The emerging class consumer remains the last frontier for many advertisers as an opportunity for large-scale growth.
It has many different interpretations: ‘media dark’, ‘media live’, ‘low income’, ‘up country’, ‘semi-urban’, ‘rural migrants’ and so on. The reality is that all these definitions are applicable and relevant. The secret lies in choosing the most appropriate and valuable segment for brands.
In the last few years, the infrastructure to reach each of these segments has changed significantly. For example, mobile is now a content provider, channel and campaign manager. The channels of communication and the areas of influence differ drastically, with the single largest barrier being lack of insight and understanding of them — the result of most investments historically being made with the popular urban audiences — the segments we all live in and are familiar with.
The challenge is not to change preferences or in selling benefits, rather to change behaviour. The job is to focus on the community, try to build category and ultimately sell habits.
This requires a fundamental mindset shift. It has to be personal. It has to be customised, and above all it requires investment in consumer insights.
The best way to mine insight on a large scale is to set a hypothesis and test it with a pilot. The hypothesis must not be just about consumer behaviour but across the entire marketing value chain from product form to consumption. To date we have launched large-scale pilots testing the hypothesis across, not just markets or countries but across 60 socio-cultural regions across ASEAN. Sumatra is different from Java and Kalimantan. Mekong is different from North Central Coast of Vietnam. Even within a state in India, Vidarbha is different from Coastal Maharashtra.
I do not think any other client invests in insights the way Unilever does. It has a serious commitment to developing a richness of knowledge that provides greater insights into the vast diversity of these segments. This is all about category development — not brand growth — with the focus right now on health and hygiene, which is so important in these segments. We still have a long way to go, but we are well on the journey.
Gowthaman Ragothaman is COO, Asia-Pacific, with Mindshare