Message From MD February – 2021
01 February 2021
January started with the great news of vaccinations. The world is getting immunised and the virus going to take back seat soon. As the vaccine rollout commences, there is again more uncertainty in the air – will we return to the old normal or new normal? It depends. The vaccine will encourage individuals to resume the activities we missed – travelling, going to the gym or hanging out at the mall. It will allow businesses to resume activities that were hampering their bottom line. 2021 should be a great year as expected, a significant return of the market and an increasing number of satisfied customers. Let’s all get ready for the second innings ahead.
Marketing and communications are going to play a significant role in the coming days. Marketing and the art of the half-truth can’t go hand in hand. Big celebrities can no longer get away with endorsing the tall claims made by brands in their advertisements with Consumer Protection Law bringing accountability.
A hair cream company that promised “hair growth in just six weeks” and an actor who appeared in that advertisement for the company have been asked to pay Rs 10,000 fine each to a consumer for making ‘false’ promises. Sourav Ganguly is the brand ambassador for a Rice Bran Oil. When he suffered a heart attack last month, marketers quickly point out the irony as this oil touts itself as “heart-healthy”. The Company has responded by halting the ads and pointing out that heart health has several contributors, and oil is just one of them.
Kellogg’s Chocos packets proclaim “One Serve of Kellogg’s Chocos has protein and fibre equal to that of one wheat roti”. What it does not mention is that the roti does not contain sugar. Another example is Sunfeast cookies which proclaim “no maida, no sugar” with a massive quantity of sweetener amongst its ingredients. You’re likely aware of the energy drink Red Bull’s signature tagline: “Red Bull gives you wings.” As a reasonable consumer, you know intuitively that Red Bull cannot give you wings. In the early 2000s, then-new artificial sweetener Splenda engaged in a marketing campaign with the tagline, “Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar,” to convert consumers of other artificial sweeteners as well as sugar purists hesitant to consume anything artificial. But Splenda wasn’t really “made from sugar,” it’s a chemical compound heavily processed in a factory. Later they were fined heavily for spreading half-truths. All these brands can assuage their consciences by saying that they did not lie. But when I see people who can ill afford it being believed and convinced, I’m not so proud to be a marketer.
In politics, the standards for lying are much lower than they are in business. You can sling mud, tweet utter nonsense, and hurl half-truths at your opponent and get away with it. He’ll just sling it back. In business, it doesn’t work that way. It’s illegal to mislead consumers blatantly. In marketing, advertising and selling, there’s a big, a gaping grey area for the claims we make and the image we portray.
Trust is the most critical ingredient for the longevity of a brand. And that cannot be built on a foundation of half-truths. Celebrity endorsements are not going to go away any time soon – they are incredibly persuasive. We have to understand the business in the right way, learn it thoroughly, and deliver the knowledge through our error-free process, quality product and delightful service. Nothing can be compromised, including communications.
Always keep in mind that consumers are deeply, contagiously skeptical in the post COVID era. And if they feel they’re being duped, they’ll shout it out any way they can. Business is all about relationships. Relationships hinge on trust. So lying, cheating or doing anything that betrays trust, also hurts the brand. Trust is the ultimate shortcut to a buying decision and the bedrock of modern branding. Keep up this message in mind and act accordingly. I wish you all a fabulous February.
Sunil kumar V
Founder & MD