Rise of drop-in audio apps: What's in it for brands? Agency heads explore

Representatives of some of the biggest agencies in India weigh in to help explore possibilities drop-in audio apps hold in store for brands.

Jagruti Verma
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Representatives of Havas Media, DDB Mudra Group, Gozoop and Dentsu Webchutney weigh in to help explore possibilities drop-in audio apps hold in store for brands.

In the last year, a lot has changed for content production. Battling fatigue, low internet connections, and remote work, brands, agencies, and creators have propelled on, producing content on a regular basis. Due to these reasons, in addition to general trends, live audio consumption has increased significantly, giving rise to several live drop-in audio apps. It's a step up to live video content, which had emerged as a major touchpoint last year when the lockdown first began. Irrespective of what may lie ahead in the future, one can easily imagine brands as well as consumers to wonder how they can benefit from participating in live audio conversations on these apps.

It is important for brands to remember that drop-in audio apps are not just another touchpoint in their marketing communication. They will have to spend on altering and/or moulding their piece of communication to fit the formats that work on these platforms. Audio-focussed apps come with an inherent capability of breaking language barriers — something brands can look into leveraging to the hilt. It can help them cut across demographics as well as make their communication inclusive.

Rohan Chincholi

The loneliness of the pandemic has helped add to the popularity of drop-in audio apps — people can participate in conversations they care about, fill certain voids they are experiencing in their current lives. "These platforms are like podcasts that one can participate in. A user can enter, follow any affinity groups, listen quietly or jump into a conversation. These platforms are trying to replicate a good group discussion — virtually!" Rohan Chincholi, Head – Digital Services, India, Havas Media tells us.

Further, he talks about the importance of such apps to leverage the power of word of mouth. "The platform can facilitate a discussion on an upcoming new product launch, category conversation, get product feedback on a new launch by opting in closed rooms, testing audio pieces for a new ad campaign, interviews, and anything contextually relevant for the brand."

How can brands make the most of it?

An ideal way to get going on such platforms is to partner with an influencer & a brand moderator to come together in a meaningful conversation. The conversation at select intervals is open for participants to join in and share their views. This to some extent helps to control the direction of the narrative. Planning around relevant topics is crucial. Eventually, there will be challenges as these solutions go mainstream and may also result in misinformation passed on through groups.

What's in it for brands?

BFSI can run educational series on how to value companies in the sector; E-Commerce-led audio accessory brands could talk about how a new range of Total Noise Cancellation (TNC) can improve productivity and a consumer durable brand can talk about innovation in product line & its impact on the environment.

What's cooking at Havas Media?

At Havas, we follow the Meaningful Brands content framework which breaks online content across 6 buckets – Entertain, Educate, Help, Reward, Inspire & Inform. For every category, we draw up a grid between what type of content the industry associates with and what type of content the user expects brands to deliver. This helps in mapping category to conversation relevance.

Social networks are too often used as an inventory. We try embracing the richness of its forms and capabilities to help brands to be different and competitive. Our team goes through regular catch up on trends, platforms & changes in the digital marketing ecosystem.

We review every platform based on - Connection (who is the platform reaching out to), Context (the essence of the platform) & Content (the format uniqueness). For a platform like ClubHouse: Connection (millennials), Context (engaged conversation via audio) & Content (quality & freshness). As they say – it filled the gap that radio once did.

Additionally, our team has in-depth training in understanding Meaningful Brands & the associated 6 content pillars, which helps us map the most crucial content pillars for the category and plan implementation around the same.

Clarity & Purpose

Vishal Mehra

What is the role that clients and agencies see audio platforms playing for the brand? The clarity of thought is super important, says Vishal Mehra, Digital Head – North, DDB Mudra Group. He lists key questions: "Is it connecting with customers and discussing with them a certain topic? Is it building brand affinity and making customers feel like they are a part of a community? Is it simply product placements, which are more personalised and customised in nature? Or is it evangelising the customers about the product, eliciting feedback?"

He further dwells on the roots of the popularity of these apps, stating, "In the pandemic era, due to longer lockdowns across our country, brands have tried to find new ways to reach out to consumers. We have also seen Indian apps like Leher and Bakstage get on the social audio bandwagon, along with their more popular global rivals."

How can brands make the most of it?

Indian brands would want to be seen in trend and in sync with their consumer behaviour, following them to these new platforms to gain social currency — and for global brands, it would be more about how they want to be seen cultivating personal relationships with Gen Z and millennial consumers, kind of giving them a behind-the-scenes look at their global brand.

What's in it for brands?

Brands that utilise influencers, prefer word of mouth marketing, as well as have the disadvantage of being in media-dark categories can utilise audio apps well. I see alcoholic beverages, fashion and beauty brands and upcoming brands specifically adopting a D2C route — gaining traction and attention. One of the brands in our portfolio is also planning to experiment with it for internal communication.

What's cooking at DDB Mudra Group?

It is true that these social audio platforms have brought increased interest in the audio space, but as far as upskilling and knowledge for our people is concerned, that began in late 2019 when podcasting started gaining serious interest in the country and thus we started exploring it for our brands. Besides that, one of our clients, Spotify, is betting big on podcasts and it has been a tremendous period of learning and exciting work around the space.

Value & Passion Points

Amyn Ghadiali

The question remains as to why should a person spend and time and energy participating in conversations that have been started by a brand. It is something brands need to look into. What are they really offering their followers and potential community? "For a person to be patient, listen to the conversation, and not disconnect, the content either needs to appear or add insane value. Otherwise, why would anyone follow you? The question all of us have in our minds is — What's in it for me?" Amyn Ghadiali, VP - Business & Strategy at Gozoop tells us.

The next step for brands would be to figure out which aspects do they want to cash in when it comes to drop-in audio apps. They can assess their strengths and look for content possibilities where they can spin engaging conversations around their products and the categories they wish to build. Brands will have to stay under the umbrella of relevance and building compelling narratives that people would want to be a part of.

How can brands make the most of it?

I think the users on these platforms are globally exposed in general and have a more holistic worldview, otherwise, they wouldn't be able to comprehend most of the complex conversations. As far as India is concerned, effective storytelling interspersed with an emotion-led narrative would I feel appeal a lot more to the audiences.

What's in it for brands?

Brands that have strong passion points or those which have a lot of 'help' content to provide can really leverage the platform well. Effective storytelling interspersed with an emotion-led narrative would appeal to the audience.

What's cooking at Gozoop?

Currently, we have been gauging the effectiveness and retention of these platforms before recommending them as a platform to leverage for our partners. Our teammates however are very active, and understanding the intricacies of it. As far as the role of work from home is concerned, I believe that itself could be a topic to explore on Clubhouse.

The Feedback Loop

Benedict Gershom

Benedict Gershom, Copy Supervisor, Dentsu Webchutney feels an important way for brands to build their presence on such platforms is discourse and dissemination of information in a manner that the user understands. "Another important way is to use it as an immediate feedback loop – you have a new product out there or a service and you want to know how people are using it – get instant feedback, go back to your teams, reiterate, rerelease it. The creation of this tight feedback loop helps build better brands without losing any time," he adds.

Reflecting on the difference in the ways brands in India and the ones globally could potentially use these platforms to communicate with their consumers, he says, "Brands have also used social audio to push culture forward. Sometimes moving culture can come at a cost where you need to be vocal about more controversial topics like BLM. A few global brands like Kool-Aid, Ben & Jerry's have done that beautifully and have used these platforms to talk about such important topics. In India, it’s different – while social audio has democratized and given us an individual voice, brands need to be wary about political backlash, getting cancelled etc."

How can brands make the most of it?

The best way is to join one of these rooms or spaces – either lurk around, be a fly in the room or join a conversation. Observe the people in the room, their sentiments, responses. For a marketeer, it’s no longer a room – you’re looking at a potential customer or a thriving community. It’s imperative that we pay attention to these conversations. Once you’ve learnt about the platform, observed its audience, make a move and experiment. A lot of brands out there second guess this part and want it to be perfect. My suggestion? Be fearless and pilot it – but in a seamless way. Eg: Paytm did a Twitter Spaces session around Shares, Trading, Equity, Investing etc. Bang on!

What's in it for brands?

If your brand has a community of people rooting for you, over-index on these platforms. Use them to further your brand – make them brand advocates. Another example are these crypto brands like WaxirX and CoinDCX – they have a huge community following them. A lot of financial brands have also followed suit.

What's cooking at Dentsu Webchutney?

After a few months of patiently waiting, I finally got my Clubhouse invite, I sent a few to my teammates and we quickly jumped into a room to see what the hype was. We explored the platform, played with the features. One major impediment: both these platforms were available on certain mobile platforms (iOS or Android) so that was a hindrance but as of now it’s open for everyone. I do personally believe that WFH did play a small role in getting people to adopt this new platform. It was also packaged as an audio medium that could be used when you were walking, working out – you could drop in, drop out – there was no active participation required which made it a hit.

If you are wondering how to get started, here's a guide on How to leverage Live Audio for marketing.

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