Today's market provides a range of choices, leading to consumers segmenting themselves. And more than income demographics, knowledge and emotional psychographics play a larger role in successful marketing. This was the underlining thinking at the first session of the Delhi edition of Pitch Brainstorm held on Friday.
The panelists for the session on "Changing consumer demographics and psychographics: Opportunities for marketers" were Hemant Sachdev, Corporate Director-Marketing, Bharti Tele-Ventures; R K Shukla, Principal Economist, NCAER; Subhinder Singh Prem, MD, Reebok (India), and Vijay R Singh, Vice-Chairman and MD, Hyundai India Telecom Limited. Communications consultant Sunil Gupta moderated the session.
Chief guest Tarun Tejpal, Tehelka's Editor-in-Chief, inaugurating the Brainstorm, said, "The media's duty is to give back to society the truth and the wider picture."
Shukla pointed out the wide disparity between rural and urban India, stressing that marketers need to focus on the latent demand existing in the hinterland. He said, "In terms of product penetration, although two-wheelers have managed to reach rural India, white goods haven't really penetrated these markets."
According to him, it was infrastructure problems that had deprived these areas from televisions, airconditioners, etc. "Around 75 per cent of sales of electronic items are from urban areas and 56 per cent of sales of non-electronic items are from rural areas. This indicates the lack of basic infrastructure in these areas," he said.
Sachdev countered this by arguing that more than income demographics, what really determines the desire to buy are knowledge demographics or psychographics. "Knowledge, entertainment and emotions are bigger drivers than income," he claimed. Citing the example of Easy-charge, a service that Airtel introduced for its customers to charge their phones with any denomination, he said, "Our research had indicated that ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) will fall with this offer, and not all retailers would be willing to accept this. However, when we went ahead with it, the response to the scheme proved the research wrong."
Sachdev said that research and data should only serve as insight, and not be seen as the only truth. He also emphasised that contrary to general opinion that cheaper, obsolete products are meant for the rural markets. "Today there are enormous disposable incomes in the hands of people in the rural areas," he added
Prem agreed with Sachdev stating that there is "no right matra" for successful marketing and sometimes off the cuff ideas work very well. "When Reebok planned to launch shoes inspired by rap artist 50 Cent, everybody thought that the idea would be a flop. But to our surprise, the shoes sold out in three weeks' time," he said. Prem said that this broke the myth that research always does the trick.
Prem highlighted another failure of research when Reebok introduced "salwar-kameez" style jogging outfits for women. "Despite all assurances of success based on market research, the range bombed," he said.
The session ended with Vijay Singh holding that all three markets -- rural, semi-urban and urban -- will grow exponentially, but "the drivers of growth will vary from market to market as different products and technologies have a different appeal in each market segment".