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Pitch CMO Summit 2016: The time has come for content managers rather than brand managers: Sandeep Kaul ITC

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Pitch CMO Summit 2016: The time has come for content managers rather than brand managers: Sandeep Kaul ITC

The exchange4media Group held the annual Pitch CMO Summit on March 4, 2016 at the Grand Hyatt in Mumbai. The presenting sponsor of the event was Dainik Bhaskar and it was powered by Colors.

The Pitch CMO Summit is organised by Pitch, the marketing magazine of the exchange4media group and is spread across cities. It is a gathering of the best minds in the business of marketing. The agenda of the summit each year revolves around marketing in the present context and discussions focus on how best to market to the Indian consumer in this dynamic environment.

The event saw some of the top minds in the industry discussing different facets of advertising and marketing in today’s changing world. The Pitch CMO Summit also felicitated some of the top CMOs in the industry currently on the basis of their contribution over the course of last year.

Sandeep Kaul, Chief Executive (Personal Care) at ITC, shared his thoughts on the new responsibilities in front of brand managers in his address on the topic 'Changing Face of Brand Experience'. He spoke about new paradigms that are being seen in the brand experience journey---- media clutter continuing unabated, top-end consumers fighting back with various ad avoidance measures and fragmentation running amok.

"Every time one has an opportunity to interact with knowledge and statistics, there is a lot we do not understand," he said. He took some examples to highlight the tremendous potential and challenge in India----Uttar Pradesh has the population of Brazil and the GSDP of Nepal, he said, while Maharashtra has the population of Japan and the GSDP of Vietnam.

"Everybody has a lot of something but no state has everything. This is a unique challenge for not only marketers but people as a society," he said. He also pointed out that there has been a paradigm shift since we have been experiencing deflation (of around 8 per cent) which means that brands have to sell more volume. On the subject of discount, he said, "Discount is not the only answer for the nation and the public. If we make more in India, we also need to sell more in India."

He gave the example of the NCV equation that is used in ITC ---- Newness, Conversations (not monologue) and Value (not price).  He asked the assembled audience to innovate with simplicity. According to him any product should have three qualities; it should be relevant, unique and should be something that people can talk about. "We need to relook at our structures and relationships. All our layers are slowing us down as there are a lot of people involved in decision making," he said. He also stated that brands should look at their partnerships with agencies to create an eco-system where talent thrives. "Engaged teams lead to engaging brands," he said.

On the digital and content front he opined, "Digital allows you to talk different language with different people, creating a brand purpose. The time has come for content managers rather than brand managers. We are no longer in ownership of our content. The brand manager's role is more about curation. Engaging in the new era is all about multiple touch points."

Following Kaul's presentation there was a short Q&A with Vikram Sakhuja, Group CEO Madison Media & OOH at Madison World.

Sakhuja asked Kaul how a brand could go beyond the functional payoff to an emotional payoff and how does one achieve this with authenticity. To this Kaul replied that if the brand does not come across as genuine then it will come across as conceited. He opined that it was also better to keep the objectives limited.

Pointing out that the current audience is attention deficit; Sakhuja enquired how the balance between reaching a few immersively to reaching more through advertising could be achieved. Kaul admitted that any strategy has to include a bit of both. He felt that engagement can be multiplied and magnified through media.

To a follow-up question on multimedia and integrated plans, Sakhuja opined that even though everyone talks about these, the majority of the budgets end up going to TV. Kaul agreed that it was a paradox. In his opinion brands tend to start investing on TV since their peers are. On digital, after a point when they realize that the promise of everything being measurable on digital medium is not true, they tend to move back to TV, which is a medium that they at least understand something about. This leads to diversion of majority of budgets to TV by the end of the year.

"It is up to technology to help us achieve it. The will is there, but can we have meaningful conversations? That we have to see," he said on being asked whether brands have the capability to have multiple conversations with customers. He also opined that brands need to trust in themselves a little more and be willing to take risks at times. "We have to learn how to jump off the cliff. Every time we might not know the height of the cliff," he suggested.

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