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Celebrity consumers

india Updated: Jan 30, 2011 21:40 IST
Devendra Chawla

Political brands have to face it mostly once every five years via electronic voting machines (EVMs). However, consumers now have new EVMs — everyday voting machines — for launches of movies, brands, gadgets, TV shows. And almost all the rating and voting is done within hours.

Twitter and Facebook are becoming the new feedback machines that provide real-time snapshot of what people are thinking, feeling, experiencing and reviewing, around the world.

There were times when celebrity-endorsed brands enhanced trials, just like a good movie trailer ensured that consumers watched that movie. Not anymore. Thanks to the world of real time, reviews are taking brands from the manufacturers’ backyard, right into the hands of consumers. Instantly. Overnight. Everyday.

Comparing and choosing gadgets or deciding on a movie is just a function of popular vote of consumers who float positive or negative feedback in the public domain. From consumers following brands, now it’s the brands that are following consumers who have become the new ‘sought after celebrities’. Their views, opinions and experiences are the new currency of endorsement.

Feverishly contributing to the real-time content avalanche that’s building up as they are, the influence of every one of the millions of these ‘celebrities’ matters now. A cultural shift is taking place — the potential influencer is anyone and everyone. We are seeing ready-to-buy consumers sharing into a live stream of experiences from fellow consumers.

A fallout could be that average quality mass communication will be reduced to create awareness. A British 8-13-year-old is already exposed to 30,000 commercials annually. Broadcast will start giving way to brands making conversations, necessitating a much deeper understanding of their consumers and categories. Brands will need to drive positive feedback out in the virtual world like never before.

Earlier, for a sum of money spent, awareness was guaranteed. In the conversation medium, you have to be interesting and innovative. Money will be irrelevant. Because of the free reach of the internet, brands with smaller budget but more engaging conversations could neutralise the goliath brands with large marketing budgets.

The writer is Head – Private Brands, Future Group