I have just added a new marketing blog called Customer World to my lists on the right. It is written by Sivaraman Swaminathan, a marketing exec from India that specializes in one-to-one marketing, a very experiential thing indeed. I very much appreciate his thoughts and deliberations on a variety of topics, most notably, on going beyond customer loyalty or the distillation of lessons learned from Wal-Mart.
In fact, I have been pleasantly astounded to read exceptional marketing blogs revolving around consumer-centric, guerrilla and experience-based marketing from some very interesting countries – especially India, South Africa, Brazil, Kenya, Argentina, Bahrain and Turkey. On the Experiential Marketing Forum, I see daily posts from marketers working and thriving in these locales. Why?
If we were to take a relativist global outlook, the marketing that we here in North America conduct essentially revolves around selling products and services in a hemispheric marketplace where it’s fairly easy to motivate the average consumer.
But what about the majority of the world, which is comprised of much poorer nations? Latin America has the world’s worst income distribution, Africa is perpetually in the throes of poverty with the consequent double whammy of social and economic unrest, Asia hides behind a Potemkin village of prosperity that masks deep economic disparities and dismal individual purchasing power.
Consequently, marketing in the developing world is a tough job. But if necessity is the mother of invention, then marketers in emerging markets are coming up with unique, innovative and outright exemplary marketing strategies.
Why should I care about non-competing firms pursuing a consumer that can’t afford my clients’ products anyway? Because there is a large strata of consumers in North America that are so resistant to mainstream brands and are so stingy toward major purchases that marketing to them may mean looking for examples from marketers in the developing world.
A growing slice of the consumer base who don’t (or can’t) eagerly translate traditional marketing into purchases – for instance, students and the low-income youth underground who are frequently un(der)employed and media-cynical — are many times more affluent than the average Nigerian or Chilean, but their lagging propensity to purchase impose a need for some creative marketing. Popconsorcio
In Brazil, a country plagued by high inflation and outrageous interest rates, buying a vehicle is extremely price-prohibitive. In response, Brazilians have come to rely on pooling money with other buyers to form a “consorcio.”
A number of buyers pool small payments and at the end of each month a lucky winner is chosen by lottery to use the car for the month. If enough people chip in, two cars may be distributed, one by chance and the other going to the person that contributed the most that month.
What a great idea for a North American automaker when marketing to the student consumer (or first-time buyer). A car for this psychographic is a refuge from parents and pressure, new-found mobility and freedom, as well as the prime catalyst for entering the consumer mentality and “growing up.”
But purchase, insurance and maintenance of a car are also huge financial strains. As bundled services and payment options have become a commodity among car suppliers, a fearless marketer can take these operations to the next level with a consorcio-type model, and the first to respond to them will be the youth demographic – because it’s new, peer-based and experiential.
A mainstay in practically all Third World habitats is the street vendor, usually lugging a make-shift cart or tray to hawk a slew of individually packaged products: cigarettes, candy, toothpaste, lottery tickets, batteries, etc.
Consequently, the Mexican producer of Mentos candies introduced packaging for 11 pieces instead of 14 sold in the US, and display boxes that feature 12 boxes instead of 24, to sell more effectively to both peso-strapped consumers and wholesalers who sell predominantly to small street vendors and newspaper kiosks. In India, the world’s largest market for shampoo, the leaders of the sector all sell single-usage sachets for a few rupies.
This “smaller is better” mentality is easily transmutable to the youth and young adults who are constantly bumming smokes off of each other, not wanting to dish out on a whole pack, or their single-usage needs for No-Doz, aspirins, batteries or cleaning products. It already exists in thousands of bar bathrooms: where else can you buy a single pack of French ticklers, cologne, feminine products and just one mint or antacid?
I recently returned from a trip to Argentina and Uruguay, where economic depression has wreaked havoc on consumer purchasing power and further increased the amount of begging on the streets. The need for a point of differentiation has led many of these unfortunates to master juggling in order to eek out a few pesos from pedestrians and drivers stranded in the ubiquitous city traffic — to basically market themselves for a successful transaction in a sea of competition.
How much different this approach is to the typical North American panhandler, whose only modus operandi is an outstretched hand and a look of undeserved shock when the hand-outs don’t come.
I hope not to make an asinine comparison, but this difference can be analogous to marketing practices here and there, to the rich and to the poor. The poor work harder, and so do the marketers trying to reach them.