Wednesday, August 3, 2011

CMOs evolving into future CEOs

I see CMOs evolving into future CEOs - Nita Kapoor, Executive VP, Marketing & Corporate Affairs, Godfrey Phillips India Ltd
Nita Kapoor, with over two and half decades of marketing and communications experience, is responsible for brand / marketing at Godfrey Phillips India across the categories of tobacco and other diversifications like tea and candy. She also handles the Godfrey Phillips corporate image. Nita spoke to Paul Writer on the changing role of Indian marketers.

Paul Writer’s CMO Hall of Fame program recognizes senior marketers who are developing and enhancing the marketing eco-system in India.

What are the recent marketing initiatives at Godfrey Philips?

We are getting into quarter two with some modifications and plans for the next two quarters are underway. As Tobacco is a restricted category, we don’t work on campaigns. In the mouth freshener category, where we are allowed to advertise, there is some interesting work coming up on our brand ‘Pan Vilas’ and it will be hitting the screen soon. In our CSR category, we are celebrating the 20th year of Godfrey Phillips Bravery with a 360 degree campaign running on it.

What were your key learnings for the quarter?

First, from a business point of view I am surprised at seeing consumer uptrading in the current economic environment.With inflation hitting double digits and staying at double digits for a fairly long time, one would have expected the consumer to economize and start down trading. But quite contrary to expectations, we are seeing consumer uptrading in urban markets.

Second is the overwhelming demand for accountability and answers from the government.People are taken aback by the recent scams and terror attacks; the focus is moving from wanting to do something for society towards why isn’t the government doing something about the situation. Angst and exasperation towards the government, either state or local or central, seems to be a prevalent mind set across the country. So with the attention going away from self contribution to expecting delivery from people who are in high positions, I am not sure this is the right time for CSR programs and projects.

What is that one marketing challenge that excites you most?
Taking on the leader; it’s always exciting when I am able to take some market shares.

When you are working as a number 2 brand in any category, the high is when you are able to get that market share or you make a difference in the marketplace which compels the competitor to react. And looking back at my work experience of two and a half decades, I realize that I have largely been working for No 2 brands. I have been re-launching, re-engineering, rethinking an entry strategy or looking at new geographies and channels for brands throughout my career.

How has the emergence of digital media impacted your marketing strategy?

While we do not work on digital media in the tobacco category, we use digital media on the CSR front.

The critical question is how effectively am I using digital media for what it can offer me. At this point I am a sceptic because I am yet to see any good work on the digital media. I think marketers today need to think through digital without getting confused between digital media / communications and marketing. A Twitter or Facebook logo at the bottom of an ad/promotion/ does not count as a digital campaign

However, I see social causes adopting digital media brilliantly. There are call to action initiatives where you are participating, interfacing, regularly informed on progress, and all the measurements are in place. They are doing a far superior job than companies merely getting on the digital media bandwagon without getting their objectives right.

It’s important to answer the questions of what is one doing on digital. Where is the brand coming in? What is brand story in the consumer’s life? Is the objective awareness or saliency, and how are we measuring it?

Digital does not feature more than 5-10% of most national media budgets right now, because brands continue to pursue mass awareness and reach. Having said that, internet is changing our lives and we will have to learn to adapt to the medium.

How would you define the role of a Futurist CMO?

I see CMOs converging with the CSO, and evolving into the future CEO.

Most CMOs today are increasingly interfacing at the organisational strategy level, and harnessing the brand equity for their companies through new brand offerings and also by brand diversification. I see this trend across the industry; though it is led by medium turn over companies in the INR 2500-5000 Cr range. No company has a highly paid CMO to do just brand work.

What advice would you have for an aspiring CMO?

> Consider multiple channels to make your brands available.
There are many more channels that are going to emerge, particularly if you are looking to explore the previously un-addressable rural markets which are now opening up.
> Focus on the last leg to the consumers.
> Improve your consumer conversion rates.
> Remember to set measurements for all initiatives, look at hard core deliveries and produce good creative work.
> Protect your brand and keep innovating.

The basics of marketing are never going to change:   the product reengineering, pricing power, depth of availability of the brand, the legislations, and the consumer are the fundamentals, and they don’t shift. Marketers should remember that social networks and digital are forms of communications, and marketing is not brand communications alone.

What do you believe is the next big thing in marketing?

Indian marketers will have to balance the spoilt urban consumer, the evolution of the rural consumer and the emergence of the small town consumer; and with that brand life stages will no longer be universal or singular. There are going to be multiple brand life stages in different parts of the country, and sometimes in two neighbouring states itself.
Brands will have to manage different life cycles. It will be about managing multiplicity and telling simple stories.

Marketing maxim: Walk and talk the market. Every time I need clarity on something, the first thing I do is hit the roads

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