Mind your Marketing

Promote innovation

| Updated on May 30, 2019 Published on May 30, 2019

Stuti Shukla, Chief Marketing Officer - India and South Asia, GE Healthcare

This week, we feature Stuti Shukla, Chief Marketing Officer - India and South Asia, GE Healthcare. She is responsible for defining and executing customer and product marketing strategies, as well as digital marketing, communications and brand building. She talks about internet trends, stepping into the shoes of a customer, and how brands can construct their success quotient.

Have Millennials and GenZ transformed the way businesses approach marketing?

Every generation has its own character shaped by experiences growing up. While Millennials and GenZ are distinctly different cohorts, they are both about pervasive use of technology for everyday tasks. Basic and sophisticated human interactions to express, co-create, seek support, and have fun, have progressively moved online on a variety of digital platforms, mobile apps, social media, online videos, blogs, and more.

GenZ specifically signals a quantum progression in many ways. This generation seeks clear and distinct value in their engagements. They are sensitive to environment friendly choices, believe in gender equality, and are not impressed by the normal and mundane. Many of us have experienced first-hand the slowdown in celebratory fireworks during Diwali with GenZ kids leading the way. Social activism comes naturally to this group, and they stand apart in their ability to effectively mobilise the ‘power of community’ online.

Given the attitudinal and behavioural shifts, businesses need to rework how they engage GenZ and Millennials, with genuine and relevant offers.

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

Understanding customers and their needs has always been an integral part of marketing, but with GenZ it goes to a new level. It is critical that brand messages align to what these audiences want, care about, and value. These consumers yield incredible power by expressing themselves in public forums, and galvanising community opinions that could make or break brands.

Developing a loyal group of early supporters on trending social channels, community competitions for creating relevant solutions, and tactics of mobilising online groups and influencers, have to be central to brand building. In some ways, it is about promoting digital ’word-of-mouth’ and ‘co-creation’.

What are the specific technologies that have driven these changes?

GenZ is truly the first ’digitally native’ generation. They were born with ubiquitous internet connectivity, accessibility to mobile devices anytime anywhere, appealing digital content from diverse vendors offered as free apps, instant group-sharing (Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube), online competitive gaming and collaboration. These experiences have shaped the emerging new age consumers.

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

Ideas and technology are two sides of the same coin. Winning always requires addressing a customer pain point or a latent need. The technology innovations of today allow for unconventional yet simpler ways of catering to customer needs of entertainment, community engagement, and managing all aspects of everyday life. Ideas are central to figuring out how to harness technology to deliver value to customers at scale. Airbnb, Uber, Ola, Netflix, Hotstar, Alexa, Swiggy, are all examples of such market successes.

What makes customer experiences the differentiator of the future?

Differentiating based on customer experience has been used as a tactic for decades. However, today we have algorithms that deliver personalised experiences based on preferences, at scale to thousands of consumers. This expectation of personalisation even for small ticket items is beginning to run across all facets of physical and digital consumption; being able to deliver against this expectation is fast emerging as a key differentiator between brands.

Another rising trend among consumers is access to material items via renting or subscriptions rather than ownership of it. We have seen a significant shift in the software industry through the subscription model, in the transportation industry through services like Uber, and in the music and media industry with live streaming of audio and video. This trend automatically transitions many providers of material products to providers of services; they now have to manage many operational aspects of the business which directly impact customer experience. For example, live streaming of a movie online is no longer only about the content; it pushes the provider to a different category of competing with the movie theatres and clearly establishing a differentiated experience through access and ease via technology.

Customer experience has a much broader context in how one designs an offering and/or presents oneself in the best possible way when serving the savvy and smart consumers of today. With the high table stakes, a hassle-free, ‘best in class’ customer experience is going to become increasingly critical for success.

Stuti says…
  • a) My top three marketing mantras for 2019
  • Artificial Intelligence, Growth Hacking, Micro-influencer marketing
  • b) Three words I believe define a hot brand
  • Innovative, Emotive and Engaging
  • c) A powerful ad campaign I liked from 2018
  • I have two: #ShareTheLoad Ariel Campaign, #ShareACoke campaign with different bottle/can tags fostering engagement with the brand

How do you bridge the gap between expectations and experiences?

Given their growing digital footprint, studying the ‘habits and practices’ of customers through focused research by vendors, has been replaced by real-time capture of user behaviour through online analytics and intelligence, which automatically gets better with time (a.k.a. machine learning). Data is the currency of the future and central to definition of delightful experiences.

The online world offers a great platform to do experiments with ‘minimum viable products’, acquire feedback from customers through their usage patterns and continuously improve.

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

Four things are important for brands to stay competitive - one, unrelenting customer centricity across the organisation, as its primary mandate. Two, a ‘digital first’ brand building strategy, three, connecting the dots on customer experience through data insights and analytics powered by complete automation of customer engagement processes and four, a ‘fail fast’ culture that promotes innovation and experimentation; the probability that we get things right the first time in a fast-moving dynamic market is low.

What are the three secrets to successful branding?

There are no secrets, really. But Brands still don’t always get it right.

It is all about creative delivery of a simple, relevant and emotive message as the brand promise, which resonates with the target consumer.

Consistency and frequency in external communications on what the brand stands for is highly important. It takes a long time to build customer mindshare, trust and recall; changing themes does not help.

Internal stakeholders have to believe in the brand promise as an organisational tenet, and work towards delivering it every day to their customers. As an example, Amazon.com’s mission is to be the most customer-centric organisation in the world, as per Jeff Bezo, every employee at the company is a ’missionary’ working to serve customers better.

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

With differing consumption habits, demographic segments, and related sensitivities with respect to a product or its messaging, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach often falls short in India. FMCG providers have adopted a variant portfolio approach for sub-segments of Indian consumers since a long time. This shows itself as – flavours of drinks or cosmetics for different seasons, packaging in small packets for rural markets, organic options for food items, etc. However, each variant introduces significant operational complexity and hence has to be justified against target market opportunity or upside.

From a branding perspective, there has to be an overarching ‘mother brand’ strategy, with a distinct promise and high recall, guiding the introduction of variants either at a product portfolio level or messaging level.

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 May 30, 2019
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