ITL #413 Managing brand communication: India as a learning ground1 year, 5 months ago
India is a fast-paced, energetic and ‘emotional’ economy which presents a myriad of learning opportunities for brand management and communications professionals. By Siddhartha Mukherjee.
If you have experienced working for the Indian market – on the client or the agency side – then you are pretty well orientated to tackle any other world market. India can well be your world school to learn, or at least orient yourself, about the art and science of Brand Communications Management.
Over the last decade or so, both India and India Inc. have become powerful expressions to reckon with.
For many decades, the world has accrued learnings in the domain of managing personal and business life cycles from this great country. Now, the Indian market is emerging as a library of references and anecdotes in the niche domain of managing brand communication cycles. There is a chapter or learning for every situation.
Let’s look at some key areas of learning:
- Managing brand emotions and associated complexities: A brand is about emotions. This fundamental dynamic makes India a classic learning ground. India, apart from other descriptors, is also defined as an emotional economy. Each phase of creating, establishing and sustaining a business and the brand go through a major share of emotionally charged positive and negative ramifications. Regulatory, geo-political, social, cultural and many other dynamics compounded by market heterogeneity ensure that the Brand Owners and the entire Communications Machinery always have their hands overflowing managing peaks and troughs of stakeholder emotions.
- Fast decision to execution: A good thing about businesses in India is that the time between a business decision (proaction or reaction) and its execution is relatively one of the fastest. The gap between the time a business idea or initiative is approved by brand owners to it being communicated across relevant stakeholders is quite small. This is a blessing for both normal and crisis business situations. We are aware of multiple cases where multinational brands have been through challenging times purely because of the lack of fast response time or delay in communication implementation. The Indian Brand Communication fraternity’s response and delivery time is one of the fastest.
- Corporate communications moving closer to C-suite: Contribution of public relations towards the creation and sustenance of both corporate and product brands has increased phenomenally. The average time spent between Chief Communications Officer and the internal C-suite desks today stands at around 2.5-3.0 hours per day. This is a good jump from what it was a decade back. C-suites have started involving their CCO’s at business planning meetings, carve separate budgets and urge them to go beyond media relations or news management desks. The real definition of account planning is coming into effect. The KRAs are being redesigned & ERPs (Efforts, Resources & Processes) re-engineered to achieve business outcome and not just news coverage output. Of course, this also brings a huge intervention of ROO and ROI measurement and evaluation matrices.
- Time and effort investment by industry captains: India is taking the much spoken “PR needs PR” rhetoric to its logical conclusions. C-suites have started making public appearances to declare their growing love for public relations. Second, Chief Communication Officers and Agency Heads are investing a high amount of time to train and upgrade the industry talent through intensive training programmes. Separately, the way leaders are closely working with the academia towards raising futuristic talent is another hallmark of their efforts.
- Balanced use of AI and human intelligence: Data Intelligence plays a central role in listening to the mood of the stakeholders, arrive at brand insights and brand performance evaluation. While many markets have gone ahead with over dependency on AI and ML led systems and processes, India (and Indians) despite the country being one of the cutting-edge technology providers, have stayed away from over use. The Industry still believes in a good mix of manual intervention in data creation, its management and insight generation.
- C-suites nudging second-in-line to communicate: India is probably one of the few countries where C-suites have started nudging the second-in-line or tier two executives to become spokespersons. This has many benefits and is going a long way in creating a ONE VISION corporate and marketing communications brand reputations machinery. This is not dare-delivery but a signal of a growing cohesive work atmosphere across management and execution desks.
- Encouraging Diversity & Inclusion: The Indian Brand Communications industry is leading the way. Its work culture has been as absorbing and accommodating as the country has been known for historically. The industry talent pool is already quite a healthy mix of women, people from different cultures, races, ethnicity, etc.
- Learnings from India’s unorganized sector: As brand communication professionals, we aspire to work for or represent client brands which come from corporate/structured corridors of the economy. However, many are oblivious to the learnings which come from the unorganized or marginalized sectors. 50% of India’s GDP comes from this unorganized sector. This sector represents brands which are certainly small; tiny, when compared to the structured large corporate giants. However, these offer amazing learnings as they dish out multiple product categories from the same shelf. Examples come from local tea and food stalls, vegetable and fruit shops, fashion outlets, automobile workshops, home utility products, etc. which are retailed through street pavements, local markets and ecommerce. The way these businesses manage their brand across stakeholders is far more structured and systematized than what we know of. Therefore, the question to understand is: What SOPs do India’s unorganized sectors use for brand management without securing professional management degrees from universities or hiring brand communication specialists.
- Innovative use of research, data and evaluation: The Indian PR & Corporate Communications Industry has come forward with high level use and dependency on both Secondary & Primary Research. The way India’s brand management research and data analytics has evolved locally is a case study. A variety of start-ups to leading global giants have lined up to the growing hunger for Research, Analytics and Evaluation. The use of high-quality Data & Analytics is helping the PR and CorpComm industry speak “CXO language” and not their own “PR language”.
India is a wonderful learning ground for brand management professionals aspiring to be experts of the world market.
Siddhartha Mukherjee is the founder of Brand Balance, India’s first and only ERP (Efforts, Resources & Processes) Management Consultancy for the C-Suite-CCO Collective. Its mission is to take the PR & Corporate Communications industry closer to the boardroom and position it as a revenue centre.mail the author
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