Can Outbound and Inbound Marketing be Same? Two Lessons for Marketers from Aircel

'Are our marketing efforts inbound or outbound?' - This may appear like a black-and-white classification for marketers, but the Aircel example suggests otherwise. At times, Outbound and Inbound Marketing exhibit similar characteristics. Read on!

Outbound Marketing or Inbound Marketing?

Can it be possible that a company's outbound marketing displays characteristics of Inbound Marketing ? To understand the conundrum, let’s look at the groundbreaking idea that Aircel marketing team put through in Mumbai a few years ago. Aircel put up inflated rafts in its billboards at Milan Subway, a place in Mumbai known for heavy flooding every year. Subsequently during rains, the public commuting through the area used these inflated rafts and assisted the movement of people stranded around the subway.

Intrigued by the excitement that built around these rafts at Milan Subway every day, several newspapers in Mumbai offered inadvertent publicity to Aircel by carrying news items on how Aircel achieved something that the government did not.

Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing are sometimes same

Conventional wisdom may not call this inbound marketing, but marketers may deem it as one such exercise if they relate it to what inbound marketing tries to achieve. Unlike the usual billboards, these rafts pull people to them as inbound marketing intends to. The same principle may also apply to the mobile/laptop charging stations that Aircel has installed in Delhi and several other airports. The difference between traditional outbound efforts and Aircel’s campaign is the shift in focus from a mere push to a new pull marketing strategy that inbound marketing advocates. In Aircel’s case, of course, the company literally pulls its potential customers towards its rafts and charging stations.

Evidently, there is no doubt on the efficacy of these efforts in lucidly carrying the company’s brand communication of it being a brand that cares. Having said that, inbound marketing’s success depends not just on its adeptness in branding, but also on its ability to generate leads and thereby improve sales. In inbound marketing, a user searches for something he needs, finds it in a brand, uses it free of charge, savours the experience, leaves behind cues and wilfully reengages with the brand to become its revenue generating customer. In Aircel’s case though, people look for the charging stations, find them in Aircel, use them free of charge, savour the experience, but leave no cues and may never reengage with Aircel as revenue generating customers. Hence for Aircel, branding is the sole benefit of these campaigns and they are not effective selling strategies.

Successful generation of leads through inbound marketing depends on the quality of content that a potential customer is pulled into. Needles to say, the content needs to be relevant to the product or service that the business offers to its customers. On this account, it is apparent that Aircel’s content - offering a raft ride or power supply - is not connected to its telecommunication services and hence sales are hard to come by this means. Given this innovation in branding but inadequacy in selling, Aircel’s campaigns are neither completely inbound, nor classically outbound.

Two Lessons from Aircel on Inbound Marketing Vs Outbound Marketing

1. There is a grey area between inbound and Outbound Marketing:

Inbound and outbound marketing efforts are not mutually exclusive. Apparently as Aircel’s case suggests, trying to choose between inbound and outbound is only a false dichotomy. There is a third alternative that is often overlooked - a hybrid marketing strategy. Innovation in marketing can definitely help in channelling the ingredients of inbound marketing into our outbound strategies.

2. Inbound Marketing can help industries beyond Knowledge-based ones:

For most companies today, inbound marketing is nothing more than a well composed website. This understanding has restricted inbound marketing only to companies offering knowledge based services. But this cult status is expected to change as more industries begin to embrace it.Do share your views with us. Have you seen any similar offline marketing examples that exhibit PULL characteristics?

This blog post is brought to you by Inbound Mantra - a Data Driven Inbound Marketing Agency.

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