In this paradox of choice, more is less: Sarthak Seth at the Pitch CMO Summit 2018

Sarthak Seth, Chief Marketing Officer, Panasonic, spoke about how consumer experience and the ways brands connect to their customers have changed today, at the Pitch CMO Summit, 2018 in Bangalore

Sarthak Seth, Chief Marketing Officer, Panasonic, spoke at the Pitch CMO Summit, 2018 in Bangalore about how the consumer experience and the ways in which brands connect to their customers have changed today.

Seth spoke about the importance of branding in rising consumerism. Pointing out that, “In the entire game of companies, consumers and products, the consumer actually buys a brand. The consumer is not only looking for a product but is also looking for a brand. In this paradox of choice, more is less. Consumers have choices and their choices have choices. So, if there are so many choices, why should they listen to your brand?”.

He also emphasised that brands today need to be honest because times have changed, and he explained that an important element which has entered the equation for brands is advocacy, therefore brands need to focus on their advocacy going forward, because it is the consumer who defines the tone for brands.

Here are some other interesting points he spoke about at the CMO Summit:

Customer Touch-points have increased multi-fold

Today, the purchase process and the touch-points have changed. During the entire purchase process, there are various touch-points, including ads, social media, PR, and word of mouth in the pre-purchase stage, to e-commerce, web and sales persons in the purchase phase, and brand experience, surveys and customer service in the post purchase phase. This is how the entire process has changed. As brands we need to think about how we can give consumers a good experience across all these touch-points.

The moment of truth has changed. When buying a product 15 years ago, the first moment of truth was in the store, while buying the product and taking in what the deal or salesperson is telling me. The second moment of truth would be when the product is being used.

Today, the second moment of truth is a zero moment of truth for the next consumer, we have to see how the brand is being spoken about, what kind of experience the brand has with the consumer. How a consumer writes about your brand become a zero moment of truth, wherein you know that before a consumer is even thinking about your brand, they are reading about it.

What is the driving force of brands today?

When we look at great brands today, what drives them is not just what they do or how they do it, but why they do it. The ‘why” explains the purpose and reason why a brand exists, and how it motivates consumers, whether direct consumer who want to speak to, or the next consumer down the line.

The five pervasive truths

Ground brand building efforts in one or more of these truths will help brands create meaningful and lasting connections with consumers: Transparency, Aspiration, Positive Impact, Tolerance and Empowerment.

A brand which engages in activities around any of these truths has a better consumer connect. These are the ways in which brands are communicating with their consumers.

Transparency points to how transparent you are with the consumer, for example, Southwest Airlines, says, no fares, nothing to hide, so they are very clear and upfront with the consumer.

Aspiration is how the brand drives the aspirational value of the consumers, so the consumer will examine why they want to use the product.

Positive Impact speaks positively to the consumer about the ethos of the brand.

Tolerance, for example Kotak’s 811 speaks about a platform for everyone, while Airbnb’s “we accept- everyone is accepted here” speaks to their customers about tolerance.

Empowerment talks about empowering the individuals and consumers.
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Delivering the message has evolved, so have our consumers.

When considering the brand message and what we want to communicate, it is also important to look at moving ahead and looking at how we deliver this message as well. Earlier we just had Traditional Marketing and sometimes, Direct Marketing. Today we have Social Media Marketing, Cause Marketing, Proximity Marketing, Content Marketing, Influencer Marketing and Mobile Marketing. Each of these areas play a very distinctive role in themselves.

Brands need to create a favourable impression in the mind of the consumer. And in all these areas, the most important is Social Media Marketing. Earlier, people found out about products and bought them through of word of mouth, but today consumers are going online and researching brands and products, and what other consumers have said about them. Today’s word of mouth is Social Media.

Influencer marketing is another way in which delivering the message has changed. Influencer Marketing is not just about having a celebrity endorse a product; people who endorse your products must stand by it.

Stories are still the ways to connect with the audience, but today this is called Content Marketing. Creating content which connects to the consumer is very important, because people still remember the stories.

Cause Marketing is another way we deliver the message today. Cause Marketing stands out and connects to the consumer through social change and responsibility and we are seeing very good examples of Cause Marketing today.

Direct Marketing is still the most effective way of communicating with the consumer, but we have seen the rules changed a bit. It is no longer from a single market perspective, but a geo-dynamic perspective.

Today, making consumer connections is most important. Brand experiences are important and any of the ideas from this perspective must be media agnostic. This means your core idea should be made to relate through different forms of media, whether it’s a TV commercial or taking the campaign through other media as well.
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