Posted on: September 11, 2012
It is an experience which I will remember for a long time. At the 12th Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Marketing Summit held on the 27th & 28th of August in Mumbai, I witnessed eminent industry professionals like Thomas Varghese, Chairman, CII Marketing Summit 2012 & CEO (Textiles Business) Aditya Birla Group; Vinita Bali, Managing Director, Britannia Industries; and Rahul Bajaj, Chairman, Bajaj Auto, addressing the audience in the inaugural session: ‘Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance; Marketing to a Billion.’ I have always admired Mr. Bajaj and listening to him speak was indeed an honour. “Today, you cannot have a large national company without any international footprint,” said Mr. Bajaj. “Success hinges on the ability to anticipate and companies should see how to leverage the market reality to drive change.” In other words, Mr. Bajaj was saying that if the elephant can get its act together, it can give a superlative performance.
‘But can the elephant dance?’ was the prime question to which I sought answers. Mini Menon, Executive Editor, Bloomberg TV, came to my rescue with a pertinent observation. “Today the market is undergoing much turbulence and new opportunities are arising. Indian consumption of goods and services has grown exponentially in the last 10 years. Today we have 50 per cent less wars than ever before. This is the best period for economic growth, so it is positive turbulence,” she said.
There were several insights which I had gained by the end of the summit. One key thing I learned was that consumers are changing faster than marketers. In the last 5 years, 120 million people in India have lifted themselves out of poverty. Today, the rural people have access to goods and services which they never had before. The time for theoretical and conservative marketing is over. Customers are behaving differently in different situations. Sukanya Kripalu, CEO, Sukanya Consulting, seconded this insight when she said, “The environment is changing very dramatically and today’s need is much more innovation.” In the words of Prahlad Kakkar, advertising guru, advertisers need to run faster than the consumer. “The moment you over-intellectualise, you are dead,” he added.
There were plenty of lessons from the marketing stalwarts too. “India is not an easy market. We need to have local knowledge about culture, tradition, lifestyle, etc. At the same time we need to be fast, humble and innovative. Net penetration in rural area is increasing”, shared Prahlad Kakkar . The second lesson was that advertising is constantly evolving in line with communication. People know how to retrieve information. The third lesson was about marketing and sales given by Sukanya Kripalu- “Marketing means ‘customer in’ whereas sales means ‘product out’. But we cannot overlook the fact that sales and marketing are two sides of the coin with the same convergence point that is the customer; because if you are not taking care of your customer, your competitors will.” In short, marketing is all about creating the right perception before actual interaction, or the moment of truth; and sales ensure that the interaction leads to conversion.
Today the consumer is not simply a consumer but a ‘prosumer’; that is, he is not a user but a developer/creator. Prosumer is ahead of marketers. I was also privileged to be introduced to the concept of neuro- marketing, which is a crucial link between neurofocus and marketing. It helps clients in understanding their customers in more depth, detail and accuracy than was possible ever before.
At the summit, Mr. Bajaj and Ms. Bali released a CII-Nielsen Study, ‘Emerging Consumer Demand. Rise of Small-town India,’ which captures the growth of smaller tier 2 and tier 3 towns in India, how they drive the Indian market and how consumer demand in small town urban India is growing across categories. A report by Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council for Eurasia & Africa titled, ‘Understanding Shopper Loyalty Within Different Formats’ was also released. So after absorbing all this, am I a pro marketer in the making? Well, all I can say is that having learnt some key lessons from the summit, I can certainly visualise myself as one!
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