Mind your Marketing

Consider yourself as the ‘better half’ of your customer

| Updated on November 15, 2019 Published on November 15, 2019

This week, we are in conversation with Rajeev Pandey, Head, Digital Marketing, Aakash Educational Services Pvt. Ltd. He is a Digital Marketing Consultant with over 11 years of experience in leading digital acquisition strategy and implementation using SEO, SEM, content marketing, social media and marketing automation in various business verticals.

Have millennials and GenZ transformed the way businesses approach marketing?

I have predominantly worked in the K-12 space. Some insights that I have gained from there is that you have to be conversational and friendly in terms of communication. Millennials love to interact with a friend rather than a teacher or an older person. They love to be conversational. These kids are insightful and data-driven. They love numbers. They love to look at the insights. And in terms of engagement, they love to interact with the brand and channels where they want to be. So, they will not take the initiative of coming to your website and consume your content. Instead a brand has to identify the need and where millennials are consuming content. How can we latch onto the content with these channels and then push our content, so they can consume it?

What are the best ways to connect with and sell to students?

Selling to students is really difficult. Because when you're talking about students, technically, they are not really buying it. Their parents are the ones who are spending the money. So, you need to weave your communication in two parts. First, help the students understand why your products and services are good for them, so they can be the brand advocates. Then they go to their parents, and they talk to them about your business, and that is how your product can be sold.


What are the specific technologies that have driven bigger customer behaviour changes?

First and foremost, the penetration of internet and the way the cost of internet consumption is going down. We are the cheapest in the world. So, people are more receptive to consume content online. This is predominantly the first technology that has changed the market. And along with this, there are various other technologies, for example, people these days are active on email, social media channels and other content-curation networks.

Broadly, what I've seen is that YouTube as a channel, and you may want to call it a technology, has really worked to engage with millennials as well as their parents. After the penetration of 4G, people have started creating innovative content to engage people and that has become the first source of research for them along with other social media channels. A highlight from this is that, as a brand, we need to constantly be on our toes, to keep moving to different channels, which millennials are moving to. Two to three years ago, they were on Facebook, now, they are on Instagram, Snapchat, and different apps and games. And they will keep moving. As a brand we will have to keep moving to different channels and keep syndicating our content effectively.

Rajeev says…
  • My top three marketing buzzwords

Virality, everyone is going viral these days, content marketing and measurement and tracking.

  • One strategic change we plan to execute by 2020

Having a ‘bigger share of the pie’ of the content in the market.

  • Three concepts I believe define a hot brand

How consumer-friendly are you? How better have you taken care of the UI and UX of the digital interfaces that you have? And third is, how effectively you have taken care of the measurement and analytics part, which is the ad tech, and which is the big missing piece in a lot of advertising campaigns.

  • A powerful ad campaign I liked

I recently saw a global ad campaign of Burger King, they use augmented reality beautifully. Burger King ran this campaign and they said that our competitors’ ads are everywhere. Go and show your phone in front of that. Through augmented reality you burn their ads and then you can grab a burger. That is going viral and a lot of people are doing it in the US these days.

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

Better idea, of course. Technology follows the idea. For example, Facebook was an idea and that became a technology platform. Then Instagram was an idea, WhatsApp was an idea, Truecaller was an idea and they all have become platforms now. Apple was an idea - to give a premium experience to the people and that has become a platform now. So, if you look back in history, idea is the one that leads, and technology follows. You have to have an idea of humanising your brand, providing helpful information and content about the product and services that you are offering. Helping people with intent is first and technology will follow.

What makes customer experiences the differentiator of the future?

When it comes to customer experience, I follow a system in my domain. I believe it is better to consider yourself as the ‘better half’ of your customer. Know as many details as you can know about them, contents they like and dislike, the type of content they are sharing with their friends and the type of posts that they are liking on social media. How are their psychographs structured? What are their locations? What type of phones are they using? What is the network connection that they have? If you have this information, you’ll be able to beautifully blend communication and the platform as well as the twists and turns in your product to ensure that they have a better experience. For example, what if I have an educational app, and I have videos in the front section of the app, which takes time to load. I know that people who are consuming my content are from Tier-3 cities who perhaps don’t own an iPhone X or top-notch phones I have to consider that probably they're not able to consume my videos and hence the experience is deteriorating.

How do you bridge the gap between expectation and experience?

The only gap, which I’m able to foresee in a lot of brands, is that they are not able to understand who their customers are. They are going all over the world with the same communication. They are going bonkers with the same message to everyone at the same time. On the other hand, I have seen a lot of brands beautifully crafting their communication when there is a need. There are a lot of tools that Google is rolling out. There are a lot of technology products that top-notch companies are rolling out. I think as advertisers and marketers, we should use some of those tools to create innovation in the content. How can we contextualise the communication? For example, this year, first there was IPL and then there were elections. Then there was Indo-Pak tension. Some brands use these events and weave their communication around them beautifully. The best example that comes to my mind is Amul, how beautifully they have been weaving their content around the events. It is a simple dairy brand, but they have been communicating it in their own unique way for years. I think that is the need, that is a gap, which we need to fill.

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

Brands are not being loyal to the customers. If you look around, most of the brands these days are offering either discounts or gratifications or cash-back, which up to some extent really works.

There is no doubt about it. But for the longevity of the brand and to ensure ‘stickiness’ you have to build a recall, a trust that is kind of lacking. So, for example, look at e-commerce. Now, some of the big players like Amazon and Flipkart are getting millions in traffic on their portals. But are we really loyal to one e-commerce company? No, we are not. The moment we get 30% extra discount from Amazon, we quickly shift from Flipkart. There is one takeaway from this - you need to constantly build communication with your customer. For example, if I bought a product from some company today and then I do not receive any communication from them in, let’s say, three months, I may forget them. But if they are constantly giving me creative content or information, I am constantly learning and improving myself. It can really help me stay with the brand.

What are the three secrets to successful branding?

First, understand your customers as much as you can. Second, understand the demographic with which you are working. And third, understand your product and market fit.

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

Never, because doing business in India is like doing business in some 10-12 countries. Every State, every city is different. People are different; the content consumption pattern is different. In fact, our own organisation is spread across 186 centres in India so we have deep insight into how consumption in a State like Bihar is diametrically opposite to the content consumption in Mumbai or Delhi, or down South.

Why and how should brands think local?

I want to add two things here. Firstly, programmatic advertising. It works really well in terms of localising your content. This is new-age advertising. Initially, it may sound expensive but over time, spend and investment in programmatic advertising can do wonders for your brand. It can suddenly personalise your communication, in real-time, at the right time, to your target user. You can do all sorts of segmentation and targeting on a large scale.

Secondly, understanding your customer and creating a product the way they need it. For example, in our business, many students need a 'Crash Course' at a period of time. Since I know that this is the demand at a particular time of the year, I should not be promoting the full courses and all other products at this point but focus instead on short courses relevant to the user. So, understanding these two things is really important.

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

I think vernacular content really works in the Southern market because there is a majority of people who prefer to consume content that way. In our business, more or less the parents, the people who are in the age group of 45 to 55, are the ones who are the decision-makers. Though students are the influencers, parents are the decision-makers. And if they are the decision-makers, they should understand the content and the features and the benefits that we offer, in their own language.

Every business has a lot of local players. You are competing with some of the local players in that area and they are vernacular. So, you also need to adopt the same tone and language to be noticed and remembered.

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

First of all, there is receptivity to English in the South. They understand the language easily. Second, their buying capacity is really high. Our data shows that people who are from the Eastern part of UP or Bihar visit our pages 5-6 times repeatedly in a matter of 2-3 days before a conversion happens. However, people from the Southern part of India, they visit the website, they read, and they make the payment and it is done. So, the buying behaviour is that and there is receptivity for the brand and the offers made.

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 November 15, 2019
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