Mind your Marketing

Today’s consumer wants personalisation. They want brands to engage with them.

| Updated on December 27, 2019 Published on December 20, 2019

Arvind R P, Director – Marketing and Communications, McDonald’s India

This week, we are in conversation with Arvind R P, Director – Marketing and Communications, McDonald’s India. He heads marketing and communications strategy for the brand, to further strengthen its leadership in the QSR space. He has over 18 years of experience in Marketing and Sales across various geographies and categories such as retail (Levi Strauss), consumer goods (Britannia) and automobiles (TVS Motor Company). His career at TVS Motors included an assignment for the SE Asian market based out of Jakarta.

Have millennials and GenZ transformed the way businesses approach marketing?

Quite significantly. For example, millennials are opinionated. They reach out to brands to express their opinion. More importantly, they are vocal about what they need. They use social media quite extensively to reach out to brands, either to give feedback or if they have any issues with the brand. On the other hand, you have Instagram being used fantastically by influencers and consumers to express all about themselves. So, this gives an excellent opportunity for the brands to understand their consumers better.

At the same time, it is a challenge for brands; how to be proactive? How to make sure that you are talking to consumers on a real-time basis? So, social listening and similar tools play a significant role. So, all in all, millennials bring both opportunities and challenges to brands, and they are changing the way marketers do their marketing campaigns.



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

Digital is a sure-shot way to connect with the new generations. They are, after all, digital natives who are very savvy across digital platforms and brands are scrambling to get their marketing campaigns and tactics in place to converse with millennials and digital natives.

However, while digital is very important, and new platforms are evolving, McDonald's being a retail brand, the stores are equally important for us. What we do at the stores with these consumers, personalisation at the store level, engaging with consumers at the store, is critical too.

What are the specific technologies that have driven these changes?

Digital is probably the one big technology. Be it using digital at the point of sale or on social platforms. All of this today is user-driven. That is a significant change from traditional media. So, the conversations are happening between brands and consumers and it is a two-way communication. I think these technologies will only evolve further and marketers have to kind of grapple with this and grow with this change.

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

Both are important, but I would view technology as a tool. The creative idea remains paramount. Even when it comes to deployment of technology, thoughts, like design thinking, become critical. So, you need to put in a lot of thought process before using technology because it can be used in multiple ways. Technology has to fit into your business and consumer needs.

Arvind says…

One strategic change we plan to execute by 2020

For us, the most significant initiative has been the consumer experience at the stores. What we call an 'experience of the future', where we allow consumers to personalise their order at the store through digital kiosks. We then do a table service. So, in many ways, we're challenging the QSR category itself in this way. And, we have guest experience leaders at our stores. And this new initiative has propelled not only consumer experience but also increased business. We have seen consumers being very excited with this new format that we have rolled out. This kind of takes the consumer experience at McDonald's to the next level. So, that could be the biggest emphasis for us for 2020.

My top three marketing buzzwords

Personalisation, analytics and marketing technology

What I believe defines a hot brand

Buzziness and engaging


What makes customer experiences the differentiator of the future?

Today’s consumer wants personalisation. They want brands to engage with them. And brands that win in the consumer experience space will win this battle. Be it an offline environment, say, at the stores, or in a digital environment; how you engage with consumers and provide a seamless, frictionless experience will be the key to winning over the consumer.

How do you bridge the gap between expectation and experience?

This is an important thing that marketers have to keep in mind. Being on top of consumer needs is hugely critical because consumer needs themselves are evolving. Talking about the food industry, what are the new trends? They keep changing. So, how to be on top of the trends becomes very important. And before you take up any new initiative, the questions to ask are, is it consumer insight-based? Do you have something relevant for the consumer? Those are the questions one needs to ask to make sure that what you deliver is as per consumer expectations.

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

One is work on consumer insight using traditional methods of market research. And then tools like social listening that are available to be on-trend with consumers. What are the conversations happening in real-time? So much of the insight work can be achieved through social listening. And the insights can be quite spectacular.

That is one way for brands to stay competitive – how modern is your insight generation work. The other part of it is being relevant to the consumer. So, there is a traditional approach of one universal consumer truth. Today, however, digital technology allows you to do a very sharp segmentation and reach out to consumers using different sets of tactics, a different set of content. There is a lot that a marketer can do, using new technologies and new media. So, with these two things, if you are on top of your insight work, and if you build engaging content using segmentation, you stay competitive. Of course, it all comes down to how good an idea you have.

What are the three secrets to successful branding?

Brands must personalise experiences for the consumer because consumers are looking for the next level of personalisation and customisation. Be it on an online or offline environment, how can personalisation happen? That is an important thing. In the context of McDonald’s, personalisation is in the context of food. Today, when consumers come into our ’experience the future stores', they can select the menu they want using a digital kiosk, rather than doing it the traditional way. And we have seen consumers highly engaged with that because they realise the depth of our menu, and they can choose something they or their friends like, as opposed to the traditional route where they would go for a default or familiar option. So, personalisation is critical.

Brands also need to be very engaging in terms of content and create buzz. How buzzworthy is your content?

And third, brands need to measure their actions. A digital environment provides for high levels of measurability. Are brands leveraging that, is a fundamental question that marketers need to ask.

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

In India, with this variety of consumers, each State is a nation of its own. Be it in terms of food preferences, the media they consume, the culture and, of course, their language. Brands need to talk and engage with consumers at that level.

One can easily do that using modern media. So, the one-size-fits-all days are over. It is about customising marketing mix and the product to the geography and talking in their language. That is a very important tactic now. 

Why and how should brands think local?

It would start from good insight work to understand consumer segments. It goes back to the basics. Be it any southern market, for example, Tamil Nadu, understanding and appreciating the nuances of the consumer is essential because each State is different.

In the context of our brand, understanding food habits is hugely critical. The role that food plays in their culture is vital. The cultural nuances, because each culture has its rich traditions, should be considered. How to tap into traditions to engage consumers in a very relevant fashion and of course, use of local language, all have to come together to make it work in that region. So, thinking local and being a global brand, for us, 'Glocal' is a keyword. How do we bring in global experiences in a very local way? The mix between global and regional for the consumers that we serve is important.

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

We have a differentiated strategy for every market and the South is no exception. Every market there has different nuances. In terms of food, we introduced the dosa masala brioches some time back. It is a popular product. That is an example of how we customise the menu for different cultures and geographies. Even our marketing mixes are different — for instance, multi-language ads, especially on digital media, to engage with consumers better. At our stores, we recruit people from local areas. So, they can converse in a language comfortable with the customer. These are the different ways in which you localise the marketing mix and make sure that the 'Glocal' part of the brand positioning stays relevant.

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 December 20, 2019
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