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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Are we prejudiced about middle India consumers?

Are we prejudiced about middle India consumers?

Increasingly, we are finding consumers saying ‘Oh no, not again’ when they see another top established star in advertising or public service commercials. So, while established stars are always at the top of the Forbes and other celebrity indices, they are more a reflection of the box office earnings and fame ranks. But those ranks may be hiding something very potent for marketers – of how tired consumers are, of seeing their favourite stars too often. And more importantly, we need to answer the question ‘how relevant are they for our target audience?’.

For example, a few years ago, to mark the launch of its new XE model, car maker Jaguar enlisted singer Emeli Sandé, actor Idris Elba and designer Stella McCartney to ramp up interest from a new audience. Or Seinnheiser used Miley Cyrus to endorse its range. Steve Dalton, director of marketing at Sennheiser said, “Over the years we have decided that it’s not right for us to choose an artist simply because they are the biggest selling or most famous because it limits us to attracting only a certain demographic.” Vivienne Francis, director of communications at Prostate Cancer UK said, “Celebrity-fronted campaigns can be effective, but it is naive to believe a famous face is enough on its own to build credible engagement.”

Colgate broke the mould a year ago by moving from Sonam Kapoor to Shraddha Sharma for their Colgate Visible White. According to the company, they got much more traction with Shraddha Sharma. Perhaps then, it is no surprise that Thums Up decided to ditch Salman Khan for Ranveer Singh recently. Most colas are talking to young people and Thums Up’s major franchise is the youth in Class 2 towns. So, what might have made Thums Up ditch the no. 1 star Salman Khan on the Forbes Celebrity List, with the no. 12 star? I have no doubt that it is the same misgivings that have bothered marketers in other parts of the world as well. Thinking about tomorrow and about the appropriateness of how relevant the endorser is with youth. And there is little doubt that Ranveer Singh is becoming an increasingly influential icon with the Indian millennials.

An earlier study conducted by DigitaBi, Razorfish, Tumblr and Yahoo gave some tips on how to engage youth with content:

  • Set the mood
  • Help millennials escape
  • Fuel creativity and play
  • Spotlight pop culture
  • Help millennials succeed and help them discover

The new Thums Up TVC sticks close to that knitting by extending the earlier thought of ‘Main Hoon Toofani’ which was launched earlier this year. The ad aims to inspire consumers to unleash their toofani (heroic) spirit. However, in the new commercial, our protagonist is not crazy about going to any length to acquire the beverage as in the earlier commercials, but is more interested in saving school children from a road accident. Again, a subtle change that is likely to attract the youth, who hate a forced plug-in for any brand and the traditional ‘brand window’ as a mandatory. They say that the youth increasingly don’t like ‘hard sell’ and prefer ‘light touch’ advertising. The kind of scale and action portrayed in the ad is of course just what middle India thrives on. It is the kind of fantasy they would love to live, and this is where the brand becomes a kind of mirror for consumers to see themselves in. But we may miss that subtle nuance, if we put on our jaded, prejudiced urban lens to review the ad.

"Ever since youth culture became a defined concept, marketers have been using the unique values of youth as an ‘in’ to young consumers,” according to a study from Havas. So, most brands especially those in highly competitive categories are willing to do anything that can get that nod from the youth. Marketers are also realising that youth want a different relationship with the product and the brand. If brands can create a friendship with consumers, you can take your brand to the next level. Because then you will get a loyal consumer who is willing to support you all the way.

For most marketers hitting the sweet spot for consumers of the future, seems to be the name of the game. Also, isn’t choosing a celebrity a bit of a gamble like horse racing? It’s all about predicting the winners of tomorrow rather than betting on the winners of today.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How Marketing can Help Brands Tap the Massive Rural Opportunity

Despite housing close to 70% of the country’s population, rural markets in India have been by and large neglected by businesses in favour of urban geographies. Even mainstream business enterprises, despite their abundant resources, have made limited inroads into this vast market. Factors such as a lack of services, infrastructure, and essential facilities such as banking institutions have been touted as the main reason behind this lack of traction in rural geographies.
Rapid advancements in technology and increased inclusiveness, however, have dramatically increased the scope for business expansion in rural geographies. With digitisation in India accelerating at an unprecedented pace, rural markets are benefitting from the increased interconnectivity. The brand narrative for rural markets is shifting from empowerment to genuinely paying attention.
With rural geographies offering businesses across industry verticals a plethora of opportunities, brands are vying for greater traction with the rural consumer. There are, however, certain aspects that need to be kept in mind while venturing into rural markets, such as:
  • Staying relevant
Rural customers, though fast-pacing towards modernity, are still very connected to their roots. As such, when a brand appreciates their culture, they are more likely to respond more favourably to its efforts. This is why traditional approaches are often the most-effective in the rural market. Brands must also properly calibrate and thoroughly assess the viability of on-ground presence marketing initiatives. Some rural areas in particular are very deeply rooted in their regional identity. This gives brands an opportunity to connect better with their prospective audiences through initiatives that cater to their sensibilities.
  • Trust and Engagement
Trust and engagement are perhaps two of the most essential elements, especially for newer brands. Relationships are the perfect business catalysts and serve as the prime differentiator in the eyes of consumer and channel partners. This makes it imperative to not only nurture a strong bond with the local consumer base, but also with channel partners, in order to succeed and grow.
The rural consumer is getting smarter and so are the channel partners. In order to forge a successful and rewarding relationship with them, brands must make an effort to showcase what they are bringing to the table; consumers need to be shown the value in their purchase, while partners often prefer favourable margins. Businesses must maintain the perfect balance between the two in order to be gain decent traction in rural geographies.
  • Bolstering the network
Network and reach play the most pivotal role in any brand’s success. It is not only essential in retaining existing business, but also increases the scope of business opportunity through incoming referrals. Given that such referrals are often prequalified and relevant to the brand, the revenue spent on acquisition decreases drastically while the overall market reach increases. Brand influence also receives a tangible boost as a direct result of a stronger business network.
  • Differentiating product and understanding rural market
In order to cause strong disruptions, brands must always look to offer more than what the market currently has. The promise of designing products and services that address the specific needs and requirements of the rural consumers goes a long way in creating brand differentiation. What is most important for brands, however, is standing by their promises and making them happen. Doing so can dramatically increase brand affinity and create an entire line of brand loyalists which help in the formation of a strong consumer base.
With recent developments accelerating digital adoption, the digital divide is being minimised at a rapid pace to bring rural areas into the mainstream. Brands must therefore look to create an end-to-end, relevant marketing strategy to effectively tap into rural and semi-urban geographies. Successful execution will not only give them a chance to gain a significant share in a high potential and immensely lucrative market, but will also create the perfect confluence of urban, semi-urban, and rural India which collectively acts as a singular identity.

Friday, January 6, 2017



Prof. Manit Mishra
Associate Professor, Marketing
International Management Institute, Bhubaneswar

The festive season has arrived and the brands have decided to leverage it with “surgical strikes” on consumer wallets. To quote Jim Collins: “Greatness is not a function of circumstances. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” The brands, retail as well as product, had made their choice in the run-up to festivities. The harbinger was the most unlikeliest and unpredictable ally a retailer can wish for: India Meteorological Department (IMD). With IMD predicting an “above normal” monsoon for 2016 in the month of April, and the actual monsoon not displaying a significant variance from it, the track was laid for the consumption carnival to begin. The government too pitched in and said – enough is enough, it is time to bless the babus with Lakshmi before the festive season. Lo and behold, the 7th pay commission said “tathastu” to almost a crore families directly. The cascading effect is likely to be staggered but exponential when you consider the downstream organizations – the state governments and the private sectors which are likely to follow suit, sooner or later. The final piece of the jigsaw puzzle was put together by none other than RBI. The icing on the cake, and just as you were about to placate your senses by gulping it down your salivating mouth, was provided by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) with a 25 basis point reduction in repurchase rate and thereby, easing the stress on your finances. Experts may vary on the absolute and relative impact of each of these factors on your discretionary income. However, there is considerable unanimity on one fact: all of these have contributed to a feel good factor, a positive euphoric vibe right before the onset of the festivities. A confident consumer is lapping it up with both hands, and with a carry-bag to spare too. The urge to splurge has gained momentum. Having said that, no points for guessing who is laughing all the way to the bank. While Amazon claimed an average of over 38 orders per second during its five day “Great Indian Festive Sale,” the Future Group is reported to have achieved 9-20% Y-on-Y same-store growth. It is a win-win situation. The buoyancy in the market landscape has strengthened India’s position as the only bright spot in a rather dull world economy. The objective factors influencing the spending apart, to their credit the marketers have left no stone unturned to subtly build a proclivity towards buying behaviour. The marketer generated stimuli has dominated the media with offers. Leveraging the strong association between festivals and buying, the marketer has cleverly supplemented emotions with reason – a perfect mix of use of central route of persuasion substantiated with peripheral cues. So there are full front-page advertisements in leading dailies which hint at all that I am going to lose if I fail to avail the opportunity within the mentioned time period. The good thing is, it doesn’t stop at that. The assimilation of buying behaviour with socio-cultural values is complete. So, if you do not belong to the community of buyers who have been smart enough to capitalize, you are a pariah. Consumer socialization initiated and sustained through sales promotion. To borrow a phrase uttered by Don Corleone in the blockbuster movie Godfather: “I’m gonna make him an offer he won’t refuse.” And indeed, the marketer has made an offer that the consumer has not been able to refuse.