Deepali Naair began her career with Tata Motors in 1993 followed by a stint in marketing at BPL Mobile, when the first mobile phone was launched in India. She has also worked in advertising as a strategic planner at FCB Ulka followed by a stint in Marico as Marketing Manager for Saffola and Mediker. Her last assignment was with L&T Insurance, before joining that she was with HSBC Global Asset Management India as Vice President & Head of Marketing. Apart from successfully managing marketing for India operations, she led the global relaunch (communication development) of HSBC Global Asset Management Brand, which used to be HSBC Investments in its previous avatar.
Deepali Naair joined Mahindra Holidays as Chief Marketing Officer in October 2013. In 2013, Deepali has been awarded the ‘Leading Woman in Insurance’ Award by International Women Leadership Forum for her innovative work in designing the brand and digital strategy for L&T Insurance. In February 2013 she was recognized as the "50 Most Talented Brand Leaders of India” at the Brand Leadership Award instituted by The World Brand Congress. In 2012, Deepali was recognized by Paul Writer as one of the top 50 CMOs for the prestigious Marketing & IT Recognition (M.IT.R) program for using technology to enhance marketing.
In conversation with exchange4media, Naair talks about her digital philosophy and utilizing the medium to create value-driven relationships with Club Mahindra’s guests. Excerpts.
How do you approach digital marketing at Club Mahindra?
My approach towards marketing is that with the lines blurring between digital, social and offline, let’s just take a look at what we want to do as a marketing problem. So, you need to decide what you want to achieve first; whether it enhancing experience for a prospect or an existing member or whether it is something that my Dubai team wants to get done. After deciding this you think about the approach you should take, whether it is through emails, SMS, social media, advertising, calling, etc. This structure of thinking and mindset is what drives me atleast to look at digital solutions afresh.
Recently, Club Mahindra underwent a rebranding with digital an integral part of the process. Tell us something about it.
The brand relaunch was fairly successful with the hashtag ‘#makingmagical’ trending on Twitter. The tweets to Mr Mahindra were fantastic. Our members wrote back to us telling us that it (new branding) was refreshing. None of our members have complained about the rebranding, which tells us that it was the right timing and it was accepted.
For the relaunch campaign, we only explored two mediums, TV and digital. Barring one ad in a leading daily, there was no other print campaign. On the digital end we did banner ads, put up consumer testimonial videos on our YouTube. We saw our website traffic increase significantly too.
What was the reason for the focus on TV and digital only?
That’s because of changes in consumer preference. Given the trend in the industry, there is a lot of travel-related stuff happening on the digital space, so when we looked at a match between the kind of people we were targeting and the best way to approach them, the digital medium stood out. Plus, the strategy presented by our media agency also validated this choice. So, choosing these two media was a clearly thought-out decision.
Apart from obviously spreading awareness about the rebranding process, what were the other objectives behind the digital campaign?
We wanted more and more people to see our new logo, so we wanted reach on both digital and TV. Apart from creating awareness about the new brand identity, there were one or two new messages, for example, we wanted to reassure people that despite the new branding we are still the same Club Mahindra. Also, part of the messaging looked at reinforcing all the wonderful things we have done over the years. The visuals on TVC and digital further reinforced the family and holiday side of Club Mahindra, so the campaign worked at different levels.
Is digital a continuous strategy at Club Mahindra or is it more project-driven?
There are three pillars to our strategy—the first is brand building, while the second is member servicing. About 60-70% of our members are on Facebook, therefore it plays an important role for us. The last thing is customer acquisition, which is of course driven by business goals. When it comes to brand building we use social media, YouTube and a combination of what we do for acquisition and customer servicing.
We are not currently focusing on Twitter, because most of our audience seems to be on Facebook. For example, we have 10 lakh plus fans on Facebook and not of all whom are our customers. If we look at our mentions, 85-90% of my targeting is from Facebook, which tells me we are doing the right targeting. If this changes to other platforms we will also change.
On the second part, i.e. member servicing, we do interesting analytics work. We have among the highest open rates of emails, approximately 22-25%. This is because it is relevant and personalized. To make it relevant we do single-level segmentation to see which segment a particular person falls into—when is the last time he took a holiday, has he holidayed in the last one year, three months, etc. Then we look at my inventory and match the two.
We also use Custom Audiences on Facebook effectively. Every time we do a campaign, we use it to boost my email campaign and the leftover we try to get on the phone. I would say that telecalling is truly integrated with digital in that sense and it is very cost-effective.
Tell us of some of the interesting ways you are using social media.
We have noticed that 90% of our member-related issues come between 9 am- 7pm and I think we are doing an effective job in solving customer issues that crop up despite our listening not being 24x7. What we have done is that through our listening tool we have integrated our social media agency, our resort management and our in-house social media team on one platform. If a customer at a resort posts a complaint on Twitter or Facebook, my social media team will pick it up and put it in the customer service bin. The customer service team will look at all such complaints and tag them depending on whether they are resort-related or not. These then get passed on to the call centre, which then contacts the management of the particular resort. This is done for each of my 40 resorts and immediately an email goes to the respective duty manager. At the resort it is the duty manger’s responsibility to look at all such complaints. Typically, within 30-60 minutes, the duty manager can go back to the client with either a solution or an apology. Our service recovery is fantastic at the resort.
It seems to be an effective way of integrating social media and client servicing.
The credit must go to the team. This is a true collaboration, since we have not set up any sophisticated technology platform. It is about the fact that the customer service team is willing to have a dedicated resource to monitor social media and somebody’s actually tagging it so that it goes forward to the right resort. This is where things are headed—if my customer wants that personalized response, I need to be able to provide it. We don’t like to talk about it a lot since it is not something we can provide 24x7. Usually, 85-90% of all these queries get solved within a set time frame, the others we try to solve as soon as possible.
Apart from this, what are the other things Club Mahindra is looking to do on the digital space?
One thing we will look to explore is how to use social media to listen in and understand holiday trends, since holidays and travelling is one category that people speak or write a lot about on social media. Another thing we might look at, at a later date is what kind of mobile platform should we provide to our members. In 18 months since we launched our online booking facility, 50% of my bookings are happening online. Given all this, and the smartphone trend being seen in the country, we want to see how we can enhance the mobile experience.
There is another interesting idea—can we guests put their good experiences, which they share with us face-to-face, on social media, on their volition. It is every brand’s Holy Grail. In the travel category, people post a lot of good things about their holiday but they don’t mention the hotel, etc, which I feel is an opportunity lost. This is something that every hotel player would want. But it should happen on its own without us giving it a push.
What are some of the hygiene-level things that every hospitality player should adopt as part of their digital strategy?
Listening is a must in this sector. Whether you decide to do something about it or not, the first step is to listen. It tells me what is happening and where there is a problem. The kind of collaboration we do, which I spoke about earlier, is the second step. If I look at daily data, there is an opportunity to correct many things. For example, if my guest in a particular city, is complaining about a cab strike, I might be able to find out and do something about it only if I am paying attention to what my guests are speaking about on social media. Listening provides insights to improve your processes and opportunities to do some proactive things for the guests on a daily basis.
Could you give us an idea about how digital spends have changed for Club Mahindra?
I consider digital marketing as an above the line spend. Our share of digital spends, ranges from 20-23% depending upon what we do.
Any particular thing that you feel the hospitality sector can learn from other industry verticals?
I am told that in China m-commerce and social commerce is really huge but it has still not happened in India. And it is interesting for me to find out what is happening over there. We have seen India leapfrogging technologies in the past, for example, the pager. I feel video content will be the future. In India if you want to make a video it has a certain cost, but a brand manager for a US-based airline I was speaking with told me they produce 200 videos in a year, with most of them user-generated. They even have an in-house videographer to create the videos for them. So these are some things we could learn, about organizational design, the kind of skill set to hire, etc.
Speaking of video, what is your video strategy?
We have done resort specific videos with integrated customer testimonials. We will also focus on video testimonials too. I think we will see how this works for a few more months and then decide how to take it forward.
What are your expectations from your digital agency?
Social and digital media agencies taught us the concept of ROI. I expect all my agencies to do this. I expect a partnership with someone who understands my brand. Another thing I expect from my agency is that they tell us what are the trends to watch out for in the future. We want to be future-ready; we want the brand to be as relevant years down as it is today. So, we look to them to provide that knowledge because the pace of change in digital is too fast.
How do you measure ROI when it comes to social media?
It is quite similar to how we do it in other media. It could be about reach or the quality of engagement. Sometimes, we have larger spend but lesser number of people reached, but the quality of engagement is higher. So, you have evaluate both parameters. Sometimes, right at the proposal stage you know whether you want reach or quality of engagement.