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Suresh Narayanan of Nestle on essentials of being a marketer

On the last day of Zee Melt 2017 at CMO Conclave, Narayan talked about the importance of digital and how Nestle has stuck to its marketing principles for years. He also talked about a few essentials to be kept in mind while being a marketer

Suresh Narayanan

This year’s Zee Melt saw a lot of creative, digital and marketers coming together to share knowledge amongst the industry people. In one of the sessions, Suresh Narayanan, Chairman and Managing Director of Nestle India, talked about the essentials of a true marketer and role of technology in today’s day and age.

He started off by saying, “Whether you use a scissor or a knife, the fundamental principle is that it has to be cut and that means you have to stick to certain principles to do business.”

The role of technology

Narayanan went on explaining the essentials of marketing and further talked about the role of technology.

Narayanan said, “Ten years ago when somebody talked about making a marketing plan, digital used to be the last tick on the box. Especially people on my position seldom understood beyond sending text messages, what digital actually meant. It was really a tick in the box. Today, a marketing campaign starts with digital. Even a company as old as 150 years old Nestle have learnt that old dogs have to learn new tricks and a part of that is understanding where the consumer is moving. The dial of market growth has to move and digital is playing an important role.”

Today, being digitally engaged is marketing to the digitally enabled. It is no longer digital marketing. Marketing to the digitally enabled consumer means that the marketer has to be himself part of that skill set. Therefore, digital enablement, Internet enablement and any other form of learning and enablement have now become an essential skill of a marketer.

He also emphasised on the fact that in all this rapidly changing era, there are a few essentials that continue to remain the same. We should not forget the fundamentals that a brand has to have, the message it has to have and a proposition it has to have. Therefore, Nestle believes in four principles.

Adapt but not abandon

The biggest challenge that an organisation faces today is the act of continuity. This is the biggest reality that the marketers are facing today. That means not abandoning the old beliefs and adopting them to newer contexts and that is the task of a CMO.

Timelessness is more important than other organisations

This comes with a great amount of importance when a brand is attacked. “This we understood when the Maggi crisis happened. What we understood then that the brand has established itself to consistent engagement with the consumer over the period of time,” added Narayanan.

He further went on talking about a few fundamentals of marketing which one should always keep in mind.


Any marketing activity that one does, any brand that one deals with, instances and campaigns that one deals with, must begin with a purposeful environment. It doesn’t begin with a metric in mind but purpose in mind.


Irrespective of the technology, metrics, data champions, machine mining, human mining, the fact of the matter is that we are still very much people’s business and you are still talking to human beings.

Narayanan establishes this by saying that when the Maggi crisis happened, the brand’s trust levels went down from 98 per cent to three per cent. He further said, “Over the period of time we will see the importance of anthropologists is going to become more in our marketing departments. Understanding of this hyperactive, stressed and completely confused age, where the next destination of the consumer going to be has become more important than figuring out the matrices of the campaigns for the next month.”

Message quality over the message metrics

One doesn’t need too much of data mining, intelligence and machine learning. He said that these days people don’t focus on the quality of the message, but focus more on getting the ROI. He said, “The ROI (Return on investment) of a bad campaign will be bad. By putting Rs 10-20 crores on a campaign is not as important as getting the quality of message. Memorable brands have that hook and that hook is what we need to maintain as marketers. Continuing a brand to be meaningful with taking disruptions around them will be disrupting marketing.”

Safe is not safe

We always try to follow a medium path. For many brands and marketers, one has to step outside the obvious. Knowing that there will be a risk in the game and will create boring advertising is of no consequence to the consumer.

Building organisational changes for the future

The role of marketers is becoming very different. Marketing today is not just a function but pervades all over the organisation. Giving the example of the digital set up at Nestle, Narayanan said, “At Nestle, we have to build a digital activation team. It is a group of people whose only job is to stand the environment and to be the first point of response to in the event of any query that comes in on the digital front.”

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