As the world becomes more and more interconnected, more social and more open to switching brands if dissatisfied, the promotional effect of peer-to-peer marketing has become more powerful than ever, even in territories where advertising still holds sway. On a recent trip to India I was overwhelmed by advertising. As soon as you step out of the airport you are inundated with billboards, posters and even a textile shop with an irrelevant Pepsi logo painted on its shutters. A popular tactic of broadcasters used to be to increase TV advertising during peak audience times so much so that last year the Telecom Authority of India introduced new legislation to limit advertising to 12 minutes per hour.
These observations are perhaps unsurprising in a country where, according to GfK Roper Reports Worldwide data, almost 80% of the population regard advertising as a trustworthy source of information. That said, friends, family and acquaintances are a growing influence on the consumption habits of consumers here. One interesting observation I made was the willingness of people to volunteer recommendations without even being asked; I was receiving endorsements from hotel managers, shopkeepers and even strangers with whom I had struck up conversation. Furthermore, the restaurants I ate at and shops I bought from would often hand me a couple of business cards afterwards asking to be recommended to friends and family. I even managed to barter a 1000 Rupee (£10) discount at a clothing shop, provided that I wrote them a positive review on TripAdvisor in return. Again, Roper Reports Worldwide data show that Indians are increasingly making recommendations to others. While 15% of Indians made a recommendation to three or more types of acquaintances in 2009, this had grown to 20% in 2013. Incidentally, we’ve observed this trend globally too, with the most significant growth in Mexico and Brazil.
With even advertising-dependent markets such as India turning increasingly to word-of-mouth, brand advocates are becoming one of the most effective means of promotion a company can have, particularly with the advent of social media. We’ve observed already that a multi-faceted approach to a social networking is advisable as consumers increasingly control their connections. Whilst platforms such as Facebook play a huge role in online peer to peer marketing, the emergence of specialist platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest have made sharing product experiences more streamlined and the integration of these into Facebook have further accented the importance of a multi-dimensional approach. When it comes to building a network of brand ambassadors both online and offline, the skill lies with being able to recruit consumers who strongly identify with your brand and therefore are likely to recommend it to their social circles. One of the most powerful ways in which a brand can resonate with its target segment is by aligning brand values with their consumer’s Personal Values. A product that can identify and address a consumer’s needs in a way that is consistent with their Personal Values and attitudes towards consumption will naturally draw them to try a product and in turn encourage them to endorse it too, provided their experience is a good one.