IMRB International’s annual Consumer Portrait symposium, held in Delhi on February 20, focused on insights and strategies to help marketers beat the ongoing global slowdown. The event included presentations from senior research professionals and a panel discussion, in which eminent specialists from marketing, communication, economics and sociology expressed their viewpoints on tackling recession.
The speakers discussed the strategies to beat the slowdown. Colvyn Harris, CEO, JWT, India, pointed out that the speed at which slowdown was happening had put company heads in a dilemma of whether to focus on the existing customers or look for new ones. “One has to be aggressive as you have competitors all around. As a marketer, you have to press for greater market share,” Harris said, adding that the CEOs and CMOs had to observe the changing attitude of the customers and analyze till when the slowdown would last.
He added, “The biggest issue that we face today is that we just might lose our jobs. Marketers must understand that their clients have ambitions and they must give it their best shot to fulfill their aspirations.”
Recession is the best time to understand the consumer and offer a wide gamut of categories from which he can choose. During recession, the consumers don’t stop buying, but they do look for value for their money.
Harris also pointed out the effectiveness of communication strategy through the Internet. “Precise targeting is everything, and today you have the technology to experiment,” he said, stressing that companies should use the cyber space intelligently and manage their corporate reputation through social networking sites and blogs.
H further said that one should try making advertising a positive service rather than irritant. Marketers should understand that brand should always be at centre; it’s not about the client, but the brand and as a custodian you must listen to customer. Harris also emphasised that marketing was an art of sacrifice, and that marketers needed to be focused and precise. “It’s like when life hands you lemons, make lemonade out of it,” he quipped.
Debashish Sarkar, Senior Director & Chief Marketing Officer, Max New York Life, observed, “It’s the way one looks at recession; do you see it as a slowdown or as an opportunity. We need to look at slowdown as an opportunity and make brands relevant to the consumers, while acquiring new customers from other categories of brands and make your existing customer your advocates.”
“This time should be utilised in listening to target customers and gathering consumer insight. Marketers should think about things that can affect them positively rather than negatively. It is all the more important to educate your consumers to retain them and work out strategies to win back lost customers,” he pointed out.
Deepika Warrier, VP-Marketing, PepsiCo India Foods, elucidated on the favourable position of India, which is comparatively less plagued by the economic slowdown. She pointed out that multinationals were coming big time in India because of the slowdown in Western market and that we all needed to feel very hopeful and optimistic.
Warrier also reflected at the FMCG sector, which according to her, was in very good shape. Other sectors that were showing growth, according to her, included telecom and education. Yet despite all optimism, Warrier stressed that marketers should be watchful of platonic shift in consumers spending attitude.
While the three panelists stressed on strategic and marketing approaches, sociologist Dr MH Panini expanded on critical sociological changes happening and identified the increasing impact of vernaculars in shaping the Indian society of the future. At the same time, he spoke of the slump in the social layers in India, identifying opportunities for better integration and, therefore, efficiencies through new innovations, including the way in which communication technologies are removing the slack.
IMRB’s Consumer Portrait 2009 seeks ways to beat economic slowdown