The role of marketing is rapidly evolving as consumers acquaint themselves with newer channels of communication every day. Brands are sneaking their way on to every channel – be it strategically targeted ads or promoted tweets, social media activity or branded content. Is this overdose of information leading to fatigue or are consumers appreciating it? Is the extra information helping consumers with their buying decisions or confusing them further? The global study, New Realities, attempts to understand how the growth of new media options is affecting consumer decisions. Led by Terry Peigh,
Managing Director and Senior Vice President, IPG, the first phase of the study began five years ago covering the US and China markets. The second phase in late 2011 extended to include Brazil, Russia, India and UK followed by a third phase which took place in early 2013. In a conversation with exchange4media, Peigh throws light on some of the key insights for India, the rise of voluntary brand advocates and the changing role of advertising.
Considering India is a diverse country with varied cultural backgrounds, economic groups and literacy rates – how were these taken into account to ensure uniformity in results?
The research is not representative of the entire population of India because it was internet based. In that sense we know it’s not reaching broadly. At the same time, we think it’s illustrative of the changes going on in the market and what’s going on in people’s head. Also, people who own computers have more economic means and buying power so it provide us information on what their attitudes are when it comes to purchasing. Ideally we’d want to go broader but it’s difficult in a market like this where the internet penetration is not very high.This is an important market for us to understand. It’s a very significant investment for us to make.
What is the objective of the study?
The study is about decision making as a whole. We asked people whether or not they get joy and satisfaction from learning about products. It could be brand information from anywhere – from friends, an experience on the street, somebody sampling the product, information from traditional advertising or online. A lot of the research results are to do with people’s changes in purchasing attitudes which makes it particularly interesting.
What is the Indian consumer like compared to the other five countries in which the study was conducted?
We see a lot of similarities in Brazil, China and India – not so much Russia. Increasing number of people are getting satisfaction and joy from learning about products. What distinguishes India from the rest is the dramatic growth in people who are searching for channels that convey trust when making their purchase. There is also an increase on how much they value friends and family and opinion from experts. India scored the highest in terms of reliance on trusted brands which we think is an important measure. People in India are willing to share information about brands because they like to demonstrate their knowledge and help people – this is a result dramatically different from other countries. It has a very important implication for marketing people.
The job of marketing years ago used to be about making an ad and putting it out. Now we need to think about designing programs that deal with friends and family, get people to be representatives for us, become the media channel. It’s a whole different concept, much more challenging with more impact.
From 61 per cent in 2011 to 50 per cent in 2013 – half the consumers are yet ‘information passive’ – what efforts can marketers make to convert these consumers?
I think a natural evolution is taking place. Around the world, the per cent of people who want information is growing.The question is what’s driving that – is it because people are naturally evolving to wanting to know more about products, is it because as the middle class grows knowing about products is just interesting to them, is it a part of becoming a middle class person.
Three things that marketers can do to reach out...
The important thing is to find the people who are interested in learning about your product. They’re fairly easy to find through blogs, chatrooms, Facebook –it’s important for a marketer to establish communication and give them the information they need. The other thing is to support bloggers by giving them the right information about your brand. A lot of companies don’t do enough in terms of feeding that world with the right information. It’s a great vehicle.
Don’t paid likes and blogs skew the information and data points?
Not only do they skew the data points but also create greater anxiety among consumers and a greater need for trust. People want to go to a blog and get objective, trusted information.There are ways of supporting a blogger without paying him to tell your story. At the end of the day, it violates honesty, transparencyand can blow up in your face.
Information about brands and products seems to give the Indian consumer a sense of empowerment – how can marketers capitalise on this finding?
In India 41 per cent of the people want this sense of empowerment. It’s a major invitation for manufacturers, marketers and advertising people to support them. It’s CRM on steroids – it’s a change in orientation for a marketer from just making an ad and shoving it out there to saying – I need to manage the ecosystem better and it’s a very large ecosystem. It’s finding people who like my brand, who are willing to be an ambassador, supporting them, creating more passion, encouraging them to tell other people and allow that chain to work – it can be a wildly efficient and inexpensive technique.
Is general trust in advertising on the decline?
I haven’t seen data that says it has – when you look at the importance of trust and friends and family, somebody can say there is no role for advertising but there’s indication that shows as people are looking for brands to demonstrate trust, a big way of getting that is through traditional advertising – advertising does more than just give you facts and figures, it gives you a feeling of affinity and love for a brand. There will always be a role for advertising in terms of being a part of the trust equation.
In these times of two way communication, it has become easier for consumers to voice their dissatisfaction...
Before a brand goes too far down the road, they should be sure of having a program in place to manage the negative. It’s important for companies to anticipate these problems and develop an infrastructure so that the problems don’t get out of hand. The very good companies these days have staff monitoring social media 24 hours a day.