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Spikes Asia

The Go-To People On Growth

Is growth about numbers, or about people? That’s a question that was posed at Spikes Asia 2017 by Kent Wertime, the co-CEO of Ogilvy and Mather Asia Pacific. If growth is simply a question of numbers, then it makes sense to talk to the bankers and economists about where to find it. But, said Wertime, growth is really about humans, and that means the real expertise is found in the creative sector.

“What we sell is creativity,” he said. “But we sell it towards an end. What we sell every day is the ability to grow consumers, to get people to try new products, to grow their loyalty. What clients buy at the end of the day from us, as a net result, is growth.”

The core to this, according to Wertime, is the emergence of a massive new middle class. It is the change in their lifestyles that he says is delivering real growth to economies, and to companies. These new middle classes may not yet have the assets of those in richer countries, but they certainly have daily purchasing power.

Looking at growth from a people-angle also means questioning the lexicon of growth that is derived from the work of economists and bankers. Look at the ‘BRIC’ economies, for instance, and the enormous variation between the performance between Brazil and India, or Russia and China.

Wertime also took aim at the idea of ‘emerging markets’, which failed to capture exactly how economies were changing. The term suggests a slow build-up to a particular level of economic development, but that does not describe the changes now happening.

“The next billion middle class consumers are not going to be like the last billion middle class consumers. Why?” asked Wertime. For one thing, their lives are accelerated, partly through their access to so much through a smartphone. “What that’s bringing about is not just raw economic power, but social change. It’s bringing about the ability for anybody who’s a newly middle class person to have an opinion, to share an opinion, to potentially start a micro-business, and to do a number of things to drive growth”

This people-led conception of growth, focusing on the accelerated lives of the new middle classes, is what has led Ogilvy to develop a list of key countries that it called the ‘Velocity 12’. The ‘V12’ countries are all going to experience a tipping point in terms where “they fundamentally become middle class societies” between 2015 and 2025.

Many, though not all, of the V12 are in Asia. Wertime included places like Nigeria, Egypt, Brazil, and Mexico into the mix. China is – of course – on the list. But the “really big growth” of the type that Wertime was talking about will be in India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh.

For companies that want to capture this growth it’s important that they have a better understanding of accelerated lifestyles, and those new middle classes. “We are the people who need to have a future vision of how human beings are changing very rapidly,” said Wertime. That means C-suites should put the numbers aside, and bring in the creatives to talk about growth instead.

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