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Why is selling only STATUS not enough for Bharat? A potential framework

Hi everyone,


What I have discovered as a silent observer: In our ecosystem, one size fits all and the parasitic nature of dragging the same framework is not invisible. This, somehow, proves we as a startup nation are still in the nascent stage. Well, diversity is human's biggest tool behind making this unprecedented growth of Humanity. I feel that the diversity factor is missing from our ecosystem (I might be wrong). I have been on the ground for the past 10-12 months. And our discoveries prove: non of the available thesis, frameworks, understanding, and behavioural aspects are effective for 90% of the population. This brings the need for a lot more frameworks, Customer Cohorts, behavioural aspects, product building, understanding etc in the ecosystem that could extend the impact of technology to 100% population!


This essay is one such example. We shall keep sharing our discoveries with all of you...

Let's get started!


Last weekend I was sitting in this small cafe (CafeHideout), thinking about suitable Google ad campaign titles. The Biggest Challenge: the ad campaign titles should be less than 30 characters. For a person who has been writing 3000 words of essay in a go, it is difficult to compress these audacious, unimaginable, unmeasurable thoughts in less than 30 characters.


But I had to start from somewhere so to get some sense of fabrics and nature behind iconic marketing tag lines and advertisement messages that crushed their competition and won Bharat. I did a deep dive into some of the iconic successful commercials. And once I got enough understanding, it was time for me to write an essay to bring clarity to my thoughts, and hence this essay.


Let me start with a question, can you decode your purchasing decisions? Okay, Next time you decide to purchase something: take a deep breath and try recalling how you reached the decision. For now, let me decode this from customer lenses. When a customer purchases a product, they take a decision - a behavioural change. And if we can understand the fabrics of decision-making, we shall have the root causes of success behind the iconic commercial taglines. This means, we again need to revisit human’s less understood aspect - Behaviour.


Human behaviours are shaped by feelings (emotions) and thinking (cognitive). This means these two are the forces behind our decisions making. On one hand, feelings are mostly external - influenced by surroundings, and another hand thinking is almost always internal - demanding cognitive load.


When a human makes decision-based on cognition - we call them rational. And rational decisions are, almost, always driven by utility. This makes feeling-based decisions a defacto of status or hope (external). I have already written in my last essay: how we often make mistakes in thinking Bharat opens their wallet based on hope. And the conclusion of this essay shall uncover multiple curtains and strengthen the potential of Bharat.


Irrespective of whether we accept this or not, there is a parasitic argument in the ecosystem about how India is a status-driven society. And most of the decisions are based on status. This means your sales pitch should not be “Hey, buy this product and get your jobs done” but rather “Hey if you buy this product - you will have this status”. Cute. I can’t talk about India - the affluent 100 million - but when it comes to Bharat, if your marketing messages or taglines are targeting their cognitive load - you will have a higher probability to open their wallet. But you must understand your consumers, their need and want.

Okay, if you are still reading this essay, I am sure you are invested in it and want to conclude faster. And I shall stop bragging about this further.


But going any further, let me quickly break down the crux of the marketing and advertising tag lines (message or information).

We, humans, are feeling and thinking animals. And our decisions shall be based on both (You already know this). The epitome of wrong and right is the awareness of situations: where to use feelings and where to use thinking. This binary-looking option is as complicated as getting into a relationship - almost always your decisions are driven by emotions. And your past experience always finds ways into the present decisions.


And therefore, marketers use a general rule of thumb to change consumers' behaviour: if the product is impulse-based purchasing, they usually keep their marketing messages around feeling. And if the product is non-impulse-based purchases, their marketing messages circle around thinking. This indeed works in a mature market but utterly fails for Bharat. This means marketers and advertisers must understand when to activate the cognitive (thinking) versus the affective (feeling) system. Relax, I have used examples to explain each of these points.


If you take any successful marketing and advertisement focused on creating customers (selling products), not users (awareness); you will uncover almost all of them are trying to take the central route by activating either feeling or thinking. At this point, I think we must take an example (Simple example) that we all can relate to.


Universally, the commercials of a perfume brand do not remind us of chemists wearing white coats in a lab explaining chemical equations (Cognitive load) rather perfumes commercials mostly sell feelings - sex, romance, passion, fantasy etc. And names are usually difficult to pronounce (I have struggled to pronounce them). And the purpose behind such commercials - girls/guys running behind guys/girls who have used that brand perfume (that has nothing to do with reality because they are creating fantasy) - and a foreign name is to engage with our emotions. In most perfume commercials, the peripherals route relies on the use of non-substantive cues in arriving at a central route. Here customer's central persuasion route involves emotions when customers process commercial messages. The not-so-surprising aspect of this mental model is that it works but only for mature markets and customers (I have used examples below to prove this).


However, non of this would make sense if a brand is creating commercials for mutual funds. There are multiple reasons behind this.


  1. It is a high-involvement decision.

  2. No amount of peripheral routes can create a central persuasion route that sparks emotions (feelings).

  3. And if commercials can’t generate feelings to buy mutual funds, the only route available for marketers and advertisers is cognitive load (thinking).


Therefore all Mutual Funds commercials give you information (thinking) that can activate your motivation (behavioural). This means information (central persuasion route) should be the focus. Unfortunately, most mutual funds commercials focus on peripheral routes - Famous Cricketers - rather than optimizing their information to reduce cognitive loads for a diverse set of consumers.


I have been listening to Mutual funds commercials for the past uncountable years, and here are the points I can recall.

  1. Mutual funds are subject to market risk (LOL)

  2. Direct investment isse commission bach jata he

  3. Medaan me utarna padega

  4. Players ka past performance

Take a pause and think about all the things you can recall from Mutual funds advertisements. I could have been wrong, but the number of commercials these companies run on different media channels - Offline and Online - with famous cricketers. The number of monthly visitors should have been in the tens of millions at least. When I checked monthly visitors on the website: it is not even 2 million (monthly). I know you are having multiple argumentative points. Please hold that for a while. Hopefully, by the end of this essay, you shall have the answers.

Also, I asked the above questions from ChatGPI and here is the answer which is true for the mature markets but untrue for Bharat.


Marketers and advertisers use the "Hierarchy of effects models" to take better decisions - whether they should activate consumers feeling or thinking to change their behaviour (purchasing of products). The model essentially stages all three - cognitive (thinking), affective (feeling), and conative (behavioural). That consumers go through after seeing or hearing an advertisement. The "Hierarchy of effects models" helps marketers in sequencing the above three based on the nature of products that could persuade consumers to take the decisions.

For example, the products that require a high level of involvement (cognitive) will have the sequencing of, the above three, thinking-feeling-behaviour: an informed opinion leads to the liking of the products hence their purchase. On the other hand, the products that require a low level of involvement (feeling) will have the sequencing of feeling-thinking-behaviour: a positive feeling leads to purchase, and opinions are formed post-purchase. Again, these sequencings only work for mature markets - Bharat functions, totally, differently.


The visible part of the Hierarchy of effects models is that thinking (cognitive) and feeling (emotions) both are fundamental components of decision-making. This means the whole argument: India is a status-driven society is debatable. Some parts of India might be status driven, but not the whole of India. Since the above sequencing has worked in different parts of the world and small parts of India. Most marketers follow the same sequencing and largely struggle to change the behaviour of consumers or motivate them to even try new products. And they complain about the purchasing power of Bharat. :)


Before we start proving all the above points. This is universal that a rational person thinks and an irrational person feels. The majority of Bharat is sort of irrational, but the magic happens when you convert their irrationality into rationality with well articulate information that generally takes a non-zero cognitive load. Every single time a brand commercial has been able to achieve this zero cognitive load and converted irrational decision-making into rational by going against the conventional Hierarchy of effects sequencing, they have been able to create this magic for Bharat consumers.

Now is a good time to go through all the examples. Are you ready?

These are just a few examples that I know. I am sure there are potentially 100 such brands that have used different sequencing to attract Bharat consumers. However, there is no possible way a brand/company can create such iconic messages without knowing their consumer behaviour deeply. Let me explain why?

Example-1: Fogg


Before I peel the onion, do you use Fogg (Most probably you might not, I do and, definitely, not for any of the conventional utilities)? Before Fogg, the market of Perfume for Bharat was considered saturated with multiple brands. However, Fogg's deep understanding of the target market and smart commercial information to convert irrational consumers to rational with non-zero cognitive load created its magic. I am hoping everyone remembers its no gas, only perfume commercial. And "Fogg chal raha he" as well. Before Fogg, brands were selling status with sequencing “feeling-thinking-behaviour” Fogg went ahead and used a different sequencing “thinking-feeling-behaviour” by literally educating consumers - you have been being fooled by existing brands (giving you gas instead of perfume) it is a good time to switch. Brilliant No? I think the Case Study of Fogg should be available at the fingertips.


Example-2: Amla Hair Oil


There is scientific evidence that Pure Mustard oil is good for your hair. But the problem that comes with it - it is sticky. This means after applying mustard oil on the scalp and hair you must shampoo to remove that stickiness. Before Amla Hair oil, brands were selling status of healthy hair like some famous actresses. And the sequencing was “feeling-thinking-behaviour”. But Amla changed the sequencing “thinking-feeling-behaviour” and converted irrational consumers into rational. The Amla hair might not be very famous now, but there was a time when the brand was most celebrated among Bharat Consumers.


Example-3: Vicco turmeric Cream


For me, Vico turmeric Cream comes under the same Category. Honest confession, I got to know the Hindi meaning of turmeric quite later in my life. Before cosmetic creams, humans have been using turmeric for beautification. I think in many parts of the country it is still being used. Before Vicco, most of the brands were selling status or hope with sequencing “feeling-thinking-behaviour”. But Vico understood consumers and released commercials with sequencing “thinking-feeling-behaviour” and converted irrational decision-making into rational by educating users on the importance of turmeric.


Example-4 Navi Finance new commercials: Of course, the offline landing is a high involvement decision making that follows the sequencing “thinking-feeling-behaviour”. When landing exploded in India, thanks to India stack, most of the startup's commercials were focused on sequencing “feeling-thinking-behaviour”: X amount of loan in 60 seconds without any documents. Navi Finance's old commercial followed the same sequencing. However, if you look at the new commercials, it is “thinking-feeling-behaviour” by explaining how the offline loan system requires a long time, multiple documents, in-person verification etc.

Note: Navi finance has also completely rebranded itself. For a while, I thought it is a new company.


Example-5 Meesho’s Or Dikhao commercial: Online shopping is considered impulse purchases and therefore almost all commercials sell status with sequencing “feeling-thinking-behaviour”. However, Meesho - Bharat-focused eCommerce platform - or Dikhao commercial tried “thinking-feeling-behaviour” where they explain why the product’s prices on Meesho are comparatively lower. However, I felt they could have worked on the messaging (information) that could have reduced the cognitive load. It demanded too much consumer cognitive load.


If you look closely at all the examples, these brands used cognitive but the load was almost zero. It was not the case that Bharat consumers need to think deeply before taking the final decision. And that is the key when advertisers and marketers are tinkering commercials-messages for Bharat. The focus should be on converting billion of irrational decision-making consumers into rational ones at almost zero cognitive loads probably not by selling only Status! :)


We started this essay with Google ad campaign titles. Are you still thinking?


There are the titles we are using for the ad campaign

  • PMJAY 5 लाख का फ्री स्वास्त्य बिमा

  • PMJAY: Ayushman Golden Card

  • Apply Ayushman GoldenCard free

  • Download Golden Card Free

  • PMJAY - 5 लाख का फ्री में इलाज

I know what are you thinking, this guy is a hypocrite. After talking about all - hope, status, cognitive, emotions. Using a title that can create false hope of free Cashless Health insurance worth 5 lakh. However, this is not a false hope, the title is 200% genuine. Can’t write much because we have already crossed 2300 words, hey you can ask from ChatGPT! (LOL)


That is enough for this essay. If you find my essay informative and helpful, please share this with your network! And do share your feedback/comments/criticisms


Published on: 04-12-2022

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