How Covid-19 has reshaped the marketing funnel, decode experts

e4m Conclave: On the panel were Shivam Ranjan, Deepali Naair, Saurabh Varma, Samyukta Ganesh Iyer and Vani Gupta Dandia

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Jan 19, 2021 8:50 AM  | 8 min read
e4m Conclave Panel

At the 20th edition of e4m Conclave, an esteemed panel of top industry leaders presented their views on the topic - ‘How did Covid reshape the marketing funnel?’ The panelists for the virtual event were Shivam Ranjan, Marketing Head, Motorola India; Deepali Naair, CMO, IBM India & South Asia; Saurabh Varma, CMO, Inox Leisure Ltd., and Samyukta Ganesh Iyer, Head of Marketing, Baskin Robbins.  The session was chaired by Vani Gupta Dandia, Founder, CherryPeachPlum Growth Partners.

Explaining how marketing has changed in the pre-covid and post-covid era, Naair said, “I think pre-COVID itself IBM's marketing efforts used to be purely digital, we hardly used any print and television, but a large part of our marketing mix used to be offline events, and those have turned totally digital so we're doing only digital events now because physical is not possible. That's the one change that has happened. Second is a change that has happened on the consumer side, the way they're taking decisions in the B2B world, for example, how many people take part in a decision that plays a very important role. So that has changed, the type of decisions that they want to take now because of the cash flow issues that most organizations are looking at have also changed." 

She further added, "So we had to relook at our product offerings itself. We changed which portfolio offerings we would actually go out with first. We still were supporting a lot of our clients on some of the decisions that they want to make in the long term, but third and the most important thing for us was that a lot of our clients were essential services, they were financial services themselves, they were banks, distribution of LPG,  these are all the kind of stuff that you really needed to support. And we supported the employer, the security and their systems. I think our first task was really to ensure that our clients’ businesses were running. And I think that's really paid off for us in the long term. We've actually improved on our NPS scores, so on and so forth. Also in a long term relationship business, taking care of our existing clients also matters. The answer to that is not just top of the funnel, you created efficiencies at all funnel matrix also, because the end results matter. At IBM, I actually take on a target which is the end business target and you know what percentage marketing contributes to that target and that's very hard-coded and we get measured on that, which is rarely something that we have to deliver." 

Speaking about how the pandemic affected business for Cinemas, Varma shared, "I can start with the fact that cinema is basically the whole business if you see it's divided into 52 weeks and we had four to five films releasing every week. And there was massive chaos because we were breaking records, cinemas were opening, and we were running at a very fast speed. Suddenly, the speed breaker came or a break came and something happened and we immediately stopped. And the moment it stopped it wasn't just the pandemic attack or whatever it was, but also the whole mental torture which happened that cinemas are going down and they are not going to work. And things are going to change and, and it was mentally very taxing, and a business which operates 365 days a year. Suddenly, they stopped making money so it wasn't that easy to handle everything." 

"But I think there are some silver linings in the pandemic itself as well, we stopped running and we stopped immediately with a break. What also happened is whatever was urgent, everything took a backseat and we started thinking about the important things. So what has happened is the way you market and see things. A very important thing is that the human resource became very very fragile because people were fearing they would lose their jobs but they also became important because we had to motivate the team and things like that. Perception management, in terms of handling brand managers or people who advertise in a cinema, changed to data management. So a lot of things have changed, and we are still struggling with a lot of things. Since the pandemic hit, I think every day it's been a learning, and every day, we're evolving as a marketer, as an intrapreneur, and as a management company,” he added.

Elaborating on the need of the transition from offline to online, Samyukta Ganesh Iyer shared, ”And like you said I don't think this is something that only ice cream players were plagued with, this was a situation that many brands and sectors found themselves in where there was an immediate need to kind of do a crash course on digital marketing, I don't ever envisage a world now where we will not be doing digital, where online will not be a very intrinsic and not that 10% part of your budget but it's going to be a very core part, even if everything goes back to normal and let's hope it does. Digital is here to stay. It's not going off anywhere, whether it's for building your own e-com. People have always bought even something as mundane as vegetable buying to actually now shop for it online on blind trust, even on places like Amazon, which had never catered to vegetables before. I think it's a whole new behavior that everyone has learned, adapted to and realized how easy it is." 

She said, "If I have to just narrow it down to the brand building. I think that's where the role of marketing comes in, from offline to online. There needs to be consistency in messaging, consistency in look, consistency in feeling across all media, it's very tempting when you go online to become very topical, very moment marketing, there's this whole FOMO like there's something trending and your brand needs to be a part of it. But I think as marketers, you need to take a step back and put on your brand hat first. And the minute you do that the brand will speak for itself, you know whether you're relevant or not relevant to that particular trend that's happening. And then you need to decide whether you want to be a part of it or you don't want to force-fit relevance, because there's so much democratization of content that's happening online, that if your brand has a tone of voice and you're lucky that your brand has a tone of voice, you better stick to it and as marketers, it's kind of your responsibility to ensure that you have to ensure that the brand comes first, and then the medium kind of become second. And my other point is that the same consumers who are there offline are the same people who are shopping online as well. So why would you suddenly change your messaging or suddenly change anything that you're doing online just because you're not the same person? Why would you suddenly speak to that person differently?”

Highlighting how the pandemic has actually proved beneficial for tech companies, Ranjan said, “The tech world has actually benefited from lockdown. People are relying now more and more on technology products and technology services to be able to connect with each other.”

Speaking about digital transformation, he further added, “We anticipate the possibility of AR- VR experiences coming into online shopping. We need to be able to give consumers the opportunity to effectively experience the product that they can't possibly at retail today. And similarly, at retail, there is a need for innovation. “Consumer insights have always been a priority for all marketers, but never more important than now. If you're listening to consumers and get the right insights into where they're moving, this will give great insight into the opportunity.” 

Concluding the session, Dandia remarked, “It’s been a huge learning experience for all of us. We’d never thought we would use content in this way. Earlier, you never spend more than a single digit’s budget on digital, but that has dramatically changed because we don't have any other options. And we know consumers are spending all of their time on mobile. So I think we will only continue to evolve, and I absolutely agree with what one of the panelists said - It's not just learning in the online world, actually, this new era has forced all of the offline world also to reinvent. We all know the kind of advertising that print is doing right now to stay relevant. We all know what companies are doing in order to also better use other media including physical interactions, to make sure that there is a seamlessness between physical and the online world.”


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