From juice, biscuits and cosmetics to cricket, aviation and telecom — Shabnam Panjwani has worked on them all. After a long innings in advertising where she built campaigns for brands such as Frooti, Oil of Olay, Emirates and Parle-G, she moved to Edelweiss group as Head of Marketing and Communication in 2006. After completing her post-graduate course in advertising and marketing at the Xavier Institute of Communication in Mumbai, Panjwani joined DaCunha Advertising, and later moved on to Everest Advertising as Vice-President and Head of its Mumbai branch.
She is credited with steering Edelweiss to being declared a Business Super Brand by Superbrands India as well as winning four Abbys for excellence in advertising in 2010.
Shabnam is passionate about theatre.
My most memorable marketing initiative
Definitely, the Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance advertising campaign ‘Insurance se badhkar hai aapki zarrorat’ which emphasises that identifying the customer’s needs and requirements is of utmost importance before offering an insurance solution. Consumer research highlighted the huge gap between understanding the needs of the consumer and selling insurance policies.
Consumers perceive insurance as a complex financial instrument and tend to gravitate to the company that understands their needs. Consumer research coupled with insights gleaned from the need-based selling approach adopted by the financial advisors assured us that the positioning was differentiated, relevant and ownable.
The brand campaign uses simple life analogies to show how when needs are not understood, the advice provided is mostly inappropriate. Edelweiss Tokio Life’s approach to selling revolves around extensively trained advisors who understand the customers’ needs first and only then suggest appropriate insurance solutions. In fact, the advisors go one step ahead and refuse to sell unless they have fully understood the needs.
The other memorable campaign was for Parle Agro’s Frooti. While at Everest DY&R (now Everest Brand Solutions) we won the mandate to reposition Frooti for an older age group and make it a trendier brand.
We created the ‘Digen Verma’ campaign making him an iconic teen idol that teenagers wanted to emulate. This was a 360-degree campaign with innovative firsts — footprints at young hangout places with the message ‘Digen was here’ printed on it, bellboys in hotels walking around with ‘Phone call for Digen Verma’ placards, whisper campaigns in college canteens that ‘Digen had just left’… supported by a set of beautifully shot commercials directed by the amazing Abhinay Deo served to win Frooti ‘Campaign of the Year’.
My first product launch
My first product launches were for Orange Frooti way back in 1989, followed by Bagpiper Gold from the UB stable, and then the re-launch of Oil of Olay with insights mined from the Indian consumer in order to develop contextually relevant advertising. (Till then all Oil of Olay communication comprised other Asian TVCs dubbed in Hindi.)
A setback I have learnt from
What advertising and the agencies of then taught us was to have an eye for detail and tremendous rigour. But most importantly anyone who’s dealt with bromides and slides in carousels will understand the power and the importance of always having a Plan B.
Murphy will be around and anything that could go wrong will go wrong. So the ability to constantly be paranoid while avariciously seeking newer and fresher solutions is now ingrained. I learnt for whatever that one can do, Plan B (and nowadays even Plan C) will ensure that execution will go off smoothly.
My marketing idol
Warren Buffet, the sage of Omaha. The power he holds and the marketing he’s done to become a brand is possibly unparalleled. Every student worth his salt would know of him and would have heard his pithy comments, and that is sans blogs, tweets and multimedia advertising campaigns.
Where I get my insights from
Watching people go by while having coffee on a busy street, at the grocery aisles, in little khopchis driving up from Manali to Leh, in the Ajanta ferry that plies between Gateway of India and Mandwa, Alibag, during a quiet moment in a particularly loud dandiya event. These quiet moments help store insights that delve into the minds and actions of the consumer. Trawling the Net is also a great place to seek insights and trends. Unfortunately, for more category-specific insight mining we still tend to depend upon the more intrusive FGDs and DIs.
How I developed my marketing skills
At Da Cunha, my first job, I walked straight into sales meets and kirana stores. Marketing is all about seizing opportunities and a seeming rawness in the gut. So most times I listen to my intuition and then attempt validation. Data provides a high only when the numbers speak to you. Or else it remains just that … data.
Marketing to my mind defines how the front line staff will greet the customer all the way to the SMS that thanks the customer and everything in between — broadcast, engagement, influence, building preference — so keeping eyes and ears open to any opportunity to dialogue with the consumer is how I understood marketing.
From advertising and FMCG to insurance
The only similarity is the constant need to do something different that is relevant and entirely unique to the brand. Everything else is different. Though while in advertising, I worked with some of the most demanding clients from Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Parle, UB, Honda, Yamaha and Emirates amongst others, my first few years at Edelweiss I would describe as more challenging and invigorating.
Marketing required for selling financial products and services has to be far more evolved. Customers buy into the hope of a secure financial future.
The tangibility of the promise is the ‘trust factor’ of the company selling the service (hope). There’s no touch and feel before taking what is most likely a very important decision on how to invest or secure your money or wealth.