BrandZ India 2021 report broadly looks at the impact of the year’s multifaceted volatility on Indian brands, with a focus across FMCG, Non-FMCG and Technology brands. For the first time, the spotlight will be on the Most Purposeful Indian Brands across these business segments. In India and across the world, Purpose has emerged as one of the most important pillars of brand growth and equally, of brand marketing.
What makes Purpose the focus of this year’s report, unlike other years where brands were evaluated on Value? Storyboard18 speaks to Deepender Rana, executive managing director- South Asia, Insights Division, Kantar and Soumya Mohanty, managing director- Client and Quantitative, Insights Division, Kantar, to find out more.
In the BrandZ Report 2021, brands were evaluated on Purpose instead of value like previous years and this year you are spotlighting the Most ‘Purposeful’ Indian Brands across business segments instead of Most ‘Valuable’ Brands. Could you elaborate on what led to this shift in the way brands were evaluated?
Rana: This has been a year like no other. We started evaluating our own purpose in life and it’s no different for brands. They started evaluating why they exist, beyond making money for their shareholders, their connection with the consumers etc, so we felt that in these uncertain times, this idea of brands having a higher purpose, inspiring trust, became really critical and this is on top of mind of all marketers and clients that we talk to. They are really discovering their brand purpose and we felt that it is only fair that we started looking at this higher purpose. The second reason is that the stock market fell by 4 percent in two days, so there is a lot of fraught in valuations and it is time to discover something more long-term in terms of brand equity and we know purpose contributes to brand equity and sales in the longer term.2021 proved to be an especially interesting year to examine Purpose in the brands’ landscape. What are the changed consumer values and expectations from the brands? What are the key consumer trends?
Mohanty: Long-term brand building has come back into focus because of COVID, because of the pain and suffering we all went through. So, in terms of consumer trends at an overall level, there has been a greater consolidation of brands. We are choosing safe and reassuring bigger brands versus the experimentation that India was used to. So there is a reversal of what the trend normally used to be. We have moved from loose and unorganised to branded, which is a reversal of trend that we are used to seeing. There is a lot of desire for safe and comforting, bigger and reassuring brands and you see that in the brands that have done well in this space, whether it is Britannia or Maggi, basically brands that we have grown up with.
There are a lot of micro-trends, some of which have already receded. There was an entire period when people were worried about spending money, that has changed and a lot of pent up demand has come back and Diwali this year was record breaking. Sales were the highest in the last decade. There are multiple Indias right now and there always have been, but that gap has increased with COVID. While one is going for Diwali shopping, the other has gone back home and is not earning as much as they used to earlier. This multiplicity of behaviour means that purpose becomes that much more important because it provides an anchor in this kind of uncertain world that we are facing right now.
Rana: The other big trend has been the central role of technology. The role that tech brands play in our lives just got really magnified, whether it is ecommerce brands that bring convenience to your home or the online entertainment brands. Once these brands get embedded as habits they will endure.
You mentioned people are taking comfort in bigger legacy brands. What does that mean for smaller, challenger brands?
Mohanty: The thing about trends is that they emerge and they recede. Some amount of experimentation will come back. For example, people are starting to go out, so experience is coming back. The smaller and challenger brands will come back into the basket but they will have to in some way go beyond the functionality that they offer. The food-tech brands have done it very well. Whether it is Swiggy or Zomato, they became such a strong part of our lives in that phase that today we cannot think of a life before them. So tech brands will have to figure out the role that they play in consumers’ new lives which is hybrid - we want to stay home but we also want to go out. So, we have mixed trends that give brands tremendous opportunity to target wherever they wish to target.
Which brands stood out in the BrandZ Report? Take us through the rankings and the categories that did well?
Rana: We came out with the rankings for three categories, tech, FMCG and Non-FMCG. The most purposeful tech brands were Amazon, Zomato, YouTube, Swiggy and Flipkart. It’s a mix of brands that brought convenience to your home and they did it while keeping you safe and their frontline workers safe. Brands that provided a mix of information and entertainment. Google has always held itself to the purpose of being a trusted information provider.
Mohanty: For Non-FMCG - mobility brands, handset brands, brands that made our lives better. Thematically, it’s about convenience and how brands make your lives better.What are the things that brands need to keep in mind going forward, owing to this shift in consumer behaviour and how long are these trends likely to continue given how quickly consumer needs are evolving?
There are some trends that will recede, some will emerge and some will sustain. I would say consumers’ expectations from brands to play an active role in their lives will continue. Between health and indulgence, it will be a mixed trend. People will come back to metros from smaller towns and we will start aspiring for growth again. But, brand trust and functionality is something that is not going to change.