Emotion & Technology can go hand in hand

31 Oct,2022




With apologies to none at all

By Vikas Mehta


Vikas MehtaDiwali, IPL and World Cup cricket are the times when Indian marketers unveil new campaigns and this year the T20 World Cup coinciding with the Diwali season meant that a deluge of new campaigns could be expected. But now there is also technology into play and this means that the communication is well targeted and not necessarily mass. To this mix, throw in the long videos which advertisers hope will go viral through social media and it becomes more difficult to keep track of such new campaigns.


This is also the time when brands attempt feel-good campaigns. Family bonding, celebrations, helping the needy, are the themes that become norm de rigueur. And many brands flaunt brand purpose at this time. Something which I highlighted in my last post (Festival Videos Article)


It’s definitely a plus for the brands to leave one with a lump in the throat or a tear in the eye with such videos. But a greater impact can be created when brands actually do something which can make a difference in real life. Coke always has an interesting communication around getting together, family values etc. But they would not really do anything to highlight the same. On the other hand, I have seen HP actually do stuff like creating space for local artisans in HP stores to display their talent, bring alive the purpose of helping those who struggled to find space for display (HP Diwali).


Predictably, Coke released an ad which was about not just wishing but meeting people for Diwali. Iss baar gale milke kaho Happy Diwali (say happy Diwali by hugging) was the thought. Watch it here Nice, cute and I thought that was it. So, imagine my surprise when I came across two more versions of the same thought but these used technology to make people actually meet up. Specially locked Coke bottles, which could be ordered using a QR code and unlocked only when the people met, with a code (Watch).


It’s not that Coke has not done something similar in the past. I remember some Open Happiness videos of Coke in various countries where Coke installed phone booths to help migrant workers in the middle east connect back home or the valentine’s day free coke can if one kisses your partner in front of the specially designed vending machine in Europe; this was to me a very good example of taking a festival thought not just as a tagline of an ad but actually making it happen. The most important thing for me was the use of technology.


In marketing and marketing communication, technology was all about either a product improvement or a media innovation. What Coke has achieved is significant as it has transcended the feel-good factor into actually making people experience the feel-good factor. It’s not just preaching about hugging people but enabling them to do so.


And that brings me to the bigger issue. When the first murmurs of brand purpose broke out with the ex-Unilever CEO Paul Polman suggesting brand purpose as mandatory for all Unilever brands, there was lot of hue and cry and pessimism from investors. It exists today also with some pundits asking what could be the brand purpose for Walls Ice cream or Lux Soap. The same argument could be extended to a carbonated sweet drink like Coke. I am not suggesting that Coke has discovered brand purpose but it has shown that using technology any brand can make its promise come alive.  To me that’s as close to brand purpose than anything else.


Till now most of the Diwali or festival ads were woke advertising. But Coke has demonstrated that using technology, one can take the leap to make the emotion come alive. I have no clue how many people actually got the locked Coke bottles and were the bottles easy available. To be honest, I did try to get a locked bottle by scanning the QR code but the message I got was that they have run out of bottles. This could well mean that the locked bottles were a sell out or maybe Coke did a very modest run of the locked bottles. Whatever, this is proof that using technology, brands can make their emotions, if not exactly the purpose, come alive. And that is sure to make the brands more attractive to its potential customers.


Indeed, the brand which has been a pioneer in this field, at least in India has been Cadbury. More than two decades ago the brand came in with a gifting pack called Celebrations. It would be available during Diwali time and with deft and emotional communication the brand took off. Over the last two decades, the brand has become synonymous with gifting and is available through the year. I dare say, today the idea has actually become outdated as every tom dick and harry in confectionary or even Indian namkeens has a gift pack.


Therefore, when Cadbury Celebrations used technology to promote small neighbourhood retailers by using pincodes and geo-location to highlight the name of the retailers in the particular pincode where the ad was played, it was a great breakthrough. This was 2020 when all small local retailers had taken a hit due to pandemic induced lockdowns. The brand reinvented itself by having a strong purpose of helping local retailers and brought its tagline of Kuch meetha ho jaye, kuch achha ho jaye (Have a sweet. Do some good) alive in real terms.


In 2021 the brand went one step further. It used Artificial Intelligence and any retailer, through a website could get its own name endorsed in an ad by Shah Rukh Khan. The ad was then sent by Whatsapp to the retailer who could use it as he desired. And all this happened in almost real time. I helped a neighbourhood retailer in my city to download his personalised ad and he forwarded it to his customers. Many came in just out of curiosity to know how could he get SRK to endorse him.


This year, the brand with QR code on the pack is helping hawkers to put their merchandising on a website and one can find a hawker in the neighbourhood through pincode (Cadbury 2022).


We all talk about technology being an enabler. These examples are showing that in communication too, technology can be an active enabler. For brands which spend money on advertising or brand videos during festival season, the time has come to put the horse before the cart. Be clear on your purpose or on your promise. Decide what will the brand do on ground to make the promise come alive. Then think of the communication. The idea of the activity has to be bigger than the idea of the communication. And tap technology, both for the activity and also for the communication.


The more brands use technology to bring alive its promise, the stronger will the emotional connect of the brand be. I see more such technology induced activities and communication during the festive season in the near future.


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