The marketer of the future: Karan Kumar, Fabindia

Guest Column: Karan Kumar, Chief Brand & Marketing Officer, Fabindia tells us how to thrive in an age where lines between present and future have already blurred

e4m by Karan Kumar
Updated: Jan 10, 2019 8:41 AM

Future is already the present without the marketer acknowledging it. At least I believe in that. I say that because most often the marketer thinks his present day toolkit is adequate without actually realizing that it is partially outdated and a relic of the past. Let us, in the spirit of candour and honesty, admit that most marketers feel a bit weak in their knees when asked whether their brands and their approach, both are future ready. I suspect the reason behind that feeling is somewhere an embarrassingly inadmissible realisation that neither really are.

The logical question therefore is why are they not? Despite their intention otherwise, I suspect the real reason is that the average marketer is actually a hostage of the past-influenced present, with an impaired vision of the future. A future, given the exploding disruptions and pace of change, often times the marketer cannot even begin to sketch leave alone being prepared to paint in detail.

Honest marketers pay focussed attention to the present, eagerly looking out for changes that are already beginning to make them feel uncomfortable. They watch out for “Green Shoots” (thoughts, technology, platforms etc) which could grow into creating the dense foliage of at least tomorrow, never mind the next decade.

I present below some key markers, call them trends, which I have no doubt will only grow in scale and magnitude as we walk into 2019. While some of these could be inspired by the new ecosystems we live in, others are evolution and reiteration of what has worked beautifully in the past, continue to hold meaning today and will grow even stronger in the future. It is of course for each marketer to assess how they are positioned to embrace and profit from them.

1. The Internet is the biggest influencer of our times with 600 million Indians are already consuming it, led by formats of video content, chat, and VoIP. This number is only rising and as studied estimates project this to grow to 900 million by 2022/23. By then, 750 million would be consuming it on mobile devices with 650 million consuming it in the form of video content. The need for a clearly defined content strategy, led by video and that thrives on mobile platforms is stronger than ever before.

2. With an inordinately high purchasing capacity, Millennials are fast becoming the largest consumption audience. Educated, focussed and entrepreneurial, millennials seek “causes” brands champion, embracing them (and their brands) if these find resonance with them. They also deeply value “social proofing”, want to “creatively challenged” and love brands that encourage them to share content generated by them. These elements need to become the cornerstone of a brand’s strategy to successfully target and engage with this extremely important audience group.

3. A well-defined “Content Marketing” strategy and within it the role of “Branded Content” has already become a key marker of an effective marketing plan. With growing disdain for traditional forms of broadcast advertising, audiences are increasingly seeking authentic “people stories” – stories that educate and entertain. Consequently, story-telling formats too have evolved from the days of the 30-second TVC or the 120-second director’s cut hosted on YouTube! Short and long-format videos including web series and webisodes are driving story-telling and content consumption and these require special skills, training, and expertise to produce and execute across own and publisher platforms. Mastering understanding of formats, production and distribution will be key to successful brand messaging in the year ahead.

4. Driving “Customer Experience” and not just satisfaction is an aspect that has found increasing reiteration in this past year. Made possible through personalized messaging and engagement of customer individually, this requires concerted investments in data gathering (not just “what, but “why”, “where” and “how” data), as much as in building a robust data processing, information, and analytics architecture that leads to uncovering insight. Personalized campaigns anchored in deep motivation and behavioural understanding will lead the way in delivering customer experiences that are both superior and compelling throughout the purchase journey.

5. “Immersive Retail” is more important today than it ever was. Truer for brands that have traditionally been anchored in large-format physical retail but also becoming increasingly important for brands that hitherto had only an online play but have now started to experiment with the physical retail. An immersive retail strategy empowers you to engage customers by telling stories around product origin and inspiration to assist in product discovery and purchase. Exciting technology has emerged to assist in this story-telling within retail stores and brands that leverage these will successfully weave an immersive customer experience.

The above list is in no way either comprehensive or complete. There is so much more to get right – driving AI and deep learning, using data to remarket, actively pursuing voice search and harnessing the potential of Blockchain, and then some more. View the above five merely as great starting points to 2019. In other words, you simply cannot not have these in place if you want to provide your brands a firm footing in their march forward towards success. The future is here. Wake up, smell the coffee!

(The author is Chief Brand & Marketing Officer, Fabindia)


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of


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