Why integrated and mobile communications will be vital in 2014

The communications world is swiftly moving towards an integrated marketing-public relations-digital mix. Experts believe that 2014 is the year all of this will come together. A recent report taken out by WE Studio Waggener Edstrom Worldwide titled, “Predicting Digital in 2014”, says this is the year when communications and public relations truly come of age as data-endorsed disciplines. The report adds that 2014 will see the application of performance-based analytics and data to mine real-time, and predictive insights will drive content development and brand storytelling.

The report highlights eight megatrends including contextual content, the rise of visual storytelling, the rise of social customer relations underpinned by analytics and mobile driven communications. It states that integrated communication teams will be the new normal and brand communication will become the key differentiator of commerce. Lastly noting that measurement will require the integration of agencies under a single ROI model for the business.

Rise of Hybrid Communications Teams: What skills will PR in 2014 need?

One of the biggest changes that will happen in 2014 is that teams will become hybrid and will have to learn to work with each other. Soumya Dev, Head of Digital, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide points out that with the growth of online direct-to-consumer channels, each of these communications functions – whether public relations, advertising or stand-alone digital agencies – have execution overlaps with each other and are forced to acquire skills that have conventionally been the forte of the other type of communications agencies.

Soumya says that: “Particularly in the context of public relations agencies, the conventional stakeholder engagement strategies have had a disproportionate share of focus on media relations. Today, there are two parallel shifts happening. First, social brand channels are the first point of access for consumers as well as the media. To cut through the noise and grab attention, the brand key messages increasingly needs to be condensed. Being good with words and structure alone aren’t helping today’s Public Relations professionals because it can only make for grammatically correct and well-formed boringness. They need newer skillsets for visual story-telling and ability to simplify complex concepts with visual thinking and brevity.”

Soumya adds: “Secondly, the media formats have changed too. As these outlets compete to grab the reader’s attention, they are also embracing the content practices of digital platforms.”

Soumya predicts that: “The public relations agency of 2014 (it’s here and now) will look at platform-agnostic story-tellers whose strategies are informed by performance-based insights. Sure, one can’t find all of these necessary skillsets within one frame. So, the teams will need to become more and more hybridized. “What complementary talent do you bring to the table?” will become the prime question of the team leader to any new joinee. The role-divide between the various types of communications agencies will increasingly vanish. These practices will operate vertically as well as horizontally."

Integration of agencies under a single ROI model for the business

Case Studies: Asian Paints Royale and Maybelline Baby Lips Kiss Song

Communications professionals will also need to rethink their ROI model.

Suveer Bajaj, Co-founder and Director of Operations and Administration, FoxyMoron says that all communication strategies need to finally tie back to the brand and the business impact they could potentially have. Suveer says: “Click throughs, shares and number of fans in isolation would be meaningless unless they add up to awareness of the brand, trials or sales.”

Suveer offers two case studies he had worked on to demonstrate that FoxyMoron shows how the brand message drives business goals.

Case Study 1 – Asian Paints Royale Play WallFashion:

Recently, Royale Play introduced the WallFashion stencil and its objective was to educate the user of the fact that the stencils are easy to use, they look great in a certain section of a small house (as compared to an entire wall normally seen in a large house).

Hence, we created an app where the user could virtually experience the stencil, share the creation with friends, and get their opinions / votes. The most voted design offers its owner an opportunity to win a free stencil kit for their house. This encouraged users to try the stencil on their wall (trials) which in turn leads to conversations among the user’s larger network thus leading to increased sales.

Case Study 2 - Baby Lips Kiss Song:

A lip balm is most needed in the winters to protect one’s lips. Maybelline New York promised lips so smooth that she would want to go on a kissing spree upon using the ‘Baby Lips Lip Balm.’

With an aim to give every fan a sense of belonging to and ownership of the brand, Maybelline New York India asked every girl to be a part of India’s first crowd sourced KISS Song. For this, we set up a virtual kissing booth where a girl had to share her kiss sound.

6000+ kisses were stitched together to form the Kiss Song. Every fan shared it with all her friends since her ‘kiss’ was an integral part of the song. The song received close to 3 Million views and made Baby Lips the No.1 lip balm on e-commerce and No.4 lip balm in India.

Year of Mobile based brand communications

Soumya feels that in 2014, brands will increasingly need to adopt a mobile first strategy where the device works as an extension of the customer’s journey with the brand content on any other screen. Soumya says that while most brands have dabbled with QR codes and bits of AR apps, most have failed to leverage the swarming community of SMS and chat-based networks of the mobile users.

Soumya predicts that: “Increasingly these networks are introducing more and more features that enable the members to share and curate content. In fact many of the established social networks are playing a catch-up game with these smaller but highly engaged networks as far as mobile are concerned. In 2014 we are most likely to see brand campaigns that give these undercurrents a dominant exposure.

Suveer says that strategies will need to be tailor-made to suit the technology habits of the ever evolving tech-savvy target audience. “We’ve already noticed this with the emergence of Vine and Instagram videos as well as the introduction of short ad videos which do not last more than 10-20 seconds. Brands will face a challenge of weaving an appealing story within a short span of time and making them as effective as the regular 30 second advertisements."

Suveer adds that: “Moving forward, mobile marketing can be taken to an all new level at the grass-roots by leveraging features such as SMS and IVR to communicate with the masses one on one. The ‘Smart Textbooks’ CSR campaign by the largest Philippines telecom company, took SIM cards and turned them into a free school text book delivery mechanism called ‘Smart TXTBKS.’"

Will Digital Agencies survive in 2014?

Suveer believes that the survival of any agency depends on its ability to adapt to change and its flexibility to develop new and unique ideas. With marketing being redefined daily, it becomes imperative for every agency to offer a gamut of services that they have the skills for because in the ever evolving digital eco-system there is a need to create holistic strategies to obtain business goals.

Suveer admits that: “Standalone digital agencies will find it challenging to survive in a world where everyone is creating breakthrough campaigns via a 360° approach.”

Soumya predicts that: “Agencies will continue to co-exist. On one side, multiple specialised agencies will come together more often at the instruction of brand owners to collaborate right from campaign ideation stage. On the other side, agencies will invest on acquiring the skillsets of these specialised agencies in an attempt to bring brands a more full-service offering across the complex spectrum of integrated marketing and communications. It definitely is the age of the entrepreneurial, nimble, multi-specialty agencies and these trendsetters may come from any function.”

Written by Paarul Chand