L to R: Chander Sethi, Kainaz Gazder, Trevor Beattie, Sam Balsara, Michael Perschke, Shripad Nadkarni
One of the points that generated laughs in the audience on day one of the 11th CII National Marketing Summit held on March 31, 2011, in Mumbai, was in a presentation by Shripad Nadkarni. The founder director of Market Gate Consulting presented a slide on the advertising of four apparel brands in India, and drew attention to how strikingly similar they were (indeed, when seen together, they were): Italian model with a 3-day stubble, standing at an angle of 15 degrees, shot in an international locale, and an “inane” tagline for the brand at the bottom.
The slide emphasised what was essentially the thought for the day: the need for newness in the way marketers think, because the consumer is changing.
The two-day conference means to focus on issues relating to the needs and importance of the consumers, the manner in which their demand is picking up, and the importance of marketing strategies that respond to the changing and dynamic consumer demands unique to India. Sam Balsara, chairman and managing director of Madison World, is the chairman for of the CII summit this year.
Kicking off the session on “Integrated Marketing versus Advertising”, was Trevor Beattie, founder partner of BMB. He said, “The big idea is a myth. Instead, think of little ideas that will improve the big idea (If the wheel was the big idea, a suitcase with wheels is a little idea that takes it further).” He also expressed his distaste for the word “integrated”, calling it one of the most misunderstood words in advertising, like “branding”. It implied things looking the same, regardless of quality and content. Instead, he believed in “emotional integration” and integrity in the work presented to clients and to consumers. Kainaz Gazder, marketing director of Procter & Gamble, India, said that the acid test for a brand today is if the consumer is willing to share it – on social media or by talking about it. She spoke of work done on brands like Gillette that went beyond the traditional 30-second TVC, with the Women Against Lazy Stubble movement. Chander Sethi, managing director, Reckitt Benckiser India, said the biggest challenge is, “Do we understand what consumers really want in terms of latent future demand?” Specifically talking about digital, he agreed with an earlier point made by Gazder about the recent influence of the medium as seen in the Middle East, “If 12 guys can topple a government in 23 days, they can take your brand from a leader to zero in the same time.”
Michael Perschke, head of Audi India, said that for the luxury automobile brand, there was only so much a print ad could do; the marketing strategy was all about getting the consumer into the driver’s seat to experience the car. The brand also engages with 24 year old IIM and IIT graduates on Facebook and Twitter, because of their likelihood of considering the car after a few years. Nadkarni, citing the example of the apparel ads mentioned earlier, pointed out his grievances with current marketing strategies: obsession with industry logic, very few initiatives for the store and the website, and not having a digital strategy in place.
L to R: Aritra Sarkar, Devita Saraf, Shantanu Khosla, Tanya Dubash
The next session was about “Marketing to a new India”. Chaired by Shantanu Khosla, managing director of Procter & Gamble, the first speaker was Tanya Dubash, executive director and president (marketing), Godrej Group. She spoke of how brands should be willing to reinvent themselves, inspite of their legacy, and of the importance of creating a learning ecosystem, such as the India Culture Lab at Godrej, which aims to find a link between tradition, contemporary culture and design thinking. Devita Saraf, chief executive officer, Vu Televisions, said, “The new consumers are your kids.” Calling them “very knowledgeable, which can be scary for marketers” and “more likely to buy on recommendations from knowers”, she enumerated a few pointers for how marketers could keep up: get personal; make BTL 50 percent of your budget; invest in online ads, but don’t waste money there; don’t waste money on brand ambassadors (she later called Steve Jobs the best brand ambassador in the world because he made the product, so he knows it, and clearly uses it; Vijay Mallya was an example closer home); hire from the TG; keep your message simple and to the point; get scientific; don’t rehash your old brand, build a new one; modding is key; think Lalitaji in skinny jeans; and invest in design.
Aritra Sarkar, vice president – strategy, ABP Group, said the new consumer is like old wine in a new bottle. He said the challenge is to go beyond the urban consumer to the ones in Tier II, III towns and deep in the heartland. As India becomes more complex, with less homogeneity, it’s important to embrace the opportunities.
The “Innovation in marketing” session saw speakers like Dheeraj Sinha, chief strategy officer, Bates 141, Sanjay Purohit, country manager, Levi Strauss India, and Saugata Gupta, chief executive officer (consumer products), Marico. Sinha’s main points were: consumers don’t need innovation, marketers do; Indians buy because other people buy; not everything in India needs to be young; we have more young looking brands than brands for youth; and that access brands will get bigger than aspiration brands (he spoke of how Ujala’s imagery is a peek into the world of Surf). Purohit said that it is important to create ecosystems that encourage mini-entrepreneurship or risk taking. He reasoned that the reason the Bay Area in San Francisco, US (home to Google, Facebook and Apple), is a great place for innovation because it has people who believe in the power of ideas and an ecosystem that enables them to be brought to the market, backed by money, talent and role models. Gupta conjectured that innovation is usually done by “guys who haven’t gone through the complete education system in India, because exams here are all about mugging”. Shailesh Rao, managing director (media and platforms), APAC and Japan, Google, who was chairing the session, added that at Google, the benefit of “20-percent time” to work on projects other than what their job role entails, permits employees to come up with ideas like the Youtube Symphony Orchestra or write software that would aid the relief work for Japan’s earthquake and tsunami victims.