Thursday, March 06, 2008

Marketing 2010

The Marketing Year Ahead

By Harish Bijoor

Marketers do not normally remember the past. The past is history. Very simply because consumer’s do not remember the past as well. Consumers are essentially concerned about what’s now and what’s in the future. The consumer today is a “power of now” entity. So is the marketer.

The year 2007 is done with. Time to wrap it up in cellophane, put in the moth-balls and stack it in the attic of our imagination. Time to plan for the year ahead. The year 2008 and all the years that will follow it.

Trend-tracking the year that has gone by is an exercise on its own. Trend-spotting the marketing years ahead is a tougher exercise still. I am attempting it in this piece. Let me look at three big marketing trends that will define the years ahead of us and break every paradigm oriented behavior the marketer has painted himself into in the past..

Trend One: The Consumer as seller!

Let me explain this. Marketing as we know it is about to change in the future. The savvy marketer of the future (if you want to be one), needs to decimate the concept of the ‘consumer as consumer’ and ‘marketer as marketer’.

The consumer has for far too many decades been just a consumer. The consumer is changing. There is a big opportunity out here to harvest and capitalize upon, particularly so in India.

In the old days, the consumer was a pure consumer. Take urban India for instance. The user of a packet of tea is essentially a consumer, just as the buyer of a detergent is. The urban consumer of today is 100% consumer. She buys to use everything she buys completely on herself or her family.

Take a peek at a new trend. The urban consumer is of two types today. One buys to consume herself. The 100% consumer, and the other is quite like Bru coffee, 70% consumer and 30% re-seller! Take the examples we have in our modern urban life from an Amway, a Tupperware and a Herbalife.

Peek deeper still into the rural markets that are just about waking up to consumerism in a big way, prompted by the medium of television that does not distinguish urban from rural in its reach, messaging and advertising creatives alike. Television creates hunger for products and services in urban and rural markets alike.

In these rural markets, we will have a new profile of the emerging consumer. A consumer who is possibly 50% consumer (for self-use of product and service alike) and the balance 50% re-seller. This is the guy who is the Insurance agent, the intermediary for a financial product, and equally is the person who acts as an intermediary distributor of a detergent or a cake of soap alike. This channel, uniquely, is not restricted to the efforts of the multi-level channel marketer like an Amway, but is equally involved in selling products and services as a distributor on a direct mode of distribution.

Peek deeper still. You will see the emergence of the 10% consumer and 90% re-seller. This is the rural consumer who buys very little of the product for herself and the rest that she buys, she sells at a profit. She is part of an NGO at times, and at times part of a self-help group that is linked to the big marketers of the day. We see some signs of this emerging with the “Shakti-amma” of HUL and certainly in the case of a whole host of SHGs re-selling shampoo and Shikakai alike.

Watch out then for the consumer as seller. Part consumer and part seller. Capitalize on this and open up those dormant markets.

Trend Two: CSR is dead! ISR emerges!

Corporate Social Responsibility is unsustainable activity. CSR that harvests only the money of corporates and not necessarily the passion of the people who work in corporate organizations is a self-fulfilling prophesy of doom.

What will emerge in its place is ISR. Individual Social Responsibility commitments. Corporate organsiaitons will harvest the time and passion of its people and channelize it in as contributions to the social sector. When done in this manner, the passion of the people involved will emerge as movements on their own. Very long-term sustainable movements, unlike CSR, which at best is the fashion statement of Corporate Boards. Puffed up further by positive PR.

Trend Three: Harvesting consumer passion with a time-expiry date!

Consumer passion, something taken for granted in India, is vanishing fast.

Passion is essentially a lowest common denominator item. When a people are deprived of the basics, and when a people are hungry, they are the most passionate about the issues that plague society.

As India gets more and more prosperous, people climb the hierarchy of need higher and higher. As this happens, people become more and more besotted with the material things that make their lives good. This movement is contra to the movement that builds the passion of a people. Therefore, expect more and more consumers getting cynical about the issues that plague us day in and day out. Expect less of the economically empowered to vote. Expect less of them to contribute to the terrain of consumer passion.

Consumer passion today comes with a date-expiry tag to it. It will last another 15 years for sure. But lesser and lesser numbers with every passing year of consumer prosperity ahead of us.

Touché! And welcome 2008!

The author is a brand-domain specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.


No comments: