The changing face of Marketing – Part 1

Any marketing manager working for the real-estate sector in India has a pretty tough task at hand. All unique selling propositions based on physical attributes – beauty, safety, clubhouse, amenities, design etc, have already been claimed. In an effort to claim even more premiumness and thus higher profit margins for the new properties, the marketing messages has become a bit too esoteric to be believable.

Selling Childhood for Apartments

Recently saw an advertisement from one company asking you to buy the childhood for your kids rather than their apartment with a slogan that says – what is the carpet area of childhood. It is a great execution and I agree that urban kids have a deprived childhood because free and open spaces are getting scarce for kids to play in, but the irony of it is that the real estate companies themselves have wrestled these spaces away from the citizens by exploiting the opacity that plagues this industry.

The point is that product communication for many brands has gone so far away from the underlying product that it really dosent matter what the product itself is. The same message could probably sell you a diaper and a car – both are peddling happiness, and taking care of your bums. And they both will have the same celebrity endorsing them too… ok Diaper is a tough sell, but I am sure at the right price we can dress up the whole Indian cricket team in them. In 2010, five celebs endorsed 95 products between them.

Reminds me of the movie movie ‘Kate and Leopold’, in which Leopold (Hugh Jackson) plays a 19th century duke who happens to wake up in the 21st century and is asked to endorse a cookie brand because his looks and mannerisms fit well with the positioning of the cookie. But as he takes a bite of it he himself hates it, and is then unable to understand why Kate (Meg Ryan) is still asking him to endorse a flawed product and comments ‘when someone is involved in something entirely without merit, one withdraws’. When one hears an advertising spot selling an antivirus software using Sachin to endorse it, you know something is broken.

Brands compete not just within the same category, but even across categories. Mores brand are chasing a very small set of consumers, making the task really tough. Consider these facts:

  • In India there are about 2,00,000 brands that advertise on Print, about 13,500 on TV and 10,000 on Radio (Adex and Aircheck data for 2011). All these brands are competing for the same consumer motivations (or insights) to pitch their product to – the motivations that drive people are limited and thus brand messages will tend to overlap leading to loss of impact of campaigns. The advertising market is growing by 15% year on year which will only add more brands to this mix and further intensify the confusion on positioning platforms.
  • There are only 34Mn households in India which earn more than Rs 3.4L a year, and this drops to 3 Mn for households above 17L a year. I guess in India we may have about 11Mn household at around 10-11L/ year income levels. This number isn’t huge, and the battle for their share of wallet is fierce.
  • The fragmentation of Media has only made it more difficult to reach these consumers. There are more than 515 TV channels in India (with another 150 wanting to launch), some 350 news papers (and growing), over 237 radio stations across 91 cities across 23 radio companies (and phase 3 licensing will soon triple this number). One brand campaign now needs to plan its media mix across all of these, and it costs more to reach the same audience.

To compound the trouble of the marketer who is grappling with reaching this fragmented audience with overlapping consumer motivations, a new battle front has opened up with the growing significance of the online audiences; 10% of India is already online (and more than 2% of Indians are on Facebook, which is equal to the population of Australia). Most traditional thumbrules of traditional marketing breakdown on the internet. Technology now has started to play a much bigger role in both the delivery and even the nature of the marketing message itself. The bigger challenge for most brands is that their marketing managers may have fallen behind the pace of evolution of the online space.

More on the online marketing in Part-2 of this blog.

(To be continued…)

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  1. Karishma says:

    Agree with you on most of the points… Bang on when you say ‘The same message could probably sell you a diaper and a car….’ There is this famous real estate brand, you see their branding all over the city, today most of the other real estates want to emulate similar kind of promotions for their company.. If you think of it.. if we replace the logos and let the background image be it will suit any real estate builder…
    While many books have been written about the history of advertising, promotion sales PR etc..etc.., I cannot recollect one good book that has been written since ages, that covers various aspects of marketing specially the web. If you look at the way marketing is practiced today specially here in India, you can see that lack of historical perspective reflected in its weakness for passing fads. believe it become nearly impossible for quite a few marketers to tell the difference between a fad and trends that are taking place in marketing’s evolution.

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