Shrishail Deshnur

Senior Director, Head - Consumer Marketing at Cipla

Exploring New Horizons in Marketing: A Deep Dive with Shrishail Deshnur

In this insightful conversation, we spoke to Shrishail Deshnur. He is a seasoned marketer with a wealth of experience in highly regulated industries like pharma and banking. He shares his thoughts on a wide range of topics such as the role of AI in marketing, the challenges faced by marketers in regulated industries, as well as the importance of choosing the right platforms and formats for content distribution.

Shrishail provides valuable insights into his approach to planning a broader content strategy. He speaks about the significance of a content calendar and gives his top 3 predictions for the marketing and content space in 2023. He also sheds light on why we need to go for vernacular content and why we need to use personalization to reach and resonate with our target group (TG).

1. Tell us about your journey as a marketer. How did you transition from sales to marketing? How did you adapt to different sectors?

I started my professional journey in sales. I worked with companies like Berger Paints and ICICI Prudential. I then transitioned to marketing with MetLife. This was followed by stints at Kotak Life Insurance and Pidilite. Currently, I am the head of the consumer marketing function at Cipla. The switch between different industries, such as banking and pharma, was not as challenging as one might think. Mainly because the fundamentals of marketing remain the same across sectors. It is just a matter of adapting to the specific dynamics of each category. As for the sales-to-marketing shift, I feel that starting in sales is crucial for understanding the sales cycle and gaining practical experience. Over time, I found myself drawn to modern marketing and its various aspects. This eventually led to my shift to the marketing side.

2. How has marketing evolved in the last 20 years? Has the essence of marketing remained consistent in spite of these changes?

Marketing sure has changed a lot in the last two decades. Print ads, radio ads, and outdoor ads are considered traditional. They have given way to digital, content-focused strategies, and new channels such as websites, SMS marketing, and messaging apps like WhatsApp. The media landscape has changed a lot.  The way consumers consume and respond to content has also changed a lot.

However, in spite of these changes, the essence of marketing has remained the same. The primary goal, I feel, is still to capture attention, persuade people to try out your products, and foster loyalty to the brand. The science behind marketing is still the same. It involves a lot of educating and informing consumers about a product's benefits. What has changed, though are the formats and platforms. They now require us to continuously adapt to emerging trends. We also need to develop new strategies to stay relevant and effectively engage with our TG.

"In the past 20 years, it looks like the skeleton of marketing is intact, and everything else: the flesh and everything else around has completely changed. I think the formats have changed, but the core, let's say the science behind it is still the same"

3. There is a huge debate about AI replacing humans, particularly in marketing, and the importance of constantly learning and adapting to new technology in this field. Where do you stand on this whole debate?

In my mind, change, even though it brings a little bit of discomfort, is always for the better. People feared losing jobs to machines during the Industrial Revolution. But then, we learned the art of adaptation and moved on to other tasks. The same applies to technology and AI in marketing.

"We are in a really interesting period of technological progress. I see it as a stepping stone for evolution. As long as we embrace and adapt to change I think it is good. One thing is for sure; you can't just rest on your past laurels."

4. What are your 3 biggest pain points as a marketer?

My main pain points fall into two buckets. One of them is creating content that is unique and truly stands out consistently. This is a challenge that requires deep consumer insights, collaboration with skilled content creators, staying on top of trends, and making the most of topicality. The other side is distributing that content to the right people. This is equally challenging. Consistency does not mean you keep repeating the same thing again and again. It involves constantly being creative, and innovative, and evolving your approach to stay relevant and effective.

5. Banking and Pharma are heavily regulated industries. How do regulations impact your work as a marketer? Do you find these restrictions helpful or constraining?

Yes, these regulations do feel constraining. But they serve a crucial purpose. In industries like these, the stakes are high as they involve people's health and finances. As marketers, we have a moral responsibility to ensure the right content reaches the audience. Then, to create awareness and educate them. Regulations and check mechanisms built within organizations help us serve our audience in the right way. It can be challenging, especially for topical marketing. However, it is essential to adapt and work within these boundaries to ensure the audience's safety and understanding.

6. Which platforms and formats do you prefer for the pharma industry? Is the focus on certain formats like blogs, websites, or newsletters?

In the pharma industry, the choice of platforms and formats depends primarily on two factors. One is where our target audience is and the other is what they are currently engaging with. It is very tempting to focus on conventional formats like blogs, websites, or newsletters. At the same time, it is essential to be more versatile and adaptive in our approach. We need to identify the platforms where our Target Group (TG) is active and understand what they are interested in.

It is crucial to look at where your TG is and what they're listening to. Let me give you an example. The reel is a popular format amongst the youth. However, it might not always seem like an ideal choice for a pharma brand. Even then, we have experimented with Reels by collaborating with celebrities to create dance challenges. This was to raise awareness of our space. These kinds of experiments allow us to reach the right audience with the right message.

7. How do you go about planning your broader content strategy? Do you follow a traditional content calendar?

Yes, the content calendar is very much a part of the execution process. It helps maintain discipline in communication. But, other critical aspects need to be considered first. It is essential to understand your target group (TG) and the consumer insights you want to work with. In finance and healthcare, content marketing is not just about educating the audience. You also need to entertain and convince them. It's a task to achieve all these goals at the same time.

Content should be rational and appeal to the brain. It should also be emotional and touch the heart. This is crucial for building a successful content strategy. First, you need to identify the type of content that resonates with your audience. Then, you can explore the formats that will help you deliver your message more effectively. It should also keep up with current trends and reach the right TG. Finally, you can use a content calendar to plan when each piece of content will be published.

"Content that is not only rational and appeals to the brain but also emotional and touches the heart, is critical"

8. What are your top three predictions for the year 2023 in the marketing and content space?

AI will play a significant role in content creation. It will give sharper analysis, faster on-ground execution, and cheaper CACs. 

Vernacularization will become critical as digital penetration increases. We will need to create content in languages our TG can understand. As more people gain access to the internet, the demand for content in regional languages will rise. Voice searches, for example, are expected to increase. We will need to adapt our content to be more accessible in various languages.

Personalization will be essential in a mix of vernacular content and AI. 'One size fits all' is no longer effective. 

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Global Marketing Leaders 2023 by Pepper Content is an exclusive curation of the brightest minds who have revolutionized the world of marketing. These visionaries have pushed the boundaries, disrupted the status quo, and transformed the way we approach content and marketing. Check out the full exhibit to be informed and inspired by the insights shared by these trailblazers.