Kavita Ganesan talks about Brand Marketing in the Age of Digital and AI
The significance of a business's branding should not be underestimated. When a consumer associates a product or service with a particular brand, they establish a connection with both the brand and the products or services it represents. Brands instill a sense of trust in consumers regarding their products and services and inspire them to select items that they believe will enhance their lives or enterprises.
However, the advent of the internet has fundamentally transformed how consumers interact with brands. The widespread use of social media means that consumers are exposed to new brands daily. While this provides consumers with an abundance of options and allows them to research to identify the best choice, it also makes it more challenging for businesses.
In this insightful conversation, Kavita Ganesan, Head Of Brand Marketing At TVS Eurogrip talks to Pawan Rochwani, Head of Brand and Partnerships at Pepper Content, about all the nitty-gritty of Brand marketing and the ways to ensure the success of your Brand marketing strategy.
1. Tell us about your professional journey.
My name is Kavita GanEsen and I have close to 18 years of experience in sales and marketing. I began my career in FMCG sales and since then, I have been fortunate enough to work in four different industries.
My professional journey began with Wipro Consumer Care in Bangalore before moving on to AkzoNobel, makers of Dulux paints in India. I then moved to Chennai to work with Sterling Holiday Resorts and now I am responsible for brand marketing at TVS Eurogrip.
2. How has the job market evolved for aspiring marketers in the era of Gen Z and millennials, and is it still necessary to stick to one industry?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question as in my experience, it is a personal choice. Passion plays a crucial role in making that decision.
I have always been passionate about brand marketing, rather than any particular industry or product category. As a brand marketer, this keeps me interested as moving from one category to another presents a whole new adventure with unique challenges and strategies. Each brand has a different game plan, which makes it exciting.
Ultimately, the decision to stay in one industry or explore new ones depends on the individual's passion and career goals.
3. How can aspiring brand marketers effectively communicate the value of brand marketing to the company’s leaders, especially in a startup environment where cost-cutting is a priority?
In the past, brand marketing was often viewed just as a support function, where the focus was on running advertising campaigns during the season, then you just had to focus on visibility and BTL promotions. However, today, companies understand that brand marketing is a core function that influences both the employer and customer perspectives, as well as the organization's overall value system. The brand is the biggest intangible asset on a company's balance sheet.
Moreover, as a brand marketing leader, I have always emphasized the importance of keeping up with quick wins. So, while building brand value is a strategic, long-term endeavor that doesn't happen overnight, it's crucial to continually experiment with new ideas. Implementing tactical campaigns and initiatives that demonstrate immediate returns to the organization is essential in proving the value of our efforts.
Regarding budget and expenses, it's important to ensure that the expenditure is a percentage of our revenues, which may vary depending on the company. However, as long as we keep the overall expenses under a safe margin, companies usually understand that it's a necessary investment.
Today what your brand stands for has a large influence on what your organization stands for. This is crucial not only for the employer brand perspective of the company but also for your customers, potential clients, ecosystem, and vendors. Your brand image plays a crucial role in shaping how you are perceived and valued by everyone associated with your business.
4. What are the most important metrics that brand marketing leaders should be tracking, and how do these metrics vary across different industries and sectors?
The most crucial metrics and KPIs for us are our brand goals, which are strategic and long-term in nature. Regardless of the category, I also believe that it's crucial to track the health of your brand parameters, which includes unaided and aided awareness levels, brand consideration, and if relevant, the likelihood to purchase. These metrics are like your report card, reflecting our brand's growth and success.
On an ongoing basis, there are several metrics to track irrespective of the category. For instance, our current category, which is two-wheeler tires, isn't typically an impulsive purchase. Instead, customers tend to replace their tires only when necessary. However, we focus on a range of metrics continuously, including website visits because that reflects what's happening on the ground and in the air. We also track social media engagement and brand mentions, which give us a deeper understanding of how our brand is performing and whether the buzz around our brand is positive or negative.
While performance campaigns are not very common in our industry, given the nature of our product, we do run campaigns from time to time. When running consumer promotions, we look at metrics such as cost per lead. For content engagement campaigns, we track the cost per view, as well as whether the content is being shared organically. These are the primary metrics we focus on to track our brand's performance.
5. What platforms should the business focus on for its branding efforts?
We don't focus much on traditional media channels like radio and print. Instead, we reserve these channels for tactical campaigns or long-term awareness-building efforts. Nowadays, the majority of our budget is allocated toward TV and digital channels and we've seen a year-on-year increase in our digital spending. Moving forward, we're looking to significantly increase our digital spending for the upcoming year. This includes investing in various digital campaigns including OTT as well as all our regular display campaigns digitally.
6. What are your most effective frameworks and methodologies for developing a comprehensive brand strategy?
As the head of TV's Euro Group, I am proud of our brand's legacy, even though we rebranded in 2019. Due to the pandemic's impact, our brand marketing efforts have only recently been in full swing since the beginning of 2021. Over the last two years, our brand strategy has primarily focused on building top-of-mind and spontaneous awareness through master brand communication. We aimed to establish our brand as a reliable supplier of tires for all types of two-wheelers and did not delve into product-level or Reasons to Believe (RTB) communication during this period. However, we did create some tactical content, moment marketing, and special films for various physical properties we built or special days and locations.
Now, our primary task is to catapult our brand to new heights. To achieve this, we have a slightly different approach this year. While our master brand-building efforts will continue, we will also introduce some product and RTB-led communication, treating it differently through various media channels. This approach will allow us to highlight the unique features and benefits of our products and build trust with our customers. Our team is excited to explore new marketing strategies and elevate our brand's position in the market. By creating a more comprehensive marketing plan that combines master brand and product-specific communication, we are confident that we can achieve our goals and continue to provide reliable tires for all types of two-wheelers.
7. How does your brand strategy differ for B2B and B2C segments in the two-wheeler tire industry?
Our communication strategy focuses on both above-the-line (ATL) and digital channels. Digital is becoming increasingly important and is considered an ATL medium. Our brand communication is primarily aimed at the end customer, which is B2C. However, our efforts also benefit our B2B clients, trade partners, and influencers. We have various below-the-line (BTL) programs, trade engagements, and initiatives that run throughout the year to cater to these stakeholders. So yes, the focus is on both, but brand communication is largely focused on the end customer.
When you focus on building a strong brand with your consumers, it has a ripple effect on your B2B clients, trade relationships, and influencers.
8. How do you see the role of AI and other technological advancements like Chat GPT shaping the marketing industry in the next few years, and what steps are you taking to stay ahead of the curve?
Technology has transformed the marketing industry, with AI and machine learning playing a significant role in assisting marketers in various areas such as customer segmentation. While demographic and psychographic profiling were traditionally used for customer segmentation, today's marketers have access to numerous tools that can help at every stage of the process. Proprietary tools can be used for affinity analysis, studying digital and social media behavior, and analyzing customer behavior on e-commerce websites using heat maps. Algorithms like Pega assign value to each segment, making it easier to target specific marketing efforts.
Lead qualification and management have also been revolutionized by technology. There are tools available for every stage, from lead qualification to nurturing, targeting, and conversion. Additionally, machine learning tools offer customized brand communication to different customer segments, and chatbots and voice bots provide innovative ways to engage customers. Despite all these advancements, I believe that human creativity and understanding of the human mind and consumer psyche cannot be replaced by technology. While tools like chatbots and GPT can offer fresh ideas, humans will continue to play a crucial role in marketing.
Therefore, marketers must strike a balance between utilizing technology and leveraging their creative and intuitive abilities to drive successful marketing strategies. It is essential to understand and analyze data while also using creativity and empathy to connect with customers on a deeper level. By doing so, we can create more meaningful experiences and build long-lasting relationships with customers, leading to business success.
9. What are your future predictions for the Brand marketing space?
In my opinion, traditional advertising is becoming too expensive for marketers to be present in high-impact media properties, like the IPL. As a result, I believe companies will start exploring other avenues to invest in similar spaces. Media inflation rates make it difficult for many brands to afford prominent positions in these high-impact properties, so we will likely see more spread-out investments. Additionally, I believe that people will increasingly adopt an "always-on" approach to content consumption, regardless of the category they operate in. Snackable content is becoming more popular, and even on content-heavy platforms, shorter attention spans are becoming more prevalent. Content creators need to be prepared for this shift by focusing on shorter-form content that is easier for audiences to engage with.
Another trend I've observed is that the influencer marketing bubble may burst. While there has been a lot of hype around influencers on social media in the past five years, valuations have skyrocketed. However, influencers are now required to declare paid promotions on social media platforms and gifts, and marketers are becoming more aware that followership alone is not enough. They need to consider post engagement, content quality, video views, and other metrics for more realistic valuations. In my opinion, engagement metrics should be the basis for partnerships, rather than just followership, especially with influencers.
With influencers, engagement metrics should be the basis for partnerships, rather than just followership.
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