Pepsi’s distinct storytelling has helped us win at IDMA: Saumya Rathor

We speak to Rathor, Category Lead, Cola, PepsiCo India in the final part of our interview series with the big winners of IDMA 2021

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Aug 25, 2021 9:18 AM
saumya rathor

The 12th edition of e4m Indian Digital Marketing Awards (IDMA) 2021 was marked by some momentous wins. A slew of brands managed to shine through the storms with clutter-breaking work in a rather difficult year. Despite the odds, brands and agencies display resilience and stole the show. Recognizing these champions, our ongoing series will feature chat with the big winners from IDMA 2021. Today we speak to Saumya Rathor, Category Lead, Cola, PepsiCo India.


What do you attribute the brand’s big win at IDMA to?

We are honoured to have won accolades at the India Digital Marketing Awards (IDMA). As a brand, Pepsi has always been a culture curator and is the choice of the SWAG generation. 

The brand has always had its finger on the pulse of pop culture, and in turn, appealed to today’s generation through content and platforms that are most relatable to them. 

Extensive consumer research over the years has helped us stay ahead of the curve and tell stories that resonate with our core consumers whether it is through Bollywood, music or cricket. 

We have focused on creating engaging and relatable content for consumers around these passion points as we truly believe consumers want to interact with brands who have an opinion about the things they also care about.

For example, some of our most celebrated campaigns in the last two years – Har Ghoont Mein Swag Hai anthem launch with Tiger Shroff, Disha Patani and Badshah, Swag Se Solo and Salaam Namaste, were not only socially relevant and timely but also gave consumers an opportunity to express themselves in a fun and creative way while engaging with the brand. All of these elements come together to enable Pepsi’s storytelling to stand apart that has, in turn, helped us win at IDMA.

What according to you are the elements that make award-winning, clutter-breaking digital campaigns and what is the right approach to reach out to consumers during these trying times? 

Pepsi has always placed the consumer at the core of the brand – we listen to them, understand what drives them and then work towards creating products and campaigns to fit into their lives. 

In the last year, with businesses across the board having to pivot, we realized that a brand’s ability to analyze and interpret customer data, and then apply innovative technology to personalize with humanity, was fast becoming the template for success. Here are some common themes that work: 

Data has become key for any marketing campaign and pivoting your content themes on raw data straight from the consumers that helps create engaging content, and compelling messaging that is relatable, timely and culturally relevant. 

Pepsi understands the pulse of the consumer; consumer interaction and research is integral to any communication we launch. It is important to understand what they want, how they are feeling, what makes them tick and what their pain point is. 

This kind of focus and effort to understand one’s consumers helps the brand engage effectively at all times.

Personalization also helps in crafting messages that acknowledge why things are different, the impact being experienced, and how brands could provide meaningful help, credibly and authentically. 

Brands are adapting to accommodate these different needs and interests and provide more assistance with navigating the shopping experience. 

Increased adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) supported brands to engage with customers at a time where they couldn’t physically step out and visit stores. Especially during the festive season, retailers are using AR to bring traditionally in-store experiences to mobile phones. 

In such uncertain and turbulent times, how has the brand ensured that it stays ahead of the game when it comes to the digital marketing space?

Media consumption has changed significantly during these unprecedented times, simply because consumer values and consumption behaviours have evolved in a short time span, thereby, inducing brands to adapt to these changes. Marketers have had to think carefully about whether their strategies will continue to give significant returns in the ‘new normal’, or whether they need to be more effective. 

In terms of platforms, there has been a significant increase in the use of in-home media as a direct result of people staying indoors for the last few months - TV viewership has climbed, but digital consumption, including social media and streaming platforms, has grown at an ever-faster pace. 

With this in mind, we recalibrated our marketing plans and in 2020, we pivoted and launched digital-first campaigns given online content consumption was at an all-time high.

This year, with the external environment slowly opening up, our intent is to elevate our marketing game a notch higher to create a 360-degree surround.

We are pivoting our brand communication across mass pillars of choice like entertainment, sports, music, and gaming through multiple mediums to reach consumers across the country.  While we shall continue to use digital platforms, we shall also leverage other mediums especially TV and outdoor as they are gaining prominence.

What are the trends in the digital marketing space that you see gaining momentum as we go forward?

While digital has been growing over the last few years, there has been newfound appreciation for the medium by consumers recently. While all other platforms will have a role to play, digital has grown tremendously as people settle for the new normal. 

Brands will need to prioritize not just digital marketing, but also the content that they market on these platforms. Some of the top trends anticipated in the near future include getting ahead of consumer demand with real-time data; hyper localization; and engagement through interactive content. 

Consumers are explicitly telling brands about their wants, needs, and intent across social media. It is important for brands to listen to consumer feedback closely, monitor conversations around the brand and the industry it gives you a massive opportunity to connect and engage. 

Brands are moving beyond geography with Hyper localization. Consumers, especially the millennials find it important that the brand they choose to buy from have values that align with their own. Marketers and executives must do the work of ensuring the brand’s values are communicated clearly, even if it means packaging content in a way that is relevant to all audiences wherever they are. 

By engaging consumers through interactive content, brands need to bridge the gap between passive content consumption to more interactive experiences for consumers where they can express themselves and engage freely with the brands that they choose to associate with.

As the competition in the digital space heats up for brands, what would be your advice to brands and agencies when approaching the digital space?

In today's day and age, consumers expect their favourite brands to engage with them through meaningful experiences across different digital touchpoints. They no longer just want to buy things today but instead want to want to be associated with a brand’s identity - they want inspiration, emotion, drama, and an overall feel-good experience. 

Simply put, consumers want to step away from an interaction with a brand feeling like they have gained something. It is no longer about a one-way presentation of the brand’s core product offering but more about the dialogue that a brand can start and the emotions it can evoke. 

Another important aspect that has helped us connect deeply with consumers is moment marketing. Today’s generation appreciates when brands share topical content and that is why we have an ‘Always On’ social media strategy for Pepsi. 

Lastly, apart from topical content, we also identify hero moments at the beginning of the year which we would like to leverage, which are usually tied in with our campaign for the year.

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