The rising prices, crashing Sensex and sliding Rupee has tightened the purse strings of Indian consumers. There has been slow growth in almost all the sectors, resulting in a decline in the marketing spends too. With resource constraints and changing consumer expectations, it is important for brands to adopt smart and innovative ideas for a better future. But the intriguing question is, ‘how to unlock the secret mantra for sustainable growth in the coming year?’
Subhajit Sen, Global Lead and VP Emerging Consumer Market, GSK, explained that slowdowns don’t happen overnight. It is something that brands can sense and hence, brands should certainly have a Plan B or C. He predicts that in 2014 consumer sentiments will recover much faster than the numbers.
According to Ajay Kakar, Chief Marketing Officer – Financial Services, Aditya Birla Group, “In good times, whatever you do, you succeed; in bad times, it becomes more demanding for us and strategy is a very strong word to be restricted just to communication, advertising and marketing. If strategy can be linked to business challenges and results, I think that is where we get true attention and recognition that we deserve.”
“It is important to spread your hands and feet only when you have enough space to do it. It is equally important to spend in a right way rather than just spending,” he added.
However, there are many other challenges. Viral Oza, Marketing Director, Nokia India said, “The biggest challenge is to influence other colleagues to actually do the right thing. In a tight situation, we see that there is a compromise of the long-term versus the short-term. It is important to maintain the right balance and that is the primary job at hand for us.”
Experts also believe that in tough economic conditions, the connection with the consumer needs to be more in-depth rather than a frivolous one to strive better.
Oza pointed out an interesting fact that in marketing nothing is right or wrong; it’s whatever that works. Brands are on the right track as long as there is a realisation that one size won’t fit all. “Strategies should be developed in the emerging markets first and then it can be taken to the developed markets,” Oza added.
Chandrasekar Radhakrishnan, Head of Communications, South Asia region, Nestle believes that it is important to understand the difference in the context when one moves from one geography to another. “The big idea can happen anywhere – be it emerging or developed markets. It depends on how much one can drive it in the cultural context,” he added.
The communication pattern in every market is different and experts believe that a smaller group enables a sharper impact. In these tough times, it is better to persuade a few than to try and persuade a lot.
Kakar said, “At the cost of generalisation, we have an AK-47 approach. We assume that we have a common truth and we start shooting out to everyone. Brands have to make sure that every bullet counts. Hence, there is a need for a sniper-like approach.”
Radhakrishnan agreed that the AK-47 approach works because there is a guarantee that the brand has managed to target at least a few people, but in the sniper approach, one has to wait for the right moment. It is important for brands to adopt more cost effective ways of communication patterns.
Digital: A friend or a foe
Marketers still have a very cautious approach towards digital. Though everybody wants to be a part of the emerging trend, very few clients are willing to pay. It is a reality that brands are learning the hard way.
Oza believes that consumers have a different behaviour online and they want to be engaged. It is not the classic advertising medium but it is more pull than push and more engagement than selling.
On digital, it is important to first get the audience addicted and then find a way to monetise.
According to Radhakrishnan, “Organisational cultures change with time and the nature of conversations on digital depends a lot on culture. Hence, building a digital culture is most important. Listening is again critical on social media.”
It is important to understand the values of a brand to make it successful on social media, and for that, there is a need for talent within the team that understands the core brand values.
Kakar shared that it is a fashion statement to be on the digital space. “It is important to find out brands and businesses that have benefitted from the digital space rather than campaigns. Only these interesting case studies will bring the moolah to the digital space,” he added.
The panelists were speaking at the JWT WARC conversation on ‘Brands unlocking sustainable growth in 2014’.
Four takeaways from WARC Trends Asia Strategy report
Smart strategy can unlock brand growth
The best entries to the Warc Prize for Asian Strategy, not least the Grand Prix winner from the Philippines, show that a wide variety of brands are looking for fresh insight and investing in smart strategic ideas. They are doing so to avoid me-too approaches, create differentiation and relevance, and to unlock sustainable growth. It could be argued that a slowdown in economic growth in the region will accelerate this trend.
Global brands are seeking cultural connection
Asia’s strength in developing cultural insight has been a consistent theme of the Prize over the past three years. The 2013 Prize saw an interesting development, as a number of international campaigns were rethought in Asia to gain greater cultural relevance in the region. It is a sign that global brands are developing ideas flexible enough for local adaptation.
Local brands are catching up fast
Locally-owned brands performed better in the 2013 competition than in previous years. It is a sign that local brands, and particularly those from India, are raising their strategic game.
Social media is taking centre-stage
In 2013, social media overtook TV as the most-used channel in the Prize, both among all entries and in the shortlist. A parallel trend is that low-budget campaigns are performing better than ever before in the Prize. It could be argued that the two are linked: social and other digital channels are giving low-budget campaigns the ability to gain greater scale.