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It was in 2007 when Justin Kan started broadcasting his life via a webcam attached to his forehead. The mere thought of doing so gained a lot of popularity that he formulated it in a proper channel Justin.TV (Now Twitch.TV) back then. It gave birth to the revolutionary live streaming in the broadcast industry. It was for the first time in the world that someone live-streamed his life using a web camera and internet. Although the quality of the content was not like the recorded ones, it was authentic and real. Seeing the popularity of live streaming, social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn jumped on the bandwagon and are now helping brands create engagement with the relevant audience.

The concept of streaming live content is not new but it has gained massive popularity, especially in these times when people are in lockdown, maintaining social distancing and public gatherings are not allowed.

Gurpreet Singh

Gurpreet Singh, Head Marketing, United Breweries, said, "It has become imperative for brands to engage with their consumers and regularly keep them engaged. The current market situation is such that live content and social media engagement are the main means to engage with the consumer. So this has had a recent surge online as all on-ground activations have come to a halt. Live content inevitably leads to creating brand recognition and consumer retention."

Recently, the brand took its offline experiential property Sunburn online, repurposing it for online consumption with the name Sunburn@Home with Kingfisher and Bollyboom@Home with Kingfisher Storm.

At a time when music enthusiasts are craving live concerts, Zoom TV and Oaksmith Gold Glasses introduced #WeekendLive, #StayHome concerts that bring renowned music artists to the safety of the viewer’s home. So far, nine #WeekendLive concerts have garnered a viewership of over 20 million on Zoom TV and Facebook Live, featuring a diverse range of artists and genres sharing riveting performances.

Another reason for live streaming to gain popularity in these unprecedented times is that production work has been halted and while people are at home, they are looking for more and more online content. In such a scenario, virtual live content seems to be a quick solution to fulfil consumers' content appetite.

Suveer Bajaj

"Live content streaming, by default, has filled in that gap. It's not production heavy, all one needs is an internet connection and a good phone camera, making it easy for homebound content creators/collaborators to connect with their scores followers across social media platforms frequently," said Suveer Bajaj, Co-Founder, Zoo Media and Foxymoron.

Juhi Mehta

Seeing the consumers’ interest in live content, the brands have shifted a chunk of their marketing budget to live content formats with influencers, publishers and content creators. Juhi Mehta, President, Head of Brand Sales, Qyuki Digital Media and Super KOL Commerce, said, "With viewer growth and increased engagement rate through these interactive pieces of content, brands are leveraging the trend to speak directly to the end-user through supporting the content makers."

Digital agency Kinnect said another reason for the growth in live streaming by brands is increasing uncertainty and changes in customer habits that have led brands to halt their marketing initiatives and postpone investments in traditional mediums.

The Kinnect spokesperson said, "Live streaming is an accelerated trend that was already developing, and with brands leveraging it to engage with consumers, there is a sudden surge in live content. As they say, the show must go on."

Benefits of creating Live content over recorded content

 While recorded content has its advantage of proper strategising, good content quality with appropriate production and technology support, live content, on the other hand, gives a very raw appeal. It is very realistic, immersive, authentic and makes consumers feel being a part of it. They feel closer to the person who is doing live streaming as it's real-time.

An Asian Paints spokesperson said, "The lockdown has resulted in lifestyle and behavioural changes. This means that the recorded content that was created, keeping in mind the behavioural pattern of the consumers before the lockdown, may have become less resonant to the consumers' changing lifestyles."

In the first week of April 2020, Asian Paints along with its digital agency Kinnect, conceptualised and executed the live format-based campaign #LiveFromHome. It collaborated with singers to perform live from their homes. To engage with the audience through Instagram stories, suggestions were taken for songs they would love to sing.

The spokesperson further said, "Live interactions provide an opportunity to listen to consumers and answer them in real-time, leading to more authentic and relatable interaction with audiences. Now is the perfect time to leverage live content as live streaming can happen from anywhere, at any time, with no requirement for studio space or recording equipment. This provides more possibilities for flexible footage that gives a unique perspective on the brand."

In April, Amul started doing live streaming cookery sessions with renowned chefs across the globe on its social media channels. To the brand's surprise, each live video fetched over 20,000-25,000 views. Since then, the brand has done more than 300 recipe videos and 8.5 lakh hours of content altogether. It does close to 11 live cookery sessions every day.

Jayen Mehta

Jayen Mehta, Senior General Manager, Planning and Marketing, GCMMF(Amul), said, "Live streaming is an immersive experience and never done before in food at this scale. Most of the cooking shows are curated, and one doesn't get to see them making common mistakes. In the live format, the whole process of cooking is very realistic. People like food being made in front of their eyes. It's like watching live news and cricket. The people who have been in 3-4 weeks of lockdown may have already seen several cookery videos. The only innovation could be doing it live by engaging with the chefs."

Aradhika Mehta

According to Aradhika Mehta, General Manager, Brand Marketing,, Live content is becoming a real game-changer for marketing as it grips millions at once irrespective of the limitations of distance and time zones. Unlike static posts, communication on live session becomes a two-way street as the audience gets to partake in the conversation and make their voices heard."

Pawan Sarda

Pawan Sarda, Group Head, Digital, Future Group, added, "The live sessions are buzzing everywhere, whether it is Facebook, Instagram. I haven't seen so many live sessions happen ever. In typical advertising, you can say something you want to but won't hear anything from your customers. The interaction will only happen if you create it. The content has to lead to interaction. The content has to be interactive."

Karan Shroff

Karan Shroff, Vice-President, Marketing, Unacademy, believes that Live content allows brands to establish a personal connection with the consumers. It also helps generate higher user engagement when compared to recorded content.

Amid the ongoing pandemic, Unacademy started offering over 20,000 free Live Classes every month across exam categories. In March, the brand witnessed a watch time of more than one billion minutes, along with a significant increase in daily active users to around 500,000 per day. The number of new subscribers also seen a 110% increase since the beginning of March, taking the total number to over 1.5 million learners.

Singh of UB Group thinks that live content format is a win-win situation for both the consumer and the brand. It gives a sense of pride among the consumers to have a say in the conversation, and for brands, it helps increase the social media following base.

"Consumers like having a say in everything in what is happening around them. The consumers become stakeholders in being able to decide the kind of content their favourite brands will put out for them. Live content also gives the brand room to grow and expand to incorporate a wider audience and earn more fans through quirky and engaging content," commented Singh.

How to attract the audience at scale to be a part of Live content

Brands need to continue the engagement with their audience for brand building and top-of-the-mind recall. One most prominent challenge with live content is maximising exposure from the audience. A lot of times, it is seen that there are only 20-30 people live to watch some branded content. Even if creating Live content is cost-effective than recorded content, it requires no less time and effort to strategise ideas, collaborate with creators and influencers, market the concept and along with justifying the spends on creating the campaign. Therefore, it's imperative to get the art and science of creating live content right.

Unacademy's Shroff said, "Partnering with influencers, renowned personalities and celebrities as a part of the Live session is a great way to attract viewers as they love seeing their favourite celebrities in candid conversations. Words of wisdom or encouragement coming straight from the ones whom they admire the most also helps in keeping people positive and motivated. The Live sessions can also be promoted via advertisement across relevant platforms to garner an increased reach or awareness."

Foxymoron's Bajaj added, "I would recommend strategically choosing the guests for your 'Live' so that you're not just tapping into your followers but leveraging your guest's followers too. Influencers, celebrities, therefore, do become a popular choice to aid in maximising audience exposure.”

Mehta of Qyuki commented, "The truth is the audience is there for the content creator, and the content creator knows what's best for their audience. By allowing the content creator to do what they know best, brands can piggyback on their credibility and popularity, and leverage the content to the maximum."

Lenskart's Mehta makes a strong point here that it's essential to keep the timings and the sessions relevant to the current scenario. "It is important to plan such sessions on a clear consumer insight. That will ensure the success of a session at an overall level. Besides that, hosting the live session at a favourable time will also help accrue better reach. The brand can collect ideas/suggestions from the audience to decide when to live-stream. Usually, weekends witness greater traction on social media, and the brand must be mindful of the same before announcing a session."

Asian Paint's spokesperson said that creating an interesting mean to attract the audience's attention is to create a sense of 'FOMO', which is 'Fear of missing out'. "It's a known fact that real-time interactions are a fun way to engage during a live stream. Hence, if the viewers miss the chance to watch the stream live, the brand misses a chance to interact with its audience on a one-on-one basis. Hence, creating a sense of fear of missing out (FOMO) with your audience makes them feel they cannot afford to miss your content."

"Additionally, a great way to boost viewership is to promise one-time-only promotions while you're building hype for your stream. For example, offering limited-time-only promo codes and offers are great ways to boost urgency," the Asian Paints spokesperson added.

Future Group's Sarda said that the fear of not having enough audience always remains, but the brand anyway will have to create content eventually to engage with the audience, so, why not shoot in a live format, which can subsequently be edited into formats to be consumed later as well. Like this, the brand gets to engage with the audience twice.

Bajaj of Foxymoron and Zoo Media suggested undertaking the 'Hub content' format. He explained, "When you consistently host a Live on a particular day at a particular time, it helps create recall among followers, and they are more likely to take note of your content and tune in. Most importantly, your content needs to be engaging. If your content follows a consistent segment pattern, audiences will resonate with it. To break through the very cluttered 'Live' content space, these segments must give the audience you're targeting, something to take back with them."