Consumer habits have changed which means a shakeup is due: Rana Barua, Havas Group India

Rana Barua SAMMIE 2020 interview

In an exclusive conversation with Social Samosa, Rana Barua from Havas Group India, Jury Chair (Media), sheds light on the evolving trends and the changing landscape in the A & M Industry.

With over 2 decades of experience in the A & M Industry, Rana Barua, Group CEO, Havas Group India shares the evolving trends and the fundamental adaptations needed as we continue to embrace the New Normal in 2021.

Barua speaks about the changing consumer behavior and how it has catalysed changes in advertising & marketing too, creating new trends in its wake. He also shares tips for brands entering Best Social Media Brands, with traits he will be looking for in the entries.

Edited Excerpts:

A lot has been said about the A & M industry changing post the pandemic. What according to you are 3 of the biggest changes the industry has seen from before and after the virus? 

There have been many fundamental adaptations to the challenging new environment, but some key changes that we are all observing that will surely have a long-term impact are:

  • Digital transformation and a greater acceptance/adoption in consumer habits of the same. Shopping, education, meetings, entertainment, luxury, social interactions – many such are any marketers’ basics in their lexicon for a brand strategy which all now have a ‘whole new meaning.’
  • A clear shift to how we were consuming content across many mediums. Be it movies, sports, or even news. Habits have changed which means a shakeup is due and the emergence of new mediums, channels, content, and also conversations are in order.
  • Brands need to demonstrate strong meaningful ideas and conversations that resonate and connect strongly with the consumers to garner loyalty.

In spite of the production halt, content became a major communication medium during the pandemic. Right from UGC to remotely directed videos & content shot on phone – with content coming in abundance how do you think brands can stand out? Has content marketing come off age in the industry? 

Content marketing is here to stay. And that is the now and the future. You have to be ‘Always On’ as a brand and thus conversations or chatter that are relevant, topical, strategic – all forms of content will be required. It is no more sporadic or long term.

While a large idea or thought positions the brand in a competitive cluttered space and creates the aura and relevance, branded content and marketing the same keeps it fresh and makes it a dynamic brand that people relate and talk about.

With the production & distribution cycle coming to a screeching halt, most brands had to switch marketing gears during the lockdown. With most brands communicating to engage & connect with the consumers, do you think the age of meaningful brands has been ushered? Any tips for brands attempting to create meaningful engagement with their consumers?

It is one of the biggest changes the pandemic has ushered in. At Havas, we have our ‘Meaningful Brands’ study that clearly demonstrates the fact that the brands need to engage with consumers with more meaningful conversations. Transparency & honesty is at an all-time high time.

According to our recent Meaningful Brands® 2020: COVID edition study 58% of the consumers want brands to become more transparent & honest about their processes and products.

Consumers expect nothing less than the highest standards of safety & hygiene from the brands in the times of COVID-19. They want brands to reassure and ignite confidence in them regarding the safety standards they follow.

Influencer marketing emerged as an effective tactic during the lockdown, however, issues around the authenticity of influencer communities, parameters of measurement continue to exist. How do you see influencer marketing progressing in 2021? Any trends you foresee in the segment?

Influencer marketing is a critical and effective mix of the overall marketing strategy. The bigger challenge though will be cognizance of the fact that it is a responsible adoption of brand influence and habit induction by popular and well-known faces and people in their fields of expertise.

We cannot as responsible marketers spread false information or misuse this effective tool.

As a trend, if influencers are clearly unbiased and transparent it will surely work well because it works on the scale of popularity.

Also read: SAMMIE BSMB 2020: Revealing the esteemed Jury Panel

Digital marketing spends have increased in the last few months. Do you see digital spends surpassing television in the coming months? 

Not really. I see it will keep increasing its pie and share of its pie, but in India – TV will always be the preferred medium because of its enormous reach and thus where the marketing spends will be prioritised for many years to come.

As the Jury Chair (Media) for BSMB 2020, what is the one thing you will be looking for in entries? 

Originality, Ingenuity, Effectivity – of the idea.

One message that you would like to share with brands & agencies as they battle on towards the Road of Recovery 

Stay committed to the purpose of the stated brand promise and have a clear meaningful reason for existence.

This unprecedented time will pass very soon, and many habits and behavior will be back like before. So, the relationship that we keep building with the consumers, and the strong role we continue to play in their lives will matter more than before.


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