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'India’s diversity makes distribution a big challenge' : Brandscapes CMD Pranesh Misra

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In a rapidly changing business environment where brands need to be constantly rejuvenated, it is not only important to analyse but also interpret data from a marketing agenda perspective.

The most significant change that has happened in India is the growth of the services over the consumer products sector. Mobile is also emerging as a strong personal medium, which marketers and advertisers have not fully exploited yet.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com’s Ashwin Pinto, Brandscapes Worldwide chairman & managing director Pranesh Misra talks about how there is need for a marketing data centric company to build profitable growth strategies.

Excerpts:

When you started Brandscapes Worldwide in 2008, what was the aim?

The vision was to be a marketing data centric company. Our difference would be to not only analyse but also interpret data from a marketing agenda perspective.

What progress has been made so far?

We have got success with global clients. We work with clients across different markets like Carlsberg, Citibank and Coca-Cola. They employ us in different geographies across the world. We work with their issues in over 40 markets and we do projects there. In India, we get clients who are not only interested in the analytics part of it but also want us to advise in the marketing and brand strategy.

How are you addressing this need?

We have announced five different practices that we will focus our attention on. These are market research, data mining, marketing science, involving advanced statistics modelling to project the future. The fourth practice is dashboards which is putting all the information together in an easy-to-digest manner. The fifth strategy is the strategy planning dimension.

What are the challenges that you face?

The primary challenge is that when you start with data analytics, there is not enough good quality data available. In international markets it is easily available as people have invested a lot of money behind it. We have worked with clients in the SME sector here who have not done any research. This is where we felt that doing customised research for these clients would be useful. We set up our own discipline in the area of research.

The second challenge is finding the right caliber of people. This is a people driven business. It is about understand marketing and how data can be applied to it. I have been able to put together a solid team of 10 leadership team members. Each member has 20-30 years of experience in fields like research, marketing, media strategy, sales and distribution. It is this eclectic mix of talent that I have gotten together. These are the leaders who recruit the next generation of talent and create an organisation.

What is the advantage you offer to clients vis-a-vis competitive services?

We are trying to create a new area. I don’t think that marketing consulting is being offered the way that we offer it. Many companies offer brand consulting which is more into the brand strategy area. Then there are large companies like McKinsey and PriceWaterHouse Coopers who are management consultants and who also do marketing consulting. Our focus is on marketing and we have people with experience in this domain. We have holistic knowledge of all areas and so play in market research, data mining.

We are trying to carve out a niche for ourselves between the bigger consulting houses and narrow focussed marketing consulting players. We give holistic solutions around marketing problems. We are not general consultants nor are we very specific. We are not just analytics focussed or market research focussed.

"The biggest mistake that has riddled many big companies is that their

thinking moves slower than the consumers"

Could you give me some examples where clients have benefited?

As a consultant I cannot give specific examples; I can give broad ideas. There was a global FMCG client looking at a particular category. They wanted to do 20/20 planning on this category. This involved looking at 60 countries, collecting data of different natures like demographics, category penetration, competitive strength and weakness data and category development index data. Then we created a model around which data could be simplified and synthesised. On this basis we created clusters of countries. Then we did deep dive analysis in these clusters to see a common link. This was a macro level solution.

On a micro level there was an FMCG whose brand was not doing well. We got access to retail data. We had to find an insight to take the brand further. One big pack size was not doing well while the others were growing. This size accounted for 25 -30 per cent of sales and was declining. This was the first clue and we dug deeper. Competition was coming with a slightly smaller pack size at a much cheaper price while this company had pushed the price up. We did price sensitivity testing which led to the right price point being found.

A Marketing Dashboard was developed for a shopping mall. This helps it keep track of Key Performance Indicators relating to its tenants – and take strategic and tactical action on an ongoing basis. Strategy Maps were used to guide a global NGO on how to change its branding approach for better success in some countries.

How have you grown over the past couple of years?

We started with 15 people. Now we have around 85 people. We have grown at an average of 45 per cent in terms of revenues. The client roster has grown from three cornerstone clients to around 12.

Which sector is the most challenging to deal with?

No sector is particularly more challenging than another. It comes down to your domain knowledge. Since we have domain knowledge on consumer goods and services, banking and financial, retail and in healthcare, we are focusing in these segments. We have knowledge there. If you tell us to look at an industrial sector, it would be a challenge,. We don’t understand the topography of that sector.

What mistakes do companies make when they go about their marketing?

The biggest mistake I would say that has riddled many big companies is that their thinking moves slower than the consumers. Consumers move ahead very fast in terms of their attitudes. Companies sometimes focus on the unchanging consumer and lose ground. You fail to move with the consumer in this scenario. Information availability is so much that consumers accept new information very quickly. This is a big challenge.

What other obstacles do companies face?

In a country like India, sales and distribution is a challenge, especially for new companies. How do you reach out to big markets? When multinationals come in, the challenge is about pricing. They believe that the same prices that are in the developed markets should work here. They get a shock when nobody picks up their product. This is a pitfall that you have to work around.

Which categories will spend the most on advertising and marketing this year?

It would be the service sector. Telecom will be one of the biggest drivers in terms of mobile telephony, followed by consumer durables and financial products.

 

During the downturn did the spends of clients on research get affected?

We didn’t feel the pinch as we are still a young organisation. But I know that a downturn does not mean that research spending will fall. In fact research happens more as people want to be more careful about spending more ad money and marketing money. Research takes place more in downturns.

How is India different as a market from other countries?

In India, distribution is a big challenge. There is a lot of diversity compared to a country like the UK which is fairly homogeneous. It is not about where do you enter in India but about how do you get going. India’s complexity is a challenge in terms of distribution, pricing, target segmentation. You have to be careful in terms of deciding which markets do you go to and which audience do you address.

You have a JV with Design Bridge. How has this worked for you?

It has worked out well. We have worked for several clients together. They bring the actual design part of it. We don’t have any creative resource here. So what we do is the first part that is strategy planning. Then you have to create a look and feel, logo design for a product. They do that creative part of it.

In the healthcare category we have a JV with Healthy Marketing Team. They are focussed on helping clients quickly zoom into the brand positioning strategy in the healthcare segment. We partnered with them, have trained our people on their system and have brought that to

our clients here.

What marketing strategies work well for alcohol companies in India, given that direct advertising on television and print is not allowed?

Associating with a sporting event like Golf works. Spirit brands want to have a lifestyle association; they want to project a certain lifestyle and be in a premium space. Alcohol companies also take space in retail outlets. Besides, a lot of attention is spent on packaging of the product, which works towards effective brand building.
In the financial and insurance sector a lot of companies follow a guilty tag to get parents to buy products. Is that a wrong way to go about selling products like insurance?

It depends on the situation. Too much of guilt can be counter productive. In some situations, guilt might work. But from my perspective, a positive outlook is better than guilt. Consumers after a while do not want to receive too many negative messages.
Which marketing avenue is most effective in terms of ROI - print, television, radio, online?

It differs from category to category and brand to brand. This is what our marketing modeling mix practice estimates. We are able to pinpoint for a market which element gives higher ROIs.
Is new media becoming more important?

Yes! It is credible as a medium as people share their opinions and experiences here. It is becoming a credible source of information. A lot of companies, especially international, go to new media first to get answers about consumers.

But are companies tapping into this medium properly in India?

It is still a new medium here. Some companies are doing it well while others are experimenting. Mobile is about SMS at the moment. I think that as rich media comes in through 3G, marketers will use it a lot more.

As far as online is oncerned, Indian consumers are already using that medium in categories like hotels and airlines. They want to find out what others feel about a particular brand. This is an area where a dramatic change will happen in the next three to four years. Companies have to understand that the Internet will play a critical step in the decision making process. Companies will need to have a larger presence online.

They can be a part of the online conversation, at least in terms of keeping track of what consumers are saying, and then take corrective action if there is negative feedback. They can also find out what consumers feel works for the brand and why they choose it over competition.

When you look at the marketing and advertising scenario what are the two biggest changes that have happened over the past five years?

The growth of the services over the consumer products sector is a big change that has happened in India. Also, the emergence of mobile as a personal medium is a change. This has not been totally exploited by marketers and advertisers, but I think that this is a life changer today. Younger consumers have evolved.

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