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Anjali Rawat

The pandemic threw a curve ball to the world at large, so it's natural that marketing and memes would be the first to ride the wave. As such, the biggest event in human history that no one saw coming since Y2K has given every industry the most awkward pause possible to unscramble not just their own thoughts but consumer desire too.

Given the circumstances, at a time when both the buyers and boardroom are making a beeline for digital, making a mark in the cluttered market is a mammoth task for the modern marketer. Enter, a post-advertising world where digital has shrunk not just the kids, but also the window for generating brand buzz. Leaving managers and markets on the prowl for innovative ideas to keep the ball rolling.  

In this so-called embarrassment of riches when it comes to market data, creating top of the mind recall has been a Sisyphean task to say the least. Most of us of have been the willing victims of increasingly niche advertising interests and push, if it only made our lives easier. All in good stead, but what about brands? What would make their lives easier? The answer is the digital jungle. A great, equalising playground where brands today revel in the cross-over universe and become a hive mind of collective banter, inside jokes, witticisms and humour. These brands like their target consumers are part of not just their TG's lives but part of a larger universe where they themselves indulge in friendly roasts, slide into DMs and talk to each other in emojis that have a certain cultural weight.

Additionally, this crossover universe (much like rivals DC and MCU) also borrows from popular culture to the extent that these strategic shenanigans now have their own name - topical marketing. Basically, a hyper-focus on “its moments” piggybacking mentions, hashtags and tweets. So be it IPL, the (disappointing) Game of Thrones Finale, The Olympics or a new BTS song, the organic momentum and almost stampede like trajectory of moment marketing has brands under its spell for all the right reasons.

It’s all thanks to how much virality ultimately affects the fate of a brand in an age when the market is expanding globally while attention spans are becoming shorter and cluttered. That's why and how moment marketing is the chosen modus operandi that mostly delivers on its promise of eyeballs and interaction. It's also great for creating news cycles and space for brands to become part of the larger conversation both online and offline. 

Defined by its wild-wild-west vibes and out-of-the-box MO, moment marketing isn't fool proof of-course. But the thing that makes it move beyond buzzwords is successful social listening (in which brands intercept all online and offline buzz associated with a moment). The ultimate goal is to create a campaign that maybe invoked for its posterity and ingenuity someday but primarily satisfies the un-quenchable consumer thirst for trending issues, topics, interests and curiosities that collectively invade the consciousness of buying behaviour. Part-intuitive, part-strategic, this morphing matrix of big data, social soliloquy, genre hopping, and digital upbringing is made of unique and relatable takes. It takes pop culture and like Neo (from the Matrix) actualises it into the lives of the brands and the people that associate with them. 

That said, even though these very hijinks make moment marketing campaigns exciting, like any science, MM too comes with its own margin for error. The final boss so to speak is always the huge possibility of a campaign going south if the right strategy isn’t in place. It’s because the consumer class of today is not just clever but also highly informed in addition to being quite opinionated. Thanks to social media consumer culture which now enjoys unprecedented credibility and the majority vote to destroy brand reputation at the slightest sign of disingenuity. Simply put - if a brand isn’t being real with their audience, they will pay the price of being off-putting. Because when it comes to authenticity - a brand’s backbone, buyers do not play around. They want brands to see them, hear them and know them enough, to know better. 

It’s no surprise then, that a number of unprepared brands landed themselves on the wrong side of the tracks in a national debacle that generated second-hand embarrassment for the industry as a whole. When ace shuttler PV Sindhu stood up to the unsolicited “brand wagoning” attempt to exploit her fame, the ensuing (pun unintended) lawsuit ended up becoming the much-needed wake-up call to many a marketer. Additionally, the public outcry also resulted in a swift release of an actionable set of regulations mandated by the ASCI. These newly altered regulations focused on the correct use of celebrity collaterals and big events from the proper channels - making it a welcome move. 

Setting an example for all others, this conversation was the lead up to separating the ethics from the enthusiasm of moment marketing. To ensure that their well-intentioned piggybacking does not misfire, brands have since, wizened up with recon strategies to avoid force-fitted relatability. Ultimately in a space where every click counts, brands cannot take such massive risks and have gaping holes for consumers to see through a hastily put together campaign. It’s dangerous because today’s consumer will share not only a piece of their mind but also part with a piece of their heart which will be hard to undo. 

Moment marketing, much like a blood sport is about evaluating crucial in-ways for unique and fascinating moves that provide entertainment value and brand glory. This is a space where technique, craft, rep and the structure of brand-led thinking have to be perfected first to then be undone. Smart brands and smarter marketers will know how to navigate the Catch 22 situation that moment marketing presents while enjoying the high rewards of large consumer reach at relatively low costs in the service of high brand recall and deeper consumer connect. This is where brand alchemy becomes sexy when the right mindsets and objectives meet the right message.