When it comes to brand communication, the South market is as strong and innovative as the rest of India. Kerala has been a particularly interesting market to watch. Heavily promoted as a popular tourist destination with the tagline ‘God’s own country’, Kerala has also been attracting brands and advertisers’ attention, along with the tourist influx. To further put the spotlight on the Kerala market and to mark the 50th anniversary celebrations in the state, the Kerala Publicity Bureau organised a special panel discussion.
Chaired by Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media Group, the panellists included S Yesudas, MD - India Sub-Continent, Vizeum; Varghese Chandy, Chief General Manager, Marketing & Advertising Sales, Malayala Manorama; and Agnello Dias, Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Taproot India.
The discussion started with two points that the panellists were asked to cover – the challenges and opportunities and what can one learn from anybody beyond the media business?
S Yesudas, MD - India Sub-Continent, Vizeum noted, “Brands have to re-invent themselves and also change the way in which they look at consumers. Kerala is truly God’s own country. The per capita income is on the rise. Kerala has a retail-driven market mindset. There is a sense of belief that brand ambassador and exotic locations depicted in ads create brands, but I think the initiatives to get to witness the ad with the general public works better.”
He added, “The whole evaluation of a media agency is based on which one offers the lowest price, rather than integrating media partners and helping those brands create that connect. Kerala is no longer a one-size fits all market. The audience split has caused the explosion and the only discussion is about discount. Traditional mass media are becoming mass conversations. Globalisation has also led to a world of convergence, wherein content and consumers are coming on multiple platforms and devices. Content is ruling the roost.”
Varghese Chandy, Chief General Manager, Marketing & Advertising Sales, Malayala Manorama remarked that it is not easy to mark one’s 50th anniversary, since the biggest issue in today’s world is longitivity. He added, “You don’t see brands live long. The two brands that come to my mind, which had stayed long in Kerala, are Indian Coffee House, one of the largest FNB chains, and Chandrika Soap. This was because there was something inherently strong in these brands. Unfortunately, the brand is no longer there in Kerala.”
Chandy felt that Kerala itself is a brand for the outside world. Kerala is a consumer hungry place and, therefore, the proliferation of brands is among the highest in the country. Kerala started retail markets first and players such as Joyalukkas, Seematti, Bhima, Malabar, Jayalakshmi, etc., are still the most well-known brands.
Chandy further said, “You can take the Mallus out of Kerala, but not Kerala out of the Mallus. Kerala has got higher penetration than any other state and it is easy to reach the consumers. However, the major setback is the absence of manufacturing brands and the corollary to that is that the local agencies don’t grow and don’t have a national presence.” He also pointed out the lack of entrepreneurship and management schools in the state.
Agnello Dias, Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Taproot India started his conversation quoting what Arundhati Roy had once said, “Flags are bits of coloured cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.”
Dias urged the Keralites to first forget that they are from Kerala, as according to him, at the end it is about here and now, and what matters is work, innovation and the creatives. He further said that one needs to come out of Kerala to understand what others are doing.
He added, “Two secrets to get brands well-recognised are going out of the comfort of homeland and expanding to the environment. It is going to be the same emotion of curiosity everywhere; it is only the manner in which they manifest that is different. My work involves unifying the emotions together. We can’t choose relatives and clients in our life.”
Dias cited a couple of examples and the work that he has done in the past, which included ads created for Nike, Airtel, Pepsi, Mumbai Mirror, and The Times of India’s Avan Ke Asha programme. “If one looks at those ads, all communicate one message in a different way by playing around with emotions,” he pointed out.
“One thing that stands out is the idea that matters. When we create ads, the thoughts or feelings merge, but if the idea is strong, then the brand communication will be appealing to the audience no matter it is in which language,” Dias added.
Posing a question to the audience, he asked, “Does the popularity of cricket go down because there are less people from the South? No, never. It’s the same in advertising or brand communication.”
The need of the hour is to engage in partnership, and learn the old as well as the new. It is okay to fail, review the failure and feed it forward, have a long term vision, celebrate your consumers, create agency partnership, choose someone who will offer you investment advice and mandate it for the agency partner to bring all brand building constituents on the same platform. The industry experts called for creation of clear KPIs and accountability, and eventually deliver, increase effectiveness and impact, and enhance the brand value.
Ultimately, it’s the attitude that matters.