Abhinav Anand
Planner's Journal

"The meaning of the word 'essentials' is changing": Arun Raman, GREY Group

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 Arun Raman, chief intelligence officer, GREY Group India, has to say:

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

Listen. Observe. Breathe.

The ‘new’ normal has not yet set in. Post COVID-19 (and we still don’t know when that will be) will be different. Unpredictable. Never foreseen. What we all must be is: show patience. Don’t spend all your resources: time, money and efforts right now. See the trends. Take calculated risks. Slowly. This is not the time for adventurism.

What are the top 3 ways in which the Indian consumer has changed? And, how will these changes affect the way brand managers will sell to them (the consumers) in the days ahead?

Again, ‘changed’ is a definitive word. A past tense, if you may. We are living in a continuously evolving environment. The present is changing. We must keep track of what is changing on a daily loop. For instance, families are changing. See how quintessential authority figures at home are doing ‘chores’. They aren’t that frightful anymore, are they? A sense of egalitarianism is coming into homes, communities, societies, and even the nation. This is changing the way we look at relevant insights for our brands. Will this continue? We have to keep tracking this.

The meaning of the word 'essentials' is changing. Now not just food and groceries, but even mobile chargers and nightwear have become essentials. I am seeing how Maslow’s hierarchy is slowly getting redefined by people-under-lockdown. Will it remain changed post lockdown, or will we revert to our previous needs-wants-desires... only time will tell. We have to keep tracking this.

"Families are changing. See how quintessential authority figures at home are doing ‘chores’. They aren’t that frightful anymore, are they? A sense of egalitarianism is coming into homes, communities, societies, and even the nation."

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

I suspect real estate will continue to face headwinds, given the dire predictions about the economy and joblessness. I also suspect that automobiles, including two-wheelers, might bounce back faster, given the fear of public spaces, including public transport. But hand on heart, thanks to what the middle class has gone through these last few weeks, I think this will be the golden age for vacuum cleaners and dishwashers in Indian homes.

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

Consumerism should never be seen as a bad word. Consumption economies make everybody richer than before. But what I do predict is that the new consumer will be more responsible. More responsible to his/her family’s real needs and their money in the bank. We might see a pause in the previously seen frenzy to acquire the latest and the glitziest. And this not because of any self-actualised realisations, but a heightened sense of risk-aversion: of their own future. So, brands must be careful to not feed on greed-based consumption, but focus on needs-based acquisitions.

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

Every brand’s purpose has to be to better the lives of its consumers. Not always about saving the earth, but even helping me save time while doing the dishes is a damn good purpose. More than purpose, I think the future belongs to brands that are authentic. Authentic about what they promise. Authentic about how they speak. Authentic about why they exist. And these brands will be loved because, of late, people have got used to the authentic and have started questioning the fake. News included.