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New-age realities — reshaping and adapting to the VUCA world

Mayur Kaku, Head of Brand, Aegon Life Insurance, writes that the VUCA world promises to offer learning of new things and calls for ‘unlearning’ of bunch of things. Successful marketers would need to navigate between these opposing forces to arrive at what’s correct for their category and realities

Mayur Kaku

VUCA world as a phrase has been doing the rounds for the past few years now, right from strategy class to boardroom discussions. VUCA — an acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, a combination of qualities that, taken together, characterise the nature of some difficult conditions and situations.

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An acronym that primarily referred to complexity of customer choices and re-shaping of strategy amid Red Oceans in the market place. But in today’s times, it brings up a completely new relevance and meaning during the Covid-19 crisis. In a way, VUCA world is right here, in front of us. There are a few realities the Indian marketing world needs to adapt to focus on to operate in this VUCA world.

When Three Options is Not An Option.


“I want 3 different routes on this thought”

“can we look at more creative renditions of this piece”


Sounds familiar. We all have witnessed or heard this either on the business side or on the agency partner’s end. More options = more creativity? If today’s lockdown has one strong message for my team – it is ‘go sharp on brief’. Be clear what we want as an output, before drafting the brief. It may sound like an algebraic exercise to some and some may think creativity cannot be boxed into a single output criteria. Well, I do not disagree with both perspectives. Situations call for the choice of stance one adapts. However, VUCA world offers limited time and opportunity to marketing, especially if consumer engagement is the primary task. So having multiple options may not be the solution to improvising outputs. Clarity of brief and deeper synchronisation with the agency partners that reduces the churn-out time and helps quicker response from marketing teams is the need of the hour.

Deploy. Monitor. Re-Calibrate. Repeat.


Marketing and sales activity was brought to a screeching halt in many businesses, especially directly dependent on physical presence in shops/showrooms. Even the ever-growing ecommerce businesses that were dependent on physical delivery of goods took a hit. In the VUCA times like these, marketing teams need to keep checks and balances in the marketing plan. Long-term deals do get you the best price advantage in buying expensive media. However they offer very limited scope to divert spends or cut back for medium scale and small brands. Challenger brands especially must deploy spends in short term and monitor the effectiveness on KPIs. Alternatively sign up for plans with publishers that offer flexibility to course correct and optimise dollars spent with sales / branding. This improves chances of redeployment in mediums that work best for you.

What Got You Here, Will Not Get you there.

A popular title from Marshall Goldsmith has some inspiration for us in marketing in the VUCA world. Tried and tested media and publishers that worked for you few years back may not work with same efficiency now. Emergence of new publishers has led to hyper fragmentation of consumers. For example, new-age mediums such as In-shorts has developed its own tribe that is challenging online readership of veteran newspapers. The key is to be prepared to try out new things. A part of the budget must be committed to experiments that have not been done before. In future, disruption will emanate from experiments that are run on micro-segments of consumers. What is niche today can become mainstream tomorrow. The OTT explosion is one such example. OTT was seen as a medium for the elite or at best as a catch-up medium for television. However, original content on OTT has changed the game and tipped the scales towards OTT. In the VUCA world, experiments will fail. But we need to keep at it and keep experimenting.

Marketing from The Cloud

The least-affected businesses or department functions were those that could function remotely. I stumbled upon a good write-up that said that future leader corporations will be the ones that can run remotely. I tend to agree with this. Processes that can be managed from the home environment did not see much impact. However the regulatory and statutory requirements that were not on the cloud created bottlenecks for many. The future of marketing will be to operate from cloud. Just like IT industry that has developed systems around work from anywhere in the globe. Marketers will need partners and agencies that can seamlessly move to the cloud. Imagine an end-to-end creative evaluation system that allows for feedback, rounds of changes, etc., in a single platform from multiple stakeholders. The creative person or agency receives consolidated feedback and finishes the creative in the comfort of his home/café? Sounds good?

Investing in capability

One experiment that has worked immensely for us during the lock-down is in-housing. Way back in 2018, we started pondering with the idea of building dedicated internal creative teams that not only provide quick access to creative, but also becomes the cornerstone of the team to set guardrails for future campaigns. Today in-housing has proven to be the best asset amid ‘work from home’. The internal design and copy team have understood the brand so well that we are able to churn out creatives quicker and also provide for timely deliveries of the requirements from business channels. We do not write off the important inputs from external agency partners. That remains intact. However, we as a team have greater control on the output with our internal experts. In the future, marketing teams will engage and experiment with in-housing because VUCA calls for an agile response to business requirements.

The VUCA world promises to offer learning of new things and calls for ‘unlearning’ of bunch of things. Successful marketers would need to navigate between these opposing forces to arrive at what’s correct for their category and realities. And VUCA will only make us stronger.

(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 and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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