Mind your Marketing

Digital, the way forward

| Updated on June 06, 2019 Published on June 06, 2019

Chandramouli Venkatesan, CEO (Special Projects), Pidilite Industries Limited

In this edition of Mind your Marketing, Chandramouli Venkatesan, CEO (Special Projects), Pidilite Industries Limited, and author of the successful books ‘Catalyst’ and ‘Get Better at Getting Better’, shares his views.

Have Millennials and GenZ transformed the way businesses approach marketing?

There are two parallel transformations that have influenced the way businesses approach marketing. First, the newer generation, whatever we choose to call them – Gen Y, Gen Z or Millennials and second, digital transformation.

Both these transformations are happening at the same time. Individually, they might not have caused a dramatic change. However, since they are simultaneous, the single biggest impact is how the present generation has embraced the digital world, thereby forcing marketers to follow in their footsteps. Millennials no longer consume only conventional media and it is important for marketing professionals to understand their target audience and be present where they are.

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

The marketing basics generally don’t change: your brand must have a relevant proposition. If you don’t solve a problem or meet a need, being cool and creating a connection isn’t going to get you anywhere. Don’t get caught up with the construct of connecting with the current generation and underemphasise the importance of having a brand proposition, brand positioning, and knowing how you can make a difference to a millennial’s life. Once you cross that stage, the connection comes automatically.

The approach to connect with them is two-pronged: the nature of content, which must be reasonably snappy, not long-winded, specific, etc., and the medium, to leverage the media that millennials consume, including social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

What are the specific technologies that have driven these changes?

I wouldn’t pin-point a specific technology since the changes have been across multiple aspects of the digital world. If I had to name a few, I’d say social media, ecommerce, payment gateways, video streaming, broadband, and the list goes on and on. Today, if you take a closer look at the consumption basket and analyse the patterns, millennials are more likely to shop online. This could be attributed to technology from social media and websites that have made information easily accessible to payment gateways that have simplified the purchasing process. If not for these, they might not have embraced ecommerce as easily.

Video streaming and consumption are two other factors that have also drastically impacted marketing strategies. Finally, broadband and the technology that made it cheap and accessible have all contributed towards these changes.

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

I don’t think this should be looked as an ‘either-or’ but rather an ‘and’. Idea is about what you have to offer to the consumer. On the one hand, there is no way that great technology can make up for a poor offer but on the other, even if you have a good offer, you still need

technology to improve the efficiency and utility of your product, and to deliver the right message to the right audience.

What makes customer experiences the differentiator of the future?

Today’s customers are more aware of the available options and have become more demanding. With each passing day, they are less willing to tolerate poor customer experiences. This makes offering an exceptional customer experience crucial for brands to retain loyalty. Coupled with this is the social media space because it has given them the freedom to voice their opinions and the impact of a negative or positive experience will most likely be amplified online.

CHANDRAMOULI SAYS…
  • a) My top three marketing buzzwords for 2019
  • Digital, video, value
  • b) Three words I believe define a hot brand
  • Aspirational, connected, modern
  • c) A powerful ad campaign I liked from 2018
  • Cadbury Dairy Milk – the campaign with the siblings

How do you bridge the gap between expectations and experiences?

I think a key step would be to bring in a level of transparency. More often than not, we see that there is a degree of overpromise on the part of the brand with regards to what they deliver. However, when the consumers actually interact with the business, they realise that it is unable to keep their promises. Expectation built on false claims is one of the main reasons that this gap exists today. It is better to under-promise and over-deliver than to overpromise and under-deliver. It is also important to focus on measuring the outliers of customer experiences in order to identify areas that require attention and improvement.

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

Quite honestly, some of the fundamentals don’t change. For a brand to stay competitive, it needs to offer proper value to the consumer. Any brand that doesn’t offer value to their customer or doesn’t have a clear purpose will not be able to survive in either a dynamic or stable market. Second is consistency of the quality of customer experience; if you deliver an exceptional experience, you are less likely to lose consumer loyalty.

Even having the best website and social media in the world cannot salvage or compensate for poor product quality or service experience. Once your basics are good, it will really become about whether you are an interesting brand they want to connect with and the platforms you use to form this connect.

What are the three secrets to successful branding?

Brand values - a brand needs to be clear on what it stands for. A brand is not equal to an ad, social media post or viral video but rather, what it offers to the consumer.

Consistent messaging - if you have ten people managing a brand and you ask each of them why the consumer should buy the product, we should get the same answer from all of them, having that clarity is crucial.

Content and platform - once you fix a consistent message, it is all about finding the right way to convey it.

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

I don’t think it would work in a market like India which is highly prone to segmentation. There are multiple drivers in the game of sales and success but it is important to strike a balance between two counter forces i.e. achieving scale with the offering and segmentation and localisation. Segmentation and localisation are only worth the investment if you are able to retain scale. Marketers need to find this balance which would differ not only from industry to industry, but from brand to brand.

Why and how should brands think local?

At the end of the day, it all boils down to how you connect with the consumer and ‘think locally’, is a proven way to do so. An American ad won’t work in India and following a similar logic, a Punjabi ad won’t work in Tamil Nadu. Localisation is not always required but in a country like India with multiple layers of segmentation, it is localisation that helps form a connection. The opposing force of segmentation and localisation is scale. If you localise too much, you lose scale in the process which is bad for both the company and the consumer. As a marketer, one has to walk this line and see where one can create scale and find value in localising.

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

There are a couple of aspects that really stick out about the South, in line of demographic differences: education levels are very high, and there is more affluence than the rest of the country. Also, there is the aspect of language and culture difference.

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

Published on June 06, 2019
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