Mind your Marketing

Millennials and GenZ are living in a subscription economy

| Updated on October 25, 2019

Sunder Madakshira, Head of Marketing, Adobe India

This edition of Mind your Marketing features Sunder Madakshira, Head - Marketing, Adobe India. He has behind him 22 years in leadership roles in Sales and Marketing positions across B2C, B2B products and services. He has worked with brands such as SAP, Infosys, WIPRO, Hindustan Unilever and VISA before joining Adobe. He has received the recognition of being one among ‘India’s Greatest CMOs’ at the Independence Year of India Awards & Business Summit by Asia One. He was also recognised as the ‘Most Influential Marketer’ at the World Marketing Congress in Mumbai.


What are some of the critical differences that millennials and GenZ have brought about in the way brands approach marketing?

The first change in their behaviour is that they want ease of access. They want to be able to access the product easily and be able to use it like a pro. 


The second thing they want is the brands to be authentic. They want the brand promise and what they're getting out of that to be matching one-on-one.


The third thing they expect is the brand to be more interactive. The days of a brand trying to do a monologue are over. They want a dialogue. They want more information to be available to them before they make the decision.


The fourth point is that buying power in the market has gone up significantly. What they buy and how they buy has increased because of their ability to pay for it.  The last thing is that today's millennials and GenZ are living in a subscription economy. Everything runs on subscription. They will consume the product till they find value. And they will very easily exit a brand when they don't see the value. So that has forced marketers to build a long-term relationship with this segment.



How can you effectively connect with and sell to these cohorts?

Number one is digital because they are on mobile phones. They are in the digital medium significantly more than the previous generation. Actually, there is no comparison. So, one is being where the customer is, which is on the digital channels.


Second thing is trying to fine-tune your messages, which are simple and straight, and which help people make decisions much faster. 


The third thing is to be able to engage with millennials and GenZ over a longer period of time before you actually get them to buy the product. That engagement is very critical. At Adobe, this is what we have been trying to do over the last five, six years, and further amplified in India in the last three or four years.


Have these changes been brought in by specific technologies?

Clearly, I think the advent of the mobile. Social media, access to the web, internet in general, being able to interact on a real time basis and so on sort of converged in the mobile phone. 


The second technology, which accentuated this whole piece, is the fact that companies are using the digital medium to reach this generation.  Every tool that companies like Adobe offer, which help marketers to be able to run a campaign in a targeted way, measure the outcome and repurpose the whole marketing campaign, are technologies which have really helped in this area.

What will enable you to win the customer minds today - better technology or better ideas? 

That is a trick question, I must say. It can never be one or the other. But, clearly, if I have to put it as a marketer, I would always say a better idea. That's a starting point in understanding who your consumers really are and then coming up with an insight, which helps you to go to market. And taking it effectively to the end consumer using the right technology. 


But it is difficult to make a choice between the two. Sometimes you might have a great idea. But if it is not taken through the right channels to reach your targeted consumers, it could be a lot of wasted effort. And sometimes it can even boomerang on the brand.


What makes customer experiences the differentiator of the future?

Very importantly, people are buying experiences and not products.


In a market where products are getting increasingly complex and where buying decisions are becoming more complex, what people remember are not your specifications, but the experience that you have given them when they were with your product, and with your brand. I think that is what is going to leave a lasting memory. That also leads to brand advocacy. If people have a good experience, they become your advocates. But if they have not, then they can also become your brand adversaries. 


Sunder says…


My top three marketing mantras

First is personalisation. Second is providing experiences. The third is measurement, about being able to understand your marketing campaigns and being able to prove to yourself and to the rest of the world about the return on investment that you're getting. 


Three concepts that define a hot brand

I would say authentic. The second, is memorable because of the story that it tells. And the third, that it is very differentiated from its consideration set.


A powerful ad campaign I liked 

I'm a big fan of Paper Boat’s campaigns. As a brand of fruit juices, it  it would have been classified as an extremely commoditised product. But in a short duration, the brand has built itself beautifully, with the most emotionally charged campaigns, which are all centered on childhood memories.


One strategic change we plan to execute by 2020

To completely own the customer management paradigm. We want to be known as an experience company that provides the best experiences to its customers and helps them serve their consumers.


What is the biggest step in managing expectations and experiences?

The answer is simple, being authentic. It is being honest about what your product can deliver and what you cannot and admitting it upfront. Today, the core that every brand wishes to have is trust, the trust of the customer, 

because once the customer trusts you, even when you fail, the customer is willing to forgive, forget and move on.


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

One is about being innovative. And second, being focused on the consumer. In today's world where knowledge is rapidly multiplying and virtually every aspect of the offering is getting impacted by some new thing which is happening in some part of the world, it is very important to be focused on what is the next big thing that the company wants to do. 


The second piece is about truly having your eyes and ears on the ground with respect to the consumers. Consumers are changing very fast. 


Today is not a world of segmentation. It is a world of hyper segmentation. Every segment is behaving dramatically different year on year. Keeping your hand on the pulse of the customer is very critical.


What are the three secrets to successful branding?

It is a very strong positioning. The stronger your positioning is on a particular axis and you keep evolving that is the most important thing for a brand. Second thing is about being authentic; it is very important to stay true to whatever you're promising. The third thing is about the power to tell stories. Stories make a brand and brands make stories. It is a well-known fact today that virtually every great brand in the world has been built around stories that has the ability to engage with its customers.


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

No, it will not work even within hundred metres of two customer segments. India is extremely heterogeneous, there are enough and more statistics about how different every state language and demographic is. 


In fact, it is a debate as to how many sizes and how many variants of products you need to be going into the market with.  


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

We do not segment based on geography, but we do segment based on the demographics, size of company or industries. 


There is no South strategy and no specific North strategy, but there are definite strategies that we are looking for in each segment that emerges from there. 


The other interesting segmentation parameter is the psychographics. For our Creative Cloud products, we use psychographics a lot to form communities. The expectation of a wedding photographer when you compare him with a wildlife photographer is extremely different. And we would much rather segment on that basis. That helps us form a community and foster a large consumer set.


When you talk about localisation, especially on the campaign front, it has to be, very local, because people understand value. It is a very value-driven market.  


People want to know how the product can be used by them, and not by the rest of the world. At the same time, it is very aspirational for a lot of people in India to be consuming products which are world-class.  So, one has to deal with these dichotomies and be able to come up with a product which is by India for India, and something that comes from India.


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


Published on October 25, 2019

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