Tracking opportunities in the marketplace

Published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 13, 2003

One of the many skills of a successful marketer is the ability to track market opportunities much like a hound after its prey. More than ever, at this time of hyper-competition, diverse and segmented markets, marketers are required to be trend trackers and skilful solution providers who can evolve the company and its brands to become more responsive to the changing marketplace.

Trend tracking and the capability to spot opportunities is but one piece of the puzzle. Another is the company’s vision and commitment to take advantage of these opportunities. Here is where marketers often face a crossroad – respond to opportunities where the brand or company has the present strength or take the path less traveled and consider better opportunities where the company or brand might need to acquire or develop certain strengths.

This unique skill to track trends grounded on the marketer’s keen sensitivity and intuitiveness when it comes to customer needs and wants makes the marketer different from other functional organization experts. This is made more formidable by the marketer’s experience and skilful training in matching the needs and wants with the brand’s surreal promise.

Below are some of the trends, many at its infancy stage locally, but already shaping the new marketing landscape.

Emerging mass market for health and wellness products and services, functional foods and nutraceuticals.

A baby boomer population preoccupied with aging gracefully, a growing awareness that good health extends longevity and increasing healthcare costs have led consumers to be more vigilant about their health. Thus, the rising need for products and services that promotes good health and well-being.

Among these are functional foods or nutraceuticals that have disease preventing ingredients and benefits as part of their nutritional value and brand promise.

Functional foods or nutraceuticals include medicinal teas, cereals, read-todrink functional beverages, dietary supplements, fresh juices, soy products, dairy alternatives, pasta, popcorn, oil, margarine and butter spreads, etc. with ingredients like antioxidants, beta-carotene, soluble fiber, oat fiber, garlic, ginger, green tea extract, lutein, lycopene, etc. Functional brands are positioned to prevent specific health problems like diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, etc. An example from Quaker Oats Co. is its brand of Mother’s Toasted wheat germ that helps promote a healthy heart. Another is Kellogg’s Nutrigrainbrand certified by the American Heart Association to meet the food criteria for saturated fat and cholesterol.

Consumer need for health and wellness will no doubt lead to the proliferation of community gyms, spas, nutritional counselors or food coaches as well as anti-aging products like anti-wrinkle creams and preventive hair loss products.

Male Vanity

Driven by the need to cling to their youthful past, baby boomer men, those born between 1946 to 1964, may actually be a good market for an extensive offering of relaxation and grooming treatments and services including cosmetics and male spa services. One of the brands that have made a leap into this relatively new segment is Clinique for men. Another is Hard Candy Co. of Beverly Hills Californiawhose line of nail color for men are hot sellers.

Affordable indulgence

Consumers are always on the lookout for products and services that provide them a much needed emotional lift. Related to this, economic diversity will always find mutual ground in occasional, affordable splurges. Aromatherapy, foot spa, hair relaxation, rich-tasting French ice cream and sorbet, Starbucks coffee, etc. may be regular indulgences for the wealthy but the less privileged are not exempt from a once-in-a-while indulgence.

Beauty, a passport for individualism

More than a corrective procedure, cosmetic surgery is now a personal statement toward a more comfortable self and appearance. Consumers are wearing the results of cosmetic and maxillofacial surgeries like a badge – from tattoos, tummy tucks, breast lift and enlargement procedures, jaw surgeries, etc.

New form of women connectivity

Women are highly social. They naturally gravitate to groups. It is no wonder that Avon and Tupperware successfully built their brands via the women networking hub. Women connectivity has moved from yesterday’s party talk to more meaningful dialogues that promote health and wellness, balanced family and work life and other life skills. An example is Rustan’s Fleur Essence brand’s occasional afternoon tea wellness seminars on aromatherapy that draws quite a crowd of women.

Real people, real situations sell wares

Undeniable, the Philippine market is enamored by celebrity endorsers. Yet, there is growing receptiveness to advertising that depicts real people, real situations. Who is to forget the McDonald’s Lolo advertising? Who can deny being captivated by Surf’s Wais Lumen character or the more recent Selecta ice cream commercial that makes humorous pun of real-life disparity between the lifestyles of the rich and the not so wealthy?

Even a recent Yankelovitch global survey shows that celebrities scored a low 8 percent on trust, far below the 65 percent who trust friends and 27 percent who trust experts.

Rise of Knowledge workers

Today, businesses realize that information technology is a mere tool to an end – the quest for knowledge and insights to drive a brand’s success. Knowledge will drive today’s economy rooted in globalization.

Companies must view employees as knowledge workers valued for their skill and contribution in sifting through a mass of data provided by today’s technology. This requires organizations to provide their employees learning opportunities to enhance their work and life skills to be able to compete globally. Access to internet technology and in-house functional and life skills seminars keep up employees’ creative juices flowing and suit the temperament and nature of today’s work pressure and hard-pressed time.

Another set of knowledge workers is the group of special-skilled coaches, also called business consultants. They are academically proficient with grounded experience in specific functional skills. Beware the business consultant whose lifetime work and functional expertise is finance yet poses as a marketing coach or consultant and vice versa.

Trends emerge out of consumer behavior. Over time, this behavior becomes universal across a specific consumer market. The marketer’s challenge is to detect the opportunity provided by the trend and study its application to a specific market.