Unilever has always believed in innovating and reinventing, but its decision was always based on what market trends indicated. The point was reiterated at AdAsia 2011, when Unilever’s COO Harish Manwani was facing questions from none other than one of Unilever’s partner agency networks IPG’s CEO Michael Roth.
Roth reminded the audience that the marketing environment today was faced with some unprecedented challenges, courtesy the emergence of the connected consumer, combined with the fact that the market had many different kinds of consumer groups. And in that point came Manwani’s first thoughts on what some of the global trends today were.
For Manwani, the first was a clear focus towards the east. He quoted statistics to state that developing markets were soon becoming major consumption centres and by 2020, they would contribute to nearly 80 per cent of the world’s markets. “We are the world, the way I see it,” said Manwani.
One key point discussed in the session was the ability to address different kinds of consumer segments in the upper, middle and lower markets. He said, “The way of operating in developing markets is to be able to meet the needs of a large number. In a market like India, you are not competing for market share, but you are competing for consumption. And there are two important points there – affordability and accessibility.”
He took the audience through the reverse engineering model that had come based on this thought. This model needed the brand to first acknowledge how much the consumer was willing to spend and then find a way to be able to address that need. He added here that India was a paradox of opportunities, and at present there was a clear opportunity at the top end of a premium product as there was at the lower end.
Manwani asked a few questions of his own, beginning with whether agencies and marketers were truly comprehending what technology-led changes meant. He cited the example of the mobile medium to elucidate his point. A point that Roth agreed with, when he said that in mobile, communication professionals were only scratching the surface.
The session delved on the need for sustainable and responsible growth, apart from consistent, competitive and profitable growth.