Brands look for a personal touch with trending topics in the online pitch

Topics Advertisment | Social Media | KFC

To leverage the rising chatter over hair care in a lockdown, Godrej ran a paid engagement with Karan Johar for its hair colour brand on Instagram
Scroll through timelines and tweets or flip through images and it is soon abundantly clear that everyday life, in a lockdown, is being documented by the minute on social media. People are engaging in group activities online, getting nostalgic, celebrity watching and ruminating more over recipes and household chores. Not only does this make for rich material for social scientists all over the world, it is also useful fodder for brands, helping them don the colours of the moment, in shades that their customers like.

“Our platforms are used by people to express themselves and it reflects their mindsets. So in the beginning, we saw people sharing their home workout tips, making Dalgona coffee, banana bread and playing Quarantine-antakshari. Then we went on to see ‘live’ entertainment experiences, many led by public figures and creators, and some created or augmented by us,” Manish Chopra, director and head of partnerships, Facebook India said. 

A diverse set of people is spending more time on social media platforms for more reasons than they did before. Brands have been quick to fall in with the trending topics, finding new hooks to get a foothold in the social media universe of their customers. For instance, fitness and household chores have made for engaging advertising copy for several brands including Asian Paints, Godrej Consumer, Zomato, Swiggy among others. 

The increased attention being paid to celebrity lives and the heightened social media presence of stars stuck at home has also been picked up by brands. There has been a flurry of birthday celebrations, support and solidarity videos with stars and so on to leverage their large following of fans. 

KFC India tied up with Kunal Kapur to reach out to the growing band of home chefs

“Now we’re in a phase where brands are recognising the value of branded content and how it's great for them to showcase their value in a personal way,” said Chopra. For example, Godrej had a paid partnership with Karan Johar for their hair product Godrej Expert Rich Crème. Johar talks about his greying mane and then sneaks in a mention of the hair colour brand. Quick service restaurant (QSR) chain, KFC, ran a similar engagement with Chef Kunal Kapoor and so have many others with actors Akshay Kumar, Twinkle Khanna and Kareena Kapoor. 

“People are consuming more media than ever before (including digital), so that gives opportunities for brands to interact with consumers in a meaningful way,”  said Akhil Almeida, vice president, Insights Division, Kantar. Also nothing impedes peoples’ desire to be online. 

A Kantar report on online behaviour after the ban on TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps stated that average time spent on Instagram doubled and Facebook saw a 35 per cent jump in time spent after the ban. People merely switched allegiances, once the apps were banned. This has encouraged brands to understand the medium better. 

Pragati Rana, GM, mcgarrybowen India, the global creative agency of Dentsu said that people are spending time in three broad ways on these platforms. One is an active engagement because you are seeking out interesting things to do. The second is to express yourself and assert who you are and the third, this one has definitely grown in size, is instinctual or subconscious browsing.” Brands need to tap into these need states to bond with people, she said. 

Apart from finding the right reasons to reach out, brands are also picking up cues on the mode, tone and pitch of their online engagement based on social media chatter. Hence videos have become a favoured method of engagement; the Kantar report found that after the ban, the most impressive gain was seen on YouTube. Already the most popular digital video platform in the country, it saw a further 25 per cent increase in time-spent. 

Almeida said, “What’s interesting, is that so much of this usage is driven by video.” The lockdown has enabled people to express themselves in diverse ways and social media platforms have encouraged that according to Chopra. “Facebook and Instagram are platforms of expression and we’re increasingly seeing people use them to connect with their family and friends,” he added.

With Instagram Reels, he expects to see more of the same. The growing use and the diversity of engagement on these platforms is definitely a boon for brands and the platforms, but the ballooning problem of hate speech and false identities may well sour the bait.

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