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Content Marketing — The Art and Science of Story Telling

Shailendra Patil — Marketing Manager, The Viral Fever (TVF)

What better way to understand ‘how startups are leveraging the power of Content’ than hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth itself? We caught up with Shailendra Patil, Marketing Manager at a startup that breathes content — The Viral Fever (TVF). TVF has been at the forefront of the web-entertainment revolution in India. Pioneers (in India) in the true sense of the word, they wrote the grammar for online entertainment, with a focus on progressive and new-age content. Their journey began with a parody video Rowdies on 21st Feb 2012, and the ball never stopped rolling since then. Loved by India’s youth, TVF has continuously pushed the envelope through its philosophy ‘Lights, Camera and Experiment.’

1. How does TVF go about creating a content strategy? What are some of the key factors that you consider when creating one?

At the core of TVF lie great stories. There is no substitute to good scripts. TVF’s stories have been progressive and relatable. We plan to continue breaking barriers and stay true to our motto “Lights, Camera, Experiment”. It’s our original thought and its execution in form of stories has kept our viewers hooked on to our platform, helping us build a loyal fanbase over the years. Our stories have also evolved as the youth of the country has evolved, finding new spaces and themes to explore. It’s evident in our evolution from Permanent Roommates to Pitchers to Tripling to Yeh Meri Family to Kota Factory. The company’s DNA has ensured we scope the width and depth of popular culture. With a great workforce at task, if we all continue to be tenacious in every department (writing, directing, music, editing, marketing, distributing), we shall be in a happy space.

2.How much of TVF’s growth/success do you attribute to having an effective content marketing strategy?

TVF has always believed in originality & experimentation — the new formats devised by TVF vouch for it. Notwithstanding are A day with… series, Tech Conversations with Dad, Rabish ki Report, all web shows from TVF or live formats like Airtel Connected Live which was the first long form live in India that spanned for 72 hours. I’d like to pinpoint a pole star — Girlsplaining by Girliyapa, in the times when mansplaining masquerades our conversations, we attempted this where the lead girls in the show help their guy friend with intimacy tips without being vulgar at all. With each format pushing the limits of our comfort zones, TVF has stayed true to its core — great storytelling.

What this has done is enabled us, the marketers to create cool, likeable things. While the fan following grew organically, content marketing helped provide the thrust the content needs to reach wider mass. Content and its marketing strung together in resonance. Hence, enabling non-linear growth. We are proud to have become a community of 10M+ fans alone on social media who look forward to new things from us. Add to it the YouTube community and TVFPLAY, the number balloons to 40M people.

Content marketing works very differently for each sector. Nike’s or a Samsung’s or a RedBull’s approach would completely be different from what TVF’s would be. The universal truth is sustaining the brand love from the fans.

3. What short & long term business goals are you trying to achieve through content marketing? How do you distill your business goals to a content strategy?

By virtue of being true to the craftsmanship and honesty towards the art, we are a brand that is always fresh and derives its expression from popular culture. As a marketer, one can complicate the media mix as much as one wants — Ads and its derivatives (branded content) on TV, TV shows, radio, print; OOH, in-cinema ads, on-ground activations, events, podcasts, YouTube collaborations, performance marketing on digital media, social media platforms and the social media assets that one owns. With so many factors at play, one needs to play to their strengths and break the benchmarks set in the industry or make new ones.

The idea is to always play the long-term game — of staying connected to your fans. Now, this is a daily job. The brand ethos is set. Expectations from fans are set. The joy lies in exceeding those. And once this work ethic becomes a habit, all short-term goals like viewership, reach for the videos are taken care of.

4. How do you track and measure success? Which key metrics are you tracking?

Success metrics are very well defined in the industry for video content. The benchmarks to be achieved are also publicly available. If one works on the branded entertainment side, viewership, engagement rate, likeability ratios, and positive report in sentiment analysis are key metrics. Diving deeper, there are effectiveness research studies too that happen which track uptick in Brand awareness and purchase intention.

At a personal level, success is anything that is at least company first or is a new benchmark established in the content business.

5. What are some of the key factors for going viral?

Thank you for this question! There are lot of open variables at play. There’s a gamut of emotions that get triggered on watching or reading something. Nostalgia being the most potent one. Playfulness and amusement on watching cat and dog videos being the other. And then rules of the internet — platform, length of video, quality, etc.

Here’s an attempt to simplify — be it an image-based meme, a short sound bite, 6s vine, 15s TikTok, a 30s TVC, a 5 min long sketch or a song/ scene that becomes viral — it’s a very simple concoction of art and science. And it is the simplicity that makes it supremely difficult to achieve. According to me, if one understands little bit of psychology and understands the tit bits of functioning of id, ego and superego; it’s a great starting point for a creator. Amongst many people (viewers), things like truth about oneself or their most vulnerable self or conscious self-pride are always hidden. The moment you unpeel it using an artform (could be anything, in our case a dialogue); it spreads. Sample these lines from TVF shows.

Permanent Roommates (S2) “Mardangi ka syllabus change ho gaya hai Papa, be a man and cry like a b#$%*.”, in Pitchers “Tu kya hai? Tu beer hai b*@#$%^”, in Yeh Meri Family “Papa cool dikhte nahi, papa cool hain!” or in Kota Factory “Last moment tak ladhenge, IIT crack karenge… thik hai?”

Having said this, I’d advise a word of caution: please avoid retrofitting the principles of Psychology into your creatives. If your writing is honest and if you understand human emotions, you will certainly have the perfect mix of art and the science that will make you go viral.

6. Dissemination strategy is a big part of content marketing. Could you shed some light on your dissemination strategy?

At a macro level, distribution is easy to comprehend. While the final aim is reach, two things happen — one earns money through licensing the content to a partner (say OTT or a TV channel). Cutting it down to the subcutaneous layer, one can decide on the geographies (global, continent, national, local), repeat slots, etc. One may also lose partial control over their own IP for a certain agreed time period.

Depending on the current stage in the growth cycle and future; one takes a call on the distribution.

At a micro level, the basics of communications work — awareness, engagement, sustenance.

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