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CII Brand Summit 2010: Consumer engagement is the way to brave the disrupted marketplace

By Antara Ghosal , afaqs!, Bengaluru | In Marketing | February 23, 2010
The two-day event by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at Bengaluru attempted to grasp the implications of 'marketing disruption' and talked about how to build brands in the era of discontinuity

A successful brand is every marketer's dream. How to make that dream come true -- especially in an era when thousands of new products are arriving on retail shelves every other day, and consumers are exposed to newer choices, advanced technologies and rapidly growing new media -- was the topic of discussion at CII Brand Summit, 2010, the two-day international convention organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at Bengaluru.

& #BANNER1 & #Experts from over the world came together to talk about brands and consumers today, and in the process, pointed out interesting marketing and branding trends in India and abroad.

While discussing the mega trends of the age of disruption, the experts pointed out that the new-age consumer would continue to find comfort in brands that provide both emotional connect and tangible benefits. However, they predicted, she would make purchase decisions based on the study of blogs, competitive analysis available on the internet, or interesting commercial content that comes to her from friends or acquaintances.

This trend, the experts believe, will not really cause traditional media to fade out; although traditional media alone will be unlikely to make the consumer decide on a brand. In such a scenario, the experts advised, marketers should make better use of new media, in conjunction with traditional media, to effectively engage this customer. The messaging would have to be more subtle and only influence the decision, rather than actively encourage the purchase.

Srinivasan K Swamy, chairman, Brand Summit 2010 and chairman and managing director, R K Swamy BBDO, said in his theme address that in the last few years, the three most important factors that marked the emergence of the age of disruption are: the birth of the new-age customer, the rise of new media and technological advances that led to increasing levels of convergence. He added that the new-age customer is mirroring the West, India would lead the new media and the technological challenges are going to stay.

In his welcome remarks, C R Swaminathan, chairman, CII Southern Region and chief executive, PSG Industrial Institute, said that brands are reflection of the values of an organisation. Brands can build a favourable reputation and convert a product from a commodity to an experience.

Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural session, Tim Love, chairman and CEO, Asia Pacific India Middle East Africa, Omnicom Group, urged the corporates to adopt a new frame of reference, as the frame of reference of "Think global; act local" had become obsolete.

"Instead, I suggest a frame of reference I call 'Think like the sun', which offers us a broader and more relevant perspective. The sun actually does not rise and set. It is the earth that revolves. In this increasingly smaller interconnected marketplace, consumer perceptions are more borderless and always on. The result is a word-of-mouth community. To anticipate the needs of a world of consumers who are more in touch with each other, 'think like the sun' offers a more objective frame of reference for building brands or conveying ideas," he explained.

Adi Godrej, chairman, Godrej Group, in his inaugural address, said that there are three fundamental steps to building a successful brand strategy -- understanding of brand and consumers as they exist today; building brand equity through information and analytics; and creating future equity through consumer insights.

Godrej emphasized that marketing managers need to continuously invest resources in market research and data collection, which would lead to the creation of vast databases of information that can be sliced and diced to answer specific marketing queries.

"When combined with advanced modelling techniques, consumer data would give marketing managers a clear understanding of how various elements of the marketing mix could be optimised, to deliver superior customer equity within the narrow confines of their individual customer segments," he said.

In the first session of the summit, Dave Evans, consulting director, 20:20 Social; Andrew Robertson, president and CEO, BBDO Worldwide, USA; and Arun Tadanki, managing director, Yahoo! India tried to demystify the term, 'millennial customers', and thereby evaluated the present status and future prospects for new media in India and abroad.

Rahul Welde, vice-president, media services, Asia AMET, Unilever, Singapore, spoke on the topic, 'From mass media to social media'. He remarked that mass media was far from dead, and was, in fact, thriving along with social media. G Krishnan, executive director and CEO, TV Today Network agreed, "Traditional media, especially TV, is growing, not going".

Dr Saul J Berman, partner, Global & Americas business strategy leader, IBM Business Consulting Services, USA; Ramarathinam Sellaratnam, head of Bangalore DC, Infosys Technologies; Deepak Srinivasan, vice-president - corp & business development, Ankeena Networks Inc, USA; and Ivan Pollard, partner, Naked Communications also spoke on the first day of the summit.

The second day of the summit started with introductory remarks by session chairman, Ravish Kumar, executive vice-president and regional general manager, STAR India. He spoke about co-creation of products, commercial content and enhanced consumer experience.

Following this, Punita Lal, executive director - marketing, Pepsico India shared an interesting insight about the young consumers of today and their media habits. "Gone are the days when one can wow the youth with glamour and celebrity. With rising confidence levels, the youth see themselves as their own stars. The only way to make one's brand popular among the youth is by co-creating, by getting cutting-edge consumers to be the brand ambassadors and by coming up with innovative story telling ideas." She also recognised mobile phones to be the best friend of the youth.

Rahul Saighal, CMO, Aircel, further explained the potential of the mobile phone industry in India. "Mobile phones to India will be like motors to America," he remarked. He predicted that in a few years, mobile phones would take a step ahead from being a tool of voice communication to becoming a complete lifestyle partner. He cited the success of mobile phones in Japan and predicted that the same thing would be seen in India in some time.

Taking the session forward, HS Goindi, president - marketing, TVS Motor Company; Ashok Das, managing director, Hansa Research Group; Senthil Kumar, executive creative director, JWT; Harish Bijoor, chief executive officer, Harish Bijoor Consults; and Vivek Oberoi, actor, took part in a panel discussion on 'Engaging with consumers through celebrities'. At the end of the discussion, the experts agreed on the fact that "The idea is the real hero and the celebs should be weaved into it."

Rohit Bhargava, SVP - strategy & marketing, Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence, USA, another speaker at the event, acknowledged that creating content is no longer limited to people who know technology.

With technology becoming simpler by the day, he said, more and more people are taking up blogging or joining online communities. Also, according to him, virtual trust is on the rise and media has become circular in shape. He further explained that consumer experience can be enhanced by simple measures, such as having a brand personality, offering consumers a context, answering unasked questions, supporting co-creation and creating more utility.

The panel for the concluding session comprised Srinivasan K Swamy, chairman, Brand Summit 2010 & chairman & managing director, R K Swamy BBDO; Pradipta K Mohapatra, chairman - governing board and business coaching Foundation India; and Aroon Raman, vice-chairman, CII Karnataka & managing director, Raman FibreScience.