In this edition of Mind your Marketing, Melanie Fernandez, Head, Marketing for Park Avenue, Raymond Apparel Ltd, has some useful insights, for instance, listening to your customer and capitalising on the opportunities that digital media offers and weaving the two together which is consumer-centric marketing.

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

Irrespective of people’s faith or lack thereof in social and digital marketing, today, a marketer cannot drive demand for a brand without the inexpensive use of social/digital and content-driven marketing. Perhaps the FMCG has been insulated to the extent that there are massive parts of the country where old-school marketing continues to work. But the power of content in evoking a response or reaction, and the need for it in marketing has changed, thanks to the democratisation of information. It is merely coincidental that millenials and GenZ are born during this time.


Today, brands cannot get away by simply paying lip service to an important social issue. It has become critical to think, do plenty of homework and perform a general sensitisation check before launching any communication to today’s consumers. Consumers aren’t shy of calling out brands and downright boycotting them for doing something that they perceive as wrong. At the same time, great marketing has the potential to develop an obsessive following. The speed at which information travels today has forced marketing to constantly challenge itself – create micro-moments of relevance in the consumer’s life. Gone are the days when we could think of two campaigns a year and be done with it. It is a bit like—here today; gone tomorrow!


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

Finding a brand’s true North and following it. If brands are able to identify their purpose, and stay on course, they find it easier to resonate with today’s youth. Consumers find their tribe, and that tribe has a voice, a way of speaking, dressing and engaging. In due course, the tribe/target group that resonates with your purposes will find you.


However, that said, it is also important to listen to what the consumer wants. Although that is a given trend in many ways, it has to be done without losing one’s essence. Creating heroes among your consumers who will echo your purpose because it matches theirs is another way to connect with this generation. In some ways, most of the marketing principles have stayed the same, but the way it is done has evolved remarkably. 


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

Mobile has single-handedly ensured the ease of access to data. In addition, social networking sites and the ancillary technology that helps us understand the behavioural, emotional and momentary experiences of the consumer have all driven us to a space today where micro-targeting and personalisation is the need of the hour.


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

Many people think that ideas are what drive great businesses. Ideas are only as good as their execution. There is no doubt that having a good product or idea comes first and foremost, but it is also important to optimise your customer experience. If better technology aids customer-centricity, owning every step of your customer journey, prioritising that over all else is critical to ‘win’ in the long run.




The Touch of Care Vicks campaign – One in a Million! It still gives me goose bumps for beautiful storytelling, great brand connection, and overall evocativeness. That is one ad I looked up, and showed colleagues, and friends alike, and we all revelled in the beauty of that film.



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

Novelty, or the feeling of newness, is what drives excitement and consumption today. So, if the customer experience is exceptional, compared to the everyday, it definitely wins. There are certain macro trends that consumers are experiencing in their own microcosmic ways. For example, after the financial crisis, people realised the need for financial planning and prudence or the need to own businesses. Today, more people own businesses than ever before in India. As a brand, you need to think about how their lives will change – what will make their experience with your brand memorable, in an everyday kind-of-way. Time has become the most expensive commodity; marketers have to think about how their brand experience helps consumers use this commodity well.


6.         How do you bridge the gap between expectation and experience?

Once a customer has a set of expectations from your brand and those have not been met, it is important to acknowledge this and quickly learn to improve and implement processes to ensure that there is no more mismatch. Customers today assign experiences as an integral part of their understanding of a brand. If you go to your local supermarket, and the cashier recognises you, and reminds you of an offer, you automatically feel more connected – it is these kinds of softer experiences that need to evolve.


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

Brands need to constantly pay attention to what consumers want and take stock of the macro economic trends that are affecting our lives, be it tech, consumerism or larger aspects that affect the world. A brand needs to be as much in tune with the external factors, as it is required to be with the internal ones.


8.         What are the three secrets to successful branding?

• Be true to your own brand’s DNA and use it to create a unique point of view. It is easy to get caught up in the “let’s do what’s cool” cycle, without noting its relevance to the brand.

• Finding a reason for your brand’s existence for the consumers. Does your product solve a problem or serve a purpose?

• Defining a brand space that’s enduring and  you can live up to each season, and striking a balance between staying on trend, yet staying relevant to who you are as a brand.

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

It is true that an idea can certainly be universal. For example, UberEat’s Tinda moment campaign which was also advertised in Southern Indian states made some sense, given how cosmopolitan it is; but there could be other localised ‘Tinda moments’ which are more applicable to South India that could have been used to get the same point across.


10.       Why and how should brands think local?

I think a lot here depends on the category one is operating in. For example, everyone has to brush their teeth, wash their hair, and by and large has the same challenges as any other person on the planet. So in that sense, dubs to some extent may make sense. But if you want to take it further, you can look at micro campaigns; social media provides a great space for storytelling that is unique, differentiated and relevant to the end user, using language, great stories, or even locations, and celebrities. Again, the idea remains the king, and the execution the queen.


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

We have just embarked on this journey of looking at different markets to see how we need to communicate with them. Festival-level marketing occurs a lot within the branded apparel category—and you will always see marketing campaigns around Onam, Ugadi, Pongal, etc.


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

From a product consumption standpoint, consumers in South India use lighter fabrics due to weather conditions.


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