Nike + Bisleri = Equilibrium of Extremes

Shivaji Dasgupta, Managing Director, Inexgro Brand Advisory, writes how the Covid-19 crisis is changing consumer behaviour

Shivaji Dasgupta
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Nike + Bisleri = Equilibrium of Extremes

Shivaji Dasgupta

In these otherwise truant times, life has surprisingly become simpler for marketers. Every customer is either Type Bisleri or Type Nike, no further complexities desirable or necessary. Type Nike is the ‘Just Do It’ mindset, demanding every celestial indulgence even in such constraint. Type Bisleri is the ‘Play Safe’ mindset (remember their tagline?), concocting barriers from the direst imagination. Each of us is a bit of both, depending on need, greed or want.

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As Bengalis by birth and thus gourmand by culinary disposition, fish and meat are considered staples and not luxuries. Anybody who has lived in the home state will agree that this is a pattern across economic classes — variety and frequency being the only variables. In affluent NCR though, we are often classified as social traitors – daring to seek beyond the cosy cauliflower and pretty pulses for wartime rations. A new-age distressing mindset classifying non-veg as an excess, by folks who will settle for nothing lower than Black Label and Hazoorilal Legacy for their sustenance. An argument that a daily piece of fish is less expensive and more nutritious than Paneer Manpasand often fails to hit bulls-eye — Nike for the choosy one is indeed Bisleri for the closeted other. To be noted equally that those in the supply side are also economic actors — their families relying on this abhorred patronage for firing the ovens.

On Black Label, it must be said that the ripple of the tipple is a much-desired Nike value — I am noting the finest of folks crumbling under drought duress. Frenetic parleys are currently live, studying the truthful Kerala model and the enigmatic West Bengal mirage — where the licence evaporated as soon as granted. While I am sincerely affected, there is a grim yet supportive reality to a sale-ban — daily wage earners blowing money irresponsibly and its correlation to domestic abuse. But one deeply resonant trait of the affluent, with backs to the Asian Paints wall, is a renewed sense of ‘self-centricity’ — an upgraded version of Darwinism that nukes the problems of the un-Aryan. This is indeed entitlement 2.0 — the achievement hard-earned today but its manifestation suspiciously yesterday.

This self-centricity also shapes the Bisleri ‘Play Safe’ attitude — exceptional standards of safety or restraint enforced with Mossad zeal. Social distancing observed especially with the under-privileged support cadre — little knowing that the beneficiary is indeed the ‘minor’ mortal. As it is well-established that the carrier of this malaise is the precious us and not the miniscule them — stamp on passport and not ration card culpable evidence of carriage. A rigid adherence to simple basic food also appears from self-preservation operandi — what if the gourmet home delivery turns out be a viral conduit in mufti. Sacrificed at the altar of preservation is the daily newspaper, the newsprint to many is a vile foe spreading more than just news.

It is necessary to dwell briefly on this self-preservation streak— on how the rich are way more dangerous than the poor when it comes to community-based restraint.  Along with Asiatic affluence comes a sense of inimitable invincibility, adherence to common norms inconsistent with stature. Thus, consumption decisions are invariably unilateral and if ever there are serious shortages, an intra-class civil war of miniature proportions may well break out, reported perhaps on Page 3. Both Bisleri and Nike actions are governed by this fundamental self-centricity — indulgence and conservatism remarkably adhering to the same esprit de corps.

One day, hopefully soon, the crisis will surely dissolve, and normalcy will resume — this behaviour of the consumer will, however, remain intact for much longer. It may intuitively seem that we will all play in Bisleri mode— insurance policies, life-saving investments and similar defensive measures foremost priorities. While another view, emanating from a learned colleague, insists that many will recognise the frailty of their tenure in the planet — thus preponing indulgences and even extravagances — the long run no longer a guaranteed ambition. Most certainly what will emerge is an ‘equilibrium of extremes’ — the middle-of-road optimal solution ruthlessly out of favour for most, do note carefully.  

In this equilibrium the primary foundation will naturally be purchasing power — every consumable earning a score in the Bisleri or the Nike continuum. So, if healthcare is such a desirable, the most expensive policies will sell well, and preventive solutions will soar in demand. Access to near and dear ones will be a privilege and as a result, high-quality education will spring up in very geography — just as there are a hundred PWC offices there will be a hundred branches of Harvard University. While passions will know no middle ground — if you seek the SUV only the finest will do, every possible bucket list will now enter the job list, subject to means. So, next year, when the travel is possible, the Northern Lights and Machu Pichu will be on top, not the safe London Paris New York.

If you wish to write a book or direct a movie that will not be deferred — self-publishing will shoot up while a version of it will enter the movie space, self-produced if you may. If you are seeking the latest Microsoft Surface Pro, you will walk up to Chroma today, God bless the EMI provider of the piece. Creative talents, currently subsumed by business imperatives, will be catapulted to the fore, a renaissance of imagination buoyed by technology, certainly imminent. Relationships will equally resonate with this value, possibly virtue, as marriages and divorces get preponed.

An accomplice in this ‘equilibrium of extremes’ will be the concept of time, immediacy now a stock-in-trade of even the most prudent and conservative. Marketers will do well to smell this pattern, bridging the gap between desire and action with intelligent alacrity. Which means quicker access in every sense — physically to the product (direct or digital) and budgetarily to the easy financing schemes. Real estate can remain relevant, contrary to populist logic, if it panders to this sentiment sensitively — a right-sizing of prices and an up-sizing of perceptions. Senior citizens, with their proven purchasing power will be a potent target in all this — the Corona-based mortality statistics accelerating their indulgence cycles even further.

A major ammunition of the new world order will be the craft of simplification, leading to effective operational implementation. Exactly why the brutally-plain Bisleri and Nike typecasts will lend themselves to the ‘equilibrium of extremes’ — reshaping customer behaviour as we know. For businesses to survive, we need to be the smartest and not just the fittest.

(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.)

Bisleri Managing Director Nike Shivaji Dasgupta Inexgro Brand Advisory Equilibrium of Extremes