Integrating Consumer understanding with Business strategy – In conversation with Manish Makhijani, CMI Director – PDC, Unilever

Integrating Consumer understanding with Business strategy – In conversation with Manish Makhijani, CMI Director - PDC, Unilever

“Consumer focus comes from talking to consumers every few days, and that should be part of your corporate culture.” True words that Manish Makhijani spoke to him during our insightful webinar session.

Manish Makhijani is the Global PDC Director at Unilever and the Vice President of the Market Research Society of India (MRSI). He has spent more than twenty years in the research industry on both the agency and client side. In addition to India, he has worked with Unilever in the UK, Singapore and Thailand on various categories and brands. Before joining Unilever, he worked for various brands and clients at Starcom and Kantar TNS. Known for his expertise in the field of insight and analysis, he is passionate about improving the organizations’ insights. He has authored various articles for ESOMAR and MRSI that have been featured in various industry forums and webinars. He has helped many aspiring researchers on their journey as he has also been a visiting scholar and visiting professor – from MICA in Ahmedabad to the London School of Economics. In 2013 he received the prestigious Ginny Valentine Award for Courage in Research.

Market research should influence strategy development. How do we make sure they stay integrated from the beginning of the research to the implementation of the strategy?

“” The trip must take place within an organization. The insights function must develop from a research provider to a strategic advisor to a consultant.

For that you need to build that credibility with the marketing team and advertising agency first by giving them a real offer Market research insight Why wouldn’t something like a certain ad not work? As well as being good thinkers, Insight Managers should have leadership skills – they should be able to drive a change agenda forward and stand up and say – that this product is not going to do very well in the market, and that’s why . The talent you hire, the care you do, and how insightful you are on the team all make a difference down the path of a research role. “

Do you also come to some kind of mapping that identifies the pillars on which a brand is built so that regardless of the type of communication, you make sure that it rests on those pillars?

“”We see what the different category drivers look like, how people choose a brand within a category. Then we look at the brand drivers – for example, the basic driver of Surf Excel is that we can clean clothes properly, then comes the scent, and then we also have to see how our brand behaves on these parameters. There could be other emotional hooks as well. Even before you even show your brand in the ad, people should know that it is a Surf Excel ad and then you know that this is what promoting your brand is about. “

Could you paint this picture for us in relation to the needs of a product and the psychographic profile of the people using it?

“”When talking about beauty soaps, women in the slightly lower than middle class in India generally don’t have access to many makeup products because they don’t want to spend on makeup. They tend to feel a little guilty about spending the money on themselves. A strong part of femininity is that you want to feel good, not that men don’t want to feel good, but that women want to feel soft skin, that they want a good scent, and therefore wanting to smell good makes them feel of well-being. Can you have all of this in one bar of soap – a soap that will keep you smelling nice for a long time and soften your skin, that will meet the need state of your mind – this is what beauty soaps like Godrej No. 1, Lux and Santoor do. Santoor takes a slightly different angle – it is aimed at slightly older women and for years they have been showing an ad in which a young girl and child suddenly appear and say: Mom. The element of surprise is that she doesn’t look that old because she is the mother of a young child.

For a simple, humble category like soap where people switch brands without blinking, they need to think about the state of need of the consumers they are targeting and advertise accordingly. The point is to be consistent over time for you to own this position. “

There is a flood of data and information available in the current environment. How do you deal with this amount of data and derive information and findings from it?

“”It is very easy to get lost in the data available today. Hence, a sharp focus on what you are looking for is extremely important and a clear understanding of where you are getting it from is also important, and therefore it is yours too Ability as a researcher For example, if I want to know why my sales are declining and why a lot of data is coming in, I’ll go over a hypothesis that is similar to a typical method of critical thinking. Let’s say I identify the reason I’m not available as often as I used to be. Now I need the sales data, e.g. B. Details of who is selling my brand and who is not selling it and I will only focus on data. I think the ability to think critically is far more critical today than it was 10 years ago because it allows you to filter out what you don’t want to see and what you don’t need to see. As humans, we have our own prejudices and filters that we need to know, so we set filters accordingly. “

Can you tell us something about the PDC so that we can get an idea of ​​how it is organized so that we can gain knowledge from multiple sources?

“”From the three data streams, there are two insights into the People data center: one for social listening, one for the consumer engagement center, and one for digital marketing. We use social listening tools extensively to hear the conversations people have on social media, which are of course public – what people think and how their emotions change. For example, initially in the pandemic, people were excited to be home for a few weeks because they thought they would have a better work-life balance than people were tired of. All of this was available as a conversation on social media. You need to make sure that you are listening to people of different profiles, people from different parts of the country, enough men and women from different walks of life, etc., so that you are not biased by one segment. But you also supplement this with primary research. This is part of the new type of research, the other part is the call center route that is our global industry that I am leading. When we talk to millions and millions of consumers around the world, they spend 30 percent of the time reaching us because they have a problem and want to complain about a product, but 70 percent of the time reaching us is a real one Ask a question or make a suggestion. This shows you how interested they are in these products and brands and that this is itself a sign of commitment. The insights we get from these unsolicited conversations are huge. We therefore agree that we have brought products back onto the market that were no longer approved as a result. “

Can you tell us if there has been any significant evolution in how people reacted to the lockdown and if there was anything you could do for marketing about insights?

“” Yes, we did this through analytics and social listening. We weren’t able to do field research for a few months so we recruited some groups of people and had a chat with them every week on WhatsApp. We made video calls with those who were rich. For example women who worked but were now home because of the lockdown had a really big problem. They said they could get out of the house at least eight to ten hours earlier. Now they are expected to do all of the housework from home along with expectations of work. Their problems multiplied and the incidence of home abuse increased dramatically. So not only have we launched new things like surface cleaners and toilet cleaners, which are very obvious recommendations, but we’ve taken initiatives for their spiritual and emotional trauma and also helped the communities. We have taken initiatives where we take care of people for their wellbeing. “

How can small businesses do research? Is it more of a DIY approach?

“” It’s not that you don’t need skilled practitioners, but the focus of market research is understanding your customers, what drives them to buy, when your employees leave, and when to go to the competition. You can do this yourself by speaking to some customers and making your business more consumer or customer oriented. At Unilever, for example, we have a comprehensive customer orientation program where people meet consumers and refer to it as the Consumer Connect program. Even the executive team spends at least 10 to 15 hours each month meeting and speaking directly with consumers. We talk to them and ask what are they using? How do you use our products? Have you seen our new ad? So speaking to consumers every month will give you a thorough understanding of the real situation. I think consumer focus is about a company’s culture. “

Several brands are doing purpose-driven advertising these days – when do you think that would work and when would you recommend it?

“There is strong evidence that purpose drives a brand, and in the last 10 years, brands with a purpose have grown much faster than brands without a purpose. But it only works if the brand really means what it says. It can only happen When the purpose is served, it is really built into the brand. For example – Surf Excel’s purpose is to provide the right guidance for parents to provide their children with the right environment, this is built into what the brand stands for and with It doesn’t feel like you’re doing anything else while it’s not working if you just advertise every now and then. People will quickly forget. “

Do you have to know data science and have the technical knowledge to understand consumer insights?

“Consumer Insights is more about the innate ability to connect the dots. For example, if I see someone eating ketchup and I see the same person watching Netflix, I should be able to understand if there is a connection between the two “Very random data is about how you connect it. Of course you should have the technical knowledge and possibly use analysis, but that’s not enough. It’s just a foundation, but it’s your ability to connect and intuitively.” Understanding consumers is important. Insight is a real integration of science and art. “

Watch the full session of this webinar Youtube.