ISA CEO Conference: The consumer speaks to us, we need to listen: Industry experts

At the ISA CEO Conference 2019, industry experts shared their views on how brands can connect with their consumers and think of holistic ways to tackle the advertising ecosystem

ISA Panel

The world that we live in is very much connected as compared to the past. The world has evolved and our consumers have evolved too. The Indian consumer is extremely versatile and hyperlocal with different preferences. There is no one-way strategy to publicize a brand, which makes it even more challenging to connect with the consumer and gain leverage for the brand.

The first panel discussion of this year's ISA CEO Conference was on ‘Winning the Consumer in the Connected World’ which was moderated by Abhishek Desai, Marketing Director, P&G India, ISA Executive Council Member. The panel had a group of esteemed speakers who are in charge of leading world-class companies.

There are new emerging trends evolving in this interconnected world. Opening the discussion on connectedness and changing trends, Ajay Kakar, Chief Marketing Officer, Aditya Birla Capital stated, “The biggest trend that I see is the paradox of what we know and what we do. In our industry we all know what needs to be done, we attend conferences that give us great insights but we don’t carry them to our organizations. We don’t wear the consumer's hat and don’t listen to them. If we listen we don't act on it”.

There are barriers between the brand or marketer and the consumer. “In the past, we united the creative and the media functions of an agency. Marketers yet regret that they had to deal with two people rather than one. Today, it is not the same it is possible that they interact with more than ten or 50 people. Media is fragmented and so is digital. How can we have a fragmented set of people looking back at us and saying lead us to the promised land, when the marketer is actually hoping that you will lead them to the promised land. If you look at it from this hat that I wear we should have taken a step back and done things in a reverse direction. The consumer speaks to us all the time, we just need to listen”, commented Kakar.

The audiences have changed and evolved. It is time for brands to reinvent their organizational structures as well. Ashish Mishra, Managing Director, Interbrand India giving his advice on the ever-changing world said, “The evolution has gone from the age of identity to the age of value, to the age of experience to the age of ‘You’. It is essentially about people using technologies designed for their lives. It's about people using technologies for micro-experiences. Within this construct, the organizations that have followed the structures of the erstwhile generations struggle to find their way. Organizations need to look at how they can use brands in a better way.

Brands should integrate the experience from technology to people and interface the internal culture and values”. Using this outlook brands need to reinvent their organization. Lulu Raghavan, Managing Director, Landor Associates stated, “The way to build a brand is their touch points. Whether it is the call centre touch point or the retail touch point, each of them very strategically service through consumer messaging. We need to use experience and digital technologies”.

Brands also need to pay special attention to female consumers as they cover a large part of the Indian population. “Winning in the interconnectedness world is now about being relevant and relatable to the female consumer”, remarked Raghavan.

Due to the ever-changing eco-system of marketers and consumers, the traditional models are being challenged. Brands are still focused on advertising. They need to create an entire C2B experience and use the power of digital media to signal what the brand stands for and have an engaging connection with the consumer. Speaking about this phenomenon Vikas Agnihotri, Industry Director, Google said, “We should respect the privacy that the consumers demand as well as respect the fact that they do still need the marketers to understand their preferences”. Brands need to strike off old models and going forward reinvent their strategies. “We are still focused on advertising, but how about taking a 360-degree experience?”, commented Raghavan.

At the end of it, how does a brand win the attention of their consumer? Raghavan remarked, “We need to be truly in touch with our consumers for winning in the interconnected world”. Brands also need to work on creating quality content that can connect with the consumer. Agnihotri rightly stated, “Content still remains king”.

Lastly, what can the organization do in terms of their business strategies? “Organizations and brands need to find a fit. The consumer is using the technology of the brand to create their lives, you need to define yourself and be a connected service. The best thing to do is to reinvent yourself”, remarked Mishra. Raghavan commented, “We need to use the meaning of the brand to shape the experience of the consumer”.

Indeed, consumers, today connect with a brand that has the same set of values as they do and brands need to integrate that in the way they advertise and market their product or service. Brands need to have a holistic experience to be personalized. “The opportunity ahead is massive the road ahead is complex, you need to choose a partner wisely”, concluded Agnihotri.

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