‘Technology helps create a dialogue’: Steve Harding, Global CEO, Geometry Global

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New Delhi | March 19, 2018 11:54 PM

It was in 2015 that the Geometry Encompass India network was created, a move which helped Encompass, founded by Roshan Abbas and Sukrit Singh in 1998, become a full-service activation agency in India.

Steve Harding, Geometry GlobalSteve Harding

It was in 2015 that the Geometry Encompass India network was created, a move which helped Encompass, founded by Roshan Abbas and Sukrit Singh in 1998, become a full-service activation agency in India. The experiential marketing company’s Steve Harding, over a chat with BrandWagon’s Meghna Sharma, talks about why it is important for brands to consider activation and how it can help build a trustworthy relationship between consumers and brands through first-hand experiences. Edited excerpts:

What is Geometry Encompass’ global vision? What is Geometry Global’s area of strength?

Geometry Global is the largest brand activation network in the world. We are really focussed on the brand experience and ideas that change shopper/consumer behaviour. We are in our fifth year. There are two reasons for us coming together with Encompass. Firstly, BTL started to become more important as it became international rather than just being a local thing. Second, we got WPP’s backing with this partnership. I think our USP is having a global network — we are in 56 countries — which gives us the capabilities to work with centres (Shanghai, London, etc) across the world, but we also have the capability to take that learning and make it work locally. Local knowledge complementing the global strategic approach is a competitive advantage in itself. Apart from this, identifying pivotal moments with pivotal creative to make people buy is core to what we do, in addition to fuelling the customer’s journey and insights. The tools which help us gain that are very crucial to us.

What makes experiential marketing important today, especially when most brands still see it as an afterthought?

I think it is fundamentally important for any brand to make it a part of their marketing plan, because we are all about creating brand experiences. It is these brand experiences which convert to purchases. Millennials want to engage with brands; they want to know and feel a product. Therefore, it is important that one gets to experience products/services. Both clients and consumers know there is nothing wrong in directly engaging, touching and feeling a product even though they might have seen it on TV.

I believe that clients are using experiential marketing. However, they opt for it particularly for new products, launches, etc so that consumers can touch and feel them. From FMCG to automobile, categories are looking at experiential marketing to reach their consumers beyond traditional mediums. Trust plays an important role in a relationship between consumers and brands, and this is created through first-hand experiences.

When digital is a buzzword, how do you see experiential marketing helping brands transform and elevate the customer experience?

Digital is not competition to us, but a part of what we do. Digital is part of a millennial’s life. The availability of data to gain insights about consumer behaviour helps brands get the best return on their investments. This technology is fundamental to us and is a boon to businesses. To add to this, the e-commerce boom is happening in the US, the UK and India, whereas China has leapfrogged to mobile. This is a learning for us. E-commerce is another key channel to understand what and how a person shops. So like any other channel, digital too is a channel which is helping brands to elevate their customer experience.

What is the benefit of putting data at the centre of marketing and sales?

It is not data, but smart data which gives us insights into the customer behaviour and it is only going to increase as technology amplifies. Technology helps create a dialogue and this in turn, helps us understand a customer’s purchase journey and their interests; this knowledge will help us ensure that the right message is sent to the customer anywhere in the world. We are creating data through our activation so it is a never-ending circle of information and dialogue which is better than traditional marketing, as it is talking to the consumer directly.

How easy or difficult is to calculate RoI in experiential marketing as it doesn’t come cheap?

We are at the sharp end of selling things; we have our own RoI program and our own IP. The clients are increasing their marketing budgets and they need to be sure that they are getting their returns. In our business, the transaction is about direct contact with the customer so we need our tools to help calculate it. One of the IP tools is a dashboard which captures all the data from across the world on face-to-face interactions happening anywhere in the world. RoE (return on experience) is what helps us constantly gather data and know what is working and what isn’t with customer experience. Digital also helps us gather RoI through the reactions we get on, say, social media.

How much are you investing in India?

Without delving into numbers, India is an important market as it is an evolving one. We have invested in creating this partnership and believe that this will help us adapt local knowledge, use it globally and vice versa. Using global tools and strategies with local connections is where our focus is.


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