Possibilities are endless, but brands should keep looking at probabilities: Rahul Agarwal

At e4m e-Conclave 2020, Agarwal, MD & CEO of Lenovo India, discusses with Dr Annurag Batra whether the pandemic has made brands more agile

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: May 11, 2020 9:44 AM
e-Conclave 2020

“For most categories, the marketing budget may see a drop of 10%-50% for the next 6-12 months,” said Rahul Agarwal, MD and CEO, Lenovo India.

Agarwal was in conversation with Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-In-Chief, exchange4media & Business World at e4m e-conclave 2020, on the topic, 'Has this pandemic made brands more agile and created a new playbook for marketers?’

Speaking about the change in marketing budget in foreseeable future, Agarwal mused that a brand for an essential product like a sanitizer may increase its marketing budget, but for most categories, there will be a drop in the marketing spends.

When asked how he is as a brand leader is dealing with the unprecedented times, Agarwal said that his mantra is to keep calm, without over analyzing, and plan the future according. “Humans have a tendency to return to routine when normalcy returns, therefore we need to be calm and not over-analyze the situation. Meanwhile, one has to take care of one's employees and cut and combat expenses. I always tell my employees that possibilities are endless, but keep looking at probabilities”, he added.

Talking about the change in massaging of the brand, Agarwal said times brands have to have a value system that should not change when subjected to the test of tough times. He said, “Test of values is when times are tough. Brands should vouch by the same values in the face of adversities. But having said that, these unprecedented times may lead to people to undergo a little bit of evolution and brands should be ready to address the changes.”

Listing the ways in which Lenovo is reaching the consumers’ currently, he informed us that the computer manufacturer has opened its service centres for all brands. “Unlike most brands, our service centres are operational, and we have decided they we’ll support and repair all the brands without any changes till the market opens”, he said.

He further added, “In India, affordability is an issue, people don’t have the money upfront, especially with pay cuts and pink slips, therefore we have come up with a 2 years EMI plans. We have also launched an educational platform called SmarterEd, and people who want to teach and students who want to learn can register there are to help each other.”

Addressing the question about the change in marketing and media mix, Agarwal said, “In the next 6-12 months, with limited spends, Marketers will focus more on digital and cut the sends across TV and digital. Marketing will also be more performance-based, but brands would be open to give a larger message.”

He added that in reality, brands mean more to the brand manager than the average consumer. This is the opportunity for brands to come out with what the marketers truly believe in.

Agarwal, while talking about sponsorships said, “If the brand is established, there is no need to spend money on just pushing the logo, but for a new brand it could be important.”

When asked should brands do to future-proof against 'black swan' events like this, Lenovo head thinks that the price of perfection is too high and may not be worth it.

Addressing the question about brand collaboration, Agarwal said that brands should collaborate more, but it is easier for a big brand and startup or a smaller brand to collaborate, as smaller brands take a quick decision as the liability is lesser.

Agarwal believes that the next 6 months are going to be going for most organizations. But if a brand could not survive the next 6 months, there was an inherent problem in its system.

He also believes that OOH will go back on track as soon as normalcy returns and e-commerce may grow from the current 33% to 40%-50% for Lenovo.

Agarwal concluded the session by predicting that the world will come back to normalcy in the next 6-12 months.

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