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. Ankit Khurana, head of brand and marketing, IndiaLends, 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?
“India is a brand-starved country,” said a VC friend who actively invests in D2C consumer brands. While I sipped my beer and let the thought be brewing in my head, I agreed that this perception exists with most founders out there. Building a brand certainly appears more accessible in modern times.
As an 80’s kid, I can’t think of a campaign that influenced me more than the Humara Bajaj Campaign: ‘Naye Bharat ki Nayi Tasveer, Humara Bajaj.’ At the time, it was just an ad that spurred emotions in all the elders sitting around me watching chitrahar on a Friday evening. Yet, it left an indelible mark on me. To me, ‘Humara bajaj’ was what branding was all about till I got involved in a debate on a case study about Supreme at an Ivy League College a couple of years back. Bajaj and Supreme are perfect examples of how brand building has changed.
I don’t believe the fundamentals of launching a brand have changed dramatically. Brands must come across as contextual, unique, and useful to occupy the consumers’ mind-space. That has remained consistent since the dawn of marketing. Brands have leveraged communication channels available at the time to build saliency and communicate their unique narrative. The reason brand building seems more accessible today is the growth of modern digital technologies and smartphone penetration. Companies can tell stories across channels and formats at every possible budget. It’s simple economics. As the supply for brand placement opportunities increased (blogs, social, online communities, OTT, among others), the costs fell, and companies lapped up the chance to be where their customers were.
Today, a company can begin brand building on day 0 at minimal or no cost and develop a loyal base of brand evangelists. However, a low barrier to entry also comes with its own challenges. The possibility of being disrupted is always lurking around the corner. The lower the cost barrier, the shorter the recall lifespan. Brands need to think about transmedia and prioritise saliency and market share for top-of-the-mind awareness. Budgets must be carefully divided, and strategy needs to be agile to react to changes at lightning speed.
To summarise, launching and building a brand in today’s times has become more accessible and affordable. However, it does not without an impact on the lifespan of a brand. I believe the brands that shall survive the test of time would continue to be built on the same fundamentals as ‘Humara Bajaj’.
What are the recent best marketing or advertising campaigns you have seen and why?
One of my favourite campaigns from 2022 has been CREDs “Great for the good”. As a student of consumer psychology and behavioural science, I believe CRED got a majority of the campaign elements spot on. The centrepiece had virality, and the campaign was adequately amplified through outdoor and in-product communication channels. The use of scarcity, social proof, and economic triggers presented a great mix to drive behavioural change with its core audience of financially mindful individuals between 30-45. CRED’s campaign is the perfect example of sticking to basics and leveraging the tools available to modern brand builders. I would take this opportunity to congratulate the CRED team.
Which brand in the last year has made the best use of digital and how?
Numerous digital campaigns stole your heart in 2022. 2022 was amongst the best years for digital content and storytelling by brand managers. Pardon my recency bias, but some of the best digital campaigns from 2022 would be Sabhyata Clothing’s Diwali Campaign, Puma’s Anthem for Delhi Marathon, or Wakefit’s Honest Rant of a WFH Employee. However, the Brand that best uses digital is The Whole Truth Foods. Working with limited budgets, a small brand has created a beautiful narrative by simply being honest. They give you the “Whole Truth.”
In a post-Covid world, what are the dos and don’ts of digital marketing?
We’re still waiting to see a post-Covid world with a fresh rise in cases globally. However, businesses and brands must be ever-more responsible in the transformed world that we inhabit now: Some important points to be mindful of would be:
Prioritise your audience’s safety, and be responsible for engaging with your audience. We’ve seen many brands falter in the last year without realising that covid is not a thing of the past.
Brand empathy needs to be taken up a notch. The pandemic has affected us all but in very different ways. Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes is no longer good enough. Genuine empathy comes from understanding how your customer feels in their own shoes. Listening and acknowledging differences in how each individual coped and survived is critical. Brands cannot afford to be callous or presumptive in their communication.
One recent bad case of advertising you have seen, and why?
Marketing professionals try their best to come up with narratives relevant to their core audience and cannot escape the fallibility of being human. I would not want to point at any specific campaign, but in these confusing times, quite a few brands found their narrative misplaced. More often than not, it wasn’t that the messaging was wrong for their audience. Still, the communication channel exposed other target groups to the same communication, who may have found it unpalatable. Most important is that almost all responsible brands acknowledged the mistake on their part. In these times of hyper-polarisation, I was glad to see that audiences were also forgiving in most cases.