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Mobile will play a critical role in engaging the next billion: Rahul Welde

Rahul Welde, Unilever

There are three aspects that broadly articulate Unilever’s approach to its overall business – the significance of developing and emerging markets, sustainable living and finally, the truths of being in an era of rapid change which is a consequence of technology and digital growth.

For Rahul Welde, Vice President – Media (Asia, Africa, Middle East & Turkey) Unilever, these three points interconnect with each other and bring their own challenges and opportunities. Speaking at the MMA Forum in Singapore, Mr Welde pointed out, “Things around us are moving at a dramatic pace. Change in the future would never be as slow as it is today.”

Mobile can be at the core of navigating Consumers, Cause and Change
In line with the popular industry sentiment, Unilever is of the opinion that developing and emerging markets are poised to see 70 per cent growth in the next few years, and hence would play home to the next billion consumers.

The consumer pyramid, that breaks into the ‘Have Lots’ minority, the 35-40 per cent of ‘Haves’ and the vast majority of ‘Have Nots’, is not expected to change drastically in the next several years. From a marketer viewpoint, the one device that straddles across this spectrum is mobile.

Mr Welde said, “There is nothing as unique as mobile. Barring very few small parts of the world, mobile penetration is everywhere. The key message for us, as marketers, is the great opportunity that this brings in connecting with all kinds of consumers.”

He was however quick to caution that a hard truth about the mobile marketing ecosystem was its enormous complication that in turn can easily lead to confusion.

“The key mantra we try to practise is to keep calm and not look at all the stuff to get confused. We need to simplify things in order to win in this space,” Mr Welde advised.

Unilever’s marketing manifesto begins with putting people first, building brand love and then unlocking the magic that allows the company’s brands to reach more people, more often and in more places. It is therefore no surprise that for the company, mobile is important and plays a crucial role in achieving its overarching marketing goals.

“When you put people first, there is nothing like mobile. But you have to remember that mobile is a multipurpose medium. Different people use mobile for different reasons – whether it is phone and text, or social or search or just surfing and mailing or entertainment. It has to be borne in mind that mobile has different roles and an effective communication needs to factor all of this in.”

Welde’s five points on unlocking the mobile marketing magic
The first for Mr Welde is the Engagement quotient that mobile as a medium provides. “Mobile enables to engage 365 days, on an ongoing basis to make sure brand love is maintained. And it also allows us to up-trade a consumer from a lower-end product version to higher-end or a more premium version,” he explained.

The second point is Entertainment or Utility. The equation finally is around the value of the reward that a consumer can get. Consumers will not find a brand communication worthy of their time if it fails to offer either some form of engagement or some kind of utility.

Marketers are tempted to do everything but it is important to make choices. Mr Welde’s third point, Fit for Purpose, suggests that marketing cannot afford to forget basics – who is the consumer, what is the job that needs to be done in the marketing exercise and does the solution address that job. The choice of whether using rich media to communicate or using iAds should be based on this.

The final two points encourage to think Capability and Partnerships. Unilever itself undertakes several initiatives to not only lift the capability of the entire organisation to a particular benchmark by training but also by providing tools and toolkits. The company has go-to people and go-to places such as the Media Labs in Shanghai and Mumbai that can assist brand managers and other employees on what should be done when it comes to mobile or digital.

Partnerships lay the foundation of everything Unilever does — how it achieves its goals, what it learns and takes back on things it is developing, executing and so on. The company is at present developing several partnerships for mobile as well.

“At the end, it is about growth for everyone. All forms of marketing need to support that cause and when it comes to engaging the next billion, mobile plays a crucial role,” concluded Mr Welde.

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