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P&G's Shantanu Khosla on rewiring the thinking pattern

01-April-2011
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P&G's Shantanu Khosla on rewiring the thinking pattern

India has changed, so says every big marketer or brand builder before presenting a case on why marketers need to relearn everything ever taught in schools, if they have to begin a meaningful conversation with the new age consumer.

P&G India’s CEO Shantanu Khosla chose a similar line in establishing the emergence of a new India and the new India consumer. He observed, “Marketing once was quite simple. All one needed was to ensure they had a spot in ‘Chitrahaar’ and one in ‘Mahabharata’ and they were done for the year. But things have changed, thankfully. And with it, it has opened a whole plethora of opportunities. Today, it would be difficult to find any company – global or Asian or Indian – that is not viewing the Indian consumer as a critical opportunity for the future. It is our responsibility to maximise this opportunity, not only for our business but for truly improving the lives of our consumers. That is an onerous responsibility, one which if we can fulfill, we are headed into a wonderful future.”

Khosla explained the road ahead meant a new way of looking at communication with the consumer. A thought reiterated by Tanya Dubash, Executive Director & President (Marketing) for the Godrej Group, when she said that the road ahead was for brands that were ready to reinvent themselves.

Dubash said, “The 4Ps don’t cut it anymore. Brands that are willing to evolve, that can respect tradition and break convention and that draw their learning from a rounded experience coming from academia, business and the creative world, are the ones that can engage the new Indian consumer. Marketers should engage consumers through multiple forms today and they should be equipped to deliver to new India. Learning ecosystems is more important today than it was before.”

She explained that collaboration was the new keyword because reaching out to other companies was critical to reaching out to the future. An important communication tool for Dubash was co-creating with consumers and she cited the example of GoJiyo to illustrate how Godrej Group managed to integrate social network and gaming in a digital platform bringing in Godrej's range of products. Dubash reiterated the role that emotions can play in communication. She said, “Emotions is the killer app. Consumers today are looking for a smart brand with a heart that can deliver performance with purpose.”

But marketing is not only about building brands, but about building businesses. Devita Saraf, CEO Vu Technologies argued that the question is not be about marketing to a new India but selling to a new India. Saraf had five-point rule, which she thought defined the wise marketer of tomorrow. She said, “Get Personal and reach the customer before competition. The new age consumers don’t listen to ambassadors or brands as much as they listen to “knowers”, the elusive community, which largely comprises friends and colleagues. Endorsements should come from users of products, especially for high end products.”

An interesting advice from her, in this 5-point list was to make below-the-line 50 per cent of one’s marketing budget. She said, “Co-branding, activation, events, contests require a lot of work but they can click much better than traditional advertising.”

Saraf also said that brands should invest in online ads but should not waste money there. She said, “Today everyone thinks they are a social media expert but has anyone really cracked what social media is. If you don’t have Facebook page, don’t worry, you have not missed a bus.”

Another noteworthy point from her was “don't waste money on brand ambassador!” Saraf contested that the best brand ambassador in the world was Steve Jobs. Consumers today want to see the company than a facade in front of it. Closer to home, the best example of a great brand ambassador was Vijay Mallya.

Saraf reiterated on the need to hire younger people and to hire people from a brand’s TG to know the brand’s TG better. She said, “The new age consumer is Lalita ji in skinny jeans. She is smart and you cannot fool her, and she has a nanosecond for you. Ensure that your message is simple and to the point because the customer doesn't care about marketing.”

ABP’s Aritra Sarkar agreed with this too. His view in fact was that consumers across the world are similar, and that this was true for India too. But there were some changes in the marketplace itself that a brand builder must be aware of. Aritra observed that in the last many years, the thought process of marketing only to the big cities had moved to marketers casting a wider net, and that meant the emergence of a newer kind of consumer. Also, the new India has far greater confidence in Indian-ness, and it was important for a marketer to recognise and address that.

Aritra emphasised, “New types of consumers are emerging with newer markets opening up and the age-old cut of age, income, education is not good enough anymore. Marketers have to go far deeper in the consumer’s values, attitude and culture.”

The speakers were at the 11th CII Annual Marketing Summit, hosted in Mumbai on March 31, 2011, which was the first day of the Summit. This edition was chaired by Madison World Chairman and Managing Director Sam Balsara.

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