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BW Businessworld

The Schizophrenic Marketer

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If one was in the audience of the 1200-odd delegates or among the 30-or-so speakers who addressed the gathering of the ad and marketing world at AdAsia 2011 in New Delhi, one could have noted a connecting thread. Call it an admission of guilt or an acceptance of reality,  there was an overarching sense that the world of brands was being affected by excessive  marketing to the consumer. This was resulting in excessive consumerism ending in an economic imbalance. So did the delegates make a renewed commitment to market responsibly to consumers? In words, yes. In deeds, one can only wait and watch.

Another common thread that connected the debate of Day One to what was presented on Day Three was that the marketer needed to be a schizophrenic of sorts. Gone was the day when marketers used to have a single target audience for their products. Take the Indian market as a case in point. One set of consumers – 80 million of them – used the second and third screens (Internet and mobile more than the first, television), the other set – 250 million consumers – live in media dark areas, where only the mobile phone can claim to have a reach in some ways. Both consumers buy the same products, one in large format stores, the other in sachets from hole in the wall outlets. The story is not different across the globe. While there is a huge pressure, in categories like colas, to market to teens, there is also a big market among the 50 years and above that buys the same products.

The economics of integrity also came up for discussion. The agreement was that, integrity and the wealth it creates, is limitless. The example that was showcased to the audience was the case of One, a brand that has linked social causes like providing clean drinking water to the underprivileged to create a bottled water brand that sells for a premium. The same cause has been extended to launch brand extensions in poultry, breads and so on. There was also the note of caution; who better to make it than CEO coach and consultant Ram Charan.

The guru pointed out that in the guise of expanding abroad, companies should not indulge in flag planting. Go with a strong strategic purpose or else, failure is certain. We have heard that before, but statements like these get repeated only because there is no shortage of corporations who throw caution to the wind.