Shobhit Mohan

VP of Brand & Marketing at PayU

Shobhit Mohan on the AI Revolution

Explore the enlightening conversation between Shobhit Mohan, VP of Brand & Marketing at PayU, and Prateek Kalra, Associate Director of Sales at Pepper Content, as they delve into the revolutionary role of AI in content marketing.

Mohan, an experienced marketer, examines the hurdles confronted by content creators and emphasizes the importance of maintaining relevance in the face of an overflow of similar content. He extensively shares his insights into how AI has evolved from mere assistants to potential substitutes for various professions.

As the conversation progresses, Mohan offers valuable guidance to aspiring marketers, encouraging them to embrace rather than resist this technological advancement. The discussion also delves into how AI's impact extends beyond content creation, influencing consumption patterns. This conversation raises pivotal considerations about the future of the marketing landscape.

1. Please tell us about your journey.

I've been a marketer for most of my career—16 out of 17 years, to be precise. I've marketed across various industries and countries, yet marketing has been my constant passion. For the past 12 to 15 years, I've concentrated on the software industry in India, gaining diverse experiences. I've worked with IT service providers, joined a prominent software company like Akamai, and lent a hand to startups in business software (SaaS) and financial technology (FinTech).

A recurring theme in my work has been payments and financial dealings. I've been pondering my journey recently, striving to decipher what lies ahead. The evolving Indian software scene has been exhilarating for marketers like me. However, a broader shift has caught my attention. It's not solely about marketers adapting anymore. The entire industry demands introspection. Every individual must contemplate their next steps, drawing wisdom from other sectors and markets, a perspective I'm keen not to overlook.

In response, I'm steering my career towards independence as a consultant. My role involves guiding brands and companies in shaping their marketing strategies. I'll help them craft smart plans, build robust brands, and harness innovative marketing technology. It's akin to embarking on an exploratory journey, discovering commonalities and divergences across markets and firms. The aim is to extract meaningful insights and employ them in crafting impactful strategies.

2. What are the significant changes you've noticed in marketing over the past 15 years?

Looking back, I'd say the core of marketing hasn't changed much. After college, I was excited to dive into marketing because it meant building brands and being creative. But for new marketers, daily tasks involve leads, content, and campaigns, a different picture from my start. Still, the essence is building solid brands, though how we do it has evolved. Surprisingly, the ultimate goal hasn't shifted in 15 years. The aim is to make brands that resonate, telling engaging stories about products or services that entice people even more.

Speaking of change, digital marketing was minor when I began, but now it's vital. Digital platforms and how we consume content have changed with the internet and mobiles, a journey of changing user habits and testing. We also focus more on measuring results and ROI as marketers. It's good, making us more accountable. Before, senior executives questioned marketing's impact, but we've improved measurability.

Now, let's talk about content. Back in India, there were simple times with a few TV channels and newspapers. Brands had limited space for consistent stories. Today, content is everywhere—social media, websites, blogs, YouTube, TV. It's harder for brands to stand out and stay consistent. This surge in content has made many brands blend, losing unique personalities. I've noticed this shift, especially with similar influencer strategies.

3. How do content marketers stay unique and relevant amid intense competition and diverse media platforms?

Let's set AI aside for a moment—that's a different story. Imagine, without AI, things get interesting. Let's say you're a content writer for a finance company. Your main job is to explain personal finance ideas in simple terms to regular people. The process of creating this content—finding the right keywords, using SEO words, crafting meta tags—has been figured out repeatedly.

Five big companies have already done the same thing. As a human, you start trying to make something unique, but you usually end up where those five companies are. It's a bit like following the same path as others. Finding fresh avenues or new approaches is quite a challenge. Maybe you think of doing 50 different slideshows or a YouTube video. But guess what? Ten influential folks have already done that on YouTube.

So, it's tough to be original and develop new ideas. But here's the twist: even with so much content out there, people still have questions like whether to buy a mutual fund or a ULIP. As a content marketer or writer, this is your puzzle to solve. How can you be unique when your workplace space isn't huge? Yet, you must remind yourself that if these questions were thoroughly answered, you wouldn't be writing about them.

It seemed more that AI was an assistant and not a potential replacement because AI didn't understand and reproduce language at a level of efficiency or proficiency that suitably replaced a human worker. But that's clearly not the case anymore.

4. How do you view the role of AI?

Until GPT-3, AI seemed more like an assistant than a threat to marketers and various roles like coders and customer service reps. AI lacked human-like language skills, serving as support rather than a replacement. But that's changed. AI tools now swiftly replace designers, analysts, and more. I'm fortunate at my career stage, while newcomers to marketing face uncertainty. Predicting the future is challenging. My advice? Embrace AI; don't resist it like a typewriter fighting computers. Welcoming AI leads to smoother transitions.

AI transforms not just content creation but consumption, too. Now, content targets Google searches. Yet, AI assistants like Siri could change this. The need for loads of content may decrease. AI's impact extends beyond marketing. Medicine and accounting see AI growth. Marketers can adapt well due to familiarity. As an auto industry content writer, I'd shift focus. Instead of AI's creation role, I'd watch how AI changes content consumption. Now, via searches and videos, car choices might move due to AI in five years. As AI alters content consumption, understanding the shifts is vital.

5. What's your idea of perfect content, considering different formats and media while excluding AI's role?

It depends on the context. To start, I always consider whether there's a clear objective. In the corporate world, this is key. For instance, this is especially relevant if you're a content writer working for an organization. While other criteria might apply to media companies or publishing houses, I'll focus on the corporate setting.

First, checking if the content has a defined goal is crucial. Was it about generating leads, clicks, providing information, or something else? The objective could be qualitative or quantitative, but it must be there. And, of course, the second significant measure is whether that objective was achieved.

I understand that content's role and purchasing behaviors have evolved. Going back 15 years, when my career began, a lot of buying happened offline. Even in technology companies, sales were conducted face-to-face. But as decision-making shifted online, content stepped in to fill the shoes of salespeople. You didn't need an army of sales reps; you could create a website, a blog, brochures—all educating people about your offerings. This applies to consumer goods, too. Content builds interest even before someone walks into a store, where it's mostly about answers.

This brings us to the role of ideal content akin to a skilled salesperson. You generate a desire to buy and leave the reader with a positive perception of your brand. For example, suppose I'm writing for a payment company. In that case, I want readers to remember that we understand technology and businesses well, even if they don't immediately sign up for our services. Leaving a positive impression is critical.

AI will not just change content creation, it will also change content consumption.

6. Given your expansive brand and market experience, how would you structure your content marketing cycle if you had the chance?

I focus on objectives, metrics, and goals when approaching any task. Technology must seamlessly align with business and marketing metrics for an effective content marketing strategy. The connection to overall business objectives should be crystal clear immediately. For instance, platforms like fall short by merely managing content workflows without considering the business impact.

I envision a content management tool that bridges this gap, ideally linked to a business CRM or with its CRM capabilities. It should encapsulate the 2023 content supply chain, accommodating in-house writers and external contributors and integrating with emerging AI tools. Robust analytics would be a cornerstone—enabling content creators and leaders to gauge performance. This duality is crucial; the CMO should access a different perspective than a writer.

In addition, a cutting-edge content management tool should mirror the diverse content mix of today's brands. Many traditional tools favor text and blog content, neglecting that platforms like Instagram Reels, Skyscreen, LinkedIn, and other short and long formats now compose around 80% of the content. An ideal tool should encapsulate this versatile content mix and its distribution channels.

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