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Spoonfeedin WOrld

Business – Netting the affluent in; Spotting clear spaces or media

Sangeeta Tanwar

Opulence and luxury have found new homes – and a new definition – in India with the ‘mass affluent’ and super-rich vying for their fair share of status symbol of owning and displaying high-end brands. It could be anything from a Mont Blanc pen to a Tag Heuer watch or a BMW car.

Today, luxury or high-end brands are not about the attributes and features – they are about the experience. So how best can an advertiser and a marketer reach out to potential high spenders promising them elevation to a special and exclusive club? Are there any clear spaces or media?

Getting to know

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The first step towards devising a media plan to reach out to the desired target group is to identify and categorise high spenders as mass affluent, affluent rich and HNIs (high net worth individuals).

According to Raj Halve, principal consultant at the investment fund Samara Capital, these are certain terms and terminologies that marketers employ to define their specific tasks. The pyramidical structure of spenders, more or less, remains the same whatever you call them – affluent, affluent rich or HNIs. But marketers tend to raise or lower the definition depending on the product that is being sold. Consider this example: one MNC bank defines HNIs as those with a relationship of Rs 1 crore whereas another Indian brand (a private bank) defines it at Rs 25 lakh.

As one goes up the pyramid, the main difference emerges in moving from a “desire to belong” to “individuality – I don’t need to belong”. To take an example, where a ‘mass affluent’ person may desire a Tissot watch, a rich person may desire a Tag Heuer. But the HNI may go beyond these known brands for a relatively-unknown brand (like Panerai) because he wants to portray not just his wealth but also that he is beyond wanting to belong to a well-known brand.

Marketers, points out Mona Jain, head, strategic investments, India Media Exchange, club high spenders in groups on the basis of the kind of ownership that they display. Other supporting parameters like education too are considered alongside.

Where to catch them

Halve explains that media vehicles increasingly get micro-focused as the TG’s affluence increases. There is also a strong issue of the medium being the message for many high-end brands. It is unlikely that an exclusive brand will advertise on a mainstream TV programme even if it was cost effective – it would not want to lose its ‘exclusivity’.

In India, luxury is becoming broad based – from 5-star hotel lobbies to exclusive stores. All this is being led by an increased awareness due to travel and internet and evolving spending habits. “Luxury prospects are no longer just the super rich. They are also the ones growing rich too with a pronounced need for expression or indulgence. Surrogates – a D-segment car, value of their home, the type of card they use, global travel, professional status, past luxury dalliances, luxury purchases or staying in luxury hotels – are combined to sharply target the affluent,” says Ashish Mishra, chief strategist and head, Water Consulting, the design arm of the Mudra Group.

Customer-validated brand endorsement is the ultimate promotion for elite, expensive brands. Fulfilling the increasingly demanding customer’s satisfaction level becomes an important task. Mishra points out that media used to reach out to high spenders include viral campaigns for exclusive tribe creation, media planning to identify the right channels and increase campaign efficiency, experiential marketing to showcase the enhanced value with the right association and direct marketing to touch the right audience at the right touch-points.

He shares a few global examples. Recently, Jaguar, the luxury car maker, discreetly loaned 10 of its new XK models to Britain’s “beautiful people” who dine at the finest restaurants and schmooze at the most fashionable parties, in an attempt to promote the vehicle to the wealthy. Elsewhere, at a party for the Council of Fashion Designers of America, tens of thousands of sparkling Swarovski crystals filled pools on a Manhattan rooftop, impressing those gathered there.

Driving force

Cars are probably the best indicators of affluence. Therefore, automobile brands work that much harder. Sudeep Narayan, marketing and public relation manager, Volvo Car India, says, “We classify HNIs by gauging parameters such as propensity to spend, the bank balance, credit card spend and ownership of cars.”

Volvo India targets HNIs through databases acquired at exclusive events it associates with. The company also get leads from various mainline marketing communications executed in mainline and digital media.

“Since there is no official distinction between high-spenders aspiring to own a luxury car, they all fall under the A1+ demographic strata. But one can safely conclude that the ‘mass affluent’ customers are willing to pay more for value and hence it is Money-For-Value and not Value-for-Money,” observes Narayan. He adds that though the HNI and rich customers have a far bigger bank balance, they are more calculative when it comes to certain aspects of spending behaviour. But when it comes to buying cars, exclusive watches and other luxury brands, they are purely emotional.

Volvo India advertises in lifestyle and luxury magazines, travel magazines and top-of-the-line business periodicals. Its communication message always centres on the core values of the brand, features and ‘premium-ness’.

There’s my target

Amit Ray, president, Lintas Media Group, makes things clearer, when he observes, “When it’s about a media plan to reach the masses, the number of heads and individuals that one has to reach is well defined. But while planning and placing a premium product in media, how many people one reaches is immaterial. What becomes important is whom are you reaching out to.”

This explains media planners’ preference for say English news, movies and select lifestyle, travel and automobile shows on TV. Niche planning is not about head counts or TVRs. It is about creating an exclusive imagery that could be realised by, say, associating with shows such as Koffee with Karan or Rendezvous with Simi Garewal.

According to Ray, popular understanding of what is niche needs to be revisited in order to formulate the communication message and be in a position to identify befitting medium of communication.

The communication message for the evolved, high spenders has to be highly contextualised and commonsensical. Advertising and choice of media platforms for communication is guided by the notion, where one asks: where does my product belong?

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September 24, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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