Monday, June 29, 2015

It’s the consumer, stupid!


When it comes to marketing, it’s not about you and your attitudes; it’s only the consumer that matters
There is a new film that is rocking the social media charts. It is a fairly long and yet exquisitely shot film titled “The Visit.” It is quite possible that you might have missed it because you were busy studying. I am told miracles like this actually happen at management school! So here it is for the benefit of the studious types.
As you can make out it is for a brand of fashion fabrics called Anouk which is being sold exclusively on Myntra, or so one presumes. There is a twist to the traditional tale as it is features two lesbian women who are in a live-in relationship. They are basically preparing for a visit by one of the girls’ parents. The brand is bold as per their offering and hence makes a statement that is in sync with the brand’s offering. What is a bold life style statement today? Being a single parent is passé as is perhaps smoking grass or giving up a job to backpack around the Himalayas. Yes, bold is beautiful is what the brand claims and that means announcing to the world i.e. your parents that you are a lesbian.
But first about the commercial
The commercial is a story interestingly told. There are two girls, one tall, beautiful in the classical sense and elegantly dressed while another one is shorter with short hair, cut to please her girlfriend. The film captures all the things women do while dressing up, choosing earrings, searching for kajal, seeking each other’s opinions on colours and styles. To add to the drama, one of the girls is obviously Tamilian as she keeps giving directions to her father, who is visiting, in Tamil. She also says half jokingly that her mother would not like the coffee which her friend would prepare as they are “pukka South Indians” thereby implying that they would prefer filter coffee. The climax is when she teases her friend saying that her mom does not like short hair which her friend is sporting. But when the girl demurs saying that it was her idea she says she likes it this way. And the film ends with her reassuring her friend that she is sure about them and she no longer wants to hide anything. They are ready to announce themselves to the world and the film ends with them embracing and cuddling each other and telling the world what we all know and the sign off is “bold is beautiful” a reference to the styling doubtless of the fabric. It is not so much a film about a brand of apparel as it is about a lifestyle. It could apply equally to lipstick, kajal or even lingerie. And it is for four minutes, nearly. Imagine what that might cost on Sony TV! But clearly this is for social media and relies on likes and shares for it to get the traction the brand is seeking.
Now about you
So what do you feel about the commercial? Does it offend your sensitivities? Do lifestyles like this annoy you? I was a Mylapore boy and even talking to your best friend’s sister in the street in broad daylight was frowned upon in those days. Of course that was three decades ago whereas today it seems you can flaunt your gay status. But it is important that whatever my background, it should not prevent me from working on brands that are not meant for me and it is even more critical that I don’t carry my biases to the work place. Remember marketing is all about putting yourself in the consumer’s shoes, also called empathy. If the consumer for Myntra likes the visit then the Brand Manager had better set his biases aside and think only about the brand and the consumer.
So what must you do?
Many of us sadly carry our own biases to the work place: My language is the best. Everyone watches Star Sports, the best writers are convent educated, ‘Friends’ is the only TV serial worth watching. The problem with biases like these is that while you can be a pain in your personal life and get away with biases and pet theories, marketing is far more complex. The most important thing is to think, feel, watch like your consumer. Only then will you be able to reach out to her. The greatest challenge we must work on is our attitude. We must be non-judgemental and accept our consumer the way she is. Don’t erect barriers to yourself in understanding her and if you are the Brand Manager of Myntra and even if you don’t like the visit, go with it. The only consideration has to be -- “does my consumer like it?”
That is the key to success in marketing, and if I may add, in life.

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