The Warc Blog

The Warc Blog

India – building share vs building markets
David Tiltman, Head of Content, Warc
David Tiltman

After the celebrity-fuelled excitement of day one, day two at AdAsia 2011 in New Delhi was noticeably more low-key. That said, there were still some big names from the marketing world.

Today’s sessions opened with a talk by Joseph Tripodi, Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer at Coca-Cola, who expounded on the company’s ‘Liquid and linked’ philosophy. The talk included a preview of Coke’s teen-focused London 2012 activity, including the track recorded for the brand by Mark Ronson.

Other standout sessions included a talk by Chris Thomas and Simon Bond from BBDO on ‘acts, not ads’ – a reference to the power of ideas that inspire consumers to act. The talk featured a number of cases available on Warc: Aviva’s Great Wall of Education, Gillette WALS (both from India) and the Walkers Sandwich campaign from the UK.

Towards the end of the day, a session on the decline of brand trust included the interesting observation by Robin Wight, President of Engine and WCRS in London, that advertising agencies might usefully reposition themselves as ‘trust managers’ if they want to rise above the competition. That idea drew a round of applause from the audience.

One India-specific issue, however, is worth highlighting for readers outside the country, as it has come a few times in the past couple of days. The sheer diversity of India is underappreciated by brands operating in the country, judging by several comments. On the first day, an illuminating talk by Harish Manwani, Chairman of Hindustan Unilever, had included the insight that in India, the big job for brands was not to build share, but to “build markets”. By that he meant that penetration in a country with a scattered population and limited infrastructure is a key challenge, and that there is a huge opportunity in reaching rural consumers.

That comment was backed up by a conversation today with the team at BBDO India. According to Ajai Jhala, the agency’s CEO, there are only four products that are truly national in India: soap, tea, mobile phones and religion. Fizzy drinks? Forget it. According to one executive I spoke to, only Procter & Gamble and Unilever among the multinational players are seriously looking to unlock the rural market, with conglomerate ITC notable among the Indian players for its attempts to build penetration in untapped markets within the country. Other brands are ignoring the opportunity, allowing local entrepreneurs to gain share.

Then there are the regional differences. Saying that India is a diverse country is hardly new news, but the fact that so few brands are addressing that issue is worth mentioning. Having a strategy for India is pointless, said one executive I spoke to – ads need to be translated (or recreated) in at least six different languages, and there are serious differences in consumer behaviour around the country. Having a brand that can work at a national level but also be interpreted in different ways around the country is the major challenge.

There should be plenty more insight on the final day, with speakers including Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. Stay tuned for further coverage on the Warc blog, the conference page and the @warcasia Twitter feed.

Subjects: Brands, Marketing, Advertising

02 November 2011 17:06

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