Marketing is not what it used to be, says Nestle’s Arvind Bhandari

Marketing is not what it used to be. Innovations sit unnoticed, advertising campaigns don’t thaw consumers’ indifference and brand infidelity gallops unchecked. Do marketing techniques need retouching? Below are...

Marketing is not what it used to be. Innovations sit unnoticed, advertising campaigns don’t thaw consumers’ indifference and brand infidelity gallops unchecked. Do marketing techniques need retouching?

Below are a few marketing sutras re-mixed for new times.

Consumer distrust, not trust

Typical brand tracks calibrate trust with respect to category, ignoring competition. But challengers rarely come from inside. A usual brand track reads as ‘how crisp, tasty and thin are my chips?’ When perhaps it should ask: ‘Would you prefer my chips if they were thicker traditional kettle fried chips’? Or ‘How powerful is my disinfectant’, instead of ‘would you switch if a ‘Neem’ formulation’ was available’?

Rather than test unchallenging trust attributes, marketers would do well to well to tease out the distrust of their brands against temptation of an imagined but relevant proposition. That would give a better sense of brand stickiness when competition comes calling.

Consumer pan-sight not consumer in-sight

Consumer insight generation often justifies an available company innovation by claiming consumer needs have led to demand for a product. “Yellow teeth impacts my self-confidence. I wish I had a toothpaste that whitened as well as cleaned” is one such contrived insight.

However there are larger social trends that marketers should be sensitive to. For instance: disregard of formal authority, rising nationalism, primacy of authenticity over form (spawned by close scrutiny of social media), despair over digital-plague amongst moms, fluid and unclear relationships. Just some changes that peep through the canvas of films, television, WhatsApp, but are never formally captured. Products stand in isolation to these larger trends, till the copy is written, when it’s too late or forced.

Looking at consumers from a wider lens might help design products that not just satisfy functional needs but emotional ones.

Brands as pals, not packs

We just don’t get it: Brands are not mere products but experience. This, Structuralists would argue, is a fallacy of language. The word ‘product’ that brands are understood as, cues static, sterile transaction. Instead we could use words like pals, friends, and buddies to cue a more dynamic relationship. Brand Managers could then think of making pals for life out of brands, than mere packs for instant consumption.

And pals come in different packs. Luxury brands are great pals because we embrace them with unstoppable earnestness since they elevate our being. It’s easy to think of brand as experience with luxury brands because they accord us with exclusivity like, rich friends. But there are other pals that we haven’t considered: those who make us comfortable, self-assured, smarter, in-control, happier, or just ourselves. How many brands fit in this space even though these are more substantial and real need states?

Being consumer not impersonating one

The language we use, products we consume, the streets and markets we walk and the people we meet, are often as close to consumers as a hotel owners are to their guests. We invariably force consumers into our world. And on the odd occasion when we do know our consumers we succumb to condescension, congratulating ourselves at the deep knowledge gained.

Corporate conversations still avoid colloquial language. For instance, Hindi is either not known well enough, or avoided for it can give away social or professional inadequacy. The narrow unhygienic streets where our consumers shop and the sweltering metros where they commute are unfamiliar to marketers who claim to reflect them. And if that isn’t enough of impersonation, our own social mobility aspirations becomes that of consumers, under the guise of creating an aspirational world.

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