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Is brand publishing here to stay in India?

A couple of years ago, the very thought of “brand journalism” would have caused most journalists to throw their hands up in horror. But now, the brand owned content has raced ahead of brand journalism and moved to brand publishing. PRmoment India looks at this trend through the experiences of three companies. Louis Philippe, HUL and Microsoft have already started the process of providing platforms for brand messaging woven through larger stories.

Louis Philippe and ‘The Label’

Apparel maker Louis Philippe has launched an e–magazine called ‘The Label’. It reads like a typical men’s magazine with the usual information about toys boys like, workouts and eating out, and most of the content has nothing to do with Louis Philippe shirts, apart from a few separately placed ads.

Jacob John, brand head, Louis Philippe, explains the rationale behind the e-magazine, “Launching an e-magazine was part of Louis Philippe's larger content strategy to become relevant in the fast developing consumer conversation landscape led through the digital medium. We realised early on that investing in our own content was the key to bringing alive our point of view on all the things that the Louis Philippe man was interested in.”

“‘The Label’ has opened up a very interesting engagement channel with the consumer that is not built on our core strength of fashion only. The Label has enabled us to better appreciate the lifestyle aspirations and interests of our core consumers thereby helping us deliver better service and content that is relevant to the consumer. And will hopefully in the future also point out directions for our own brand extensions.”

‘The Label’ and sales

Louis Philippe insists that ‘The Label’ is not about pushing sales. Jacob says that, “Right now ‘The Label’ is a very strategic content platform that is helping us understand and engage with our consumers. While there are no direct business implications that a project like this can deliver, it helps that the Label is able to drive the premium imagery of Louis Philippe even higher with the quality of the content that we are creating. There is no attempt to directly implicate this platform through a sales number driven metric at this point of time.”

While Louis Philippe doesn’t plan to launch an app soon, it will drive distribution of content created by ‘The Label’. Jacob explains that, “More than an app, our attempt at the moment is to ensure that the Label content is syndicated by other popular news aggregator apps, a process we have kicked off recently.”

Hindustan Unilever Limited and ‘Kan Khajura Tesan’

HUL’s unique mobile radio station, activated via a missed call, has already won the Lions Gold awards at Cannes on June 17th, 2014. It was awarded three gold’s in the use of audio, use of mobile and response/real time activity (including crowdsourcing) categories. The premise of the content delivery model is simple. For consumers in media dark areas – where penetration of TV and radio is inconsistent and impacted by electricity supply – the mobile offers a link to communication and entertainment.

All mobile owners have to do is give a missed call to a dedicated number and they receive a call back with pre-programmed content that consists of popular local music, Hindustan HUL advertising spots, jokes and an RJ to host the show. HUL defines Kan Khajura Tesan as, “An always-on mobile entertainment radio channel in which the content is interspersed with HUL brand communication.”

First started in Bihar the station is now available all over India. The base of listeners is large and compares well with other channels of communication.

Priya Nair, vice president, HUL says that, “Areas that were otherwise termed to be ‘media dark’ are now 'entertainment-enlightened' with ‘Kan Khajura Tesan’ reaching out to more than 11 million subscribers. In total, we have had 180 million minutes of engagement with our consumers and our ads have been heard 100 million times. We developed the idea to address a business problem of reaching consumers in deep rural markets. Creating a mobile based radio channel has brought entertainment to consumers who have almost no access to traditional entertainment.”

Microsoft India News Centre

Brands such as Microsoft are also going the traditional online news centre route but with a range of stories that will break first on their own channel.

A Microsoft spokesperson in India told PRmoment India that, “Today, content is consumed on the go, in bite-sized packages and on a screen of the readers’ choice. In this scenario, there is a huge, untapped opportunity for brands to create and amplify content that is unique and compelling and enables direct connections with end users.”

The spokesperson added, “At Microsoft, we built the Microsoft India News Centre and social channels with precisely this intent. Over the next few months, we hope to scale the India News Centre further through the creation of India specific stories that will be available here first.”

Other models for brand communication

Organisations, such as Louis Philippe, feel that the attempt to invest in own brand channels is itself only now catching on only now amongst brands in the country.

Commenting on building models of brand communication, using dedicated Wi-Fi networks, Jacob says that, “The other interesting models that we see emerging for brands like ours is the attempt to own mobile media through dedicated Wi-Fi networks created in-store and at points of sale. There is an attempt to woo the consumer through his mobile amongst brands and we believe that by creating one's own channel of communication at key points of sale – whether 'in-store' or 'around-store' – brands like ours can better control the communication that is being sent out to consumers and users.”

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