Raahil Chopra
Oct 30, 2017

‘Brands that cover up mistakes, do worse than brands that apologise'

CVL Srinivas and D Shivakumar discuss the importance of brand trust and list ways to build trustworthy brands

‘Brands that cover up mistakes, do worse than brands that apologise'
CVL Srinivas, CEO, GroupM South Asia, country manager, WPP and D Shivakumar, chairman, MMA listed ways of how trustworthy brands can be built in a mobile-centric world at the MMA Forum 2017 in Gurugram.
Srinivas set the tone for the discussion by stating some numbers.
He said, “Mobile is fundamental to the business of advertising, media and marketing. So much power has gone into the hands of the consumer. There’s a lot of churn going on in terms of top brands." Stating numbers from the latest BrandZ report he said that among the top 50 brands in the terms of brand valuation, 25 per cent of them were new. So, roughly 12 or 13 brands had lost their position in the top 50.
He added, “The ones that have stayed, have done phenomenally well in the last year. India has seen the highest growth globally. So despite the churn, brands that are meaningful and trustworthy are doing better." 
Srinivas elaborated that trust is emerging to be a key factor to determine a brand’s success. "Consumers do a lot of research online before making purchase decisions. Brands that look to cover up their mistakes do worse than brands that apologise for them,” he stated.
Shivakumar echoed Srinivas’ sentiments. He said that while the conversation between the brand owner and the consumer has changed, the fundamentals remain the same.
He explained, “The big difference now is that consumers have a voice. Brands need to be authentic and honest. There’s a lot of noise on social media and that has to be monitored. A lot of digs are made towards brands and if they don’t respond to this, people will start believing those statements. So brands need to be pro-active and put out their (side of the) story.”
He believed that the emphasis on digital needs to start with the top management.  He said, “I don’t think that is happening right now. Many marketing teams are still thinking print, TVC and OOH. Any brands that have budgets of less than 10 crores should just be on digital.”
Srinivas asked Shivakumar, the former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo India about whether custodians should focus on long term or short term benefits.
Shivakumar’s responded that, “brands will always have short term pressures, but the right long term goals will win. People believe ‘I won’t be affected by digital’, but every industry from auto to mobile is getting shaped by digital. In a digital/social world, we are seeing society getting very informed. On the other hand, the trust on brands is falling”.
Celebrity shopping
Srinivas recounted how a media agency would love to get a glimpse of a celebrity back in the day when a deal was signed with a brand ambassador. He then spoke about how social media has its own ‘celebs’ with millions of followers and asked Shivakumar whether such profiles have made film stars and cricketers lose their star power.
Shivakumar replied, “In the past, a brand ambassador appointment was completely qualitative. Shah Rukh Khan was taken on board believing he will get a movie that will do well soon after the appointment which would make the brand strong. Today, the consumer follows the celeb by the minute and the celeb wants that to happen. But, thanks to social media there’s a lot of fatigue and distrust. Lot of people believe that celebs don’t consume the brands they endorse. So they want a source of authority. So for Gatorade (a PepsiCo product) we got PV Sindhu on board and that was a good match. We also got Masterchef Vikas Khanna associated with Quaker Oats. There has to be authenticity.” 
Campaign India

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