Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Go for the heart, wallet will follow

An interesting conversation with an advertising veteran this weekend gave me some food
for thought. Let’s call him Mr. X for the time being. He asked me if I have ever seen a consumer. Without even blinking an eye I said I am one and I am sitting with one. I thought it was too cool an answer that must have impressed Mr. X who immediately rejected my thought and continued, ‘that’s the problem with us marketing professionals. We think of our offering as only product and people buying it as mere numbers that add to the profitability. No one tries to look at the human behind that number who has a need to satisfy or is looking for a solution to his/her problem.’
Mr. X’s take on consumerism got me thinking. Today, many companies think of business as merely sales and create their marketing strategy around increasing the numbers. They tend to ignore the humans behind those numbers and don’t attempt to connect with them emotionally. The ultimate objective of such companies is to maintain a healthy balance sheet. What they forget in the process is appealing to the person they want to sell to. In order to validate this, I connected with few acquaintances and asked them to name the top companies that they loved in the consumer technology and FMCG space. Brands that constantly popped up were the usual suspects – Apple, Google, Sony and surprisingly Philips in technology and Cadbury, Loreal, Nivea in FMCG space leaving behind various obvious ones that rely heavily on advertising but still don’t resonate with the buyer.
It is simple, each of these top brands have become part of our lives, have truly attempted to satisfy our needs and have built a relationship with us over a period of time. Why else will an HUL invest in creating the largest network of dealers across India or Apple become the most innovative company offering the best experience and after sales support in the country or Loreal spend 18 years, millions of dollars in localizing innovation for India and reach out to innumerable salons across India to improve skill sets of hair care professionals. These brands also have a business to run, are profit centric but still prefer to develop a bond through their offering to buy user’s loyalty. Successful brands don’t sacrifice long term gain for short term profitability.
Given, the fast spreading start-up culture in India, it is important that the new ventures keep customer connect in mind. Inspite of pressure from the investors to demonstrate immediate return on investment, it is important for the leaders to resist the urge of preferring immediate sales over long term bonding with the audiences. Even the established brands that are still trying to find their feet in the market should go back to the basics and rethink their strategy.
Few pointers to keep in mind while trying to sell in the market are:
  1. People first - stay true to your brand identity and its emotional appeal. Keep reminding yourself why did you start the venture and what purpose does it serve. Make sure that your marketing machinery is focused on delivering this message to people across.
  2. Don’t let the greed of short term profit mar long term gains– be in it for the long run. Make sure you look at the person behind those numbers who will buy your offering. Invest time and money to connect with this person. Let the brand offering resonate with his requirement.
  3. Let buyers’ need drive innovation and not the other way round – Not everyone can be like an Apple that can develop great products without any support from market research. Hence stay connected with people. Get feedback, identify gaps and use it to improve your offering constantly. Philips is one such company that does it well. They keep visiting people to understand the challenges they face with their existing products and then use the findings to improve upon their offerings.
  4. Keep reminding yourself constantly of the real business that you are in – Like Loreal is in the business of beauty. Everything at Loreal including R&D, innovation, sales, and marketing revolves around making people look beautiful. Similarly, while we see Apple as either software or a hardware company, it actually is in the business of building ecosystem. Apple realized it way before anyone else that cellphone or an MP3 player or laptops or tablets should not exist in isolation but be so well interconnected that you cannot leave it even if you want to. And while doing this they focused on experience, design, technology and sales support that is so robust that you won’t even feel like leaving the network. Figure out what you really want to sell in the market and then stick to it. Let innovation stem out of this need as well.
  5. Have a plan to give back to the society – that’s your responsibility and as well as marketing pull in the long run. Look at Tata, this attribute alone has only made the brand stronger every day. The faith that people have in the brand is so strong that it has helped the company stand strong amidst various controversies it has been subjected to in last many years. Coca Cola and Pepsi have their CSR initiatives in place that has helped them wither through various crises. For a start-up this might be a big ask but atleast make sure that your proposition and message is always towards the betterment of the society. It will pay back someday.
Although businesses are meant to be profitable, it is people and their emotional need that should come first. Because people don’t use logic while making purchase decision; they buy for emotional reasons and then use logic to justify it.
- Priyank Dubey


  1. As they say, 'when going for the heart, take the aim kneeling'. very well written priyank

  2. thank you Sid, glad you liked it