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  • Suman Shrivastav

We ignore the fact that human beings are irrational: Suman Srivastava

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

Suman Srivastava, Vice Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer, FCB Ulka Group, seeks to highlight the marketing truths that companies tend to ignore (the elephants in the room) in his recently launched book – ‘Marketing Unplugged: Spotting The Elephants In The Room’. Some of these truths are ‘consumers are not rational’, ‘consumers hate making choices’, ‘all consumers are not equal’ and so on.

Marketing is using Nehru era tools to solve Modi era problems. Academics and thinkers have come up with new tools that would be more relevant, but practitioners stubbornly stick to their tired old flathead screwdrivers. This book is an attempt to introduce marketers to a new toolbox and reduce their resistance to using them by providing real world examples from India and abroad.

In this interaction with AdGully, Suman Srivastava speaks about the idea behind ‘Marketing Unplugged’, why this book is needed, the issues that the book addresses and more. Excerpts:

What was the idea behind writing ‘Marketing Unplugged’? ‘Marketing Unplugged’ is trying to put together a new approach for marketing. My argument is that a lot of the tools of marketing were invented in the 1960s or before and are no longer relevant in today’s world. Meanwhile, many new ideas have emerged, but these are not in widespread use. The book highlights some of these new ideas and argues for using them in place of the old tools that are no longer working.

What’s in it for marketers and the advertising fraternity? I think that the new approach to marketing is relevant for the new world that we live in. Hence, I think that the book would be of interest to most people in the marketing and advertising fraternity.

How difficult is it to spot the ‘elephants in the room’? Why do practitioners tend to ignore them? Actually it is quite easy to spot the elephant in the room. The problem is that practitioners may not know the alternative way of working. Often it is easier to continue with the old tools, rather than make the effort of learning and using new ones. That is why the elephants continue in the room.

In what ways are companies/ brands impacted by ignoring these marketing truths? Brands are fighting wars and nobody is really winning them. Instead, brands should focus on innovations that can lead to creation of new markets and thus, new growth.

What does this book offer that other books on this topic do not? This book builds on the ideas of “Gurus” and puts together these ideas into a new narrative. Thus, it helps the reader make sense of the different “new” ideas that are floating around.

According to you, which is the one marketing truth that is ignored the most by the industry and why? If I was forced to choose one, then it would be that we ignore the fact that human beings are irrational. We know this to be true, but in board rooms, we assume that if we offer customers a good value proposition then she will take it. The reality is that there are so many other factors that enter into her decision process that the rational value proposition often gets drowned out.

Every problem requires a solution. Can we expect a sequel to ‘Marketing Unplugged’ in the near future? It was hard writing this book. I have no idea if I have the energy to write another one. There is nothing in the works right now.

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