Friday, 15 December 2017

Innovative Examples of Brands Using Chatbots

A chatbot in the simplest of words can be explained as 'something' that is offering an opportunity to brands to engage with consumers directly on a personal level. And, that 'something' is from the world of AI (Artificial Intelligence). So, when we are interacting with a brand, the representative from the brand's side answering us is not a human but a chatbot. Training a bot is not so easy and brands are taking time and effort to invest in this technology.

Today, hundreds of brands have ventured into chatbots from various industries like food & alcohol, banking & finance, travel, entertainment, beauty &clothing, news & media, sports, social sector and health & fitness. I checked out many bots, read about few like CNN, NBC, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Domino's, Whole Foods, Burger King, Burberry, Nordstorm, Armani, Nike, NBA, KLM, Ebay,, Unicef and the list goes on.

But what makes some brands and their chatbots stand-out is their 'creativity' and 'innovation' in their product offering to the end consumer. I have curated some really cool bots around us:
  1. Starbucks - Chatbot is inside the app which takes orders via voice ore text, tells you the time when the order will be ready and price of your order. It was launched in Jan this year. See how it works.
  2.  Sephora - It is on KiK (messenger app) which offers personal assistant for products reviews, makeup tutorials and in-shop buying assistance too. It is one of the smartest chatbots around. Watch for yourself. Also, they have launched couple of more bots this year to suit your requirement. I just loved how popular it has become over here in the US.
  3. Lyft - FB Messenger based chatbot which allows you to request a ride via your chat. In return, if the request is accepted, current location of the driver, car model and number plate's picture will be shared with you. Is it something different than the app, probably no, but it is just adding one more way to market itself and become accessible.
  4. Whole Foods - What I really liked about this chatbot was the simplicity yet a very new and cute way to interact. Simple because it only provides you the recipes and cute because you can put an emoji of the food and text your dietery restrictions and available choices at home.
  5. Whole Foods ChatBot
  6. Victoria Secret - This chatbot replies with lot of fun and not just mechanical bot answers. It is KiK based and it helps in finding the right size, various combinations, what is in these days and also helps in shopping as per your style 
    Victoria Secret Pink Bot
  7. - No, no, this is not just your regular service industry chatbot but a personal assistant who will challenge you to play a game and every win will be rewarded with a discount coupon or a hotel voucher. It is an FB messenger based bot and I found the concept really innovative. Extra brownie points for this one, do you agree with me? 
  8. Diageo - It offers a personal bartender which caters to all your home bar-tending needs (recipes of cocktails) with the available ingredients. It is FB messenger based app. 
  9. The Wall Street Journal - Again an FB messenger based app that provides you with top big news, analyses stock quotes, customizes the alerts at your given time, compare the quotes for you.
  10. Pizza Hut - It is FB messenger based app that takes the order, reorder basis your previous orders and provides you with current deals. Domino's also provides with all the above details and also provides the status of your order.
  11. HM - They are big on social media and also very popular with their KiK based bot. It provides you with personal stylist, helps you with outfits, shares with you current styles and inspirations for the outfits.
The other bots that I liked were Master Card, Harper Collins and Macy's. They came very early but have not innovated much in their offering.
In the above examples that I have listed, I have focused on innovation or creativity or popularity. I would like to repeat that it is not easy to train a bot because after a while queries become complicated. By bringing newness, fun and engagement in the chatbot, brands are investing a lot of time, money and resources in AI. 

I also read a beautiful statement which clearly defines and sums-up the need of chatbots in today's world - "We are living in the ‘expectation economy’ where consumers expect to have information at their fingertips, and we want to keep innovating to meet our customers where they are" Jeff Jenkins, global executive of digital strategy and marketing at Whole Foods Market.

I would love to hear your thoughts or suggestions!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Reviewing The Social Media Updates Of 2017

We have some fantastic updates coming from Twitter and Instagram this week, as the year is about to end. So, sharing with you, my top four picks on the 'updates that took place in 2017 in social media'.

  1. Facebook Messenger Chatbots / Other app based Chatbots: Customer's interaction with the brands has become very easy via chatbots. They are now used extensively and have been efficient in reducing the gap of timely human to human interaction. One of the example of my recent interaction was with the Starbucks chatbot, which is taking the order, informing when it is ready, the price and the payment options and then customizing the content according to preference for the next time. I don't know currently how chatbots will impact the employment rate in the future, because it does reduce the human intervention in all the processes. 
  2. Whatsapp for Businesses: Whatsapp rolled out 'Whatsapp for Businesses' this year which has now become a strong marketing tool for many organisations, especially in the service industry. Promotions, customer service, reservations/orders, direct communication with the individual customer, feedback management and many more tactics are being executed using the simple app.
  3. Twitter Threads: Twitter rolled out this feature to post bunch of connected tweets at one time. The person has to click on '+' after the first tweet to thread the second and more tweets together. It is being reffered as tweetstorm because people can now post longer tweets than Twitter’s already-extended 280-character limit. Only time will tell whether it will be easy for brands and users to communicate or will it add to more confusion?
  4. Instagram 'Follow Hashtags': As they say, save the best for the last, and this is one of the best updates from Instagram in 2017. It was very difficult to search the popular hashtags everyday, see the curated content and monitor it. With this feature, you get the content of a particular followed hashtag in your feed. With this, my trust in organic reach and engagement is restored otherwise the only way to succeed on social was the paid way! More likes, more comments but less follows on the account, is what, I foresee in future with this update. 
These features/updates/trends highlighted above really stood out for me because all of them spoke one marketing mantra - 'Keep it simple, stupid'. And, they definitely are making it very simple for brands and consumers to engage with each other.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Checklist To Promote Your Event On Social Media

Do you face challenges in managing social media for your events or conferences? Is the digital marketing pie from the whole marketing mix giving you jitters during your product launch? If yes, then this blog can suggest you some pointers to make things easy.

All the marketing tactics that are used for an event is divided into three stages: pre-event, on-ground and post-event. We all are sailing in the evolved boat of marketing wherein PR, social media, digital marketing, media buying, creative & content have converged into Integrated Communications. 

These days leveraging social media for event marketing is like adding salt & pepper to your food. Therefore it is extremely important for all of us to have a ready checklist that will help us with the following: Engage - Generate Curiosity - Amplify - Promote - Convert - Monitor - Analyse

Promote your event with social media. Image source: IIP via Google Images

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” – Leonard Bernstein

Here is a list of things to be done & some questions to be answered before execution of the event. It will be handy for you to just check, tick and be sure that everything is under control:


  1. Mediums for outreach
    • Website - Will it be a website, landing page or a microsite
    • Social Media - What will be the platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram) 
    • App - Will my app help convert leads
    • PR - What will be the mix of traditional and online PR
  2. Content & Messaging
    • Hashtag - Is it small, easy to understand, associated with the main brand
    • Messages - What are my standard messages for promotions and consumer queries, is the press release following the same messaging
    • Creative - Are the creatives following a theme, are you resizing for all mediums,  
    • Content Type - What is the right mix of image, text and video content during promotions
  3. Partnerships
    • Sponsors & partners - Are your sponsors active on social media. Will they promote
    • Ticket booking platforms - Is your event listed out there for people to easily book
    • Bloggers & Influencers - What genre of blogger & influencer will you reach out? What is the klout
  4. Amplification
    • Have you started the online promotions
    • Is your content calendar meeting your agenda
    • Are bloggers promoting the event
    • Are sponsors supporting the promotions
    • If there is any ambassador/ celebrity associated, then is she/he promoting
    • Have you started with contests, teaser videos
    • Is your pre event coverage giving you mileage

  1. Going Live
    • Are you doing Facebook Live
    • Are you on periscope
    • Is their a live tweeting team 
    • Are you putting up Instagram posts and stories
    • Are you putting up snapchat stories
  2. Engagement
    • Is there an on-ground contest or activation that you are promoting
    • Are you encouraging the audience so that you get UGC (user generated content)
  3. Monitoring 
    • Are you tracking your event regularly - Monitor responses, reply to audience tweets, tracking the reach and impressions, tracking the influencer tweets, traction of your tweets and influencer tweets, taking snapshots regularly
Post Event

  1. Albums, videos and coverage
    • Is the picture album uploaded on Facebook and promoted on other social channels
    • Are the videos uploaded on YouTube and promoted on all channels
    • Is your website updated with all the information of the event (pictures, videos, testimonials and next year dates if any)
    • Have you promoted the event coverage on all channels
    • Have you thanked all sponsors and attendees with specific pictures on social media
  2. Coverage
    • Are you following up with bloggers and online partners for post event coverage
    • Is your traditional coverage on track
  3. Reports
    • Detailed performance analysis - Number of posts, engagement (like, RT, share, replies), your responses, contest engagement, UGC, influencer-blogger performance and what's pending 

Also, it is essential to note down the learning from the past event so that it gets added to the checklist of your next event. 
I hope I have shared some great tips for maximizing your event marketing with social media. These are just a few ways to prepare for the next conference or an event. If you have more ideas, feel free to share the knowledge in the comments section.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Hello 2017

2016 was a very unusual year for me. I cannot call it happy and I cannot call it sad. I bought a house in this year which was a really big achievement for us (Everyone as an opinion on rental and buying and I feel 'to each his own', whatever makes one happy in a longer run). We took a major risk and it was a period of testing times - big loans, savings all gone, the seller was very arrogant and shallow. There was zero travel due to the new house. Lethargy had set in due to constant pressure of saving, saving and more saving. Reading also became almost zero. Exercising and healthy lifestyle took a backseat because the juggle between office, the old house and the construction of new one took a toll on me.
Work became the only savior. It became my focus and I was spending more & more time & energy on my career.
Fun times with friends, colleagues and family were obviously beautiful.
And then came the month of December wherein I had a family wedding and after that back to back illness - Fever, severe back and neck issue and many other things. I was frustrated. Was it depression? - I don't know but whatever it was, I wanted to be out of it.

I was reading and surfing the internet on December 24 when I read these two quotes:

At the moment of truth, there are either reasons or results - Chuck Yeager

Those who don't want to change, let them sleep - Rumi

I chose not to sleep, dear Rumi and thus on December 25, I decided to put strict discipline and lots of fun back into my life.

Are they my resolutions for 2017? Maybe yes as far as I stay motivated on all of these:-

Stretch more
Move ahead, stretch myself at work, take challenging roles, learn-unlearn, explore new areas, teach, share and evolve continuously

Read one book per month
Putting a goal of one book per month is like putting a deadline. And I work best when there are cut to cut deadlines and pressure.
Buy or borrow will be the mantra. I already have a list of few books that are in the 'to-read' list. 

Write blogs
I love writing whether it is about digital marketing, brands, PR, perfumes, good ads, food recipes, travel and more. 
I learn so many new things everyday so why not share them at-least once or twice in a month?

Gain health - exercise and good food
1 hour cardio and some core strengthening exercise at least 4 times a week, controlling sweets ( a combination of punjabi and bania can never say complete no to sweets), eating lot of veggies, fruits, nuts and sprouts

Walking on a full moon nights, gazing stars, sitting in the balcony soaking some sun on a weekend, just walking miles, cooking or baking. What stops us doing these things when we grow up? Time cannot be blamed. I have already started doing some of these and will indulge more

India or abroad; beach or mountains; by road or by sea I want to travel. Small vacations and one big vacation (no harm visioning it). Rohan & I want to our travel and adventure to be back in our lives

Last but not the least

Meditate, do mandala, stay happy and spread love around

I wish happiness and peace to all :)



Images in the post are taken from Piktochart and then edited

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Influencers or Promoters?

This blog is written after many years of experience of dealing with influencers in India for brands.

Should influencers in India be termed as Promoters? My reason for such a strong statement is the over abused term ‘influencer outreach/influencer management’.

Not convinced? Ok, let us look at the primary reasons for hiring influencers in India for brands:

  • Promote tweets that are either based on launch of a product or a new announcement
  • Make the hashtag trend
  • Increase the reach of an engagement (contest, tweet chats, event etc.)

What more? Well not many, if I observe Twitter timeline even today:

Analyzing the Twitter trends

Apart from the promoted hashtag on the top, let us look at the non-promoted hashtags - the other four hashtags are used by brands and promoted by so-called influencers. Let me define an influencer for Indian brands today:

’18-30 years of age, has many followers, plays all sorts of contests, has no target audience, and has no particular interest’

It is very sad state of affairs for growing digital industry. Reason is as simple as possible – the above are NOT INFLUENCERS, they are merely the ones promoting your brand’s current message (along with tweeting about 5 other brands at the same time) and at the same time these young kids are harassing brands like how, for not receiving their due (read prize or money) or breaking the embargo of the brand to release the news first or sometimes promoting false message about the brand.

To give a due credit to ‘Who is an influencer’, according to me:
  1. Age is not a requirement; but experience is must
  2. Definitely needs to have their defined interests or have carved a niche in a segment
  3. All sorts of contests is strictly No-No but if it is in their area and if they are hired for a continuous engagement which also involves this contest, then it is fine
  4. High number fans or followers is usually preferred but not mandatory. I have observed people who are experienced in a particular field, are recognized within industry, their message has better reach even when they have less than 3k followers.
Coming on to the final leg of this blog – the blame game:
It is a chicken and egg story as to who can be blamed for making a promoter out of an influencer– brands, agencies or the promoters themselves?
All three of them– Brands are consuming them for their benefit, agency is merely meeting the demand and supply and promoters are enjoying! Enjoying the easy money that is flowing in by gaining few followers, playing few contests. While some may have put in real money and effort to gain fans and also set up the system by tying up with other promoters, but still they are not selective.

My vision for 2017 is contributing to improve the scenario and appealing to other brands to watch how well the entire ‘influencer outreach’ is managed in matured countries.

Influencers are thought leaders for brands who become strong pillars of outreach for a defined period

‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Perfume Review - Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue

My bio says that I am a perfume lover and there is absolutely no doubt about it to anyone & everyone when they see my smile buying or getting one. The shape of the bottles, mystique associated with the notes and the freshness that stays with you.

Today, I review my recent possession - Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue
Notes: lemon and cedar that makes the fragrance citrus and woody
Season: definitely a summer perfume and should be worn during day time.

One of the best aqua and heavy citrus tone perfume that has come my way after long time. And when I write heavy citrus, I mean 2-3 sprays overall and you are done for the day. It will give a feel of freshly squeezed lemon and sweet lime.
I personally love both the notes but if someone is occasional to citrus and has a preference of floral or sweet fruit or extreme wood then don't go for it. It is very strong and crisp as compared to Davidoff Cool Water or Michael Kors Sporty. I read 'it smells expensive' in one of the reviews on a popular perfume website, haha I clearly don't know what she means but yes there are bipolar views. Either people love it or just simply hate it. Being a popular choice, it also behaves different with different people. With me it stays the whole day but with many I heard it just disappears.

Price: upward of INR 4000 for 100 ml EDT, depends on the place of purchase (online or a shopping mall)

For all who want to feel fresh the whole day - this one is just perfect. It throws you back to those totally free humid summer days you spent walking on a white sand beach with a gentle breeze flowing. And I love this feeling :)


Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Analysis of Facebook's Recent Policy of 'Killing Organic Reach'

The very famous saying ‘The Rich becomes richer & the Poor becomes poorer’ is an apt quote for Facebook’s new statement & algorithm which officially kills organic reach for brands. Here are the reasons for why was it the most ‘expected’ news, boon for the so called ‘rich brand pages’ and bane for the poor ones.

Open for All

Today, every Tom, Dick & Harry has a page on Facebook. Be it the local barber, street food joints, NGOs, communities or the bigger brands (every possible domain) are having a basic/ advanced page. When it started with a strategy of expanding its base, it was all together a great platform and they did not really imagine the scale of it. And thus it all began as a free promotion tool to come & open a page. From personal to brands to communities to groups, everything was free because they were testing the platform’s profitability. There itself the issue started. Everyone thought of it as a cheap medium to advertise because offline and other modes are too expensive.

Changes Often

Facebook Algorithm Changes

From the timeline way of interface,  bringing organic reach, people who saw your posts, news feeds, posts with image will have higher visibility, reducing the reach to 50%, then 20% something, followed by 10-15%, then 8… 2 and now 0. It was literally news which was not news. 2% is almost 0 isn't it? There algorithms on search, reach, personal pages, business page and they changed once/twice a month

Show me the ‘Money’ baby

Facebook Monetiztion
Page, posts, events, fans and reach - everything has been monetized. Nothing is organic at all on Facebook. Not to quote but sometimes I feel Facebook promotes itself as wh*re – selling itself too much. I had written a blog last year in Feb where the concern of Facebook policies on going overboard with monetization was raised. Nothing has changed in fact it has become worst.

For the Riches
Paid Fans
Weren't the brands (the popular one’s) already paying for everything to be on top of customer recall, on top amongst competitors and socially extremely active. Whether it was stamp ads, promoted page, promoted posts, paid apps, event promotions - the brands continue their investments because Social Media had taken a pie of overall marketing share. So why do we think that this move of Facebook will affect boardroom decisions now. It would be considered as ‘what next’ but for some more time the investments will continued on Facebook.

What's in Store for me?

Organic Pages

OK so here we talk about the brands that are completely organic & have not high fan base but they are fine with it – they are SMEs, level 2 & 3 brands, NGOs and causes. They are purely driven by interests of people who have liked them. And they are the ones who are ‘worst hit’ because with every policy change their reach of messages became less and now it will be almost zero. Unless the social media team is extremely motivated to continue their efforts, tag people, comment, share information often or the fans are dedicated to content that they themselves reach out to read what is new on the page – the reach will be minuscule.

Predictions, Truth & Future
Concluding it by writing ‘as if we did not see it coming’, we all can analyze that popularity of Facebook is dying. And some brands are continuing their efforts to stay while others feel it is foolish to be on it. Many popular brands even exited from Facebook while some are just continuing to stay with daily posts. It is like living your life when you know your last day (remember Last lecture). In the end, it will be their brand’s vision & strategy that will define how they are tackling with situation and staying/coming out WISELY.