Mind your Marketing

Relevance is key

| Updated on May 17, 2019 Published on May 16, 2019

Dinesh Menon, Chief Marketing Officer, State Bank of India

In this edition of Mind your Marketing, Dinesh Menon, Chief Marketing Officer, State Bank of India shares his views on what makes brands work, and how everything revolves around customer experience.

Have Millennials and GenZ transformed the way businesses approach marketing?

They have almost redefined the art and science of marketing given that they are mostly digital natives, even in Tier 2 cities. Instant gratification defines the innate characteristic of this generation. This has come about due to digital disruptions brought on by brands like Swiggy, Uber, Ola, Zomato, BookMyShow, Amazon, and Flipkart among several others. Against this backdrop of digitisation, marketers have had to relook all aspects of marketing starting with the product or service design, the brand’s engagement with the target audience to the last mile experience. The social media landscape has also made it imperative for brands to ensure they stay alert, in most cases, 24X7, to address customer grievances and put out content that helps the brand stay in the positive realm of conversations.

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

Digital is, of course, the obvious answer, but other routes have a role to play as well. The key word here is experience – be it digital, physical or even ‘phygital’. This generation is more value conscious and in some categories/segments, less brand loyal. Depending on the category, the sales methodology would differ. That said, digital is the main play and will be the dominant channel going forward for most categories in the B2C space at least.

What are the specific technologies that have driven these changes?

Well, technology is only an enabler. It is more important to focus on what pain points technologies help resolve - for example, cab hailing, ordering food, booking a movie or travel tickets is such a breeze now as compared to the pre-digital days. Algorithm is central to digital services like these. Other technologies such as AI, ML, AR and VR are all being tried out by marketers to enhance experience across the board – be it product design, product trials, product consumption or delivery, etc.

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

      They are two sides of the same coin - there are instances of technology having given birth to an idea and vice versa, an example is Amazon’s use to drones for delivery. An idea is no good if the appropriate technology cannot help it come alive within a certain cost. Likewise, technology alone can enhance an existing product or service only to a certain extent, beyond which the idea itself has to be better than what is available. What’s important is relevance. Whatever the genesis, the product or service has to solve a customer problem or deliver delight manifold for a current need already being met.

        What makes customer experiences the differentiator of the future?

          In an age of digital evolution, CX is what eventually matters, given that products are increasingly achieving parity. The endeavour of any brand is to ensure their customers have a good experience while engaging with the brand so that they stay with it and endorse it. Human interactions will continue to add value to CX in certain categories, regardless of how much technology advances.

            How do you bridge the gap between expectations and experiences?

              With digital native brands redefining customer experiences, customers are expecting similar experiences from other categories as well. It is imperative for brands to stay ahead of the curve in adopting and innovating technologies to deliver better CX. Communication, specifically engagement, is key to setting expectations right.

              Dinesh says…
              • a) One strategic change we plan to execute by 2020
              • Push the envelope on digital to make SBI the brand of choice
              • b) My top three marketing buzzwords for 2019
              • Data, personalisation and measurement
              • c) Three words I believe define a hot brand
              • Relevance, delight and value
              • d) A powerful ad campaign I liked from 2018
              • The latest SBI Home Loan campaign is very refreshing and breaks away from the clutter of the usual home loans. Also, Swiggy’s recent ones about small quantity deliveries, has been put across very interestingly.

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

                Relevance is key. Customers are willing to pay for a service or product if it is relevant. Relevance can be defined by usefulness, cost-benefit value and brand value.

                  What are the three secrets to successful branding?

                    Keep it simple, energetic and refresh to stay relevant.

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

                        It is often said by marketers that India is many markets rolled into one. So a one-size-fits-all approach does not work in some traditional categories. However, this is less of a challenge for the digital native categories referred to earlier; the value proposition of most digital native products is convenience and value, which is a universal need. The storytelling is what needs differentiation to ensure the key message is understood in the local context.

                          Why and how should brands think local?

                            It is the age of personalisation and hyper personalisation, not just localisation. Depending on the category, it is imperative that brands think local if they have to stay relevant among their target audience. For such brands, localisation could mean even modifying the product to suit the local taste – McAlooTikki is perhaps the most relevant example. YouTube is another example of a brand that has truly become local purely because of its vernacular content.

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

                                The biggest advantage of a brand like SBI is that it is geography agnostic. However, we endeavour to factor in nuances while developing communication and content in the local language. From an engagement perspective, the local festivals and traditions dictate the nature and time of brand engagement initiatives.

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

                                    At a product level, products such as gold loans do better in the South than in other parts of the country, as pawning gold is socially not looked down upon in the South. Generally, consumers in southern markets are relatively less extravagant and are driven by value and utility rather than just brand image.

                                    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 16, 2019
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