Crowd branding is a unique method to reach a large number of peoples at a very low cost. Crowd branding works when a large number of peoples congregate for a short period, often for religious or other interests. In countries like India which has more than 100 festivals in a year where more than 100,000 people congregate, crowd branding offers a unique platform to reach out and engage with customers. Events like Kumbh mela, Sabarimala or Pushkaraulu are mega congregations where the number of peoples attending may dwarf the population of many small countries. Kumbh Mela, a festival which happens one in 12 years has more than 100 million peoples thronging the banks of River Ganges and other tributaries. Similarly, Sabarimala, a hilly place in Pathanamthitta District of Kerala State in India, has about 40 million peoples visiting the shrine annually. On the grandeur scale is the shrine of Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh, the second richest religious institution in world. It attracts 50,000 devotees on regular days and 6 -10 times the number on special occasions. Local festivals like Chath in Bihar or Velankanni attract about 2 million people. It is not just religious events that offer a platform for branding. Events like New Year or Christmas witness large crowds around Taj Hotel in Mumbai and Marine Beach in Chennai.
Crowd branding is a high visibility and high impact option. Companies could pursue direct product experience or indirect product experience to reach out to customers. Direct product experience involves offering smaller samples or products for free. For example, a tooth paste manufacturer can offer smaller packs of tooth packs for brand recall and association. Companies can purse surrogate or indirect product branding approaches. For example, a cement company can provide water or sanitation tanks for convenience of the attendees.
Let us look at examples of direct and surrogate branding strategies used in India. Many companies adopt direct branding approach by giving samples and free gifts. FMCG companies offered sachet packets of their products, or discounts. Tata swatch water purifiers installed 300 water purifiers for Kumbh Mela. Similarly, Marico provided Rs 1 Parachute sachet packet. Likewise HUL provided odomos creams to pilgrims who comes to kumbh mela and Coca cola offered 150 ml of cola at Rs 5 similarly HUL offers vim soap for Rs 4. Godrej provided hair die salon to pilgrims who comes to kumbh mela likewise Shanthi oil installed free oil massage sector to pilgrims who comes to kumbh mela.
Companies could pursue surrogate branding in multiple ways. Surrogate branding could be fashioned around the “event” or something that is of regular use and not necessarily associated with the event. For example, Amutajan made 16 feet statue of lord hanuman with dummy amurtajan boxes. HUL (dalda Oil) presented an image of a god in sand with their brand name. Eternit Everest cements provided tents and roof shelters to pilgrims who come to kumbh mela. On the other hand, telecom companied offered branded Umbrella’s, and light holdings at night times. Vodafone provided scarfs with their logo to make indirect branding. Ranbaxy provided hanuman chalisa to pilgrims who visits kumbha mela and sponsored free transport on boats for people traveling from one river bank to another.
For companies to exploit crowd branding start with customer experience cycle during the event. Identify what physical infrastructure may be required, what hygiene and health related requirements would be accessed, what crowd control and management systems need to implemented to help them have a safe and complete experience. Using service mapping tools such as blue printing helps in gaining a complete view of the customer experience cycle. Within the customer experience cycle, some requirements may be highly repetitive and commonly consumed, while some may be needed only for a shorter period and consumed by few selective population. Highly repetitive events include access to water, sanitation, food and transport. While selective requirements may be healthcare, or crowd control experiences. Identify within the customer experience cycle what would be moments of truth with higher impact and one that is closer to your product/service. Aligning branding artifact with the moment of truth is key to effective crowd branding.
Selection of branding artifact plays a key role in the effectiveness of branding. Branding artifacts can be personal or group based. Branding artifacts can address critical services or non-critical services. Branding artifacts can be context dependent (i.e., related to the particular event) or context independent. A tooth paste manufacturer offering a sample tooth paste is using a personal artifact that could be used everywhere. A cement manufacturer may offered free rides or free group housing. Such an offering would be group based. A pharmaceutical company can offer free health care center and ambulance services, which are critical and personal in nature. A telecom company can provide a public address system and location based identification for missing persons. Such an offering could be context dependent and critical in nature. Healthcare, travel and personal loss related services or artifacts offer longevity of WOM, while food and hygiene related may have shorter WOM. While men and women do involve in crowd branding, it is women fold who tend to carry the artifacts back home. Whether brochure or religious books or other artifacts, care must be ensured in designing it useful and colorful from the other gender perspectives. Marketing professionals must consider the investment, impact and reusability of artifacts before they choose a particular approach.
Sai Vinoth T R
Photo Courtesy: Desktop HD photos