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Analysis: Mind The Say-Do Gap
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Shockvertising certainly has use for clutter-break, engineering conversations and, at its best, building what Adam Morgan called ‘lighthouse identities' that provide thought-leadership. In this case, shock does not seem strategically purposive, in either need or rendition. Adrian questions effectiveness and is correct in pointing out that the mix lacks seamlessness, the message seems inconsistent and that it may alienate to no purpose. Barrun and team do not seem to approach the problem cross-franchise or the solution in a proprietary manner.
Sports has to be the springboard given Frequa's footprint in precision sport accessories and sportswear. Barrun should address Adrian's concerns with strategic under-pinnings. He should nail Frequa's ‘Who am I?' core and ‘What business am I in?' to form a nuanced category-benefit construct versus a much sharper marketing TA definition. Appeal to the ‘youth' is too loose; choose sharper between serious athletes, sports enthusiasts, regularly fit, wannabe sporty and the armchair sports fans. One has to establish how contiguous or distant this TA is from the current TA (likely to be sport enthusiasts and serious athletes). Similarly, one has to identify the life values of this TA to understand what drives their choices at an emotional and functional level. Frequa needs sharply differentiated choices in the values it will own based on its core. It then has to figure out which TA these will be relevant to. Will shock be in line with the core?
Shock may be a better strategic option when both category inertia and consumer apathy exist. The functional time-keeping aspect for sports watches is simplistic. Brands in this space do stand for higher aspirational values. Also, is this TA really apathetic or clued-in?
Assuming the need for shock is TA-relevant, the shockvert still has issues. Proprietariness — where does this unique view stand with respect to Frequa's core of precision? Credibility — in the rest of the mix?
Indian youth definitely want style, but substance has to follow. They eventually discard superficial appropriation of platforms like shock, especially if ‘thought-leadership' brands do not display consistency and integrity. Different is as different does; otherwise, you would be ‘bought' as a category or ad but not ‘bought into'.
Emotional engagement followed by seamless functional ratification is critical. Increasingly, consumer loyalty is to the whole experience and not just to the format or brand. Unlike segmented Western markets, where category familiarity is a given, in under-penetrated India, it is equally about creating proprietary sub-categories and consumer education. One needs to walk even the savvier youth through, sometimes under-scoring the product or category. Else one runs the risk of the brand idea remaining esoteric and only a memorable rendition (a la some of our celeb adverts).
Consumers now make benefit-bundle choices and are not limited by category definitions. For instance, the walls have been long crumbling between sports watches, fashion accessories, precision instruments, mobile phones, etc.
Barrun needs to spell out competition — both in mind and matter, and beyond watches. In days of marketing return on investment (ROI) debates, he needs to acknowledge that shock is a tedious model to sustain. The threshold changes, novelty is needed — implying frequent innovation for concept and product to avoid being formulaic.
Adrian is correct to be somewhat wary of taking on holy cows. Mass youth brands learn the hard way that individualisation works within affiliation while building ‘cool-th'. ‘Exclusivity' is not ‘exclusionary' in India that said ‘thought leadership' is about pushing the envelope and polarising discourse to re-evaluation point. Shock or not, only the bold survive and one should not please all. Hence, a sharper TA definition is the moot point.
At the brand level, Barrun sees shock not as core, but as a support to keep Frequa contemporary. His gut points to a bigger role, but he is not fully committed. He should consider sub-brand architecture versus periodic tonality shifts. Also, it may be prudent to first earn shock spurs on the sports canvas. In an increasingly digital-social world, consumers eventually own the brand. The brand manager's role has evolved from message-owner to being a steward of experiences. Dushyant's campaign currently is an ad idea. He needs to pitch an end-to-end multi-stage marketing programme, spell out desired consumer transitions and ensure Frequa's core manifests consistently and cohesively.
Siddhartha Loiwal is passionate about innovation, consumer decodes and strategy. He is based in Mumbai as head of marketing development and strategy at Marico India
(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 23-04-2012)