Cautious Creativity Or Sensitive Marketing

Senior marketers debate on whether marketers need to be cautious, despite recent industry examples, if advertising must continue to play its role of reflecting & shaping consumer behaviour

In the world of social media, where audiences get a chance to comment on just about everything, marketer’s challenges vary in unpredictable ways. In recent times however, given the sheer complaints and changes done to logos, ads and even content, it would appear that there is massive audience unrest. 

Senior industry leaders caution that this notion by itself can be misleading. Karthi Marshan, President & Chief Marketing Officer, Kotak Mahindra Group states, “Not all consumers are up in arms. The satisfied ones may not comment. It is largely a select few that fit this descriptor. But we would be overthinking, if we use this as the benchmark to gauge consumers behaviours.”

He advises that if a brand stays true to its purpose, and is responsible in its messaging, it is likely to strike the right chord. “If you get this right, the chances of withdrawing ads or changing them is reduced,” he says.

This being said, Marshan is among those senior leaders who are not onboard some of the changes that current content creators, especially in the OTT platforms had to undergo in the wake of criticisms on social media or complaints filed with local authorities. While he does place himself among the ‘liberals’, he advises that as communication is becoming more careful, brands should consider liaising better with the likes of legal teams to understand the risks they undertake, especially if they challenge norms.

DLF’s Chief Marketing Officer & Senior Vice President, Karan Kumar, challenges the concept of cautious creativity as well. “Fundamentally brands need to take a position and make a stand. I do not think there is anything called cautious creativity. Creativity is an expression of this position. If you have a strong point of view, as a responsible brand, you must stand up for it.” 

Citing ad legend Bill Bernbach, who was quoted on “All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level,” both leaders point out that advertising is mandated to form consumer attitude and shape thinking.

Some progress has been made in this as well. 

“The objectification of women in advertising has shrunk dramatically. I’m very happy that we’re seeing women in much stronger roles than just the stereotypes across content. These are rays of hope,” comments Marshan.

Kumar also calls for strengthening of regulatory frameworks and ensuring safety of work environments so that marketing messaging can be brave and different, and form the right narrative for a society of the future.

The two marketing veterans were speaking at the BW Top 50 Marketers Summit, in a discussion chaired by BW Businessworld’s Group Editorial Director, Noor Fathima Warsia.