As the world moves towards uncertain times, it is believed that technology will play a key role in optimisation of marketing spends. As for large technology companies such as Cognizant, it claims that it will find innovative ways to continue to build a strong brand as it focuses on demand generation. In a conversation with BrandWagon Online Gaurav Chand, chief marketing officer, Cognizant talks about how the company is making strides in sectors such as automotive – especially connected car and retail, besides utilising technology to create an impactful marketing strategy. (Edited Excerpts)
Even as there is a conversation about how India remains insulated from the next economic crisis, there is a mood of cautiousness. In terms of ad-spend how do you, project the market is likely to behave?
There is a big difference between ad spend and marketing spend. In fact, marketing spend has been going up since 2008 in the US, as well as across the globe. But there is a reason for that. There are three essential categories that envelop the entire marketing spend. This includes top-of-the-funnel spending, the middle-of-funnel, and besides the bottom-of-funnel. Middle-of-funnel spend is typically aimed at growing engagement with your clients. The bottom-of-funnel is always aimed at generating deals or leads and to mature these are trying to close these other three. One of the big changes that can be seen is that people have realised that brand-building exercises can be undertaken in a much more economical way, compared to how it was traditionally done. A classic traditional way was TV advertising. However, in the last three-five years as broadcast matured, linear TV has upped.
How is advertising on television changing or has evolved?
One of the biggest challenges with broadcast has always been how do you track its efficacy. For instance, if a business-to-business company would like to target CIOs and CFOs, and CEOs and CEOs, an ad on TV would get a large number of eyeballs going up to millions and billions in some cases. However, about 90- 95% of that spend is targeted towards people who do not fall in the TG, even remotely. Linear TV allows one to run targeted advertising. What I mean by linear TV is IP-based television, which allows one to use Ips for targeted advertising. For example, insurance is one of our largest sectors. Now, it is a known fact that a lot of the largest insurance companies are based out of Connecticut. I have two options if I want to build my brand, I can either opt for broadcast television, where that message will be transmitted to the entire country or use linear television like Hulu, Slingshot, and Peacock, among others to target the right IP addresses in the right zip codes in the Connecticut area. This allows me to reach my audience in the most effective manner including cost. This capability did not exist in Cognizant, but ever since I joined in the last three-four years we have matured and have undertaken targeted advertising. I’ll be surprised if linear TV does not reach the same levels of maturity, as the US in India in the next three to five years.
This year and in the next three-five years, to what extent technology is expected to play a key role in driving marketing?
I absolutely 100% believe that new-age digital technologies like geofencing, geotargeting, predictive analytics and propensity modelling are not going to hold. In fact, it’s going to go up. And I’ll give you one reference point if you look at the financial crisis of 2008 that’s precisely what happened. At that point in time, all these digital technologies were predominantly being used by Business-to-Consumer (B2C) companies. When the 2008 financial crisis hit due to a reduction in marketing spends companies adopted much more innovative ways to utilize the last marketing dollar. That same trend will get accelerated now as this is indeed a difficult time.
Building brands versus acquiring customers – where should the focus reside?
You will see companies like Cognizant and others come up with more innovative ways of using social as a brand-building tool, but focus heavily on demand generation. And in order to focus heavily on demand generation, that’s where a sophisticated market stack is going to make all the difference in the world.
What are the challenges that brands like Cognizant in India face?
I believe the primary challenge in the Indian market is the limited span of attention due to the abundance of options available to consumers. From Cognizant’s perspective, India is not as large a market compared to the US, UK, and some European countries. Thus, the critical question for Cognizant is identifying whom to target, how to target, and in which industries to focus. Globally, financial services is Cognizant’s biggest industry, followed by healthcare, both of which are mature markets in India. However, Cognizant is growing rapidly in retail, which is not as mature as healthcare and financial services. Additionally, Cognizant is making strides in the automotive space with its efforts around connected cars. The main challenge for Cognizant in India is determining where to focus its efforts to achieve significant breakthroughs quickly. With such a vast and dynamic market, specific bets must be placed to ensure success. Cognizant has done an excellent job in starting this. In summary, the challenge lies in identifying hyper-laser focus areas to achieve quick wins in a large and vibrant market like India.
Which are the key areas brands will need to focus on to be able to build an optimised marketing plan?
Yeah, so I think the number one area is, first, back to that original conversation, in which I have already talked about the funnel method. That’s the number one area. Hence, I will first move a little away from top-of-funnel and start investing heavily in middle-of-funnel and bottom-of-funnel.
The number one area of investment in the middle of the funnel is social. Social is growing, social influence is getting stronger and stronger. When you think of social for a B2B company, you have to think of LinkedIn, you have to think Twitter, and you have to think Instagram. You’d be surprised how many B2B personas are now starting to use Instagram and Twitter. It used to only be LinkedIn. And most B2B companies are very sophisticated in the use of LinkedIn as a marketing tool. Most of them are not very sophisticated with Instagram and Twitter. That’s something that is going to have to change. That is probably, I would say, the number one area of investment. Number two, we talked about Linear TV. Number three is the Martech stack. Investing in predictive analytics technology will be important to understand what your clients are searching for. What is going on in the dark funnel? Where do they consume data? A lot of clients can use data.