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CR Vinay
Founder & MD, Customer Centria 
"2011 undoubtedly shall be “the year of tablets”, under all possibilities this is a great opportunity for marketers and the end user. This will take Advertising 2.0 to the next level to the extent the end consumer himself would say, “I don’t mind ads because they pay for my attention by giving me valuable content (discounts, free downloads, etc.) for free”. To me, this is what marketing on mobile Internet means - where the end user himself wants to see content provided by marketers!"

 CR Vinay is Founder and MD, Customer Centria. With nearly 14 years’ experience as an advertising and marketing professional, Vinay leverages his marketing expertise and knowledge of technology to scale new heights of success. He sees Customer Centria as a ‘one-stop shop’ providing all the facilities right from suggesting technology solutions to implementation to its maintenance. The agency works with clients from both India and abroad, including brands from the US and the UK.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Gopal Sathe, Vinay speaks about the way digital marketing has changed the way brands interact with their customers and how they can extract the maximum effectiveness from the medium.

How can brands effectively use the digital medium to reach out to customers? Unlike print or television, where there are only a few ways to use the medium to interact with the end users, on the Internet there is search marketing, social marketing, creating virtual interactions through display, in game advertising and many more. How does a brand factor all these methods together when creating its marketing plans?

“Choice and convenience” are the two demands of the consumer of today and these are in turn the key drivers of customer satisfaction. At the other end of the spectrum, sales and loyalty are the two profitability drivers from a marketer’s point of view. The digital medium is the only medium poised to be able to integrate and deliver efficiently on both.

The digital medium has forever changed the process of buying for a user, making it a lot more complex for the marketer to make his presence felt. Now, pushing this boundary further, this entire interaction with the brand and the product can be tracked and analysed, thus giving the ability to personalise the next visit basis past behaviour and predictive modeling, leading to higher levels customer satisfaction.

Add to this, the fact that the digital medium has fundamentally changed the decision making process of the user, with the recommendations and behaviour of his social network taking precedence over most traditional marketing messaging. With 21 million people visiting social media sites regularly (almost 60 per cent of the active Internet audience), using social media as a powerful marketing channel has gained huge importance in the overall marketing mix.

Thus, considering that the consumer has evolved, the marketer’s interaction with the consumer also needs to evolve. Once marketers’ objectives are clearly defined, and customer engagement and experience are an integral part of his marketing strategy, then which aspects of the digital medium to use will automatically flow. The challenge now remains to seamlessly integrate this “listening” into the marketing process, and to be able to respond nimbly to the consumer, and understand “who” rather than “how many”.

For digital agencies like Customer Centria, how do you get a brand to plan for digital, and plan for spending in the same fashion, instead of putting it at the bottom of the priorities as leftover spending? How can digital become a part of the holistic brand marketing planning experience?

For any digital agency it is very difficult to educate a brand to spend on digital marketing the way a conventional marketer spends on traditional media. However, once it is clear that it is the larger experience and engagement strategy and plan, which ultimately leads to Customer Delight –and what Customer Centria does is enable a client to become more customer centric and enable technology and data driven customer strategies – then it is not a “digital budget” that you are fighting for.

What we offer clients is ranges from Analytics, Insights, Technological Services, Social Media interaction, Digital and Loyalty Management. Thus, we believe in the concept of “Data to Delight”.

Another issue that we solve for our clients is to be able to provide all elements of a customer engagement programme, uniquely, under one roof – which is completely atypical of the ‘traditional’ digital agencies. This increases the share of wallet, and allows us to get completely integrated into the marketing process. One of our flagship brands, Gojiyo, has entrusted us with all aspects of marketing right from technology, loyalty, design, online and social media.

Our philosophy is B2B2C, which is reflected in the kind of “transformational customer experiences” that we create for our clients.

With GoJiyo, Customer Centria created a virtual world with gaming, social networking and engagement. How long did this take to bring about, and how do you measure the success of such a campaign from a brand perspective?

Today’s marketers look to the power of branding as their most potent and valuable strategic asset. Further, digital marketing allows the possibility of co-creation: a consumer is far more likely to be loyal to a brand that he helped build or contributed to in some way.

GoJiyo hits the sweet spot between social networking, gaming and a virtual world, where users can engage and interact with the brand. The GoJiyo virtual arena is an expansive 3D platform comprising six immersive worlds where users interact with one another via personalised avatars, visit ‘never-seen-before’ places and make friends with ‘like-minded’ strangers.

As far as gauging results goes, GoJiyo has manifested itself in the dramatic metrics that can be attributed to its “performance” in a short span of less than one year. GoJiyo’s community has dramatically grown in size and depth of interaction since its launch in March, 2010 – with a database size of more than 420,000 registered members.

While there exist no benchmarks in the country or even across the globe today, the under-mentioned will help contextualise the metrics.

• In its seventh year of operation, Second Life has approximately 10,000 Indian users.

• In the month of December 2010, GoJiyo registered an 86 per cent increase in registrations, while other social networking sites registered a negative growth of 1 per cent and a most popular Indian gaming site registered a negative growth of 2 per cent.

• Percentage of target consumers intending to purchase Godrej products/ pay premium for them went up from an average of 70 per cent to an average of 80 per cent post the Gojiyo campaign.

• Aided brand awareness for any Godrej product was No. 2 in the country for the period of promotion, with Gojiyo being the only new brand in the top 10 list amongst people online.

• This improvement in purchase intent was primarily among 25-35 year old metro consumers, the most vital target group for Godrej to create awareness.

Digital marketing is one of the most powerful tools in creating customer experience and thus, lasting customer relationships. In the context of GoJiyo, the idiom of the metaverse was used to create extremely memorable and completely immersive customer experiences.

How effective are games as a way to reach out to customers? What sort of interest have you seen from advertisers towards more innovative uses of the Internet?

The World Wide Web has given a whole new dimension to the lives of people as they can socialise, connect and even play games on this platform. The arena of games is growing by leaps and bounds in this sector. Consequently, the number of online gamers is also increasing as people can spend their time in a comparatively fun manner. They compete with each other online and win some prizes as well. There are numerous online gaming sites which offer the users with games that they can enjoy playing alone or online with other people as well.

I see online gaming in a completely new light – they provide a platform to the users to stay connected, both among themselves and with the brand. Thus, allowing the role of “brand as enabler” in the context of forming boundary-less communities, and allowing engagement with the consumers of today and tomorrow beyond just communication.

Today, marketers are really keen on innovatively using the Internet for marketing initiatives. However, to us innovation is a term that we employ with “usability”. The most important term we factor before executing any new or out of the box strategy is the way it will be perceived and value-add to the end user. We believe – An advantage is an advantage only if it is usable. This is how a brand should not just innovate, but also make this innovation usable to the end user. To give you a real life example, consider “Save the Santa” game on GoJiyo as an attempt to promote ‘Tees Maar Khan’. This provided users a chance to play games, connect with other users, earn points in the virtual world and win exciting prizes in the real world. During a campaign period of 15 days, GoJiyo received: 17,000+ visits a day, 15,000 unique visitors, 61 million impressions, 30,000+ new user registrations.

To us this is an innovative use of digital media that creates profitability and delightful customer experiences!

What do you see to be the biggest opportunities and obstacles to marketing on the Internet over the next one year?

The digital medium has forever changed the process of buying for a user, making it a lot more complex for the marketer to make his presence felt. However, that said, with the kind of technology available, marketers are able to take “Brand Experiences” to the consumer in a far more experiential, fully immersive context, like a virtual world, for instance. Take Second Life, for example, where a large number of retail stores established their presence, and a user could try on styles, change colour, etc., and share this experience with a friend, who physically could have been miles away.

Now, pushing this boundary, further, this entire interaction with the brand and the product can be tracked and analysed, thus giving the ability to personalise the next visit basis past behaviour and predictive modeling, leading to higher levels customer satisfaction.

With the advent of 3G, digital customer experiences being created for users on even a 256 kbps connection and virtual customer experiences in retail stores are the future, which provide meaningful customer experience and lasting customer relationships.

Today, marketers are happy keeping their customers satisfied. The real challenge is to take this a step forward and delight customers by leveraging on this evolving technology and providing them special and specific benefits, accompanied by an interactive and engaging customer experience.

It has been observed that many dotcom companies start with heavy advertising online, but once they reach a certain size, they start spending even more offline. Do you feel that this creates negative associations about the effectiveness of the Internet as a marketing medium?

Heavy advertising offline is often not a measure of how big they are, but how much funding they have. I wouldn’t say that it creates a negative association, because depending on the product in question, they probably just want to increase their “reach”. Digital marketing is the major enabler to one-to-one marketing, which helps marketers to deliver customised communication to their prospects. Hence, marketers today cannot afford to miss out on it.

I don’t think any dotcoms have replaced their digital marketing efforts with traditional media altogether.

Do you see advertising on the mobile Internet rising, and what do you think the impact of new technology like 3G, new smart phones, tablets, etc., will be?

Cellular communication is today becoming less voice centric! The world of communication is changing at lightning speed, and mobility has become the new buzzword. Cell phones are fast becoming the device of choice for the new age users to engage with the numerous social media platforms.

According to Comscore 2010 mobile year in review, two of the top five most important aspects in choosing a phone in the US are the choice of available Apps and social media capabilities. We believe, India is following suit and soon we will have a similar or even more favourable situation in the country.

2011 undoubtedly shall be “the year of tablets”, under all possibilities this is a great opportunity for marketers and the end user. This will take Advertising 2.0 to the next level to the extent the end consumer himself would say, “I don’t mind ads because they pay for my attention by giving me valuable content (discounts, free downloads, etc.) for free”.

To me, this is what marketing on mobile Internet means - where the end user himself wants to see content provided by marketers!

© exchange4media 2007  


"There are some forces impacting the way our business works. The IT/ITeS sector has changed tremendously. Platforms like Twitter have made everyone journalists. Smartphones have made everyone a photographer. The trend that we are seeing is one of hyperdigitalization, which is causing the lines between product and services to blur. For example, Amazon, right now, is more an IT company than Tech Mahindra is. Hyperdigitalization is changing the paradigm of doing business."

Indraneel Ganguli-SVP and Global Head (Brand Marketing & Communication)- Tech Mahindra-7/20/2015

"The current interest in Big Data has been primarily fuelled by two key trends: massive volumes of publicly available data on the internet, and growth of technological solutions. Opinions differ widely as to what Big Data is, what it can do and how it can deliver real business value. However, there are many things that Big Data does poorly."

Anshul Jain-CEO- ThoughtBuzz | TO THE NEW-5/16/2014

"Manpower is the biggest problem. Right now you do not get quality manpower in numbers in this segment. Quality resources who have in-depth understanding of this medium and who have been with this medium for some time are hard to find."

Rajdeep Chatterjee-Digital Marketing Manager- Nokia India-4/21/2014

"There are three pillars to our strategy – the first is brand building, while the second is member servicing. About 60-70 per cent 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."

Deepali Naair-Chief Marketing Officer- Mahindra Holidays-3/31/2014

"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 India-3/24/2014

"Our digital strategy is focusing on multiple fronts, not just marketing. Our aim is use technology to remove barriers. We are investing a lot in content and conversation. Another thing that is emerging in digital is that I can convert my engagement to business. So, we are working on how the customer can get an end-to-end interactive experience online, whether it is purchase, discovery, education or engagement. The dream is to make HDFC Life a truly online insurance company."

Sanjay Tripathy-Senior Executive VP (Marketing, Product, Digital & Direct Channels)- HDFC Life-1/17/2014

"Mobile is a must. With the changing landscape in the mobile world conquered by large screen smart phones, the access to internet has moved from only desktops to mobile. We have seen a 300 per cent growth in last one year in the number of visitors using mobile devices to access our website."

Mohit Goel-Executive Vice President & Head, Marketing- ING Life Insurance-1/9/2014

"Businesses run because we market our products. People buy our products because they like them. In the end, there is only marketing. We call print and TV ‘traditional’ media because they have been around for years. Today, you call something mobile marketing because the others are ‘not mobile’. These are just definitions we have come out with to make it easier to understand these concepts."

Aditya Save-Head - Digital Media & Marketing- Marico-1/2/2014

"In the current e-commerce scenario, India is seen as a country of high potential. International players are gearing up to take a plunge as they see an untapped market waiting to be explored. The internet user base continues to grow, but the real game changer will be m-commerce."

Nikhil Rungta-Chief Marketing & Business Officer-

"According to me, e-commerce is India’s next big story with travel dominating e-commerce in India. Having said that, number of users and ability to raise funds to scale up the business is key to survival. India has the third largest internet population in the world, with nearly 200 million users and is estimated to add 40 million users by end of 2014. It’s good news for online businesses in India because of the growing number of users, increasing credit and debit card holders and increasing online buyers."

Biju Mathews-COO-

"The consumer purchase decision process has transformed and has become more dynamic as communication is no more one way. For a brand to be successful on digital platforms, a relationship based on credibility and trust has to be formed. That means listening, responding, engaging and acting – in other words, the power is shifting to consumers. This dynamism can be seen in the purchase decision process, which is being powerfully impacted by the digital world."

Lata Subramanian-Vice President - Marketing- Sterling Holiday Resorts India-10/30/2013

"If we look at the digital ecosystem, it involves talent in technology, quality content tailored for this medium, monetisation opportunities where you can work with brands, and good quality network. Experts are needed in analytics as well. A lot more work needs to be done. The main barrier to entry as far as desktop internet was concerned in India was that it was very expensive. Today, data charges have come down significantly. So, what inhibits usage is only the quality of the product and not the access. It is up to us to build the ecosystem."

PD Sundar-AVP & Business Head- KSL Digital, Kasturi & Sons-10/21/2013

"Don’t forget who the consumer is – what drives consumers as humans is shared values and interests, which in the offline space manifests as friends, communities, clubs, teams. This manifests differently in the online space, but the core reason or the driver is the same. Digital is not a one-way communication like television, but a two-way conversation, so you have to be extremely authentic and honest, else it could lead to a dissatisfied consumer."

Viral Oza-Director – Marketing- Nokia India-10/17/2013

"Social media seems to be the new kid on the block. Every marketer sees the need to have a social media presence – given the penetration of Facebook and YouTube in the Indian market. However, the role and the objectives for getting onto these channels are not always clearly defined. The other issue that often remains unanswered is about measuring success and failure. A fundamental question often raised is how to monetise social media."

Glen Ireland-CEO- Denstu Digital-10/11/2013

"We see digital and mobile media as a blank slate. There are parts of online and mobile media where it behaves like television, radio, print, etc., instead of services such as Google and paid search, and we think marketers are starting to understand that you can’t lump digital/ mobile all into one category. In new media, there are sites and services like Saavn that are about upstream demand creation as well as downstream sites and services like Google that convert that demand into sales."

Vinodh Bhat-Co-Founder & CEO- Saavn-9/18/2013

"The entire digital and social ecosystem must be viewed as a two-faced sword by today’s marketing fraternity. The perpetual infiltration of digital marketing has for one, raised the visibility, awareness and (hopefully) the desirable quotient of brands amongst the consumers, especially the prospective breed. This can influence a higher top-of-mind recall of this demographic, thereby directly enhancing the likelihood of product trial."

Sandipan Ghosh-Assistant Vice President - Marketing- Ruchi Soya Industries-8/28/2013

"‘Wait and watch’ is a preferred route that most Indian marketers adopt, which leads to postponing investment in digital marketing. Secondly, it also involves the ‘traditional mindset’, which results in lack of confidence in emerging technologies and fear that the investments may not pay off."

Madhumita Dutta-Chief – Marketing- Pantaloons-8/19/2013

"It’s a fierce market with cutthroat competition. A powerful competitor can drive up Costs Per Click on Google and make the model unsustainable to others. There are hundreds of such tactics being employed by digital marketers to increase their mind and wallet share and one has to be on the ball and quick/ready to adapt. But that’s also where a solid brand name and the quality of your product and servicing come to play."

Abraham Alapatt-Head – Marketing- Thomas Cook-8/2/2013

"Globally, digital marketing is a key component of mainline advertising. Also, online buying and selling is an established practice. In India, digital marketing is a new trend that has captured the interest of marketers. Once the fraternity has used the medium, there has been a grown awareness of the positives of the medium and hence, more and more people are joining the digital marketing wave. But it will still take at least five more years for the Indian digital marketing space to reach the current global levels."

Arvind RP-Head of Marketing- Kaya Skin Clinic-7/26/2013

"What we must keep in mind as marketers is that digital is an eco-system comprising devices and media, and one must have a cohesive strategy that covers as much of the relevant eco-system as possible. Also, I would urge marketers to look beyond the ‘digital is measurable’ myth and use it to look beyond leads and customer acquisition as a medium that can actually help build brands."

Yateesh Srivastava-COO- Aegon Religare-7/18/2013

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