05 October 2017 13:25:37 IST

Understand your consumers to create powerful ads

Consumer insights are waiting to be observed and acted upon. The key is observation

It’s no secret that India (particularly, its youth) is addicted to mobile phones. According to Nielsen, the number of smartphone users has risen from 130 million in May 2014 to 180 million in May 2016.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that every mobile maker in China and his brother-in-law is in the country! Whatever be the political tension between these two Asian superpowers, there is no shortage of selfies being taken on Chinese phones in India. Even as the customer beams at the camera, the manufacturers and marketers of the brands in question smile their way to the bank.

If mobiles are growing at such a rate, can services be far behind? The overall smartphone usage has been multiplying, with the Indian consumer spending 178 minutes (on an average) a day on shopping, banking, entertainment, music and other activities.

As a consequence, the mobile services category is one of the most exciting advertising categories to work on today, replacing the Cola of my times, in terms of attraction to creative people.

I’ll give you a missed call

The easiest way to open a conversation when you are in a room full of strangers is to talk about your mobile services. You’ll suddenly discover how the room is full of similarly aggrieved customers, who complain about call drops being worse than Indian slip fielders, networks being as sluggish as the Australian batsmen’s footwork against Indian spin, and a service that is best not spoken about.

In a nutshell, all brands are equally bad when it comes to service. The only differentiating factor is the advertising. So what do you do when you have to advertise a product that is similar in features and service to its competition? You look for consumer insights. And what does is this oft-quoted, yet misunderstood term in marketing, mean? According to brandgymblog, it is: “A discovery about your consumer that opens the door to an opportunity for your brand.”

And just how do you make this discovery? By observing the consumer and playing back your observations creatively to her via different communication media, so that when she sees the ad, she says, “Hey, is this about me?”

How often do we pay attention to something when it is about us? Almost all the time. So here’s a quick jog of your memory to Airtel’s youth campaign that resonated extremely well with the youngsters — every young Indian could relate to the heros and their friends in these ads. Even though the two commercials were aired years ago, they still work.

Oops! I dropped my phone again

One of the most commonly distressing habits of people is their amazing propensity to drop their phones. Samsung latched on to this and offered a ‘one time screen replacement’ for all of us casual, careless mobile phone users.

Here’s a commercial, which has two distracted young men bumping into each other and promptly dropping their phones. One of them is fortunate enough to have a Samsung phone and is secure in the knowledge that the screen can be replaced; the other, unfortunately, can only look on in horrified silence.

As far as commercials go, this probably lacks the appeal of the Airtel commercials you saw earlier. But it does have a powerful insight — of phone dropping — that overshadows the ordinary picturisation and acting of the models.

Not just the ad agency’s responsibility

All around us, consumer insights are waiting to be observed and acted upon. The key is observation. Sadly, many of us ‘see’ without ‘observing’ and ‘hear’ without ‘listening’. Don’t abdicate the discovery of insights to your ad agency — it is your brand and your consumer.

Walk in their shoes, live their life, go through their pains and empathise with them. You will observe interesting things about what they feel, experience and care about. And remember, insights by themselves are useless. They must be integrated with your product or service’s usage. Like the insight about missed calls is brilliant for Airtel, but will not work for Nike.

And this leads me to a slightly uncomfortable question: when did you last have a consumer insight on your brand?