Not too long ago, building an FMCG brand was about market surveys and establishing distribution networks. The new social-digital paradigm has decimated most if not all advantages of the distribution network and market information as an indomitable asset. We now operate in a world where information is available on a live wire. Customers and potential customers talk about and to the brand on real-time basis. Now it is the prerogative of the brand to listen to those voices and make the best of it. Consumer voices on social media are like an active information stock exchange.
From a linear process to a loop cycle
Brand building is now a complete loop process. Product needs are identified from consumer voices which then become a basis for new product development. The consumers then provide a feedback on the products themselves, which can be used for product enhancement. It would be incorrect to say that marketers have not been taking customer feedback. However, in the pre-social media era, the time taken between the collation of consumer feedback and any meaningful reaction was too large. It was safe to assume that by the time the product developers would react to the feedback, the market itself would have shifted. In today’s context, brands are expected to react fast and decisively to consumer feedback. Th is has put agility as a unique requirement for sustenance and growth of a brand.
Survival of the agile
A couple of decades ago, television ads were conveying the universal nature of brands. Brands tried to establish themselves as a universal solution to different age groups. Demographic segmentation was rather limited. “Bachhe, budhe aur jawan, pahne ‘Young India’ baniyan’” (kids, elderly, and the youth, all wear ‘Young India’ baniyan’). Products tried to establish universal applicability in a multitude of situations. “Boroline smoothes away winter dryness and summer rashes and aids in curing minor cuts and wounds”. Brand recognition and trust were the primary goals to be attained. Over a period of time, the India market has expanded considerably. Market segmentation now requires a rather micro-scoped approach than ever before. Consumers are openly voicing their personal uniqueness and their specifi c needs. Th e products need to be defi ned for these unique segment demands. Listening to consumer demands is critical in shaping up the product portfolio under a brand. An agile product management and brand portfolio management is required. Products and brands must evolve fast and evolve to be relevant in the market.
Brand and product life-cycle management
The market in today’s time requires the brands to evolve and reinvent themselves on a real-time basis. Th e customers share their opinion on a real-time basis and response is expected with commensurate speed. Consumers expect new product variants for specific use cases. Brands now have an opportunity to expand with line extension. Any unmet needs are an opportunity for smaller more agile players to create a space for themselves in the market.
The emergence of e-commerce has brought an immense change in the consumer goods landscape in India. While the availability of choice for the consumer is self-evident, the biggest changes are behind the screen. Until now ‘distribution’ was a game only the mighty and well-capitalized could play. A smaller brand invariably meant smaller geographic reach. Th e rise of e-commerce has democratized the distribution system in India. Now a small rising brand can serve the entire nation. All that is required is presence in a single warehouse. democratized the distribution system in India. Now a small rising brand can serve the entire nation. All that is required is presence in a single warehouse
Challenging the Goliath
If we recap the whole scenario, brands are now operating on an information stock exchange. Consumers are sharing their needs and feedback on a real-time basis. Faster, agile response to consumer opinions is a requirement to stay and grow in the market. Th e distribution capability is now accessible to young micro brands. Th is sets the stage for a perfect market disruption. Welcome to the age of start-ups in consumer goods.
Start-ups are an interesting species. With the markets operating as an information stock exchange, start-ups may be higher up on information than the larger incumbents. They are low on resources but high on spirits. With the democratization of distribution, limited resources go much farther these days. One also needs to mention the fact that there is now much greater ease of brand discovery with e-commerce as well as the ability to build an influencer driven viral brand through social media. Obviously, the e-commerce eco-system offers a great degree of potential for young brands and start-ups to quickly find their feet and build up.
An ideal start-up in consumer products should have a strong listening capability. It should be agile and have the ability to react faster than the larger peers. It should tap the information stock exchange and build brands as a two-way process. Th e game has just begun and there’s a lot waiting to happen.