The task before advertisers and marketers has never been more challenging. At the cost of sounding repetitive, they have a plethora of media options to choose from and fast changing consumption habits to reckon with. They are facing the challenge to devise communication campaigns that work on multiple platforms and promise measurable deliverables. Above all, the consumers' attention is a scarce resource. With such challenges thrown in, it is easy to surmise that it would take a lot for a brand to stand out in a cluttered market. The task is not just about evolving a brand message that is in tune with changing consumer tastes. It is also about choosing the right platform to make the maximum impact.
Take the issue of growing competition. Look around you and you are bound to see every category--be it soaps or quick service restaurants--is chock-a-block with players and look completely different from what it was even three years ago. Fifteen years ago, McDonald's was able to blaze a trail in the fast food market because it had no competition to speak of and only a handful of media vehicles to spread its message. Today, apart from global players such as Burger King and Dunkin' Donuts, it is wrestling with a range of home-grown brands over and above many standalone players. So if earlier time it used television with gusto, now it is using all sorts of below-the-line vehicles to get heard in the din.
Says Kedar Teny, director, marketing and digital, McDonald's India (West and South), "When we first went live on mass media, our initiatives were targeted at building brand relevance. People knew brand McDonald's was a global brand but the QSR format was completely new to India. Our campaigns were therefore aimed at positioning the brand as aspirational yet culturally relevant to the Indian audience. We wanted our communication to represent family values and at the same time position McDonald's as a comfortable place to eat out."
Now, besides the accent on family, McDonald's talks about price, assortment, health... you name it ... and uses the social media in a big way to connect with its core audience group. It regularly creates engagement opportunities for the brand in the social space. Teny says, "Over time, we have seen phenomenal growth in our Twitter base and better engagement rates with our FaceBook fans."
Like McDonald's, whose communication strategy hinges on maintaining brand relevance, Dabur India embarked on a new journey last year, to make itself "future ready", not just with its products, but also with its communication as well. According to K K Chutani, executive director, consumer care business, Dabur India, "The first pillar of becoming future ready strategy is to revamp the company's 50-year-old brands like Chyawanprash, PudinHara, Hajmola, Dashmularishta etc to make them more relevant and appealing to Gen Z. As these products are being targeted at the youth, our brand campaigns are now crafted to speak their language. This forms the second pillar of the strategy. Today's youth are more socially aware and want to participate in bringing about change in the society. So, product campaigns have to be about touching the emotional chord of the audience and help them find the heroes in themselves."
Chutani adds that Dabur India's recent campaigns reflect its new brand strategy. For instance, Vatika's new Brave and Beautiful campaign, which captures the protagonist's story of coming out stronger after losing all her hair to cancer, delivers this message aptly. Similarly, the '700 Se 7 Kadam' campaign for Sanifresh talks about protecting the dignity of women in India by bringing toilets closer to their homes. In most of its campaigns, Dabur India is working to connect with consumers with a more youthful and emotional appeal. This is a clear departure from the past, where its campaigns projected the product as the hero.
For many brands, the change in position and in the communication strategy has been brought about not just by a surge in competition but also by the transformation of the business itself. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the apparel industry which has undergone a seismic shift over the last decade or so. Sooraj Bhat, chief operating officer, Allen Solly and Louis Philippe, says, "The smart casual segment in India had two to three major brands for a long time and then suddenly we have players from the formal segment entering the fray besides a host of international brands. In this hyper-competitive environment, it has become important to innovate in brand strategy before innovating in communication strategy."
Reflecting the change, over the last three years, Allen Solly has focused on two key properties -- colour and sport. Both these help to stress on one thing--that Allen Solly is a sporty and youthful brand. The same drive is evident in its brand tie-ups. For instance, Allen Solly has tied up with the All England Lawn Tennis Club and is the exclusive licencee to market a line inspired by Wimbledon, one of the four grand slam tournaments.
For its part, Louis Philippe communicates with the new consumer by investing in high value television properties and premium sporting events. The brand has been propagating the idea of excellence through its self-produced TV show - Louis Philippe in Pursuit of Excellence with Vijay Amritraj - a 10 part annual series. The brand also has an association with TEDx Gateway as well as Louis Philippe Golf, that bring together the best and the most successful people in various fields.
Not just in the product and communication strategy, brands are innovating with the use of media as well. Dabur, for instance, realises that with a diverse portfolio that aims to meet consumer needs across geographies, markets, age groups and SECs, leveraging mainstream media is not going to cut it. From its experience Dabur has learnt that insight-based interactive communication works extremely well in rural markets. As a result, the company has moved beyond traditional media options like radio, television and cinema, to directly engage with the consumer. To that end, it is relying heavily on below-the-line communication and on-ground activation to build reassurance and trust among consumers, particularly in rural India. In areas that are media dark but are equipped with infrastructure like roads etc, Dabur India uses extensive local consumer contact programmes to spread its message. Its rural campaign 'Banke Dikhao Rani', focused on Dabur Amla involved organising beauty contests at the village level and interacting with women to highlight the product's USP.
For brands one medium that is gaining in popularity is digital. Even traditional brands such as Dabur are not immune to the attraction of the digital medium. "While the company's overall advertising spend continues to be in the 14-15 per cent of the turnover level, the spend on individual mediums have undergone a change. Going forward, we see digital spends growing fast becoming 10-15 per cent of the total ad spends," says Chutani.
Expert Take: Changing the advertising pitch
We live in a world of instant gratification where Facebook and YouTube make and break stars before you can say 'Nirma'. Hence the biggest change over the past five years has been the advent of multiple communication platforms along with a highly intuitive and well informed consumer. Advertisers and brands today are no longer just directing communication at consumers, but engaging them in the process. At the helm of this new age advertising is the brave new world of start-ups, the quintessential poster boys and girls of breaking rules, offering speedy results. One would have thought that this would have led to brash and hassled communication; on the contrary, start-ups have come up with some game-changing communication. In the realm of advertising, digital marketing and public relations, start-ups established brands that are looking to reinvent themselves can go by the following rules to get noticed and b followed by their consumers:
* Fast is better than right: While communicating, watch the speed. It is vital
* Measurement is better than emotions: Results are a priority and hence they will not lose time to rework a campaign which is not working.
* Experiments are better than cut-copy-paste: Well, when you are building a company like never before, you will embrace new ideas to get customers.
* Scaling is better than pioneering: Pursue marketing activities that are scalable and sustainable.
CEO & Co-founder, BoringBrands