Akhila Shankar on the ‘Science’ of building Social Media First Brands

social media first brands

Sharing lessons from brands that perform well on social media and why they work, JioSaavn’s Akhila Shankar talks about the science and feelings that go behind creating such brand moments.

Akhila Shankar, Director of Brand & Communications at JioSaavn, starts by quoting Maya Angelou’s popular piece of writing, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

She linked the above quote to the sentiments attached with every brand and something each one of them lives by. “Good marketing will make you consider while great marketing makes you feel,” exclaimed Shankar.

Lessons From the Best & Why They Work

Shankar believes that there is an amount of science to what we create and how, and also how the consumers perceive it. The difference between social media campaigns replicating success lies in understanding ‘why’ something worked. “Why the reason a brand is loved v/s why is a brand is consumed,” she added.

Further exemplifying her thoughts, Shankar noted how Zomato has built a brand on social media around relatable humour which includes humorous heavy text and one-liners.

Why People Resonate with these Posts?

The answer is Endorphins – a chemical essentially released when a sense of stress goes away from the body.

“So an act of laughing can release endorphins. Imagine a brand who makes you smile – if marketers make their business to make people laugh, there lies the catch,” said Shankar.

How do you activate endorphins? She advised to build content around memes, cute gifs and visual cues. “Use gifs which are different, speak a lot and more about your brand and make the consumer to laugh with you.”

Why are Some Campaigns Memorable?

Dopamine – a chemical that mediates pleasure in the brain and happiness.

For example when Amazon Prime removed ‘Me’ from their logo and introduced the #WhereisMe campaign which led to many brands picking on the trend.

Dopamine comes not by directly giving a thought about being happy but by suspense. “Some of these campaigns have one thing in common – building suspense around the development and infusing a sense of relief, that’s when dopamine is being released in your system,” informs Shankar.

To activate dopamine, brands need to create exclusive experiences for their consumers which is a great way to tap into the neurochemical.

Also Read: #SAMMIE2020: Twitter India’s Rishabh Sharma on Moments, Memes & Marketing

For instance, JioSaavn hosted the ‘LAUV Superfan Meet’ and generated a loyal set of fan posts on social media which ultimately lead to more labels enquiring about the association and wished to engage with the platform.

Secondly, they can also organise exclusive sneak peeks and build a community of close friends who  could see a product before everyone could and add up to the curiosity.

How to Use Stress/Urgency to your Advantage?

Shankar thinks that success is not determined by only the reach of the campaign or the product- it truly lies in what the person does after they have received a message.

“Cortisol is elevated in response to physical or psychological stress. When a  message is important and if marketers want consumers to take notice,  then this is what you probably want to tap into,” she stated.

How to activate Cortisol – by using statistics in your campaign, tight shots, visuals, and a crisp copy. Here she mentioned the Loreal print ad where they addressed the 80& of the management team which included men and the Netflix Narcos copy which just mentioned ‘The hunt for Pablo is on’ with a glaring visual.

Think with Empathy

“We have been thinking about it more since last year. Empathy is a big part of the negotiation and any form of good marketing is built on negotiation. Hence understand your consumers and offer them consideration to consider YOU,” Shankar asserted.

Oxytocin involves human bonding and something humans can empathise with.

How to activate oxytocin? According to Shankar, the campaigns should feature more real people sharing real stories and incidents.

“Look at how Dove has built itself as a brand by supporting real stories for years now. We at JioSaavn for our subscription business advertisement  had roped in -real women to tell us what they hate about ads. Mimic Real life. Advertising is all about otherworldly things – magical days are over. It’s real-life that matters now,” she emphasized.  

For a successful social media first brands strategy, Shankar strongly suggests to apply the ‘2 Question Rule’-

1. What do you want them (consumers) to do?

2.What do you want them to feel when they do it?


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