Karthik Yathindra

Chief Marketing Officer at Jockey India

Jockey’s Karthik Yathindra on the Art of Branding and Content Marketing

In a world where attention spans are shorter than ever and information overload is the norm, how can your brand cut through the noise and leave a lasting impression? The answer lies in the power of branding and content marketing. Whether you're a small business owner, a startup entrepreneur, or a seasoned marketer, understanding the intricacies of these two intertwined disciplines is essential for building a strong and successful brand in today's digital age. 

In this conversation with Kishan Panpalia, Head of Business at Pepper Content, Karthik Yathindra, Chief Marketing Officer at Jockey India shares his insights into around content and branding.

1. How do content and marketing work in sync for Jockey as a premium brand?

Our approach to content creation for Jockey has always been focused on expressing the essence of the brand and what it stands for. This perspective has guided us since the brand's establishment in India, enabling us to effectively communicate with consumers. While our strategies have evolved over time, the core principle of content generation remains unchanged.

Our goal is to provide a platform for consumers to understand and experience the brand's identity. We aim to convey the essence of Jockey, allowing individuals to connect with the brand even before physically engaging with the product. This is the underlying philosophy that shapes our content creation process

Content sets the tone of who we are. It allows us to communicate to our consumers and thereby define who we are, what our identity is, and what role we can play in their lives.

2. How have you protected the Jockey brand over the years in terms of your internally structured teams, brand guidelines, operations, etc.? 

I believe several factors contribute to ensuring the consistent delivery of high-quality content. Firstly, it is crucial to have a deep understanding of the brand itself, and I take great pride in stating this. Whether individuals join the marketing or content team here, we are fortunate to possess the ability to quickly identify what aligns with our brand and what does not. This holds particularly true for Jockey. Although Jockey is not a complex brand, it is plain and straightforward. However, it can still be challenging to clearly define and identify its essence from a distance.

When evaluating the content, you will observe unanimous agreement among the entire team, even in our boardrooms or conference rooms. We can immediately recognize when something is not representative of our brand. Additionally, when we create content ourselves and review the final output, it resonates with all of us, from junior brand managers to the marketing head. This synchronization is vital for delivering quality content, encompassing the desired look, feel, tone, language, and even the choice of music.

The knack we possess for identifying whether something is on brand or not fundamentally relies on the kind of individuals we recruit and how we cultivate a culture of brand immersion within the team. Fortunately, this process does not take much time, as even new team members quickly understand what aligns with our brand.

The other significant aspect is our approach, which stems from top-down leadership, starting with the chairman, CEO, managing director, and the team responsible for this business.

We have always prioritized content quality and never sought short-term results. Most of our communications, regardless of format, such as films or stills, consistently place the brand at the forefront, rather than focusing solely on selling a product. While this may not be the only path to successful content, it has been our approach. We aim to showcase the brand as an expression of who we are, offering consumers an opportunity to connect with us during the brief duration of their engagement, whether it's 30 seconds or even just six seconds.

We invest considerable effort and resources in producing each piece of content. Whether it's a TV commercial backed by substantial media expenditure or an organic post on social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook, we approach every creative endeavor with the same level of dedication. This commitment enables us to focus on the long-term impact of our content and safeguards our brand. We meticulously review every piece of communication, ensuring multiple eyes scrutinize the copy, casting, and overall output. We have established a cadence for approval, maintaining consistency and quality throughout.

These are a few of the factors that have significantly contributed to our success. While challenges may arise, these practices have allowed us to protect our brand, stay focused on long-term objectives, and consistently produce content of the highest caliber.

Consistent delivery of quality content can be ensured by understanding the brand itself.

3. How does Jockey find a synchronous marriage between creativity and technology to run a great marketing function?

One cannot deny the integral role of technology in both offline and online endeavors. While it may be true that the relationship between technology and direct-to-consumer (D2C) or online activities is particularly significant, for us, technology serves as an enabler across all aspects of our business.

As you already know, Jockey maintains a strong presence across various channels, including our exclusive stores, offline retail outlets, e-commerce platforms, our brand website, and marketplaces. Technology plays a crucial role in all these partnerships. We perceive technology not merely as a tool for specific business functions but as an essential component throughout our operations.

For us, technology is equally important in demand sensing, supply chain management, logistics, research, and delivering products to consumers. Every facet of our business relies on technology. At Page Industries, we have always recognized the value of technology and continue to invest in it, both historically and going forward. In terms of content production specifically, technology has been instrumental in gathering insights and facilitating dissemination.

Although we have not yet fully explored the potential of technology in content generation itself, we extensively employ technology in our research to extract valuable insights. Creativity, in our perspective, is primarily an art form rather than a purely scientific or numerical pursuit. However, when it comes to distributing our content through media plans and targeted approaches, technology plays a significant role. Content generation, for us, remains more rooted in artistry than scientific methodologies.

Overall, technology serves as a powerful tool in our operations, aiding us in various capacities, but we maintain a strong emphasis on the artistic aspect of content creation. 

4. Can you share your experiences and challenges around content operations?

We categorize our content into different buckets, and while we value every piece of content, certain large-scale brand content pieces receive significant investments and extensive time commitment. It's almost like producing a Bollywood film, where we dedicate considerable effort and resources to ensure it becomes the best piece of art possible. Some of these films have taken around 14 to 16 months, from brief to strategy to concept, before they are finally aired. Even today, the content we are currently shooting was briefed in December of last year. This lead time allows us to prioritize quality and optimize the output.

When selecting partners to work with, we prioritize long-term associations. This includes agencies, creative directors, and production houses. While the cast and crew may change, we always strive to collaborate with the best talent without disregarding anyone. We often work with international cast members, crew, directors, music directors, and DOPs to achieve the desired quality and impact in our content.

This large-scale bucket is one area we focus on. However, we also emphasize intent and quality in other types of content, but on a larger scale and with more immediate delivery requirements. We maintain strict standards and hygiene in this aspect, which may limit the volume of content we produce compared to some newer organizations. We have explored different working models to address this challenge. It could involve partnering with boutique agencies, production houses with creative wings, or aggregators who can handle the entire content creation process. Our main challenge lies in achieving scale without compromising on the quality we expect.

We have identified that the compromise thus far has been on the scale, as we prioritize maintaining the highest quality output. The time and effort we invest directly translate into the exceptional quality of our content. Achieving a balance between scale and quality remains a significant challenge for us. To optimize efficiency and time, we handle all adaptations in-house, leveraging our team of graphic designers, studios, adapters, and video editors. This allows us to work with raw content and tailor it to different formats, edits, and durations. However, when it comes to crafting a campaign or communication stack, we collaborate with multiple agencies and production houses.

This model has been our chosen path, allowing us to strike a balance between maintaining high quality and leveraging external expertise when needed. 

It's the output that gets celebrated most of the time and I don't think we spend enough time looking at the process.

5. What is the significance of internationalization and how has it helped Jockey?

The first part of the question has a simple answer: It's part of our identity. Jockey is an international brand, present in approximately 150 countries. While it's possible to downplay this fact and communicate that we are solely an Indian brand, it would be misleading because we are indeed a global brand. When Jockey was introduced, the notion of an international brand automatically implied premium quality. At that time, there was a strong inclination among Indian consumers to favor Western products, believing them to be of better quality and premium in nature. Jockey entered the Indian market and revolutionized the industry by offering innovative, athleisure products. While there were several Indian players in the market, there were very few international brands, which gave us a competitive advantage by positioning ourselves as an international brand.

Another factor to consider is the prevailing trend in underwear advertising, both back then and to a large extent even today, which heavily relies on celebrity associations, particularly with Bollywood. This association with Bollywood created a sense of Indianness. However, we consciously decided to avoid that approach and position ourselves as a global brand, available in India. That's how we started our journey. While there is a significant audience that appreciates products made in India and made for India, it's important to note that Jockey in India is actually made here. We have developed products specifically designed for the Indian market, with all our research and development and product development happening locally. However, as a brand, we are part of a global network, in which India plays a significant role. We are not a foreign brand; we are a global brand. Initially, we may have been an American brand available in India, but today we have truly become a global brand. The brand's identity is gradually transcending the concept of country of origin. It no longer matters where we come from; we are accessible worldwide, with India being a substantial part of our presence. That's how we strive to position ourselves here.

How has this approach helped us? It has provided several advantages, as mentioned earlier. It has allowed us to be perceived as a premium brand and differentiate ourselves from other brands in India. It has enabled us to establish a strong market position above our competitors. Moving on to the second part of the question regarding consistency, it's true that maintaining this stance requires additional investment, particularly when it comes to content production. Shooting in the best locations worldwide, rather than just setting up a studio in India, incurs higher costs and poses operational challenges. However, the benefit is that many films conceptualized and produced by our team here are also used by Jockey International worldwide. When we acquire the rights for content, it enhances its usage globally. While it requires more hard work, expense, and operational complexity, we wouldn't have it any other way. It aligns with our brand's work ethic and intrinsic identity. It's akin to asking whether we would invest the efforts needed to ensure our product is the best in the market, even if it means more investment, research, and hard work. The answer is a resounding yes because that's who we are as a brand. 

6. What would an ideal world-class content marketing stack look like for you? 

You're asking me something that I'm quite greedy about. Yes, of course.

I have a strong desire for everything that we produce to be readily available in the form of a comprehensive stack, meeting the quality standards we expect. That's exactly what I want. Starting from the product listings on our website, I want to have captivating imagery that showcases our products in the best light. I want the same level of imagery for our catalogs, in-store visuals, posters, tent cards, danglers, standees, and billboards. I want top-notch imagery for our print materials, social media posts, digital communications, marketplace promotions, and DVCs (Digital Video Communications).

If all of this content is available and ready for use, and if I have the opportunity to scale it effectively, then why wouldn't I grab it? That's precisely what we strive for—to have a comprehensive range of high-quality visual assets at our disposal.

7. What would scaling mean for a company like Jockey? 

There's a lot that we need to focus on as a brand as well.

Indeed, you're correct. When it comes to brand awareness, such as top-of-mind awareness and MPB scores, we are in a high position within the industry. Our awareness is currently at an all-time high, so it's not excessive to take pride in our accomplishments. The truth is that few people in India haven't heard of Jockey due to the awareness we have built. However, despite this success, there are still challenges and objectives for the brand to address. I could provide you with an extensive list of what we aspire to be and what we believe is missing, and how content can help fulfill those objectives.

One example is that many people may not realize that Jockey offers more than just underwear. While it may seem basic, it's important to highlight that this is not a business challenge. Mind you, we are currently the largest innerwear brand in the country. But do consumers truly know that?

We carry a rich history, heritage, and range of products beyond underwear. However, this knowledge gap is an area where content can play a significant role in addressing the issue. Even within the innerwear category, Jockey is more well-known for specific types of products, whereas our brand offers a much broader range. This lack of product discoverability within the brand itself is a major objective for us to tackle.

Additionally, there are new consumer segments we now cater to that we weren't focused on five years ago, such as kids or juniors. Are people in India aware that Jockey also produces products for children? The answer is often no. Therefore, one of our major objectives is to increase awareness in these areas. While the Jockey brand is popular and well-known, there are numerous facets to it that many consumers may not be aware of. As a marketer, it's our desire for all consumers to have a comprehensive understanding of our brand.

It's a long-term journey, and we understand that achieving this won't happen overnight. We want Jockey towels, handkerchiefs, and socks to be as popular as our men's innerwear. That's the intention behind our plans and communication efforts. However, we don't want to rush it. Unlike some brands in the new age systems that immediately showcase their entire product catalog, we have always focused on subtly integrating brand and product discoverability into our communication.

We want to maintain the brand's identity and the way we have communicated over the years. While there is a strong urge to maximize short-term revenue, protecting the essence of the brand is equally important to us. It's a delicate balance we strive to maintain.

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