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Many marketers do not understand the concept of cool: D Shivakumar

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Many marketers do not understand the concept of cool: D Shivakumar

Businessworld launches the Marketing Whitebook 2014-15 at Mumbai. In keeping with this year’s edition’s theme of “Gauging Generations”, D. Shivakumar, Chairman & CEO of Pepsico India, shared his views on how brands can better reach out to the youth in a language that they understand and are comfortable with.

Shivakumar started off his presentation with a simple hypothesis - marketers love to brand every generation. “We have too many nomenclatures. The need is to simplify things,” he said.

Speaking about the so-called generation gap, Shivakumar opined there are always things that are common between the new way and the old way of doing things. Some of these common touchpoints being love, family, friends, etc. However, he agreed that certain things do change with every successive generation. Speaking about the current generation, he opined that Internet, mobile phones and social media (social apps) were the fundamental changes.

Cautioning the assembled audience against trying too hard to fit in and be relevant to the new generation, he gave the example of the futility of trying to be “cool”. “Many marketers do not understand the concept of cool. This is something that is authentic to every generation. But if you try too hard to be cool, you will just end up failing every time,” he explained.

Shivakumar then spent some time explaining, what he called, ‘attitude’ brands and ‘ally’ brands. These he said change from generation to generation. So what are these two categories of brands? According to Shivakumar ‘attitude’ brands stand for those brands that users identify with because of their personality. Examples of these over the years include Levi, Nike, Abercombie & Fitch, etc. ‘Ally’ brands, on the other hand, are those brands that customers will always carry around or stay loyal to. Some brands that have acquired this status in different generations include brands like Mountain Dew, Facebook, Apple, Mustang, etc.

He also pointed out a recent study that showed that the number of people in creative and services sector was going to be much more than those in manufacturing sector by 2022. “This is the type of person you are going to see in the future. These are going to be your customers,” he told the audience.

And to reach out these kind of customers; the new youth, it is important for brands to understand what they think like. What they appreciate and what they dislike. According to Shivakumar, the things marketers need to keep in mind, which the current generation appreciates, boils down to four things - tell it as it is, be flexible on rules, inflexible on values, opportunity excites them, not constraints and do not patronize them.

“The talent available today is not stereotypical talent. It is culturally diverse and with diversity of jobs and skills. Today’s generation is a self-selecting generation. They will ‘volunteer’ to work for you, they are not your employees. As long as you treat them well, they will be happy to stay with you,” he said. Continuing to talk about the talent requirements of the future, Shivakumar said that with the rise of connectivity, which translates to million of data points at an individual level for every customer, the world is seeing an explosion of data. According to him, in the next five years, brands will need data scientists, statisticians and digital talent more than ever.

Shivakumar ended his talk with a final piece of advice to marketers, “To cater to the new generation of customers you need to be humble and responsive. This is no longer a case of a business talking. We now have two customers talking to each other and the business has to earn the right to be a part of this conversation. In terms of responsiveness, orchestrate a response across all company functions if you want to win the digital battle.”

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