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AdAsia 2011: Reverse engineering in a new market

The star session of the day saw Interpublic Group Chairman Michael Roth and HUL’s Harish Manwani analysing the secrets of brands reinventing themselves over time

AdAsia 2011: Reverse engineering in a new market environment

The star session of the day saw Interpublic Group Chairman Michael Roth and HUL’s Harish Manwani analysing the secrets of brands reinventing themselves over time

Neha Saraiya| Delhi | November 2, 2011

In an insightful session on ‘Game Changers’, Michael Roth, chairman & CEO, Interpublic Group, along with Harish Manwani, COO, Unilever, and chairman, Hindustan Unilever, traversed a long way in time to analyse the secrets of reinvention over the last 100 years.

Roth began the session by referring to the ongoing phase as an ‘exciting time’ for the business of advertising and media. “Confusion is good as it gives an opportunity to work with clients. This is a particularly challenging environment and thus it is very important to develop new strategies,” he said.

After his brief view on the changing face of marketing, he threw the toss to Manwani to outline ‘the four key global trends’ dominating the marketing strategy of brands today. Manwani responded by showing a video focussing on 'brands for life'. The first trend as stated by him is the shift of the economic centre of gravity to emerging markets. “85 per cent of the world lives in developing markets and 90 per cent of the economic growth is forecast to come from these markets. This makes it exciting,” he said. Manwani also predicted that Asia will rise as the largest consumer block significantly ahead of North America in the next 10-15 years.

The second trend was in regard to ‘sustainable living’. “Because of the way growth is happening, we will soon need three planets, and we don’t have three planets,” he commented. Thus, companies need to change their business model and how brands play a role in it.

The third factor is ‘digitisation’ that will play a big role. With two billion people connected, brands will have to change the way they behave and operate, he said.

Furthermore, to bottle up some of the learnings of HUL borne out of operating in developing markets, Manwani said, “The first one is what I call ‘straggling the pyramid’. This is not one India, there are many, many Indias, and how do you ensure that you are able to cover different consumer segments and different price points to meet the needs of large heterogeneous blocks of consumers. The second important trick is that in markets like India, you are not competing for market share all the time. You are competing for ‘non-consumption’. The biggest opportunity is market development competing with non-consumption. And the third bit is ‘affordability and accessibility’.”

Manwani cited the example of his company whose large business comes from products that sell for less than 5 cents. He ran the audience through the model of ‘reverse engineering’, like in the case of shampoo sachets. “India is changing; it’s a paradox of opportunity. This is a big country and the ability to reach consumers is critical,” he said.

The last trend projected by Manwani is acquiring the ‘right talent’, people who understand consumers.

Roth then questioned, “How do you market to consumers in that kind of environment?”

To which Manwani replied saying that the first thing is to find different ways to reach out to different consumers. As India is leap-frogging, digitisation will change the world. “Digitisation will provide information on aspects like who the consumer is and where is he spending. This will help in ensuring that the right message reaches out to them,” he said.

Manwani also emphasised on the idea of integrating social mission with brands as being critical. He mentioned the example of ‘Project Shakti’ by HUL wherein the FMCG major has trained 45,000 impoverished rural women to spread health awareness and at the same time doing business for the company.

Manwani gave two sets of advice for brands: great importance to 360 degree, and relationship has to be strategic and not opportunist.

He concluded saying, “We have to work with consumers rather than just beam products at them.”

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