Monday, August 27, 2012

The Mindset of Indian Bloggers

I talked about the emergence of blogs in India as a form of commentary in my previous posts. Earlier, I was of the view that maybe the presence of a free press and proliferation of media platforms have in fact relegated bloggers to the background, unlike in societies where there are limits to freedom of expression. This is true especially in the space of "issues" where the ability of bloggers to influence public discourse happens to be limited. Nonetheless, niche blogs in the space of culture, technology, marketing and business do wield significant influence today in India and, as professional communicators, we engage with this lot quite a bit. In fact, we encourage brands to engage with bloggers all the more, simply because their influence permeates across different social networks

In this context, the latest executive report from MSLGROUP India that tried to gauge the mindset of bloggers - towards brands, media and technology. The ‘2012 Indian Bloggers Mindset Survey’ shares insights on how bloggers are shaping opinion, how brands are engaging with them as well as the opportunities and challenges before brands when it comes to building relationships with these key digital influencers.

Among the key findings of this survey are
  • Facebook and Twitter are emerging as the top preferred social platforms to connect with bloggers in India. Google+ is the (non-Facebook, non-Twitter) social network bloggers spend the most time on, while Pinterest is fast emerging in popularity
  • CSR campaigns are the most recollected digital campaign
  • Conventional brand ambassadors like Aamir Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, still make for the favourite brand ambassadors
Kudos to the team of Karan Bhujbal, Tanay, Nikunj, Radhika, Ragini, Deepti, Anamika  who conducted, compiled and completed this survey!

2012 Bloggers Mindset Report from 20:20 MSL

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is "Brand India" not inclusive?

Listening to Mr Santosh Desai at the QED - The Liberalisation Debate recently, got me thinking about 'Nation Branding.' Mr Desai talked about the emergence of the term "Brand India" in conversations, discussions and media narratives which have also gained considerable acceptance recently. This term in itself, adds 'marketing sheen' to decision makers language  keen to promote India overseas. What is interesting to note, and Mr Desai raised it at the discussion, is the exclusive nature of the term "Brand India."

What it means, is that through its very usage and promotion, it advocates an India that is reflective of a certain group of people, and, that serves certain interests only. "Brand India" is not inclusive but thrives on exclusion.   It excludes an India which is bigger, larger and pervasive. The narrative does not do justice to the reality, and, does not acknowledge the presence of the 'many other Indias' that are not necessarily aligned to the corporate, GDP growth driven vision of India, but attractive, real and numerous nonetheless.

So, an over reliance on marketers for shaping an image of the nation will not amount to anything. The role would remain with the able Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers who should move towards becoming 'public diplomats' irrespective of assignments or postings from being just 'diplomats.' 

To illustrate it further, one of my favorite marketing campaigns in India remain the "Incredible India" series. This campaign aims to promote India as a tourist destination, and promotes a 'brand of India' completely excluding the problems of traveling within India for tourists, especially if you consider issues like security, infrastructure etc. Consequently, we still do not feature among the favorite tourist destination of the world. To be fair to the campaign, it is asking too much to expect such an initiative to bring about a fundamental shift in attitudes, nonetheless, what I am thinking now...Is Nation Branding possible at all? Or is it a myth created by marketing agencies?

This is where the "India Is..." contest of the PD division of the Government of India seems more meaningful. This is one program that seeks to capture 'many Indias'. Read my post on The "India is ……." Global Video Contest

In one of my previous posts, almost two years ago, I introspected on  a possible strategy for India. This is to be based on development of strong messages that is aligned to the overall values that India stands for. Guess it holds true. We need to ask ourselves what are the values that we bring to the world that defines our way of life -- this is our power, our influence. An enduring brand will be based on a deep and real emotional connect.

Is Brand India not inclusive?

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur

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