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Adopt `connecting with the consumers' strategy, marketers told

By Our Special Correspondent

The Chairperson of CII- Southern Region, Shobana Kamineni (extreme right), with the CEO-Vivaldi Partners, Dr. Erich Joachimsthaler, the Chairman, Brand Summit 2005, N. Murali, and the Managing Director, Rane Engine Valves, L. Ganesh, at the inaugural session of the summit in Chennai on Thursday. — Photo: Vino John

CHENNAI, FEB. 17. Indian businesses should avoid the brand strategy of focussing on "product attributes and the value-price proposition" in which they will not be able to beat the multinational corporations, according to Erich Joachimsthaler, brand consultant and founder and Chief Executive Officer of Vivaldi Partners (U.S.).

Marketers should adopt a new strategy of "connecting with the consumers by trying to understand what really mattered to them in their daily lives", he said.

Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural session of the two-day Brand Summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry-Southern Region (CII-SR), Dr. Joachimsthaler said B2B (business-to-business) marketing and consumer products companies could adopt this strategy equally effectively.

Speaking on "Connecting with the consumer in the changing brandscape", the theme of the summit, the third being organised by the CII-SR, Dr. Joachimsthaler said market research required by the new strategy warranted abandonment of "pipeline techniques, technologies and data". It required the marketer to be prepared to "dirty his hands" by reaching out directly to the consumer and interacting with him in his daily life for a considerable period.

In competitive markets where products were becoming commodities, the product attribute and value proposition approach was becoming less effective, he said. The strategy of "connecting with the consumer in his daily life", in contrast, tried to understand the real needs of the consumer and reposition products and services in such a manner as to connect with emotionally valuable moments in the life of the consumer. Manufactures should present a broader vision of themselves that appealed to the consumer and not mere product attributes.

This was the secret behind the success of the campaign of Hewlett Packard presenting the image of a worn-down garage where its founders had developed a measuring instrument. Combined with the slogan "Invent", HP presented itself with great effect as the home of entrepreneurship, determination and innovation. MasterCard, a laggard behind Visa in global acceptability and other attributes, linked itself with memorable moments in the user's life to create a big impact on its market share. Similar was the way the Starbucks coffee chain in the U.S. adopted from Italy the use of coffee as symbolising a social event, instead of focussing on quality or consumer experience. Progressive, a U.S. insurance company, focussed on the difference its service made to the client in lightening his hassles in a moment of trauma.

Marketers in India, faced with disparities in purchasing power and the rural-urban divide, could benefit by connecting with the consumer in his daily life, Dr. Joachimsthaler added.

John Harris, Director (Development Studies), London School of Economics (LSE), said globalisation not only gave rise to common cultures and habits but also simultaneously created a greater awareness of and investment in local cultures, as was evident in India. Globalisation would not be sustainable if a large section of the youth was not able to benefit from opportunities provided by it and this would lead to conflicts and violence triggered by far-right identity politics based on religion and ethnicity.

Shobana Kamineni, Chairperson, CII-SR (and Director, Apollo Hospitals) said the CII, in establishing the India Brand Equity Foundation (jointly with the Commerce Ministry) was endeavouring to raise the brand equity of the country through vehicles like "Served from India" and "Made in India".

N. Murali, Chairman of Brand Summit 2005 (and Joint Managing Director of The Hindu), said the event would help marketers find the path ahead in the "increasing clutter in the brandscape in India".

The Brand Finale contest, introduced for the first time as part of the summit, did not focus exclusively on financial parameters or expert evaluation. The rigorous five-step approach in selecting winners was evolved by Vertebrand, a consulting organisation.

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