Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 1021
, Published on 26 June 2013
We are living through the world of modern believability crisis. Shop-a-holics, window shoppers, you, me, we are all looking for active interaction, rather than reaction. We desire active co – creation of products, rather than just being passive receivers of what the companies produce, batch after batch. In a world where we don’t trust the institutions around us, the only real metric for trust is human connections. All our loyalties lie, not with the companies anymore, but the personal gestures of the face of the company. At the same time, we don’t want long conversations – who has the time for them really? – Or big promises. How, then, do we sustain the loyalty of the customers? How has the changing demographic profile of the modern consumer, affected the way we, as the marketing fraternity, position not our products, but the face of our products, to establish a sturdy connect? How then, can we answer the burning question – where does the balance lie??
As a reaction to the changing market scenario, the modern consumer has matured to demand higher quality, better service and more importantly, customization. This heightened intelligent consumerism coupled with intense competition from domestic as well as international brands all more or less claiming similar core product values, in their messaging and of course the thunderstorm of recession has left little breathing space for today’s marketers. Increased and open competition, the changing face of consumerism and the ever increasing focus on the returns are a consequence of the market moving into the Creative Age, and the Demographic swing. Customers want to design and experience not only the final product, but also the process of bringing it to perfection. With companies like Dell, Toyota actively engaging their customers in helping them improvise their products to serve them better, companies like Sony and Google, that sensationalized the world of Technology, are not far behind, involving customers in testing the Betaversion of the product before launching it. Wooing the current consumer requires nothing less than a sweeping wave of newer ideas, beliefs and strategies. The content should be powerful, so as to grab “His” complete attention. With that, half your job is done!
Another developing trend is an obvious, albeit interesting one – not something we didn’t know personally anyway! Women buy everything. Research shows that the buyer in the house is now, the fairer sex – a revelation that many companies are using to their advantage. Be it for household appliances like Eureka Forbes, or Holiday Planners like Club Mahindra – everyone is targeting the new group of buyers that valid and reliable sources have now divulged. With this, it is plain as the nose on your face, that the system needs revamping. Effectively reaching and engaging them requires a paradigm shift. The old models assumed this set of consumers to be passive, and therefore, tolerate messaging full of concave promises. Today, the sooner we realise it is the conversation and connect at a personal level that they seek, where they, along with the brand co create value, superior would be the benefits we would be able to reap, from the investments we make.
Following that train of thought, let’s talk about the most talked about term of the market – Return on Investment. ROI is the king of all decisions today. Organizations are now, not looking at how much or how little to invest. The bone of contention, today, is “What's in it for me”. With the democratization of data, everything is available in “numbers”. Easy comparison, easy forecast, easy predictions. We want minimal spill over, with maximum influence. This has intensified the importance and impact of ROI, thus adding another point of debate, while discussing strategies – as if we didn’t already have enough!! So, the traditional mass media ensures awareness and delivery of information at a massive scale, and brand experiential marketing helps cater to the core needs, along with the hygiene factors, thus activating the brand. All these factors help make the enhanced ROI evident.
Another recent development that I observed was while watching a movie recently. Disguised Marketing. That is undoubtedly, one of the most innovative, tremendously creative ways to grab attention. Scientifically proven, we feel hungry at the sight or smell of food. Marketers conducted studies, which revealed that the reaction is activated in a fraction of seconds. So right when the movie breaks for intermission, imagine the picture of a burger, flashing on the full screen, for nothing longer than bleak moment. On top of that, attendants swarming around, courteously asking for orders to be “delivered on the seat”, for what I suspect, is nothing more than lending new dimensions to pervasive shopping. Who, I ask you, would not be prompted to give in to temptation? This massively increased the sales, on as well as off the counter; and was a win – win for both the customer, and the multiplex. Or was it??
Any discussion on new trends would be incomplete without the mention of the infamously famous drama surrounding “Kolaveri Di”. We have all heard it, hummed it, and danced to it. I even heard it as a part of a baraat of the great Indian wedding, that plays anything from “ye desh hai veer jawano ka” to the new hit “Ganganam Style”. But not to digress, all these songs have topped the charts at some point or the other. How did a song, that hardly any of us could comprehend, be the most ‘hit’ video, beating “Charlie bit my finger” in a matter of minutes, on YouTube? Well, the results are still awaited on that, with universities and colleges doing their fair bit of research. But what is evident here, is that with the intensification of media channels, the message is loud and clear. Popularizing ideas, thoughts, products, faces, have all undergone a remarkable shift. And so have we. And while we are at that, let me just point out the instant visual eCommerce, that had me amazed when it struck the market. “Like us on facebook, and get a 20% discount at the chocolate room”, or any other eatery for that matter, beautifully highlights how the media channels affect our everyday life, as consumers and as marketers. The world is getting smaller and the market is getting bigger, yet this is not in contradiction but in synergy. Need I say more about the rage social media has become. And this has had a ripple effect on other growing facets of our field. With television broadcasting, sports marketing, the industry has taken a turn. So whether it is an ad for a dietary supplement, a refreshing new drink, an internet connection, even something as mundane as a pen, or, on the other hand, promoting a particular sport, state tourism, sportspersons are everywhere. We watch them, love them and follow them.
And so, keeping in mind the individual needs of the consumers today, and the age of customization – not only is the product being reengineered to suit their needs, the marketing techniques are following the same suit. To make things easier for us, technology has developed in leaps and bounds, and has, thus, made it possible to address the needs of the individuals. With virtual store chains coming up in different countries, the day may not be very far off, when a customer who wants to buy, say, a carton of milk, would just have to enter his details into the system to get the “most appropriate” type of milk, or a scanner would scan the complexion of skin and throw out a pouch of liquid soap that is “ideally formulated to suit your skin”.
The consumer has, and always will, get all the attention, when it comes to designing products that add value. And the consumer has, and always will, chose the company that provided the best value for their money. It is, for that purpose, that we need to share a symbiotic relationship with the other functions. In the current scenario, R&D, Design, Production, Marketing, should all work in perfect synergy, if the value of the net result is to be greater than the sum of individual efforts put in. Thus, a clear understanding of each of these functions is not an added advantage anymore, it is of strategic relevance.
So the way I see it, absolutely everything has changed, and will continue changing, at a rate of knots. All this transformation seems to stem from the changing demographics of the consumer. Technological growth, added to it, has only spoilt the customer for choices. The ‘P’ for People, has become the most important, the most relevant, whatever be the business. From heavy machinery to daily use products, marketing is for the people, to the people and by the people. No more is it the age of “jo dikhta hai wo bikta hai”. Consumers are reading between the lines, understanding subtleties, and accepting our companies for what they are. And the future belongs to those, who manage uniqueness, and can “be what they are”.
The article has been authored by Nikhita Mishra, NMIMS, Mumbai
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