Abhinav Anand
Planner's Journal

"Whatever you do, don't appear opportunistic or greedy, appear helpful and wise"

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.

Reeling under lockdown with a blurry picture of what lies ahead, it's a tough time for most of us, especially the marketing and advertising world. To make sense of it, we spoke to Neeraj Sharma, who is Rediffusion's strategic planning head, to understand his views on consumers, marketing, brands, and the road ahead.

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

The situation is changing every day, so, plan out your communication on two variables. Relevance on X-axis and sentiment on Y-axis, and then design your communication message accordingly. For example, if you are a refrigerator brand and the sentiment is 'market is opening', talk about a bigger or better refrigerator to stock more food. It's time to be ready with a spectrum of communication messages and then use what makes the most sense at that point in time.

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?

It's too early to make such grand statements. Whatever you do, don't appear opportunistic or greedy, appear helpful and wise. You don't always need to show empathy and be overtly emotional with messages which start with "in this time of...." Offer your expertise and services to make their lives easier. Act, don't talk. And, don't separate your logo, please, or for that matter do anything with them. We are done there.

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

Auto and realty, which are already reeling under pressure, might take longer (to recover). The tours and travels will also take longer, given people will wait and watch.

What we need to understand is in post-COVID world marketers won't, all of a sudden, have access to new tools.

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

I think the world of marketing is going to be driven by the world of economy for some time... The GDP growth projection is getting cut every week, but the projection for next year looks optimistic. So, two parallel conflicting forces and emotions will be at play. We will see people embracing minimalism and hedonism at the same time. The number in each of these 'isms' is anyone's guess.

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

What we need to understand is that in the post-COVID world, marketers won't, all of a sudden, have access to new tools. Brand purpose is one such tool. And, my guess is marketers will give in to the temptation to use them, even if it doesn't make sense for all the brands. We will see more of them, which we shouldn't, especially if it's just to ride the bandwagon.