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Brandstand: The end of seasonality as we know it

Brands can benefit considerably by creating their own unique ‘seasonality segmentation’, a new-age way of consumer access based on experiential and not procurement patterns

Due to changes in the environment, technology, society and buyer behaviour, seasonality is slowly but surely dying in the world of consumer marketing. In its wake opening a whole host of opportunities for both the marketer and user – for the former to reap year-long benefits from demand and the latter to get better value for expenditure anytime they desire. To take fullest advantage of this high-possibility scenario, brands must quickly undertake an audit of their demand patterns, in order to be valuable to customers throughout the year.

Last week we were in Goa during what is technically the onset of the high season, yet except the Diwali weekend the traffic in the airport and restaurants was reportedly way lower than August, when monsoon rates and pollution-free weather attract large numbers of tourists. In my opinion, the latter is a far better period than even November or February, with the skies revealing their true colours courtesy the interplay or rain and light, truly exceptional climactic conditions. Very soon, the hotel rates will be levelled throughout the year, with the possible exception of the humid summer which again is a contradiction, as traditional coastal wisdom suggests that the wellness potency of sea-breeze is at its best during April-June, which explained why in the olden day that used to be the beach vacation slot. The real change in climactic patterns as well as our perception of what is attractive has changed the notion of tourism seasonality for the hills as well where winter is turning up numbers comparable to summer. For those in the hospitality business, it is time to apply a fresh segmentation approach to natural seasons, tweaking the product mix appropriately instead operating on the decisive ‘high’ and ‘low’ variables.

Equally interesting is our approach to corporate or social dressing, as a function both of genuine environmental or protocol reasons, aided by abundant air-conditioning. The winter business suit is today an all-year-wear in the simulated conditions that exist in offices, cars and hotels, no longer the choice in winter, thus eliminating the need for the successor to the Safari Suit, the preferred formality of earlier summers. In weddings as well, the pattern is similar with a uniformity in formal wear applicable throughout the year, aided once again by climate-control as well as a greater degree of endurance for demonstrating a fashion quotient, ladies flaunting abbreviated sarees without shawls in sheer winter. For the outdoors, global warming is playing its deadly part, with lesser duration of winters leading to greater usage of summer-wear for out-of-infrastructure venues, further diminishing the need for an expansive winter wardrobe, thus adding to the emerging pattern of homogeneity in dressing. There is an interplay of culture in this conversation with our desires to conform to or deviate from global or ethnic norms becoming the primary driver as opposed to plain-old seasonal preferences.

When it comes to produce of the land and sea, cold-storage techniques, improved packaging and enhanced production all add up to the demise of conventional seasonality. The prime Hilsa Fish, otherwise threatened by extinction, is available throughout the year in comparable vintage for minor variations in price, courtesy vastly superior cold chains. While the Mumbai Alphonso, while still largely retaining its topicality, increasingly enjoys all-year access, processed versions of mango already available in packaged formats without a break. In every other basic food category, be it potatoes or vegetables, marketers are working hard to eliminate the constraint of produce-led availability, through enhanced technology and new-age formats as the case may be. This occurring in rapid tandem with the shift in buying behaviour to the modern-trade supermarket which thrives on preservation as opposed to the open market which is built on freshness, thus encouraging the annualised availability.

Seasonality was also quite rampant in popular culture and entertainment, most notably in the game of cricket which was a largely winter exercise while football was played in summer, a pattern which we all know has been broken decisively. The IPL happens in the maximum heat while other international tourneys are slotted purely on commercial and not meteorological reasons, except the avoidance of monsoons which is practically sensible. Winter was also the time for the circus companies and outdoor entertainment operators to thrive, the conversion of venues to air-conditioned environments making them year-long affairs instead. Even in the category of cosmetics, winter creams and lotions, there is a tendency towards year-long usage due to constant living in air-conditioned environments, currently a premium habit but slated to escalate rapidly as per every available metric. Even hot beverages, including tea, coffee and soups are demonstrating year-long consistency in consumption as they swiftly moved to lifestyle parameters without sticking to weather-driven behaviour.

The writing is clearly on the wall for conventional seasonality for multiple reasons as illustrated, most importantly the hunger of consumers to enjoy their desired experiences without interruption. Brands can benefit considerably by creating their own unique ‘seasonality segmentation’, a new-age way of consumer access based on experiential and not procurement patterns. Those in the travel trade must consider premiumisation based on school holidays and non-critical months of corporate performance in terms of MICE traffic while the apparel brands must focus on colours and trends to offer quarterly variety, as opposed to fundamental fabrics. While the players in the food business need to generate occasion-based demand for hitherto seasonal luxuries, connecting them to festivities or celebrations, the alphonso for instance is available year-long for family reunions. Cosmetics brands can create versions for ‘air-conditioned’ and ‘natural cold’ moisturisation thus adapting their care-brands for similar year-long temperatures but differing sources. The air-conditioner itself can enjoy a 12-month shelf life by offering standardised temperatures with purification and pollution-diminishing abilities, the need of the foul-air winter months.

Some of the ideas above are simply the most basic adaptations of existing products and services that have traditionally enjoyed a natural consumption cycle, with innovation and imagination these principles can be adapted to most other categories aided by technology. Seasonality was always connected to certain ‘specialness’ in tandem with ‘limited access’ due to unavoidable constraints. The winning formula for the new-age segmentation must to make the access truly unlimited, unless restrained deliberately for business imperatives, while ensuring that ‘specialness’ is not affected but actually enhanced through experiential interventions. It is time to think perennial and make the most of every month in the year.

(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: shivajidasgupta@inexgro.com)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of BestMediaInfo.com and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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