Weapons of Mass Promotion

Published Date
01 - Dec - 2004
| Last Updated
01 - Dec - 2004
Weapons of Mass Promotion

What does a brand manager do when no one clicks on banner ads any more? Force people to view ads by promising entry into a contest, of course… what’s more, the consumer willingly does so!

ow do you like a pop-up ad being shoved in your face? Or a banner ad that keeps flashing on a Web page as you try to read what you’re reading? Of course you don’t. Plus, there is a good chance that you already have a pop-up blocker to prevent the annoyance in the first place.

Banner ads, pop-ups and the like were once major revenue generators for Web sites. That is not to say that they are not now, but the scene has changed, and the efficacy of that advertising medium is under question. Seth Godin, former Head of Direct Marketing at Yahoo.com and author of Permission Marketing, says: “Marketing by interrupting people isn’t cost-effective any more. You can’t afford to seek out people and send them unwanted marketing messages, in large groups, and hope that some will send you money.”

Interruptive advertising, then, is on its way out. Banner ads are declining; pops-ups are being removed; spam is being restricted; telemarketing is being controlled; and TV ads are being zapped. That may sound like good news for the rest of us, but for the advertising industry—rather, the interruptive-advertising industry—it’s no laughing matter.

The new mantra is interactive marketing, of which Alok Kejriwal, CEO of Contests2win.com (C2W), has been a pioneer in India. C2W, while marketing products, engages the customer in a friendly way; it’s a form of opt-in advertising. C2W believes that interactive marketing will soon replace interruptive marketing.

In this model, consumers willingly interact with brands by spending their quality time being entertained, having fun, winning, and in the process, learning more about a brand.

Contests in newspapers and magazines are a  tried and tested formula to promote brands, but online contest-based consumer promotions are making waves in the world of advertising and promotions. Such contests are interactive, and are a major draw for potential consumers. For brand owners, it’s a wonderful medium for an extensive and controlled brand awareness program.

C2W has a proven model of interactive marketing through entertaining contests and games that draw consumers willingly to interact with brands. Consumers spend quality time with a brand, enjoying themselves in the process, and the brand gets an unadulterated, uninterrupted, one-on-one interaction with its potential consumers.

Some of C2W’s largest clients are Intel, MasterCard, Philips, Pepsi, Sony, Coca-Cola, Domino’s Pizza, and Lufthansa, amongst several others.

How It Began, How It Matured

Agencyfaqs.com—one of India’s largest B2B sites—reports that the idea of online contests clicked in the mind of a 29-year-old Kejriwal, who himself was crazy about contests. When he decided to start a business, he decided to do what he loved most. Kejriwal bid good-bye to his family’s established hosiery business and began the journey of an online entrepreneur.

Marketing by interrupting people isn’t cost-effective any more.
Seth Godin,
Former Head of Direct Marketing, Yahoo.com

C2W was set in motion in August 1998, with an investment of Rs 9.5 lakhs from his personal savings. The rest was funded by venture capitalists at later stages. An avid competition freak, Kejriwal hated using competition postcards. Looking for an alternative, he happened to bump into the idea of starting an electronic post office of his own.

L’Oréal and Colgate Palmolive
L’Oréal needed to promote its Maybelline Copper Collection. The newly launched Copper Collection was to be introduced to young female consumers in an innovative manner that ensured that its different shades were clearly communicated to the target audience.
What C2W did was an online promotion that immersed consumers in a game involving Copper shades as clues in a conversation. The prize offered was L’Oréal gift hampers.
The campaign introduced each category of the new product and generated brand awareness to the core target audience in an interactive format. Responses lasted for three minutes each, ensuring high quality time spent with the promotion.
Colgate Palmolive wanted to promote its Fresh Energy Gel—they wanted to create high-impact online visibility for the Gel, which was a newly launched variant.
C2W’s solution was a unique and innovative product—a “soap opera” on the Internet called sit.com. It was a first-of-its-kind branded solution, and generated huge publicity and “viral pull.” This was one of the most successful promotions on C2W—it ran for nine months, while typically each brand promotion lasts a month; and it aggregated a huge fan following in the C2W community. C2W claims that consumers actually became loyal to the branded solution, and regularly came back for more.

C2W started off without a revenue model. This was done keeping this in mind the fact that brand owners such as Hindustan Lever did not have an Internet presence those days. It also seemed logical, because prospective clients would, naturally, be wary of paying for an untested and untried concept.

The Revenue Model
C2W has a simple, yet strong revenue model. It charges between Rs 1.5 and 5 lakh per month for a campaign, depending on the nature of the campaign. Each campaign lasts for a month and is refreshed the next month. The total time period offered to a brand is six months. The brand visibility in these types of contest sites is much higher than in a conventional medium, explains Kejriwal. For example, a consumer spends four to five minutes interacting with the brand on a one to one basis in an “unadulterated environment.” Such interaction costs Rs 1-2 per contact for 240 to 300 seconds.

After making “an average of 200 calls a day for three months with a success rate of getting only two brand owners over the phone,” C2W got its first break with Gunendar Kapur at Hindustan Lever. He agreed to a contest for Kissan Annapurna Salt, which was branded the “Bright Kids” contest.

C2W started with a media barter model where it offered online contests for free, in lieu of C2W branding in all forms of communication—print ads, television supers, and MTV veejays cajoling viewers to “visit them at c2w.com!”. This gave C2W the advantage of getting free promotion over all leading media properties in India.

After bagging the HLL contract, the greatest concern for C2W was, naturally, to bring in visitors. The Internet was in a nascent stage when Kejriwal started out, and what spurred him on was the knowledge that everyone, in general, loves to win prizes. The imperative was to make C2W contests so much fun that even fence sitters—those who would not participate in the “certain knowledge” that they would never win a prize—would become avid contestants just for the thrill.

“The idea is to help consumers and participants get out of the stupid slogan contests and actually participate in interactive campaigns. We have successfully created a new community of “winnaholics,” and this community comprises not just die-hard contest types, but also housewives, lawyers, merchants and investment bankers, stockbrokers, and even a few retired people! C2W has a registered user base of 9,68,000 Indian members, with 32,000 new unique members joining every month,” claims Kejriwal.

Viral Marketing: Garnier Fructis And Coca-Cola
When Garnier launched its Fructis shampoo, it was specifically targeted at the young upwardly-mobile consumer who had a penchant for a great brand, bundled with some obvious benefits. In the case of Fructis, the benefit was “five times stronger hair.”
The challenge was to present this benefit to consumers online and make them market the idea further. The result was the “World’s Longest and Strongest Braid” competition, created by C2W. The idea was simple but extremely powerful. Consumers could register on the site using their e-mail and create a Knot on the Fructis Braid, as their entry into the contest. They were instantly allotted a position number and the knot creation was actually visually presented in front of them. As a next step, the consumers were expected to “invite” their friends to visit the braid and add to their “visitor score.” The prize was based on the largest tribe members that a consumer could build. A record 76,000 consumers created their own knot on the braid and forwarded the link to more than 82,000 of their friends!
Coca-Cola India took the viral marketing idea to the wireless platform, driven by its regular TV advertising. During the launch of Vanilla Coke, consumers were prompted to send “WAKAW” to 8858. Immediately after that, consumers received a special message with a code, which they could forward to their friends. Once the friend received the message and actually sent the code to 8558, the original sender automatically entered into the lucky pool. However, the clever insight was that even the recipient wanted to win, and they started the chain messaging all over again. The promotion generated a whopping 2.26 lakh SMSes!

After establishing its reputation as a successful model for online contests over two years, revenues started trickling in for C2W. By the end of the first quarter of year 2000-01, that is, in June 2000, C2W’s revenues stood at Rs 83 lakh, with profits of Rs 7 lakh. In the last financial year, C2W did business of $1.5 million, establishing itself as one of the more profitable online ventures.

How It Works

The concept of C2W is based on a simple idea—creating a window of interaction between consumers and the brand owner and then monetising their services. Take the example of Coke’s Thanda Zone. Unlike conventional TV advertisements, the Thanda Zone contest actually offers consumers an opportunity to interact and play with Hindi-movie personality and Coca-Cola ambassador Aamir Khan. The Zone comprises three contests built around the Tapori, Punjabi and Bihari ads of Coke, which made the slogan “Thanda matlab Coca-Cola” hot property today.

There Were Challenges, Too!

Kejriwal says that markets such as India and China are challenging. For instance, in India, Internet penetration is less than two per cent; India’s total interactive advertising market is less than 0.25 per cent of the total ad market; and the total ad market is less than two per cent of the GDP. In this space, C2W’s share of the Indian online ad market is 20 per cent.

The idea is to help consumers and participants get out of the stupid slogan contests and actually participate in interactive campaigns
Alok Kejriwal
, CEO, C2W

In neighbouring China, which is a gigantic mobile market, Kejriwal says that barriers to entry are high; local partnerships are tough; and that creating media pull is expensive. Despite all this, C2W pioneered interactive mobile marketing in China. They attracted investment from Softbank Japan and Siemens AG, and have delivered 60 solutions including the world’s largest wireless brand campaign for Coca-Cola. C2W has also delivered many first-of-their-kind mobile solutions.

The road ahead for C2W involves taking the C2W model into mature markets that offer scale. C2W will create interactive plug-and-play applications for brands that are hosted on different media. Simply put, these “advergames” can be offered to the same brands in developed markets to be “positioned” on their Web sites and/or portals. C2W also partners with portals to offer their products as a new offering for brands.

C2W is ambitious—its next few destinations are Thailand, Philippines and the UAE. C2W is in the process of launching a Web site in Thailand, where it plans to go with a franchisee-based business model. C2W will get a royalty for the brand, and will also have a share of the revenue.

Agencyfaqs.com asked Kejriwal this: despite being in an unconventional business in a new medium, what is that one factor that has made C2W a profitable venture today? It’s cost control, says Kejriwal, who uses a Delhi cell phone number whenever he is there, instead of using a roaming Mumbai number. No wonder the company, which started off as a one-man show, has 70 members on board today and a zero employee turnover rate.

Viral Marketing

The last time you received an SMS joke or a personal e-mail was probably just a couple of hours ago. Did you ask someone to send you that SMS or mail? Was it a planned communication? Definitely not, says Kejriwal. It is what the world does so naturally today—sending messages the viral way.

On a daily basis, millions of e-mails and SMSes are whizzing across the world—all forwards by friends, enemies, relatives and lovers crammed with jokes, advice, prayers, images and photos. Consumers have become “information relayers,” which reminds Kejriwal of the tribes in the Phantom series of comic books, who would pass messages across the jungle using their tom-toms. And brand owners are taking note of this with considerable delight.

It is a brand owner’s dream to introduce a message to a set of consumers and then have them work at popularising that message further by telling their friends and relatives. And that’s exactly what they are achieving using viral brand campaigns on the Internet and on the mobile.

Pulling You In—The Sweet Way

At the end of the day, it’s about what works. Intrusive or interruptive marketing is on its way out, as Kejriwal rightly points out. And when you have something like the contests on C2W, the customer—that is, you—is willingly pulled in. The brand promoter gets his ad across to you, and you view an ad so you get entered into a contest. You might even win. Everybody’s happy.

Ram Mohan RaoRam Mohan Rao