Marketing in the Never-Normal Era

I was invited to write an article on Marketing for the 4th edition of the annual marketing magazine of IFMR GSB — `MARKSHASTRA 4.0’. Sharing the piece here.

The pandemic has thrown the ‘fields’ of lives work and businesses wide open. Many of us, like the group of hyper-intelligent beings, are seeking an answer to probably the new ultimate question of Life, the Universe, and Everything i.e. “What is normal?” Arthur Dent this time may find the answer to be different from Forty-two.

The return to normal, or call it never-normalcy, would be interesting in many ways. The last two years have seen many changes, which are irreversible, be it consumption and purchase choices, ways of working, attitude to work-life balance, education, healthcare, and many more. On a parallel course, technology advancements such as 5G, AI, ML, IoT, Blockchain, and Web 3.0 are disrupting the marketplaces and creating collision courses. The perfect storm is here.

Marketing in these uncertain times is challenging and exciting. We need to pave the future in a calibrated manner, on one side leaning on a set of unquestionable principles for Marketing and on the other side adapting to change in an agile manner.

Human Aspects of Marketing

Marketing in these times is sensitive. McKinsey in its article series[1] said, “Leading in a caring, empathetic manner during these difficult times has the potential to create real connections that will outlive the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. Whether the business is a Direct2Consumer or a B2B, human has to be at the center of Marketing. Personalised, empathetic, and fostering ‘real’ conversations should be amongst the guiding principles of marketing today.

High Touch to Hybrid-touch

The buying cycles and purchase behaviours have changed considerably during the pandemic, many proving to be irreversible. In B2B Customers today use ten or more channels to interact with vendors and partners. There is a newfound comfort to leverage digital self-service and substitute face-to-face interactions with remote virtual interactions. Brands need to be omnipresent across, not limited to, web, email, social, phone, virtual and in-person too. Wither high-touch engagements! The need for personal relationships, thankfully, has not gone away. Only when the relationships are deep enough, do the personal face-to-face aspects of customer engagement become prominent. Brand Marketers need to sweat more to build lasting relationships.


Digital advertising garners 31% of Indian advertising spend and is estimated to grow at 22.5% CAGR. Overtaking print, digital marketing by its inherent data-driven nature is creating unprecedented possibilities to drive RoMI based marketing programs. Search, Social, video, and Display advertising are fast substituting the traditional advertising channels. The need for skilled talent is immense and the war for digital marketing talents is something to watch out for in the coming times.

Consumer, as we know, has changed

An era where fans are the owners. Trust is paramount. More conscious of the environment and social factors. Possibly irreverent to the political climate and traditional ‘jobs. Comfort with contradictions replaces the binaries. The virtual spaces have a new meaning for the next-gen. Cookies crumble. et al.

Brands have a task. To deliver multi-sensory experiences, solve challenges at the right time in the right way through the right channel.

No Short cuts

Building lasting brands is hard work. With trust at its core, brands need to be built with a strong purpose. A moment marketing world doesn’t give a license to lose touch with moments of truth with customers. Building a consistent brand experience across Products, services, digital modes, and more importantly sales & service teams is paramount. There are no sprints in the brand building!

Aim for loon shots

“The future will belong to the best-connected and most agile, not necessarily the biggest”[2].

In the Global 500 brands 2022 rankings, India ranked eighth by the number of brands featured and 9th by brand value. The chart is up for disruption and India has a sure opportunity to create lasting and memorable brands, which shape the new world order. The spirit of experimentation should prevail, learning, adapting, and building an appetite for failures. The pace of technological advancements is forcing marketers to innovate constantly. The world needs entrepreneurial marketers.

The secret potion to win in the marketplace is Talent. The temples of learning such as IFMR GSB are fertile grounds to seed, grow entrepreneurial talent, and create new agents of change to excel in the never normal.

To a brighter set of Growth drivers and CMOs in the making, may you thrive!

[1] Connecting with Customers in times of crisis, April 15, 2020,

[2] Denstu Creative trends 2022



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