The pandemic has brought about notable shifts across industries, and the case has been no different for marketing. Today, digital marketing has become a crucial aspect in order to acquire new customers and retain existing ones. In our weekly BrandWagon Ad Talk series, industry experts highlight what has changed over the past two years and more importantly, are these changes here to stay. John Thangaraj, chief strategy officer, FCB India, talks to BrandWagon Online, about the dos and don’ts of digital marketing, best marketing campaigns, and more.
What is the difference between launching a brand in today’s digital era versus earlier?
While the differences are many, I’d say that the core of it comes down to discovery versus awareness. The traditional model for brand launches was predicated on a linear consumer funnel. Everything began with awareness and slowly moved past interest, consideration, evaluation and finally, purchase. Today, we of course know better. Awareness can often lead to almost immediate purchase, especially in high involvement, relatively low-cost categories such as fashion or cosmetics. Today, discovery is king. We need to make our brands discoverable to the right sort of consumer at the right time, which is where the power of digital truly manifests itself. While interest-based targeting is hardly ground-breaking, it indicates a larger shift that is necessary in our approach to marketing. We need to break the existing mental models that we all (or at least someone of my particular vintage) grew up with and understand that consumer behaviour has fundamentally, irrevocably changed. It is only when we begin with consumer behaviour rather than our own closely held beliefs will we be able to truly optimise our marketing spends.
What are the recent best marketing or advertising campaigns you have seen and why?
I’m constantly inundated with jealousy inducing work and the list is long and illustrious. Two recent campaigns I’d like to specifically talk about however, are Spotify and Jaquar. Spotify positioning music as an antidote to everyday life is a perfect blend of product feature and consumer truth, delivered in a humorous (dare I say hilarious) and memorable manner. They’ve also managed to take a relatively new (not to mention Swedish) brand and make it look and feel quintessentially Indian. Cultural resonance FTW! The Jaquar lighting campaign pushes the envelope even further, taking a basic brand perception (Jaquar= bathroom fittings) and turning it on its head to introduce an entirely new line of products. Both campaigns work because they’re simple, engaging and delivered in 30 seconds. I understand that the 30 second TVC is painfully unfashionable in 2022 but give me a sharp, hardworking thirty seconder over a coma inducing 5 minute ‘long format film’ any day of the week. I’m a big fan of work that works and I feel both these campaigns do.
Which brand in the last year has made the best use of digital and how?
While I’m aware that I’m hardly the first person to say so, I’d still have to go with Cadbury, based solely on the back of their stunning ‘Not Just a Cadbury Ad’ Diwali campaign featuring Shah Rukh Khan last year. What can I say about this campaign that hasn’t already been said? A truly stunning use of machine learning based deep fake technology married to a relevant and topical post-Covid cause. And then of course, there’s SRK’s unparalleled charisma, which is just the icing on the cake. This campaign truly opened minds and wallets to the many possibilities that digital can truly offer. And also shined a light on one of my most cherished beliefs: that all the data and technology in the world doesn’t matter unless it’s built around a simple, shiny and fundamentally human idea.
In a post-Covid world, what are the dos and don’ts of digital marketing?
I don’t think there are any real ‘rules’ to digital marketing. Digital as a medium is constantly evolving, as a result of which the proverbial envelope needs to be pushed on a daily basis. Boxing digital marketing into do’s and don’ts undermines its fundamental potential. Of course, the question of ethics – especially with regard to privacy is always top of mind while discussing digital marketing, but that aside I can’t genuinely think of a don’t that digital marketers need to watch out for. That said, there are of course the no-brainers: be engaging, be contextual, be relevant and be unmissable. In the cesspool of communication that digital advertising has become, try to rise above the obvious. Always.
One recent bad case of advertising you have seen, and why?
Do I really need to point this out? It has to be the Layer’r Shot commercial by a country mile. We all know exactly which campaign I’m referring to, so I see no need to rehash what is truly a nadir for the entire advertising industry. The blatant misogyny of this campaign notwithstanding, it also lacks everything that any halfway decent piece of communication requires- from consumer insight to a base level of polish with regard to execution. I have no idea which agency was responsible for this travesty, and honestly, I’d rather keep things that way. Do better, guys. Seriously. Our country has enough problems as is. We don’t need advertising to become another one.