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Updated: August 6, 2011 14:40 IST

Potential of digital ideation for businesses

D. Murali
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At the time of writing, a visit to http://www.facebook.com/mumbaiindians shows, ‘1,824,035 people like this.’ Highlighting that Mumbai Indians on Facebook is the sixth largest fan page in India, and that the second-closest IPL team has about a third the number of fans Mumbai Indians has, Yashraj Vakil, COO, Red Digital Media, Mumbai (http://bit.ly/F4TYashrajV), adds that the page organically grows at over 4,000 fans a day and during the IPL has seen that number touch 25,000.

“Mumbai Indians is the 22nd largest sports fan page in the world, and it was the first cricket fan page to reach 1,000,000 fans,” notes Yashraj, during a recent interaction with Business Line, emphasising some of the key aspects of his company’s digital ideation work for the Mumbai Indians. Our conversation continues over the email, on the theme digital ideation.

Excerpts from the interview.

What is digital ideation?

Digital ideation is about active participation of consumers and not just passive interaction like the Internet has been traditionally. These are tools, which not only the business, but also the consumer, drives. In fact it’s the consumer who chooses how and where he or she wants to participate, and businesses simply comply!

Can you describe the process of digital ideation through a recent project of yours?

It all begins from the objective, which most businesses only have a vague idea about. Most businesses want to be on social media because everyone else is. We work with brands of all sizes and each one has its own unique set of requirements. On the one hand are giants like Adidas Cricket, Godrej, and Mumbai Indians for whom we manage over 29 lakh fans on Facebook; and on the other hand are SMEs like Monginis and Rajdhani Thali, and start-ups like Unified Florists and Edu Associates.

Our approach is always to help brands find the right objectives and work backward to formulate a digital idea. If the idea converges into the offline and requires commitments from client in terms of logistics, resources or time we keep those into account as well.

For example, Adidas wanted to create a buzz about their brand during the Cricket World Cup and increase consumer engagement, which would propel them into the next phase of organic growth. We created a one-stop destination for cricket on Facebook and helped Adidas tag along. Moreover, to keep the engagement going we ported Dream11.com’s fantasy cricket game for Adidas on to Facebook. Unlike most Facebook applications, which have a shelf-life and die after 4-6 months, Fantasy Cricket, we believed, will always have something new to offer and keep fans engaged. Our efforts paid rich dividends when Adidas Cricket became the most spoken about sports brand on social media during the first three weeks of the Cricket World Cup, beating official sponsors.

At the same time, when we started working with Unified Florists we just knew it had a strong backend to distribute flowers worldwide and was looking to do something digitally. The most obvious answer would be to create an ecommerce portal and sell flowers online. We tried to stay away from the norm and introduced the client to social commerce. No longer would you need to give virtual flowers to your Facebook friends, no longer would you need to pay in USDs to buy flowers online; and more importantly they would be delivered on time with Unified Florists taking care of the distribution. In fact, we even tracked user’s geo-location to throw content and pages relevant to the place of access.

Are there certain common expectations of businesses from digital media?

Most businesses seem to have the same expectations from their digital initiatives:

* Rapid growth of the fan base and followers when it comes to social media.

* Substantial return of investment in the form of leads or clicks.

* High visibility, if done as part of the media mix in a bigger branding campaign.

And all other objectives such as increasing engagement, ideation, creativity, contests, prizes, etc., are means to achieving the above objectives.

While it may be true that most businesses have the same expectations from digital media, it also needs to be understood that digital is the most accurately measurable media today. Businesses can accurately define expectations and hence they do it; however, when those definitions come at the expense of means with which they are to be achieved, it hurts everyone.

How would you measure the effectiveness of digital ideation? Examples of success and things that contributed to success.

The effectiveness of a digital idea will, like any other idea, simply be measured on achieving the client’s objective, whether it is on social media or anything else. Ultimately it’s all about return on investment (ROI). The ROI could be measured though:

* Increase in the chatter and recommendations on social media through fan acquisition or conversation. There are multiple tools to measure this for Facebook, Twitter and the entire Internet universe.

* No. of views, clicks or leads generated through an Internet marketing campaign, not necessarily a banner ad.

* Online readership ratings, especially those of reviews of blogs.

* Third-party endorsements made online which act as testimonials.

* No. of hits on the digital destination (website, WAP site, fan page, microsite, etc.) of the activity.

* Search engine ranking of the destination.

We have contributed to the success of many businesses digitally. The most recent among those were revealed in a study conducted by AC Nielsen and McKinsey during the World Cup and IPL where we tried to stay away from overtly mentioning brand names in every single communication and concentrating more on the event and the sport. The idea was well-received and Adidas was revealed to be as the most spoken about brand on social media during the first three weeks of the World Cup, more than the official sponsors. At the same time Mumbai Indians was revealed to be the most supported team on social media during the IPL. Godrej, for whom we powered their customer loyalty management programme, Godrej Powerplay, during the IPL, also met with a stupendous response and was very well received by Godrej customers who now had a reason beyond quality to purchase a Godrej product.

However, we believe, real success lies in helping SMEs and start-ups ground-up and growing with them. Brands such as Monginis and Rajdhani Thali restaurants have been with us for some time now and have seen a manifold increase in the number of mentions on the Internet as well as fans on their Facebook fan pages. They have contributed equally by being supportive of our digital ideas and willing to walk that extra mile to capture their true loyalists through social media.

Would you like to caution businesses on what things do not work in digital media?

Like I mentioned earlier, digital is the most accurately measurable medium and businesses want to get the most out of it. Sometimes, in doing this, they try to sell too hard and push their communication message repeatedly. This doesn’t work! Digital, unlike other media, is extremely interpersonal and if the consumer is not interested in something at one go, it’s unlikely he will be interested in it again just because he is being asked to look at it. Moreover, if that communication message is being sent to an irrelevant audience, it means you are simply wasting money.

This situation can be rectified, especially on social media, by listening to people who know, like and talk about your brand. They are your true audience and businesses can very easily gauge what kind of communication they are looking for and when. However, social media comes with its own set of challenges and requires constant monitoring and responsiveness on behalf of the business. If done incorrectly, the strength of the medium also has the capability to snowball the business’ image.

Also, like any other media, ordinary ideas have no space in digital media either.

Your views on skills that are required the most in digital ideation and services.

The digital space is changing every second and there is always something new to do and a new channel to be used for communication. Digital ideation requires you to keep an eye on these trends and more importantly recognise the pattern than the adaptation. You need to be Internet-centric, someone who lives, breathes and eats the Internet 24x7, and that doesn’t mean just using Facebook! What is also required is a client-centric approach. No digital idea can be successful if done in isolation and without keeping the overall business objective in mind.

Any other points of interest?

We are actively advising clients to make social media, especially Facebook their one-stop Internet destination. It is the easiest way to know and capture people who are looking up your brand on the Internet; it has a flexibility which a Website URL may not necessarily provide. Adidas is the prime example of this; they feature their Facebook URL at the end of every TVC under the Adidas logo. We are advising the same to all our SME and start-up clients who would like to know their audience better.

**

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