Payback is More for Companies Investing in Brand Building during Recessions

New Delhi: Customers have long memory that retains the positive way brands made them feel during the dark days, reciprocating when the situation turns said Prof. Nirmalya Kumar, Lee Kong Chian Professor of Marketing, Singapore Management University addressing the 4th CII Marketing Leadership Summit 2020 organised by the CII Centre of Excellence for Leadership. He explained the countercyclical marketing approach of how these concepts could be leveraged by organisations to optimize their returns. He took participants on a detailed learning journey towards increasing their “Share of Voice” through a coordinated strategy. Creating better brands, enhancing their value proposition by deploying an integrative advertisement spend adopting an intelligent mix backed by insightful R&D and pricing strategies. A key insight offered was to turn more empathetic to customer’s needs and standing by them, while keeping their ears to the ground with the maxim “How can we help to deliver more”. He pivoted the conventional view of cutting back on promotional budgets during crisis, through real life examples of brands increasing their profits and moving ahead of competition, by investing heavily in strengthening their respective brand propositions and evolving long term discernible competitive advantages.

He drew international cases of companies leveraging their learning to come up with brand launches towards the end of the recessionary cycle to reap the maximum benefit. Companies following the conventional route of cutting down on investments in research or promotions lost out most in the capitalising the opportunities emerging in the marketplace.

Ms. Rama Bijapurkar opined that leadership is all about moulding the future. She presented detailed data to explain the needs for innovation to correct the bad supply situation. The requirements of different social-economic segments were then analysed to determine how best the government and industry can work towards regenerating demand. Newer opportunities that presented themselves and better ways of capturing value were shared. The need for occupational reforms were highlighted through the plight of migrant and casual workers. With supply chains being affected by disruptions present a very different set of challenges in this world that was VUCA on steroids. There was serious rethink on what would constitute discretionary spend.

She then shared several pandemic responses that unlocked value in these Darwinian times, with technology that heralded a digital transformation at unprecedented quarters like vegetable vendors adopting social media platforms and farmers connecting with consumers directly leading to de-intemediatarisation. Her final advice to marketers was to assess the damage to come up with robust plans to capitalise to shape the Next Normal.

Opening Summit Mr. Harshavardhan Neotia, Chairman of the Centre and Chairman Ambuja Neotia group, mentioned that this was a brilliant example of digital transformation being unleashed in the country, with the Summit being conducted over the exclusive digital platform for the first time.

Demonstrating most of these insights exhibited in the Indian market Mr.Bharat Puri, Chairman, CII National Committee on FMCG & Managing Director, Pidilite Industries took the participants through an ideas in action in the session on C-Suite insights. Anecdotal confirmation of creativity, agility was found with companies getting off the block to come up with apps to connect with customers, launch new product lines and engage with customers differently. Some of the main insights included taking risks, pivoting innovation to increase customer centricity to thrive in the beautiful constraints this once in a life-time crisis presented. There was agreement that business as usual would get altered forever with the power of digital becoming the order of the day in the next normal.