Mainstream advertising lacks stories that stir the soul. ‘The client’ is equally responsible for this.
Who is your biggest professional mentor?
The consumer. She has taught me everything I know about marketing. Understanding her, understanding what she says and leaves unsaid, understanding what she buys and why she does so – that is what has taught me. Of course, there have been peers and team members who have taught me a great deal but at the core of all their teaching is – hold the consumer as your mentor.
If not a brand marketer, what would you be?
A psychoanalyst. I like reading people - their behaviour and what motivates it.
Name a brand (other than your own) you admire. And tell us why.
I admire Coca-Cola and the way they appropriated a mythical character like Santa Claus. They made the brand come alive, and through Santa they found a physical manifestation of everything the brand stood for. Spreading happiness all over the world with children and families could be quite an onerous proposition to communicate, especially to large audiences. But they created a ‘live and active’ representation of each of those values.
What are the big challenges you see coming your way in the next 12 months?
To be ‘always on’ as a brand, across all media ecosystems and to be part of the on-going narrative. The days of broadcast marketing are coming to a close. Engagement through brand immersion is the key to succeeding in the current context and for that a brand needs to be ‘always participating’ and plugged-in.
What’s the biggest change in the way consumers approach your segment today, versus a year back? To what do you attribute this?
They approach it basis the story our products stand for versus how they are priced. In an environment of plentiful options, brand choice is being dictated by the values the brand stands for. ‘Value for money’ is getting re-lensed as a consumption driver. This is happening because products are increasingly being consumed not out of need, but because of the desire they stir amongst consumers.
Which product segment out there impacts trends in your category most? Why?
Segments that indulge consumer self-esteem. People are consuming what aids their self-image and its projection.
What’s the toughest part of being a brand marketer?
To constantly learn to stay ahead of the curve - of technology, media ecosystems and the art of storytelling.
Name the biggest professional hurdle you faced recently. How did you tide over it?
Connecting multiple data sources and consumer research to create connected insights. We cracked it by creating my own unique model which was critically appreciated at the M sia- acific conference.
As a marketer in the digital age, what is your biggest nightmare?
To be ‘not’ always-on.
What is your lead medium of communication today? Which medium do you use least?
Print leads. Social has started coming very close to print now in terms of relevant reach and impressions. TV is a medium we use the least currently.
Are the best creative minds still in advertising?
Yes they are but brand custodians who challenge those minds have gone missing. Mainstream advertising is increasingly lacking stories that stir your soul. And ‘the client’ is equally responsible for not pushing for this.
In what way has your relationship with your agency partners - creative and media planning/buying changed of late? What’s the one must-have quality for an agency today?
They are ‘partners’ more than ever before. I see a sincere effort being made by them.
Are you open to paying agencies a pitch fee?
Yes. It shows seriousness of intent and purpose and accords a certain value to the time and effort that is going to be needed for good pitches to happen. However, I must also ask whether the losing agency would be okay with leaving behind their idea to be explored by another one. They have now been paid for it and therefore that idea theoretically belongs to the client. That is an answer I would love to have.