How brands can drive growth with ‘Purpose’ and ‘Personalisation’

Published: March 15, 2020 12:55:37 PM

Consumers will increasingly prefer brands that not only meet their needs but also do good

82% smartphone users consult their phones while they're standing in a store deciding which product to buy82% smartphone users consult their phones while they’re standing in a store deciding which product to buy

By Sapna Arora

Predicting what will happen in the next few years may seem like an audacious, if not outrightly pointless, task! The pace of change is so rapid that I often wonder what my business will be like even six months from today. But I’m going to stick my neck out and predict the Marketing Trends of the early 20’s.

Let me begin by quoting a man who has been a marketing guru for five decades, and whose text book is still used at business schools all over the world. I refer, of course, to Philip Kotler. In his words, “…. the organization’s marketing task is to determine the needs, wants and interests of target markets and to achieve the desired results more effectively and efficiently than competitors, in a way that preserves or enhances the consumer’s or society’s well-being.”

Kotler’s emphasis on the well-being of society is a relatively recent phenomenon in the world of Marketing but it’s only going to gain strength. I refer of course to the recently popular trend that is gaining traction – Purpose. Consumers will increasingly prefer brands that not only meet their needs but also do good. The stunning rise of Greta Thunberg is a case in point. This trend is already prevalent in several product categories. For one, ethical fashion brands such as Patagonia are seeing increasing traction and will compel traditional fast fashion brands such as Zara to change their ways of doing business.

Content is going to become even more powerful. But no manufacturer-centric messages, please. Brands need to generate content that addresses customer concerns and areas of interest. It could be in the form of video (read demos, talks, tips, recipes, humour, music, films and series), audio (read music, podcasts, books, talks and lectures), or articles (read listicles, information, news, tips). If you’re in food, it’s about nutrition and health that your customers want to know about; if you’re a fashion brand, your buyers want to know about how ethical you are and if you are concerned about the sustainability of the garments you make; and if you’re in vision, it does help, like Warby Parker does, if you donate a pair of spectacles for each pair that gets sold. Purpose, content and commerce will need to intersect, in order to gain a customer’s attention.

And that brings us to the really radical change that is inexorably taking over – Attention Wealth. We are fast becoming an attention economy. Attention is the new currency. What does this mean? As the mobile becomes almost an extension of ourselves, we’re witnessing a fundamental change in the way we all consume media: in short, how we distribute our attention.

Daily, long online sessions (read predictable) have now been replaced by numerous separate moments of interactivity. Could be texting your spouse or fixing a meeting with friends or a client. And then there are those intent-rich moments—the ‘I want-to-know’ moments, ‘I want-to-go’ moments, ‘I want-to-do moments’, and ‘I want-to-buy moments’—that really matter. These are ‘Micro-moments,’ and they’re game changers for both consumers and brands. They are when split-second decisions are made. The key in micro-moment marketing is to embrace the idea that you have just a few seconds to capture the attention of your target customer.

To quote from a Google survey: “Of leisure travellers who are smartphone users, 69% search for travel ideas during spare moments, like when they’re standing in line or waiting for the subway. Nearly half of those travellers go on to book their choices through an entirely separate channel.”

“Of smartphone users, 82% consult their phones while they’re standing in a store deciding which product to buy. One in 10 of those end up buying a different product than they had planned.” Marketers need to have the technology to deliver their messages at such unpredictable micro-moments and these messages need to be personalised. If a man sitting in the Delhi Metro decides he wants to figure out how to sell his treadmill, OLX has to be able to reach him at that point of time with a relevant message.

All this is going to be enabled by Artificial Intelligence which will play an increasingly important role in Marketing. Artificial intelligence marketing (AI Marketing) is a method of leveraging customer data and AI concepts like machine learning to anticipate your customer’s next move and improve the customer journey. Even though they may not be engineers or techies, marketing folks will need to learn how to harness the power of AI if they have to function effectively in the future.

Sitting in a simulator, a pilot can get practically the same experience that he would as if he were actually flying an aircraft. That’s the power of Virtual Reality – another technology marketers will need to understand how to harness. Already, to give just one example, solutions are available where you can see how your bathroom would look with your choice of shower curtain, fittings, floor tiles and walls. Customers don’t need to imagine how it will all look together. They can try different combinations of each of these four variables and instantly get a feel of how the bathroom will look. The possibilities are immense. Personalisation is often perceived to be at the expense of privacy and I recommend a publicly available privacy policy which all stakeholders can easily access and understand.

Another trend that is going to garner more followers is that of Influencer Marketing. It’s why companies are predicted to spend upwards of 5 billion dollars a year on influencer marketing. But who are the influencers who will matter? Consumers will look for recommendations from influencers they trust and who have knowledge of the product category. In nutrition and health, for example, an endorsement by a glamorous film star will not work as well as well-reasoned recommendations from influencers such as Rujuta Diwekar or Luke Coutinho.

Marketers are going to have to build trust in many different ways and I would recommend all brands should take at least two steps. One is to have incontrovertible evidence of all claims being made. A brand of organic food, for example, should always have publicly visible lab reports certifying that its products are chemical-free. The other step is to have in place a crisis management strategy. A crisis can blow up any time and trust built up over decades can vanish overnight, thanks to the speed of social media. Being prepared for crises will be a necessary survival tactic.

Finally, Video is a trend that is only going to get stronger. Consumers no longer want to read so much – they want to see and hear. Just look at the rise of TikTok and you’ll instantly get what I’m talking about. This short video creation App launched outside China in 2017, became the largest downloaded App in the USA, within a year. It is now available in more than 150 countries in 75 languages, emphasising the increasing importance of the Vernacular. In India, regional language newspapers, television and cinema are showing strong growth and demand will continue to accelerate.

So there you have it…. A few ideas on how marketing is going to change in the next few years and how to prepare for this, intent-illigently.

The author is chief marketing officer of OLX India

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