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BW Businessworld

It’s Going To Be A Connected World

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They always say, if you are going to make a prediction of what lies ahead in a 30-year horizon, do one thing — make sure you will not be seeing the same audience after 30 years. To crystal gaze into the future is difficult as there are discontinuities that we don't know of.

But what we are trying to figure out is the convergence that is taking place between the social media and the mobile world. I suspect in 20-30 years from now, you will not have to take out your laptop to do any kind of operation. And if everything comes to fruition, you can probably have a chip embedded in you like a SIM card that will continuously connect you to the world. So we know who you are, where you are, what you do. We will have this always, all-connected world.

For marketing people, this is nirvana. The one thing they always want to know is who we are reaching, where we are reaching them, what state of mind they are in while we are reaching them, who are they with when we were reaching them — all these things that we have to guess today as we do not have the required data, we will start knowing all of that.

Social Consumers
With mobile, I can know where the person is. With social media, I know who the person is with. Increasingly, marketing is going to be about being mobile, about location, about the customer, his network of friends, likes and dislikes. Humans are inherently social animals. They want to connect to other people. Social media makes it easier to connect. Earlier, people knew everybody in their village and kept themselves informed of every development in the lives of their friends. Now people have friends all over the world. With Facebook, they are creating a global village of their friends. As the world becomes more global, people feel more rootless and Facebook helps people create their own personal village of choice. And people will not change their social media vehicle as the size of the network depends on how valuable it is. If all my friends are on a certain social media site, I cannot go and join another place.

He learnt the ropes of marketing from Philip Kotler. Now Nirmalya Kumar is one of the foremost thinkers on marketing. Currently, he is professor of marketing, director of Centre For Marketing, and codirector for Aditya V. Birla India Centre at London Business School (BW Pic By Subhabrata Das)

It is also going to be less of broadcast and interrupted marketing and more of integrated marketing. This is already happening in some cases. You take a phone and point it at a building and you will know what restaurants are in that building. Based on that information, you can get a coupon or make a reservation. It should provide a seamless integrated experience for the customer that will require much less effort on the part of the customer to buy the right products for themselves. That is what the goal is — to not waste the customer's time by getting them to see ads and marketing messages which are not relevant. Hence we increase the efficiency of marketing and also increase customer satisfaction. It's going to be much more connected, much more seamless, much more experiential, much more social and much more interconnected world.

Brain Mapping
Each of us has two brains, a fast brain and a slow brain as Daniel Amen (one of the foremost authorities of the human brain) calls them. A deliberative brain which thinks very carefully and makes choices, and an instinctive brain that makes impulsive choices. Every 10 years, Neuromarketing comes and fades away. But there is some very interesting work being done on that by my marketing academic colleagues on studying the response of the brain to marketing messages. That's a very interesting line of research. I am not fully sure what will come out of it. It may be a big thing in the future because we are able to see physical responses. We already know that when people spend money, parts of their brain gets energised and they feel better. We also know that when people buy higher price products it energises the brain in different ways than when people buy lower priced products. Research shows that there are physical benefits that at least some people get from shopping.

Future Brands
I don't see the marketing organisation changing in the next 30 years, based on a functional criteria. If I foresee the structure of the organisation changing, it will be across geogra- phical lines. As emerging markets become really big, it leads to a question of how do I get really close to that market. Either I move people from that market to the head office, or move some people from the headquarters to that market, or move the headquarters itself to that market. We are already seeing some of all the three. People are figuring out how we get closer to the locus of growth in a mental psychological way; how to get top management closer to what is happening in emerging markets on a day-to-day basis. That's what companies are struggling with. I think the organisational changes will be more on geographical lines. You will probably see more headquarters in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore or even Dubai than you saw previously.

I am not a big fan of co-creation. In certain limited categories, co-creation might be possible. Another myth is that people think that emerging markets will keep growing and developed markets will keep declining in a straight line. This may happen in relative terms, but there will be several hitches along the way. I would not be so quick to write off the developed world of today. Yes, India and China will grow, but there will be bumps along the way. Because the developed world still accounts for a large part of the consumption of the global economy and if they are not doing well, there are bound to be knock-on effects. If India and China are not doing well, the knock-on effects on the developed world is not so much.

But over the next 20-30 years, a lot more Chinese brands are going to hit the world markets. And they are going to be really big brands. The next LGs, Samsungs and Toyotas of the world are all going to come from one country. And that country is China. In every sector the Chinese are developing a global brand. You are already seeing Huawei, Lenovo and Haier. China has some incredibly strong companies that are going to create global, world-beating brands. People who believed that the Chinese cannot innovate and cannot build brands will be in for a big shock.

As told to Prasad Sangameshwaran

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 12-12-2011)