MRSI Unveils ISEC To Redefine Crucial Variables

Aligned with the introduction of ISEC, MRSI orchestrated a panel discussion in the capital on 21 February, 2024 that emphasised the significance of an advanced socio-economic classification system for effectively reaching target consumers

India's exclusive and independent market research industry authority, the Market Research Society of India (MRSI), has declared the adoption and implementation of its latest Socio-economic Classification System, known as 'ISEC.' The existing Socio-economic Classification (SEC) in India, relying on consumer durables and vehicle ownership, is undergoing a transformation. The surge in GDP, income, consumer durables penetration, and vehicle ownership has led to the current socio-economic classification losing precision and becoming more unstable. The necessity for redefining crucial variables prompted the development of a more enduring and robust framework, namely 'ISEC.' Notable industry players set to embrace ISEC include The Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA), research users from organizations like ITC, Hindustan Unilever Limited, Marico, Dabur India, research agencies such as Kantar, IPSOS, and major media agencies.

Aligned with the introduction of ISEC, MRSI orchestrated a panel discussion in the capital on 21 February, 2024 that emphasised the significance of an advanced socio-economic classification system for effectively reaching target consumers. Substantiating their viewpoints were seasoned industry leaders including Amit Adarkar, CEO of IPSOS India; Jasmine Sachdeva, Managing Partner of Wavemaker India; Muralidhar Salvateeswaran, Chief Operations Officer, Insights APAC at Kantar; Rajiv Dubey, Head of Media at Dabur India; Vivek Malhotra, Group CMO of India Today Group; and Vinay Virwani, Head - Consumer Insights at Dabur India. Moderated by MRSI’s General Secretary, Shuvadip Banerjee, Chief Digital Marketing Officer of ITC, the panel delved into the growing necessity for a more profound comprehension of consumer behaviour, precise media targeting, and the challenges confronting the industry within the current NCCS framework.

Going around the table to discuss as to how they have seen this expansion and in their own roles, how have they been traversing this complex space, Sachdeva mentioned that in so many years, all of us have experienced that, marketing definitely has become more complex. “Getting the same guy, the same growth, getting the same parameters that we were able to target or meet is not the same. We are dealing with somebody who has so many more choices. If they have so many more choices, we have to reach out to them very differently, very uniquely, and as per their media consumption or their advertising receptiveness. Everything has changed dramatically and it's become complex. There was a time when we would just have some 20 channels in our campaign and we would say we met everybody. But today it's definitely a big, big challenge to get to that audience.”

Talking about his perspective which was more from an agency point of view and being part of the research agency ecosystem, Adarkar brought out, “I think for me the one thing which we really miss out or don't pay attention to is the changes in the country's demographics. We always had this perception about India being a certain kind of nation with 70 per cent of people staying in villages. But in the last five years, and perhaps the next five years, there's this huge demographic change with the country is undergoing.

And to that extent, when we go and talk to people as consumers, customers, exactly who we speak to, and how do we take into account the changing - for example, role plays within a household, the relative roles of men versus women, how's the decision making happening at a household level etc.  So I think these things are fascinating because in market research, unless you speak to the right person and ask the right kind of questions, any amount of analysis you do is pretty much not going to be worth anything. So for me, I think that's one thing that we miss out. Demographics is a big change which is happening for the country.”

Dubey went on to add, “I think over last 30 years, which we would have witnessed in this country, is that the demographics have changed, people habits have changed, the entire construct of media has changed.

But for business, the challenges have remained the same, which is growth. And more growth and more business that has remained the same. Look at the way consumers have behaved in this country. When I look back early 90s, the penetration of oral care, or toothpaste was about 60 – 65 per cent, reached about 99 per cent. Now, hair care brands like shampoos, etc, were also at about 60-65 per cent, reached to 99 per cent. There's saturation happening in a lot of categories, so challenges of growth are immense. And that's one side of the business.

Second side is the challenges, the complexity in media, in the sense that there's so many ways one can target the same consumer and it's becoming more and more challenging. So I think that's one challenge. “

Malhotra stated, “Now, today, when you think you've sort of cracked the consumption pattern on YouTube, you suddenly have something which is a WhatsApp channel and people start following it. Then you realise that having a one view of the customer only channel is still a very far-fetched dream. So that to me, is the biggest complexity and the big challenge that I think finally comes into is how do you segment the consumers so that you can service them better.”

Salvateeswaran elucidated, “We talked about complexity of marketing. I think there is the complexity of the consumer itself to start with. Complexity in terms of the way they make decisions today - it's no longer linear and there's multi-linearity. And the way they make choices for one category versus the other could be completely different. So we can't bucket them into being a premium customer or a mass customer. They can be premium for some category which is of relevance for them, they could be mass for something else. I think the whole complexity of how they make those choices and what influences those choices beyond conventional marketing activities, I think is the biggest piece to look for. And of course, it is linked to targeting, but it's beyond targeting to understand what the complexities are.”

Echo what everyone had already said, and adding to that, Virwani said, “I think what has really changed over the last few years is this whole mass customization also that has happened, right, because of ecommerce and because of D2C players and all. So while of course there's complexity, but I would say that it has also enabled ecosystems which are able to have very sharp, targeted products. For example, you have so D2C players having very focused benefit products, and they're able to target the consumers also in a very precise way. Like earlier, with TV as a medium, we couldn't really sharp target people accordingly. And the cohort targeting has kind of simplified that way, while there are compensating other ways.

Then with Gen Z and Gen alpha around, their whole perspective is very different and they are the goal to the future consumers. And suddenly things like sustainability and recycling of your products, etc, suddenly these products, these values have become much more important. So, how do we as a company, as an organisation, do all of this? And also at the same time, we remain profitable and kind of have bottom line growth also. That is in the key challenge.”

Wrapping up, arriving at segments of profitable growth within that becoming a challenge, speaking to cohorts, the language to be used in order to speak to them to convince them to buy brands, buy categories - were discussed to be some of the obvious core themes that come up. Needless to say, the consumers are becoming complex, and there is a multiple causality behind that.

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