What’s next Dr Sandeep Goyal?by The Daily Eye News Desk October 28 2020, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 18 mins, 17 secs
The prologue by Sanjay Gupta, Country Manager Google India and introduction by Prasad Sangameshwara, Editor ETBrandEquity.com along with a part from the chapter titled Advertising, Media; Digital and Content - Excerpted from the book Future Shock by Dr Sandeep Goyal
THE FUTURE OF THE FUTURE
We are living in a time of over-information. Each one of us is being bombarded with news, comments, likes, forwards, you name it; each intended to ratchet up emotion, hyper accelerate change and a frenzy of opinions and jargon. This has all contributed to an endless overwhelm.
How does one make sense out of this? How do you synthesise all this and explain today and possibly predict tomorrow? How do you move from ‘Information Overload’ to ‘Identifying Trends’?
To arrive at that, it’s useful to rst identify a fundamental question – What exactly is a trend? To my understanding, a trend is a new manifestation – in behaviour, attitude or expectation – of a fundamental human need, want or desire. A trend is about now. And about tomorrow.
Traditional market research most often falls short of predicting the future, simply because it is largely based on data about what people were doing, or saying, yesterday.
At the same time, predicting the future is not a guessing game. It is actually a strenuous and painstaking effort to collate, sieve through, examine, analyse and assess a large amount of information from varying sources to track key indicators, which provide clues that a particular trend is evolving, and whether it merits further exploration. Predicting the future, therefore, is not easy. Writing a book about it is even more difficult.
Another barometer for nascent trends is search queries people make on the Internet. Search data provides a unique view of what people are currently interested in, curious about, or concerned with.
In these trying times, many new anxieties and questions have surfaced, resulting in exponentially higher search queries ... on the virus, on cures; on filling time, killing time; on working from home, enabling technologies; on e-learning; on food safety, cooking and eating-in; on apprehensions around job losses, newer opportunities; on up-skilling; on future travel and much more.
Most of the trends covered in Dr. Sandeep Goyal’s book Future Shock are ones that the world has been searching for over the past few months – seeking reliable information from researchers and experts; allaying fears and anxieties; obtaining reassurance and solace.
In my personal experience, trends, and trend extrapolation, are powerful tools for storytelling because they help map people’s reactions over different moments in time.
The past few months have had the greatest impact on the world. These seismic changes, the trends emerging from them and consequent impact on human behaviour, are undoubtedly a subject that would make for a great book, or several.
I have known Dr. Goyal for more than a decade. He has been an advertising and media veteran, having worked across many domains for more than thirty- five years. He, therefore, possesses the experience, the erudition and the exposure that writing about the future, especially Future Shock, needs.
It has been famously said that the quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with. The future is what we wish to make of it. Future Shock is an attempt to collate and map change as it impacts the future of the world we live in today.
Dr. Goyal’s book is neither prescriptive, nor does he pontificate. He just points the reader in the direction of the change. And let’s you decipher for yourself what the future may, therefore, potentially hold.
Predicting the future, as I said before, is notoriously di cult. But systematic analysis can lead to clearer understanding and wiser decisions. Future Shock is really a guide to thinking intelligently about the future – a little peep into tomorrow, by looking at a whole lot of today, and a bit of yesterday.
For a large part of 2019, the cloud of an economic slowdown was looming large over the corporate sector. In March 2020, when large parts of the world, including India, announced a complete lockdown in the battle against the Coronavirus, the world of business received a 440-voltage electric shock. The shock was more than just a hair-raising experience, as is famously illustrated by the toons, or that famous ad for a chewing gum brand.
In reality, there was bound to be more pain than gain for business in the short-term to mid-term. There was “too much change in too short a period of time”, and no one had articulated this better than futurist Alvin Toffler, in his bestseller Future Shock, that was published nearly ve decades ago.
The rapid changes in the Covid-era prompted Dr. Sandeep Goyal, who’s been tracking the media and advertising landscape for more than three decades to propose a series on the impact of Covid-19 on key sectors like food, health, education, jobs, entertainment and others for the marketing news vortal, ETBrandEquity.com.
A month into the lockdown, when this series was being written, most of the advertising and marketing world was still grappling with the pace of change and uncertainty that was glaring at them. As the fear of disease escalated, as job insecurity and pay cuts became a part of the new normal, as there were severe restrictions on people movement and socialising, it was a no-brainer to suggest that human behaviour had been altered. Dr. Goyal went beyond the over-the-top glazing commentary and instead adorned the role of a journalist. For one of his chapters on ‘Twenty-Five Trends on the Future of Food and Hospitality’, he interviewed master-chef Sanjeev Kapoor and the conversation brings out fascinating insights like the purchase of high-intensity cooking gas stoves by households. This observation is based on the fact that as eating-out at restaurants comes down drastically, ‘momade’ food will be much in demand. Compared to the home kitchen ames, restaurant cooking is essentially done at a much higher temperature – that is what releases food enzymes and makes restaurant food tastier – it will perk up demand for the gas stoves that aid higher temperature cooking. To win consumer confidence on aspects like food safety, health of employees working in restaurant kitchens and hygiene, the chapter also forecasts the emergence of naked kitchens (visible to all clients inside restaurants).
Goyal also ponders over the possibility of a disproportionately larger decline in animal protein consumption (as a result of unscientific consumer fears that animals might be hosts of the virus). Also, food demand in poorer countries is more linked to income, and here, loss of income-earning opportunities could impact consumption.
In another discussion about the future of jobs, he paints a future scenario of robots serving food and medicines to patients in isolation wards as the health of frontline health workers comes under a threat, making such jobs unattractive for humans. He predicts that robots will start to come into active use for many ‘contact less’ functions, including retail deliveries, and this could negatively impact jobs.
The Coronavirus crisis has also removed the stigma attached to areas as diverse as distance learning, or carrying meat home in a black bag. Brands like Licious are now delivering meat home in attractive packaging and home-schooling can become a distinct possibility, especially with middle and upper middle families as schools in some parts of the country will be shut till December 2020.
The business may take anything between nine to twenty-four months to start climbing back to previous peaks, says Goyal. Others predict that the path to recovery will be in the shape of a reverse square root and it will not be able to climb to previous levels anytime soon. Till then the headwinds will be strong and severe. As Goyal says it like it is, “some will succeed, some will struggle, some will perish”.
ADVERTISING, MEDIA, DIGITAL AND CONTENT – (Excerpt)
The pandemic really has dealt a body blow to the advertising business, as it has existed for over a century now. The break- down of supply chains, the shuttering of factories, the closure of retail, and the general hiatus in the buying of goods and services by consumers, has fundamentally re-contoured the marketing domain and all the thinking surrounding it. The crisis has already altered consumer behaviour significantly. There has been a visible shift in how people have started to use technology, e-commerce, live streaming, e learning, gaming and even online grocery shopping. At the same time heightened hygiene and safety concerns, work from home (WFH), social distancing, travel-if-you-must, no vacations, food take-away and home deliveries have changed established patterns of purchase, mobility, consumption and payment. All of this has impacted businesses; in turn it has forced companies to revisit their approach to marketing and that has obviously impacted the way brands will henceforth reach out to consumers and influence them to buy. But, before we go any further, let us acknowledge two very important trends that define the rest of my narrative on the subject:
- An anxious consumer: Ad agency Ogilvy, through access to Google data and insights looked at how consumer behaviour has changed in these times of uncertainty. The insights shared by their CEO came from a global analysis of Google search data, YouTube data, news articles, social media posts and direct consumer surveys, in the context of the pandemic. The fact that uncertainty creates anxiety was obvious. But the data also suggested that extended periods of uncertainty push consumer brains into cycles of acceptance. Anxiety, followed by denial, followed by confusion and bargaining, followed by adaptation and acceptance, followed by behavioural change. A separate research by Kantar in the US in July 2020 showed that while some 73 per cent of consumers still feel anxious, anxiety levels appear to be coming down from their peak in mid-March. More than 40 per cent of people said they have ramped up their exercise, reading or sleeping habits to cope with pandemic-related stress. More than half said they’re eating healthier and trying new dishes, with 64 percent of people doing so in homes with children. Additionally, 20 percent of consumers are avoiding alcohol in what’s been dubbed “drysolation”. The study could well have been done in Mumbai, so homogeneous the world has become! In the Kantar survey, also, some 32 per cent of consumers said they have increased their e-commerce spending during the pandemic, and a third expected to make more purchases in similar mode in the future. Meanwhile, 45 per cent of households have already seen their income fall during the pandemic, and 26 per cent expect their income to be hit in the future. Nearly half of the respondents said they think companies should offer discounts during this time of economic downturn. One can be quite sure if this research were to be replicated in India, the findings would be very similar to the ones Kantar tracked in the US.
- A cautious consumer: Back to the Ogilvy report in India. An anxious consumer is a cautious consumer. Ogilvy postulates that there are five dominant human responses to uncertainty: 1) Trying to regain control, 2) Seeking comfort in the familiar, 3) Going back to basics (okay, perhaps a little more than just basics), 4) Turning to self-sufficiency and 5) Using technology as a lifeline (not a distraction) I think all of these as trends of consumer behaviour, going forward, are well put. A quick temperature check of the Indian consumer would hint at behaviours that could prove long-lasting even as lockdowns are relaxed or lifted and more normal operations resume. A surge in home cooking and openness to trying new recipes, for example, could be a bigger opportunity for FMCG brands to engage consumers. On the flip side, the trend of “drysolation” identified by Kantar is not good news for liquor brands, which have already taken a big hit from the closures of restaurants and bars. But the trend, however, supports growing sales perhaps for non-alcoholic beverages such as soft drinks and juices. Another interesting study from Survata, the marketing intelligence firm, found that although consumers are pinching their wallets this year, they still prefer name brands over private labels. So, it is a cautious consumer, but a smart consumer too.
At an industry level, the media world got shaken up in a different kind of way by the forced hiatus; especially the ‘Work from Home’ in a business that requires much teamwork and coordination. Most very quickly figured out that if there’s one thing that can help keep a company moving when employees are unable to be physically present in the office, it’s RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and it’s smarter and better version IPA (Intelligent Process Automation).
Media companies, especially those in broadcasting and digital, having been severely impacted by the pandemic, have figured that they need to offload as many tasks as they can to technology to ensure that business runs smoothly once the next global disruption occurs. This is not going to be as much about displacement of work as it is about up leveling and automating the mundane – a lot of investment will be directed towards seeing software driven automation meet the cloud and accelerate with the help of AI.
Despite some of the optimism starting to shine through after a prolonged period of doom and gloom with the ‘unlocks’, the long-term picture for marketers could be less than sunny. The times ahead are going to be difficult for the advertising and media domain. Much change, much rethinking, much reorientation is on the cards. Let us look at major trends that are likely to take shape in the near future, medium by medium.
- The newspaper has been severely jolted: The fear of getting the infection home through the newspaper got most readers to discontinue its home delivery. Most housing societies also prohibited delivery boys from entering the premises. So, a combination of factors contributed to the newspapers disappearing in physical form, breaking a morning habit most of us grew up with. This has had two visible effects. First - an en masse migration to digital consumption of news. And by its very nature, a constant digital updating of the news through the day, which many newspaper readers have begun to relish. Two, the newspaper owners have learnt very quickly that the e-paper is the only way to survive, at least for now. So almost everyone has quickly adapted. With the unlocks - newspapers are coming back into homes but dramatically slimmed down, devoid of advertising and a pale shadow of their pre-COVID selves. The newspaper is in serious trouble. To survive, it will need to take on a phygital avatar... a morning physical newspaper that has in-built digital subscription for news during the course of the day. And, more innovations too! The Mid-Day tabloid in Mumbai has graduated in the past few months to a smart new digital format. And for Ganesh Chaturthi this year, it is bringing home the ‘Vignaharta’ from the Mumbaicha Raja Mandal with a live aarti. I am sure others too will evolve with more hi-touch offerings for a stronger reader connects.
- The magazine is dying: Dying, if not already dead. That is the sad truth about magazines. No publications were printed for three to four months. Limited quantities are starting to be put out but the uplift even of those few copies seems exceedingly poor. Features and long copy stories have suffered. Most journalism has been constrained to be of the armchair variety as writers were largely home bound. So online blogs took over from where magazines left off. A comeback for magazines as a genre will be very difficult. Only specialist publications will manage to survive.
- Radio in serious decline, trying to reinvent: Radio listenership suffered quite massively in past months. Radio has substantial usage during office commutes. With WFH, radio got severely impacted. To survive the difficult times, most radio stations got into partnerships with OTT music streaming apps and made their content available on these apps. They also started to promote their digital assets aggressively and extensively; to entertain listeners through social media with live concerts, celebrity call-ins and live- chats. Voice as a medium is poised for a very major leap forward. But its oldest user radio is going to face very strong headwinds in the days to come. Those in the radio business that will deploy new technologies to enter consumer apertures with relevance will survive. For the rest, it is going to be a rough road that too with steep inclines.
- Cinemas with dark screens: The movie theatres have been the biggest casualties of the pandemic lockdowns. Films have missed out on the lucrative summer vacation period, when schools and college’s close, and families visit theatres in hoards. Theatres look likely to remain shut for quite a while. And even when they reopen, social distancing norms will kill theatre occupancy. Many producers decided not to wait and chose OTT platforms to premiere their films, causing ripples across the film business. The emergence of OTT has disrupted the entertainment sector. It has made movie watching convenient, accessible and affordable across a wider segment of the users. Anybody with a mobile phone and Internet connection can catch a movie anytime, anywhere. I will not get into the movie-theatre versus OTT merits and demerits but I see the emergence of a one-time ticketed subscription for movie premieres as a near-time possibility. So, the ticket price on the first Friday would be highest, remain high on the first weekend, get cheaper through the week and then be available as part of the normal OTT subscription for free in later weeks. Plus, a paid advertising model on OTT releases may emerge. Let us wait and see.
- Television holding out, but just about: The lockdowns could have been television’s biggest opportunity, with viewers sitting at home. But general entertainment television channels just didn’t have enough of a content pipeline for on-air shows. ‘Banking’ as it is called in the television business refers to episodes of a serial shot in advance of being broadcast and ‘banked’ ahead of schedule. But such banking, or content buffer, is at most for a couple of weeks. So, after a few days, the channels had no choice but to rerun evergreen content from their libraries. The reruns of Ramayan and Mahabharat on Doordarshan were the only silver linings for television in these past months. The April 16, 2020 telecast of the mythological show Ramayan on Doordarshan was watched by 77 million viewers worldwide, making it one of the most-viewed episodes of TV ever – the final episode of Game of Thrones (17.4m) and viewership of the likes of The Big Bang Theory (18m) were far, far behind in comparison. With the lockdowns being relaxed, shoots have recommenced. General entertainment channels (GECs) are trying to get back to business as usual. But my feeling is that ‘appointment television’ is headed to decline. Appointment television is industry shorthand for the kind of ‘can’t miss’ shows that people make sure they’re home to watch, or record for later viewing. Appointment TV has been in existence since the early days of television when everyone around would tune in to watch popular shows on the air, week after week. But today viewers prefer flexibility. They would rather view what they want to view, when they want to view and that too not necessarily one episode at a time. Except for watching sports, the habit of fixed-time viewing is headed to serious dilution. Going forward, viewers will slowly move to convenience television - forsaking the clock; as also to social television where their mobile is as much in use concurrently; searching, messaging, tweeting - what media-planners term as cross-media viewing.
- Deserted roads make for unviable outdoors: OOH (Out of Home) advertising suffered a lot with no traffic on the roads. Also, empty malls, no trains at railway stations, thinly peopled airports and no taxis, hence no wrap-around messaging on them. Outdoor media has been badly hit over the past few months. WFH is going to keep consumers at home. Schools remaining shut, low footfalls at malls, restaurants still closed for dining in and public transport in low gear will make outdoor as a medium to go into doldrums for some time.
- Streaming is the new flavor: While the film business has been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, people have been watching films in high numbers through streaming platforms. It is being predicted that this surge in streaming may forever change viewing habits, hastening the demise of the traditional cinema. India makes more films and sells more tickets than any other country worldwide, making it one of the biggest potential prizes for streaming platforms. And in recent months, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+Hotstar, MX Player, Zee5 and others have worked really hard, introducing new content, premiering big Bollywood and regional movies to carve out a significant place for themselves in a viewer’s daily routine. The international firms don’t offer much detail on the growth of subscriptions in India, but their challenge will be to hold onto new users once big cinema halls reopen. The current base may still be small and mostly metro-centric, but mobile adoption in past years is evidence of how numbers can rise exponentially. Streaming companies are spending on big budget properties; they are getting movies of top rung actors to debut on their platforms; and most importantly they are gaining traction with Gen Z who are binge watching. Streaming is here to stay. And grow. TV and cinema better watch out.
You can buy Future Shock here: https://www.amazon.in/Future-Shock-Sandeep-Goyal-ebook/dp/B08JLJL1XB .