How did you enter the world of marketing? The challenges you faced? The colades you received?
Guneet Singh: I started 16 years ago with a boutique marketing consulting firm called Quadra Advisory which was run by Shunu Sen (ex-Unilver marketing director) My short & early stint here was one of the most formative in developing a structural understating of branding & marketing.
I have been fortunate to get an opportunity to work with consumer tech leaders in hardware (Samsung), in software (Microsoft) and in the internet services (Google). Each role has had its infinitely unique challenges.
• hardware marketing leans heavily on a brick and mortar ecosystem and is challenged by easy commoditization and the inventory guillotine
• software marketing in India battles with creating value for a genuine version of the product whose almost identical pirated version is available at 1/100th the cost!
• internet services marketing is all about growing the pie, making new consumers realize the need for you.
Each category requires varying efforts to eventually make the consumer adopt you as a brand. However, at the core of each is one basic philosophy- the ability to understand the needs of the consumer, and being able to deliver what he wants. If you can create value and not just satisfy, but delight the consumer you have won his loyalty. For example understanding his emotional need and associating status with flat panel TVs or understanding his rational need and during a cookery show giving the Hindi name of the ingredient along with the English one.
Being in technology, allowed me to get deeper into digital marketing even before it became a fad & do exciting stuff that pushed the envelope for my teams in delivering creative &business impact. A lot of that has got recognized in India and around the world.
• Reunion Film was recognised at Cannes, Spikes, Goafest and many more. But more importantly it became the largest search campaign for Google globally
• Activations & media innovations that got recognised at IDMA, Goafest, Mobbys, MMA, PMAA, etc These further led to various other recognitions like being featured in the list of the Top 50 CMOs, being awarded the APAC Digital Marketing Marketer and Mobile Marketer of the Year etc. during various phases of my career.
The unique aspects of your marketing and branding strategy ?
I strongly believe a brand will never be a consumers friend. It could be a momentary companion. So find the “one” thing that will interest your consumer enough to see, engage, and consume you in that moment and then “tell a story” about that moment and your brand’s role in it.
If you don’t think you can tell it like a story to your kids or your grandparents don’t make it into an ad/film. And when you do find a story and make it into one, make the people in it heroes not your brand. Remember your brand is their companion not the other way around.
When you tell that story “be authentic” Claims are very fragile in today’s digital world, and consumers respect authenticity.
I often challenge brands who want to make a mark on YouTube to produce a story (it’s hard) even if it’s 3 minutes long .If they can’t, then I ask them to try and tell the brand benefits straight in under 6 seconds! That forces them to focus on “one and authenticity”.
As a marketer one needs to keep in mind some key facts about the Indian market. India is equivalent to at least 8 countries on a consumer geo-cultural basis, 3 on purchasing power basis and ahead of most countries globally when it comes to tech adoption.
What are the characteristics of a strong brand? Your advice on how to build a strong brand?
1. Stay authentic, to your core, consistently. It’s something that most brand experts from CPG practice, but is extremely challenging specially in technology where the pace of development is ten times faster than other areas. For example in CPG a new product variant would allow 6 months of planning, while in tech if you get 6 weeks you are very lucky! Another challenge in tech & services space is the source of differentiation, because it’s so deeply connected to new features its very easy for tech marketers to lose the larger perspective of what the brand stands for the consumer.
2. . You are the consumer’s companion, not the other way around. Showcase this in your films, your posts, in your attitude not just in your advertisements.
Stay in touch with your consumers.
3. Consumers today are adopting new devices, media and content platforms almost 3 years ahead of the marketing professional. Your brand needs to be agile and be where the consumer is. It needs to be available beyond the TV spot and the retail shelf. It needs to be there wherever the consumer is even “thinking” about the category you are in and not only where he is present to pre-purchase.
Has the age of the internet changed the way we build brands?
No and yes. The principles of brand building have not changed. But the multitude of opportunities that are core to the internet has created a layer of complexity – which makes people believe that brand building has changed.
Its the “I & I of the internet which the marketer needs to have an eye for – Individuality & Immediacy”.
What the internet has really changed is the infinite possibilities of audience segmentation and the pace of reaction.
Every marketer’s gold is in knowing their consumer better. Now you can know your users at an individual level 1:1, not as derived 4 segments from a 2000 respondent research. And what’s more you can talk to them individually & respond immediately when they pop in a search query, tweet or write a post.
To manage that the CMOs today need to build new skills in – unlearning, prioritisation, agility and data sciences and not in building brands.
Has the internet changed consumers? Made them more price sensitive, less loyal, more demanding ?
No, they were always value sensitive and demanding. Marketers just couldn’t figure out what was happening on the streets and in the shops from their boardrooms. The internet has
Today when choices are made based on price it’s known to the CMO within the milliseconds that it takes for a click to happen, and he doesn’t need to wait for the monthly retail off take reports. Today consumer dissatisfaction doesn’t emerge as an insight when the marketing team decides to go on their annual retail immersions but every second on Twitter.
So, how do you “talk your brand” with 100000 individuals vs. 3 segments of 30000 each is the new demanding marketing environment. You shouldn’t blame the consumer!
How challenging is it to build a brand in the very diverse Indian market place?
As a marketer one needs to keep in mind some key facts about the Indian market. India is equivalent to at least 8 countries on a consumer geo-cultural basis, 3 on purchasing power basis and ahead of most countries globally when it comes to tech adoption. Once you start planning with that foundation and that mindset then it’s as challenging as any other market.
Brands you admire and why?
Its an ever changing list but as of today some brands that I admire are Nestle, Paper Boat for their storytelling
• PayTM for its agility
• Google for its consistency
• Amazon for its glocalization
• Indigo for its attitude
Complete the sentence “The future belongs to……………”
The future belongs to those it has always belonged to in the past & the present. It belongs to those who respect & delight their consumers.