26 September 2006

It’s time India and the West shared their marketing intel

How do Indian, global and MNC brands survive and succeed in this madness of a market that India is?

Going by the boom in the Indian economy, that’s a multi-billion-dollar question that many marketers want answered. Keeping aside the luck factor, obviously, marketers in India are doing something right. At the core of their marketing ethos is their ability to embrace India’s ethnicity and not challenge it – nor insult it, nor impose upon it – by offering one product or brand that fits all consumer segments.

Applying a global marketing formula for India isn’t necessarily the best a foreign brand can do. Just because a brand has succeeded in the United States or Europe – or even Brazil or Singapore – for half a century (or more) does not mean it’ll top the charts in India as well. MNC brands like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Nike, Reebok, Motorola, Levi’s, Ford, IBM, among others, including famous Hollywood films, have had their setbacks and have finally resorted to more amenable offerings for the Indian consumer.

The buying habits of Indian consumers differ according to regional preferences (geography), religion, cultural and socio-economic conditions. Not that these conditions don’t apply to other countries, but, in India, consumer ‘idiosyncrasies’ which determine buying behaviour have been embedded over thousands of years. Successful Indian marketers have accepted this diversity, taken the trouble to understand the sentiments (not just the habits) of Indian consumers, found ways to reach out to them, and persuade them to buy the brands which they will benefit from.

However, this is one-half of the story. Indian marketers lack in the left-brained structured approach to marketing which is the domain of Western marketers. Indian marketers come up short in terms of building systems and procedures; in conducting the enormous amounts of research that are needed to understand consumers and markets; in terms of the analytics that go with this research; and in terms of building marketing and communication models which have launched so many successful brands in the West. There is much that Indian marketers can learn from their Western adversaries.

Maybe it’s time India and the West shared their marketing intelligence.

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