therefore essential from any marketer’s perspective and as we at Bite look at it, it’s all about helping companies join valuable and relevant conversations – whether in a blog, on Twitter or via a newspaper interview.


Coming back to flashmobs, they too can serve as effective platforms to generate a terrific amount of buzz when done right. However, it’s one thing to organize a flashmob for fun, or indeed for a cause. But doing it for marketing reasons is another thing entirely and is much more risky. Innovative brands and organizations around the world have used flashmobs every now and then to their advantage resorting to such ‘guerilla’ tactics to either generate fanfare or indeed to steal attention from a competitor.


Doubt if we’ll see a flashmob culture in India as yet but at least Mumbai’s Shonan Kothari, the brains behind the Rang De Basanti one, has shown just how effective a carefully orchestrated flashmob can be.


In the end, the message is clear for today’s increasingly busy communicators: in a hyper-connected and integrated world, it’s all about telling your stories in the most compelling and creative manner. It’s about having a point of view that’ll eventually triumph and transcend through today’s cluttered environment to be heard.


Pranav Kumar is Managing Director – India at Bite Communications, a part of the Next Fifteen Communications Group plc.


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One response to “[PR Channel] Flashmobs & guerrilla PR in the digital world”

  1. Loverob10 says:

    Please draw comparisons between things that have some connect…any platform used wisely can be a big crowd puller….Whether it’s the song Kolaverdi/flashmobs or a new coke advertisement. The point is your communication tool should not be distinct and should draw inspiration from a common man’s life…

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