The following is an article from The Hindu Business Line.
Harish Bhat, chief operating officer – watches and accessories, Titan Industries, writes that non-marketers have taught some of the best marketing lessons this year.
Excellent marketing lessons normally come to us from the pioneering work done by brands, consumer companies, advertising agencies and academics. The year 2011 has however been quite different in this regard, because some of the best lessons in branding and marketing this year have emerged from people and institutions which have no direct connect with selling products or services to consumers. Instead, diverse groups such as social organisations, people's movements, movies and quiz shows have, either by design or by impulse, delivered powerful and relevant learnings that marketers would do well to take heed of.
So read on, for an overview of the really hot marketing gurus of 2011, and the lessons they have taught us.
Anna Hazare – a remarkably consistent and iconic brand
At the start of 2011, Anna Hazare was little known outside his home state of Maharashtra. At the end of the year, he has emerged as one of the country's most iconic people brands. If a national consumer survey were to be conducted today, the top-of-mind awareness of Brand Anna Hazare would perhaps be far ahead of leading consumer brands such as Colgate, Dettol, Samsung and Titan.
There are many branding lessons here. First, Brand Anna Hazare has a simple proposition which can be instantly understood by every Indian: a Lokpal, who serves as a strong anti-corruption agency. Second, this proposition taps into a deep consumer insight, which is the average Indian's mounting anger against corruption. Third, the brand has remained absolutely true to this simple proposition throughout its life-cycle, not budging even an inch despite various temptations to do so.
Even the marketing methodology being adopted by the brand – an elderly Anna fasting in public, and using these fasts to generate wide awareness, appeal and urgency - has been remarkably consistent. How many marketers possess the wisdom and discipline to keep the propositions of their brands so simple, and so consistent?
Kaun Banega Crorepati – reach out to the heartland
The latest season of the quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), screened on television in 2011, has achieved unparalleled success.
An amazing number of 25 million people watched the final episodes of KBC Season 5 screened in November 2011, which is an all-time record. KBC reinvented itself this year, with the theme Koi Insaan Chhota Nahin Hota (No one is unimportant or small). In doing so, it reached out magnificently to the heartland of India, with a power which became unstoppable. Contestants were specifically chosen from the hinterland of India, from sections of society not normally associated with the intellectual pastime of quizzing.
The winner of the grand prize of Rs 5 crore, Sushil Kumar, is a lower middle-class computer operator from Motihari, a small town in the Champaran district of Bihar. Other notable winners included Aparna Malikar, a 27-year-old widow from Vara Kawatha in Maharashtra's Yavatmal district. Watching these ordinary Indians (aam aadmi) become really special (khaas aadmi) in the able and graceful presence of quizmaster Amitabh Bachchan transformed a quiz show into an intensely emotional and empowering voyage for millions of viewers across the country. The phenomenal success of KBC this year holds two essential lessons for Indian marketers. First, if you want to build a really big and iconic brand in India, you have to necessarily reach out to millions of consumers who live in the heartland and interiors of our country, because that is where the massive population and purchasing power resides. Second, to achieve phenomenal success in India, brands need to develop strong emotive appeal. Indian consumers, fed on a staple diet of Bollywood and Tellywood tearjerkers, are always moved by relevant emotion and rarely by rational appeal alone.
Arab Spring – unleash the power of digital media
Arab Spring, the umbrella name given to people protest movements which swept through Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in West Asia during 2011, has brought home to marketing professionals a lesson which is becoming exponentially important with every passing year: the huge power of digital media. These revolutions, which successfully dislodged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian leader Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, relied almost entirely on the Internet, social media and technologies such as Twitter, Twitpic, Facebook and YouTube to rapidly garner public acceptance and accelerate the pace of social protest. Calls to rally, and appeals for dissension and protest, went out on Facebook and Twitter.
Organisers used Twitter to provide minute-by-minute instructions on where to gather, in large cities such as Cairo and Alexandria, effectively outmanoeuvring the police and intelligence agencies. Digital media also served an entirely different purpose in the Arab Spring, helping information and visual evidence of the mass demonstrations to escape these countries through YouTube and Twitter.
As a result, the western world, including the US, could not downplay the impact of these protests, and had to eventually shift its stance and accept the change of regimes in these countries.
If social movements in West Asia can use digital media so well, why should Indian brands lag behind, particularly when the population of consumers addicted to such new-age media is growing so dramatically? India now has more than 100 million Internet users and 40 million mobile Internet users. By 2013, just two years from today, India will have the third largest online population in the world. The simple marketing lesson from this year's Arab Spring: Digital media is far more powerful than we thought it to be, and brands which find the best ways to leverage it will be big winners in the future.
ZNMD – get rid of your brand's deepest fears
For me, this year's best Bollywood movie was Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD), starring Katrina Kaif, Farhan Akhtar and Hrithik Roshan. The theme of this delicious movie, which centres on challenging your deepest fears and getting rid of them, holds a strong and relevant lesson for marketing professionals.
Successful marketers and companies have become too fearful of change, and hesitate to undertake bold reinventions of their brands and offerings. A deep-rooted fear whispers to us: Why touch a cash cow when it is yielding a good harvest of milk, and the Indian market is growing as well? Therefore, iconic brands remain stuck in the past, with the same old themes, products, packaging, communication, media choices and overall identity, or at best some incremental variations in these elements.
To illustrate this point, when did you last see a dramatic or compelling change from the status quo in your favourite brand of toothpaste, soap or biscuits? Indian consumers are changing fast, society and its mores are changing faster, and several well-known brands are, therefore, sadly ageing and falling well behind.
Marketers should pick up a lesson from ZNMD, cast their fears and conservatism aside, and plan to inject fresh bold breakthroughs and ideas into their brands, in the new year.
Great brands build strong appeal by being at the vanguard of consumer and social change, rather than playing a slow or patchy catch-up game.
As we move into a new and challenging season in 2012, here's a toast to all of us who are engaged in the business of marketing. May the really hot lessons from the marketing gurus of 2011 be fresh in our minds, may our creative juices flow, may we seize all the opportunities ahead of us, and may our brands succeed beyond our wildest dreams!
(Harish Bhat is Chief Operating Officer – Watches and Accessories, Titan Industries. These are his personal views.)