Draftfcb Ulka's Cogito Consulting has worked with IPG's Terry Peigh on the India leg of the Global New Realities Study to provide a unique window into how the Indian consumer is coping with information.
For the study, it conducted about 600 online interviews per country, across the US, Brazil, China, India and Germany, between October 26 and November 10, 2011. The research was initially started two years ago, in the US, China and Germany, for better understanding of consumer decision making.
Peigh postulates, "Information is strategic now."
A peculiar finding revealed by the study is that 32 per cent of the consumers do not trust most of the information that they see on brands, whereas 31 per cent of them don't trust information from manufacturers or providers. Peigh reasons this as an outcome of the 'newly found mass consumer culture' in India.
More than 50 per cent of the Indian consumers enjoy research of the information for buying decisions and find the process of finding information on brands fulfilling. With the exception of Germany, product learning is a source of joy and fulfilment for consumers of all the countries.
The study has also revealed that the consumers of China and India are most likely to turn that positive perception into brand advocacy and become a media channel. In fact, social networking sites are a good source of word-of-mouth information on brand experiences.
Explaining about a consumer being a medium, Peigh says that it is simply human nature. "Consumers take decisions based on what their friend circle and family is talking about," he says.
Some consumers have even confided that if they ever needed to do research for a brand decision, a social network site is the first place that they would check. "The interest in using social media for a brand is actually higher in India than the western world. People are increasingly using Facebook to learn about brands."
Speaking about negative consumer feedback on social media about a brand, Peigh says, "You need to take a leap. Consumers today will value a manufacturer a lot, if they are transparent, open and willing to hear negative things." But, Peigh opines that it is critically important to respond to the negative things and to not just sit out there. "It is important to manage the negative, so that you do not get overwhelmed by the negative," he adds.
The most important finding of the research is that product research and learning is now a big part of the brand experience for many. Today, marketing needs to treat product information as a part of the 'brand', which is as important as product, price and promotion.
"There are many things that an advertising agency can also do. It can help people curate the information, filter the information and simplify the information. It does not only mean to promote your brands, but also to look at the alternatives," adds Peigh.
For a richer, deeper, longer lasting 'sale', marketing needs to recognise the value the brand obtains if it facilitates the decision making journey and helps drive a decision that feels right and makes consumers feel good.