Stop marketing, start elevating

Kevin Roberts | Updated on January 24, 2018

Emotional quotient Consumers will give more importance to how brands make them feel SHUTTERSTOCK/SOLARSEVEN

Kevin Roberts

Can brands improve lives? It's this question marketers should answer

The next five years will throw a lot of cold water on marketers, waking them up to a burning challenge. At the heart of it is a global tech-fuelled surge of power from brands to people, and today it is sweeping through a younger, assertive hooked-up India.

The wave of Indian connectivity and empowerment blows my mind. According to IAMAI/BCG, India will have 550 million Internet users by 2018, with internet users in rural areas touching 210 million. Online video consumption has doubled in two years. Around two-thirds of Indians are sharing videos on mobile. Mobile Internet is a monster – India is the fastest growing mobile phone market in the world. Next year it should pass the US to become the second biggest smartphone market, after China. Online retail and e-commerce, too, are on a tear.

India is rushing toward a future of networked aspiration and brand expectation. There are some first responses. Marketing in digital is getting more purpose-driven, video content-focused and regional-/ local- / personal-orientated. The rise of the bottom of the pyramid is on the radar. Offline shopping is becoming more experiential, and retail is off on the journey to create an omnichannel experience for people.

Evolved consumer markets such as the US signpost the winning road in this future. Tech-drunk “screenagers” have gained instant power to assess, ignore, compare and switch brands, and expectations of brands are on the rise. In emerging markets, the same happens, just faster! New consumers accelerate up and right off the brand curve.

Beyond price

The win zone for India, for everywhere, in a global consumer republic plastered with brands is not marketing. Bombard people with “buy this now”, and they’ll open their digital escape hatches and hit “energise.” The customer of 2015 doesn’t ask: “Are you newer / better / cheaper?” When superior performance at a value price becomes a table stake, the question on people’s lips is: “How will you improve my life?”

This is about emotional fulfilment, not more rational benefits. It’s about moving beyond price-driven value. It is priceless value that counts, a feeling that turns a brand into a Lovemark. Priceless value can be anything from a blast of utility to a shot of inspiration to a load of empathy to a river of passion.

Brand wranglers are looking towards hard core science to deliver this elusive state. Marketing is being reloaded with analytics, data and programmes in pursuit of the nirvana of one-to-one marketing. This is great news for science-savvy, data-literate many-local places such as India.

Data an enabler

However, use data as an amazing enabler, not as the converter. Machine-computed personalised relevance lacks the big emotion to spring the brand commoditisation trap that brands are caught in. Big Data’s rational properties are replicable. Big Emotion is imperfect, undefinable and it leads to one thing: action.

Big data should turn up at the perfect moment, but it will always take our dreams, creativity, mystery, sensuality and intimacy (all first nature to India) to ignite the moment. It is the irresistible human touch that improves people’s lives.

Kevin Roberts is Executive Chairman, Saatchi & Saatchi

Published on January 29, 2015

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