Winner of ‘Marketer of the Year’ from IAA Leadership Awards, for four years in a row in the two-wheeler category, Yadvinder Singh Guleria, Senior Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Pvt. Ltd ., speaks about the digitally-savvy generation of today, yesteryear concepts that still hold good, how Honda approaches its customers, and more.

How do you design customer experiences that are consistent with their changing expectations?

A customer’s experience against expectations is the real calibration of the brand equity.

The old school of thought, ‘Do what you say and say what you do’, has stood the test of time. Basic hygiene in each communication is authenticity; deliver against commitment to strengthen trust in the brand.

Once a benchmark is created, do not stay still. Keep moving or you will drown. Raise the bar and delight your customers with the next big surprise.

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

Head in the cloud (technology) and feet rooted to the ground (having the pulse of the market). It is a mix of both. However, the idea comes first.

Technology may accelerate things but brands need to ‘outperform to transform’. Therefore, in today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, a disruptive idea backed by technology may be a winner.

How can brands penetrate local markets successfully?

To be the pulse of the market, we need to be ‘at’ the pulse of the market. It is high time we empower our regional communication teams to customise local promotions in line with local tastes and liking.

Keeping brand guidelines spontaneous with ‘safe to fail’ experiments sometimes brings spectacular results!

How has the uniqueness of the Southern market influenced your brand?

With our being the No.1 two-wheeler brand in South as well as Western India, our communication approach reflects a different tonality compared to the rest of the country. There is a large customer base which provides us with various opportunities to have a brand engagement.

One unique trend in the Southern market is the high interest in motorsports. The South has five major States, which differ not only in language but also in culture, climate, seasonality, crops, wealth, education, income and buying behaviour. The demographic differences have a direct influence on the consumption pattern related to our two-wheeler industry as well.

Definitely, South’s consumer behaviour is different compared to the North. For example, with women’s mobility growing faster in Southern and Western markets, the scooterisation of two-wheelers is faster in these markets compared to the North.

How do you see the youth of today? And what is Honda’s marketing approach towards them?

Digital activity is in the bloodstream of this click-surf generation. They are better educated, aware, have access to better availability through multiple channels, spoilt for choice and can even afford more. Unlike their predecessors, they share their experiences within their vast connected networks instantaneously.

As the saying goes, “Old keys don’t open new doors”; marketers need to keep pace with change-drivers to get the brand in their active consideration set. Marketers must look beyond the segment benchmark to win their attention and reinforce its relevance in their life.

Simplicity and speed of communication matter a lot. It is not only important to be with them on the internet but also to build an inner connect, which will be a game changer for brands.

This generation responds on an emotional level when provided with functional solutions. Based on the brand context, marketers should approach them with the right intentions. They must create, curate and communicate the right content to take the brand from conversation to consideration.


My top three marketing buzzwords for 2019

Get, Set and Grow

What defines a hot brand?

Power of persuasion

A powerful ad campaign I liked from 2018

Amazon Alexa – Echo’s ‘Voice control your World’, especially ‘Laila o Laila’

How would you say these changes came about?

The magic of the past becoming the story of today. The role played by the cyber cafes of yesteryears is in the palm of the masses as smartphones; affordable and with high-speed connectivity.

Further, user-friendly apps and digital platforms are redefining the entire concept of AIDMA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Memorise, Action).

Also, flexibility and portability with respect to language, region and demography, immediate and safe online payment gateways, Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things are expanding this bandwagon.

How should brands approach consumer engagement?

The power of relevant engagement will fuel the generations on the move! For an exciting future the engagement should stand out and not just fit in.

Wherever possible, the experience detailing should involve the five senses of touch, hear, see, feel and smell.

How do you define a ‘competitive brand’?

Competitive brands mirror agile tribes – with strong belief in their core philosophy, they continue to recalibrate and reinvent to stay relevant. They have to dream, discover, develop, demonstrate and deliver new value to outlast their peers.

By accepting, accommodating and adjusting the course, brands can successfully navigate rough seas and exploit changes in today’s business environment.

Are brands missing out on anything while trying to reach out to diverse markets like India?

India is always a challenge to marketers in terms of language, seasonality, festivals, cuisine and media consumption.

While the necessity of customisation can’t be negated in the tactical campaigns; sometimes we struggle to decode the right communication formula, losing sight of the similarities that can be embraced across the diversity.

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