This week, we are in conversation with Sai Narayan, Chief Marketing Officer, . With over 14 years of experience, he spearheads brand, marketing, digital and social media efforts for the company. Sai has been recognised in Social Samosa's 40 Under 40 list and also as the Most Influential Marketer in the Financial Services category.

Have millennials and GenZ transformed the way businesses approach marketing?

Young Indians are global citizens who are experiencing the best of what the world has to offer through digital platforms, across industries, every day. The only way a business can acquire and retain them as customers is through great consumer experience. And your marketing strategy and the key messaging has to be focussed around offering a truly meaningful and relevant value proposition.

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

The easiest way to sell to these consumers is by talking to them in their language, which has to be direct, simple and relevant. The first and most important step is, of course, to have a great product that meets a customer need. Innovating, through data and technology, and continuously enhancing the consumer experience is the only way you can connect to today's consumer.

What specific technologies have driven these changes?

The proliferation of smartphones and the e-commerce boom have changed the Indian landscape. Today, most organisations, even the erstwhile offline businesses, have a mobile-first strategy.

Sai says…
  • One strategic change we plan to execute by 2020
  • You would see a lot more on our new brand philosophy – ‘ Paison Se Badhkar '
  • My top three marketing mantras
  • One, mass media to hyper-localisation or mass media to mass personalisation. Two, more of voice-based searches – voice to text. And three, ‘long is the new short’ – long format communication is going to stay.
  • Three concepts that define a hot brand
  • Disruptor, quirky and talking to consumers in their language
  • A powerful ad campaign that I liked
  • Fevicol's campaigns have always been a landmark in Indian advertising.

To stay effective, should brands focus on better technology or better ideas?

Great technology with a bad idea is never going to win consumers. It has to be a healthy mix of both. Ideally, a great idea has to be backed by adequate, strong technology. One of the best examples is when a lot of forward-looking organisations built unassisted app-only platforms. It was almost unthinkable, but it worked wonders.

Customers seek value in what they buy more than ever now. How do you ensure balance between expectations and experiences?

One of the most important factors in terms of customer expectation and experience is to have a seamless bridge between your communication and customer’s experience. A lot of times there is a huge gap between the brand promise and customer experience. The approach should come from consumer and product insight, and thereafter plan the communication approach, instead of following a communication-to-product-development approach.

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

The most important thing is to put consumers first. Be a brand which listens to the consumer, rather than one that only talks. Apart from listening, take customer concerns very seriously. Each customer concern or pain point presents organisations opportunities to innovate and get better and stronger with their products, processes and services. So, that is one of the most important things that a brand needs to do – keep listening.

What are the three secrets to successful branding?

There is no magic wand or recipe but there are two or three things, which are basic but often ignored. First, be honest with your customers. Do not over-promise or mis-sell. Try and ensure your brand stands out, build consistency in communication. But at the end of the day, for long-term survival, it all boils down to having a great product that delivers on the brand promise. Companies built on first principles basis, that endure and keep doing what is best for consumers and at the same time keep earning revenues, are the ones which, more often than not, succeed.

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

In a country like India, every hundred kilometres, the landscape changes. Even the consumer behaviour changes. However, demand is going to be the same, be it Tamil Nadu, Delhi or Bareilly, people have the same needs, they want loans and/or insurance. But culturally, they are different. What we need is hyper-localisation. We need to speak to them in their language with their cultural nuances. Hyper-local marketing is needed.

Localisation has gone far beyond merely dubbing national campaigns. Why and how should brands think local?

There are platforms where you're able to consume regional, national and international content. The entire world and its communication landscape are seen as one. Let’s say if I talk to you in a language you do not understand, you're not going to buy my product. Same goes for any national campaign. Dubbing is no longer the way, it is the easiest, and honestly, lazy. Right now, the mantra is that you need to talk to them in their language, with context. Every State has a different cultural nuance, we need to pick up on that and talk to them in that language.

How does your brand approach the southern market both in branding and consumer engagement?

The demand does not change, be it South or North. Someone who wants a loan there also wants a loan here. Someone who needs insurance there also needs insurance here. The demand is constant. The only thing that really changes is the way you communicate with a specific audience. For us, South is a very big market. As of now, we've been focussed on the Hindi Speaking Market, but we have plans to expand our marketing activities in southern and other markets as well.

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