Marketers must study the greater role of digital in the consumer’s life: Rana Barua

Rana Barua

Rana Barua, Group CEO, Havas Group India on the changing industry dynamic as the consumer behaviour evolves in the face of gradual unlock and new normalcy.

As offices open up, consumers begin stepping out, the travel sector revivers, and overall the world inches back to the Normal, the Indian Advertising & Marketing industry too saw a dramatic change. Rana Barua, Group CEO, Havas Group India interview tells Social Samosa that AdSpends across sectors are almost at pre-pandemic levels.

Barua sheds light on how the consumers’ approach towards brands has changed, as their basic needs and demands change as well.

Edited Excerpts:

As the economy begins to open post the pandemic – what are some of the key media & marketing trends seen in the Indian context?

Consumer confidence continues to rise, and we are witnessing it through our market intelligence, our conversations with clients, our work, and various industry directories, and whitepapers. According to some key market research, consumers embraced five years’ worth of digital adoption just eight weeks into the pandemic. This reflects the way consumers spent, interacted, and kept themselves engaged.

However, apart from digital and many other dynamic changes, we are witnessing some key consumer trends. The pandemic upended brand loyalty, for a variety of reasons ranging from lack of availability to new motivations. Consumers have either decreased the number of brands they were using in pre-pandemic times or have embraced new brands and products.

There is a meteoric rise of several indigenous brands that gained a lot of traction during the pandemic. These brands are investing heavily in both advertising and distribution. The top-league, large marketers now want to put the pandemic behind them and have once again become aggressive.

New product launches and renewed interest in setting more ambitious objectives for brands are all back.

Customer Experience or CX has become a critical area for brands and several marketers are still scrambling in this space. This needs to be tackled immediately as it’s here to stay. The ability to turn data into actionable insight has also assumed higher importance than ever before in marketing.

And finally, trends like Metaverse, and NFT, which are niche will gain momentum.

Consumer behaviour has changed dramatically in the last two years. What are some of the consumer consumption trends that have emerged in the last two years?

A lot of the trends we saw in the last two years were reactions to the pandemic and living under disruption. As the pandemic recedes, some of these will lose strength, and many will continue. For instance, hygiene awareness has increased manifolds, especially amongst urban consumers and will remain strong. The focus on overall health and nutrition concerns will also continue to be strong. Similarly, in many categories, digital adoption is here to stay, and the consumer will toggle between pre-pandemic behaviours and new ones, like online medical consultation, increased role of e-commerce in many new categories, hybrid workspaces, staycations, emphasis on work-life balance, will continue to have a lasting impact for some time.

As more members of the GenZ enter the working group segment with disposable income at hand, what kind of purchase patterns are seen among the youth?

As they are at the entry-level, their purchase motivations are very different and many categories like housing, automobiles, etc, do not qualify on this list.

GenZ is extremely evolved, and they want to make an impact in the world through the brands they purchase.

They seek more transparency, accountability and a beneficial impact on the community and environment from brands and corporates. Many of them have experienced the pandemic as a defining moment in their youth and it will probably impact them in a more lasting manner than older generations.

With the changing consumption trends, how do brands need to realign their approach toward media spends? Any tips on what brands & agencies need to keep in mind before creating a media blueprint?

Consumer behaviour and the way media is consumed today have undergone tectonic shifts. Mobile has become the first port of contact for reaching any consumer today. Digital has overtaken print as the second-highest reach medium after television. OTT platforms too have grown exponentially in the last two years. For brands this means, understanding where the consumers are and creating a marketing plan by putting this at the core.

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While the penetration of digital marketing is way higher than it was 2 years ago – brands still tend to stick to the basics. Please share your thoughts on the same

What we have seen is a rapid adoption of digital by consumers and therefore by brands. As it becomes more mainstream and a regular part of the brand’s media planning, the usage will become more evolved. That evolution will be determined by the consumer demographics of a particular brand and the role digital plays within that category.

Marketing must study the greater role of digital in the consumer’s life and then ask itself how it can maximise its relationship with the consumer using digital mediums.

What are some of the AdSpends trends seen in this year? Which categories will be the biggest spenders?

We are extremely bullish about the ad spends this year. In most categories, the spends are back to the pre-pandemic days. We are also very confident about the festive period this year. Apart from the traditional categories like FMCG, consumer durables, automobile, and BFSI, a lot of new-age brands in the FinTech, FoodTech & EdTech categories have been actively advertising.

As consumers get more aware & digital-savvy, the power of intent plays an even bigger role. As a marketing veteran, what is your opinion on the power of intent & how can it be used to drive full-funnel objectives?

This year we have launched Havas Content and Havas Market. This is a sign of the changing times and market needs. It is also a clear indication of where the market is headed. Search is a great indicator of intent. Brands need to devise ways and means of engaging with consumers when they search for a product/category. Content will therefore play a critical role in driving lower funnel conversations. Content is no longer something that you do as a feel-good factor. It needs to be strategic and thorough to derive the best possible outcomes for brands.


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