#wolfSIGHTS

A compelling insight is the cornerstone of a transformative solution. At Wolfzhowl we don’t limit our minds to our client work. We take our everyday observation of brands, people and life and turn them into actionable insights, better called #wolfSIGHTS

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Indian Railways – The next ecosystem for brands

Indian Railways has been working tirelessly during the Lockdown to ensure that India wins this battle against COVID and we decided to create a small video thanking them for their selfless service. 

While we were researching the facts for this video, we stumbled upon the huge infrastructure that Indian Railways has created in order to be self-sufficient.

With this infrastructure and news of privatization doing rounds (source: Economic Times), we think it would be interesting to see the implications of this for brands & industries. 

In one of the biggest moves towards Privatisation, Indian Railways partnered with Amazon in Oct-2019 to facilitate faster, effective and secure transportation of e-commerce packages with future plans of optimised freight movement solutions- a first in the e-commerce industry. 

What does Indian Railways have that brands can leverage?

  1. A large loyal customer base who interact with it multiple times a year if not more regularly
  2. A captive audience who uses the train services to move from one place to another
  3. Connectivity to the most remote locations of India, irrespective of the terrain
  4. Largest employee base in India that is extremely proud to work for the Indian Railways
  5. Prominent Sports Personalities who are recruited by the Indian Railways
  6. Fully owned subsidiaries that work on:
    1. Metals & metallurgy:
      1. Own plants to manufacture the locomotives
      2. Own production of spare parts
    2. Tailoring & textile:
      1. Own subsidiaries creating their own linen
      2. A platoon of tailors producing & repairing of uniforms across genders & body-types
    3. Food & beverages:
      1. Own brands of water (Rail Neera)
      2. Own canteens for the production of food
      3. Own supply chain for sourcing raw materials
      4. Distribution network across each station and each platform
  7. The Indian Railways also has a lot of lands that they own whether for railway tracks or for repair sheds or for railway colonies for their workers

How can brands leverage this?

Logistics & Supply Chain:

  • Logistics is generally the biggest pain point for any FMCG brand, especially the smaller ones. So if you are starting out or are in your nascent stages of expansion, consider using the existing logistics of Indian Railways to ensure that your product is available in every city, every village, every town.
  • Strike a deal with the railways to use their on-station counters to sell your products & gain visibility
  • Tie-up with food delivery partners and ensure that the customers who are travelling by train can get your products delivered to them at their seats

Telecommunication:

  • Railtel is a vast network of telecom services for the railways. They provide free internet on stations and also provide VPN services. Using the network to promote the brand is something that should be looked at more carefully now and should become part of the media spends actively.
  • With RailTel also comes the opportunity to introduce social commerce – consumers who are on the train, with nothing else to do, will spend time shopping! Sell your brands online by tying up with RailTel! Think “Delivery at Destination” as a model with Amazon already working closely with Indian Railways. 

Service Innovation:

  • Just like the post-office, Indian Railways can engage their large network of stations with clerical staff and offices to provide exemplary services.
  • Think of using this network to help your consumers go digital. All you need is to station a few employees on each station with mobile phones. These employees can help consumers to start digital banking, buy insurance online or even buy products through eCommerce.
  • Right from mobile phone recharge to refilling wallets like PayTM or even getting the KYC done, the services one can provide through Railway networks are limitless.

Data:

  • Yes, it’s controversial but it’s also true. Indian Railway is sitting on a gold-mine of data – where are people traveling from, where are they traveling to, what are the foods they order, how much do they like spending on their train tickets, how often do they travel with their families, preferred mode of transaction, how much in advance do they plan their journey, who all they travel with, what are the kind of internet consumption behaviour while travelling; the list is endless
  • Using this data, brands can create their customer personas and market to them in a more targeted fashion. Adding a layer of socio-cultural insights will only make this exercise richer.
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COVID 19 – The Dawn of New Beginning

The Re-Rise of Collectivism

Pathogens and their impact on society

The world has been grappling with Covid-19 and it’s extremely likely that the world, as we know it, will change. If history is any indication, every Black Swan event has affected society and culture at large. Pathogens, especially are known to change human behavior, impact economies and disrupt societies. 

Most infectious diseases impact society, culture as well as human behavior. They shape language, the foods consumed, and the structures of society. And these effects continue long after the disease has been eliminated or a vaccine has been developed for the same. An epidemic of measles in Fiji led to the death of 20-25% of the population including all 69 Chieftains across various tribes, creating a vacuum in leadership, which led to the colonial government importing laborers from other nations to work in agriculture. This made them an inter-racial state which went on to develop the culture for the country. Similarly, there was massive displacement of the Irish between 1845 & 1852 with over 1 million migrating to the US to escape the famine caused by Phytophthora infestans destroying potato harvests (Source: Turner RS

Doctor treats a cholera struck patient in Paris
Illustration of Plague Doctor treating a patient
Source: Science Photo

A lot of epidemics have also resulted in violence, scapegoating and mass hysteria associated with the spread of pathogens across history. According to historian Snowden, when cholera struck Paris in 1832, a lot of commoners propagated the rumours of King Louis Phillipe poisoning wells with arsenic. The violence that ensued during this period led to institutionalization of dread of the  “deadly class” – the poor people. This violence led to the class-based repression in the 19th century until the 1848 revolution. (Source: Nature)

While increased xenophobia is an outcome of most epidemics, pathogens have an impact on the way languages are shaped. For example, saying “God Bless You” after someone sneezes can be traced back to Greek and Roman history linked to diseases although it is popularly credited to St Gregory the Great. (Source: The Conversation

Plague Doctor
Doctors dressed with a beak-like mask, wearing gloves and using a ‘wand’ to ensure that physical distancing is maintained

If we look at Black Death (The Plague of 1340 – 1400), we realize that it changed Europe’s structure completely. 

  • The uncertainty of daily survival was making it extremely morbid and made people shift from thinking about the future to “live for the moment.”
  • People shifted from grain farming to animal husbandry since it was more economical
  • With more people getting into animal husbandry, meat consumption across the continent increased.
  • Mass urban migration in order to survive and find jobs led to the death of the agrarian economy in Europe

In something similar, we can feel the effects of Covid-19 globally:

  • Uncertainty of wages and economic conditions are pushing us to be more frugal with our money
  • Increased vulnerability towards health making us rethink our lifestyle & how we measure our fitness
  • Migrants who were working in bigger cities are now trying to head back home, to the safety of smaller towns and villages where the virus has not yet reached
  • The defiance of authority is now being socially shamed, and people are not afraid of calling out the ones who blatantly disobeying physical distancing rules
  • Increased connectivity with friends and family despite social distancing

Before Corona Virus hit us, one could see the rise of individualism globally. According to the Association for Psychological Science, increasing socioeconomic development is an especially strong predictor of increasing individualistic practices and values in a country over time. 

Is Individualism going to survive post COVID-19? (Source: Rapgenius)

Individualist cultures tend to prioritize independence and uniqueness and tend to think of people as autonomous beings. Collectivist cultures, on the other hand, emphasize inter-dependence, family relationships, and social conformity as identifiers of culture. Globally, people were depending more on their friends than on their families. More and more people were moving to urban and uber-urban locations for a ‘better life’. Almost all countries that were surveyed by the ‘World Values Survey’ showed that everyone emphasized the need for their children to become more independent and to prioritize self-expression. Specifically, statistical models indicated that individualism has increased by about 12% worldwide since 1960.

India’s tryst with Individualism & Collectivism

Let’s take a look at India specifically. As a pre-dominantly collectivist civilization, India was heading towards individualism. And there was a strong reason for it. India has survived on the 4 tenants of Hinduism – Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. For centuries before independence, India was focused on Dharma and Moksha. This was primarily because British denied the pre-independent India of the Artha and Kama. Dharma and Moksha were the only two things that people could own as their expression of self. And both of these kept emphasizing on the values of family and togetherness, thinking about others before self, treating the world as your home –‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’.

If we were to place the timeline of independent India on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we will realize how an Artha-Kama-denied India moved from scarcity to indulgence. 

It was only the in the 1960s, 20 years after India got independence, that India experienced Artha for the first time. The socialist industrialization phase of India drove millions to cities for a better job. For the first time, India witnessed nuclear families. People started having a far more stable income (as they were not dependent on agricultural income). For the first time, middle class in India bloomed. They had more financial stability than any other generation ever before. 

The liberalization of the economy in the 1990s became a turning point for society. For the first time India starting indulging in their ‘wants’. Middle-class India blossomed with fewer mouths to feed and higher disposable income. Western Culture became aspirational. The identity of self through work started driving decisions. India inched towards an individualistic society while still having some conditioning prevalent from its collectivist times. 

However, this will all change. Covid-19 has taught us and has reaffirmed what epidemiologists have been saying for very long – countries and cultures with a more collectivist outlook are less susceptible to epidemics than individualist societies. And evidence of this can be found in the way the virus is spreading across the globe. 

Source: Covid Tracker, 15 May 2020 5pm IST

As we can see, the more individualistic societies not only have higher number of reported cases but also have the highest number of deaths linked to Covid-19. And this brings us to another very critical point – 

WOULD COVID-19 MAKE INDIA A COLLECTIVIST SOCIETY ONCE AGAIN?

And the answer to that is a resounding yes. And the reason to this is simple – collectivist behaviours are hypothesized to generate a societal defense against pathogen transmission.

pathogen risk and individualism collectivism

Source:  HOFSTEDE (2001)

According to a report of The Royal Society Publishing, 2008, the authors say, “Given that many specific traditions and norms (such as those pertaining to food preparation) can serve as buffers against pathogen transmission, deviance from the status quo may pose a contagion risk to self and others, whereas conformity helps to maintain the integrity of these ritualized buffers against disease.” We can already see how the society is becoming collectivist. Let’s take the example of India. 

  • We are dependent upon collective wisdom of our grandmothers, mothers and aunts for building immunity
  • We are reaching out to our neighbours, checking in on our friends, exchanging recipes
  • We are video calling our relatives with whom we had lost touch with more than ever before
  • We are reaching out to family first instead of friends in case we are distressed over health or money
  • We’ve become far more sensitive about ordering food from outside or even stepping out to buy groceries if there are old people or very young infants living around us
  • We’re stepping out, putting ourselves at risk to feed the animals & birds who have lost access to food that was provided by humans (restaurants feeding cats and dogs, tourists feeding fish and monkeys etc.)
  • We’re setting up kitchens or collecting funds to help those who are stranded
  • We are not hesitating in reaching out and calling in favours for people we barely know
  • We are trying to ensure that the dignity of the lesser-privileged is not lost by ensuring that help reaches them before they need to ask for it

While this is happening at a larger level and is more a response to the lockdown than the virus itself, there are larger things that will lead to the decline in individualism. Take, for example, government surveillance. With contact tracing as a step towards containing the virus, there’s an increase in government surveillance mechanism.

Such mass surveillance is known to alter human behavior. A 2016 study published in the Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly reveals that people repress their opinions and creativity if they believe that the government is watching them. Surveillance enables a culture of self-censorship which leads to the further disenfranchisement of minority groups. Individual opinion and self-expression form the cornerstone for an individualistic community. One censors self-expression by considering the impact of such expression not only on the individual self but also on the community at large. In such cases, people end up thinking about the greater good of the community and steer away from individualism.           

Source: Hofstede,2011

But will India revert to collectivism completely? Not really. It has taken a few centuries for India to enjoy artha and kama and we are not ready to let this go any time soon. However, we will become individualistically-collective; where there is a space of individualism to blossom while also thinking about society at large. 

The Dawn of New Normal

How will the Indian consumer change post-COVID-19?

  • Value-driven consumer – Indians were always known for taking pride in driving a good bargain (cost vs value). With increased financial insecurity, Indian consumers will think twice before buying anything.
  • Buying for the ‘greater good’ – Playing to the altruism of the consumers (for example, a part of the money will be donated to the COVID-impacted migrant labors) may not be a bad idea. However, brands need to engage in more than just lip-service and show proof of the CSR initiative.
  • Herd Mentality – The Indian consumer is going to buy because others are buying. Indian consumers will rely on social wisdom and take decisions – whether it is about investing in certain instruments or buying a car for self; the decisions will be driven by WOM. 
  • Frugality is a new hero – Collectivism will make frugality a hero. Each paisa would be spent wisely and those who are frugal in their spending will be the new hero. The emphasis will move away from indulgences to savings; with savings being akin to financial 
  • The emergence of sub-cultures into the mainstream – With individualism, subcultures always had a separate space. Now, with a semblance of acceptance into the wider culture, subcultures will merge, and Individualistic habits will slowly form a part of the larger collectivistic consensus.  Eg: Hip-hop, street culture becoming part of the larger narrative with even the older generation accepting this as a part of self-expression. 

What will be the impact of the Re-rise of collectivism on brands?

  1. Changing drivers of success: Brands have been reflecting aspirational success in their communication – the boardroom, the bigger house, a big car, etc. While leaning towards collectivism, measures of success & aspiration will change. Altruism and the larger good of the society will become aspirational. 
  2. No More REACH based influencers – With more people relying on their family and friends, influencers will change. From Social Media influencers, we will see the rise of the true social influencers. Brands will now have to do away with vanity influencers with a large following and actually start mapping the power of influence of everyone’s social circle while crafting their influencer marketing strategy.
  3. Brand positioning & communication of ‘indulgent’ products need an overhaul – If the product heightens vanity and extreme individualistic narcissism, the consumers will blatantly reject it. Brands need to reimagine their communication strategy post-lock-down.
  4. An era of Brand Advocates and Brand Loyalists – Brands will now need to identify and build a relationship with the true brand advocates and brand loyalists. Brands, where there is not a lot of online chatter (example, feminine hygiene products) but a lot of offline chatter, will need to invest in identifying the circle of influence. Would voice assistant data be helpful in identifying these? Or would brands actually have to build an emotional connect and commission new-age research techniques to identify these?
  5. Brand Loyalty at risk – Brands will find it difficult to find loyalty amongst consumers since more of us would be moving towards collectivism. Individualistic consumers better withstand influences from group members, social/group norms, and marketing media, they tend to stay with their individually best choice without being distracted by external influences. This will be due to the Collective Action Problem wherein even those individuals who want to make the decision for the betterment of the collective group are unable to do so because of the clash of opinions within the group. 
  6. Brands with frequent repurchase cycles like FMCG are at risk of a drop in consumption – When people start thinking of groups before their purchase decision, a lot of FMCG consumption goes down. This used to be seen in India until the early 90s when joint families were a norm. Products like chips & aerated beverages were ‘treats’ and not meant for everyday consumption. One could not simply go out and buy a pack of biscuits for him/herself. It had to come for everyone in the family and hence, the occasions of such purchases were limited. With the re-rise of collectivism, a lot of us will move back to thinking about the family together instead of ordering in a pizza for oneself. 
  7. Upping the game of legitimizing conspicuous consumption – With Indians leaning towards collectivism, brands will find it far more difficult to legitimize conspicuous consumption even in Urban India. The social stigma of over-indulgence while dealing with economic insecurities will ensure that the Have-Nots will detest those who have, making it difficult for even the affluent to indulge. Whether it is a luxury automobile or expensive handbags, watches or shoes, or even own more than one gaming device (not for the hardcore gamers) will be impacted. Brands will need to identify legitimizers and work doubly hard to get people to indulge.
  8. Rise of all-encompassing consumer products – that cater to individual tastes and needs but also fit Collective needs. More families will want to buy products that have multiple features to satisfy the needs of everyone in the family and not just of the self. Eg.  Smart TVs, Refrigerators, Cars, etc. 
  9. Brands need to aim at embedding themselves in the collective memory of the consumers – Collective memories are shared representations of a group’s past based on a common identity. Their formation is affected by cognitive and emotional factors, but it takes place in the context of human interactions with other humans or with cultural artifacts. They are shaped by and transmitted through, narratives. Because they intervene in the definition, maintenance, and mobilization of social identities, they have a strong impact on intergroup relations. Collective memories influence the present, but they are also influenced by present psychological states and needs. Every brand manager must do stocktaking to know the elements and associations that are memorable and influence memory ranking. Many factors play a role in what we remember. Wolfzhowl’s write up on Memory Structures is a good beginning point for brand managers. 
  10. Innovation – With the re-rise of collectivism, brands will need to innovate not only their marketing efforts but the product itself. Larger pack sizes, multi-user friendly products would become the need of the hour. 

Brands need to revisit their marketing plans now that COVID-19 is impacting societies.

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TIKTOK – THE PLATFORM OF PERFORMANCE ARTS

Performance Arts is artworks created through actions performed by the artist or other participants, which may be live or recorded, spontaneous or scripted. This traditional definition of performance arts is renewed with emergence of the social media giant – TikTok. Acts of users on TikTok is the new performance arts of the 21st century. Videos ranging from lip dubbing to fine arts, including paintings, drawings, collages, users of TikTok are the new artists. It is time to look at TikTok as the platform of authentic artists and creators and as a landmine of campaigns for brands.

Performance arts has, throughout the history evolved to what we see now – theatre, music, dance, mimckery, spoken word, puppetry etc. 

The traces of performance art can be traced back to the First World War and Hugo Ball’s Dada Manifesto, which rejected a world that could be consumed by war and called for a new society–and a new form of art for that society. The Dadaists prized nonsense, irrationality, and intuition over reason and logic, and performed songs and actions that reflected this attitude.

Also flourishing at the time was a movement called Fluxus, taking its name from the word flux, meaning “flow,” dubbed by the revolutionary Lithuanian-American artist George Maciunas. The living art of Fluxus set the stage for the development of performance art, which moved away from static installations to placing more and more emphasis on the actions of the artists themselves. 

This evolution has given birth to performance arts where the exposure of the self is itself, an art. In the context of the medium’s history as well as its current practice, the most defining characteristic of performance art is that it must be centered on the action carried out by the artist. Today’s, most thriving performance arts like stand-up comedy, spoken word poetry, open mic music have this characteristic. These arts are documented on a camera and, though the arts are time bound, the documentation lives on forever. 

“Art is the activity by which a person, having experienced an emotion, intentionally transmits it to others”

Leo Tolstoy

Performance art is about how well the artist is able to convey his or her idea. Most performance arts make the audience just think or feel after the act. “It’s the action that’s the art, not so much the physical result,” says performance art curator and performance-only Grace Exhibition Space co-director Erik Hokanson. “A lot of times there’s little or no result other than what you walk away from the piece with thinking or feeling.” (Source: HyperAllergic)

What is it about performance art which makes it popular?

Following World War II, performance emerged as a useful way for artists to explore philosophical and psychological questions about human existence.  For this generation, who had witnessed destruction caused by the Holocaust and atomic bombs, the body itself offered a powerful medium to communicate shared physical and emotional experience.

In the politicized environment of the 1960s, many artists employed performance to address emerging social concerns.  For feminist artists in particular, using their body in live performance proved effective in challenging historical representations of women.

Throughout these years, performance art has forced us to think about issues in a way that can be disturbing and uncomfortable, but it can also make us laugh by calling attention to the absurdities and the idiosyncrasies of human behavior.

It has paved the way for poets to take up issues like feminism, racism, sexism etc. and bring attention of the mass audience to it. It has let comedians talk about the political state of their countries and make the guardians of the state answerable to the public. Performance Art has let the general public express themselves through word, dance, music, mimickery and put forth their feelings and thoughts.

In the 21st century, performance art might not be as radical as in the past, it has however shaped to blur the lines of what composes as performance art and what does not. Performance art, in the age of this digital revolution, seems to be what its audience is willing to designate as such. An Instagram user, might view a makeup makeover of 21 days a performance art. 

A good example of why any performance today maybe a piece of performance art is spoken word poetry. Poetry readings have existed for centuries, and although it is debatable what they accomplish, it is possible that spoken-word poetry has come into being by extension of that very concept. But given the evidence, there is something critical that this form is accomplishing. It is merging performance with the written word which gives a writer/performer additional apparatus to express. It isn’t merely knowledge of words that poetry channels. It is also emotion and imagination.

Platforms like AIB, Kommune, Bombay Lokal are the new museums for artists to let their work and collection be sold, collected, or exhibited. Such platforms, with the rise of YouTube and Instagram has let artists try and experiment with various performance arts. #DontRushChallenge is one such example of how artists have blurred the lines of performance art on social media.

Social Media platforms like Vine, back in 2016 and TikTok now, has in essence given rise to a modern-day Renaissance. Fundamentally, TikTok is a social platform for making, sharing and watching short videos using your Android phone or iPhone. These may be anywhere between three and 60 seconds long.

Functionally, TikTok does not offer much you can’t find in other apps. What really makes it so important is how it’s actually being used, by hundreds of millions around the world. The feature of prerecorded audios and music lets the users decide what they want to create. 

Why are people drawn to TikTok?

Remember the cliché projections of ‘living the perfect life’ on Instagram? Instagram and Facebook to some extent presented the aspiring, perfect lives of users and TikTok offers the perfect antidote to it.

In TikTok videos there’s a real sense of kids ‘being themselves’ that you don’t get on other platforms. They aren’t heavily edited and cautiously produced, in fact they are the opposite of it. And that’s the point. 

With numerous visual and auditory effects in the hand of each user, several thousand combinations have given rise to a generation of amateur comedians who otherwise never would have been discovered. TikTok is also becoming the platform for sharing art, design, 3D modelling or even animation. There are poets too who are big stars on TikTok. 

TikTok content creators, unlike other social media platforms, jump from creating to riff on a song; to talk idly and aimlessly about whatever is in front of them. The platform encourages creators to jump from challenges to challenges and trends to trends, creating an enormous pool of varied content. From a married woman hailing from a rural village in India, dubbing dialogues in English and Hindi to a star influencer dancing on a hit song, TikTok is a place of modern art. Performance art crosses boundaries of absurd, yet it is still considered art because it is a reflection of the artist’s thoughts. TikTok encourages the same. 

The more labor-intensive TikToks are the ones with fine arts, including paintings, drawings, collages and more. This passion extends further to minute-long cookie decorating tutorials and even multi-tiered cake recipes. 

Some of the best TikToks are by freestyle rappers, with many of them taking suggestions from their fanbase and comments about how to produce their next TikTok, much like a paid musician would. Every new TikTok stands as an art piece in itself, whether it’s a feat of videography, music, dance or comedy.

What if TikTok is a ready-made performance art platform that has not been leveraged by any brand or category? 

TikTok is a platform thriving on user generated art. From embarrassing personal stories to elaborately planned sketches bordering on short film statuses (which can give Netflix stand up specials a run for their money), TikTok has laid out the map for the new, modern performance art.

During the periods of emergence of performance art and after it was well established, many art acts seemed weird and absurd. The weird and absurd art was actually the raw representation of the artists’ thoughts and work. A prime example: Joseph Beuys for his performance – I like America and America Likes Me (1974) spent three days both healing and being healed by his temporary roommate: a wild coyote. Tiktok too has been tagged weird, absurd and sometimes, crazy.

The fact is that this crazy is the stockpile of creative content and art. We have only been looking at social media as a place of likes and followers and scrolling the feed up and down. Tiktok has 500 million users and viewers who are creating content every minute. It is a volcano of art waiting to erupt. 

Tiktok has not been seen as a landmine of art, when it actually is. We all have been accustomed to social media platforms being acutely perfect that the honest, authentic tactics of men and women cringe us. Performance art, just like Tiktok, in many ways, strives to bring out this. As it includes the artist himself or herself being the art, the honest, authentic idiosyncrasies of humans come out. 

For brands who always are looking to churn out user generated content, TikTok, is, itself user generated creative content. Instead of creating challenges, specifically for a campaign, it is time for brands to let the existing content be a campaign. 

In times like these when production houses are shut, professional creators are tied because of limited resources, tiktok users offer a post-produced, creatively curated content. The proliferation of performance art platforms like Kommune and Bombay Lokal, UnErase Poetry has made us look at performance art with a finely curate, limited lens of an open mic or stand up. When the actual meaning of performance art is the artist’s expression of art – then TikTok becomes synonymous to it.

Customers are drawn towards a brand that honestly portrays itself. Loyalty and preference are increased towards a brand when it is perceived to be authentic. If authenticity is what a consumer looks for in a brand, then isn’t the TikTok the right place for building it? The varied, diverse, availability of authentic art on TikTok makes it an untapped opportunity for brands to explore its full potential.

Some examples of TikTok creative videos are:

https://www.tiktok.com/@basith10?lang=en
@zachking

Do you see the glass as half full or half empty?? #perspective #magic

♬ Glass Half Full Zach King – zachking
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Live-streaming Life in the era of Social Distancing

LIFE UP-STREAMING: Live streaming in the age of social distancing, and its implications on business owners and marketers. 

Live streaming is a real-life event – whether it is a training session, a panel discussion, an interview, a product launch, or a party. Here, viewers become participants of the show while staying in their own location and they can communicate (through Q&A, polling) with the host in real-time. 

Live Streaming during COVID19

 You can watch live video streaming everywhere – on any location and on any device. Including one’s home, where most of us are contained. Especially now. 

 Live streaming during the COVID-19 lockdown enables people to engage themselves in experiences while adhering to the constraints of our new reality. It’s an opportunity for people, the social creatures, to connect with others and an opportunity for brands that are out of sight, to find new sources of relevance during social distancing. 

 There is a restrictive physical intervention due to which people are finding out ways to keep themselves busy, and most importantly, connected. And to feel connected, they facetime / WhatsApp video calls with their friends and family, and even host zoom parties with colleagues to keep themselves engaged.

 In their pursuit for connection and engagement through digital platforms, live streaming will become a part of the new normal for content consumption. Even in India. 

 Here’s why live streaming will create a space of its own. 

  • Live stream video is a real-time show, and hence, people don’t know what will happen in the next second. 
  • Live stream videos cannot be binge-watched, and hence, it creates the thrill of scarcity. 
  • Live stream videos can be hosted by anyone, including your favourite player/ musician/ mentor-figure from one’s personal interest areas. 
  • Live stream videos contain on-going human interactions and can make one feel like a part of an (online) community. 

Live streaming makes people feel like they are with the crowd, even when today there lies none during the age of social distancing. 

 While there are live experience streaming apps, like Lemonade, their paid programs haven’t become mainstream in India yet. The adoption of paid experience streaming apps may become more prevalent amongst young, metro audiences. However, it’s the adoption of live streaming across popular content search platforms, like YouTube, and social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, that will witness on-boarding of even the older generation. 

 At WolfzHowl, we have attempted to understand this emerging trend in people’s lifestyles and have delved deeper to decode what it means for creators, business-owners and marketers in terms of opportunity and treat. 

The aspects of life and lifestyle that have adopted live streaming are 

  • Nightlife/ partying 
  • Movies & creative content 
  • Shopping 
  • Cultural entertainment 
  • Religion
  • Sports & games 
  • Skilling & education

Delving into the trends in each aspect of lifestyle mentioned above, and their implications:

Nightlife/ partying:
Nightlife culture has emerged a strong trend among millennials and GenZ, but has witnessed a major hit due to COVID since lockdown. As the demand remains constant, brands and clubs will be looking to reach an audience in different ways.

For example, after Singapore ordered the closure of many entertainment venues last week following a steady rise in infections, popular nightclub “Zouk” threw a “cloud-clubbing” party, streaming live performances by six DJs via an app. Live comments from clubbers were scrolling past on the DJ’s laptop, and song requests from them guided the music and the mood in a certain direction. In return, clubbers sent virtual gifts to the DJs such as bells and snowflakes that can later be exchanged for cash. The turnout, there were 200,000 total views for the three-hour event and at its peak, 5,600 people were watching via the app.

 With the increased lockdown and a predicted second wave post monsoon, DJs and night club brands on a quest to preserve their popularity will host more virtual parties. This is going to change the way people perceive and participate in what’s fun. The tools of video streaming are also likely to evolve to include elements like new filters, virtual gifts, chat and comments options. Bumble dating app sees usage spike. Amid lockdown Bumble app has come with an additional feature of video call and voice call to combat isolation and engage in virtual connection. Dating apps such as hinge and tinder are also seeing rise in new users. Hinge also came up with a virtual video date. There might be more development in the features of these dating apps in the near future.

Implications for marketers and business owners:

  • Taboo categories, like alcohol and cigarettes, that are currently mass-media dark, will have opportunity for promotion.
  • Experiential lifestyle categories, like Hard Rock Café / Social, can ‘productize the experience’ instead of only delivering food. As gigs and parties start in-home, in a private immunized environment, brands can curate these experiences.
  • There’s an opportunity to create interest-based communities, and brands can hyper-target consumers based on the niche insight on consumer’s interest.
  • Better audio gadgets will surge in demand in case of prolonged at-home entertainment, like Bose, Marshall.
  • Dating apps like Tinder, Bumble can sponsor these events to enable people to connect with each other virtually, while being socially responsible.

Movies and other creative content for entertainment:
Netflix did understand human psychology and how to sustain in the market. It realized that human interaction attracts consumers more. Hence, they came up with a Netflix party which is a free chrome extension that lets people spend time together without physically being together. The extension sets up a chat room where your friends and family can watch the movie together. For example, if three people are watching a movie on Netflix party and one person wants to resume the movie it will automatically appear on another person’s screen. If they want to conversate, there is a chatbox besides the movie screen. It includes human interaction.

Spotify also found the need to implement something that will create engagement. It is a music app where the additional feature is you can collaborate with friends and listen to music together. 

Brands have the higher percentage in terms of contributing in setting the kind of a lifestyle in the consumer’s mind. For instance: Brands market their products in a way that tells the consumer that this is the kind of lifestyle that you should have. If you don’t have it then you aren’t happy. Now that certain brands are struggling to cope up with what they used to market.

 Due to lockdown, it has now become a hurdle to reach the desired audience. Due to the sudden change in the mindset of the consumers due to lockdown. Brands should be able to re-market in a way that fits in the change in mind.

Implications for marketers and business owners:

  • Streaming platforms can package bundles that can be leveraged to create distinct positioning amongst brands. Such bundling can be genre based or belong to a particular “cult”, say Hitchcock classics,   James Bond Series or even Mithun Dance movies. Higher viewer retention and even new subscriber addition over a sustained period may be possible through such a tool. Matterdan, in Bombay, used to run such shows. 
  • Genre based bundling can help brands use the platform as a medium to reach out to a highly targeted customer base (say basis mindset, age..). For instance, Jawa can use this for promotions to a certain “era” of customers as a gifting option to their children. 
  • Interviews keep celebrities (who are brands themselves) stay connected to their fanbase and even that is fodder as space to the brands they endorse, even for product placements. 

Shopping
People are becoming much more confident about online shopping. Pandemic gave the world an urgent reason to shop from home, retail influencers were live streaming inside of boutiques, offering product closeups, and even trying on clothes, shoes, and jewelry for an online audience. In 2017, live streaming marketplace ShopShops sold a viewer a second-hand Birkin bag for $14,500 — no returns accepted.

For many goods and services, online shopping is now the only kind of shopping that exists, and that could last well into next year — or until a coronavirus vaccine is widely available. Consumers are being pushed beyond their comfortable analog habits and toward video communications. Just look at the speed at which millions have adopted Zoom, BlueJeans and other platforms to work with colleagues and talk with friend.

For fashion retail, live streaming commerce models which enable retailers to showcase and present their products on a larger commerce destination could be viable now.

It’s no surprise then that since Covid-19’s assault on China, Alibaba’s taobao live streaming has surged. The number of merchants using it for the first time grew by 719% from January to February. Consumers are shopping for real estate and cars on the platform.  Shanghai Fashion week in late March was fully livestreamed on it: Viewers could pre-order the clothes the models were wearing on the catwalk, as well as buy pieces from the designers’ existing collections. Even farmers have been using the channel to sell mangoes and other crops. The company was hoping to bring hundreds of thousands more retailers into live streaming; now that seems inevitable. 

Implications for marketers and business owners:

  • The absence and likely drop in in-store shopping would remove the social aspect of shopping (say in a mall or even on a fashion street). The tacit “social feedback” at the point of purchase would go amiss. An opportunity arises to create more engagement at the time of shopping, especially by fashion retailers in online platforms. For instance, linking virtual try-on on platforms such as Myntra or Lenskart would get an instant social feedback collection tool and create further prospecting. 
  • Digitally broadcasting one’s shopping cart could be another engagement tool that social influencers can use even when physical purchase experiences reduce to a large extent

Cultural entertainment
Many cultural groups in the city have consistently streamed their concerts and events live on YouTube and Facebook, witnessing impressive view count on the platforms.

 Traditional concerts / sabhas who were afraid of extinction are back in demand since they have started live streaming. The major reason for their popularity is the reach they have received through live streaming.

Live streaming provided artist and cultural groups popularity, therefore increasing the scope of events and concerts.

Implications for marketers and business owners:

  • Viability of cultural events for niche, older groups was proving to be unviable due to
    • Reducing and scattered listener base
    • Low connectedness, network strength of older interest groups
  • Streaming of events, as well as high acceptability of the content, delivered digitally makes these niche groups (e.g. Hindustani music lovers, Illayaraja fan groups, or even Qawwali aficionados) alive again. 
  • Such level of networking and digital marketing opportunities therein used to be limited to large, younger groups (e.g. EDM, Hip hop followers, Beliebers, etc.)

Religion
Religious groups are now embracing the technology in this lockdown. 

Muslim clerics are mulling a unique way to let people offer prayers and perform other rituals this Ramzan without going out for gathering. The clerics have already urged people not to go to mosques to offer Friday prayers and to obey the guidelines of social distancing. With the holy month of Ramzan around the corner, Muslims are worried about performing Taraweeh, the additional prayers during the month right after the evening Isha Namaz.

Clerics are of the opinion that a live streaming of Taraweeh on various social media platforms such as Youtube, Facebook, Twitter can be introduced along with some guidelines on how to perform it at home.

In Kerala, live streaming of Easter services happened amid lockdown. Good Friday prayers go online in Tamil Nadu. The bible app for kids is available for both Android and IOS.

As people worship from home, the acceptance for the tech and virtual community among the older generation has increased. Spiritual startups are using technology as a tool to complete pooja and rites.

Implications for marketers and business owners:

  • Given social distancing would be prevalent, crowds at religious centers would get lesser crowds. The typical religious household would be conscious and increase worship time at home to compensate for the fact that visiting their regular religious site would not be possible. This is likely to increase demand for worship items used at home(Agarbattis, candles, etc.) and decorative items as the family’s religious corner get a facelift. 
  • Another outcome of religious sites getting lower footfalls would be increased in online or virtual religious tourism which is in its nascency. Say, for a fee a pandit in Puri will do the Puja for you while you’re connected and present digitally. 

Sports and Games:
Indians top the list of most number of downloads in gaming apps. For example, Ludo, Pubg, Plato. Psych has emerged as a favorite game during the lockdown. It has so far been the most popular gaming app in this lockdown.

 Houseparty is an app that lets you connect face to face. There has been an increase in demand for this app because it contains not only video chat but also you can play games while video calling.

Facebook is introducing an app for gaming. It is designed for creating and watching live gameplay. A function app GO LIVE lets users upload streams of other mobile games on the same device by pressing just a few buttons. Those streams can be shared to someone’s personal Facebook page, which becomes feasible for the streamers. Global games business is booming. These are now the new targeting platforms.

Implications for marketers and business owners:

  • Since no fresh content (live matches) are likely for a while channels and websites have resorted to unique methods of keeping their user base engaged. Apart from the regular statistical analysis, opinions, dream teams etc. New engagement tools such as “retro-live” by Cricinfo are being introduced successfully to keep engagement intact (classic case of old wine in new bottle). More such tools are likely to be explored which can also serve as avenues for older brands to promote themselves. 
  • Quizzing – Both app and VC based are becoming popular among quizzing aficionados and are likely to attract more active user bases if social distancing remains the norm. User engagement is an integral aspect of quizzing and given the success of shows like KBC in India, such apps/content is likely to become more board based going forward. 
  • Gaming apps are significant gainers due to the lockdown and multiuser online versions of traditional games such as Ludo are becoming more popular due to the mass user base. Ludo King has recently already launched a video featuring Mika Singh for promoting itself. 

Skills & Education
There has been a sudden rise in enrollment of online courses. People all over the world are participating in the courses of their interest. Everyone’s investing in themselves by learning activities like Fitness classes to online cookery courses.

 Also, one of the reasons for taking up online classes is the guilt of not being productive. Hence, People are trying to be productive as much as they can by taking online classes.

 Due to economic uncertainties, people are afraid of losing their jobs due to which they are participating in online courses to be able to sustain in the commercial world.

 It used to be difficult for everyone to manage their professional life and personal life due to which they barely could give out time for themselves. Online classes during the lockdown helps to eliminate these obstacles. Accessibility and convenience is one of the reasons for taking up online classes.

 Discipline is always been taught to children by their parents. Parents have to come up with a structured environment to be able to implement children’s daily routine which earlier used to be in a lockdown. Especially for working parents who have to also manage household chores.  Online courses are a lifesaver and a help to the parents.

Apart from that it also helps them to spend time with the family by taking online courses like Yoga, dance choreography etc.

There are many online courses like Udemy, Coursera, IIDE that are helping students and professionals help upskill themselves, in a very productive way to pass time. Havard University and google are offering courses for free. IIDE is conducting free webinar courses which helps people decide whether they should further invest in a course.

Implications for marketers and business owners:

  • Education apps such as Byju’s, UnAcademy would move from being good to haves to must-haves and perhaps would collaborate with their offline counterparts such as FIITJEE/Career Launcher/Bansal’s who would want an online channel with reach. The above is true for basic education to school children to professionals looking for upskilling. 
    • Given the expected uncertainties around employability in certain sectors (e.g. hospitality, airlines), a large pool of prospective users might be acquired who want to broaden their skillets to remain employable. 
    • Delivering vocational training and certification online can be a massive addressable opportunity for fast movers. Economic distress, reverse migration and subsequent drop in wage levels which is likely to stay much beyond the lockdown would almost “force” people across age groups and economic strata to take up vocational training and be a part of the gig economy. 

In summation, two common threads bind the themes above and almost serve as underlying hypotheses.

  1. The need to stay connected, more actively now than ever before, and in all activities of life, would lead to consumers or influencers converging in new digital ‘hotspots’. 
  2. Digital spaces, from being new modes of experiencing the old, have the potential to morph into even more novel experience altogether. 

Live streaming has always been existing and has been especially used by influencers in gaming. It’s just that people have started paying attention to the already existing live streaming due to lockdown. Not only will all the runways, fashion week, and launches be live-streamed, but they will be actively attempting to stimulate a sense of community through it. And hence, it will be an essential tool to create long term relationships and brand loyalty during the era of COVID-19. 

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