India poses unique challenges for brands

18 June 2009

NEW DELHI: Indian consumers present a unique range of challenges to marketers, as a result of their mixed focus on the traditional and the commercial, and because of to their varying definitions as to what constitutes “value”, says Punita Lal, executive director of marketing at PepsiCo India.

Lal argues the typical shopper in the country has a "Gemini soul", which is comprised of two distinct elements, the first of which means that "traditional Indian values are pulling him towards a safer, controlled outlook towards spending and life in general."

On the other, however, "he is embracing consumerist and western values of wanting more", and thus combines "cautious thrifty behaviour" with a desire to enjoy "new experiences and products."

As the average consumer is "increasingly well-informed, discerning and demanding", they will also only "listen" to global brands "when they talk his local language."

Since entering the Indian market, Pepsi has thus attempted to create campaigns "that were truly Indian at heart", with other multinational companies, such as McDonald's, also endeavouring to follow the same route.

Another key obstacle for brand owners, Lal argued, is the need to "constantly innovate and offer enhanced value to consumers."

However, marketers should not "assume that the consumers' value relationship with a brand is only monetary or at best rational."

Rather, the criteria Indians are using to inform their purchase decisions are based "not simply on absolute price", as the typical shopper "will pay a higher price if he thinks it is worth the benefit he is getting."

Indeed, many products are "considered worthy only if the consumer feels that those around him assign great value to the brand," Lal says.

This means that value can in fact be based solely around being "aspirational" concerns, such as "being seen as 'cool' by my friends."

Similarly, brand equity can also have a "spiritual" element, as well as offering "satisfaction of the senses", and an array of further benefits linked to "smart shopping" and areas such as "nutrition".

Overall, however, while value may be seen in terms of "recognition by others" or as a "product or object which is recognised as valuable", Lal suggests that "once you look a little deeper, value is actually what a brand helps you become."

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by WARC staff