MUMBAI: Word-of-mouth marketing has always been a popular model in penetrating markets. Opinion leaders or influencers are now becoming a critical component in the marketing strategies of new product developers and existing brand influencers like bartenders, mechanics, gram panchayats, doctors and school teachers. Even barbers are being tapped to spread the brand message—so be it an entirely new category being created or deeper penetration by existing brands.
Ultra Motors marketing director Deba Ghoshal says for e-bikes a positive word of mouth is very important. Ultra Motors is working with municipal bodies and panchayats to set up charging stations and use them to spread the benefits of using an e-bike. “We realise that these bodies influence decisions in smaller towns. So, they are effective platforms to aggregate opinion about the product,” says Mr Ghoshal. For its B2B initiative, UMC is engaging delivery boys to propagate the cost effectiveness of e-bikes to the franchisee owners.
In the lubricants space, Castrol, apart from working with OEMs, is actively working with mechanics and workshops to advocate the benefits to consumers. “In the lubes business, the programme with the mechanics is a synergy between native skillsets and the expertise which Castrol brings on table,” says
Castrol India ED AS Ramchander. Diageo with brands like Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker has barman club and Smirnoff Mix It programmes. “The idea behind the club was to create a community and help it upgrade its skill sets and knowledge,” says Diageo marketing director Santosh Kanekar.
Companies have realised the trust reposed on influencers and have initiated customised programmes to leverage them. “Mechanics and workshops often have a loyal customer base and are important ambassadors. These influencers look forward to extending their repute through their existing franchise,” says Mr Ramchander. For example, barbers form an important constituent for Marico for the Parachute After Shower Cream. “The barber becomes the inflection point to influence the men who go for regular haircut and shave. It’s here that men discuss their hair-related problems,” says Marico marketing head Sameer Satpathy. The barber programme is spread across top six metros. Also, the company is working with doctors and schools for its Saffola and Starz brand, respectively.
The positive rub off ploughs back as end-users use the brand following the suggestion from a trusted source. “In Delhi, because of our efforts, the message reached the chief minister and a subsidy of 15% on e-vehicles was announced.
Also, VAT of 12.5% has been removed. In effect, there is a saving of nearly 28% for end-users,” says Mr Ghoshal. Mr Ramchander says that while such programmes lead to top line growth, the increase in brand recall is what makes the effort worthwhile. “Our track record in making oils best suited for specific engines has given us credibility and additional business from influencers. For example, in the motorcycle lubes space we get about 15% of our sales from mechanics/workshops,” he says.
The key is to help influencers improve their skill sets when it comes to the likes of mechanics and barbers. “One has to treat them like doctors. One can’t just influence them with incentives. They have to buy and believe in the product,” explains Mr Ramchander.
Training programmes, upgrading their skill sets and tools, and imparting knowledge are critical in winning influencers’ confidence.
6 months ago