Industry leaders representing different sectors of Bangladesh came together for a roundtable discussion on 'Connecting evolving consumers with meaningful communication' on March 19, 2017 at The Daily Star Premises. The roundtable was organised by Kantar Millward Brown and The Daily Star. Kantar Millward Brown is a leading multinational research firm with over 40 decades of experience in advertising, media, brand equity research, and consulting. Nigel Hollis, Chief Global Analyst of Kantar Millward Brown, discussed and shared some valuable insights from over 30 years of experience in the industry.
The session was moderated by Professor Syed Ferhat Anwar of Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka. Syed Gousul Alam Shaon, Managing Partner & Country Head, Grey; Rajesh Ramakrishnan, CEO, PVM; Sabbir Hasan Nasir, Executive Director at ACI Logistics Limited; Shadab Khan, Managing Director – Bangladesh at Coca-Cola; Asif Iqbal, Executive Director Marketing at Meghna Group of Industries; Ashraf Taj, Managing Director, International Distribution Company Bangladesh (Pvt.) Ltd.; Aftab Khurshid, Marketing & Brand Catalyst; Solaiman Alam, Director, Marketing at Grameenphone Ltd.; Nazmul Karim Chowdhury, Senior Vice President and Head of Brand, The City Bank Limited; Syed Mahbub Ali, Head of Trade and Distribution at British American Tobacco Bangladesh; Muneer Ahmed Khan, MD, Unitrend (a McCann affiliate); Tajdin Hassan, Head of Marketing, The Daily Star; and Khandaker Samina Afrin, Country Manager, Kantar Millward Brown participated in the forum.
Professor Syed Ferhat Anwar set the tone for the afternoon: “Four categories of individuals are coming up very strongly. There is the youth, making up a huge population. Women are another category seeing stable growth. The third is the netizens. And there is yet another group that we time and again forget – the aging population, whose traits are entirely different from the others. These are evolving consumers and we need to address them.”
The discussion revolved around two communication strategies – gut feeling versus research and the use of digital data and research. Intense and thought provoking debates led to the basic understanding that even though the extent may vary among industries, the need for data and research in order to understand the consumer mindset is crucial for a marketer in this era. However, whether the decision made is affected by the research is a factor decided by the gut feeling, experience, and confidence of the marketer.
Sabbir Hasan Nasir commented, “The major problem today is the media mix. Millenials are more digitally sensitive, but at the same time, you have to be present in print or on television. I am not sure if the research and digital agencies here are even fully conversant with what we need because it is a completely new demand from us marketers.”
Asif Iqbal heavily emphasised on the need to test strategies: “When you are in doubt, when you do not know whether the positioning or the communication message that you would like to deliver will connect with consumers, you research on whether your method will work or if there are other ways of doing it. If you have second options, go back, and do a preview test to see if it is justified.”
“I frankly cannot say how much research can help with creativity itself. You have to do your research long before the creative process. Even 20 consumers cannot help me correct my final copy,” refuted Syed Gousul Alam Shaon.
Aftab Khurshid elucidated on exactly what kind of research marketers should be pursuing: “First of all, gut feeling depends on how many years of experience a marketer has or how observant he or she is. If I have doubts or if I have to make a more confident decision, it is critical to take up formal research which is objective oriented – clear and focused regarding what results it wants to achieve.”
Ashraf Taj added a new dimension to the floor: “When we asked students if they watch ads on their mobiles, 70 percent said they skip. So I feel the challenge for the industry is building capacity within itself for the right kind of content.”
Syed Mahbub Ali added, “Creative concept development should always be insight backed. Insight can come from the accumulated knowledge on consumers and the operating environment. The client and the agency must work hand in hand to prepare the creative brief and ensure full clarity. Once the brief is made, the agency can use secondary information to build the product. If time allows, going back to the consumers is always preferable in order to see how something has resonated with them. For research, I recommend both the creative agency and the client to go to the field to get a first-hand feel of the consumer. This helps to build consumer relevant and intriguing communications.”
Nazmul Karim pointed out: "Research allows me to have the gut feeling and experience to take bold decisions over time." Solaiman Alam also shared his experience: "I am a decision maker based on data. Being in the telecom industry, our decisions are heavily backed by data, be it big data or research."
The discussion of the use of digital data in advertising strategies was less controversial than the debate beforehand. Muneer Ahmed Khan said, “Digital data is critical for decision making, especially when the number of consumers in the digital arena is rising. But data analysis is what makes the difference.” The discussion further delved into how digital data may be wrongly analysed to interpret a conclusion that could possibly be misleading.
Tajdin Hassan added, “Growth of digital media has caused a strategic shift in both consumer behaviours and marketing expenditure. Consumers nowadays are more cautious than ever before. Hence marketers have to find innovative ways and creative routes to better connect with the consumers. Big media houses are also analysing reader profiles, which vary across channels like print, digital and multimedia, to develop and deliver contents accordingly.” Khandaker Samina Afrin similarly pointed out: "With the emergence of digital media, the media space has become very cluttered. Proper strategy is required to connect your consumer in this cluttered space."
The discussions also included the role of advertising agencies and market research agencies in the competitive and evolving business environment to make communication more meaningful. “Marketers need to understand that they must earn the attention of the consumers instead of assuming they already own it. This is the reason why consumers are gradually beginning to avoid ads – especially Generation Z,” commented Nigel Hollis, “Advertising should integrate creativity that resonates with people, so as to make the communication meaningful.”
The writer is a contributor at Next Step, The Daily Star