It was Mahatma Gandhi who said that a consumer is god. One who must be worshiped as to ‘he is the purpose of your business ‘. New startups are coming up to solve numerous problems of these consumers across the world, making consumer the centre of any business. Be it an Amazon or Apple, they have realized that their business model has to be customer centered ot they are doomed.
But pleasing everyone at the same time with the same product is a little too much to ask. Yet these big brands somehow manage to find the perfect key that unlocks customers all over. Brands lead these people like herds with evangelical certainty and even though one might condemn the capitalist thinking behind them, it’s a wonder to get so many people hypnotized. So how do brands achieve this?
At an event organized by Business Standard, we heard from the three key players in their respective sectors – Coca-Cola, YES Bank and HCL, how they attract customers and some key challenges in doing so. Looks like the customer is more troublesome that we think!
The distracted customer – Debebrata Mukherjee, VP of Marketing and Commercial, Coca-Cola India
If I were to summarize in one word the biggest challenge we face as a marketer is that the consumer is distracted. 15-20 years back there were 15,000 websites, now there are around 700 billion, everybody buying for the slice of the pie. Another thing is multitasking. Mike Tyson used to say that everybody has a plan until you get punched in the face. Today everybody has a plan until you get an email, which you need to respond to and you’re completely distracted.
Earlier people watched stuff they were interested in and you disrupted the interesting thing. People wanted to watch Ramayana, they disrupted it, gave you the grand message and moved on. Today we have to move away from disrupting what is interesting to being interesting. Coke Studio is a classic example of a television program and a brand experience on the ground. When we go to a college with 30,000 kids chanting and swaying to the beats of Coke Studio, it’s beyond brand experience. When singers like Daljeet Dosani or Gurdas Maan come to sing, they also sing a few songs from Coke Studio as there’s an immediate brand connect. Coke Studio has tried to connect Pakistan and India, two countries divided by geographical line coming together on emotional line. You break that boundary.
What Coke did with FIFA was also great. It made me realize that there is no singular mass call activation. During FIFA 2014 at our social media center we had different sections and on one of them we actually had three people tweeting and creating social media conversations about wives and girlfriends, nothing to do with football. Therefore, the need of the hour is to break the mold and be interesting because the consumer will be distracted. How do you stay relevant and continue to be appealing is up to you.
Spotting the opportunity – Rajat Mehta, President, Brand, Digital and Retail Marketing, YES Bank
Banks’ life cycles are very different. We are a challenger bank, and unlike Coke, which is the market leader globally, we are an Indian bank trying to gain market share. Honestly, there is no better time to be a challenger bank than today. The consumer is willing to give a chance to the challenger brand with a strong brand promise, and where they see a potential of building a long lasting trust.
Given the situation, the challenge we face is that however much technology eases, there is a certain journey one has to make. What we do here is important from a partnership perspective because the role of a CMO now is more of an investor banker. His/her role in a financial institution is how to spot a great opportunity and invest in that before other brands do. That would be partnerships, programs or any medium that gets a disproportionate amount of returns.
For instance, McDonalds signed up with Pokémon Go to be the venue of the game and they spotted the opportunity before it became a big rage. And when Pokémon Go was announced, the stock of McDonalds went up by 12%.
The key aspect is how you get value share because when you get value share, it is transcribed to market share. Consumer today needs to be engages in all facets. Not just banking or financial solution but a lot beyond to get that value share.
Being interesting but also relevant – Sundar Mahalingam, Chief Strategy Officer, HCL
Earlier in a technology or a technology service company, the key decision maker at the customer end used to be the Chief Information Officer whose job was to look at what all IT services were given across organizations. All of us had to go up to that gentleman and try to convince that they were better than the rest. But with years, IT began to be seen as an important part of not just the CIO but to help the business. So then it moved up in a sense from the CIO to the CEO or the COO. This whole shift is a key challenge.
Now again the pattern has changed in the last 3-4 years. A lot of new technology is coming up and we talk about IoT, digital payments, you see everything has to do with technology. Here you see the key decision maker is the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) at the customer end to make sure these challenges are handled. Technology becomes an asset to the company.
Another big challenge for a technology company is to build a brand. I am not troubled by a distracted consumer or an uninvolved consumer. My concern is that a consumer has so many things to be involved with that my share of his/her involvement is reduced. So, I need to constantly make myself more interesting to them.
An aspect to this is that there is a bulk at how interesting you can get without using a brand as such. For instance, Coke Studio has brand but it also has good studio and music. So, it’s not just about being interesting but it has to be relevant to the customer.