Setting the Record Straight on Moment Marketing

For the past few years, I have noticed a new craze in marketing circles in India called moment marketing. I have even seen posts shared on LinkedIn about great moment marketing activities and how marketers were smart enough to cash in on opportunities. I also discovered recently that LinkedIn has a page devoted to #momentmarketing. You might want to check it out.

Moment marketing is used to describe any marketing communications activity from customer experiences and celebrity endorsement to topical advertising that went viral and piggy-backing on events/celebrities without their endorsement or permission, as happened recently with PV Sindhu during the Tokyo Olympics. It is of course, almost always digital-led and it has to go viral for moment marketing to be a hit!

It has reached such ridiculous levels that even senior advertising and brand communications professionals from highly regarded and well-established agencies are talking excitedly of moment marketing, even going to the extent of including certain old campaigns from when there was no digital media on the horizon. Perhaps many clients are also demanding “moment marketing” ideas from their agency teams these days.

I think it is time for me to step in and set the record straight on this one, since I believe I might have had something to do with it. I might even have inadvertently contributed to it, much as I think that this is all part of a very well-orchestrated campaign by unprofessional agency bosses to try and make me someone else, including an old colleague who I hired at Ogilvy Delhi, R Sarada, and who worked under my guidance and supervision.

Well, it is not anyone else, but I who had written about brands having their own moments, while working at Perfect Relations, Delhi 14 years ago, as part of a workshop on brands that I was asked to conduct for their account management folk. I don’t do workshops, but having agreed to do this one, and since it never took place, the unprofessional agency bosses and many others have gone berserk with this concept without quite knowing the entire context. This is what happens with guessing and second-guessing others, with very little knowledge oneself about the subject.

I think it would be in order for me to first say that there is no moment marketing. It is not marketing, or marketing communications. Neither is there a moment that can be marketed or sent viral as a deliberate strategy or tactic.

Having gotten that out of the way, let me share my thoughts on what I meant when I wrote that brands have certain moments strongly associated with them. Because advertising and brand communications for a brand has a moment built into it which, when viewed and read by consumers repeatedly over a long period of time becomes associated with that brand, it is fair to say that brands have unique moments of their own. It is we folks in the advertising and brand communications business who create these moments as part of our advertising campaign to communicate the brand’s benefits.

As a writer myself, I can say that nobody starts out by saying let’s create a branded moment. What we try and do is to find a way to communicate the brand’s message and benefit in such a way that it is distinctive, persuasive and memorable. What goes to make these brand moments can be any creative device from a visual mnemonic or scene, an audio burr on its own, or along with a visual depiction for TV adverts and visual mnemonic in print and outdoor.

During the campaign development process, we might try and strengthen certain scenes to cue the brand’s benefit more strongly; ad agency folks will recognize this immediately as the dreaded product window! There are many product categories, however, where product windows are not de rigeur, yet we have to find a way to convey the brand’s message in a distinctive way.

I have a few examples of what I mean by a brand’s moments to share with you and many of you might recollect these instantly:

  • Lipton Tea Bags: Dip, dip, dip
  • Maggi Noodles: Hungry kids and 2-minutes
  • MRF tyres: Race track and tyres we race are the tyres you buy
  • Eno: Human body graphic on fire being doused by effervescent Eno solution
  • Colgate: The ring of confidence circling white teeth
  • Britannia Marie: Tea and Marie
  • Heinz Ketchup: The excruciatingly slow trickle of ketchup from the Heinz bottle
  • Titan: The signature tune, which is based on Mozart’s 25th Symphony
  • Smirnoff Vodka: Life through the Smirnoff bottle
  • Absolut: The Absolute bottle shape symbolizing cultural icons around the world
  • American Express: Scenes of stranded travellers and don’t leave home without it
  • Nike: Challenging oneself and Just Do It with swoosh
  • Vicks lozenges: Clearing of throat and khich-khich door karo (say goodbye to khich-khich irritation)
  • Mumm Champagne: Celebrating wins on the podium in Formula 1 racing.

The last example of Mumm Champagne is not a moment created as part of an advertising campaign, but a long-term sponsorship association.

I hope by now the concept of brands having their own moments is somewhat clearer. These are not moments meant to cash in on a sudden opportunity that presents itself or to go viral, but moments that explain and communicate the brand’s benefit. Over time and with sustained communication, they become associated with the brand, and are often recollected by consumers instantly. They become part of a brand’s symbols (the outermost circle in Hofstede’s diagrammatic representation of culture) which we used to employ at Ogilvy when working on brands.

I don’t just think that brands have their own unique moments, I also think that in many cases, these moments can become part of the brand’s intangible assets. In other words, they could be considered intellectual property in some form. I am not a lawyer or a legal expert on intellectual property but I do think that in consultation with them, one can make brands’ moments intellectual property in the future. It should also be possible to institutionalise this as well as accounting for brands’ intellectual property in companies’ financial reports.

Only when consumers see and recall it as a moment does it become one for the brand

Like I said at the start of this piece, creating brand moments is not an objective we start out with; it is not something that advertising agencies and advertisers can control either. Only when consumers see it as a moment for the brand, does it truly become one. If you consider the examples I have shared here, you’ll find that almost all of them are closely – if not inextricably – connected with the brand’s benefit and core message. This requires care and thought in creating the communication as well as investing in the brand adequately over several years, for it to resonate with consumers and be remembered as a brand’s moment.

That said, we advertising and brand communication professionals are certainly creators of a brand’s intangible assets. As I have written before on my blog – in which I also wrote about the book, Capitalism without Capital by Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake – brands are increasingly becoming an important part of companies’ intellectual property. And it is we in the advertising and brand communications industry who help create and build these brands for companies. Time, the industry stepped up to the task and focused on long-term brand building. It is also time that the industry is remunerated on terms that better reflect our contribution to brand development and corporate growth.

I hope this settles the issue of moment marketing once and for all and clears the air. The air in the advertising and brand communications industry in India that has been so polluted with the bilge and nonsense of ignoramuses for the past couple of decades. I am talking of Perfect Relations and BBDO India, of course.

Moment marketing is nothing but a figment of the imagination of extremely malicious and unprofessional elements in the advertising and brand communications industry who are desperate to cover up their unprofessional nonsense of many years ago, by trying to make me someone else. It is not merely pathetic, but unbelievable that such individuals are heads of organisations in India and would like nothing better than to get ahead by getting the better of everyone else. Or better still, to hitch themselves to me and my work, that has nothing whatsoever to do with them. Or with anyone else for that matter.

On a happier note, I hope that those of us who really belong to this industry and know our business well can create communication for brands that give them those unique moments. Time then, to say adieu to moment marketing!  

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