Facebook’s director-marketing Avinash Pant holds forth in an exclusive chat with The Drum on the social networking brand’s consumer marketing strategy in India, its evolution, and the way forward for the Facebook family of apps.
There are over 330m users of Facebook in India, making it the social network's largest audience in the world by country, according to Statista. Alongside this, both Instagram and Whatsapp are also widely used, creating an interesting opportunity for consumer marketing within the Facebook family of services. To understand how this is being executed, The Drum spoke to Facebook's director of marketing, India, Avinash Pant.
From 15-second films to over 7-minute-long brand films, how do you navigate the diverse journey of creating stories for the Facebook family that also includes, Instagram and WhatsApp?
Each of the platforms plays a different role in our lives and the family of apps is deeply enmeshed in the cultural fabric of the country - from messaging for Whatsapp to self-expression on Instagram to engage with communities at large on Facebook.
While the journey of creating stories for our apps has been diverse (from building and reinforcing our 15-second narrative for Instagram Reels, to the recent Eid film), the larger objective has been to showcase the value each of the apps brings to the lives of the user base. The fundamental proposition continues to be able to tell stories that bring alive the value of each of our apps for consumers, and compelling stories have no limit on durations.
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What has been Facebook’s consumer marketing strategy in India and how has it evolved in the last 12-18 months?
India is a key market for Facebook and our broader consumer marketing strategy is focused on building trust with people who use our products and services and building value around each of our apps.
We began our consumer marketing journey in India last year with the ‘more together’ campaign, which focused on showcasing how people can harness the power of their communities and connections. Shortly after the first phase of the campaign went live, the pandemic struck. Increasingly people turned to the platform to connect, support, and help one another, which helped in making the campaign all the more relevant. Over the last year, we have been drawing inspiration for our campaigns from the way people have used Facebook during these times.
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How has the Facebook family of brands helped in solving the problems being faced in the post-pandemic world?
People have turned to the family of apps to stay connected with friends, family, and communities and to support one another. They have used Facebook groups extensively for coordinated relief efforts, hosting FB lives, and much more. It started with connecting over 2 billion people globally to authoritative Covid-19 information through our Information Centre. The Covid-19 vaccine finder tool was introduced to help users navigate where they can find vaccines and book an appointment in their nearest possible neighborhood.
In addition, official chatbots were expanded on WhatsApp, to help people get registered for a vaccination with respective health authorities. The Covid-19 announcement tool in India was also extended, enabling health departments of 33 Indian states and union territories to share essential COVID-19 related updates with their respective communities.
What has been the overarching brief for the consumer marketing theme and the ‘more together’ campaigns?
The campaigns have been focused on spotlighting stories inspired by numerous real-life experiences of people harnessing the power of their connections and communities. Over the last year, we have seen this reflected in the innumerable ways people have come together on our platforms to help and support one another.
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An important aspect of the work has been to keep it truly relevant from a context of the larger reality and what people are dealing with. Therefore, our campaign during the height of Covid 19 lockdown last year spoke of the kind of help and outreach being seen on the platform.
The IPL moment was a significant one in terms of some sign of normalcy in an otherwise difficult period and therefore the mood of the campaign was more celebratory with people coming together while maintaining social distancing.
Diwali, while signifies prosperity, was a poignant moment as many people were facing grim realities and out of that thinking was born the ‘Pooja Didi’ film that again brought alive the power of people coming together.
Even during the recent Eid campaign, the idea behind Rizwan’s story was to provide a message of hope to everyone.
Specifically, what is it that these campaigns are setting out to achieve in the context of the different profiles of the various sub-brands?
Our apps are entrenched in the cultural fabric of India, from WhatsApp becoming a commonly used verb for how India communicates, to Instagram celebrating the culture of the country even as creators spark off new and energizing movements, to the birthdays and anniversaries and big life events that get celebrated on Facebook every day.
We believe it is important to communicate the role that each of our apps plays in one’s life. We want to be more assertive in telling our own stories and feel that it is time for us to stand up and speak directly to the people using our Apps.
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How are you navigating the fact that social media has been in the midst of a lot of controversies across the globe, and India, around many issues like data privacy, fake news, content strategy, etc.?
We know that there are things that need to be fixed, and it's our responsibility to take those issues seriously. We also know that there are things that are working well, and the world needs to know about them. Through our consumer marketing campaigns, we are focused on delivering the unique value proposition of each of our apps.
As the India marketing head of possibly the world’s largest social media network, what are your top three key tasks?
Relevance for a wide consumer base - Since our most thriving communities are here in India, it means that our target audience is vast, and we need to be very mindful of appealing to and being relevant to the length and breadth of the country through the work we do. We have been very mindful of this. For our ‘more together’ campaign during IPL last year we anchored our stories in various parts of the country to showcase the return to normalcy and developed films specifically for the south depicting the culture, architecture, and traditions from the south so that the campaign resonated with people from the region.
Building on the deeply entrenched family of Apps - Consumers have deep relationships with our apps built over the years and the work has to be cognizant of how consumers perceive us and build on the sentiment. A great example of this is our WhatsApp work – “It’s between you’ campaign that built on the deeply intimate experience of consumers on WhatsApp.
Looking out for the winning strategy - In a land of massive opportunity and significant scale sometimes it is possible that wins can come from many directions. Thus, it is very important to get sharp about the key task and what we are betting on. For example, with increasing interest in short-form video, Reels on Instagram is a great example that was piloted first in India. The campaign was built around inviting people into the world of creation to help express themselves. The very first campaign for Instagram was launched during IPL, with the idea of inspiring the creator in everyone.