The Bigger Picture - The Facebook-Whatsapp plan

The more I think about this $19B deal, the more sense it makes; not financially, in the short-term, but in the larger scheme of global domination of the communication scene.

WhatsApp is growing rapidly; at a more rapid pace than Facebook. 1 million users per day is what some report. 

Now, if this pattern of growth continues and actually fuels behaviour over the next few years where WhatsApp becomes the default messaging communication tool on your phone (preferred) over the mobile-operator run SMS system - there will be world domination.

The basics of logic coupled with the theory of evolution will ensure a world where almost everyone eventually will have data enabled on their phones. WhatsApp is an app which works really well across 2G networks too; additionally, free WiFi across the board is also something which is bound to happen latest by 2020.

Who are the ones who should be most scared?
Mobile operators -  all over the world.

The current voice chat feature actually ensures that you can have a decent over-and-out chat with anyone in the world. With a rumored calling facility (like Viber) set to come in soon and with a natural progression of video chat coming in later, why would one need the services of AT&T/Vodafone/T-Mobile etc. 

Think about the potential revenue loss possible because of this. Firstly, Facebook pays mobile operators, in a lot of countries, to send their users SMS notifications. This, of course, will be the first cost one will save on when WhatsApp takes over SMSing. With WhatsApp actually driving people to data-enable their phones, everyone being connected should ensure FB app notifications suffice.

Updating your facebook status or commenting on threads via WhatsApp is a possibility too.

Now sample this - WhatsApp API’s being integrated to banking systems, every time you use your credit card - you will now get a WhatsApp message rather than an SMS. This will extend to everything: Billing notifications on WhatsApp, service confirmation and transaction messages on WhatsApp etc.

This is the revenue line.

Companies currently pay mobile companies (who in turn have deals with mobile operators) for managing automated and bulk SMS solutions. These companies will now switch to integrating WhatsApp API’s. These API’s and messaging services clearly won’t be free for companies to use.

Now think about controlling all this on a global level  - It’s going to be crazy!


Why I will never fly Indigo again!

I’ve always been a fan of Indigo. Well up until now. Their cool packaging, their quirky advertising and of course their profitability is a surprise, but admirable of course!

What is their USP? Being on time! What is not their USP? Customer Service! I think with success comes certain arrogance. This arrogance is often good, but then it eventually just fucks stuff up.

So what happened?
We were four of us who planned a cool ‘budget’ trip to Malaysia (Langkawi). So a cheap flight from Kochi to KL and then on to Langkawi. The flight was on the 10th of January - 2310 hours. We were flying Indigo to Kochi and AirAsia onwards.

Now, I know Kochi airport well. It’s not like Mumbai’s international terminal. I’ve done this same circuit of Kochi-KL twice before. It takes a maximum of 20-30 mins from stepping into the Domestic terminal (arrival) and stepping out and into the International terminal (next door), getting your boarding pass, finishing immigration and settling down at the departure gate. So it’s not a living on the edge kind of thing.

Well, we took an Indigo flight at 7PM (Flight time is 1 hour 35 mins), we were all traveling with only backpacks, so of course no check-in baggage. 2 hours 35 mins at Kochi airport would have definitely been enough for us to catch the connecting Air Asia flight.

So what ensues is that our ‘never-to-be-late’ Indigo flight gets late. We don’t panic. It was now set to take-off at 7:50 PM. We contact the AirAsia personnel at the Kochi airport and they understand our plight and tell us to try and be there by 10:30 at least, else the counter will shut. Now that’s nice, isn’t it? Indigo definitely couldn’t be 2 hours late, now could it?

Well as Murphy would have it, we landed at 10:50PM. This is when the Captain makes an in-flight announcement for us, asking the other patrons to make for us since we had to get to another flight. He then went on to assure us that his ground staff will help us, they’ll talk to the Air Asia ground staff et al. Wow! There was still hope. Unfortunately for us, I think the person they gave charge of the situation - a certain Ms Christina - probably had an IQ in single digits and social & communication skills to match.

What could have she done?

Spoken to the AirAsia ground staff. Their flight was parked right next to our flight. It’s not that it had taken off. At least she could have tried to contact someone at AirAsia? Some one at immigration / some cops etc.

Something filmy maybe! Or something we see for not-so-aam-people, like some VIP’s arrival delaying things conveniently by a few minutes. Or even just getting us the opportunity to beg to the other passengers to wait for 10 minutes.

She managed as you might have imagined - Zilch!

Ok, so this was our fault. Relying on India’s ‘most reliable airline’ was a mistake that we had made. And we should have not flown the apparently ‘reliable airline’ and should have taken a flight in the morning. Probably Air India. Fine. We apologise for having liked and trusted Indigo.

Now what? This is where Indigo got to me.
Christina told us not to worry. She said that she would contact her Duty Manager. Worst case scenario she would help us out of the airport (once you enter an Indian airport, you can’t really get out unless with the aid of an airline staff), she assured us that she would help with the stay and also get us to a place where we could book tickets to get out of Kochi!

Post offering her reassurance, Christina tells us that she’ll be back in 5 minutes. Note, the AirAsia flight hadn’t taken off yet. So we still had some hope! And then what happens? Christina never comes back! Rather convenient.

So yes, we had to now re-book tickets from Kochi to KL and then to Langkawi. Which turned out to be Rs 20K a pop. Spend a night at Kochi airport. And of course the other losses also added up.

I’m never flying Indigo again. Yes, you might say that they are still better than the rest, but I’m still waiting for Christina!

P.S: I was crowd-sourcing a song at the Mumbai and Kochi airport. You are more than welcome to contribute some verses. Once done, will get it sung and released.

These are some verses that have come in:

Via @VarunJoshua

Indigo, Y u do this?
Because of you, AirAsia Flight I miss.
Indigo, your ads say you’re always on time,
But departure time has passed and you’re 18th on the line.

I should flown Air India, I should’ve booked on Jet.
If I knew you’d do this, yesterday I would have left.

Your hostesses are pretty, but I don’t really care,
If I don’t get to Cochin, it’s going to be a nightmare!

Via @DivyanshuDV

Indigo you never follow ur own ad,
Ur service is so freaking bad,
Ur ads are always way too bold,
I undstnd its fog and cold!

Mujhe laga hai jhatka,
mai airport pe hu atka,
Na paas me naai na mochi,
Cz m stranded at airport kochi!

Via @prashen

indigo ko nahi Meri care,
Cstmer srvc Hai India me rare,
Idhar ka na udhar ka, ho gayi hai gochi
Coz I’m strndd on arprt of kochi


Social Media is not ONLY about Marketing

Was part of a lot of panel discussions in the last month and what disappoints me the most is the attitude of the agencies out there and also thereby the acquired attitude of the brand manager.

Social Media is becoming all about marketing to most. It’s just marketing and ROI. Brands are assuming that people are out there, eager to engage in a conversation with brands.

Wake up! They don’t care about you.

Social Media is not about Marketing. It’s about people having conversations. These are regular people, not like the people who you deal with everyday (in your office, who just care about brands). These people don’t care about brands in their regular conversations.

There are different kinds of people out there. The happy ones, the sad ones, the grumpy ones, the forever alone ones, the bitch-please ones, the trolls, the critiques, the dumb ones..
Not all want to be marketed to. Few do. Do you care about what conversation you are having with these specific people?

This is what I learnt in a couple of colleges where I was attending a few lectures and also speaking: You talk to people about insights, tell them stories and they’ll give you their attention. Start telling them only about your brand and they’ll tune out. They’ll start playing with their phones and start talking to people around them. Now how you weave your brand in a story - without wanting to be the main hero of the story - is the challenge.

Basic behaviour - the most clicked button on Youtube? The Skip button. What happens when an ad comes on TV, people instantly go for their remotes. A pop-up on your browser? Lol! What happens when a Call Centre guy calls you with an offer? What happens when a random guy approaches you in a mall to sell you something?

You don’t want to be spoken to. You think the evolved people on the web (specifically Social Media) want to be spoken to about your brand all the time? What people are forgetting is that, as technology and platforms are evolving - the people are evolving too. People are evolving faster than you and your brand. Their behaviour online is changing.

Always remember, Social Media is about people and conversations. It’s not only about marketing.


How to get your mobile advertising right?

Everyone is going ga-ga about mobile, but trust me when it comes to advertising, mobile is the most overrated platform.


Because people don’t click on mobile ads.
Trust me, they don’t.

Now you’ll read research reports everywhere - of course done by publishers and agencies - saying mobile advertising is awesome. It’s their job to be saying that.

Consumption of content is hugely shifting to mobile devices and a large inventory is available. Publishers and agencies are in the business-of-business and it is their job to tell you that Mobile Advertising is awesome. What they don’t tell you is about the fake clicks and that most clicks anyway happen by mistake.

Why don’t people click on ads?
Now this is a general statement. I’m not saying people don’t click on ads at all. But let us take a step back and look at the typical mobile user.

What you need to realise is that, people are not on mobile devices to consume ads. If you think that consuming advertising and marketing information is why consumers are moving to smart phones - No they are not.

They are talking to people, watching content, reading stuff, seeing pictures, playing games etc.

WILFING is not something I’ve seen happen a lot on Mobile devices. It pretty much happens only within Facebook (when people are on Mobile devices). I still don’t know of people who will open their Youtube Mobile App on the phone saying, OK - I don’t know what I want to watch - let me just randomly surf. No! That doesn’t happen. People either are looking for something specific on Youtube or land up via clicking on a link somewhere. 

It’s a small screen. It’s a personal screen. I don’t care about your ad. Ok?

The biggest thing is people usually know what they are getting into. i.e. If they are on WhatsApp they are there to send someone a message. If I’ve landed on Youtube to specifically see something, I don’t care about your ad. If I am on Candy Crush, I am looking to cross a level. And I’m glad Candy Crush limits ads and concentrates on the commerce angle.

This brings me to how to get Mobile right. Mobile is going to be huge. Huge not in terms of advertising revenue from other brands, but transactions from consumers. These transactions can of course vary - Extra lives on Candy Crush, a pizza order, a hotel booking etc.

If you are a service or a product which is sold - should you be on mobile? YES!

What should you be doing? Have an app and a great mobile site (Great in terms of usability). The mobile device is the most convenient device. Make the transaction experience great.

Should you be advertising? Well Yes and No.
If you are Domino’s, should you be telling people on their mobile devices that your Pizzas are awesome? LOL. NO!

Should you be telling people to download the Domino’s App and then order from it and get a 10% off - YES!

And this should extend itself to everything. This is not about ROI. This is about common sense. Your ROI should not be CTR, CPA and all that crap. It should be ARPU.

So what happens to players who usually advertise for branding reasons. Should you be making a gaming app (or something in that space)? Well, why don’t you go check the iTunes and Android Play Store and see how many branded apps make it to the Top 50 lists. Zero!

People don’t want to consume Advertising. They are becoming smarter. If the digital space is evolving, so are the users.

Why do most brands advertise in the first place? You have a campaign and you may need to tick off the Mobile KPI check-box. This of course is a part of your over-all marketing KRA’s and you need to do it to impress your boss. Do not randomly buy display ads everywhere. It’s going to be a waste. All you’ll get is a nice looking excel sheet with some random numbers.

But what should you be doing?
Invest in content. Invest in branded content. Invest in content which is not about your brand, but your brand is still visible. Don’t make it seem like an ad.

Now branded content is tricky. The end consumer will watch, but he won’t share the video unless it’s great content and of course it shouldn’t seem like a piece of sell-out content.

See this video which talks about Coke and their marketing plans:
I think it’s brilliant.

Ride on content created by other people. You don’t need to be creating everything on your own. Don’t limit yourselves to a simple logo presence (And please don’t be anal about the size of your logo), but be careful in not over doing it. i.e. The piece of content should not become a glorified ad. 30-40% of your over-all budget should go into content creation, the remaining 60-70% should go into pushing this content out. Now you have something meaningful to advertise.

Brands need to start thinking about investing in good share-able content. Don’t worry about what device are they going to be watching it on. At least 30% of all video consumption is happening on Mobile devices now. This is still a far better bet than running your TVC as a pre-roll on Youtube ads. Brands who still do that as their ‘Youtube Strategy’ should a) Hire someone smart b) Fire their current agency.

Who is Mobile Advertising the easiest for? Hotels and Restaurants.
Are all of them doing it right? Unfortunately NO!

Now if you are a hotel / restaurant - don’t go about advertising randomly all over the web. Use mobile advertising on SEARCH services.

Imagine you are a hotel in Mahabaleshwar - If anyone searches for a hotel in Mahabaleshwar or for places near Mumbai and Pune - you need to be advertising in the most popular Travel App out there. You need to be advertising on Hotel Booking apps. Please don’t pay your agency for a random media plan on random travel blogs. Be specific. Presence on Travel Blogs should not be in the form of mobile ads.

Additionally, TripAdvisor and Agoda don’t always make it easy for a consumer. Example: You want to visit Langkawi in Malaysia. You find five 4-Star hotels who pretty much have the same ratings. How does one pick the final one? The one which has an offer running wins! People love offers. Just the feeling of getting a good deal is what drives e-commerce. Get your offer correct. Sacrifice a bit of your mobile marketing budget to be able to afford giving discounts to mobile customers.

If you are a Restaurant in Bandra (A Mumbai sub-urb) - and if someone is searching for a restaurant in Bandra on an app like Zomato (Zomato doesn’t have ads on their app yet, weird!), your restaurant needs to be out there. On the top! Don’t fake your reviews. Also please don’t randomly spend money acquiring fans on Facebook. Use JustDial, use every local search product to reach out to people.

Advertising on Google vs Advertising on Zomato? Well it is the same as Advertising on Google vs Advertising on TripAdvisor if you are a hotel. It’s not rocket science. It is all about the context. Where is your audience and who specifically are you trying to reach out to?

If you are a media company or a TV channel and want to tell people about your newest show, I’d suggest changing communication from Tune-in to watch on Saturday 8PM to 'Watch Now' or ‘Watch Online’. Stop thinking of trying to convert a guy who is consuming content on a mobile device to a TV watcher. Won’t happen. Trust me. Think convergence and content consumption as one. It’s nice to see Star Sports doing this. In the longer run, people will pay for convenience.

Mobile advertising on Facebook - it’s pretty good for App Installations. Average CPI cost is ridiculous though. I would never spend Rs 30 on an app installation if my ARPU is not going to be at least Rs 31.

Another thing is try not to have a separate Mobile agency and a separate digital agency and a separate Social Media agency. They all go hand-in-hand. Choose someone who gives you a great idea which works on all platforms.

Mobile might be the future of business, but when it comes to advertising - it has a long long way to go. Also, it’s not for everyone. Please don’t waste your brands money for the sake of impressing your marketing boss. 

Here is another older but decent read.

These are my individual views and not of the channel that I work in.