Abhinav Anand
Planner's Journal

"Cutting marketing budgets would be foolish": Ekta Relan, Mullen Lintas

In a new series Planner's Journal, we explore what the world looks like from the perspective of those in charge of mining consumer insights every day.

Here's what Ekta Relan, national planning director, Mullen Lintas, says...

If there was one piece of advice you could give all brand marketers now, what would that be?

Firstly, cutting marketing budgets would be foolish. So don’t let that happen. Tough times like these always throw new opportunities. There is a live reality show of behaviour change going on around us. Identify the short term and long term opportunities for your brands and more importantly, don’t be confused between the two. Having said this, be cautious that you don’t change the DNA of your brand for something that might just give you a short term blip and in long term will deviate your brand for what it truly stands for in people’s life.

What are the top three ways in which you feel the Indian consumer has changed? And how do you see these changes affecting the way brand managers will sell to them in the days ahead?

The needs and wants will be fundamentally the same, however there is a big change in the way people are fulfilling them. For example, the need for entertainment will continue to be there but there is an increase in streaming. Similarly, with e-commerce. Things like online shopping, e-payments, laundry or salon service at home, which were earlier largely seen as convenience or value will now have a new meaning in life. Another change is the realisation of the need for health. So we will see a lot of brands and companies strengthening their promise to give better health, now, be it a FMCG health product, a health menu or health insurance product.

Which product segments do you feel have the toughest road to recovery? And which categories will bounce back faster than others?

All the categories which pose a threat in terms of catching the infection will be the ones that will struggle the most, like air travel, live events, restaurants, cinema. And then all the SMEs and small retailers whose liquidity is under crunch now will need some aid. E-commerce and personal care should bounce back fast. People will care to care and in these times of uncertainties and insecurities, people need small doses of joy and confidence which a lot of these products give to people.

Are we headed towards a world in which consumerism will become a bad word? What will happen to marketing in such a world?

Let’s not underestimate our breed of marketeers. The kind of consumerism, the needs and desires of people may change. But our marketeers are super smart. So they will come with new offerings to serve the mindset of this new era. Also, with the lock down experience, people may now value the products and experiences they can buy, a bit more. It won’t be taken for granted, at least in the short term.

"Let’s not underestimate our breed of marketeers. The kind of consumerism, the needs and desires of people may change. But our marketeers are super smart. So they will come with new offerings to serve the mindset of this new era."
Ekta Relan

Do you see purpose led brand communication increase or decrease in the days ahead?

Every time there is a crisis or a social issue, purpose led communication increases, so it will increase this time as well or rather it already has. This time, however, the cause isn’t distant, it has personally affected each one of us. So, I am hoping this time there will be more creative and marketing minds passionate to actually ‘walk the talk’. And therefore there is a higher percentage of such campaigns backed with some real acts that truly help the cause.