Trust Plays A Greater Role In Branding In A Postpandemic Digital Economy


Ritesh Jain, BU Head – Prescription & Consumer, CetaphilThere are far fewer human babies being born on the planet. Much of the developed world – US, Japan, China, EU – and developing nations such as Brazil, Bangladesh and Indonesia are witnessing birth rates declining to below the replacement rate of 2.1. Put simply, this means populations are shrinking. If anything, the Covid pandemic has exacerbated the situation with countries recording sharp falls in fertility rates in the past two years. This trend holds true for India as well, as the latest National family Health Survey (NFHS) 19-21 study shows. What is the significance of the baby bust for economies, markets, and society as a whole? The implications are clear. In a world subsumed by the pandemic, it’s clear that both business environment and consumer behaviour are in a state of flux. And businesses need to take note of just how all-pervasive these changes are. C

onsider the parenting space. As we learn to live in the new ‘normal’, there is a perceptible shift to holistic living. More people are feeling the need to shift to a happier, healthier, and more caring economy. This trend is increasingly visible in the way consumers are questioning and showing a growing awareness of what goes into the products they buy. Going even further, consumers are deep diving into aspects such as whether products are packaged sustainably, how companies treat their employees, where materials are sourced from, and even what the company stands for, its purpose or vision. Clearly, brands and companies need to communicate about more than their products – the entire value chain is now a part of the brand narrative.

Nowhere is consumer scrutiny more evident than in the baby care category, specifically skin care. In this landscape of well-informed parents, the rapidly growing industry – with Baby Skincare Category Size of close to $500 million, has seen a CAGR of 8-10 percent in the last few years – is poised to grow further. Consumers are investing in educating themselves not only about what they put in their bodies but also what they put on them. A deeper look at markets shows emerging trends that indicate future disruption. For instance, in India, where traditional skincare regimes still hold sway over the consumer, consumer interest has sparked the entry of a wide range of organic or natural skincare products alongside conventional brands.

This correlates to the need for convenience in families with working parents. And yet, there is a shift to product attributes that revolve around natural and trust rather than product benefits such as affordability or convenience. A study on baby care products in Asia indicates that parents are willing to pay a premium for brands associated with trust and safety. The changing market landscape is a fallout of the global trend of falling birth rates, which is visible in the growing urban trend of single-child families. Today, when most urban, educated parents are choosing to have only one child (13 percent of families in metro cities), the conscious time and money spent on the child is increasing. For instance, studies show that more than 40 percent of women make a conscious change to a healthier regimen when they are pregnant. Simply put, parents today want to be able to give their child the best – and ‘best’ begins right from when the children are babies. While Indian parents broadly prefer tried and tested routes, sticking to brands or regimens from their comfort zone, more parents are willing to spend time in identifying products that are considered natural and safe.

For new brands or market entrants, this has strong implications for brand communication. One factor is the rising importance of social media and the role of influencers in marketing strategies. Consumers flock to various social media platforms to discover new brands and products. According to a Deloitte report, social media influences 56 per cent of consumers buying baby products, while 62 percent of modern mothers say they use Instagram to learn about new products and services for their babies, according to Pew Research. Another factor is that traditionally, women have driven retail economics, and shopping for baby products is even today largely controlled by them. Millennial mothers, especially, are looking for products that they can trust – products that are safe, gentle on their babies’ skin, free of animal testing, and free from unnecessary chemicals.

They are avid social media users and are more likely to purchase products based on peer reviews and feedback from contemporary moms on social media. This implies ‘safe’ and ‘trustworthy’ need to be the fulcrum of social media branding that addresses parents and specifically mothers. Post pandemic, India has also seen the rise of digital retail. Online shopping had already been growing rapidly over the last decade, but the ongoing pandemic has seen an aggressive fuelling of digitisation of commerce. With a large percentage of consumers online, companies need to make a rapid shift to meet their information needs, especially as relating to brand expectations. The trends indicate that the rapidly changing nature of consumer expectations in India is an opportunity for skincare brands to build deeper relationships with parents who are looking at trust and safety as fundamental brand attributes.

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