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Experts debate on ways to beat economic slowdown

Mediacom India hosted its first Blink_live event on the theme ‘Decoding Growth in a Slowdown’ and brought on board key speakers who shared insights on how to face the current slump and identify real growth

MediaCom India held its inaugural flagship BLINK_live event in Mumbai Tuesday. BLINK_live is MediaCom’s thought leadership and innovation lab, designed to help its clients better understand and leverage the latest media and marketing trends, insights, innovations and opportunities.

The theme of the BLINK_live event was ‘Decoding Growth in A Slowdown’, which was well timed given the current economic slowdown in India.

The event saw a detailed session on “Laws of Growth” by the keynote speaker Byron Sharp, Marketing Science Professor & Director of Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, Australia. The other speakers included Josh Gallagher, Chief Product Officer, APAC at MediaCom who spoke in-depth on ‘Will the promise of E-commerce survive a slowdown’; Nihar Das, Overall Lead, Borderless WPP Team shared insights on how to ‘Tackle the slowdown through customized growth models’; Baldeep Singh, VP, Client Engagement & Data Partnership at [m] PLATFORM spoke on ‘Cutting slump with laser focused Consumer Behaviour’, whereas, Preeti Reddy, CEO South Asia at Kantar, Insights focused on ‘Identifying Real Growth’.

Speaking at the event, Bianca Best, Global Managing Director of Blink & Strategic Partnerships, MediaCom, said, “In the volatile, exciting and ever-evolving landscape brands are operating in today, Blink satisfies not just the potential that comes from trialling innovation (which we see as part of every client brief) but is an absolute necessity to ensure clients achieve sustainable, long-term business success. Only when brands partner with technology specialists, the ambitions of true digital transformation are realised. I’m incredibly invigorated to be enabling this for our clients and see Blink becoming an essential complementary pillar to MediaCom’s already world-class offering.”

Themed as ‘Decoding Growth in A Slowdown’, the event featured industry experts who spoke in-depth on how customised growth models can help during a slowdown. They shared insights on how to identify real growth and if e-commerce can survive a slowdown.

Commenting on the India launch of Blink_live, Navin Khemka, CEO, MediaCom South Asia, said, “The media landscape has changed drastically, and exchange of trends and ideas globally has become more relevant than ever. Blink_live is one such platform that helps bring global marketing trends to India and shares India’s insights with the world. I am happy to bring Blink_live to India for the first time. I am sure it will add great value to our existing clientele and enhance the brands' marketing efforts. We are also hopeful to glean more insightful observations from the Indian team through this platform.”

As a keynote speaker, Byron Sharp, Marketing Science Professor and Director of Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, Australia, presented a detailed session on ‘Laws of Growth.’ Sharp said it is important to understand the heterogeneity of the market and cater to the differences that matter in order to maximise reach while not eliminating the benefits of scale.

Sharp said sophisticated mass marketing doesn’t mean targeting everyone, nor does it mean treating everyone the same way. Giving an example of M&M’s brand, Sharp highlighted the importance of being a distinctive product in the market than being differentiated. Sharp said textbooks offer no evidence that differentiation leads to brand growth or profitability; it is the distinction which creates associations and memory structures with consumers.

Though there is an economic slowdown in the country, there are a few companies such as Asian Paints which are doing fairly well. Nihar Das, Overall Lead, Borderless WPP Team, shared some previously under-researched factors that have a significant impact on growth. Das said it is important to tackle the slowdown through customised growth models, which includes the diversity of portfolios, penetration and consumer involvement levels, among others. He stated that one-size-fits-all communications don’t fit uniformly across categories and typologies as each typology requires an approach that is suitably nuanced.

Preeti Reddy, CEO, South Asia, Kantar, further focused on ‘Identifying Real Growth,’ in the current scenario where the traditional growth formulas are not working any longer. Reddy commented that one of the primary learning that a marketer should remember is the fact that the consumer is human and that brands are never their primary concern. She stated that the marketer should keep in mind that it is the brands that have to think about the consumer all the time and not the other way round.

“Just because one strategy worked in a particular market, doesn't mean that it will work in another market. The primary reason for this is the fact that the barriers for entry are disappearing, they no longer keep competition out anymore. The new players such as Oyo, who are foraying into shared space, are breaking the rules,” Reddy said.

Reddy said Kantar and IRG (Institute for Real Growth) has conducted a study for CEOs and business professionals, highlighting how to break through a slowdown and help them grow. For this report, the company conducted a study across 73 countries and spoke to more than 500 CEOs and CMOs.

Reddy said the myth that growth is about getting a market share is not accurate whereas growth is about finding where the abundant market rating is. She said over performers have far more long-term growth focus as they are able to understand better, how the future will be and the way they look at it is different. The over performers are willing to accept new business models. She also stated that over-performing companies don’t believe that growth is all about increasing customer satisfaction; they believe that the consumer is always dissatisfied as their expectation will keep on changing.

Baldeep Singh, VP, Client Engagement and Data Partnership at [m] Platform, spoke on cutting the slump with laser-focused consumer behaviour. He said as the economy changes, there is an impending recession and it is becoming critical to safeguarding client spends by ensuring media purchase drives significant performance. With consumers getting smarter and blocking third-party cookies and ads on all devices, the dynamics of supply and demand are changing. Singh said it is possible that real human supply will dry up and the pricing on redefining viewability will increase. In such scenario, it is necessary to have sharper cut audience segments as data will be shared and used to augment buys, ensuring monies are spent.

Josh Gallagher, Chief Product Officer, APAC at MediaCom, said that in 2020, brands that lean into the growth of e-retail will be best equipped to face the headwinds of an economic slowdown. He said the frictionless buying experience offered by new retail giants resonates with consumers who now have greater access to brands and increased purchasing power. However, he questioned brand survival as they don't own the data as brand preferences are dictated by algorithm and the brand is housed inside a walled garden. He said it is important to shape up and be on top-of-mind and top-of-algorithm and be immune to economic headwinds.

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