2015 – Exploring the iceberg


2015 – Exploring the iceberg

 

The past years 2013, 14 we touched the ice berg with higher digital spends, long format story based ads, adoption of online shopping and flourishing of e-commerce businesses and better and more impactful government advertising. In the coming years we shall explore the iceberg and comprehend its magnitude. The developments in 2014 will continue and better in 2015 and also the year should see (I hope) new trends responding to the changes happening around.

The adoption of internet and its influence in communication and advertising will continue with higher growth rates. A recent report by McKinsey & Company and Facebook said India would add close to 300 million internet users by 2018 to make up an online population of just under 500 million people. While this trend is acknowledged by the advertising industry, the adoption of this trend in the rural areas is still to be explored. Few pioneers like HUL with its Kan Khajura Tesan have taken steps in this direction; with more than 80 million internet users and increasing consumption of low cost, internet enabled smart phones in the rural markets I hope to see more work in this space. Internet and mobile multimedia is used more for entertainment in the rural areas unlike urban where the use is more for social purposes. This insight should lead marketers to create more entertaining content for the rural population in 2015. What happened on ground all these years should go online, catering to masses; things like music, performances, plays and movies are likely to go online and accessed through mobile phones.

The rural markets have been paid attention in some industries but there are certain trends that will influence consumption and communication in the rural space – like rural doesn’t always mean poor and bottom of pyramid, there is rural rich as well and they are consuming brands; with luxury car brands, branded consumer durables and electronics getting a fair share of their revenues from the rural space. Another very important trend is about the rural children with access to satellite communication and internet are growing up with similar aspirations like their urban counterparts. Hence we can’t discriminate between an urban and rural kids as they are viewing the world with same lens. Hence the psychographic targeting will become more important than geographic targeting. Going forward rural marketing will go through a sea change.

Another trend that took shape in 2014 is the spending on the digital mediums and this will continue unprecedented in 2015. According to the latest findings of the Digital Advertising in India Report by IAMAI and IMRB, the online advertising market in India is projected to reach Rs 3,575 crore by March 2015, a growth of 30 per cent over last year. Along with increasing spends what was seeing in the year gone by and also with their plans for coming years was the maturity of the clients w.r.t. digital adverting; they are taking bold decisions and are understanding the immense possibilities that comes with digital. Having CMTO i.e. Chief Marketing Technology Officer will become common in the coming years.

The next trend is a problem of sorts which will aggravate in the coming years, and what needs to be seen is how the industry deals with this. The trend is that many category of products are becoming commodities due to the presence of search and aggregating technologies; they loosing brand value and hence the ability to charge premium for branded products. Take for example the airlines industry where once the brand was the most important variable in the decision making criteria i.e. business travelers sweared by Jet Airways. Now due to the presence of google and other aggregators which throw the cheapest tickets for the searched routes, price has become the most important variable and the industry has gone into this vicious cycle of downward spiraling prices. This leads to a compromise in services, losses and hence today a profitable airline is an achievement. This is true for many industry like many financial services and also consumer durables where the customer may visit a retail outlet to get all the information related to a product but purchase online. The concept of branding that created emotional connect with its customers and there by commanding a premium is failing to do so in spite of increased investments.

With most activities in the purchase process happening online the scope for creating human connection is reducing and hence in the coming years brands will be redefined by the experiences they create online and offline. Marketers have forgotten this and are now having a very transactional relationship with their customers over the internet and emotional affinity is taking a back seat. I hope in the coming year some will wake up and act to break this spiral.

Some other trends that will take off from 2014 is rise of e-commerce and online shopping, the online shopping behavior that was seen during Diwali in 2014 will continue in 2015 and players should build their infrastructure accordingly. Making ads for government which was seen below dignity of any professional advertising agency has changed for good. With the new government’s progressive vision, today advertising agencies take pride in contributing to governments actions. Corporates, agencies and people all are participating in issues of national importance, this was seen in the Swachh Bharat campaign in 2014 and going forward more such campaign and better integration will be seen.

Being more selfless, fresh, more engaging and telling stories that connect with the people will be the mantra in 2015. We saw hints of this happening and some pioneering brands and agencies working in this direction; if this is the take-off, 2015 will see the real flight and that makes it an exciting place to be and to watch out for.

 

Note: Originally published in the Financial Express in early 2015

 

 

 

 

“Bengal Tiger.” Now you see. Now you don’t.


When I googled “Tiger”, I got more info on Tiger Woods than Bengal tiger.  I grew-up with zoos and circuses, I had no awareness or guilt in watching and marveling at captive animals. My children are different, they are more aware of environmental issues than me as a kid, thanks to their schooling, teachers and media. They refuse to see animals in zoos and circuses; I had to buy bluray “Planet Earth” series for them to watch animals up-close.

I visited Sunderban National Park and Tiger Reserve in West Bengal, last weekend with my son. At last I wanted to fulfill my desire to show my son a tiger in its natural habitat than much hated zoos.  Sunderbuns is a vast delta with confluence of three great Indian rivers: Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna spanning over 10,000 sq kms with exquisite waterways, mudflats and numerous small mangrove islands.

I had been psyching my kid to be patient in spotting an animal (as he was set with his 200mm zoom camera to click panthera tigris tigris), our hired boat sailed hours together without any luck of spotting any other animal apart from monkeys, after six hours our guide from the forest department declared that the water tide was too high for the tigers or for that matter any animal to come out and advised us to visit in winter mornings as the animals come out toward the waters to sun bath and as the tide is usually low in the mornings.  Helplessly we headed back.


Project Tiger was launched in 1972 to conserve the nation symbol from extinction. According to my well-informed forest guide tiger population in the country came down from 3642 in 1990 to present 1411. As per the legend he adds there were over 100,000 tigers in the world a century ago. With hung jaws we listened to the expert of the world’s largest tiger populated forest.

When I posted our status of not spotting a tiger on the Facebook; one of my friends responded by saying “Pops you may not have spotted a tiger but certainly it would have spotted you” This comment left me thinking whether I should have taken my son to this fenced mangrove islands to see the most precious and endangered species at all? Why can’t we let them live the way they are meant to live? Why this voyeurism?

Last night we were lisining to David Attenborough again.

Sameness syndrome.


Same to same. Ditto. Copy that. Identical similarity. Monotony. Repetition. Parity. Par. Oneness. At the least sameness have more than a dozen synonyms. Will you second that?

Sameness is a modern-day disease we all suffer from. Nearly 25 years back when I started to travel aboard, each airport, each city and its taxies, signage, people, architecture, food and currency every thing use to look, feel and smell different.

There was a visible difference between a Singapore and a Shanghai and a San Jose. London cabs to Kolkata trams to Mumbai taxies to Tokyo’s bullet trains, transport had it’s own identity in the culture of the cities.

Not long ago Paris, Zürich, Bangkok, Beijing and New Delhi were free of ugly-looking glass buildings. Today, if you take a drive on the freeways of Gurgaon, New Delhi, it feels like you are driving in the downtown of San Jose. The Hyderabad, New Delhi and Beijing airports look identical all built recently.

This sameness is every where, 50 years ago there was only one denim brand called Levi’s which sported, five pockets with rivets today there are close to 100,000 brands. We all look the same, talk the same, wear the same, smell the same even feel the same in this mass production \consumption\ pirated \ keep up with Jones \ unison era.

Not just brand identities and product designs even cities, cultures and values are been cloned today.

“ Sameness is the mother of disgust, variety the cure”