Thursday, December 20, 2012

SEO & Inbound Marketing

I can't help but start with some of the great Seth Godin quotes when I am dwelling the topic of Inbound Marketing. I love his quotes even otherwise.

He says, "If you can’t sell to 1 in 1000, why market to a million?". He also says, "People don’t believe what you tell them. They rarely believe what you show them. They often believe what their friends tell them. They always believe what they tell themselves."

These statements make the basis of Inbound Marketing. Lets understand Inbound Marketing before really delving into how SEO would help it.

Let me intersperse this blog with some of my favourite Seth Godin quotes. Would that be boring. Please allow me. "Why waste a sentence saying nothing?"

Traditionally, and most marketers today, generate leads and fill the top of their sales funnel through bulk email blasts, SMS push marketing to legal or illegal lists, trade shows, seminars, internal cold calling, outsourced telemarketing and advertising. These are "outbound marketing" activities where a marketer pushes the message out through different media options hoping that it will reach the target consumer. 

Although there is a high probability that the message would reach the targeted consumer, yet there are a few basic concerns.
  • The message is a generic message designed to appeal the large target consumer set.
  • The message is one among millions of other messages targeting similar TG profile.
  • There are consumer & Government activism to block generic messages using Spam filters, Caller ID etc and frequent shifting of channels.
  • Once the message reaches the target consumer, the follow up communication strategy is not existent. Mostly the marketing team broadcasts the message, and then the business teams tries to track leads and conversions. 
Basically, it was about buy, beg and bug consumers spending millions of advertising dollars to sell. These days are getting over, quickly, with consumers in control of the information they receive.

"Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late."

Inbound Marketing is the change. Its the Marketing 2.0. It is about the practice of bringing warm, qualified leads into the sales funnel and follow them up through communication till they explicitly or implicitly express dis-interest. The basis was again Seth Godin's Permission based marketing.

"Permission Marketing is just like dating. It turns stranger into friends and friends into lifetime customers. Many of the rules of dating apply, and so do many of the benefits."

Half of Inbound Marketing is about great marketing content. And the second half is about having strategies and techniques to engage the interested consumer till conversion. Human beings have a finite amount of attention. The attention is therefore spent only on things that interests you. Once great content attracts the attention, inbound marketing is supposed to capture that attention, engage with the attention, make a relationship to exchange more content. The attention would either become a customer, or become an ambassador of the brand/product. 

SEO - Search Engine Optimization plays a critical role in capturing attention of consumers searching for content that resonates with the content provided by the brand. Search engines have become the default option to search for content. Students search before asking their teachers. Employees search before asking their peers or bosses. 

"Expectations are the engines of our perceptions."
"If you want to dig a big hole, you need to stay in one place."

SEO as I discussed in the previous blog, is not only about making your website optimized to be found in all relevant search keywords, but also about creating content in the social media and other Internet eco-systems. The latter simply means that others would equally work hard to get your content across to relevant consumers. 

For instance, if you write a post in, mouthshut would work hard to get that searched by relevant keywords. Then if you share that post through google plus, twitter, tumblr etc, they further work hard to get that searched.

Finally, even if your relevant website page is coming in the second page of the search result, the same content may come right in the front of the search result through other websites. 

This is called Content SEO, and not Website SEO.

"Ideas in secret die. They need light and air or they starve to death."

Let your content be that idea. Use proper SEO techniques and inbound marketing strategies as light and air, or they would starve to death.

The author has an experience of 12 years in the integrated communication domain involving traditional as well as digital media. He can be contacted at for consultancy and project execution.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

SEO in the age of Social Media & Content Aggregation

SEO - Search Engine Optimization, refers to the act of making a particular website easily accessible on various search engines. 

If I am looking at buying an LCD TV, I would most likely type 'LCD TV Review India' on BING or Google to find out the best LCD TV on offer with the most favorable reviews. This search should find the SEO optimized website among the top three search results for me to read on.

As an experiment, when I searched for 'LCD TV Review India' on Google, the results thrown at me completely surprised me. It led me to this blog in an effort to re-think on the SEO strategy in the age of Social Media and Content aggregation.

SEO - Search Engine Optimization
Google Search Results for "LCD TV Reviews India"

Shockingly, I didn't find a single television brand website. Lets assume that SEO strategies of brands have not evolved in India and that it is a simple scenario of bad SEO practices on the part of the television brands. But , there was another surprise. The search results had social media, verticals and content publishers. 

So the pertinent question to ask is that even if some of the brands had done a great job of SEO, would that have been enough for brand recognition and engagement?

If you see the search results, we see,, and the likes offering content of importance and relevance for the customer. If this is the pattern of search results that search engines throw up, the presence of the brand in these websites would become a must for a better search marketing strategy.

These websites form the eco-system called Social Media and Aggregated Content. Social Media is primarily user generated content and content aggregation is about websites publishing reviews, opinions, comparisons etc.

And yes, social media is not only about Facebook and Twitter !!

It is important for a brand today to have a search strategy that involves SEO, Social Media such as blogs, user review websites and content aggregation. It involves writing content, placing content and coordination with content aggregators.

Next Blog: SEO & Inbound Marketing

The author has an experience of 12 years in the integrated communication domain involving traditional as well as digital media. He can be contacted at for consultancy and project execution.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Communications - Always the Understated.

Financial Accounting, Acquisitions & Mergers, Forex Management, Product Strategy, Sales Strategy are all big job families respected as those hard skills that one needs to acquire through first class education and years of experience.

They are the science of a business. Communication is a soft skill. How can that be a science? #Joke

Secretary Sandra writes an internal email to all the employees launching a new bike parking space, and that is communication. Product manager, Victor writes the product details with the laundry list of all important features for the website guy to simply upload, and that is communication too. Everybody does communication in some form or the other.

Hence the over-riding perception that communication is everyone's cup of tea. #anotherjoke

Communication is the science of understanding consumer insights, their behaviour carved out of age, education, income, customs, traditions and experiences; and arriving at the creative strategy; and executing it in the relevant media such as TV, radio, Internet etc.

Communication too needs to have a 5 year vision, annual objective, brand positioning strategy, cost strategy, media strategy, production and procurement roadmap, technology strategy and HR resource planning.

Communication unlike yester-years, has become measurable to a great extent. Father of modern advertising, John Wanamaker's words "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half" was before the advent of technology. He would have been a happier man today.

This is the age of technology and forms of communication, as I write is evolving towards the use of the Internet, Mobile and other web technologies. Communication experts need to be those geeks who are creative, understand consumers, knows the technicalities of production, knows technology, knows media and the business of a revenue model to stay profitable. 

India has a communications school in a remote village called Shela in Ahmedabad called Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA) that attracts the best of students, who could have gone to the IIMs. MICAns understand the ways to know consumers and construct consumer insights.

Communications make or break perceptions. And Perception is the brand's reality.

It is time that brands wake up to the fact they need to consider communications as a critical element in the business model. I understand that it would always stay as a cost centre, but it needs to be looked at a cost centre that directly impacts revenue through brand building, sales, social awareness and employee motivation.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Facebook Vs Twitter: 5 points of Difference

There are quite a lot of things to say when there is such a title - Facebook Vs Twitter. But I would limit myself to what I feel. It is not what I have read. It is not what I have heard.

To me, as a marketer cum advertising personnel, both strive on user generated content. They are what users update, upload and share. They are what users are. They are what consumers are.

But they are different.

I see a major difference while searching content. In facebook, you just can't search for consumer content. It is all about your friend's network, a business page and their latest updates. On the other hand, twitter sometimes is better than google in giving you consumer voice, brand information and sales message. Comments, images and short URLs are all part of the search feature. Any user could search the wide user generated content.

Twitter is non-personal to a great extent frank, candid and opinionated.. The users are not bound by his friend circle to act, say or behave in a certain way. Twitter has an independent universe not limited to a set definition. Facebook on the other hand is about friends, groups and business pages. It is limited to the followers and friends.

Twitter is about content, whereas Facebook is about friends

Twitter is about sharing and reading anything of interest. Facebook is about networking and keeping in touch.

Facebook can give instant popularity to an information in a community or within a closed group, whereas Twitter may need hard work and strategic placement. Facebook is therefore better for brand awareness, whereas Twitter is about brand engagement.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

MTV India perhaps thinks IPOD has no future !

The brand marketplace is flooded with examples of brands losing focus on their core strengths and diversifying into known or unknown territories in the rationale of killing brand fatigue and expanding the brand reach and therefore loyalty.

So, it is not embarrassing for MTV to think on similar lines. It is anyway pretty obvious to think of reality programming to be the natural progression from music.

What surprises me however is that MTV is (or has become) deaf and blind to consumer speak and programming quality. More so, when MTV is known to drive deep into the culture of its consumers.

A quick search can give us consumer speak on websites such as MouthShut and Yahoo Answers. They all shout 'Where is the Music?', 'Where is the M of MTV?' Click on the links to get a sample of consumer speak.

About the programming quality and conscience, the lesser said is the better. Crunch for instance, is the most sleazy show that is made for youth in the name of reality. It has obscenities, cleavages and everything that a 15 year old should not perhaps watch. Above all, where is the music element in MTV Crunch, for that matter in Splitsvilla, Roadies and StuntMania.

MTV used to quite admirable around a decade back till the whole "Kyonki Saas...etc" wave hit them real hard on their conscience. That was the soap opera TRP revolution.

They had overtaken [V] in the early 2000 (correct me if I am wrong!) to become India's top rated music channel. It was admirable how MTV localised content completely tailored to the Indian youth. The channel embraced Bollywood and launched a nationwide hunt for new Indian veejays. One winner was a former Miss India. It tapped into young people's passions for cricket and fashion. It came up with a few hits, notably MTV Bakra - in which the host, Cyrus Broacha, played gags on unsuspecting people. So popular was Bakra that friends of Bollywood stars or famous cricket players often contacted MTV to ask Broacha to play a bakra on the celebrity. Broacha had become so famous that he interviewed Bill Gates when the Microsoft chairman wanted to speak to India's young people about AIDS.

It was quite amazing that one country's MTV looked (still does) very little like the another's. Bill Roedy - President of MTV Networks International, once said, "MTV India is very colorful, self-effacing, full of humor, a lot of street culture. China's is about family values, nurturing, a lot of love songs. In Indonesia, with our largest Islamic population, there's a call to prayer five times a day on the channel. Brazil is very sexy. Italy is stylish, elegant, with food shows because of the love of food there. Japan's very techie, a lot of wireless product."

The problem started when being the No. 1 music channel wasn't a big enough business for MTV. With so many general interest channels, MTV could not command premium prices for advertising, even on its popular shows. Moreover, television viewership in India is extremely fragmented. MTV had to compete with regional music channels aimed at viewers who speak Tamil, Telegu, and Punjabi. A prime-time 30-second spot on MTV typically sold for roughly 8,000 to 11,500 rupees, whereas the rate was multiple times for a similar spot on a General Interest Channel like Star TV.

The popularity of Star and Sony made it hard for MTV to attract viewers, because India is still the kind of place where families tend to gather around the TV set. Because most young viewers watched soaps such as Kyonki or Jassi, media buyers didn't need to advertise on MTV to reach them. Alex Kuruvilla - Ex MTV India Managing Director once said, "How do you beat the story of the mass players who can deliver a high number of eyeballs? That is actually the single biggest challenge we face as a niche channel"

Initially, MTV responded quite creatively, I would say. To go beyond the selling of 30 second spots, MTV started inviting advertisers to help it develop new programs. For example, MTV and Honda came up with a show called Roadies that follows a set of boys and girls who drive motorbikes across India.

When Unilever wanted to launch a deodorant called Axe, with the theme of "long-lasting freshness", MTV staged what it called the world's longest dance party (55 hours) in a suburb of Delhi, attended by 15,000 people and certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Lycra introduced its brand to India by sponsoring the MTV Style Awards. For Microsoft, the channel designed a show called Web Watch to promote its MSN online network.

But then I guess MTV got carried away. It seemed that revenues could only come through fiction based episodic content. Kuruvilla had said, "Right now the media consumption model for us is snacking. We want to migrate that audience to more regular appointment viewing every week."

Kuruvilla and his team didn't understand that biscuits cannot become meal and fight for brand loyalty during lunch and dinner time of consumers. It will always remain a snack, and be extremely profitable at that.

In 2004, MTV India, in collaboration with Balaji Telefilms, launched its first fiction serial ‘Kitni Mast Hain Zindagi’. The show turned out to be immensely popular. The number of episodes were extended from the initial 39 to 107.

I have my reservations if it was the content that made the show a success. I have three reasons for the show's success. Firstly, it was produced by Balaji which was producing the hugely successful Star TV show "Kyonki Saas...". So there was a huge media hype around it. Everybody in India knew that MTV is coming up with fiction serial much like Star and Sony. Secondly, MTV did a great job by doing a nation wide casting to build anticipation for the new soap. MTV had held open tryouts for the show in more than 100 cities, big and small, across India. About 7,000 people showed up for a Delhi casting call. That was one of the biggest audition ever. Lastly, it was a novelty that the great MTV is doing a fiction serial. It must be good.

The obsession and the short-sightedness continued with renewed vigour after the success of the initial fiction and reality content. When it comes to bottom line, revenues and profitability, it is quite easy to stagger and take the most obvious strategy in short term view. For instance, who can doubt the statement, "Sex Sells".

Today MTV is more famous for Roadies, Spiltsvilla and Crunch. I call them sexy fiction. The creative programming content includes slangs like BC and MC, lot of legs with mini skirts being the compulsory dress code, close-up of cleavages, slutty behaviour, hugging, kissing and (would you believe) massaging. Obscenities are beeped in the television episodes, as there are regulations. So MTV has come up with an innovative way of making the youth listen to the obscenities. These programmes are broad casted live on YouTube. One of the MTV executives tells me that there are no regulations on the Internet. Wah!

Can someone take MTV to jail!!! Where is their moral and social responsibility towards the youth of the country? The majority of the MTV viewers are between the age of 15 to 25 years.

Of course, it would be unfair to say the MTV has completely stopped doing good music. We still have shows like Coke Studio, Roots and Sound Trippin. Although Coke Studio Season 1 was dissappointing, yet overall they are good content. You may want to listen to this great track by Papon.

There is a strategic and a communication question that we need to ask ourselves (communication / marketing professionals). Has Music lost its charm among the youth? Of course not, I would assume. If music still sells and would always sell, why MTV could not sustain itself with music alone? Is this about a dearth of creativity among us that MTV fell prey to sexy programming? We tend to miss the point that sexy content gives superficial and flirty TRPs, which actually spread negative brand perception. The same eyes ogling at MTV Crunch would, at one breath, condemn MTV for doing such shows.

The question is: "Would IPOD lose its market share and profitability if it could only play music?"

MTV as a brand needs to be more resilient, not to succumb to easy TRP tactics. There are enough creative opportunities present in the field of promoting good music, and music transcends all age groups, social strata, caste, creed and religion.

If regular appointment viewing is what brings in the ad revenues, it can come in with music as well. Indian Idol is a great example!