Understanding Consumers

Durairaj Maheswaran
Paganelli-Bull Professor of Marketing and IB
Stern School of Business
New York University

Thomas Puliyel
Adjunct Professor
S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research

Chapter Summary
Chapter 1 provides a qualitative understanding of Indian youth, their values, attitudes and lifestyle gleaned from years of qualitative research among Indian consumers. The author argues that a good understanding of these attitudes will help in crafting effective communication that taps into emotion, delivering impact as well as longevity of campaigns.

Chapter 2 traces the journey of the Indian woman over the last decade using proprietary databases, Kantar IMRB’s TGI service and Kantar Worldpanel as well as information available through the Census of India. It tracks the gradual transformation of the roles of the woman as daughter, wife and mother.

Chapter 3 describes how firms are profiting by solving problems of rural communities—their need for information, tapping into their desire for change, extending to new markets by using the benefits of a sharing economy, and using mobile and digital technologies to deliver effectiveness at lowest cost of operation.

Chapter 4 examines how the concept of Nation Equity has implications for how India and its products are perceived. It discusses how India can build its Nation Equity by highlighting its Performance Equity and emphasising  competence-related halo where a generalised perception of competence is transferred to specific products.

Chapter 5 begins by outlining the five stages of innovation framework that serve as a platform for strong innovation. Using the findings from Nielsen’s Breakthrough Innovation study, it identifies the best route to drive a strong innovation culture in an organisation.

Chapter 6 discusses how consumers’ mindset about change (fixed vs. growth) can influence the way they process advertising messages, perceive brands, receive innovation or new products and services and use social media. The author explores how implicit mindsets about change provide an opportunity for marketers to enhance engagement, and persuade and influence consumer choices.

Chapter 7 explores how two fundamental cultural orientations, analytic-holistic thinking and independent-interdependent self-construal, have consequences for information processing, decision-making, context effects, branding, brand relationships, reactions to contradictory information and forgiveness. It discusses implications of these cultural frameworks for marketing strategies in India.

Chapter 8 looks at the relevance of cultural orientation frameworks—individualism-collectivism and horizontal-vertical society for India. It discusses two modes of persuasion appeals—cognitive and emotional. Since Indian consumers are impacted by both indigenous and western cultural norms, the chapter develops a persuasive appeals framework that incorporates both of these influences.

Chapter 9 examines how memory reconstruction errors are caused by source confusion and motivated distortion. Consumers may alter information or may even create new fake memories as they do not save exact events and experiences as memories. The chapter discusses legal implications and future directions in this research domain.

Chapter 10 discusses the positive and negative outcomes of being beautiful. It highlights the relevance and opportunities for beauty products in Indian market at consumer and managerial level.

Chapter 11 discusses the unique pattern of obesity in India, which is in contrast to that of developed countries like USA. This is explained by several socio-economic and distinct cultural factors. The chapter also discusses strategies to promote and manage a healthy lifestyle.

Chapter 12 brings to light the distinctive characteristics of luxury consumer of contemporary India and discusses opportunities and challenges of luxury brands in India. It gives novel managerial insights for branding luxury products in India.

Chapter 13 discusses the relationship among dimensions of social stratification and influences of status inconsistency on consumer behaviour. By consuming dominant looking products, consumers can compensate the perceived gap in their status. This dominance can be communicated by a product’s face. It discusses future implications for researchers and practitioners.

Chapter 14 addresses the difficult area of new product development. It also provides tips on how to design the test, based on the author’s rich experience with one of India’s leading FMCG marketing companies. The chapter also looks at how to create and test communication and how to track the performance of the new brand launch in the market.

Chapter 15 outlines the concepts of price elasticity, cross-price elasticity and income elasticity. It also focuses on survey-based methods of understanding response to price and reviews conjoint analysis and choice-based conjoint. It then provides several practical tips on how to run such studies without falling into the common traps of standard textbook approaches.

Chapter 16 uses trends in advertising over the years to show how the themes centering on social approval within a patriarchal value system have given way to the celebration of personal fulfilment and gender equality. Leaning on the database of advertising around the world, Kantar Millward Brown comes to the conclusion that the ability of an execution to provide joy and entertainment is the key determinant of an ad’s effectiveness in cutting through clutter.

Chapter 17 is a wonderful walk through advertising history. Authored by an ad veteran and master raconteur, this journey of over a 100 years, flits by quickly. Using dozens of examples, the chapter draws one into the challenges of marketing and advertising of that day.

Chapter 18 traces the impact of Internet and digital technology on consumers and businesses. The author wonders whether the hyper-customized media with filter bubbles and personalized search results delivered by website algorithms reflects diminished rather than enhanced consumer power.

Chapter 19 looks at how to construct effective impact evaluation studies in the area of social marketing programmes. The use of Regression Discontinuity Design to create counterfactual data or improving the matching of cases using Propensity Score Matching or creating routes to survey difficult-to-reach populations such as intravenous drug users and gay populations, are some of the issues explored in this chapter.

Chapter 20 looks at how advertising and promotion could change in the future. With increased penetration of smartphones and faster Internet services, consumers are generating vast amounts of data. All this is driving what products are on offer, how to communicate and more importantly who to communicate to and when. If driven to scale, it can dramatically increase the efficiency with which marketers can communicate with consumers and service their needs.

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