A third-generation industrialist, Vivek Mendonsa, Marketing Director, Lawrence & Mayo, has won the Zeiss “You & Eye Awards” in four categories for the company. He was also conferred with the Essilor Award for “Outstanding International Contribution to Optometry 2015”, by the American Academy of Optometry. In this edition, he speaks about customers and their ever-evolving expectations, hyperlocal marketing, and the need for brands to function with a purpose.

Millennials and GenZ are by far the most informed customers, what drives them to make a purchase?

They are both an online and offline generation. Unless they are sure of the brand or the e-commerce site, they don't want to really go out and splurge. A lot of millennials tend to visit the retail outlets, touch, feel the product and compare their prices. If the retail outlet is selling it at a price more than that on e-commerce, they have no qualms about ordering it then and there and walking out of the retail outlet.

What makes a winner – better technology or better ideas?

It is always the better idea backed with technology. Sometimes, I see demonstrations of technology that are complicated. User Interface, UI as we call it, must be simple and easy to use. I think that is changing constantly in the market. If you're close to your prospects, clients and customers, it will always help. Taking feedback is an important point.



What makes customer experiences the differentiator of the future?

If a product is unavailable, even on international e-commerce sites, they promise a refund within a period of time and it doesn't happen. These are some of the disenchanting things with e-commerce. There is no clarity with processes and there is no one who is accountable. Whereas in hardcore, brick-and-mortar retail, there is touch and feel, you can walk into a store or an experience centre and have a conversation. Today, all 120 Lawrence & Mayo stores have tablets and easy access to information.

What can brands do to bridge the gap between expectation and experience?  

Expectations are constantly changing. A few basics will not change; people want awesome products, high technology at reasonable or affordable prices. And they don't know what to do with a product or brand they already own and has become obsolete to them. Replacements, buyback schemes always help, it declutters their homes and offices and they can always go for the latest technology and model.

What does it take for brands to stay competitive in today's dynamic economy and market?

I come from the old school of marketing where we used to make three-year and five-year plans. You cannot plan for more than three weeks and five weeks now. Things are constantly changing. Reading two or three newspapers in a day, I'm of the old school but the new generation gets their news from In Shorts and other such platforms. They believe more in online reviews, which are impartial. The older generation would ask their neighbours, family and friends for suggestions or recommendations. Also, Indians are travelling so much; people are in one location for not more than 20-30 months and then relocating. People talk only about 12 to 15 cities, but there are 450 cities. So, constantly adapting to the customers as to what they want and what they want to experience is a key differentiator.


What are the three secrets to successful branding? 

Brands cannot be built overnight. It is done brick by brick and step by step. We are a 143-year-old institution with 120 branches. It has taken us more than three generations to build this institution. Many others including e-commerce sites are now creating retail stores so people can walk in. You may have a brand name that is top of the mind, but is your sales register ringing and is it making an impact on day-to-day sales? That is the big question.

Can a one-size-fit-all approach work in a differentiated market like India? How far does customisation work in your business?

I invented a phrase in 1992 called ‘ Nukkad Marketing’, we call it hyperlocal today. I think India changes every 10 kilometres. Take markets in Mumbai, South Mumbai is very different from Andheri which is again different from Thane. In the same way, the brands that we have in all 120 Lawrence & Mayo stores are not the same. The teams come down to each store and they choose the brands. There will be about 60% common brands, but the balance 40% is tailor-made to the individual tastes, likes and dislikes of the geographical area which is about 7 to 10 kilometres in radius. I've learned this from Shoppers Stop, where every 5 to 7 kilometres they have another outlet and they're trying to sell different merchandise depending on the geographical locations.

Have brands taken ‘going local’ seriously? How have customers influenced this transition?

I see a huge citizens’ movement that has started in every area. You don't see it so much in Bengaluru but in Mumbai every locality has a 'I love Bandra’, 'I love Ghatkopar', 'I love Vashi' and so on. Lots of signages have come up and that is the first indication for a marketer like me, to realise that people are already thinking, behaving and acting locally. They want to know about the brands in their locality. What are the brands doing for them, to enhance the value of living or the quality of life they are experiencing? Everyone has to be a social citizen. Every brand has to be conscious locally and focus on how they are contributing and being a part of the process to improve the living conditions of the population and that locality.

How does your brand approach various markets when it comes to branding and consumer engagement?

We are present in the north, east, west, south and central parts of India. As I said, we don't generalise, we constantly listen to our clients. We don't call them customers but clients because we've got a deep relationship built over the years and decades with them. Between the north and south market, the people in the north go for flashier and international brands, but that is changing. A lot of North Indians are now working in southern parts of India and vice versa. In the southern market, let us take for instance the Tamil community, they will love your brand. For at least three or four generations, they will continue to patronise your brand. There is a huge brand loyalty there.

This article is part of a brand initiative by The Hindu BusinessLine to profile marketing professionals from across India.