Mind your Marketing

Think local, act global

| Updated on May 03, 2019 Published on May 02, 2019

Suparna Mitra,Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Watches and Accessories division, Titan Company Limited


Suparna Mitra,Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Watches and Accessories division, Titan Company Limited, has some interesting insights into the world of marketing and how Titan Watches approaches the task, in this edition of ‘Mind your Marketing’. She sees the ‘millennial attitude’ in everyone, talks about the power of ideas and how brands need to further humanise their approach.


1. Have Millennials and GenZ transformed the way businesses approach marketing?

The way I look at it, it is not about millennials or GenZ transforming the way businesses approach marketing. Yes, they are a part of the overall population but the point is that irrespective of who you are the world has changed. We talk about almost everybody behaving like a millennial. There has been large-scale tectonic shifts that have happened due to technology in the last four or five years, the impact of this is more concentrated among millennials but it is distributed across the entire consumer base. The changes in the way businesses operate are along three dimensions, one, product or service; two, the way communication is done - how you inform the consumer; and three, the channel, access or distribution - how the product would reach the consumers.


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

Traditionally, the role of marketing communications was to give reasons to buy that could be either functional or emotional. Now, with a lot of information available, such as peer reviews, this is no longer the primary objective. With more and more products being launched and where the products are not fundamentally different, consumers are choosing a brand based on factors other than just the product or even emotional sense. They are actually looking at “What does the brand stand for? How do I relate to this brand? Does it share my values? Does it participate in the conversations that are important to me?”. While these are more pronounced in the younger consumers, increasingly, the role of communication has gone far beyond simply listing the reasons to buy the product.

3. What are some of the technologies that have driven these changes?

Obviously the big technologies like the internet, e-commerce, social media, etc., have had a hand in driving these changes. For example, for us at Titan Watches, wearable technologies is a very big deal. At a conceptual level, if you put electronics into a traditional watch, the watch connects to the mobile phone and becomes a gateway to the internet. That chip inside the watch makes everything on the internet available to you.

Some of the other advances in technology that have helped wearables is miniaturisation. Massive computing power that used to take up significant physical space is now available in a mobile phone. Further, data has becomes so affordable in India that people can watch entire seasons of shows on the go. The third thing that has impacted wearables is battery power. There was a time when we used to worry about battery life and switch off location because it would drain battery. Now, we neither have to switch off the data nor location. Similarly, smart watches today can run for days without charging. It has gone from one to five days and technology continues to improve.

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

Technology has presented opportunities to do many things faster and more efficiently but it is the idea that determines the path of technology. There is no point in having a great idea if there is no technology to implement it. There have been technologies in the world that seem very fascinating but nobody could figure out a way to use them. It was essentially technology for technology’s sake. I think those days have passed. It is the search for new ideas that leads to the development of better technology. It’s a cycle that moves from one to another and one without the other is fruitless.

5. What makes customer experiences the differentiator of the future?

I would say it is the product parity issue – products can and are getting more and more difficult to differentiate. The only ways to differentiate are either technology or meaning. Consumer experience gives meaning – we are all human beings, we all have needs and wants. The ways in which the needs and wants are getting served are probably changing. For example, last year, Titan launched a watch collection inspired by the city of Kolkata. It was perceived as an ode to Kolkata, as a thank you, and a measure of gratitude. It is a city that has been very kind to us with very loyal consumers. Some of our designers spent time there and came back with very evocative designs that were inspired by the iconic symbols of the city, like the Victoria Memorial, Howrah Bridge, temples etc. as well as the Bengali script. It was a labour of love. We didn’t expect that we’d make huge sales numbers, yet we did. The reason was that the watch and the retail experience touched the consumer. There was an overwhelming response to the product because it tapped into the core human insight. Consumer experiences humanise the whole commercial transaction and it is important for consumers to feel that connection with your product.


a) My top three marketing mantras for 2019 Woke advertising, hashtag fatigue and experiential expectations

b) One strategic change we plan to execute by 2020 Everything is about smart and wearable. New tech, new type of consumer, not just a product - when I sell a smartwatch or fit band the journey just starts; when I sell a watch the journey just begins.

c) Three concepts I believe define a hot brand Meaning and purpose, ahead of the curve on product or service and experience

d) A powerful ad campaign I liked from 2018 Titan RAGA ‘I am’ campaign - #flauntyourflaw was a powerful theme to work with which talked about how women should proudly carry their scars or flaws as markers of beauty and not try to hide them. In fact, the product collection is also inspired by imperfections - they aren’t symmetrical or perfectly finished and inspiration came from the enormous amount of beauty in imperfection and how it is the same with women. It is a very liberating thought to flaunt your flaws.

6. How do you bridge the gap between expectations and experiences?

Today’s expectations are being shaped not only by your brand or category but also by their overall experience of life. There was a time in Bangalore, when there were no yellow cab services. If you were to go somewhere and didn’t have your own vehicle, you would wait for an auto which may take 5 to 8 minutes. When the driver refused to ferry you or demanded double the fare, we still went with it. Today, with both Uber and Ola apps on my phone, when I see that the ride will take five minutes, I find myself thinking, who has five minutes? Expectations are being set on the basis of immediate fulfilment, same day shipping, response time, etc. In contrast to the past, when people would call customer care between 9 AM - 5 PM, today, customers are posting their experiences on social media and are shocked when a company takes 11 minutes to respond. Their expectations are based on speed, quality, being treated as a valued individual, among other things. Now, the entire market is guessing the expectations of consumers which are being pegged higher and higher.

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

It is about the ideas, speed and agility of the go-to-market execution and balance.

The power of ideas, whether it is on the product, service, access or customer experience, is critical for brands to stay competitive. The second part is speed and agility because the consumers’ expectations is that everything has to be done at lightning speed. Consumers are very willing to shift between brands and categories. Finally, it is about striking a balance – the old has not gone away, the new has come in and the two have morphed into something unique. Marketers and businesses tend to go overboard with the new and ignore or take for granted what is old and that could be a fatal mistake.

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

No, at one level all consumers consider themselves a global citizen and globally connected. I can see what Kylie Jenner had for breakfast right now. There is always a nuanced difference in life experiences, and, therefore, consumer expectations, across the world, especially in a diverse country like India. Thinking of India as one is a big mistake that is commonly made by marketers.

9. How does your brand approach the Southern market both in branding and consumer engagement?

Obviously, localised language is key. The interesting aspect is that we are strong in the South, especially in the watches category. The South demographic and economic data shows a very different kind of milieu - high economic stature, high disposable incomes, well connected towns especially in TN and Kerala. Many of them are important economic and cultural centres. Our distribution and brand strength is very high in the South. In the watches category, 37 to 38 per cent comes from the South, which is huge. Brand philosophies are universal but the way they are translated is different and we do a lot of things locally. For example, the understanding and usage of brands is quite high in the South. A lot of people understand what a brand stands for and what their values are.

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 02, 2019


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