Of tumbler, tumblr. and insights

Came across this presentation by David Gillespie here. It is one of the fantastic and very concise (notwithstanding its size) presentations with a bunch of precious insights – Insights that are extremely relevant and possibly near future proof.

Would strongly suggest the reader to check out the presentation – trying my best to resist the temptation of reproducing some of the most interesting insights therein.

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As a Brand Management professional in the CPG/FMCG space, it fascinates me sometimes as I see the lead time from trend spotting -> to insight crystallization -> to concept board work -> to product development -> to consumer awareness -> to consumer interest and finally to consumer advocacy drastically reduced in the case of online products. This is in stark contrast to the typical lead times for the same process in landscapes like FMCG or may be even Consumer durables like Washing Machines and Refrigerators or Clothing and Apparel markets. Why?

I would say that there are two ways of looking at this dichotomy. Two vantage points from which to look and analyse this contrast between two types of product spaces. One is from the product end and the other from the consumer end.

Consumer End

Consumers always speak and they have opinions. It is to capture these very valuable opinions and precious viewpoints on a range of relevant issues that marketeers pay through their nose. Most of the marketing budgets today are diverted at conceptualizing and commissioning a Marketing Research exercise and then Analyzing and Crystallizing relevant and actionable insights from the data available in order to deliver better value to the consumer. In the “offline” product space, this process involves multiple constraints – time, money, human resources often in huge magnitudes.

In the online product space all these constraints get reduced to a fraction in terms of their magnitude. Fundamentally because, some of the most successful online products are driven by the Web 2.0 philosophy – a philosophy that enables the consumer to be the co-creator (and in some cases the ‘near sole’ creator) of the experience she gets from the product. She is free to choose, create and share the product and the product experience in real time. In short she is empowered to script her expectations and sculpt her experiences out of the product in her own way. Given this level of interaction of a consumer with an online product, data generation becomes easier and insight gathering gets real time. twitter trends are real time indicators of what is ‘hot’ and ‘now’. Google Analytics gives you most of the tools to get the “heat maps of the virtual world”. Tools like these make consumer data a real commodity, and consumer the means and the end of these products.

This means you have 2 P’s already in place. Price and Promotion. Consumers are free to chose what they want and what they pay for (if at all!). Promotion– Now a consumer becomes the channel of promotion and not just the end receiver of it.

Do consumers have similar degrees of freedom to pick and choose from the “offline products” too? Arguably no.

What does this potentially engender? A ‘gap’ between the product and the consumer. The consumer sub-consciously disowns the product/brand and believes that she is only an end consumer and not a participant in the brand experience. she doesn’t have the freedom to chose the way she wants to experience the brand. She cannot get it changed/customized (in most cases) according to her tastes and requirements. She cannot share or take part in its creation (in most cases). Obviously then, she doesn’t take the responsibility of how and why she looks at and perceives a brand in a certain way. And worse still doesn’t even know what a brand is ideally supposed to mean to her while the product marketers are spending millions of dollars just to communicate this single thing all the while. As a result, Marketing Research becomes a humongous task and insight discovery nothing short of a miracle. And that’s what makes their corresponding time windows long and widely spaced apart in the case of the offline product space.

Product End

The very nature of the online products bestows them with an air of near ubiquity (given the ease of access), and a degree of magical fluidity (that’s what web 2.0 makes the ‘Internet’ today).  Now wait. How do these matter in the present context?

A degree of fluidity in a product renders it customizable to its TG. Wikipedia, IMDB are what they are today because of this. Near ubiquity makes the products widely accessible. So here you have 2 more P’s in place. The Product is consumer’s and not the marketer’s. Given its ubiquitousness, the ‘Place’ – the Distribution Channel (if you may call it so) is decoupled from the Marketer and is in the hands of the consumer – where and how she wants to access the product is entirely up to her convenience.

In the “offline product space”, the paradigm is fundamentally different. Products once designed and developed (in spite of being based on a wealth of consumer insights) are more or less constant. These products have a character of their own. They have very defined and specific attributes and they don’t change as frequently as their online counterparts do, obviously given the costs involved in the exercise.

Fine.. So what?

The offline Product space, given its intrinsic characteristics is obviously very different from the online product space. But this is not to say that they be kept so and treated like that. Instead of treating them as two completely different entities, if they can be somehow linked and looked in from different lenses- things start to get rendered dramatically differently.

That’s precisely what social media marketing is striving to achieve – a connect between the offline product spaces and online product spaces. An effort to redefine the consumers’ relationship with the offline product space enabled by the online spaces.

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