Opinion: CMOs need to go take a walk

There is a large vibrant community out there and some possibilities are still untapped

Feb 08, 2017 11:13:00 AM | Article | Nimish Dwivedi

Thanks to a gracious Member of Parliament and a thorough gentleman like Sunil Dutt, we have been fortunate to have a jogger's park right in the middle of Lokhandwala Complex where my parents stay in Mumbai (India). And my favourite activity whenever I visit there is to go for a walk in the park with my dad. This has become a very special ritual for my dad and me specially after our other partner my mum chose to go for a long walk in heaven last year.
And besides rich conversations  and deep discussions I have been observing the evolution of this park from a mere place to walk or run into a vibrant community. Some marketing possibilities have been realised and some areas yet untapped. 
After all we are living our lives in an always-on world, lost in Whatsapp, Facebook, other social media or internet related fixes and totally lost from the real world. And it is at spaces like these parks where these ever connected souls find time to breathe. While marketers are spending time sharpening their digital strategies to grab attention for their brands or categories on the internet, there is a whole new marketing possibility emerging where people converge as one community. And these are huge leverage opportunities for brands to tap into. 
Everyone who is paying a small fee and entering the park is doing so to burn some calories, get some endorphins and to get some fresh air.  It is also a quieter and more receptive time as people are just walking or jogging and not lost in their phones or tablets.  
One fine day a cart turned up outside the park. From cucumber to aloe vera to tender coconut, this cart provides fresh and healthy beverages that people can drink to quench their workout induced thirst and get some benefits. And slowly a stop at the cart has become a matter of routine. Similar to that cutting chai stall near rickshaw stands or local train stations that people adopt into their commute. Just as a train journey to work should not start without that chai, the workout should end with one of these juices. 
Then a fresh from the farm vegetable vendor showed up.  Slowly the fresh mind and fresh air seekers also started seeking fresh vegetables. Today rows of expensive cars line up near the vendor after their morning strolls and jogs to get their daily straight from the farm supply of vegetables. 
Small billboards started coming up at the park. A great way to add an additional revenue stream for maintaining the park.  But the brands present there are astologers and realty companies. Clearly some brand alignment required here with the target audience and their attitudes.  The fitness and freshness seeker is not out there seeking an astrologer. It seems straight out of the "Sab Sach Karnewala Baba" (quacks who promise a cure for all ills) posters in local trains. 
And if you need a personal trainer then no need to look further. There are at least two or more available offering different modes of training from learning how to jog despite a back problem lessons to doing bicep building push ups and pull ups in the park lessons. 
While this marketing ecosystem has evolved there is also considerable opportunity that lies untapped. 
The first obvious one is for brands like Adidas, Nike or Reebok. They can not only become brand sponsors of such parks but also provide on-site displays of their range from walking shoes for older folks to the appropriate running shoes for the middle aged executive with a beer belly training for his first half marathon due to peer pressure. 
Fitness equipment providers also have their audience right here. After all what can the freshness seekers do when they cannot find the time to make it to the park. The portable exercising cycle at home can help. And what better place to get to know about this product then the park itself. 
Another huge opportunity is for furniture brands specially chair makers and back support providers to sponsor or provide comfortable benches at the park.  After all . besides the occasional giggly teenagers with raging hormones, most of the park benches are occupied by old people who need to sit after their walking quota or by exhausted runners trying to relax and recover. Comfortable chair makers and other brands can provide a complete experience of their brand by substituting stone benches with their own products. 
Everyone walking into such parks is a wellness seeker of sorts. A psychographic segment for many of the wellness brands to tap into. From yoga and fitness centers to even pharmaceutical brands that promote general or alternate wellness like ayurveda and ayurvedic spas etc. have a whole target audience waiting.
For much of the crowds finishing their morning walks there is also an opportunity for a periodical provider where people can buy their morning papers or evening tabloids. Additionally, a brand that no park user will ever forget is that benevolent brand which provides a tarpaulin cover to this park during the four plus months of the Mumbai monsoon when the park becomes wet or flooded and absolutely inaccesible. 
And while we all wait for that brand and park that thought , physiotherapists and clinics can run campaigns during monsoon about their sprain, broken bones and hip treatment facilities for souls who still get to the flooded park despite the rain only to slip and fall. 
Given the number of actors and directors that frequent this park I am also waiting for some of the theatrically inclined to get together and stage their version of Neil Simon's plan- Barefoot in the Park. 
Now  let me figure out during my next walk who looks a bit  like Robert Redford and like Jane Fonda amongst the ever increasing freshness seekers there. 
(The author is a senior consumer marketing and financial services professional who has lived and worked in India, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. At present he is the director of the cards and payments business at VP Bank- FE Credit, based in Vietnam.)