afaqs!

Chris Thomas on BBDO India, Proximity and the consumer

By Savia Jane Pinto , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | November 11, 2009
Chris Thomas of BBDO shares details of a study about consumers after the fall of Lehman Brothers, the current scenario of BBDO India and the launch of Proximity in India

Chris Thomas, chairperson and chief executive officer, BBDO Asia, was in Mumbai yesterday to share the findings of a global study carried out by BBDO and Proximity in 15 markets of the world. The survey was to assess global attitudes to the recession and the recovery of the global economy after the fall of Lehman Brothers.

Addressing the media, Thomas spoke about six brand frameworks that hold the key to marketing recovery.

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In a step wise manner, he began with Control. Consumers, as per the survey, wanted to have more control over their expenses and justify purchases. As a brand, being transparent and aligning with media where consumers shop is necessary. As an example, he cited the activity carried out by Hyundai in the US. It promised to return the cost of the car to anyone who lost their source of income after having purchased the car. In the communication, too, a transparent tone of voice was used.

Relationships have been held more dearly during the turbulent economic crisis and the consumer trusted the word of another consumer rather than a brand. The survey showed that there was a lack of trust in the case of financial institutions. "Word of mouth is a much stronger tool now," said Thomas, therefore making it more important for a brand to reach out to its consumers online and carry out dialogue.

In Vietnam, BBDO worked on Mercedes Benz, where sales were beginning to steer towards the direction of the economy. In the earlier scenario, the decision to buy a car was a very male decision. However, following the economic crunch, the decision was more of a family issue. Hence, Mercedes re-designed its test drive, making it more family friendly.

The next framework is that of Pleasure. When stressed out and under strain, people want to compensate with creative treats and pleasures and a brand can step in here to surprise and delight the consumer at regular and innovative touch points. Thomas provided a Singaporean example of SingTel, the telecom company, which created the 'Smile. It's Christmas' campaign when the cheer was lacking visibly due to the unstable economy.

In the 15 markets that were surveyed, it was noted that people are increasingly moving back home instead of spending a lot of time out of the house. Hence, instead of only trying to coax consumers to leave their place of security, a brand could find innovative ways of letting the consumer enjoy the brand in his/her house.

The penultimate framework is that of Appearance. In tough times, the pressure to maintain face is high and a brand could find social utility in this. The final framework for getting the marketing back on track, said Thomas, is Causes. A brand that associates itself to a cause which fits into its own brand beliefs would be able to connect better with the consumer. It is in such times that people want to be closer and do much more for others and brands that are able to leverage this will be in better stead.

The study indicated a 41 per cent increase in religious activities among Indians, coupled with consumers paying closer attention to environmental issues, especially if it helps them save costs.

Thomas, however, warned that brands must have deep integrity towards a cause before taking it up with the consumer.

Later, when Thomas spoke to afaqs!, he shared certain plans of BBDO India. Satisfied with the progress of the agency in India, he said, "We've got ourselves an unfair share of great talent to work with and now we concentrate on The Work. The Work. The Work."

Thomas shared that in the first quarter of next year, Proximity, the CRM, digital and data arm of BBDO will be officially launched in India. "Though many of BBDO India's clients utilise the services of Proximity, a formal launch will happen early next year," said Thomas. Proximity will function out of BBDO India's Mumbai and Delhi offices.