“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” — Charles Darwin.
Now, while this irrefutable thought holds true for all organisms, marketers cannot deny its relevance in today’s time. As more and more Asians are adopting digital to connect with the world beyond their four walls, never before has it made more sense for brands to jump on to the digital bandwagon.
As far as the FMCG industry in the region is concerned, the biggies such as Knorr, Tide and Nescafe are in the advanced stage of digital marketing and have been reaping the benefits for a long time. However, to a very large extent, the space still remains unexplored by the local brands.
Having made a case for why local FMCG brands in Asia should invest in digital in my previous blog today I’m going to share with you the more interesting part — strategies that can help these local labels build a strong online presence and drive their business goals.
To begin with, I strongly believe that half the battle is won by these local brands as Asians have been reported to favour home grown brands over their foreign counterparts (references in my last blog). This very factor provides an excellent ground for the local brands as they can now concentrate on being present and adding value to buyers at different micro moments throughout their journey.
On the presumption that say a local FMCG brand in Asia has not yet explored the digital realm, take a minute to think about the different ways through which buyers can discover the brand...
Done? Now let’s see how many of your points match those on my list of stimuli —
- Ads on traditional media
- Products displayed at the retail stores
- Product placements in movies, series
- Influencers of all levels (from celebrities to friends and family members to salesman) recommending the brand
For any of the above stimulus, if the product is intriguing and has grabbed the attention of the buyers then it will most likely be followed by the “zero moment of truth” where buyers will research about your brand.
The zero moment of truth is not a new consumer behaviour — they have been doing so from hundreds of years! However, what has now changed is the source from which they are gathering information — now it is the web which is easily accessible with a few taps and clicks on their mobile device.
Having worked with a number of clients from Asia, I have noticed that the number one channel where the majority of the buyers begin their journey is on the search engines (yes, I’m referring to the Google search). Therefore, local brands need to think through what they want to show their buyers when they search on Google about the brand or the product that it are selling. Following are some recommendations and strategies —
1: Create and maintain a basic website with product, brand and company details.
A website helps to add credibility and trust in the minds of the buyers when it shows up on the Google search results. It can also go a long way in helping you run campaigns. Brands should ensure that their website is well optimised so that it ranks on the search results page for both “branded” and “non-branded” keywords.
Now while it’s comparatively easier to rank for branded keywords (since they are unique and solely owned by the brand in the industry), it takes much time, effort and optimisation to rank for the non-branded keywords (that pertains to the industry, category, product, user behaviour) as they are usually owned by the bigger brands. So does that mean that they’ll miss out the opportunity to rank when someone makes a search with non-branded keywords such as say “filipino soya sauce”?
Well, not really! So here’s my second recommendation.
While the local brands are in the process of optimising their website for non-branded keywords, here's what they can explore doing —
2: Invest in a paid media strategy so that their website ranks for those generic keywords also.
The reason why it is important to optimise and rank for non-branded keywords arises from the following situations —
It is not necessary that the prospective buyers will remember the name of the brand after they see or hear about it for the first time. However, there might be keywords or key instances in the stimulus that might stick in their mind like “herbal face wash for dry skin” from a face wash video ad.
Also, there could be a case where the buyer initiates a search that is independent of any external stimuli — especially driven by the need felt in a micro moment. In this situation the buyer is researching about a problem for which he/ she is looking for a solution and therefore the search query will not carry any brand terms, an example of the same being “best chinese new year recipes”.
Here’s an example of how Vinamilk, the largest milk producer in Vietnam, has been doing it right. Vinamilk’s website gets organic search traffic largely from branded keywords. To ensure that they show up for generic searches as well, they have bought non-branded keywords that translate in english to “signs of pregnancy”, “menu for pregnant women”, “teaching two year olds”.
Source: Similarweb (March 2018)
With product links from the e-commerce sites such as amazon.com, lazada.com, etc. occupying the top places on the search results page, it might get tricky to rank on the search results page . Since the aim of the brand is to appear on top of the search results, here’s my next recommendation —
3: Optimise the brand’s online store as per the rules and standards of the e-commerce website regularly
Here’s an excellent case of a local skin care product brand from India, Biotique. Despite having a website, whenever a buyer searches for products sold by the brand (even though via branded keywords), the Amazon links of the products appear on the top of the search results. This is most likely a result of the online store on Amazon being more regularly optimised than its website.
To help people discover the brand, product and its utilities the local brands should have strategies to help them in their micro moments.
4: Start a blog or vlog (for example, on Youtube) and create useful content for the buyers.
Brands will need to step into the shoes of the buyers and think of all probable moments that they might be going through during the day, and the problems associated with them that their product can help to solve. The aim here should not be to hard sell the product. It should be to establish the brand as a subject matter expert to whom the buyers should keep coming back.
There’s so much to learn from the bigger brands in the Philippines market such as Maggi and Del Monte who are not only creating useful content, that is aligned with their product offerings and the micro moments of their buyers, but also showing up in the search results page, either through organic or paid strategies.
With “adobo” being one of the most searched recipes in the country, Maggi and Del Monte have created recipes on it, without forgoing the opportunity to subtly promote their products that can be used to prepare the dish.
For a lot of local FMCG brands, getting a macro influencer (of the level of a celebrity) as a brand ambassador on board might put a huge strain on their resources. The solution?
5: Tie up with micro influencers such as every day bloggers and Youtubers to create sponsored content.
While the reach of micro influencers might be lesser than that of a celebrity, they can drive higher engagement and conversions for the brand because they are more relatable and highly connected with their subscriber base. Also the blogs, the websites or the Youtube channels of the micro influencers are highly optimised which ensure that they (and therefore the brand) show up whenever people search during their micro moments.
One key point to note here is that the product endorsed should be featured as a recommendation from the influencer or shown to be regularly used by him/her in his daily life, and not particularly as a sponsored product.
The Beauty Madness is a beauty blog from India that gets 450k+ monthly visitors. The owner of the blog, Youtuber Sneha S’s channel has 820k+ subscribers. The blogger-cum-vlogger ties up with brands for promotions on her channels.
Talking about the different moments of the buyer’s journey, the “second moment of truth” happens when buyers share feedback, reviews and ratings after using the product. Earlier the word of mouth used to get spread verbally, but now with the advent of social media it has become much easier for buyers to connect with each other, as well as the brand. Therefore, this point brings me to the next two recommendations —
6: Choose social media channels that are highly visited by the target audience groups. Create and manage branded communities to reach out, engage with them and drive ROI.
Consumers follow a brand on social media not to receive just sales-y promotions and offers. They follow it to seek an experience altogether.
Brands should start the social media channels by creating a persona that’s aligned with its values and beliefs and the nature of the platform (Facebook, Instagram or Twitter — different platforms have different utilities). They should listen to what the buyers are talking about, and engage (not just respond) with them like a human being (i.e. make the followers feel that they are talking to a human being and not just a brand).
The content can include quirky facts about the brand, showcasing them how they can use it in there day to day life, giving them a glimpse of behind the scenes (example - scenes from the factory where the washing powder is manufactured), or by just running campaigns on Christmas offering exciting prizes or sharing a review from one of the loyal customers. The aim should be to be informative, entertaining, helpful and timely, and most importantly making them feel valued.
Social media channels are also great platforms for cross promoting content such as an influencer marketing campaign (as discussed in one of the above points) or identifying loyal fans who can be nurtured further to become brand advocates.
Indomie, (an Indonesian homegrown noodles brand, which has now become a multinational company) has an excellent social media presence with over a 4 million+ following. Besides creating fun content pieces they actively engage with the their followers on the posts. The page has been rated as 4.5/5.
Talking about social media, marketers often forget about the readily created communities and forums such as Quora, Reddit and Yahoo Answers where people actively post questions on different topics and discuss them. Relevant links from these communities often come up in the search results when buyers google a question.
7: Include online forums and communities while creating your online marketing mix.
There’s immense room for brands to build brand awareness, share relevant information, clarify doubts, establish thought leadership, manage brand reputation, engage with the people, and garner consumer insights.
For Indomie, the brand discussed above, there are so many questions asked about the product on Quora — from how it can be prepared to more critical ones like if it is good for health or not. Such opportunities of engaging with the customers, clarifying their doubts and building brand reputation should not be lost by a brand.
8: Run digital ad campaigns to let the target audience discover the brand.
Visually appealing display ads (graphics/ images and videos) on the Google network and the social media network can help local brands to target the right set of audiences, build awareness levels, engage with them, remarket to the ones who have shown interest in the past, and drive your business goals.
Pyuan, a Japanese hair care brand, ran campaigns on Facebook and Instagram to improve the level of brand awareness and purchase intent among its target audience groups. The result was a 10-point lift in brand awareness and purchase intent by 3-point.
So here’s a detailed layout of the channels and the strategies that local FMCG brands in Asia can start exploring in the digital space. Note that the choice of the channels will highly depend on the business objectives, resources, timeline. As brands venture into each of the channels, they’ll see the innumerable opportunities that can be explored to improve their level of sophistication while driving ROI.
If you have any thoughts or comments, feel free to share them below. I’ll be more than happy to answer them!
P.S. Do keep an eye on this space for my next blog which will be on the D2C model for FMCG businesses in Asia.