The Future of Brands and Marketing

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As we near the close of 2006, we see that the landscape for Marketing has changed. Technology, the Internet, Consumer Participation, Media Proliferation and a whole host of issues have changed the terrain


harishbijoorAs we near the close of 2006, we see that the landscape for Marketing has changed. Technology, the Internet, Consumer Participation, Media Proliferation and a whole host of issues have changed the terrain

What will the Future Look like for Marketing? How will Brands be Built in the Future and how will the consumers participate in this process. Has technology changed the Brand Manager's Role? Has the meaning of Brand changed?


Harish Bijoor, of Harish Bijoor Consults shared his thoughts in an Interactive Mixer organised by Businessgyan and TASMAC. Excerpts.


A brand can described in many ways, trust, name, image; infact take any word in the English dictionary and you could associate it with a Brand. It is an amorphous concept. To me a Brand is "a thought" in someone's mind. The future of brands and marketing is laid in change. Someone once said "There is nothing permanent but change." Change in the market, is greatly influenced by changes in the consumer, in distribution systems for instance; Hindustan Lever Limited and Proctor and Gamble were at the pinnacle in terms of their products and consumer demands. But today, Amway is one of the fastest growing FMCG brands due to a totally different marketing and distribution system.


It's important not only to do something innovative but to get noticed for it.



The Macro Thought - Emerging Trends


The caste system is dead.... long live the caste system! What did caste system mean according to the olden usage? It was the rich riding rough shod over the poor in terms of materialism thus further entrenching the lacunae between the rich and the poor.  Today, there is an emergence of a new caste system called the Brand Caste System' .This new caste system binds brands together through consumption.  This caste system creates brand class clusters, for example, a set of people who use Babool or Meswak are different from  those who use Pepsodent or Colgate. These get divided into clusters of the Babool caste and the Pepsodent caste.   The caste system of Reebok and Nike has grown tremendously. A typical BPO employee for example who wore chappals to feel comfortable now purchases footwear  from Reebok and Nike that costs no less than Rs. 900/-.


Brand loyalty is deal and brand promiscuity has taken over



Multiplexes are also in vogue.  Hoity-toity children would prefer to go to a movie that is screened in a multiplex than in an ordinary theatre.  Mall-o-mania or in other words mall culture has the caught the youth hook, line and sinker where one gets everything from a soap to cars.  It is the melting pot of social hob-nobbers, where friends and families throng to malls. It is another story whether the retail outlets in Malls make a profit at all. The retail market has become inanimate, a far cry from the personal attention that one used to get at the corner kirana shop. But I foresee a resurgence of animate retailing because people are starting to miss it.


Brand circles are circles of influence and content, where a consumer derives maximum satisfaction from a particular brand. One could even argue that these are circles of discontent since people have to earn that much more to satisfy their Brand consumption needs; in the process he is greatly discontented. 


Today I would say that using an English Name as a brand symbol is a "Restrictive Trade Practice" since a large non-English population will then get excluded. On the other had the Nike Swoosh, the Reebok -RBK can be universally recognized. Other brand names will also eventually fade away and just become logos in the future. 


A leap into the future


Who would have thought that a simple commodity such as Lux soap could have many flavors?  First came the pink lux that promised the fragrance of rose, and then came white lux that was full of cream and then of late lux orchid and even more currently lux chocolate! Lux almond was also recently introduced.   This was done by adding nuts -"Nutty flavours of Lux for a nutty new generation."   


Not only are newer trends emerging in India alone, but elsewhere in the world too, we find that creativity is all around.  Anyone had square water melons today?  Well, if you didn't Japan sure did.  Their claim was that loading a truck full of round water melons wasted a lot of space.  So they decided to grow water melons in a square shape.  And viola! It is a novelty for the customer and a neat profit for the company.


This ridiculous movement of product morphs is going to be the new rage of our time. People live boring lives and they liven up their lives through brands. A commodity like sauce in the US too wasn't spared.  Purple ketchup seems to be the new craze.  This was done because marketers felt that the consumer was bored with red, which is why they decided to go with a new color. 


Similarly the toothpaste industry has undergone a gradual but fast transition.  Initially, the toothpaste was just one color - white. As marketing engineers realized that white was too drab, they brought in a combination of white and red.  Then came the tri-colour of white red and blue.   Later came Gel and then they decided to add sparkles into the toothpaste, to indicate sparkling white teeth.  When this was not enough, they decided to allow the toothpaste to breathe by adding oxygen !


They add variety to their lives by switching from one brand to another.  Brand loyalty is dead and brand promiscuity has taken over. 


Back to the Future - Retro marketing 


In the old days, people considered home food as the best, then they switched to junk food until health foods and salads were in greater demand and now home foods are back with a bang.  Leela Palace and Taj group of hotels have miniature dhabas and restaurants.  A day will come when the very same Leela Palace will have a hotel called Udupi that has a waitress who serves foods with her hands, and will be considered cool.  But of course in keeping with the Leela or Taj standards the hands will be pretty and visibly hygienic!


Earlier, one celebrity sold one brand, for example, Zakir Hussain, sold Taj Mahal tea and nobody else wanted to co-exist with the same brand ambassador.  Today, one celebrity endorses 31 brands; as a reaction the Brand Manager too will be inclined to have multiple Brand ambassadors. Because of this uncertainty with Brand Ambassadors there is going to be a resurrection of the brand mascot.  ‘Gattu' the Mascot for Asian Paints is an example. Mascots in that sense are more durable than celebrities and by far, quite cheap, because they don't get into scandals. They also do not die unless killed by the brand manager!


All brands will soon come to carry the nutritional label.  Even coke and pepsi will come to have tags that promise health, environmentally friendly etc. etc.  As the number of brands is on the increase, food products will have the ‘healthy' tag attached to them. ‘Maggi atta noodles' has pioneered this approach.


Every pharma company has a wellness market and a sickness market.  The wellness marketeer will totally outstrip the sickness marketeer. India is essentially a curative market as we do not believe in ‘prevention rather than cure' as much as we should.So the curative market grows today. But we have a prognosis that by 2020 the curative/ sickness market will be less by a multiple of  2.3  than the preventive/ wellness market. They will take full advantage of this and sell their products.    


The health tag will not only cover ordinary commodities but even products like Television will not be spared.  For instance, about 42,000 Samsung Biofresh Televisions were sold out in India, after people saw the ad on TV.  It had a family that was literally dropping off on the couch, watching TV, when suddenly a spurt of roses from the Television encircled all the family members, making them wide awake.  The tag-line of the ad said, "Be healthy, watch more TV, Samsung Television."   


‘Walk the talk' and then ‘ talk the talk'


Advertising gurus and brand marketers are out there to innovate and stand out.  For example, the Taj Hotel's non-moist mirrors. A universal problem in Bathrooms; a person who emerged from their bath had the whole mirror covered with moisture. Taj decided to place bulbs behind the mirror to evade the moisture; it worked so well that the guests did not even notice that the mirror was moisture free. So a consultant suggested that they place the bulbs only on that portion of the mirror that the guest needs to see his face. Guests immediately noticed the moisture free mirrors and were thrilled. It's important not only to do something innovative but to get noticed for it.


Speaking about innovations further on, let us take the example of bar-coded cockroach approach when marketers in the US wanted their cockroach sprays to be sold out,  they came out with an idea.  They collected five healthy cockroaches, stunned them and stuck bar codes on the dorsal side of the cockroaches, and carried an article in the following day's paper that whosoever finds a cockroach with a bar-code sticker on it will receive an amount of $50,000, per cockroach.  Within the next two weeks all the sprays from the stands in all the shops and malls were sold out completely.  Of course, not all, but only two cockroaches were found.    


Stupid and irritating advertising like the Reliance Idea ad that had an old song sung by a lay person in the worst possible manner and irritating advertising that helps the customer recall a particular brand, by virtue of its annoying nature will be promoted more. This is because stupid advertising attracts attention.  


The free mania - Add on marketing


Add on marketing takes on new avatars. In the old days one product gave only another product free. But now the free movement is going to be even more free.  Products will soon come to give services free and vice versa.  Gone are the days when with one soap, we would get two pens free or with one powder you would get two soaps free. For example, toothpaste will offer free dental treatment at the nearest dental clinic. Or you could get a moisturizing lotion free with your body massage.  There is also going to be more brand marrying like  Sony and Ericsson, being two different and divergent companies came together to form Sony-Ericsson. 


Everything that advertisers in our country will do is going to lean upon the ‘desi market'.  Since being Indian, has been recognized all over the world, Indian trends have seeped into the international world market as well.  This spate of consumerism is going to be the mantra of our marketing and advertising gurus. So let's just wait and watch


Compiled by Prerna Nandalal Dusija, 


Issue BG69 Dec06