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Compelling storytelling coupled with performance marketing will drive growth in 2021, say experts

In a conversation with, agency heads say marketers need to use both compelling storytelling and performance marketing as complementary tools for maximum efficiency. They talk about marketing trends that are likely to dominate 2021

Performance marketing has been the buzzword in digital for the last few years.

Experts, however, caution that the medium may not work on its own for too long as ad blindness is at an all-time high and sharp targeting of consumers may not be possible once data privacy laws come into play. They feel that the power of storytelling with some performance marketing element may deliver good results for brands. 

Sameer Makani

“Considering the current situation, storytelling and consumer connect are the only aspects that can make the consumer understand the brand and its ideology, which in turn will drive their business narrative. Creativity was always the core of advertising and will remain so. Good content and effective marketing strategy can get the brand the desired traction even without privacy invasion,” said Sameer Makani, Managing Director, and Co-Founder, Makani Creatives.

Telling a story hooks a customer, multiple advertisements in the past has left a good impression of a company or brand on the consumers. Such ad content made consumers want to talk about it with someone, even move their actions.

Ajay Gahlaut

Advertising veteran Ajay Gahlaut said marketers need to use compelling storytelling and performance marketing as complementary tools for maximum efficiency. “Performance marketing can never replace the brand-building process. It is a wonderful adjunct to it and acts as a force multiplier. It cannot replace traditional processes. Brands will take lessons from last year and implement those this year.”

Nazneen Joshi

“Internet technology, right from the onset, revolutionised how businesses marketed their products and services, and with a bigger focus on cyber-security and that revolution is still very much in process. The further we progress into regulating usage, the closer we are to giving consumers the option to opt out and, hence, more compelling marketing narratives are needed to keep consumers organically engaged in order to gain a return on investment,” said Nazneen Joshi, Vice-President, Brand Strategy, RepIndia.

Anish Mulani

“There should be a law that tells users when and where they are tracked. The law must go in this direction, and companies like ours should use their intelligence and their technology to enable users to decide. Remember this sentence about the internet: ‘If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.’ We have to invent solutions to turn out users into subjects,” said Anish Mulani, Co-Founder, India CEO, Wave Browser.

Joshi said “essentially, a lot of ‘standard’ business practices that are today at the centre of ad targeting will have to be re-looked at and here is where contextual advertising will play a key role as we make the shift on displaying ads, not to a consumer’s profile but rather on the content he or she is engaging with in real time — be that articles, social media, apps or video content.”

Vivek Merani

Compelling stories have been heroes all along as triggers. What happens between the trigger and the purchase decision is the middle, which is a complicated web of touchpoints that differ from person to person and is where performance marketing lies. “The middle is messy and non-linear,” said Vivek Merani, Managing Director, Magnon eg+.

Merani said the cast and crew driving this part of the purchase journey needs to leverage several touch-points simultaneously and effectively. Some levers within this exploration and evaluation modes will always keep changing. This time over, it is protecting consumer privacy, which every sensible marketer could see coming.

According to experts, segmented audiences and contextual targeting to tailor a brand’s message will drive performance marketing. Search marketing is likely to become more effective. Brand-lead content hubs which focus on first-party data collection and cloud-based measurement will give customers real choices in the types of experiences they can have with brands.

They said brands will need to partner with agencies that understand regulatory requirements and have experience in deploying responsible content strategies.

Anish Varghese

Anish Varghese, CCO, Isobar, said, “Advertising is moving ahead to build value to the consumers but it looks value can't be built only with compelling stories.”

Varghese said there needs to be a remarkable orchestration between mediums to get the value of the product. “The new-age audience is buying products that even don't have a physical store or a TVC or a compelling story. Performance marketing will still work if the need for him/her is on priority. Since the need is on the priority, they may fill the details to get the loop closed.”

Prashant Puri

Prashant Puri, Co-Founder, CEO, AdLift, said, “Companies are looking for campaigns with a vernacular-first approach sensing the number of non-English, non-Hindi users entering the market. What works best for performance marketing is that it is not predicted to be impacted by privacy changes, and this allows brands to pursue their paid search efforts.”

Sanjeev Jasani

“We need to accept that the world will be hybrid when we speak of e-commerce. Smartness is to know that a customer has visited a brand’s physical store to check a model and then being targeted online with the same model communication with a sweetener thrown in to close the deal. That's having a single view of the customer. And that's challenging,” said Sanjeev Jasani, COO Cheil India.

Robert Godinho, Managing Partner, MediaMonks, India, said, “Tech will play a huge role in telling new stories through experiential media and new innovative automation of content. At MediaMonks, we are forging the future of such content as we pivot aggressively into integrating technologists into our workflow and pipelines."

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