labels: advertising/branding
Finding Ms Bigbuynews
Our Advertising & Marketing Bureau
10 April 2004

Most well-known agencies have one and flaunt it unabashedly to attract clients.

We are talking of tools that indicate when they should 'talk' with their potential customers to catch them at their receptive best. A research tool can even suggest a sales approach that's most likely to work with a certain kind of an individual.

Under fierce competitive pressure, marketers have begun to take a closer look at potential buyers, analysing even their mood swings through various parts of the day and in different parts of India. Suddenly, understanding the consumer has become more crucial than ever to professional marketers and, therefore, research has assumed invaluable significance. Research throws up data that can guide clients to how much they should invest and the targets they should aim at.

In November last year, Rediffusion Dentsu Young & Rubicam Pvt. Ltd. unveiled its Brand Asset Valuator (BAV), a tool that the agency's planning director, K Subramanian calls a "robust study of the urban Indian consumer". This proprietary tool, which has been administered in more than 35 countries, has also been tailored to suit the Indian market. The Indian version encompasses 3,000 respondents and 1,350 brands in Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Guntur, Ranchi, Rajkot and Lucknow.

Other agencies, too, have developed their brand tracking tools. These tools can reveal consumer preferences such as: would customers who buy a particular brand of car also opt for a particular brand of television, given that the image of the car and television brands, in the customers' mind, are in keeping with a certain image they have of themselves?

Such insights help agency creative teams zero in on a brand positioning strategy that's most likely to work in favour of the brand in the customers' mind. These tools also plot and correlate the image in the customers' mind of other appliances such as refrigerators and microwave ovens.

These tools also reveal the 'rub-off' effect of celebrity endorsements on a brand's association with a particular brand ambassador and the degree of strength or weakness, which a celebrity brings to the brand, in the perception of specific consumers. Similarly, the tool can quantify perceptions of brand ambassadors such as cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, actress Aishwarya Rai or film star Amitabh Bachchan.

A customer who buys cars, for instance, explains Ram Sehgal, group adviser, Rediffusion DYR, also buys a television set (or two), a microwave oven and a refrigerator. But given the brand of vehicle customers choose, a tool can predict with reasonable accuracy the choice of other appliances they may make It indicates to clients where their brand is in relation to its competition. "It's a business tool more than an advertising tool," says Sehgal.

Research is in, all right. Grey Worldwide's strategic planning division, Grey Cells, has been working on a survey of women in the 19-to-24 age group, determine how attitudes have changed over time and to get the drift of impending change. The researchers spoke at length to 4,000 women across five metropolitan cities and four mini-metros over a six-month period. Their study revealed widespread changes in social attitudes.

Traditional attitudes are crumbling. Women would rather have a husband who can hold his drink than a teetotaller. There is greater acceptance of dating, smoking and drinking. And although the woman would make efforts to keep her marriage intact, she would not shy away from the possibility of a divorce should the situation deteriorate beyond repair. In short, the dividing line between a "good girl" and a "naughty girl" is blurring and it seems it will blur further.

Agencies use their research findings in generating their creative inputs for television commercials and scripts or even conceptualising campaigns. Grey, for instance used its research findings to show a playful couple that does not care too much about its clothes getting soiled over a mucky football; they frolic in the mud after he kicks the foot at her.

The interesting thing is that she responds instead of being coy and hiding behind a tree (and breaking out into song). Of course, their washing machine does the rest. According to an executive at the agency, "We had half a mind to have her give him a friendly knock-out in the mud because that's the way things are going."

Women do not mind living with their in-laws so long as they have their own space. In-laws are considered convenient to have so that they can continue to work even after having children. This indicates to the agency the opening up of a new market segment - working mothers. Indeed, the study discovered that women put careers and financial independence very high in their priorities and are taking the guilt out of impulse shopping. That means when agencies create advertising messages that sell impulse-buy products, they need to factor in women in the target audience as well in order to be more effective.

Research is all about being more effective in getting increased value for the client's rupee. So late last year, Japanese advertising agency, Hakuhodo Inc., a partner of the Percept group, brought to India its Global Habit Brand Navigator. This tool uses a proprietary database of results from the agency's Global Habit survey of sei-katsu-sha - a Japanese term that represents understanding of people with lives, preferences and values that go beyond the goods and services they consume.

The study is an attempt to get into the very essence of the consumer and to find out what he or she actually is and would like to be. Consequently the study probes a person's preferences such as hobbies, dining, entertainment, the gadgets they own and how they perceive brands and their own values. For the marketer it is important to know what people do with their private time.

Global Habit Brand Navigator, first conducted in 2000, is updated every year and covers about 18,000 people, in the 15-to-54 year age-group in 30, mainly south east Asian markets. The study collected information on 150 brands in 27 categories so that it could plot a client's preference of brands to get a fair idea of his or her lifestyle and analyse the chances that this personality type would buy a certain product. The marketing message can be tailored accordingly to influence the customer by creating the desired perception in his or her mind. This will make a big difference to a client's investment in a particular brand in a given market.

FCB-Ulka Advertising's research tool, Chess, is an exercise in competitive strategy. It helps a strategist to make the best decision based on the market scenario. The agency claims, "It enables you to anticipate your competitor's moves and develop countermoves to defend against them. The ultimate goal of Chess is to help clients acquire a foundation of invaluable and unique intelligence upon which to base their decisions."

Chess works on the premise that three key pillars largely define every company's marketplace behaviour. These are beliefs and value systems (culture), what they know (content) and how they do things (processes). And by understanding these key drivers you can unveil the personality and mindset of your competition.

Besides, the agency identifies a competitor's Achilles' Heel. The premise is that every competitor's core strength has a downside. If this weakness is exploited adroitly, the competitor may not be able to respond because eliminating such a weakness would mean sacrificing its core strength.

At the end of the day, the tools of research are devised to focus on boosting bottom lines because in an increasingly competitive environment that's what matters.

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