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Brand Dharma in the spotlight as IAA World Congress kicks off in Kochi

The International Advertising Association (IAA) inaugurated its first ever World Congress in India, in Kochi in grand style yesterday (February 20, 2019). The marquee event saw an eclectic mix of thought leaders, spiritual gurus, entertainers, domain experts and industry professionals discussing the future. Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan; spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; Srinivasan Swamy, Chairman & World President, International Advertising Association; Puneet Goenka , MD & CEO, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited; and Kaushik Roy, Vice President/Area Director, Asia Pacific, IAA Global, were among those present for the inauguration ceremony. 

Puneet Goenka, in his opening address, stressed on the‘Brand Dharma’ theme of the World Congress as the basic principle a brand should follow to connect with its customers and society at large. He said, “What matters at the end of the day is the deep connect a brand establishes with the audience and the language, dialects in which the brand speaks with the audience. Also, how purely and honestly does the brand believe in the culture and value system of the audience.” 

Snippets from Day 1 

Amitabh Bachchan also spoke passionately on the topic. He mentioned, “Customer’s hard earned money is Dharma, and a brand should sell their products accordingly, that should become brand’s Dharma.” He internalised the theme and said that “My face is present on over 24 products’ packaging. Not endorsing tobacco and alcohol products, that’s my Dharma.” 

For spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar, “If you believe in your product’s quality, it is Dharma.” He spoke about the dangers of the virtual world that had resulted in personality disorders in young children. He observed, “Video games per say encourages violence in children. Too much of screen exposure to kids impacts their central nervous system and hence, the screen usage shall be controlled.” 

During his session on ‘How India uses Digital technology’, Nandan Nilekeni, former Chairman, UIDAI and Co-founder & Non-Executive Chairman, Infosys, spoke about how Aadhar has been essential to provide everyone a digital ID. He also asserted that Aadhar was not a data gathering instrument and rather used minimal data to fulfil two key requirements of providing a basic and unique identity document as well as to ensure welfare benefits reach the right person. 

Hans Paul Burkner, Chairman Boston Consulting Group, while speaking on ‘Tech for Good’, underscored how personalisation is possible and doable and is an absolute must for most companies as new consumers are really expecting personalisation of information and now companies have the tech to make it work. He indicated the fact that in today’s society, “privacy is dead, but security is a big issue and both of them are interlinked as there is need of respecting privacy and security needs of the customers”. 

Burkner stressed that there is an issue of collecting data stealthily and utilising it for the benefit of select enterprise. “For true personalisation, there should be transparency in collecting data and consumers should control the data collected to bring a balance in personalisation and privacy,” he added. 

Penny Baldwin, Senior VP and CMO, Qualcomm Technologies, spoke about how mobile is the world’s largest tech platform in the history of mankind and how Brand Dharma of Qualcomm is innovation. According to Baldwin, “Mobile is the largest technology platform, with 8 billion connections all over world. Hence, there is a huge opportunity for marketers and advertisers to reach their audiences even in the remotest areas with the rise in data consumption.” 

Shivakumar, Group Executive President - Strategy & Business Development, Aditya Birla Group, introduced the audience to the DUCA (Digitally unacceptable content and attitude) world. He mentioned that today, digital has become mainstream. Digital world consumers are more aware and more cynical and more distrusting. He added, “People trust people like them. In a digital world, it is the society, and not your stakeholder or your board, that matters. If you need to build trust, you need to build that trust in society.” 

Shivakumar also shared nine lessons for brands to survive in the digital age, which include:

  • Collective experience is a dominant force
  • Internal culture and speed of company matters
  • Ethical Vs legal (more ethical)
  • Heritage is a driver of trust
  • Reliability is the foundation of trust
  • Data handling - what will you do with it as privacy is big issue and hence brands should self-regulate
  • Brands should have same standards for transparency for you and partners
  • Brands should have clear social media guidelines
  • Junior staff should not handle the social handles of senior management

Jonas Kjellberg, lecturer, author, venture investor and Co-creator of Skype, talked about three key gears for building game changing companies and deploying capital: Customer acquisition, Customer delight and Zero cost innovation. Kjellberg noted, “What a customer loved before, today it has become a commodity, so there is need to spend time and energy on tomorrow’s delight through innovation and not only about today’s efficiency and functionality. Innovation in business model should be zero/ no-cost innovation like Air B&B, Uber and Alibaba, as these businesses gained from innovating and not imitating.”


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