afaqs! and afaqs! Reporter have been tracking buzz in an unusual way for the last six years. We poll people whose business is brands - the readers
Buzz is about the excitement around brands as seen from the point of view of the consumers. In other words, it is the story of brands that the users enjoy talking about. Just as conversation ebbs and flows, so too does interest in a brand.
afaqs! and afaqs! Reporter have been tracking buzz in an unusual way for the last six years. We poll people whose business is brands - the readers - to find out what they rate as the buzziest brands of the year (see 'How the poll was done'). To prevent ballot stuffing, votes have to be validated. Plus a jury of senior advertising and marketing professionals gets a 30 per cent weightage, bringing another perspective to buzz. It is the only poll of this kind in India to have recorded the vagaries of buzz over half a dozen years.
When it first appeared on this list in 2009, Facebook finished at No 2, a hair's breadth behind that year's winner, Airtel but well ahead of Google at No 3. By 2010, it had taken the top spot just pipping Vodafone to the top spot.
But in the popular vote - before taking the jury's opinion into account - it was the telecom player which was ahead of the social networking brand. This year, the popular vote is a no contest.
A first-time entrant to the list this year, BlackBerry has begun its campaign in style. There has been terrific buzz around this brand over the past 12 months because BlackBerry has repositioned itself as a must-have for the 20-somethings rather than as a weapon for the suits alone.
It is possibly the most innovatively launched telecom brand in India. It missed being on the list in 2010 because it had just made its entry into the country. It has made up for that absence with great tempo. Tata Docomo is clearly a darling of the advertising, media and marketing crowd, getting to an impressive 35.3 per cent in the popular vote, behind only Facebook and more than 3 percentage points ahead of BlackBerry.
It is a measure of the buzz around the brand that it is three places and about 10 percentage points ahead of the next telco in the buzzy list, Idea. As for the jury, two of the six jurors vote for Tata Docomo, not quite enough for the telco to get to No 2.
In a list dominated by first-timers, Volkswagen is perhaps the most surprising name of all. Only once before has an auto brand made it into the top positions, and that was in 2007 when Maruti Suzuki was perceived to have had a big injection of buzz following the launch of Swift about a year or so earlier. Even in this list, the next auto marketer is still Maruti Suzuki which is way down at No 18.
Rarely has a local challenger brand managed to make such strong headway against a huge multinational tech behemoth. That is the story of Micromax and Nokia. To add insult to injury, in its very first appearance on the buzzy list, the Indian brand has overtaken the Finnish major. In fact, Micromax's final voter percentage is twice that of Nokia which figures at No 13. Micromax is aided by the fact that two of the jury members vote for it whereas none support Nokia this time round
For three years in a row, Idea has been perched at No 4, a remarkable achievement in a ranking as volatile as this because, as we all know, the coming and going of buzz is like a piece of magic - often fleeting and generally hard to fathom. However, Idea's power has perceptibly weakened in the last two years. Last year, 2010, it dropped to No 5 in the popular vote but went up one rank with the jury's favour.
We at afaqs! have to admit that we are thoroughly foxed by this one. When Google sank from No 3 in 2009 to No 12 in 2010, we reasoned that it had done indifferently possibly because both voters on the site as well as the jury view Google as a utility - and whoever has heard of buzzy utility?
Consumers talk about products that are changing all the time. No wonder, then, that this list is dominated by digital brands as well as those from a rapidly evolving field such as mobile telephony because there is a constant sense of excitement. In this list of heavyweights Cadbury's appearance so high up has to be greeted with a sense of wonder. Number eleven in the popular vote, Cadbury rises to No 8 thanks to two votes from the jurors.
Between 2006 and 2009, no brand could knock Airtel from the top perch in the annual buzzies. Brands as exciting as Hutch, Nokia, Kingfisher, Facebook came close to it during this while but they invariably ended up at No 2. And then in 2010 it was as if the buzziest of all brands could do nothing right. Airtel crashed from No 1 not by one rank or two but all the way down to No 16. It was given the thumbs down by both voters and the jury.
Vodafone hit the No 2 spot last year based entirely on the humongous buzz created by the zoozoos who were launched on a captivated TV-viewing public in the preceding IPL season. It was the same rank that Hutch, the earlier avatar of Vodafone, had achieved in the first year of the buzzies, 2006. This is the first time ever in six years that the brand has reached double digits in ranking, its worst performance ever. Voters rank the brand at No 9 and it slips another rank to No 10 because it gets no help from the jury. The magic of the zoozoo has waned.
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