Friday 16 May 2014

Lesson learnt from Sachin’s B’day

If cricket is religion, Sachin is God. His 41st birthday on April 24, 2014, was manna for marketers. It was a mad scrambling of everyone wanting to associate with brand Sachin to drive sales. From car dealerships offering the master blaster offer to radio stations running week long specials, to brand updates alluding to Sachin on their social media feeds, it was ‘Sachin…Sachin…’ all the way.

Six years back, I was responsible to drive revenues on the short code owned by a leading media group. The idea of doing a Sachin special came up, a few days before April 24. As we did only text SMSs (no wallpapers, animations, etc.), I was at my wits end to figure out what can possibly be done on text to ride the Sachin bandwagon. A no brainer was facts and trivia about Sachin. The modus was simple, to have keyword(s), which the user texted on the short code to get info about Sachin.

The difficult part was promoting those keyword(s) on zero dollar budget. Unless people knew the keyword(s), they could not text them to the short code and we made no monies. One of the three options was to publicize the keyword(s) in the group daily/online properties. It was not a viable option. If we were to plug the short code in the group daily/online properties, the group would have lost revenues by not being able to sell that inventory to paid advertisers. This option meant that we generate traffic in the order of 6–7 digits because 70-90% of the topline would have gone as revenue share to Telecom Service Providers. We knew that we won’t get a million SMSs at an end user price of INR 3.00 for a property like Sachin’s trivia!

Second option was to promote the keyword(s) as footer in the response message to other keywords or to put simplistically cross promote on existing keywords, which were already generating traffic. Third option was to on-board Telcos to promote the keyword(s) on their SMS promotional channel.

We cracked option 2 and 3, but couldn’t generate traffic that would meet our projections. Was it worth it? With the benefit of hindsight, I would perhaps say yes. Six years back mobile internet was not pervasive. Something tactically gimmicky such as trivia about god of cricket on mobile with SMS as a distribution channel made sense. Today, one would not spend INR 3.00/- to pull some trivia about someone; as googling on phone is easier and cheaper.

Did we make monies? No. Was the product bad? No, if it was bad, the Telcos would not have promoted the keyword(s). Why didn’t we make monies? Perhaps the promotion didn’t reach as many people as it should have. If we do something similar today, will it make monies? No. I believe what we did in 2008 over SMS, holds good for mobile apps today. Download numbers of a Sachin app offering facts and trivia about him launched close to his birthday in 2014 is anyone’s guess. It was one of those scenarios where an allusion to a star birthday did not cut ice. I am not sure about the experience of those car dealerships and radio stations.

Lesson learnt: Celebrity birthdays don’t lend to money spinning opportunities for businesses which are remotely connected to the appeal of the celebrity. In this case perhaps a sports mall would have made more monies selling cricket bats than us selling Sachin trivia.  But yes, even Sachin would agree that singles are needed to keep the scoreboard ticking :-)