After the successful culmination of the technology symposium (titled ‘MERIT’) organised by the International Data Group in Bangalore and Mumbai, the next destination was the Capital. The debate in Delhi saw speakers engaged in a lively debate on which is more effective – face-to-face interaction or advertising.
The key people who deliberated on the topic included Alok Bhardwaj, Director and VP Marketing, Canon India; Gul Raj Bhatia, Country Marketing Manager, Imaging and Printing Group, Hewlett Packard India; Salil Kapoor, Marketing Head, Consumer Audience Business, Microsoft India; Ashutosh Khanna, COO, Grey Worldwide; Sharad Srivastava, Director Sales (South Asia & India) Western Digital; and Vishnu Mohan, CEO-Asia Pacific, MPG.
The evening, which saw a packed house, commenced with Patrick McGovern, Founder and Chairman, IDG, throwing light on the purchasing decisions of people that prompted them to buy IT products. He highlighted websites and print publications as some of the effective vendor communication methods influencing the purchasing decisions of the people.
Anurag Batra, Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media, moderated the panel with an introductory remark on the predicaments of the marketers who are under constant pressure from their managing directors to deliver sales. He also highlighted the average tenure of a marketing head in US, which has shrunk from five and half years to three and a half years.
Giving his point of view on the subject, the first speaker, Microsoft India’s Salil Kapoor, said, “In consumer marketing, especially when you talk about technology, you need contact marketing programme that is inbuilt in your overall marketing plan because face to face interaction is very important both in B2B and B2C.”
Throwing light on the ROI aspect, which according to him, was a critical component of all marketing activities, Kapoor said, “It can be seen in three different phases, short term, medium term and long term. In the short term, numbers are important, in the medium term ROI is expected to deliver perception change for which you need contact marketing programme, and in the long term, ROI needs to be evaluated on thought leadership which not only comes from PR but also from face to face interaction.”
Kapoor supported the idea of face-to-face interaction as a critical component in the technology domain be it B2B or B2C.
Countering Kapoor’s point Canon India’s Alok Bhardwaj supported media advertising rather than face-to-face interaction. According to him, media impacted our lives day in and day out, providing us with education, information and entertainment. He stressed that advertising spends stimulated the economic growth and for him advertising fatigue was an argument that didn’t exist.
“In the technology area, there is a constant need to communicate and the best way to communicate is through media advertising. I feel media advertising delivers far greater impact than face-to-face interaction,” Bhardwaj added.
Meanwhile, Western Digital’s Sharad Srivastava wondered whether the message that they as marketers tried to convey actually reached the consumer or not. According to him, media advertising did not give chance for a two-way communication. Reserving his stance on face-to-face interaction, he said, “In face-to-face interaction, two-way communication is there. I am able to build up the rapport with the consumers, I am able to tailor made my message to him and that’s the beauty of face to face interaction.”
The next panelist to deliberate on the issue was Hewlett Packard’s Gul Raj Bhatia. Bhatia elucidated his viewpoint by taking into account the ROI aspect. Though he didn’t rule out the importance of face-to-face interaction, according to him, “ROI on media advertising is far more effective in both B2B as well as B2C domains.”
He added that face-to-face interaction did not give much chance to communicate to a large base of consumers in a short span. “Mass media advertising cannot be replicated through any other medium,” he maintained.
Grey Worldwide’s Ashutosh Khanna made a valid point when he said that marketers and advertising agencies often misled consumers by showing them something on television, which was not actually the truth. He exemplified his point by recounting his conversation with his father, who asked him whether Shah Rukh Khan actually drove a Santro or not.
Khanna kept his speech short by saying, “I think there’s an increasing need to get into this box outside advertising.”
Contradicting Khanna was MPG’s Vishnu Mohan, who supported the role of advertising in the marketing of technology products. He said, “Face-to-face interaction from a ROI perspective cannot be compared to advertising.”
The panel discussion was followed by question and answer session. On being queried by someone from the audience on the role of face-to-face interaction versus advertising in retaining customer loyalty, HP’s Bhatia admitted the fact that in such a scenario advertising played a minimal role. He said, “Advertising doesn’t play much of a role. In technology space loyalty comes through customer experience.” Bhatia’s view was echoed by Bhardwaj too.
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