There's a lot of talk about the recent ambush advertising by Hindustan Unilever's soap and shampoo brand Dove, and how it pulled a cheeky number on Procter & Gamble's shampoo brand Pantene.
Honestly, I can't recollect whether I created the title of the piece or stole it form somewhere. But with that disclaimer out of the way, on to something that I think is going to be a significant aspect of marketing now and in the foreseeable future — "curated consumption."
I run a community on Facebook called Swapan's Shot. Every morning I shoot out a tip on something: it may be a wine or a book or a DVD. Even a hotel to stay in. Or a dish to try. This Shot goes out to about 870 people who are more than reasonably intelligent, women and men of the world with strong consumer references. Some of them are people who I don't even know.
Why would they join such a community? Perhaps because they trust my taste and choice. They feel that I have curated the choice for them, thereby saving them the bother of having to separate the wheat from the chaff.
At first I thought they were part of it because of the scarcities of time and the abundance of choices. But I think I was wrong. Each of the people in that group operates in times when consumers are more empowered about information and the choices available. They don't take to choices out of a herd-like mentality. They may well be part of a larger group but they have their own voice.
Come to think of it, curated consumption is no ice-cold beer. It has been lurking around for centuries. Your local kirana owner was a curator of sorts. He would recommend one oil over the other. Except there, he had a commercially vested interest in his curatorial call — a higher margin.
Modern day curators are independent voices to which more and more savvy marketers are going. Typically, I get a score of requests to try products and see if they pass muster to be included in my Shot. Very often, they don't and I don't include them.
It is my belief that curated consumption will alter the conventional contours of marketing. It is harder working than direct marketing. Members of my Facebook community have volunteered to be part of it. So it's not spam. It is as focused as it can get.
Lifestyle magazines have always been consumption curators. They've perennially curated styles and trends. But people as curators is the new way forward. It's the new marketing. Rather, the "knew marketing".
Swapan Seth is Chief Executive Officer, Equus Red Cell