Kantar’s Managing Directors tell us why ‘Purpose’ is an important contributor to brand equity in India
L-R: Deepender Rana, Executive Managing Director- South Asia, Insights Division, Kantar and Soumya Mohanty, Managing Director- Client and Quantitative, Insights Division, Kantar
Lessons brands can learn from Kantar’s latest BrandZ report on most purposeful brands
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Kantar’s Managing Directors tell us why ‘Purpose’ is an important contributor to brand equity in India

Lessons brands can learn from Kantar’s latest BrandZ report on most purposeful brands
  • In India and across the world, ‘purpose’ has emerged as one of the most important pillars of brand growth – and equally, of brand marketing.
  • This year’s BrandZ India 2021 report looks broadly at the impact of 2020 and 2021’s multifaceted volatility on Indian brands. For the first time, Kantar India is spotlighting the Most Purposeful Indian Brands across CPG, Non-CPG and Technology segments.
  • We catch up with Deepender Rana, Executive Managing Director- South Asia, Insights Division, Kantar and Soumya Mohanty, Managing Director- Client and Quantitative, Insights Division, Kantar to find out how important is purposeful marketing today and discuss the BrandZ report at length.
The initial stage of the global pandemic brought about massive changes in the advertising and marketing ecosystem. It became increasingly imperative for brands to reevaluate their larger purpose of existence in the consumers’ lives and look beyond profits. So, a lot of brands decided to pause their marketing activities and keep their profit-making motives aside. They started telling consumers how they could take better care of themselves during these unprecedented times, or they used their communication tools to spread a message of togetherness instead. Consumers were also looking for brands they could trust, who could provide reliable information, and play a meaningful role in their lives. Therefore, ‘purpose’ became a key pillar of growth for businesses and brand building. Brands that failed to serve a purpose in their consumer’s life suffered.

Kantar conducted an analysis of 418 brands across 30 categories and found that in India especially, perceptions of a brand’s purpose, its ability to ‘make people’s lives better,’ is crucial to establishing a brand’s ‘meaningful quotient’ and for boosting prospects for growth.

The 2021 BrandZ Most Purposeful Brands released yesterday revealed that consumers want brands to lead with a clear sense of purpose, to make their everyday lives better. So this year, brands were ranked on the basis of their ability to ‘make people’s lives better.’

Over the years, Kantar’s BrandZ report has focused on understanding FMCG, Non-FMCG and Technology brands’ ability to generate value by standing out from the pack. This year, Kantar is spotlighting the Most Purposeful Indian Brands across CPG, Non-CPG and Technology segments.

Amazon, Asian Paints and Tata Tea emerged as the most purposeful leaders in India across Technology, Non-FMCG, and FMCG categories respectively.

In the Technology space, Amazon occupied first place followed by Zomato, YouTube, Google and Swiggy jointly in fourth place, followed by Flipkart. The Non-FMCG ranking was dominated by telecom brands, with Samsung and Jio jointly second, followed by MRF, Tata Housing and Airtel. The FMCG category ranks some of India’s biggest names: Tata Tea followed by Surf Excel, Taj Mahal, Parachute and Maggi both in fourth position and Britannia completing the list.

India’s Most Purposeful Technology BrandsRankIndia’s Most Purposeful Non-FMCG BrandsRankIndia’s Most Purposeful FMCG BrandsRank
Amazon1Asian Paints1Tata Tea1
Zomato2Samsung2Surf Excel2
YouTube3JioTaj Mahal3
Google4MRF3Parachute4
SwiggyTata Housing4Maggi
Flipkart5Airtel5Britannia 5

Technology brands dominated India’s Most Purposeful brands. At a time when consumers were desperate for at-home and delivery solutions, tech brands met their needs and helped to keep the country running. They were able to scale up their operations, enter new categories, and launch a wide range of products.

Speaking about the reasons why these five brands did well, Deepender Rana, Executive Managing Director- South Asia, Insights Division, Kantar said, “Most of them live out their purpose in a slightly more holistic manner. So it's definitely not just taking it as a slogan, but about truly offering products or services that make a consumers’ lives easier. And then some of them are able to ladder it up to a higher purpose, as well in terms of a societal purpose, for example. For example, Tata Tea’s communications around Jaago Re aren’t new; however they've been consistent and single-minded about it over the years, and have done a beautiful job of bringing it alive by localising it and talking about it in a way that resonates with audiences across the country. Secondly, COVID resulted in technology coming to the fore. So we all adopted technology at an accelerated pace. They have been either entertaining us or making our lives easier through convenience and safety, giving us the right information, putting us in touch with our loved ones. So, technology brands have been quite central to living out that purpose.”

According to Kantar’s report, Indian consumers, on par with many of their Asian counterparts, are actively engaging with sustainability. In all, 77% are prepared to invest time and money in companies that try to do good.

But how does one define purpose? Soumya Mohanty, Managing Director- Client and Quantitative, Insights Division, Kantar explains, “One of the roots to purpose is social corporate responsibility - to your employees, stakeholders and then environmental and societal response. The other route is through having a well-designed range of products, which makes consumers’ everyday life better. So there’s a ‘why’ and a ‘how’ to the purpose. One of the interesting things that we also find in India is that if you communicate purpose or amplify it, the return is much more than what you get globally, so, talking about your purpose clearly helps here.”

It is, therefore, important for brands to invest in trust, focus on long-term goals and serve a purpose. However, Rana said that brands don’t necessarily need to find ‘a larger purpose’ because consumers don't want brands that are greenwashing or dabbling in slogans.

He explains, “Consumers don’t want brands that are doing things which are not aligned to their core brand DNA. For example, look at what Nike did with Colin Kaepernick and ‘Black Lives Matter’, how they truly stuck their necks out and it played to their DNA. But then let's say you have an example of a soft drink brand trying to ride the black lives movement, and somebody sticks out a bottle in an ad, pretending it will take care of racial equality, that kind of thing usually backfires.”

Purpose can be built on small, helpful daily interactions with consumers – it can also be built on a brand’s large-scale commitments to systemic change. Mohanty and Rana said that the best brands do both. In this year’s Purpose data, consumer perceptions of ‘Good Range,’ and ‘Responsibility’ were both highly correlated to strong Brand Purpose scores.

Mohanty pointed out that brands often confuse cause marketing with purposeful marketing. She said, “Brands can end up doing things that are not exactly aligned to their DNA, and sometimes not even culturally sensitive. And that may not land too well, especially as Indian consumers. So just to recognise the fact that when consumers are saying purpose, they are saying that the role that a brand plays in their everyday life should be clearer. And there are different ways to build that role. And there are different definitions, therefore, on purpose, Amazon's purpose will be very different from the purpose of Britannia. But as long as the consumer is clear about what your purpose is, you are going to be able to benefit from it. If you look at liquor brands and what they did for the pubs, bars and bartenders who lost their livelihood during that period, and how they came to support them, that's true to their DNA. They're not suddenly talking about social justice, because that's nothing to do with your brand's DNA, but just being there for those who are the frontline workers for them.”

2021 Kantar BrandZ data for India, in conjunction with other Kantar consumer sentiment tracking, also revealed several patterns in what Indian consumers deemed ‘Purposeful’ in 2021. Here are a few things that can come in handy for brands as they navigate through the macro-economic challenges and reach out to their consumers:

  • Amplifying or communicating purpose is critical.
  • Tech brands show how everyday convenience contributes to brand purpose. These brands have been able to scale-up and showcase a wide range of products plus enter new categories at a time when consumers were desperate for at-home & delivery solutions. Everyday convenience in turn made lives easier and fueled saliency for brands.
  • FMCG brands are focusing on reducing their carbon footprint and taking a social stance. FMCG brands that score high on brand purpose have shown that purpose and profit can go hand-in-hand. They are working to reduce their environmental impact and promote social causes - which in turn attract customers, partners, and talent.
  • Non-FMCG brands are now adopting marketing strategies that promote the brand in ways that look beyond the function of product or service; the key is to do more than just meeting consumers’ immediate needs, adding new and potentially differentiating associations.
  • The Indian consumer, on a par with many of their Asian counterparts are actively engaging with sustainability; 77% are prepared to invest time and money in companies that try to do good.