‘Branding helps in driving primary sales’

Shradha Agarwal, COO & Strategy Head, Grapes Digital makes a case for products and industries to invest in branding

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: Sep 21, 2021 9:15 AM
Shradha agarwal

Shradha Agarwal, COO & Strategy Head, Grapes Digital explains why every kind of product or industry can benefit from branding and why such a campaign will continue to drive sales for the brand well after the media spends have been paused

What do your clients prefer more, performance or branding?

I have a mixed bag of clients; while some vouch for branding, others focus more on performance. OTT platforms are the best for branding. Usually, at the start of a meeting, clients ask us to recommend OTT players for branding and then add if they can also do performance with it to drive sales. The client’s heart inclines towards making a brand whereas his Excel sheet and mind always say-- can I see some numbers after doing this activity? However, a lot of players are now opting for branding because they can’t win in the long run without it.

So in this case, would you say that performance and branding combined is the holy grail of marketing?

Yes, it is. On one hand, there are midcap clients who focus on performance because they need to establish themselves in the market and on the other hand large-cap clients understand the balance between both. So, both of them go hand in hand. It's just that the percentage of effort varies from client to client, their entry points, the size of the entire brand, etc.

Today when we try to drive sales without creating a brand, it’s like selling on the aisle without a name. Your sales keep happening till the media taps are on. For instance, one of my clients was a cosmetic brand in the mid-range category, and their sales were topping the charts. As there wasn’t any other popular brand in the category, the brand tried to capture that market. But their sales only lasted till their ads kept appearing on social media or OTT platforms or till the time they had an offer. The day they didn’t run ads, they didn’t have sales to the tune they were looking forward to. This means, when you create a brand, you basically pull your relationship with the customers beyond the product. To give an example, Louis Vuitton is a brand that started with trunks, then moved to bags. Over the years, the brand launched apparel, accessories, hair clutches, ruffles, and even ventured into home furnishings. Recently the brand launched bicycles, and people admired that too. So, this is what branding does -it takes your relationship beyond a product and that’s where your speed sales come from. That’s exactly why you need to invest in branding. 

How do you pick which OTT platform to advertise on for branding purposes, is it a content-driven or an audience-driven choice? And how do you evaluate the success of the campaign?

For me, it is important that they give me numbers and multiple targeting parameters to create different cohorts and sub-sets. I look at two aspects - the first one is whether there are any clutter-breaking solutions, if I can drive affinity-based ad placements, some influencer ideas, sponsorships, in-place fresh content, integrations, etc. The second aspect would be to build an interactive idea or a property for the brand, which we call as advertising-funded programmes.  My all-time favourite is the Swiggy API  during the IPL on Disney+ Hotstar, which actually made viewers believe that while you are binge-watching, you can order and binge-eat from Swiggy.

As far as evaluating the success of the campaign is concerned, media metrics are obvious, when you tell me that I have been able to deliver 10% extra at 5% lower cost, it does the job. We have actually tried Disney+Hotstar with a couple of serving platforms to check whether they are delivering on target, and the delivery rates are really nice. It really makes me smile when someone calls and tells me, ‘We saw your ad on Disney+ Hotstar, and also the integration, both were really cool’. 

What would you say is the rough breakup of the kind of brands that could go to TV for branding vis-à-vis that on Digital?      

If you look at the Global Web Index or other tools where people are looking to see the rough mix, brands have literally started putting in 45% on TV and 35-45% on Digital, and the rest on other players, which includes Outdoor, Radio, Print, etc. 

What about Return On Ad Spends (ROAS), how do you measure that when it comes to branding?

Let me divide the ROAS into two parts - quantitative and qualitative. People don’t realise that branding efforts can also be measured quantitatively. For instance, you can gauge the impact of your campaign through social chatter. Bounce rate is a good indicator of whether the campaign targeted a relevant audience. . In certain cases, I have also seen the impact on sales, e.g. after you do your campaign, you pause it, the branding campaign may continue to drive sales when compared to what you were doing without a branding exercise. That’s an important insight and a lot of digital experts don’t know that a branding exercise helps you in driving primary sales. 

Can you share some case studies of brands that have really done well after they started focusing on branding?

Hudson Canola Oil is a classic example. When we were trying to sell it like any other canola oil in the market at a great price, we were not getting any sales. We re-positioned it as a health-conscious and IMA-verified (Indian Medical Association) brand, which is being supported by Nmami Agarwal(a nutritionist) as well as Amrita Raichand(a celebrity chef). We even changed the packaging and did a campaign where the conversation was about choosing the right oil. Result: the sale grew by three times. So you can’t keep playing on offers if you don’t position the brand right. Daawat, Manforce Condoms, Prega News, AcneStar, Volvo, Maruti Suzuki NEXA, Perfetti Van Melle, Hindware, Streax Professional, Cholayil(Medimix) are some of the other names which are heavy on branding. 

What would your advice be to the brands who are considering branding as the next step?

All industries can use branding. You really need to identify your goals, you can’t build a brand and drive performance through the same creative with the same spot. Similarly, one needs to establish short and long term goals where you divide your budget accordingly. A performance-based marketing strategy can help with short term goals.  But for a long term goal, you need to establish a brand and put your budgets in such initiatives. And the first step would be to identify the right partner who can ensure both reach and innovation from a creative perspective to reach out to the audience, like the OTT platforms.

Written with inputs from Sunit Roy.


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