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The only limit to using technology is marketers’ imagination: Saugata Gupta, Marico

09-October-2015
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The only limit to using technology is marketers’ imagination: Saugata Gupta, Marico

Speaking at the 15th exchange4media conclave last night, Saugata Gupta, MD and CEO, Marico, said, that today for an organisation to have a digital and technology driven agenda, its CEO and CMO would have to first become digitally savvy themselves.

“If you don't adopt technology you can actually get disrupted,” he warned, but “if you do understand and actively encourage digital and technology it can be a tremendous growth enabler,” he added.

He stated that twenty years ago the buzzword on the internet was disintermediation. “Today the web has fulfilled its promise of driving massive disruption and a big change from the marketers POV has been the unprecedented power it has handed to the consumers, in the sense that they now have access to information and ability to become publishers,” he said.

According to Gupta, the new age consumer reality has primarily shifted from push to pull, it has become inbound as opposed to outbound. And in pull marketing, the consumer looks for something that interests him or her and the marketer delivers the relevant information or services, and the marketer can create a relationship with the buyer and use analytics and other tools to nurture and drive that relationship. “The age of content marketing, as opposed to the earlier days where a marketer used to do a print or a TVC, is going to thrive now,” he added.

Gupta identified four meta trends where technology has enabled advertisers to have a multiplier effect.

The first trend is inbound and outbound. He cited the example of Saffola which has always been considered a healthy brand but now with masala oats and other products under this brand, the company wanted to bring in the tasty aspect as well. They got on board a celebrity chef who managed to significantly drive brand goals forward through digital media.

Similarly, HUL and Marriott LATAM are the other examples that come to mind where marketers instead of using advertising used data and technology, Gupta said.

For marketing the best thing is to do a print ad or a TVC and just make a big bang and noise with the large advertising spends. On the other hand, these kind of content marketing efforts take time and effort but the momentum and long term multiplier effect is huge, he explained.

The second meta trend is that data and code are the key enablers. Analytics is the new insights goldmine, Gupta stated. CPG companies have been behind the curve but telecom and financial services use the power and competency of analytics very well. Analytics is one more capability that has to go hand in hand with content if you want to use technology and digital successfully as far as marketers are concerned, Gupta added.

The third trend that is happening today is role reversal. Historically it was only the service companies that knew their consumers best. But today, with technology even a product company has the ability to talk to a lot of consumers on a one-to-one basis. “So even though we don't sell directly to consumers, through the internet we have the power to actually engage with our consumers,” Gupta said.

Technology today gives a brand a complete 360 degree view of its consumers. Compared to the last two decades there has been a drastic reduction in the time and cost of collecting data insights.

“Another factor here is that traditional ROI model for marketers which is a market mix model through which you get GRPs and household data has got modified and become far more comprehensive,” he said. Since the path of purchase of consumers is completely different from different channels there is the opportunity to do a sharper market mix modelling for the marketer.

“Marico for example, used a Whatsapp focus group discussion for one of its product launches last year where the group discussed trends in haircare and haircare products. For marketers this kind of stuff is a game changer because it allows you to capture consumer insights in a very cost effective way and in a very short span of time with the help of technology on a digital medium. Marketers instead of using research agencies can actually now do consumer research on their own and engage in a longer and more deeper interaction directly with their consumers,” he added.

The fourth trend is agility. Earlier a brand would do a communication plan at the core of which would be a 40 second TVC which would then be adapted to print and would be used for a year or so.  But today that can no longer work, he stated. It’s a multiple media campaign that is changed and adapted on-the-go. So a lot of ideas are reworked and enhanced when putting it into digital because its low cost and with the added factor of e-commerce a brand can test market multiple channels, Gupta shared.

With digital and technology speed is absolutely essential in terms of communication. Telecom is the leader in driving speed in their communication plans. Another thing that is necessary for success in the digital and technological world is to have resilience, said Gupta. “The spend ratio versus the outcome ratio in digital is initially very low. Saffola Fit Foodie failed twice since its inception in November 2014, and again in January 2015. But finally in April 2015 it finally succeeded,” he revealed.

According to Gupta, in India, e-commerce and traditional trade is going to co-exist for many more years to come and here, consumers seamlessly navigate the online and offline worlds for goods and services.

“The only limit to using technology is the marketers imagination,” Gupta said. He gave several examples where marketers pushed the limits of their imagination and were rewarded for their efforts. Telecom giant Vodafone started M-Pesa which is a financial instrument and which today is a huge success especially in countries like Kenya. Uniqlo is a Japanese clothing chain that tied up with Facebook and ran a promo where if you checked into an outlet you started getting a 100 yen discount if you shared your location info with your Facebook network. At the recent Kumbh Mela, Colgate tied up with Airtel to geo fence a tower and anyone who came within that range they got an outbound SMS inviting them to the stall and sampling Colgate for free.

“These were all innovative ways to drive growth and business. It’s an exciting time for marketers. There are risks. If you don't adapt you get disrupted and disruption can come from anywhere not necessarily product and technology. Unless the CEOs and CMOs get really tech savvy a digital change in any organisation will not happen,” Gupta said.

Excerpts from the Q&A with Nawal Ahuja, Co Founder & Director at exchange4media Group:

Have we come to terms with how technology has fundamentally changed the marketers’ role?

As long as there is a culture in any organisation which is ready to experiment and take some risks, then the adoption of technology is much easier and faster. Learnings can come from anywhere. But its essential to take risks and to think out of the box.

Has technology changed the threshold of risk?

Its important to accept that there is a certain risk with digital and technology and therefore calibrate that risk properly. Online has made it imperative for us all to be completely on the ball all the time.

The CMOs role traditionally was that of a facilitator. But that has changed completely today to more of a data analyser. Is technology the reason for this change?

As you scale up the cost of failure becomes higher. With technology and analytics information is more readily available. The bigger worry is challenging marketers into making more effective spends. There has to be sharp accountability. There is a far greater emphasis on driving growth and ROI and while this has led to sharper accountability, it has on the flip side also led marketers to become more risk averse. There is far more flux, and general cautiousness. In this respect, entrepreneurs are far more aggressive risk takers. Its more the culture and mindset than anything to do with technology or digital.

There have been instances where companies such as Marico and others have had to come up with innovative ideas to market their products, create content and in some cases also create platforms. Keeping this is mind, how has the agencies role changed?

The challenge is constant quality support. That as a field needs to develop.

Today content as well as media is going digital. So newspapers now have digital news sites and content created specifically for that audience. Similarly, TV too is doing the same. So where do you see traditional media heading in this case?

In India at least traditional and digital media will co-exist for a long while to come. The challenge is how to use each media as a multiplier effect. For media agencies, the goal is to create communication that is media neutral.

Will digital spends go up by 3x or more in the next 5 years?

I don't think its about digital media spends alone but rather about investments in analytics, online reputation management, consumer insights. So its about using technology more effectively and spending on that aspect that I see going up rather than just on digital media campaigns.

With new measurements how can TV and Print deliver more for marketers?

While the strength of TV and Print is about numbers and reach, they definitely need to get more innovation in to be more effective.

Will ad spends go up in FMCG for the second half of the financial year?

FMCG sector is right now in a sweet spot this year because of lower input costs. Instead of pumping this back into the company, its better to spend on innovation. But on a macro level, its also important to have consumer confidence and spending go up because without consumers spending, there is no point tin putting money in innovation. There will be a slight increase in ad spends in the second half of the financial year but only if consumption goes up.

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