The evolution of festive marketing: BE CMO Lounge
20 Oct 2022
The festive season is the peak shopping period for consumers. Marketing during festivals is also in some ways, the festival of marketing.
In an exclusive conversation with ETBrandEquity.com, Mohit Marwaha, AVP, Godrej Yummiez and Abhishek Gupta, chief marketing officer, Edelweiss Tokio life insurance discuss the evolution of festive marketing, the need to develop a singularity of purpose and more.
How has marketing during festivals evolved over the years?
Mohit Marwaha: Festivals mark a time when we all come together with our families. Marketers tend to follow what consumers do. It has always been great for all marketers to bring the brand story alive during festivals. The evolution has been more in the area of the way now the big e-commerce players are coming in, especially in the category where I play. The big e-commerce festivals happen in and around the valley or other traditional festivals. So how can we offer consumers some good offers and some good engagement during the time that those things are becoming bigger and bigger.
Secondly, it's also a great time to launch new products. So we work around the calendar in a way that we're able to launch a very exciting new product because consumers are in this mindset of shopping more during festivals.
Abhishek Gupta: From a life insurance industry point of view, the festivals actually do not offer the seasonality that other categories get, like apparel, consumer durables or food. For us, the buying behaviour does not change because of the festival. So for us from a sales perspective, probably this is not a big season for us. But what is big for us is the consumer mindset. I think festivals are a beautiful time to connect with customers at an emotional level.
We Indians love our festivals. So I think that the emotion of celebration is what we would like to probably link our brand to and insurance is all about protecting your family, protecting your dreams, protecting your aspirations, and festivals are a family time. So we would like to meet the connection over there and that is how we actually take the brand forward through festivals.
How do you view the shifting role of CMOs with reference to festive marketing?
Mohit Marwaha: A lot of analytics on consumer behaviour, a lot of data available on how consumer shops, what is the consumer journey from awareness to preference to eventual purchase? So how do we use that learning to deliver a full experience to a consumer not just about making an advertisement and talking about your product, but also hand holding the consumer from that stage, to develop a preference through different models and then eventually a purchase.
Abhishek Gupta: I believe that marketing, from a physical point of view, has really evolved as consumers have evolved. We all know that today, consumers have moved on to video. While many tell us that consumer attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, still, long format videos, if the storytelling is powerful enough, are actually finding favour with the customers. Now the beautiful thing about Indian festivals is every festival has a unique story behind it and it is not just a story. And these stories keep on changing from geography to geography. So while the country is one, there are a multitude of stories available.
There are things that we know, as a consumer, there are things that probably we were not so much aware of. And as we all believe that the younger generation probably today is not too much in touch. They only see the celebrations of the festivals. They don't see the stories behind the festival. So I believe it's a good time for marketers to take the storytelling route.
But the storytelling route needs to connect with the brand. It cannot be in isolation. We think it's also a good time to connect with the channel partners, it's a good time to celebrate with them. It's a good time to actually take our brand to them. Because our channel partners are extremely important for us, because 92 percent of sales in life insurance is always assisted by a channel partner. Festive time is a good time for marketers to reconnect on an emotional route and revitalise the relationship that brands have with their channel partners.
How are you ensuring the collaboration between several departments?
Mohit Marwaha: Today, marketing is not just working in your own function. I think the role, largely collaborations, happened earlier as well. It's about the early stage, as early as possible in the whole stage of the product development journey involving different functions and not a last mile kind of connection. Second important thing is, I think it's the voice of the consumer. ‘I want to make products which consumers want’ and that's where it starts, not, ‘I want to sell to consumers what my factory can make.’ So I think once that it's not easy, but it's easier said than done, the whole organisation is to then steer around this fact that this is what the consumer wants.
To look at the existing constraints of manufacturing or operation, say, “I cannot deliver this,” because it's very difficult for me to come out of my existing model. So if we have an inside out approach, then you get constrained.
Abhishek Gupta: I think one thing that marketing brings to get the entire organisation together is what I call a singularity of purpose. When this is the proposition to the consumer, the entire organisation has to live by it. But how does Walmart live by it in order to offer lowest price to consumers, which will not cease ‘EDL’ which is ‘everyday low price,’ you need to offer everyday low price to consumers, the company needs to practise what is called as ‘EDLC’, which is ‘everyday low cost.’ So, the cost that you will be saving by doing various efficiency measures within each area of functions, that cost will be passed on to the consumers.
So, then see what happens, all teams across functions, they work on the concept of EDLC, so that these cost savings can be passed on to the consumers. And that is what I call singularity of purpose. I think marketing is the only function across the organisation which has the power to bring the singularity of purpose and more important also is to percolate it across the organisation.
How are you increasing the spotlight on consumer experience versus branding?
Abhishek Gupta: I think in today's world, I don't think these two are very different from each other. The moment we're trying to build a brand, when the consumer is going to experience my brand, is that point of time is the experience in line with what promise I have made to the customer, while building my brand. So, what happens is, the end-consumers actually interact with the organisation at various touch points, it is not just one touch point. So for our industry, consumer will be in touch with us, either to our seller, that seller could be, or could not be our employee, it could be a third party partner, then once the consumer has given an application to us, then the entire process starts in terms of underwriting in terms of deciding what kind of insurance can be provided to the customer, do we need further information for the customer in terms of medical tests and everything, then we ask customers to go to one and get some medical tests done.
So it is very important that we offer a similar experience. And when I say experience, it's a brand experience because consumers interact with the brand.
With so many people coming together (internal or external) in offering that experience, if one piece goes missing or if one piece is weaker, the entire experience goes for a toss as the saying goes, the chain is as strong as the weakest link, the weakest link can actually derail the entire positive consumer experience.
I think as a brand when we are making a promise to the consumer, it is very important that we are going back and checking whether the experience that the consumers are getting is in line with what we are promising we don't want to over promise and under deliver. It will rather be the other way around.
Mohit Marwaha: For the consumer, the moment of truth is that it does not matter whatever branding you've done, how interesting your packet looks, he bought a product which did not deliver on taste, that's a very bad experience. And irrespective of whatever I heard about the brand through my friends, it's an unpleasant experience. So to me, it's something not only what you promised, but what you delivered at the last minute, which is getting more and more critical. And as this distribution landscape is evolving, you're not only dealing with general trade, but e-commerce is also growing very fast. So we have to take the channel into confidence, and also sensitise them about how this product behaves.
So in this particular case, we realised that there was an issue of temperature abuse during the last minute delivery, which the channel partner was not very well sensitised to, so we worked with them and ensured that in the future, this problem is handled, because they also were otherwise delivering, inventory, each product is very different delivering a frozen product.
If you do not address then no amount of branding helps. Obviously, it's very important that you're hearing consumer feedback, you're hearing all the complaints. So like many companies do, we also have a customer care helpline. It's not just to address that issue. But also look at systemically where we went wrong in a way and ensure that the customer experience next time is far better than what it was yesterday.
How have you shifted gears between campaign driven model and storytelling model?
Mohit Marwaha: The storytelling is delivering your message in a way which you know catches your audience's attention. What has changed over time is the media fragmentation. Now there are different and largely different mediums and within the media, there is fragmentation happening. So how do you put that whole complexity together to deliver, singular kind of message across different media?
What has changed over time is the complexity of delivering the story across different media, in a way which integrates the whole message, it's building on the core and not kind of taking away from it.
Abhishek Gupta: My view on that has not changed much. Earlier when you're saying that the campaigns were there, one was that all the campaigns were driven by a consumer insight. I think any company which was serious about communication or building a brand would always have a campaign based on a consumer insight. That was one part. The second part, I think, which is very close to our heart is building consistency.
So while the companies would move on from campaign to campaign, there will be a thread of consistency in terms of the brand story in terms of the way the brand is being presented. What has changed is the media as the market has evolved.
So today what we call storytelling was a campaign in the past. It was a 30 seconds campaign. Now we can do a three minute film. So I can do a lot more elaborate and my storytelling earlier had to be much more sharper.
I believe that was much more difficult because communicating a message in 30 seconds. And communicating the thought based on the Insight is much more difficult as it is compared to a three minute but what has changed drastically is the medium. Earlier I was dependent on external mediums. I was dependent upon the TV or print or outdoor. Today it is a multiplicity of mediums. And even in multiplicity of mediums, there is also an ownership of the mediums.
There are many mediums that even I can own as an organisation and communicate my message as a one to all. I can have my podcast, I can have my own social media channels, which is my voice and high control of what is going on. I need to spend my money to give it out to lots more people but at least I control the medium. So what has changed is the marketers control on the medium. What has changed is the freedom to be a lot more experimental. Because earlier the ability to explain it was not there.
Today it’s a whole lot of work that is open to experimentation. So I believe the job has become easier so that we are no longer restricted by the 30 seconds. But at the same time it is becoming much more difficult because the pressure on us is to constantly experiment and constantly innovate.
How do you ensure a tech-forward and data-led marketing discipline?
Abhishek Gupta: In life insurance, we have a huge amount of data available about the consumer. Because when the consumer applies for an insurance product for us, there's obviously a lot of information available in terms of the demographics, in terms of the income of the consumer, in terms of the health related information of the consumer.
But what is a little difficult that makes our job a little difficult is, once a consumer decides to take a product from us, it's typically a 15 to 20 years product and consumer pays every year. The challenging job is how do I ensure that the consumer the next time he is looking or he or she is looking for any other insurance product, I am the first choice there are a lot of data comes in for our help a lot of data mining comes in our lives, because from our data, we could save that the consumer based on the consumer profile, what are the other products that the consumer can take, as the lifestyle changes? That is one part.
Second part is, in our industry, all the costs are front loaded based on the assumption that the consumer is going to pay us over a period of time 15 to 20 years, there are issues when consumers decide to lapse or do not want to continue with the product. We call it persistence in industry. Our data modelling also tells us which consumers are likely to not continue with their policy. So we take extra efforts and we just do an outreach for them well before the other premium becomes so that the premium comes on time.
Third part, which actually is not so much related to marketing, but extremely important for the industry is fraud. And there are frauds happening across all organisations, including our analytical models that actually help us to detect frauds at an early stage. Because if you're not able to detect the fraud, and that fraud goes through the system, it will come back and haunt us in the form of claims. So catching frauds at that time when it is in the application stage is extremely important for the health of our business.
What we do is we use technology extensively to equip our distributors, so that they can go out and sell the product, which is right to the consumers. And even not just a consumer journey, even through our entire campaign journey, our efficacy of the campaigns, what to do, what not to do what has been working traditionally, what has not been working traditionally, in today's complex world with the multiplicity of what we talked about earlier, in terms of media in terms of messaging, if I do not have those tools, I think it would be like shooting in all directions without. Tech is a big enabler for all of us.
Mohit Marwaha: I think it's up to us as a company as a marketer, how much technology and data we want to use for analytics, right from the stage of when you're working on product development. So how do you mine consumer insights and you can get insights from multiple sources, data and tech, the more and more you use it, what we're doing in the process is reducing the chance of failure.
Otherwise there is no 100 percent sure shot way that you will always be successful with a new campaign or a new launch. But what type of data helps us reduce the downside, reduce the risk or reduce the unknowns? I think that's where the marketing function is also evolving. Because over time, a lot of studies and a lot of tools have been developed, which can help you look into the mind of the consumer and increase your chances of success.
There are syndicated researches available that you can do your own customised search available. It’s really up to us as a marketer, how much analytics and data we can build in this whole process from ideation to launch and then post launch evaluation of the product.
These days, while yes, the art of marketing is there, the science of marketing really helps you reduce your failures and increase your chance of success. So you can deliver a better value and ROI to the organisation because these days any launch is very expensive. And so you can't just shoot in the dark. What helps is data tech puts some light in that dark area so that you take a more informed decision.