Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Paradox of Consumptive Evolution in Marketing

Consumption is good, but up to a certain level. It must ensure a sustainable and positive quality of life.

Why should I join the league in taking this world at the verge of collapse?

You might find the above question out of context as far as Ask Harish Bijoor is concerned.

Till now I boasted and felt proud of being among the sharpest and brightest minds of India or probably the whole world. But now, during my last few days of my MBA, when I look back over the last 17-odd months, what I see is that all I have learned is how to spread consumerism and thus, unhappiness. We are taught how to sell more than two mobile phones to the same customer when he can easily do with one; how to ‘connect’ people by making them talk more and moreover call rather than encourage them to meet each other; how to influence ‘impulse’ buying even when the object’s not on the customer’s list. The list is long and never-ending. We call ourselves strategists?

_ Ankush Lal, Lucknow

Ankush, nothing is out of context at all. All questions are really good and correct. It is the answers that are wrong. It is the answers that are out of context most of the time.

I like your question. You ask because you think. And you think long-term, quite unlike the harried marketer of the day and his ‘short-termism’.

I do believe consumption has a glass ceiling. Consumption is good, up to a level. It must be all about ensuring a good, sustainable and positive quality of life to all concerned in a consumer society. The height of the glass ceiling is really common to all.

If you peek keenly at what is happening in urban India, there is some cause for distress for sure. The marketer of the day is going a bit berserk in some categories. Selling has two dimensions: Selling of the necessities and selling of the un-necessities. Both are two sides of the same coin. There is a thin line that divides the necessity from the un-necessity. Is a refrigerator a necessity? Is a cigarette lighter an un-necessity? Is a Swarovski diamond an un-necessity?

The answers are contextual to a society on the rise, the rising income levels of a people, the yen for convenience and lifestyle, and most certainly the disjointedness of a society with the real way of living, as opposed to the new virtual way of living.

Consumers go through cycles of living. In the beginning they are satisfied with the real and natural things of life and living that surround them. They are happy with what they get. As they earn more and as they make progress happen, they seek out more. This is when they move from the basic and real things in life to the created and virtual joys of convenient living. And then finally, there will come a time when they will get fed up with it all, and will want to regress to the real and natural way of living.

In different societies, the point to note is that different clusters of people exist at different levels of what I call consumptive evolution. For example, in the US, a seventh-generation marketing economy, the size of the pie of each of these three clusters could vary. The early-stage market for real and basic is very small. All under 1 per cent of market. The size of market for the created and higher end virtual joys is as large as 86 per cent. The third category of the self-actualising consumer fed up with it all and wanting the real joys of natural living once again is as big as 13 per cent, and growing.

In an early second-generation marketing economy such as India, the size will surely vary. This is un-audited as of now, though.

I do believe marketers must be the ones to show self-governance and self-restraint. The marketer in India must not try to fast-pace the consumer onto the track of unwanted needs. Selling of the un-necessities as represented by the two-television set household and the three-car household is where there needs to be immediate restraint. Advertising as well has a role to play. It is time for restraint.

And this is where you come in, I guess. I do believe you must join the marketing bandwagon for sure. You must, however, join it at the responsible end of the spectrum. Minds such as yours can contribute a lot to bring purpose to marketing that can go, and has gone, awry in its besottedness with harvesting the new consumer in width and depth for every mobile phone and garment on tout.

Why should you join the league? To bring in responsibility. To bring in restraint. To bring in method to the marketing madness we see all around us. You will stand out like a sore thumb in the beginning. You will be pushed to a corner. You will be the maverick for a start. And then the world will follow.

Go for it, dude!

How does dominant ownership of a category impact brand valuation for the said brand in question?

- Jyotsna Tripathi, Mumbai

Jyotsna, owning a category is the biggest value-reap any company or brand can hope for. When you own a category, you alienate every other competitor, existing or new. You build barriers to entry which are rock-solid.

Brand valuation in categories totally owned are the highest for the owner of the category. The board game Monopoly owns the category, just as Scrabble owns the word games category. Valuation of these brands is the highest in the board games category.

(Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
This article is picked from my net surfing on brands and marketing and taken from Hindu Business Line , except the first few lines . I acknowledge all the views expressed in this article.

my views

India is no doubt becoming a high consumption society following the path of consumptive evolution like US. And, as a Marketeer , most of us are trying to sell all kinds of products, whether the consumer really needs it or not. As, a Sales and Marketing professional , would I do the same ? well, it depends but I feel that as a responsible marketeer , we need to understand the needs of consumer and design the product accordingly.
I also , feel that it should not be mistaken by upselling or cross selling the product, as upgrading the consumers is a perfectly ethical move by any sales or marketing person.
The focus is to make a genuine attempt to sell, and not fool the consumer becuase a untapped consumer is easy to win , but getting back a lost customer is a tough thing to do.