Brand Intolerence

Brand intolerance works both ways. A brand that thinks it knows everything that is to be known about its consumers backed by data. Data that is collected by rather outdated techniques. These brands also know what the consumers want (its like men who think they know what women want). Many cases it works too. Either the brand is so powerful in its category (sales and volume… not the brand equity) or the category itself is so low involvement for the consumer that they dont much care and buy whatever is TOM (salt for instance or toothpaste or any such category).

However it works only till there is no serious threat or evolution of the category. Indian airlines dominated the skies till new airlines came along. Service supriority and value add ons worked for these airlines. They also were ruling the skies and taking the consumer for granted. And then low costcarriers changed the rules yet again. Brands that were intolerant to their consumers have suffered.

Brand intolerence from the consumer of course is very dangerous. Took a long while for Coke to recover from their disaster. Maggi Noodles in India in 1998/99. Hindustan Motors.

Brand intolerence from the consumer happens when, either they had enough of being taken for granted or when someone new comes along and offers choices that are in line with what they want. Nokia in 2000 was using the same outer shell with very little visible differentiation across different price bands. Samsung came along and every model had something different to offer… specially the form factor. Credit to Nokia though… they realized what was happening in the market and in the consumer’s mind very quickly and unleashed new forms and applications.

Indian manufacturers of consumer electronics and white goods didnt keep pace with the changing market and were wiped out. Samsung and LG just took over because the consumer was getting tired of sub standard choices.

Public sector banks suffered too but then the private banks messed up and brands like SBI and many others are back in the reckoning. They are the ones who realized the that there is a change in the economic status of the consumer brought about by the economc situation. ICICI on the other hand is operating from the swanky building in BKC with the assumption that they are so good that they dont have to do anything for the consumer… of course they are in trouble (the moment a brand or an organization starts with a PR as to how sound and safe they are… everyone knows there is trouble brewing)

Ultimately it boils down to the relationship a brand has with its consumer. Intolerence creeps in because the brand takes the consumer for granted and consumer just waits for the right time to slap the brand with a divorce…

There is nothing new that I have said here… its common sense but it seems lot of brands are taking leave of this common sense…

Want to max on life

Wonder how many have noticed a perceptible shift in Max New York Life communication.

There is a subtle shift from being retirement solution and saving for a rainy day (usual insurance and investment communication cliche’s) to more positivity and fulfilling expectations.

Of course the latest commercial on TV is a riot… The impish old man who goes for a drive from Lucknow to Kanpur symbolises a carefree spirit which every guy over 40 would aspire for.. once done with his working life. Its fun and its not putting pressure on the person to save, save, save… 

Last year they did “karo jyada ka irada”. A universal insight about people wanting more… wanting something they dont have (and they do have something to begin with but that hankering for what others have)… The message going out… you can get more from your investments.

And the commercial about the couple getting the kids to say different words… Its fun and its subtle about taking care of kids and their education and everything else..

The communication  no more telling you why you need life insurance and investment… Its telling you that life is about fun and you deserve it and you can get what you want.

Why should life be turned into a burden as most insurance  advertising does!

If I was not saddled with so many policies and investments already, would have jumped at Max. But what I am jumping at is the fact that life is fun and enjoy.

Communication is different and I hope its working for the brand. And I do believe that a lot of  the shift in communication is coming after the NCAER study which was done about “How India earns, spends and saves” . The investment by Max in the study must be paying off.

Why people do not buy high priced hatchbacks in India?

The original hatchback was Maruti and it pretty much set the trend for how hatchbacks are viewed.

Moving from hatchback to sedan is a huge lifestage shift for the person

And the community digs are hard to avoid when moving from INR 400,000 hatchback to INR 700,000 one.

Expensive (and I am talking people perspective) hatchback is not value for money… If I am spending so much money… I should get lot more!!

It took  “B” premium segment a while to become a big market (and that happened because there was a set of people who had INR 100,000 or lil more to spend than buying a Santro or a Wagon R) but the next level shift for the consumer would never be a hatchback… and as a second car in the house… the price tag would keep people away.

Premium hatchback manufacturers need to find a niche (in the mind of the consumer) and make it grow. Automobiles like technology have the task of educating and moving consumers up stream…

The perceptions of hatchback need to change.

Sedans did very well when they launched lower priced cars and helped the transition from hatchback to sedan… The numbers that Swift Dezire achieved after launch vs Swift launch would sure tell interesting story.

And the brands will need to identify the segment (visible or latent…) to create a positioning for their hatchbacks… And the answer does not lie in extensive quantitative and qualitative research and auto clinics.

How well do you know your consumer?

Ask and you will get very detailed answers.  And a whole lot of qualitative and quantitative data. Focus groups, DIs, analysis of a large representative sample of the target group.

Market Research Agencies just love these clients! and of course clients too love these agencies… After all most research is CYA.

How many actually live the consumer’s environment? How many use their outlets for extensive insight… and in some cases foresight into consumer trends?

At a Macdonald, how many of those relationship people are actually observing the behaviour… and behaviour is not keeping track of fast moving items… Its about consumer’s interaction with the food and with each other (and nothing can convince me that the pricing and advertising for Mac is a function of such observations)

FMCG – How many senior product and brand managers spend a day behind the counter of a grocery shop?

How many handset manufacturer’s spend their time in a coffee day or a Barista to understand the segment which is their core?

More for You or Reliance Fresh – How many days does the marketing team spend behind the counters or being CSAs?’

How many motorbike manufacturers have their product team hanging around at the hot spots or parking lots?

How many brand or prodcut managers from automobiles can actually claim to have first hand experience of the joy and delight that the consumer shows when taking the delivery of the car?

You will never know your consumer unless you spend time with them… or being part of their environment. And yes market research agencies have a very useful tool in ethnography and in some cases semiotics can work wonders… But end of the day… be the consumer… embed yourself in the environment… what you will learn will be lot more than any research can ever tell you.

Everything is simplistic and you would have heard and read before. But people tend to fall back on traditional methods because most organisations want numbers… want “authentic”, “verifiable” and “quantifiable” data.

Take that step… be different (its strange, actually going closer to the consumer… the raison d’etre for every marketing and advertising person is different in today’s world) trust your eyes… trust your ears… trust your senses.