BTL is big business

25 Jul,2016


By Anuka Roy


The last time you visited a shopping mall, you would’ve noticed a huge soda can replica has been installed and a few people representing the soda brand are trying to convince you to taste the new drink and give your feedback. Or closer home, a small table of cookies has been laid out for you to taste outside the kirana shop because a popular biscuit brand has come up with an array of new and healthy range of cookies. Brands even organise games and contests in malls and other public places to connect with the consumers. These are few such examples of product promotions that happen these days.


It is not just new or local or small brands which are taking such unconventional path to promote their products. Big brands are increasingly taking this route and spending more on marketing activities which have a direct connection with the consumer and the target audience. These activities are not restricted to food brands or FMCG companies, even the financial sector and automobile sectors have been investing in it for quite some time.


“I think the bevy of experiential marketing have stood up on its own feet. It has a lot more to accomplish and go forward but we know that now it has set a stage that this industry in itself can be self-sustaining and can be called an industry. In the past it used to be that very few brands believed in engagement. They were more looking at reaching out to masses at an economical cost. But the shift is moving in to sustenance relationships with brands,” said Mandeep Malhotra, Founding Partner and CEO, The Social Street about the arrival of BTL or experiential marketing in present scenario.


These on ground promotions and events are known as ‘brand activation’ in marketing lingo. They are unconventional advertising activities, called below the line (BTL) advertising, and in certain companies, have more stakes than popular advertising activities.


“Normally, if I look at an FMCG company it would have 14-15% in BTL but for us it is critical. In our business, you do not have people who keep coming in to your stores just for browsing. They will come in if they have a need for furniture. And, as a brand we are not present in high footfall zones. So, you will not find Godrej Interio stores inside a mall. They are always kept independently outside.  The objective is to ensure that the people who have a need come in there,” says Bedraj Tripathy, AVP, Marketing, Godrej Interio ,  the furniture division of Godrej and Boyce, about the amount that is generally spent on BTL activities.


On the other hand, for the newly launched Himalaya Wellness, the wellness division of the The Himalaya Drug Company, BTL is the only way to go. Speaking about the same, SudheerSrinivas, the Marketing Manager of the company who looks after the wellness division, says, “The importance of retailing for our wellness range is because of many reasons. First, people today can afford and second, they think about their health more than anything today. Third, people have stopped being reactive and started being proactive over their health issues. Earlier when we used to go to a doctor we would spend Rs 50 maximum but today it is minimum of three to four thousand rupees. People today want a solution for their basic health care needs which they can pick it up along with their monthly shopping and they would want to make it a part of their lifestyle. So, BTL is very important for wellness care products.”


Speaking about the sectors which have adapted well or are trying to use BTL advertising to its full potential, Rajesh Grover, Managing Director, Viscomm presents a very interesting view. He says, “Experiential marketing is basically the present and the future. The main reason is that brand spends have decreased, a lot of brands are weary of spending on ATL activities because the future is very uncertain and economy is very uncertain. To connect directly with the consumer experiential is the best kind of platform. I would say across all sectors. There is no specific sector where experiential marketing works. It works wonderfully in the rural segment, FMCG, automobiles, in services, so it is across sectors according to me. The only thing is as we go forward since digital is also becoming a very important platform because of social media and all of that, an integration of experiential and digital is the way forward. Agencies or brand need to focus more on the integration of digital with experiential. Monies have to invest in the right strategies in that space.”


So, what are the activities that are done under BTL? To promote the Tata Sampann low oil absorb besan campaign titled ‘Ab Khao Befiqr’,  the company tied up with top 104 Vadapav stalls in Mumbai. This popular snack is considered unhealthy by some due to amount of oil used for it. “With this activation we wanted to encourage consumers to eat their favourite snacks and indulge without guilt. Tata SampannBesanabsorbs lesser oil as compared to the ordinary Besanand the tie-up enabled the consumers to witness this for themselves. We reached out to around five lakh consumers with this activity,” said the Marketing Head of Tata Chemicals Ltd (Consumer Products Business), SagarBoke.


According to Sevantika Bhandari, Senior VP and Head Marketing, DHFL, as a housing finance company they are always in touch with the consumer. “We interact with the consumer inside his house by the way of our advertising, through digital, television and radio. As soon as he steps out we interact with him on transit medium with hoarding, press and newspapers. When he walks towards a large shopping area or a congregation of people, we engage with him on the ground with our people available in some form or the other undertaking the BTL activity. We engage with him on his mobile. We engage with him at a point of sale of his home with large building projects. So, the idea which is true for all marketers and true for DHFL as well is to engage with the customer wherever he or she is.  We also map all our activities according to that journey,” she says.


But whether companies take the conventional advertising method or they invest in BTL, at the end of the day everyone is concerned with the ROI (return on investment). “The cost of acquisition from a reach point in this business will always be very high. It would not be as economical as a television or a print but then you need to put a balance between just reaching out to a number and really converting that person in to a fan or a consumer of your own product. There are two different objectives which are being met here but CPT (Cost per thousand) will never be achieved as efficiently as it would be on television,” says Malhotra.


“Consumer engagement and brand recall. These are the two most important things for us. There is always a debate between biggest or best – and I can firmly say that we want to be the best. We’re a vibrant and authentic brand, and it comes to life through our product, our communication and really through everything we do. There is certain positivity about us and BTL is the more effective tool to help us with consumer engagement and through this – recall,” says Chaitanya Rele, Vice President, Marketing, Havmor Ice Cream about measuring the success of a BTL campaign.


Even though this kind of marketing is on the rise and in some cases the only way to move forward for certain brands, but can it survive on its own without any help from the mainstream marketing methods or above the line advertising (ATL). Most of the experts are of the opinion that for certain products it can yield good results but that would take time. For the time being, BTL does require a certain push from ATL to be successful.


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