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In-depth: What is giving sleepless nights to marketing heads of India’s top brands? reached out to marketing heads of top brands, including Dabur India, Maruti Suzuki and PGI India, to know what challenges they face and how they overcome them

Gone are the days when the only focus of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) was on market research, advertising, or brand management. The role of a CMO expanded drastically with the changing times and so have the challenges. 

With marketing being extremely dynamic, every day there are many challenges that marketers must get ahead of. Be it devising integrated media communication, banking on trending moments, dealing with crises, managing agency relations and much more.

Marketing the same product for Bharat and India

Ajay Singh Parihar

According to Ajay Singh Parihar, Marketing Head, Healthcare OTC, Dabur India, marketing is indeed more dynamic than ever, especially when one has to keep a balance between marketing the same product for Bharat and India (rural vs urban) simultaneously.

"To add to it are the media choices that a consumer has today with a clear focus on personalisation each time that a consumer interacts with the business. Healthcare was earlier a stable set, however, in recent years even that is dynamic with different expectations at different times," he added.

Furthermore, Parihar went on to state that at Dabur, different brands take different routes to handle it by continuously reviewing the media and marketing mix to suit the requirements of ever-changing consumer tastes.

"For example, in the case of Hajmola, we have had success in reaching out to urban and younger consumers by launching variants like Chatcola and Limcola - which speak to the newer audiences through its packaging and product - in addition to its advertising which cues more fun than digestion. Likewise, in the case of Honitus, the brand has launched separate variants to reach out to regional preferences and also to cater to the needs of a growing diabetic TG," he added.

Anxiety about missing an important trend

Shashank Srivastava

As per Shashank Srivastava, Senior Executive Director, Marketing and Sales, Maruti Suzuki, "I work in the auto space and the biggest issue giving me sleepless nights is the anxiety of missing an important trend in a fast-changing world. It could be in the space of technology or criteria of consumer choices, among others."

The only way to overcome this is to be paranoid about consumers and hence have real close tracking of consumers through feedback mechanisms, discussions and interaction and keeping an eye on any relevant change, Srivastava added.

Achieving marketing objectives within the given investments is always a challenge

Anita Nayyar

Anita Nayyar, COO, Media, Branding and Communications at Patanjali Ayurved, who also supports marketing, believes that marketing is considered a key function to building brands for audiences with the ultimate objective of conversions/sales. 

“Given the changing market conditions and the ever-dynamic communication platforms, achieving marketing objectives within the given investments will always continue to be a challenge. For any brand to succeed in achieving its set objectives it is best that these challenging situations be considered as opportunities and solutions be devised around the same. It will not only help navigate the market conditions but also lead to advantages for brands,” Nayyar added.

Clear attribution continues to be a challenge for marketers

Swati Rathi

Swati Rathi, Marketing Head, Godrej Appliances, pointed out that the appliances industry is a very challenging space, with long product life, multiple influencers and decision-makers, and factors like technology, features, service, brand, budget, etc, governing the purchase and multiple touch points – both online and offline - contributing significantly to the decision making.

“The largest chunk of sales is generated offline in multi-brand stores, but even in the online space, it’s the multi-brand platforms that drive maximum sales. Given that, (a) the channel, instead of the brand, is the first custodian of customer data in the appliances industry and (b) the spread-out purchase journey – both in terms of time and space; clear attribution continues to be a challenge for marketers. Using multiple data sources, testing out hypotheses with pilots, A/B tests online, actively collecting feedback and studying customer and user behaviour closely, are just some of the continuous practices we follow to counter the challenge,” Rathi added.

Staying ahead of the competition can cause anxiety

Poulomi Roy

Poulomi Roy, Chief Marketing Officer at RSH Global, believes that the ever-changing digital landscape, creating effective campaign strategies in alignment with the latest trends and the challenge of staying ahead of the competition can cause anxiety.

"Brands can also face repercussions if they are unable to meet customer expectations or customer demand. To overcome these challenges, brands are constantly trying to improve their reach and awareness compared to their competition, especially with new brands showing up. FMCG companies are also re-strategising their business plans based on the acceptance and availability of their products on various channels of business," Roy added.

Hyper-fragmentation of media and the constant emergence of newer platforms

Sujala Martis

Sujala Martis, Consumer Marketing Director, Platinum Guild International (PGI) – India, highlighted that marketing today is more complex than ever, the pace of change itself is rapid across the board, and staying ahead of it is vital. Martis said that Covid-19 has sharpened the marketers’ skills when it comes to agility or the ability to pivot and flex, and the skill set has only gained currency, given the volatility that surrounds them.

"When it comes to the consumer, there are four key challenges that come to mind basis what has gained prominence in recent times: Firstly, there used to be a time when we spoke of clutter – today, more so with brands that enjoy the affinity of a younger audience, that clutter has magnified to a complete assault and bombardment of content. A situation only accentuated by the hyper-fragmentation of media and the constant emergence of newer platforms. Rising above the noise to garner audience attention is hence crucial. What brands need in this environment is to find a means to tell their story with authenticity. With the younger segment, authenticity is a treasured value and strikes a chord. At PGI we put a lot of emphasis on authenticity and staying true to our brand’s value system across all initiatives to be able to connect and to gain that share of mind and heart," Martis stated.

"Secondly, with the explosion of many offerings within the same segment, the success of D2C brands is critical to maintaining perceptible differentiation with this new-age consumer. Tapping into their need for functional finesse and distinction, the need to express, signal individuality and create social distinction is a requisite. The use of tech, data and content in a disruptive way can aid with the sharp shooting of targeting and personalisation. Brands need to leverage tech to propel discoverability and immersive exploration, shoppable content AR, AI, etc help do that," Martis stated.

She further went on to say that the other boom one sees today is in influencer marketing and that needs a massive shift so it doesn’t end up looking like fake endorsements, as consumers can see through the ‘paid’ content. Authenticity in integrations is a mandate here, and if done right these integrations can accelerate the consumer journey from engagement to purchase while addressing any barriers in the path to purchase, as per her.

"In marketing currently, with the quest for efficiencies comes the temptation to over-focus on lower funnel metrics, to create a win for the brand though what is essential is a continuous build to the top of the funnel metrics too, building on consideration for healthy conversions from thereon, so that in a sea of sameness there is a healthy sense of brand affinity and love. Younger audiences connect with brands that have a strong point of view and purpose, these brands manage to rally a strong sense of community and advocacy," Martis added.

She concluded by saying that brands that manage to navigate this complex and dynamic maze would be the ones that will find themselves in win-win situations.

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