In conversation with Media Samosa, Venkatesh Parthasarathy sheds light on Lotte India’s marketing strategy, its’ #LifeKaPauseButton campaign, and how COVID-19 changed FMCG trends in recent times.
During this stressful period, it is important that brand messaging is sensitive to consumers’ emotions, shares, Venkatesh Parthasarathy, Vice President, Marketing, Lotte India Corporation limited on marketing strategy for the brand.
The FMCG industry has been challenged by the ongoing pandemic and the stakeholders involved couldn’t be any less impacted. Parthasarathy sheds light on the communication strategy owing to the evolving times, challenges faced, and tips for the marketers in the crisis period.
Please take us through the marketing strategy for the brand. According to you, what kind of message should be put out by brands considering the sensitive time?
For Lotte Chocopie, our strategy is to grow the Pie category by increasing users. To do this, we seek to build relevant consumption occasions for the brand.
During this stressful period, it is important that brand messaging is sensitive to consumers’ emotions. The quality of brand communication, relevance, and context is the key.
How do you view the impact of COVID-19 on the FMCG Industry? How are you approaching this crisis?
Most definitely, COVID-19 has pulled down FMCG growth during the various stages of the lockdown. The industry will continue to be under stress in the near term.
From the supply side, there have been positives & novel means of making stocks reach the customers [some of which may/may not be sustainable post easing out restrictions]. The demand side still poses challenges, depending on the category reference.
To quote Rachel Lawes, a social psychologist, there are 3 routes for marketers to work with, during this period of consumer anxiety, from a communication viewpoint:
- Distraction e.g. Play a game, watch a movie
- Negative Action/Precautionary Measures e.g. Stay indoors, wash your hands frequently
- Positive Action e.g. Donations, Not hoarding up on essentials, Spend quality time with family
We have attempted to use either one of the above or a combination in our brand communication for Lotte Chocopie & Coffy Bite on digital media, at various stages of the lockdown.
In all the above, we sought to maintain brand relevance, fit in the context of our consumers’ lives.
What was the insight behind the #LifeKaPauseButton campaign for Lotte Chocopie?
In a world where ‘having it all and doing it all’ makes us busy and multi-task, we crave for moments where we can pause and disconnect from everything around us and enjoy a moment by ourselves. Not taking a pause makes us feel anxious, overwhelmed, time-starved, over-scheduled, mentally, and physically fatigued.
Our tagline ‘Life Ka Pause Button’ which sums up the brand purpose, has been in use since 2013. Our advertising has been quite sporadic, owing to which consumers have not been able to connect ‘Pause Button’ with Lotte Chocopie. Also, we had near zero digital presence till 2019. While the brand was being consumed purely for functional reasons, the ’emotional connect’ was missing. The lockdown period, ironically, a sort of an extended ‘pause’- gave us an opportunity to explore ‘Pause’ moments in relatable and meaningful ways.
All digital creatives were conceptualized and created by the team/in-house. Outcomes are being measured right now and the learnings from them are being drawn.
Lotte, recently, partnered with Dinamalar, a Tamil news website. What was the thought behind the initiative during the lockdown?
We partnered with Dinamalar (daily/newspaper) for our Coffy Bite brand [TN State]. While the initiative was unplanned, we felt that it was an interesting way to reach out to our target audience during the lockdown. Context and concept fit well, hence our participation. The activity helped us reach over 8 Lac+ HHs across TN.
Coffy Bite’s TG is 10+ yrs. Children do form an important consumer segment for confectionery.
Please take us through the distribution strategy for the brand. With the ongoing pandemic, what are the top challenges faced during such times?
Lotte Chocopie draws substantial business contributions from Metro/Class I Towns; Urban/Rural contributions for confectionery are 70%/30%.
Right now, our top challenges are as follows [Post Lockdown 4.0]:
- Lesser Outlet business hours (and/or) access to all outlets within a sales beat
- In parts of MP & Maharashtra, shops are open on alternate days – odd/even-numbered (OR) either side of the road.
- Transportation is still an issue, particularly in rural/sub-stockist markets, hence not able to serve them fully.
- 50-60% of paan outlets are still not open for business – confectionery business (low margin, high volume) severely affected.
With changing consumer behavior at this time, what are the top 3 marketing trends in the sector at the moment?
We have observed the following:
- Heightened activity from FMCG players in the E-Commerce space
- High intent towards increasing marketing spends on Digital Marketing.
- With dining out, virtually out of the question, and at-home food experimentation on the rise, we see marketer sponsored – food curated TV shows, Youtube Chef videos, aimed at increasing brand consumption/usage.
What is the marketing mix for Lotte India? How much does digital occupy in that?
Our marketing mix majorly comprises: TV – 80% & Digital – 20%
With the Unlock 1.0 over the nation, what are the top 3 changes observed in the consumption trends for the target audience?
- Out-of-home consumption will remain muted for now
- With growing job insecurity or salary cuts, consumers will economize spending downtrading to cheaper alternatives, and deal seeking is expected across categories.
- At the same time, I see an increasing role for the Corporate brand as ‘trust builder’, in order to facilitate consumer purchases.
- Growing concerns about hygiene and immunity will lead to increased demand for wellness foods, personal hygiene products.
Is digital innovation the only way forward in the Post-COVID-19 world?
No. Digital innovation is only one aspect. Marketing will need to draw other levers to recover lost growth such as:
- Portfolio Restructuring/Right-Sizing: Ensuringrelevance and market appeal in the near-midterm.
- Resource Allocation: Important to marry scarce resources with right markets and channels for better returns, faster growths
- Communication: Context has never been more important than now. In a time when consumers are emotionally and financially strained, brand messaging needs to be relevant, meaningful, and empathetic.
Top 3 tips you would like to share with the industry leaders for FMCG marketing during the crisis period?
- Beliefs -> Values -> Attitudes -> Behavior: How much of behavior is ritualized (or) converted to habits (these behaviors had a context/pandemic – lack of access to goods, supply issues) is still like a guess. Rather than taking a rigid perspective on trends or taking sides with gurus, it is important to keep an open mind and absorb everything like a sponge. Later, you will need to separate the wheat from the chaff – Normal VS New Normal, that is, what will change and what will not
- Consumers are experiencing complex emotions during this stressful period. It is important that marketers understand this and communicate meaningfully.
- Brand and corporate reputation are key. Look at incorporating PR effectively into your communication plan.