In your own words, how do you describe a `hot’ brand?

Hot brands are brands that are always on the top of the mind of the consumer. A ‘hot’ brand is one which manages to get a peak in its popularity amongst the audience.
Brands become “Hot Brands’ when they are able to deliver on their promise and create an experience that the consumers will remember.
Hot brands are brands consumers identify with. Hot brands are not a fad or a trend.

What can be few steps taken by brand owners to keep their brand stay-top-of-mind?

The most coveted place for any brand owner has been and always will be the top of the mind of the consumer.
Brand owners must take a few small steps to get to their and remain there:

a) Be relevant to the consumer and her needs and requirements.
b) Speak the language the consumer understands
c) Deliver on the promise communicated
d) Grow with the consumer and re-invent the brand with the consumer
e) Constantly engage with and listen to the consumer

Is rural only a state of mind? What can marketers do to benefit from the new, inclusive India?

India is on the path of becoming a closely connected nation. The concept of rural is slowly becoming obsolete. India is growing and with it the smaller cities are growing at a pace unprecedented and it would be detrimental if any brand would ignore a market thinking rural. Growing internet penetration and a pull information economy has created rural consumers which are as engaged as urban consumers. Let’s not forget that in 2010, Aurangabad gave the single largest order of Mercedes Benz cars.

When the consumers don’t find their requirements in their cities or town they travel to the nearest larger city to get tier hand on it. An inclusive India means marketers find a larger geography to play in. Marketers need to enable brands to become a part of local consumption habits and herein lies the challenge.

The boom of the sachet revolution is evidence that rural markets are currently driven by price and value. Maggie most popular rural pack is its Rs 5 introductory pack, but in the urban markets they have packs with up to 12 noodle servings. The true success in a rural market will be to move consumers of Rs 5 packs towards buying more and more product. Upsizing consumers from trial sachets to weekly or monthly bulk buys will be new challenge of the rural marketer.

They will have more takers of the brands. The acceptability of the new brand will be higher in new geographies if they can tell their story right.

Big Bazaar is one example with has increased its penetration in these smaller cities and towns.

New Rules of Engagement: Changing Expectations of Brand+Customer Interactions, your view?

The communication between a brand and a customer has evolved rapidly with the increase in internet penetration, especially through mobile phones. Customers no longer want to be spoken to, the want to be spoken with. Communication has changed from one way ( brand to customer) to a two way conversation, with immediate feedback. Brand have understood that each consumer is a unique individual voice and with platforms like twitter and Facebook, each customer should be spoken with.

Brand conversation has shifted from a monologue – where the brand promise and message was continuously spread to consumers – to a dialogue where consumers evaluate the brands and speak about them to their friend circle. The first interaction of a brand with its consumers – has shifted from a communication the brand controls to communication which is generated by users of the brand. An unhappy consumer, through social media, holds the potential to form biased opinions with consumers across the globe, within seconds after an unpleasant brand experience.

Consumers in NEW India are more empowered than ever and there is a feeling of entitlement to world class service and product. Consumers today want the brands to deliver on their promises and if that does not happen, they have the power to punish the brand. Today even one single disgruntled consumer can cause havoc to a company with a simple tweet.

Telecommunications companies like Vodafone have engaged teams of customer service representatives to tweet to customers and ensure no complaint goes unheard. Brands need to be prepared to have open communication with their customers. Enabling each customer to feel like she is getting a direct response from the brand will create loyalty in the customers, and the value of customer loyalty has increased many fold.

Marketing hasn’t changed in a 100 years, but the tools have. What do marketers need to do to survive the next 10 years?

The rules and tools have been changing and will always change. Consumers have changed, their expectations have changed. More importantly the medium of communication between the consumer and the brand has evolved. Customers have evolved and are now far more critical of the information, the product and the service they receive. Customers grievances are shared on global platform more quickly than they before. The tools to speak to customers have changed from the one direction TV to the conversational internet.

To survive this volatile and dynamic market place and consumers, the marketeers need must have clarity of their goals and objectives. There has to be the ability to reinvent themselves and keep unlearning everything to relearn the new rules and tools of marketing. They have to stay abreast of the latest technological changes.

Above all this, marketers need to have a keen understanding of their offering and a better understanding of their target audience. They have to know the pulse of the consumer and his needs.

Brands themselves have evolved, their communication has changed over time and even timeless brands are now adapting to communicate to the younger evolving audiences. Successful brands and successful marketers are those who are continually in touch with their consumers. Evolving along with the consumers help marketers identify how to best connect with them. Brands like Amul have evolved to continually remain relevant and engaging with the youth. Amul is now connecting with the next generation of buyers in media and forms they better relate with, such as ice cream parlours and an active engaging Facebook campaign. The methods and platforms may have changed but being constantly in touch with your target consumer and you can ensure success.

Profile: DC, as he is fondly known, is an Engineer & MBA. He recently graduated from the Harvard Business School, Boston, USA via its “Advanced Management Program” course.
Before joining retail industry in 2006, DC worked 5 years each for Asian Paints & Coca Cola. He worked with Asian Paints as Branch Manager in Mumbai and Ahmedabad. His last assignment was as Regional Manager for Mumbai, the largest paints market in India.

Devendra Chawla has been awarded the “Most Admired Food & Grocery Retail Professional of the Year – Private Label” at The Coca Cola Golden Spoon Awards at 5th Edition of FGFI 2012. Big Bazaar won the “Most Admired Retailer of the Year – Private Label” under his leadership for 3 consecutive years. He has also recently featured in the Campaigns India “The A List” of the marketing and advertising professionals for the year 2012.


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