The world is constantly evolving and moving towards digitalization and simultaneously, the brands are trying to keep up in order to adapt themselves to these changes.  Since the early 2000’s the pace of digitalization has only increased. Digitalization has moved everything on virtual modes and platforms. This virtual mode may include: digitally run screens and displays, the world of the internet, including social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), E-commerce websites (Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, etc.) and so on. In this digital era, marketing too started shifting from the traditional way to the digital way. Digital marketing has revolutionized branding and brand building. In practice, digital marketing has seen long strides taken by the brand custodians of MNC’s and Indian companies and brand stewards in advertising and media partners.

To discuss and understand the methods of brand building and challenges faced in going digital, GD Goenka University, School of Management organized its 2nd Marketing Meet, “Building Brands in a Digital Age, 2022” in virtual mode via Facebook live and Zoom platforms. The meet gave participants valuable insights into the changing brand building processes in the new and advanced digital era.

The event was inaugurated with enlightening verses of Sarasvati Vandana, followed by the welcome address from Prof. (Dr.) Tabrez Ahmad, the Hon'ble Vice-Chancellor and Dr. Alok Pandey, Dean, School of Management, GD Goenka University. They talked about the importance of content and provided valuable insights on how to reach out to the public by asking ourselves: “how difficult is it to build a brand online opposed to making its presence felt in the physical environment?” Thereafter, Dr. Sudipta Sen Gupta, Associate Professor, School of Management, GD Goenka University, briefed the participants on the proceedings of the Marketing Meet 2022.

Post briefing, the Chief Guest of inaugural session, Mr. Sunayan Mitra, Director – Beverages Business for South Asia Region, Nestle, gave his views on marketing and on steps to build brands in a constantly changing world. According to him, marketing is both art and science. He continued by citing an example of ‘Statue of David’ that the methods and rules applied to make the head: science and in order to market it, to gain revenue, it is put on the store: this is art. To highlight the challenge faced by marketers, he laid emphasis on the decreasing attention span of the younger generation, which was earlier 12 seconds, going down drastically to about 2.8 seconds making it comparable to that of a goldfish. He also provided his mantra of when to engage with customers. According to him, “there are three durations when you can connect with the customer: On the go- when customers are waiting for someone and they have less time to give to the advertisement so you try to get immediate attention; Lean forward- when the customers are taking a break and are looking for entertainment then you can make the advertisement interactive; Lean back- when customers are taking time to rejuvenate themselves then you can do research and try to understand the requirements”. But in order to gain maximum coverage for the product, social media has proved to be an immensely helpful source. As a market resonates customer, the marketer needs to think as a customer. “Content is the king,” said Mr. Mitra. He proposed that brands have to adapt as per the environment while giving examples how his company marketed their products by creating advertisements on specific occasions like work from home and Valentine’s Day. Also, influencers played a very important role in connecting the brand with the public on social media platforms. According to him, “learning, unlearning and relearning are essential to engage and win over the customer.” He concluded by saying that knowing the customer, explaining to them the relevance of the product, and asking yourself the question whether the brand is living up to the expectations are key imperatives of building a brand.

Panel discussion I was about creativity and content

The first speaker of the first panel discussion was Ms. Maya Ganapathy, General Manager, Ice Creams Division, Unilever India. According to Ms. Maya, marketing RoI comes from the quality of content. In order to develop creative content, marketers take a brief from whole content and generate a new creative content out of it. For instance, Harry Potter novels and movies have similar content but the creativity is different. Although the initiator and elevator remains the same, the roles are adapted to suit requirements. Ms. Ganapathy was of the opinion that infomercials are useful, but in today’s age, influencers have carried forward the infomercials and presented them in a creative way to the consumers. She further commented that crowdsourcing, although an important marketing platform can often be unreliable. For her, right content is when it starts with objective and not with medium.

The discussion was carried forward by Mr. Parixit Bhattacharya, Chief Creative Officer, TBWA India. According to him, businesses are more creative than industries as they find a way or another to connect with people. Citing the example of the now iconic Johnnie Walker, the brand could not establish a connection with its audience initially. Just by adding the caption ‘keep walking’ to the logo as a symbolization of continuity, considerably enhanced brand perception. In order to connect, building trust is important. Businesses are not born transparent but they have realized that customers seek transparency. On being asked his favourite creative format, Mr. Bhattacharya answered, “in order to increase the value of the brand, the brand need to create an impact on everybody’s mind and this can be done by creating a new experience and moments of joy that lasts forever.” He accompanied his answer by giving an example of Coca-Cola’s hilltop spots. For the assignment, Coke and Google tied up to create an epitome of storytelling. According to the storyline, by putting a coin in a vending machine in one part of the country, we can buy a drink from someone from another part of the country from the vending machine established there. This way people  can talk to each other with the video call feature on the machine along with availing the primary feature of buying drinks. He also wants to bring back simplicity of product commercial with style in this digital era. E.g., Volkswagen dramatizes content and connects with people, emotionally. He concluded by saying that companies, in order to blend, need to start co-creating. E.g., In the pandemic, an application was created in Japan where tuna chefs were brought together to produce content for those people who were fond of tuna fish but could not go out.

The third speaker, Mr. Amit Wadhwa, Chief Executive Officer, Dentsu Creative Group India, shared his idea of “putting purple cow to make advertisement” where he mentioned that time has changed and the creative department has vast ground to play on. In this new era, advertising has become more exciting. He also said good work comes when you are enjoying, not with pressure. There are two sides of advertisement agency- traditional (with core ideas and reluctance to go digital); digital (they lose core ideas). On being asked about content and context, he chose context over content to get more attention. “Bad creative good insight is better than good creative bad insight.” He concluded by saying that branded content should be non-intrusive like explicitly saying to get the product is not good but displaying product with subtlety is good.

The fourth speaker Mr. Dip Sengupta, Chief Growth Officer, Creativeland Asia, took the discussion forward by saying “more the things change, more they remain the same”. Mediums have changed but at a fundamental level, everything remains the same.  He also mentioned strong sense of partnership between client and agency to produce good work hasn’t changed and it will continue to fetch revenue. Also, content and context are interconnected and content emerges from context. He concluded by saying that in order to establish trust, the company should have a valid reason to claim what they are.

Last speaker of the discussion was Mr. Sayantan Bose, who gave his views on his experience with infomercials and his disinterest in them. Additionally, in lieu of “crowd sourcing” and “co-creation”, he mentioned through the example of “Pepsi Blue” how Pepsi asked its customers their taste and preferences but the campaign backfired for them. According to him, 90% of the content should be storytelling (emotional connect) and rest 10% should be brand information. He concluded by saying, one should make advertisement that stays in customer’s mind.

Panel discussion II was about Media, Metrices and Measurability

As we know that change is inevitable irrespective of any type of industry or business so in this panel discussion, the panelists talked about the changing digital media landscape and their tricks of the trade along with challenges faced. The second discussion comprised of the art of choosing the optimum media mix, how to create customer journey, mobile phone as a media, metaverse, brand loyalty and lastly, what should market strategy plan include.

The discussion started with the question what should be the optimum media mix and how to create customer journey.

Ms. Sulina Menon, Chief Client Officer, OMD India, started the discussion by saying that as she comes from the analog media her principle to measure medium is based on 2 things: 1. How many (people reach) 2. How long (time). With complication in digital media, it led to more audience and behavioral data of consumer to choose the medium.

Mr. Bharatesh Salian, Senior VP, Marketing Science & Customer Experience, Kinnect (Part of FCB Ulka Group), who discussed how choosing media platform is based on the unique problem, carried the discussion forward. He stated that if we have to create awareness then it should be based on more reach and conversion rate. He further said that digital media should be mix of everything i.e., mix of owned, paid & earned. Key ingredient for it is creating the right media vehicle at right time with right communication for that particular meeting.  He said personalization in cookie less world should become right option of media mix in near future.

Then discussion moved towards how mobile phone as a medium can be helpful to reach customers. Mr. Adil Sanwari, Head Digital Media and Transformation, HP (India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh), said mobile phone should be given utmost priority for creating a campaign as part of media strategy. Citing the example that, since 90% of jobs are on mobile phone whose access is critical, mobile phone should be treated as complete media entity.

Ms. Kanika Bakshi, Director, Digital Marketing, Oracle India, discussed about challenges in B2B, to stay top on media is important for every business and this can only be achieved through continuous engagement, creating experiences for customers and having a human attention span. The biggest challenge to that was analyzing data because we have data in different forms and formats.

Metaverses was the topic of discussion as a prospective media aspect. On this, every panelist had different viewpoints, some thought that it was very interesting and some thought it was not beneficial.  Metaverse is a virtual world in a mirror. As we know, people love to try new things that we called “Hyper adoption”. Especially important from media and brand perspectives is the example of how metaverse offered E-Sports during Covid where people experienced real sports, via gaming and virtual leagues. A similar disruption took place in the 1990s due to the internet which enabled us towards “unlearning to learning the new dynamics”. Disney and Samsung are using metaverse to enhance customer experience. The disadvantage of metaverse is lack of human-to-human interaction; these were the points which were discussed on the topic of the Metaverse.

Next point of discussion was Metrics used in planning digital media. Views differed for every panelist. For Ms. Sulina, the important metrics is the reach metrics that include hygiene factors like view ability, CPM, reach frequency.

Ms. Kanika followed by saying that Business metrics is more important than hygiene metrics because we cannot build a brand based on organic reach as, according to her, it is a myth.

According to Mr. Adil, there are different types of metrics like drafting metrics, business metrics, traffic metrics and revenue metrics. But metrics based on input-output is best that is called ROI. In this we can see how much amount we are spending and what would be the return. For building a brand it is more important to go for long term planning rather than short term. That’s the reason why most companies are unbranded.

Brand loyalty cannot be measured but it can be created by giving consistent experience to customers. When customers become brand loyal, they will give benefit to companies in many ways like: pricing power, lower cost of acquisition and loyalty.

The chief guest of valedictory session, Mr. Manoj Rijhwani, Director – Head of Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn India, shared his valuable insights about demand generation, brand building and marketing strategy plan. He talked about how demand generation is short term and brand building is long term. Ability to not get the results in short term is the main reason why brand building is not successful. He reflected that marketing plan in different sets of question which include whom it should target, for when (long or short), where, and how. The fundamental growth strategy focuses on brand recognition which gives long term stability. The marketing strategy should not only reach to customers in the market but in the whole ecosystem (and may include potential customers). Brand awareness is necessary for long-term brand building. Only 40%-50% of the whole budget is to be invested in Brand Building and remaining 50%-60% in Brand Positioning. The target market should be narrow as it restricts audience, and being very niche is quite expensive. He further classified marketing strategy into two parts: (i) Rational; (ii) Emotional. Rational marketing strategy focuses on demand and Emotional marketing strategy focuses on Brand building. Brand building can only be created through giving emotional experience and having impact on customer’s mind for long-term stability.

So, in conclusion, we should treat marketing not as cost center but as a growth-oriented center.

The session was then followed by another Q&A session between panel speakers and students and was then concluded by Dr. Deepti Wadera and Dr. Sudipta Sen Gupta with a vote of thanks to all the chief guests and speakers of both the sessions. The event proved to be a useful platform for deliberation and information sharing for all the members and students who participated in the discussion.

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