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Harkirat Singh

Managing Director | 24 Mar 2014

Social media has been a huge focus area and we have utilised this platform to add value to our brand. It is also a great medium for brands like us to get a validation on anything we want within seconds. Given the reach of this medium, the relevance to our consumer and the fast pace of growth, we see this as an integral part of our marketing mix.

Harkirat Singh, Managing Director, Woodland Indiahas been withthe company since 1989. Singh spent time learning intricacies of the high fashion shoe business during his academic years and concentrated on exports to Europe, the US and other geographies when he first joined business. He has always believed in achieving the aim of making Woodlandthe leader in outdoor adventure sports wear brands. Singh’s acute perception of the market trends has assisted him to sustain the volume of business even in times of downturns in the market, keeping the brand on top, ahead of competition.

In conversation with exchange4media’s SimranSabherwal, Harkirat Singh explains the importance of digital in Woodland’s media mix, the company’s focuses on innovation,mobile as the channel to connect with the digitally savvy consumers and the company’s future plans in the digital space.

Q. Could you tell us the insight behind your latest digital campaign?

Digital is very important in our communications, its essential in customer service and how we build our customer experiences. Digital is pervasive in everything that we do. We recently launched an innovative digital campaign called – Design4UNICEFin partnership with UNICEF to advocate the importance of safe drinking water and sanitation under their WASH campaign.

The participants will be challenged to design their own T-shirts using the application tools available on the website (www.design4unicef.in ) on the theme of safe drinking water and sanitation. The winning design will be selected for production and sale at Woodland stores. A part of the proceeds from the sale of these styles will be donated to UNICEF India for their WASH program running across the country.

We also launched our most exciting Facebook campaign – called ‘Woodland -Adventurer Wanted’in which the brand was looking for an 'Extreme Explorer' to discover an unexplored adventure destination. To apply, entrants were to create a 30 to 60 second persuasive and entertaining video/image application, on why theywere the bestperson for the job and apply online. The Facebook community got to vote for the winner. The campaign was designed with an idea to engage online communities present on social media platforms.

Q. What is the fundamental strategy and objective of your digital campaigns?

Consumers have become very tech savvy these days and practically live online.

The biggest strength of digital media is the ability to connect with people on a one-to-one level, understand them and their needs and turn fans into brand advocates, and familiarize the consumers with the brand nuances, thereby engaging them effectively.

Social media has been a huge focus area and we have utilised this platform to add value to our brand. It is also a great medium for brands like us to get a validation on anything we want within seconds. Given the reach of this medium, the relevance to our consumer and the fast pace of growth, we see this as an integral part of our marketing mix.

The digital platforms are also very low carbon footprint when compared with the regular brick and mortar stores. This is a great advantage in moving forward with our eco-indexing and footprint mapping on carbon emissions.

Moreover, digital media allows a much more interactive form of communication to target a specific consumer segment, unlike traditional medium. Reach is measurable and response is quantifiable.

At present, we are utilizing 25-30 per cent of our budget on digital.

Q. What are the trends that you are seeing in consumer purchase decision and how is digital platform impacting this?

Today, consumers are much more likely to discover new products and brands or refer to social media before making purchase decisions. In fact, the purchase decisions are now influenced in various ways by social media — up by 14 per cent in recent months.

Mobile is by far the most important channel to connect, communicate, and transact with the increasingly digitally savvy consumers in India. Mobile will become an integrated part of our lives and lot of innovation in communication will be introduced in this medium.

Q. What, according to you, are the key factors that a brand should keep in mind to build a healthy social conversation?

As more and more consumers increasingly live life on the go, the internet is changing how they connect digitally to people, places, information, entertainment and content across genres. Social media is the pertinent platform to engage with the youth today and thus it is very important for brands to have positive posts, inspiring pictures/videos, likes, thoughtful comments on their pages to be able to not only increase awareness but to be a part of their experiences, guide them, advise them in their choices. This enables to take direct feedback and incorporate it in products and services too.

Also, the preview and review of new products on social pages help consumer get detailed insights on the functionality, innovations and styles introduced by the brands. The enthusiasm and passion for the brand products and outdoor adventure lifestyle translates to sales in real time.

Q. With retailers taking to the online platform in a big way, how do you differentiate yourself from your competition in such a scenario?

At Woodland, our communication is about adventure, outdoor sports and environmental issues and that is what the brand is all about. We are looking at using this aspect of digital marketing for Woodland in India in a big way through videos on YouTube, blogs and across social platforms.

We have a very strong digital presence across Pinterest, Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and more.

In fact, Woodland is one of the first brands to have an enormous presence on social media. It is the 12th most interactive Facebook page in the World.

Online video consumption in India has doubled in the last two years with close to 60 million Internet users now actively consuming video content. Woodland has collaborated with its mobile audience to launch exploremore.pro, which has been a step in this direction.

We are working on several innovative mobile apps for outdoor and adventure. We are also currently working on launch of Woodland TV, which would bring highest innovation and technology to mobile outdoor adventure.

Q. As a marketer, what are your expectations from your digital agency?

Our understanding on technology is simple - Innovate or Perish. Innovation is not only required in products but also in the communication. The revolution in technology is changing the markets, business models and consumer expectations.Only the brands which timely embrace technology will survive. The traditional mediums are no longer sustainable in isolation and digital agencies are still in their early days. Content is the king when it comes to digital and this is where the challenge lies, continuous churning of innovative and interesting content in the digital factories.

Q. What is the one thing that you have learned from digital as a marketer?

Keeping the core brand ideas at the centre is providing a successful way to minimising digital waste and capitalising on the digital opportunity--- to create deeper relationships with existing customers and to engage and convert prospective customers.

Q. What is your content strategy for social media?

Companies require a comprehensive understanding of digital research and purchasing behavior – which is complex, involving a multitude of touch points. Once this is established, they should align their digital marketing strategies with the emerging usage patterns.

The content strategy influences both web traffic and social media presence. We build powerful content ensuring that the brand voice stays consistent across all platforms, for existing and prospective audiences.

Q. What, according to you, is the one thing that marketers should keep in mind while investing in digital?

Every organisation’s marketing objectives are now aligned with online medium to increase visibility, retention and loyalty for the brand.

Digital and traditional media are essentially the same – media to reach potential and current consumers. It’s the underlying idea behind the communication that is far more important and typically the communication objective plays an important role in defining the media mix itself. Digital and traditional media both offer their own unique advantages and we constantly evaluate our media plans across traditional and digital media, both of which have finer segments. Is brand building possible on the internet – absolutely? But internet business should not stay off traditional media without objectively evaluating it.

Q. How do you think the Indian digital ecosystem will shape up in the coming years?

Consumers are increasingly looking for custom-made solutions that fit their specific needs, becoming more engaged in product creation. Many companies are expanding their product lines to better address consumer preferences. Others have developed “mass customisation” techniques, which deliver tailor-made solutions at prices and lead times that match traditional mass-produced products.

Q. Would you please tell us about a successful digital campaign and also a campaign, which did not achieve the objectives and your learning’s from it?

Keeping in line with the DNA of the brand and its Proplanet initiative, in early 2009 Woodland launched 'Woodland MTV Ecolution' India’s first digital campaign. For every virtual tree planted online, Woodland planted one on the ground. The sustainability initiative helped us to promote awareness of being Proplanet and Woodland was able to plant 60,000 trees with the help of its consumers.

It was followed by an innovative campaign - ‘StepOut2goProPlanet’ with LinkedIn on ‘World Environment Day’. The campaign leveraged LinkedIn India’s member-base of professionals, urging them to step out of their offices and go pro-planet. This initiative allowed professionals to share their ideas on any one of the 10 important sectors identified by the United Nations, in turn igniting nation-wide engagement on LinkedIn.

Woodland reached out to more than 15 million professionals to spread the message and generated a corporate pool of ideas for greener environment.

Another exciting campaign on YouTube, ‘Woodland- What’s your Adventure Quotient’, aimed to find a new talented filmmaker. The winner went along with the professional team to shoot Woodland’s campaign for the season and got hands-on experience. For adventurists who are budding filmmakers, it was the best of both worlds.

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