Respond to middle class, Pepsi warns

27 January 2014
NEW DELHI: Indian and international brands must make themselves more responsive to an increasingly connected middle class, the chairman and CEO of PepsiCo India has warned Indian advertising practitioners.

In a presentation to the India Chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA), D Shivakumar observed that global sales of 1bn smartphones represented the biggest trend of 2013 and the consequent improved connectedness among users is fundamentally changing consumer behaviour, Campaign India reported.

The middle class, above all, have become stronger as a result, he said, while noting that their "collective voice" is likely to grow even more ahead of the Indian general election later this year.

"With [the] middle class becoming stronger, the concept of responsiveness will be bigger with the 'connected' middle class. Brands would have to respond to them within the limited time frame," he said.

The danger for a brand that ignores this social development, he warned, is that one wrong move could lead to a "collective voice" being deployed against it.

Reinforcing this shift, he noted that for the first time in 2013 the time spent on mobile for digital usage was 316 minutes a day globally, but the time spent on television was only 270 minutes, which pointed to a "dramatic shift" in the years to come.

In addition to meeting the challenges presented by social and digital media, Shivakumar advised brands to develop their strategies to drive consumption through a "more dependent ecosystem".

He described this as being about addressing the wants and desires of the consumer, if not necessarily their needs, in the same way that mobile phones would not have been able to grow without the likes of Vodafone.

In a final piece of advice, he said brands should invest in their middle management, a key role for the CMO, while also focusing on the creation of "industry leaderships".

Data sourced from Campaign India; additional content by Warc staff
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