Mind your Marketing

Be consumer obsessed

| Updated on May 09, 2019 Published on May 09, 2019

Gareth Flood, Chief Marketing Officer, Shell Lubricants, India

This edition of Mind your Marketing features a conversation with Gareth Flood, Chief Marketing Officer, Shell Lubricants, India, who took over in January 2018. His current role at Shell Lubricants involves business building, organisation excellence, growing brand equity and optimising investments across the Indian market.

1. Have Millennials and GenZ transformed the way businesses approach marketing?

These new consumers tend to be brand conscious, socially connected and always on the move with high usage of the internet for leisure, particularly on mobile phones. They also have a strong sense of social purpose, brands and companies have to do good in the world, not just try to sell them products. So the way you reach these consumers with your message and the types of messages they respond to have both changed drastically over the last 10 years. For example, a lot more marketing happens via digital and mobile phones with brand messages highlighting the social purpose of the company. 

2. What are the best ways to connect with and sell to this audience?

TV continues to be the largest awareness driving mediums in the country. However, time spent on digital overtakes time spent on TV. Therefore, while investing in TV is still important, one can drive sustenance with digital. Within digital, mobile is becoming the primary access point. 

3. What are the specific technologies that have driven these changes?

Cheaper smartphones and tablets as well as cheaper data charges that enable viewing of 4G videos, YouTube, for instance, have accelerated these trends. In the larger Indian towns, you can walk down the streets and see people watching videos on their smartphones. 

4. What do you need to win in the marketplace - better technology or better ideas?

You need both, but which one you need more depends on your specific product or service. Better technology can certainly be a competitive advantage. For example, our premium range of car and bike oils like Shell Advance Ultra is made from ‘gas-to-liquid’ technology that Shell was first to market with and it performs better than many competitor products. However, you still need the great idea to make it relevant to customers. Most people don’t really care about the technology, they care about what it does for them, so for example we tell scooter owners that our scooter oil cleans the vehicle’s engines 33% better than the leading competitor, protecting their scooter engine and giving better performance – helping them ‘outride anything’.

5. What makes customer experiences the differentiator of the future?

If you have products that are roughly comparable in the market, then what people remember is the experience with the brand or product. It has been proven that giving a better customer experience consistently can be a competitive advantage over time. Taking a look at airlines for example, Virgin Atlantic took on British Airways by giving a better experience and in India you see Vistara developing something similar. At Shell, we track a range of customer satisfaction scores, across a range of metrics to ensure the experience is the best it can be and matches up to our brand and company promise.

6. How do you bridge the gap between expectations and experiences?

One big step is making sure that your product performance matches your brand promise, testing it in as many environments as possible to ensure your claims are accurate. The second is to make your back office processes as seamless as possible. If you have a wonderful brand and campaign but the product does not arrive on time, the invoice is wrong and there is no one on the phone to talk to about it, then it is a bad experience and customers go elsewhere. This is why in Shell India, we have invested heavily in our customer operations facilities in Chennai and our plant near Taloja to ensure the delivery and follow through matches the brand messages.

  • One strategic change we plan to execute by 2020
  • Building our overall brand in the market
  • My top three marketing mantras for 2019
  • Data Monetisation; AI; paid/owned/earned media
  • Three words I believe define a hot brand
  • Relatable, connected and innovative
  • A powerful ad campaign I liked from 2018
  • Too Yumm! – there was a good use of humour making it memorable. Right use of celebrity link with Virat Kohli made the health benefits clear.

7. What does it take for brands to stay competitive in today's dynamic economy and market?

Staying obsessed with the customer and moving with them as their needs change is critical. At Shell, we spend a lot on insights research and review it every year to make sure we stay up to date with the changing needs and actions of our customers. If you base your company around finding and meeting customer needs, you will seldom go wrong.

8. What are the three secrets to successful branding?

First is to ensure your product or service is good enough in a world with so much choice – this has to be the starting point. For example at Shell, we consistently spend globally $ 1 billion more on R&D than our nearest competitor to ensure our next generation of products is superior. Second is having a clear brand positioning in a cluttered world. Third is customer centricity – keeping yourself updated with your customers’ world and their needs, by spending time with them. 

9. Can a one-size-fits-all approach work in a differentiated market such as India?

To a limited extent it is possible, but India is so diverse that at some point you need to get to regional differences, languages etc. if you want real scale. Deploying global ads only in English, restricts you to the metro cities. 

10. Why and how should brands think local?

Brands should think local because the customers are local. It is about finding the balance between national campaigns versus different campaigns for 29 states. It will vary by brand but most should consider and test whether what they are doing is relevant locally and adapt what is needed to make it relevant to the customer. 

11. How does your brand approach the Southern market when it comes to branding and consumer engagement?

We find the Southern market responds well to branded storytelling content and on-ground activations with product trials. For example, our Shell Advance ad ‘The Ride’ did really well in digital formats in the South.

12. What is unique about the South Indian market? Do you see any difference in consumer behaviour from the North, in your category? 

In general, South is more receptive to brand led campaigns and North tends to be more value led, supported by specifications and claims though having a strong brand is important for both areas as a starting point.

This article is part of a brand initiative by The Hindu BusinessLine to profile marketing professionals from across India.

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Published on May 09, 2019
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