Wednesday, June 25, 2008


The animal link in Consumers

Did you smell your Nalli saree right?

By Harish Bijoor

Q: How evolved is the Indian consumer? And are all consumers in India equally evolved?

-Pritham Bhasin, New Delhi

A: Pritham, there are two views on this. From a pure Darwinian perspective, all consumers who call themselves human beings are reasonably evolved. Yet again, if you peek into consumer lives keenly, you will see chinks in this process of evolution altogether. Let me focus on one to give you a peek at the answer to your question.

I will dip into a recent study we under-took for a specific client, whose name I will not mention. The question: Is the consumer an evolved animal? And if so, how evolved? Here it is. The results at a glance.

What we find in the gut of the Indian market is very interesting. We find consumers in India as animalistic as consumers in Bali and most certainly as those living in the markets of the Dak Lak province of Vietnam. We are therefore very connected to the world at large. All consumers in a sense, across the globe, are similar.

The consumer ethos is similar in these markets. The consumer is essentially a human being. And all human beings are animals. Social animals if you please!

All animals behave similarly. Some animals do it openly. Others do it closeted. But all do it.

Do what? Many things. Pritham, think of yourself and place your hand on your heart and see a bit of yourself in some of these diagnostics. Answer one question first.

Do you smell some body part or the other at some point of time of day or night?

You actually do. You might do it in the confines of privacy of your making, but you do. Now list out the body part you smell.

Some do the innocent stuff. The fingers after biting off a piece of nail? 82 per cent do.

The arm pit? 91.2 per cent do.

I have a list of seven body spaces that you indulge in, but let me not go that path, lest I embarrass you and your sensibility. Not to speak of the sensibility of the rest of the readers of this column.

Worse still, do you like eating some bit of a body part or the other on some days of the month?

You do. Do you remember biting your nails off and chewing on the skin around? And let me not traverse this direction more, lest I paint you as a mini-cannibal of your own making.

Is the consumer an animal? I think she is. He is.

We have evidence from markets in India where consumers pick up and smell the saree before buying it. Consumers pick up denim jeans and smell it before buying.

Smelling coffee powder before buying it is a normal aromatic chore. Is smelling a pair of jeans similar? It is.

Man is essentially very sensorial in his purchase behavior. When you buy something you like to see it. You like to touch it. The consumer is a tactile entity. You like to smell it. At times openly, and at times without anyone seeing what you are doing. You like to taste it, if that’s possible.

We are all animals.

Q: Some of us run smaller companies than others do. The number of small companies must surely outnumber larger companies in India. Is there a difference between branding and advertising? And if there is, what is it?

-RC Chari, Hyderabad

A: Chari-gaaru, branding is the core strategy and the core component. Advertising is the execution. There is a misplaced sense of importance that ignorant clients place on advertising. There is equally some confusion that the two are the same. While both complement one another, they are just not the same. One leads to the other. One is more visible than the other as well. Both are equally important to the purpose of marketing at large.

It is important to realize that in today’s context, the ad agency brings in the creative and executional excellence of a thought. The thought itself, which is the key part of branding, comes out of a different process altogether. This process is branding-centric. And this is what differs from advertising.

Branding is consumer-insight centric, and is the foundation on which all of advertising is and will be built.

Q: We see a lot of In-movie advertising today? Does this work?

-KS Sampath, Chennai

A: Sampath, ‘In-movie’ branding can be overt at one end and covert at another. Overt in-movie branding is all about the huge Videocon glow-sign that keeps popping up at every dance sequence and the rather larger than life cut-outs of a Bournvita peeking out now and then.

Covert in-film branding is all about using the brand within the script in a rather non-intrusive manner. In a manner where it seems accidental even.

I do believe covert branding works better in films than overt. When brands are woven into scripts subliminally, and when the script itself speaks the language of the brand, efficiency is at its highest.

Cinema is a popular medium of the masses. Mass brands can utilize cinema with efficiency to promote their line, tone and tenor.

Q: Some studies indicate that rural women make decisions in rural markets and men buy. How do you target men and women differently in your advertising and marketing?

-Jayashree Ruparel, Mumbai

A: Jayashree, this is true.

For this, there is need for two kinds of media inputs. For the women, you need in-home inputs. Television and 1:1 contact is an ideal way. Television is easier, but there is clutter. 1:1 is difficult and expensive, but is very efficient.

For the men we need inputs at the shop level. I therefore plug heavily for rural POP (point of purchase) material heavily, to create that impulse reminder.

Use this mix to advantage, and you are home! In the rural home!

Q: How does the common farmer insulate himself in the wake of organized retail stepping into the fruit and vegetable markets as well? I grow tomatoes for the export market.

-JS Gill, Hoshiarpur

A: Gill-ji, the farmer has two options. Either go direct or become in a pawn-supplier in the big game of organized retail that is hitting Indian shores.

Imagine a situation where the farmer is a pawn-supplier. Imagine Reliance Retail. Reliance Retail will need to source fresh fruits and vegetables. It will tie up a farmer for this effort. The farmer gets a fixed price right through the year. This is one way to do things.

I do believe this is the way supply-chain monopoly will emerge in the farming sector in India in the future. You can’t beat them, join them. Ouch!

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.


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