Mind your Marketing

Select the right medium

| Updated on July 25, 2019

This edition of Mind your Marketing features Category Head of Parle Products Pvt Ltd, Mayank Shah, who has over 17 years of experience and has worked across various functions of Sales and Marketing Management. He has been working with Parle since 2001 and is currently spearheading the biscuits and chocolates categories of the company.

What should a marketer do to keep the brand in the game?

If you want to stay competitive in today’s market, you need to keep up with the changing times and keep your product and offering relevant to the changing needs and aspirations of consumers. You need to keep reinventing your brand and not be stuck in the past.

How do you stay relevant? Of course, relevant in terms of utility but then the entry barriers in most categories are going down. It won’t take long for a competitor to come up with an offering better than yours not just in terms of utility but in terms of aspirations or purpose. As we have seen, younger consumers, especially digital natives, are moving towards brands that stand for a purpose or a philosophy.

So being relevant not just in terms of the utility of your brand, but also in terms of what it stands for is what will keep the brand in the game.

How can delivering the right customer experiences make or break brands?

Today, if you create a good experience, the kind of benefits that you will accrue as a result of e-sharing across various mediums will be high. It is not that there was no word of mouth earlier or that good experiences did not spread but today the pace at which it happens and the rate at which you can grow your brand is phenomenal. It is, however, a double-edged sword; if you're not creating a great experience for your consumer it could backfire.

How can marketers better understand customer expectations?

A big challenge ahead for all marketers is to keep up with the expectations of the current generation. First, identify what they expect. Second, work out strategies to make your brand stand up to those expectations and deliver accordingly, and create experiences that meet those expectations. There has to be equal emphasis on decoding what those expectations are, then working out brand offerings in such a way that you deliver the expected experiences. The more important thing is to be able to get the expectations right instead of envisaging what the consumer might expect.

Earlier, due to the limitations that marketers had, consumers were bifurcated into various groups and segments. Now, with the kind of capabilities that technology has given us, we can customise experiences for each individual. This makes it even more important to understand what the expectations are instead of taking a segment and addressing their expectations as a group. It is about mass customisation, crafting the offering, communication and media to try and meet the expectation of each individual.

What are some of the best ways to get the youth to actively participate in a brand’s growth?

There has been a complete shift in the way businesses approach marketing as far as the youth are concerned. A great role is played by the media in terms of its consumption. Two, there is also a lot more awareness about what consumers are using. In the food or FMCG products category, youngsters have a different take on what they are consuming and the brands they are associated with. They have reasons for why they prefer certain brands.

With the change in media consumption there has been a shift in the way marketing is done, the way we curate and customise marketing for young adults. Media consumption is more on the digital front, making it one of the key mediums to reach out to them, followed by experiential marketing. If you make them experience your brand, they will not only experience it but will probably talk about it. That makes it all the more imperative to ensure a great experience of your brand for them because the buzz they create will depend on it.

Three, as far as marketing to the youth is concerned, if I am looking at connecting with them, what makes a difference is, what does my brand stand for? Purpose is redefining the connect that you can have with your consumers. If you can find a purpose that has a synergy with your product and the category in which you are, that takes it to a different level altogether.

  • a) One strategic change we plan to execute by 2020
  • I think one strategic change would be adapting our brand to the new-age consumers. Staying relevant, I think, is the toughest challenge across all brands today.
  • b) My top three marketing mantras for 2019
  • Purpose, digital media and appropriate content
  • c) Three words I believe define a hot brand
  • Buzz, purpose and bonding
  • d) A powerful ad campaign I liked from 2018
  • Swiggy did a good job with its campaigns last year

How does Parle customise its engagement to fit the Southern market?

With all markets in India behaving differently, not only campaigns but even offerings have to be different, because consumer requirements and palates are different. What we normally do, as far as branding or consumer engagement is concerned is, we treat each market differently. For example, we ran a campaign in the South and brought in a personality who resonated with the Southern people - Celebrity Chef Rakesh Raghunathan. We made Southern recipes for Southern consumers around a local festival.

It is not just about the South; it is about all regional markets. This is more so with the South because the four Southern markets, even within one zone, are four distinct markets with very distinct cultures and languages.

South has become one of the most important markets in India for any brand marketer and should be approached differently. Right from your offering, to communication to engaging and even the branding with consumers require a different approach altogether. For example, we have a brand called Milk Shakti. Typically, I would say, Milk Shakti when I'm in the North, but if I were to cater to the South it has to be Milk Shakthi. That makes it closer to their hearts, because of how the word is spelt here.

Similarly, there are multiple things you would have to look at, when you are addressing the Southern markets - preferred flavours and colours, even certain names that will be understood better. All levels of consumer engagement require a different approach in the South.

What differences have you seen in the Northern and Southern consumer patterns?

One, South is a highly educated market. Two, consumers are far more evolved, in terms of penetration of premium product categories in the South being higher as compared to the North. In terms of affordability and buying potential, I think the South is far more evolved than the North.

Also, in terms of consumption, it is very different. Unlike the North where consumption is more in smaller packs, the South behaves differently. The advent of modern trade and higher penetration of modern trade in the South has led to planned buying and higher pantry loading. For instance, if certain flavours are doing well globally, if I were to introduce them in India, I would be far more comfortable introducing them in the South because they are far more open to trying new flavours and is a more evolved and experimental market.

How far have we come on the digital front? What does the future in technology look like?

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is changing quite a few things. It all started with Big Data. The digital medium allows you to capture a lot of data about your consumers. Big data, coupled with data analysis and machine learning all put together, is something that is currently changing the rules of the game.

AI is going to play an important role in marketing, going forward. How good is your data acquisition? How good is your system in terms of capturing the relevant data? Followed by fuzzy logic or the algorithm that decodes or makes meaningful information out of Big Data. Then, use that data to target consumers. Through this process of analysis, machine learning and targeting you are likely to reach the consumers who are most likely to buy your product.

All through the marketing funnel, be it generating awareness, or driving consideration, or ensuring that you create a bond with the consumers, AI is the technology that will make the difference and drive the change in marketing your brand.

What are the three essential steps for successful branding?

One, how true is your brand to its purpose? You cannot latch on to something just because it is a trend or being talked about now. To quote an example, marketers were using the national elections in their communication urging people to vote. This is not a bad thing but if your brand has nothing to do with it, you cannot suddenly come up with a campaign like this. Unless you have a synergy with that message or it is intrinsic to your brand purpose, it does not resonate with the audience.

Two, select the right medium. In this day and age, it is a challenge to select a medium from the plethora available. When I say right medium, I'm also saying the right medium for the given target audience. A TV spot will still work for you given its reach but if you want to connect with your audience emotionally, a 30-second spot is not going to work. You must have content that really resonates with them. Content, has your brand woven into it. Which would take us back to how intrinsic is the purpose you are advocating for your brand.

Three is the creative. While you may have technology to your advantage and a great purpose, unless you have a good creative to get your message across, it will fall flat.

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

Published on July 25, 2019

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