Meet Blink Digital, Driving Innovation By Bridging The Gap Between Creativity & Tech

Dooj Ramchandani and Rikki Agarwal of Blink Digital share how the digital agency is solving brand problems, while using technology as a vehicle and not making it as the main product

Blink Digital founders

India is the second largest growing market for smartphones. Almost every week sees a new smartphone launch. By the end of a quarter your new smartphone is a dinosaur, in comparison with latest specs and offerings. Along with eye rolling features, there is one big problem often faced by smartphone users, especially youngsters - running out of battery.

Walk into any bar or restaurant, you would find at least one or two frustrated faces trying to find a charging point. A common problem very well known to most mobile companies but they are yet to make a breakthrough. (There are smartphones that sell by the USP of better battery life but they are as heavy as a rock to roam around with!)

But before the mobile companies can do something, the ‘finger lickin’ world wide supplier of fried chicken and fast food joint, KFC came up with a simple and interesting hack for the universal smartphone battery problem.

In a bid to counter its arch-rival McDonald’s Happy Meal Box, KFC launched the 5-in-1 Meal Box. The objective was to provide an abundant complete meal at an affordable price. To promote the power pack of 5-in-1 meal box, KFC approached Blink Digital, a seven-year-old Mumbai based full service digital agency. The agency needed to convey how the KFC 5-in-1 Meal Box at Rs. 149, was the most power-packed meal box in the market.

Blink Digital solved the common user problem of dead smartphone batteries, it added in a power bank with a detachable battery to the meal box!

“We wanted to offer a smart and easy way for our consumers to recharge their smartphones that would give them more of the moment to enjoy their meal and have one less thing to worry about. And so the limited edition KFC “Watt A Box” was born,” states the company press release.

The limited edition KFC Watt A Box contained an in-built power bank with a detachable battery that can recharge smartphones either in KFC stores or on the go. KFC has said that a few lucky customers at select KFC stores in Mumbai and Delhi got a chance to have their 5-in-1 Meal served in ‘Watt a Box’. Along with this, users also participated in an online contest on KFC India’s Facebook page to be lucky to win these limited edition boxes.

“Help your friend win the Limited Edition ‪#‎WattABox!” was the call by the brand on Facebook. Fans needed to tag a friend whose phone was always out of charge and cite a reason as to why the #WattABox is a match made in heaven for them.

A great idea that tried solving a real-world problem in the most simplistic way. Also, a strong comeback from KFC against McDonald’s communication to go offline (Kuch pal offline), keep your smartphones aside while enjoying your burger with friends. A far-fetched call specially for youngsters, isn’t it?

‪#‎WattABox became an instant hit as it was picked up by all major international and national online publications. The Hindu and New India Express, many print dailies covered the campaign along with Zee Business on TV. As a result the hashtag was trending on Facebook and Twitter for 3 days without any media spends. A total of 86.8B impressions and 6.7m engagements were achieved. On Google, KFC Watt A Box registered more than 5 lakh results.

By the time Lighthouse Insights planned to cover it, most publications had already covered it, besides, what more could we have told. This is when the idea to have a conversation with the brains behind the campaign occurred. In fact Blink Digital has had a long association with KFC India, it got rewarded at the 2014 Webby Awards where the agency made the cut for its augmented reality app ‘KFC [email protected]’ under Augmented Reality in the ‘People’s Voice’ section.

Over the years Blink has always surprised Lighthouse Insights with its effective and cool tech integrations into digital marketing campaigns. Finding enough reasons, I booked a meeting with the two co-founders – CEO & Creative Director Dooj Ramchandani (seated at the left) and President & Account Director Rikki Agarwal (standing on the right)

Meeting the co-founders in Mumbai

Being the Eid weekend, the drive on the Western Express Highway and the Bandra Reclamation Flyover at about 3 in the afternoon was smooth. But the moment we entered Bandra, our auto began slowing down. I finally got down on Hill Road and with the help of Google Maps, I walked towards the Blink Digital office located in Fierdos Apartments, Varoda Road.

The walk was quite a pleasant one reminding me of old Goa. Most of the buildings were painted white and had an old leisurely look about them. As I was looking into my smartphone and trying to figure out which building could be Blink Digital, a voice from the top asked me what was I looking for. But before that conversation could start, I was escorted into the lift by a guy who worked at Blink Digital.

As the main door opened, I saw a hall comprising 5-6 people staring back at me. It is a residential building converted into an office. I was taken to a private room where I met Dooj - smart, attentive, very articulate and soft-spoken CEO. The room was a makeshift cabin for the co-founders. It had a couch alongside a long brown table that had all the work set up. At the center there was a small table surrounded by few old leisure chairs. I sat on one of them.

The casually dressed Dooj and I spoke more on the #WattABox campaign, after about 5 minutes Rikki joined the conversation. “To begin with our objective was to showcase how the Rs. 149 5-in-1 meal box was a power pack if compared with its competitors. So we tried tackling the big consumer problem by offering them a way to charge their phone while having their food. We don’t want people to use their phones while eating food, but charging the smartphone at that time makes sense,” Dooj informed.

The love for tech for both the co-founders goes back to their engineering days and Dooj’s long association with visual arts.

“I saw a big gap between creativity and technology. We wanted to bridge the gap and create something, which was innovative. For us what mattered was not the technology but how creatively technology could be applied to different industries. For instance, the Watt A Box might be called as a packaging innovation but for us just that one post on Facebook has fetched us 80 billion impressions of earned media globally. So it is social, digital, offline and it is innovation too.”

Passing out from Thadomal Shahani Engineering College, Mumbai in 2009 both the college buddies had lucrative placement offers from software companies in their hands. “We rejected our respective job offers because IT was really not exciting since it had no creative satisfaction,” recollected Rikki.

Pranav Mistry, the young computer scientist and inventor played a very strong role in shaping the careers of both the co-founders. It was his ever-popular TED talk – ‘The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology’ that inspired the duo to drive similar innovations. “In the early days of 2009-10, we did a lot of Augmented Reality, Gesture Recognition, Video Mapping projects that were very much inspired by Pranav Mistry.”

Innovative work from Blink

Rikki shared the 3D Video Mapping Asian Paints India project as an example where the agency provided the technology for the 3D projection mapping installation for Asian Paints at City Centre Mall in Chennai. Mall visitors could view a mock furnished living room with different paint textures.

Another example that was shared with me was the Hockey Selfie Stick, where the idea was to make our National Sport bit cooler and relevant to the youth. This happened at a time when selfie sticks were in demand, so the agency came up with an idea wherein the hockey stick turned into a selfie stick. “It was a simple execution which didn’t had any AR or VR but it solved a brand problem with a seamless integration.”

However the biggest challenge for Blink has always been with convincing brands that you can’t force fit a tech solution to achieve results. “We always get briefs that want to execute most talked about applications. Our job is to ask them why. To find the reason. We have never pitched ourselves as an agency that is trying to solve with technology, we try to understand the brand objective, the challenge a brand is facing. Post that, we try to come up with an innovative solution to solve the problem. Now the innovative solution can be in the form of AR or VR or a simple execution.”

We want to solve brand problems, while using technology as a vehicle and not making it as the main product.

However, the agency has offered cool solutions whenever required. For instance, in the latest KFC campaign, “The Friendship Bucket Buddy” which along with a mainline campaign, also had an online activation where it detects faces. The campaign idea was bringing friends together so the agency created an AR app like a website wherein you get people together to disclose more about the product. The incentive tied to the activity was an exclusive event invite to the product launch and product discount. “AR here is an enabler, wherein technology is used as a face detection tool but the core idea is to get people together,” added Rikki.

Talking about innovation, the Blink guys also shared the work they did for the launch of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League – the display banner ad on Yahoo. To create buzz about one of the ancient games of India, the agency made the cursor like a radar. Whenever a user visited the Yahoo home page, the cursor would turn into a radar and wherever the user travels on the page, she is followed by 7 players of the opponent team. The interactive innovation on the banner display ad won a gold at Indian Digital Media Awards 2015.

Blink Lab

Innovation isn’t just about creating and executing brand work for Blink, this mindset has led to the creation of an in-house Blink Lab. The lab is a small team of 4-5 people who work in their own world and at times ideas have been brewed from the lab, which have been bought by a brand. “The lab is very important for us to keep us focused on what our ethos is, which is pushing ourselves to innovate,” Dooj said making a reference to the core tech idea of #WattABox as an output from the Blink Lab.

Both the co-founders were tight lipped on the kind of innovations being churned out of the lab, I was only told that the team is working on a project related to water. Dooj didn’t share any further but he did mention that it is solving a consumer problem, which might interest brands like HUL.

Before I moved out of the agency, I was lucky to get a sneak peek of the Blink Lab. Innovation has been the core of Blink Digital’s vision and running the lab actually connects back the dots.

“India has mastered the CSR and the social cause marketing space which competes at international level. But when it comes to innovation in tech space, we are really behind. We believe that Blink Digital can very well own the space in India. ”