Those marketing lessons? Unlearn 'em

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 14, 2013 07:48 hrs

Much as markets evolve, so do consumers. To stay relevant, marketers must keep in constant touch with these changes in the market place as well as their consumers' behaviour. Quite often though a part of this learning is unlearning what you thought were the rules until now - letting go of ideas that may have worked wonderfully in the past but have no relevance in the future. Here are ten marketing rules from 2012 that may not apply this year.

1. India is all about the mass market opportunity: As spending power improves, there is an equal opportunity to market "premium" offerings. This is especially true for new businesses, where the time required to build mass distribution and franchises may push break-even too far into the future. Rising costs also mean that we need a much greater focus on value addition in each sphere of operations. Samsung, for example, is now pretty close to the size of Unilever in India. We cannot all be in the smart phones business but need to push harder for better realisation.

2. Mass media is the key: The cellphone is fast replacing the television as the primary screen. Every day, 63 million Indians log onto Facebook, which is more than the circulation figures of any English newspaper. Brands need to anticipate changes in the way media are accessed.

3. Each distribution channel has its own requirements: Shoppers are increasingly channel-agnostic, and brands must be consistent to their core values across channels. Consumers will expect to find the brands and packs they want regardless of where they are - at a store or in front of their computers. Don't puzzle your consumer, deliver to her expectations.

4. Social media are nice to you if you can't find time and money: Consumers are discussing our brands whether or not we want it. It is better to communicate proactively. This is even more imperative when a brand receives negative publicity for any reason.

5. Consumers are willing to pay for our good deeds: No, they are not! Brands which invest in being socially responsible could be preferred by consumers if they offer competitive value. Consumers view brands as wealthy entities and don't expect to subsidise them. However, socially responsible brands earn respect, which builds image and loyalty.

6. Curators belong in museums: With social media booming, there are many brand curators out there. Consumers are more influenced by recommendations from friends. Marketers need to generate this goodwill and word of mouth. Beware of cross-border curators. An unfavourable review halfway across the world can now impact you in a day.

7. The modern trade is an expensive showcase: With foreign investment now opening up, marketers need to focus on the modern trade. The platform can certainly continue to provide a valuable interface, but we shall need to find ways to increase return on every square inch. In China, the modern trade format has developed to an extent where brands can avoid general trade altogether in early years, and still build critical mass quickly. While profitability through the channel may sometimes be lower, there are potential advantages in logistics, overheads and communications focus. The channel is a place to sell, and not just to showcase.

8. Scale economies provide for long -term profitability improvement: This may not be true beyond an early threshold. After that costs tend to multiply unless companies find new innovative ways to operate. Rising costs make this even more critical.

9. Health is relevant only for some categories: Consumers seek and value healthiness, and brands could leverage this by delivering on this parameter. Leisure, fashion, beauty, technology, health could have a role everywhere. Basic benefits create basic value. Wellness could deliver a premium.

10. Brand management is about being a good business manager: We have spent years sensitising brand managers to the PnL and supply chain complexities. We have created a situation where brand teams no longer have the mental space to dream. Being a good business manager is a necessary quality, but there is no value creator like innovation, and it must find its rightful space.

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