Mind your Marketing

Benchmark with the best

| Updated on April 25, 2019 Published on April 25, 2019

Karthi Marshan, Chief Marketing Officer, Kotak Mahindra Group

The series begins with Karthi Marshan, Chief Marketing Officer, Kotak Mahindra Group, who oversees marketing efforts across all verticals, including insurance, banking, brokerage and asset management. He is also co-founder of Sharekhan, one of India's leading retail brokerage firms.

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

GenZ are particularly impatient, seeking instant gratification and spending more on experiences than on things. So first, businesses must pivot to the services dimension of their offerings. Second, businesses need to act and react at the speed of light, in response to the ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) that young people are almost born with in the post-smartphone era. The most important thing is that the bar for quality is now global for this demographic, so we all need to benchmark against Amazon, Netflix and Uber for anything we offer.

2. What are some of the best ways to connect with and sell to these generations?

Authenticity. Fluffy communications that have no soul and substance will not be given time of day by these cohorts. They will respond well to genuine, sincere, honest communication.

3. What do you need to win in the marketplace - better technology or the better idea?

Technology is an enabler, nothing more. When we think a brand has superior technology, what it really means is that they have invested all the energy needed to milk the technology to its fullest, in the service of the users’ needs, which is what makes the user stick, and the brand profitable. If the tech design and solution does not rise to every demand of the user, it’s the brand that has failed, not the grade of technology. So, for me, it’s always about the idea. To paraphrase India’s original Pad Man, all you need to have a good idea is to pay attention to problems people have.

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

Customer experience has always been the differentiator, it’s not just a thing for the future. The product gets old as soon as the shrink wrap comes off. What endures is how the customer experiences the brand, particularly in sticky situations, like when the product or service does not perform to its optimum.

5. What are a few steps to bridging the gap between expectations and experiences?

One should be relentless about improving the experience every single day. Do not ever believe that you are delivering the best experience. Also, studying new users who are interacting with your offering regularly helps understand what causes friction for them. You will be surprised by how much friction exists, even in well-established, highly rated offerings. Finally, benchmark the best in the world, not just the best in your category. Today, a user’s expectation from his banking app is as much coloured by his experience using Netflix.

Karthi says…
  • What is the 1 strategic change your brand plans on executing by 2020?
  • We plan to start investing disproportionately in communicating with our own customers versus non-customers.
  • What are the top 3 marketing buzzwords for 2019?
  • I’ll pass, because I don’t believe in ephemeral fads, which is what buzzwords tend to be about.
  • What are the 3 words that define a hot brand?
  • Profitable, Dominant, Reliable
  • Name an impactful ad campaign that you liked from 2018
  • Samsonite’s campaign for Kerala Tourism, post the floods.

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

Hard work, customer sensitivity and willingness to adapt constantly.

7. Localisation has gone far beyond merely dubbing national campaigns. Why and how should brands think local?

This is linked to my earlier points about authenticity and customer sensitivity. Hyper local service brands can monopolise their turfs, and the biggest national brands may go weak in the knees fighting them. A Jain & Iyer idli batter brand can stand up to an MNC in a Mumbai suburb such as Matunga, as can an Attagirl in Parel. Every micromarket has nuances that are available to be tapped into, and products and services can and must be customised for it, well before we worry about dubbing the ads versus creating afresh for different languages.

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

The financial asset classes that people in different regions consume tend to follow some patterns, like the North is more into land while the South is more into fixed deposits and gold, the West is more into mutual funds. But a lot of this is also changing rapidly. We see no truth in some of the stereotypes that the Southern customers are more digitally savvy than the Northerners, for example. In fact, our biggest catchment of customers for our revolutionary product 811 is the North.

9. How does your brand approach the Southern market both in branding and consumer engagement?

We don’t see India as a Hindi market vs a Southern market. There is great universality in the idea of an inclusive India, just as there is enormous diversity in the different regions. We like to treat each market on its own merits, responding to any local nuances as sensitively as possible. However, we are also very clear that we are not in the business of pandering to divisive hyperbole that pits one language versus another, one community versus another. We stand for Indianness first, and an inclusive version of it that invites every Indian to be served by us.

‘Mind your Marketing’, is a brand initiative by The Hindu BusinessLine to profile marketing professionals across India.

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Published on April 25, 2019
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