Screenage: Can a brand be built only on mobile?

Panel of industry experts discuss ‘Brand building on mobile only - reality or myth’

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Nov 2, 2018 2:59 PM

The ever-expanding reach of the Internet, coupled with increased affordability of smartphones have made India the second largest online market after China. It is no wonder then, that mobile marketing today is claiming a bigger share of marketers’ purse and is becoming quite a gamechanger for brands.

Understanding the potential of the medium, most brands have now adopted a mobile-first strategy. With India now becoming a mobile-first market, the next big question facing the industry is: Can a brand be built only on mobile? The question was answered by a panel of industry leaders who discussed the topic ‘Brand building on mobile only - reality or myth’ at Screenage Mobile Marketing Conference held in Mumbai on Wednesday.

The panel comprised Channan Sawhney, Head of Digital Marketing Consumer India- Johnson & Johnson; Jahid Ahmed, Head- Digital Marketing & Web analytics- HDFC Bank; Mahip Dwivedi, Head - Mobile & Performance Marketing- Flipkart; Shouneel Charles, Senior VP – Times Network Digital; Rujuta Nadkarni, Head of Digital Marketing, Mahindra Tractors; Vinay Singhal, Co-Founder & CEO - Witty Feed; and Rahul Grover, President – Sales & Operations – Sai Estate Consultants Chembur Pvt. Ltd. Sanjay Trehan, Digital & New Media Consultant, was the session chair.

Watch the session here and scroll down to read:


Trehan started out saying that mobile-first has been reduced to a cliché in India. “Organisations are still figuring about the paradox of mobile. They are trying to situate mobile in its proper context. Where does the mobile sit within the organisation? Is it a product, marketing or experiences?” 

Opening the discussion with Shouneel Charles, Trehan asked him if mobile-first is a cliché or reality. Charles replied explaining how in fact it is no more about mobile-first but about mobile-only.

Talking in terms of his business, Charles said, “The mobile-first concept was tossed around four years ago. For a brief one-year period, there was a lot of chatter about mobile-first. But post that, it has become mobile-only. Currently, we are seeing 90 per cent of the traffic only on mobile. So even for brands who are associated with us for advertisement, we have mobile as a separate offering.”

While Charles gave a perspective on the premium video publishing brand, Rujuta Nadkarni talked about the rural space. Is mobile-first a reality in the rural market as well?

According to Nadkarni, the rural segment too has evolved in the past four years and is now a mobile-first space. “Primarily people in rural areas use mobile to consume entertaining content and education purposes. They use mobile for social media and WhatsApp. The space is transforming largely. But it is also very challenging because the way forward here is that you have to give localised content, you have to bring local experiences in the content, it needs to be more relevant and it also has to be in multiple languages,” she said.

Talking about how important mobile as a platform has become, Vinay Singhal said, “if you are not thinking mobile, you are already dead. You have missed the bus.” “The good thing is that there has been a change in the mindset of brands. They don’t want to use mobile only for lead generation. They want to do a mobile-first campaign,” he said.

Adding to Singhal’s opinion, Trehan highlighted that yet another key challenge in building a brand in the mobile space is the attitude of some CMOs as they still tend to see things in a non-convergent ecosystem. “Mobile needs to be leveraged to create experiences which could be straddling many worlds,” said Trehan. 

Speaking about the e-commerce space, where mobile is used in a big way to acquire audiences, Mahip Dwivedi said, “In Flipkart today, the majority of transactions in GMV come from mobile. For us, the key objective is how do we reach out to more people. Traction on mobile has to be there, whether you think performance side or branding side. For both the sides, the first touch-point today is mobile.”

Channan Sawhney joined in the discussion, saying, “Mobile is that one common thread between their premium and rural customers.” Sawhney explained how Johnson & Johnson connects with consumers on mobile by covering their journey. In the rural end of the segment, she said, they show education stories and videos busting myths etc and then lead the customer all the way to sales. On the premium end, the brand works with lot of influencers to associate with customers.

Sawhney also talked about how mobile poses a specific challenge in terms of content. “It’s a covet medium. It’s a personal medium. Unlike TV, consumers don’t have to share their mobile. So they can choose to opt in and opt out much faster. And this means that the struggle for content has to be greater so that the customer does not opt out,” she said.

Trehan then took the discussion to Jahid Ahmed, asking him to share his bank’s strategy to truly leverage the potential of mobile. Ahmed explained how personalization is the key to building a brand and how mobile is helping them personalize the communication for consumers. “Our modus operandi to make a brand is one-on-one communication, which has been happening till date with branch and retail distribution. But that is not scalable. So what is it that will make the whole thing scalable? It is mobile.”

Talking about personalization, Ahmed said, “In the mobile spectrum, we have consumers’ age, location, journey behaviour, transactions, traffic APIs, weather APIs. Now imagine if I can personalise each and every word, the image of it, the content of it, make it relevant to you when you want it. Orchestrate the campaign, suppress the campaign when you don’t need it and then bring it to you only when you need it. Also, I have to ensure that you complete the journey in the most seamless way possible. So our agenda is to make it as seamless as possible by a mobile-only.”

Giving a perspective on how the real estate industry leverages mobile, Rahul Grover said the developers have missed the bus when it comes to using the mobile space effectively to communicate with the audiences. “It is because real estate is not an instant gratification kind of business. You purchase a home today but you will get it two or three years later. So it is imperative for a developer to engage with the buyer who is going to be with them for the next 5-6 years. But having said that, if you ask if it is possible to build a brand, especially real estate, only on mobile, the answer is no. The brand is much more than a business. A brand is omnipresent, it needs to have an association with the customer, it needs to be at places which are not restricted to a 7-inch screen. For me, mobile today is still a lead generation medium. It has not yet reached a point where you can create a brand,” said Grover.

Another important topic that was discussed by the panel was the ‘marriage between language and internet’. Singhal said, “Mobile and language are a hand-in-hand story in India. The whole language space became relevant because of mobile because the language was not a big thing on the desktop as it was limited to the 30-50 million audience in India who could understand English. With half a billion people now using mobile, there is a need for regional content. Language is a sub-set of personalisation. So language is how you can be relevant to the audience.”

The discussion then moved to the challenges that the marketers in the field are facing. Highlighting some of them, Ahmed said, “Language is a problem. For example, for us, only the creative is language. The consumer comes in and the call centre talks English. So there is a fractured approach. Also, the mindset of the organisation has to change. People will have to understand that building a brand over mobile will take time.”

Lack of mobile-specific creative, catching up with the ever-changing technology, lack of metrics to measure the worth of resources dedicated to mobile and lack of personalised call to action tool were some of the other challenges that were discussed. Finally concluding the discussion, Trehan said, “One of the key things that we can appreciate is that no specific medium is actually going to call the shots. It is going to be a converged space where multiple platforms come together. And depending on the consumer preference, these platforms will provide a seamless experience.”

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