Recently Michael Vaughan created a perfect potential opportunity for Hindustan Unilever (HUL), with the Vaseline comment. HUL was fast to react and took out an advertisement the next day stating the various beneficial effects of Vaseline. For some background, this happened during the current forgettable test series between England and India. I mean the series is forgettable from the Indian point of view. VVS Laxman survived a caught behind decision and former forgettable England captain and now lousy commentator Michael Vaughan suggested that Laxman might have survived by applying Vaseline to his bat’s edge.
HUL not to miss an opportunity ran a campaign the very next day both on Social Media (Facebook) and the newspapers stating how Vaseline is put to all good uses and not for cheating on the cricket field. A sample of the campaign run is below.
So with his Vaseline gaff the former cricket joins the item girl and former MTV VJ Malaika Arora who danced to ‘Munni Badnam’ in the Salman Khan starrer ‘Dabangg’. Again Zandu Balm makers Emami jumped at the opportunity and through the courts forced Munni and producers of Dabangg to promote Zandu balm through commercials.
Welcome to the world of Opportunistic Marketing.
In his book ‘Guerilla Marketing’, Jay Conrad Levinson talks about how an effective marketer uses mass media, does what is necessary, thus making it inexpensive. He goes on elaborate how important it is to derive a return on investment from our promotion spends. In both the examples discussed above effective marketing ensured that brand managers took advantage of situations that presented themselves and ran effective campaigns to create visibility in a cluttered space.
As marketing evolves it becomes important for brand managers and other marketers to be open to opportunities that would present itself. Another good example is the current agitation with the Lok Pal bill. With Anna Hazare becoming the corner stone of this agitation, many marketers like T shirt makers Tantra have jumped at the opportunity in creating funky T shirts called ‘India against Corruption’. Similarly Delhi based Impulse marketing has started providing Anna T Shirts.
Historically this has been happening for a long time where smaller local events have sparker small retailers and manufacturers to take advantage of the situation. But with the advent of the internet and Social Media, Local events get galvanized to larger national and sometimes international audiences. For example though Michael Vaughan made his comments on England, his Tweet captured the imagination of the Indian cricket Fans and finally the HUL brand managers.
So what does one have to do to become an opportunistic marketer? Below are some strategies that one can follow to identify what is hot and whether a product or service can be better served by leveraging potential opportunities.
· –Listen to what is happening in the market place– The important technique is to listen to what customers and prospects are saying. Jay Conrad Levinson in his book ‘Guerilla Marketing’ says ‘People don’t care about your company. What they care about is themselves. And if you can talk to them about themselves, you will have their full attention’. In the Social media world there are many channels where one can hear conversations. Facebook fan pages and Twitter are two such sources. Most marketers should download tools like Tweetdeck and constantly monitor what is trending and what others are talking about.
· – Marketing strategy should be flexible so as to incorporate any changes should an opportunity present itself. A good example though not a positive one was used by many IT services firms in wake of the Satyam scandal. As the Satyam incident broke out and the extent of the fraud by the founder and CEO Ramalinga Raju became apparent. Many IT services firms competing with Satyam, tweaked their strategy to direct marketing and Sales efforts on the Satyam customers. Though this is not a positive example many such opportunities are available as more unethical practices are unearthed.
· –Google Alerts– A very useful tool for all marketers, It is important to set Google alerts for your company, product, service and segment or geography that you serve. This will help you keep track of any activity that is trending.
· –Have a system for creation of flexible cross functional teams that can create a campaign at a short notice. As inter departmental communication can take time, a system that allows a cross functional team of Sales, marketers, finance, Operations, online, advertising and creative professionals within the organization would be a handy asset to have when the turnaround times are short. For example, it would create a mess if the marketing campaign goes public but the product or service being marketed is not available at the stores. Many companies like BP and Toyota learnt this the hard way when they had to react to crises that emerged due to the Oil spill and the Prius respectively.
· –Identify your target audience– Every marketing opportunity that arises may not be for all. So the marketer has to be very clear as to who the intended recipient of this opportunistic marketing campaign is and where he can find this audience.
· –Brutal execution- Execution is the key in such scenarios, as these are short term events and may not sustain beyond a few weeks or a month, the execution has to be quick to give the consumer enough time to react to the campaign.
Opportunities come every day for marketers, but the difference is those who are prepared to take advantage of them. Zandu Balm has nothing to with’ Dabangg’, as a matter of fact the main protagonist does not even fall ill once leave only a sprain that would need application of the balm. But alert marketers seized the opportunity to enhance the brand that already has almost 30 % market share. In the end it is mindset that counts and somehow in this case Munni helped Zandu Balm get its groove back.