"With social media, consumers now have a collective voice which is shaping the industry"

Brands are increasingly shifting focus on making a good impression online. Moreover, the concept of responsiveness is bigger with the 'connected' middle class, said PepsiCo's D Shivakumar

e4m by Sonam Gulati
Updated: Jan 24, 2014 8:22 AM
"With social media, consumers now have a collective voice which is shaping the industry"

Consumer has always been the king, but now the consumer has a voice that brands can’t afford to ignore, remarked D Shivakumar, who was recently appointed CEO and Chairman of PepsiCo.

As far as reaching out to consumers is concerned, the verdict is already out – mobile has been the biggest enabler in 2013, not only as a medium of communication, but also a preferred medium for accessing the internet, Shivakumar pointed out.

Talking about some major developments to look forward to that could affect the entire media and advertising industry, he said that the 2014 elections will be something akin a game changer. With the political parties realising the importance of branding and social media, there is a tough battle ahead. “Are we getting into an American style elections, where the person matters more than the party?” Shivakumar wondered. 

He further said that digital will be big in 2014. “Digital has already become the most powerful buzzword in the past year and will continue to be so,” he noted. Thanks to social media and easy internet access, consumers now have a collective voice which is shaping the industry. Brands are increasingly shifting focus on making a good impression online, customer care has an all new face on Facebook, Twitter, et al. Along with that, brands will be most answerable to the middle-class. “With middle class becoming stronger, the concept of responsiveness will be bigger with the ‘connected’ middle class. Brands will have to respond to them within the limited time frame,” he said.

Shivakumar also highlighted five main areas where CMOs, marketers and advertising agencies need to keep the focus on in 2014.

Currently, tactics are passing off as strategy and execution is a challenge. In many sectors commoditisation of strategy is happening. We are seeing same concept and no major innovation. Brands are not standing out. He cited some sectors like real estate, jewellery, computer education, schools and healthcare where ads are so repetitive that consumers don’t even remember the brand name. Since execution is a problem the strategy suffers the brunt, Shivakumar said.

Industry leadership
“Brands should also focus on creating industry leaderships,” he added. This industry is a big industry that shapes a lot of things in the country. The power of media is huge. Every industry must have great leadership. Companies should bury their differences and play as a team.

Role of celebrity
As we all know India is a celebrity-struck market but so far celebrities have been the strategy. You don’t have a strategy? So rope in a celebrity! But going forward with the popularity of celebrities growing social media, they are going to become game changers. They are going pick and choose which brand to work with. Number of twitter followers or Facebook likes would become the deciding factors. They might also ask the brands how endorsing a particular brand will enhance their social influence, he stated.

We are now in a consumption economy not the penetration economy. Now the question is not how to make people buy a new commodity or how to introduce people to a new product but how to make t hem buy their fifth pair of shoes or their ninth pair of sunglasses. It’s a consumption economy and one has to grow with the ecosystem.

CMO’s role
As of now CMOs don’t spend enough time on consumers. This year they don’t have a choice but to stay connected with the consumers. “CMOs should work with agencies for perfect copy. Besides which, they should be able to train the managers below them, and also the second-rung managers. They should look at stabilising the whole value chain, and not concentrate only on advertising,” Shivakumar concluded.

Shivakumar was speaking at the inaugural edition of the International Advertising Association – India Chapter.


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