Ashutosh Chaudhrie

General Manager of Marketing at VI-JOHN

AI cannot ever replace the human element in marketing

Marketing has become increasingly complex due to the multitude of channels and mediums available for brands to reach their consumers. As campaigns are scaled up to reach a wider audience, there is a risk of losing the personal touch that human interaction brings. With the advent of AI-generated content, this concern is only amplified, causing many marketers to worry about the potential impact on the soul of the content.

Here is a marketing professional who firmly vouches for the `soul’ of the content and is pretty clear on how AI will impact the science side of content marketing, but not the art part. Ashutosh Chaudhrie, General Manager of Marketing at VI-JOHN confesses his love for marketing since his growing-up days.

In this free-wheeling conversation, he opens upon the journey so far and what lies ahead.

1. As an accomplished marketing professional, please take us through your career journey.

I come from a tier-one town in Uttar Pradesh, India. My father used to work in a bank, so we got transferred to various places.  This gave me a lot of exposure to diverse environments. I think that I had an inherent element of marketing in me from an early age, and my profession gave me a big stage to showcase it. During my graduation days, I started doing counseling at a training center. I used to pitch courses to people and explain why they should buy one from us. Slowly, I started going to institutions and selling my services to the higher authorities. This was a whole new dimension of marketing.

After completing my MBA, I got selected by an FMCG company called Henkel, where I joined as a management trainee. I started by handling sales and understanding why people buy from us. Slowly and steadily, I found a place in the marketing team. In a few years, I was able to handle two extremely competitive categories -- detergents and air fresheners. I learned a lot from this experience. Later, I joined Dabur, which is among the top three FMCG companies in India. There, I handled multiple categories like air fresheners, shampoo, mosquito repellent, and toilet cleaners. I learned a lot from the good work that was done before me and used it to create something new.

Subsequently, I went to Pernod Ricard, where I handled their premium whiskey segment. This was a completely different category, and I had to change my way of speaking and thinking as the target group was different. Now, I'm with Vi-john, where I handle their marketing. The core of marketing remains the same -- thinking about the consumers first and then steering the product offerings and brand perspective in that direction.

2. How do you think marketing has evolved over the years and what do you see as the future of marketing?

As I see it, one major way that marketing has evolved is that it has become more specific and targeted. In the past, there was a generic approach to a certain type of target audience, but now we can sub-segment and slice a market in multiple ways. This has made the job of marketers extremely challenging, as we need to have a marketing narrative for each band that falls into our audience. We need to be relevant and contemporary to our consumers, and there is no defined playbook anymore.

Another major change in marketing is the massive clutter that exists now. In the past, only big players were able to have a good visible impact, but now even small companies or groups can have an impact, thanks to the tactical use of different mediums. This has made the whole marketing mix very dynamic and requires marketers to be on top of multiple trends.

With the emergence of AI, the content landscape is changing drastically, and it is becoming more critical for marketers to catch up on small trends to stay competitive. However, despite all these changes, the core and base of marketing remain the same: we need to have a sense of what we are saying and appeal to our audience.

3. Could you share your thoughts on the impact of AI chatbots, such as Chat GPT and Google's chatbots, on the field of marketing?

As a modern-day marketer, I believe there is a constant debate in our industry about whether marketing is a science or an art. With the emergence of AI, this debate is still ongoing. However, I think it's important for us as marketers to recognize that while the science part of our job can be aided by AI, the art part of it, which involves human emotions and motivations, can only be fully understood and executed by humans. In my industry of FMCG, where we deal with a large and diverse audience, it's crucial to have someone who can truly understand human emotions and triggers that lead to a purchase.

While AI can certainly assist with providing quantitative or qualitative data and generating the content, it cannot replace the human element in marketing. This is how I see the role of AI in marketing going forward.

4. What are some small tools, websites, and extensions that you use on a day-to-day basis as a marketer?

As a marketer with over 15 years of experience, I've tried out many different tools and strategies over the years. What I've found is that, while it's important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technology, there's also a lot of value in going back to the basics and using traditional methods that have proven effective over time.

One tool that I've recently started using is Chat GPT for content creation. As anyone who's tried to come up with new and engaging content knows, it can be difficult to get started and find the right direction. Chat GPT helps me to quickly generate ideas and get the creative process started, which saves me a lot of time and frustration. But while technology can be helpful, it's not always the answer.

Another important aspect of marketing is staying on top of current trends and understanding what resonates with people. I use LinkedIn and Twitter to stay connected and gauge what's trending. By monitoring what people are talking about and engaging with, I can better understand what type of content and messaging will be most effective.

I believe that there's a lot of value in connecting with people in person. I attend industry events and conferences to network and stay up-to-date with the latest happenings. By connecting with others in the industry, I can gain valuable insights and make meaningful connections that help me to do my job better.

Marketing is a combination of science and art. While technology can help streamline certain aspects of the job, it's ultimately up to the marketer to connect with their audience and understand what motivates them. By using a mix of traditional and modern tools and techniques, I strive to deliver marketing campaigns that are both effective and engaging.

5. Could you share with us what are the major pain points you face in content marketing on a day-to-day basis as a marketer?

I think one of the biggest pain points I face as a content marketer is the loss of soul in content due to the sheer scale at which it is being created. It can become a commodity, lacking the emotion and personal touch that is necessary for effective brand communication. As a marketer, it stands out as a sore thumb because anything that goes out from the brand needs to evoke a certain emotion and have a personal touch to it. At times, the challenge lies in having clear-cut defined guardrails for the content, as what we receive may not have enough brand tonality in it, which is critical for mass brands like us with limited opportunities to reach out to a big audience.

To address this, we engage in multiple iterations and discussions involving many people in the process. However, this challenge continues to be a big one. Another challenge is creating content that is diverse and easily digestible by different parts of the audience. Personalization is key in today's world, and it's essential to ensure that the content we produce is relevant to each individual.

Marketing is all about perception, and every piece of content matters. Irrespective of what we think, people are looking at the brand all the time, and we don't even know when someone is seeing a subpar or substandard piece of content. That one piece could be the only exposure someone has to the brand, and it could create an opinion that lasts a lifetime. It's crucial to ensure that all content produced is of the highest quality possible.

6. What would your ideal content marketing stack look like if you had the power to build it from scratch?

If I had the opportunity to build my content marketing stack, it would need to address my consumer's journey and have specific content for each stage. I would want to ensure relevancy by checking if the content is appropriate for the audience and receiving feedback to ensure it is making sense to them. A two-way communication system would be ideal to improve my content planning perspective.

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