Sanjeev Kotnala: Moment Marketing Gets Another Flip

18 Aug,2021

Sanjeev KotnalaBy Sanjeev Kotnala


So many brands jump into moment marketing for the connection, buzz and glory they seek. Unfortunately, most are unaware of how to avoid the pitfalls. Maybe with rampage moment marketing and brands getting away with murder, the marketing teams only woke up when the athlete called the bluff.


Moment marketing is not bad. Let us not shy away from it. However, the misplaced understanding and confidence of brands is solely to be blamed for the current situation. Lately, we have seen moment marketing more in the digital space and in celebrity achievements. Moment marketing is media- and event-agnostic. However, other media requires more planning, agility, and a bit of preparedness.


The time is ripe to discuss moment marketing and not question its efficacy and importance. Time to prepare for complexities and the need for better creativity in pursuit of results and avoiding a PV Sindhu situation many big brands face. Brands are expected to be knowing the legality and issues of moment marketing.


Moment marketing cannot hide behind the excuse of the heat of the moment, excitement, and public euphoria. However, it is foolish to believe it is impossible to leverage the moment within constraints.


The current situation will not kill moment marketing. And it should not kill moment marketing. I expect the brands and creative teams will take this challenge and explore new paths to beat the known constraints.


Olympics, in fact, blocks even the brands endorsed by the high sportsperson. They cannot release any ad during the embargo period, which is one month long. However, other brands with no investment in the sportsperson take advantage of the moment. They, however, keep away from the most well-known rule – not using the Olympics rings. That is half-clever. Today, they seem to have miscalculated the sportsperson’s response.


Oh, our dear ASCI has a guideline for it: “Advertisements shall not, without permission from the person, firm or institution under reference, contain any reference to such person, firm or institution which confers an unjustified advantage to the product advertised… If required, the advertiser and the advertising agency shall produce explicit permission from the person, firm or institution to which reference is made in the advertisement.” And we know how well the brands are blind to it. Left to ASCI, the brands will need to run a disclaimer half the size of the headline stating this is a celebration of achievement and in no way an endorsement by the celebrity.


Moment marketing has a role in the brand and the celebrity life. It is undeniable that the celebrity achievement is amplified and finds a higher decibel echo because of moment marketing. When the achievement is while representing the nation, there must be an opportunity for the citizen and the brands to collectively celebrate. The argument may sound valid. And hopefully, it is somewhat okay when it is just a congratulatory message. And the brands should not engage in leveraging the moment by associating the promise of the product with the moment.


What about citizens on social media leveraging the moment to further sound relevant and at times original and impactful. Should they not be treated as brands. Should the usage in these moments not be questioned? Are we going to Talibanisation of communication?


What if today, Ambuja Cement ran a message of ‘VIRAT compressive strength’ with a hint/suggestion of cricket without using the picture of the Indian winning team.


Many brands have demonstrated creativity in seizing the moment. Oreo’s ‘You Can Still Dunk In The Dark’ during a 2013 Super Bowl playing on the power outage is one of them. Netflix- Mumbai Rains, streaming now is another such example. I personally rank PEPSI welcoming coke in India and ‘Nothing Official About it’ much higher.


Amul is King. It has a licence to exploit and leverage every opportunity with humour and without naming the celebrity. It plays on the occasion. Amul knows that the will audience will connect the dots. It uses caricature, one of the devices to further safeguard it. It is damn consistent with its approach. And with time, it has become a symbol of having arrived, being Amul Hoarding worthy. So, there is no objection.


Moment marketing is, after all, standing apart, joining the conversation and in the process increasing familiarity and preference for the brand. Be talked about- be shared- be commented upon. Without it- it is a damp bomb.


Moment marketing must be in sync with time. Be at the right moment. Inclusive and not interruptive in nature. Today, we are referring to celebrity achievement. However, it is about anything and everything happening in the brand’s and consumer’s ecosystem. If the content is not contextually placed and fails to engage the audience, the opportunity is wasted. And, in trying to hit the bullseye, the brand and the agency fails. Savdhani Hati- Durgatna Ghati.


The need for clutter-breaking and yet firmly remaining brand-centric is a tough act to follow, full of possible legal pitfalls. So, brands must up their understanding of the rules and craft creative ways to bypass the constraints. However, the brand must be authentic and consistent enough. In today world of hyper-aware consumers, being fake is a suicidal act.


Personally, as a brand manager, I would invest time and effort to understand the minefield of moment marketing and then work extra hard to find ways to breach it. That is being creative, and the glory is in doing so.


Sanjeev Kotnala is a senior marketer and business strategist. He writes on MxMIndia every Wednesday. His views here are personal.


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