Exclusive with Srini Sripada, Ex-Marketing at Pfizer, Unilever, P&G: Strategic Marketing Insights
The marketing industry has changed a lot during the years and more is to come. Global branding is crucial, and facing global challenges is an everyday task.
To get more deeper into professional insights on these subjects we interviewed Srini Sripada who has a powerful marketing background as an Ex-Senior Marketing Executive at Pfizer, Unilever and P&G. Srini has been in marketing for over 2 decades and has strong experience and extensive knowledge about global strategies and branding.
We asked Srini for his thoughts on the following matters.
As you have been in the marketing industry for over 2 decades, what major changes do you see between today and 10 years ago, and what do you think the next 5 year will look like for marketing industry?
Over the past 10 years major changes have taken place in the industry which’ve had the effect of putting consumers more in charge of commerce (power-shift from producers / retailers to consumers). Specifically, (1) easy availability of information over the net combined with broader usage, dramatically reduced the cost of search. Clearly, platforms such as amazon, ebay acting as intermediaries, armed with powerful search algorithms have reshaped how consumer assess and buy products (2) micro-influencing – in the past TV was the main “influencer” of culture/cultural icons, but today anyone who has internet access can become an influencer on YouTube. (3) trend towards “purpose driven” choices by millennials /gen-Z are impacting the balance of functional and emotional content of marketing messages. A product must do more than fulfill its basic function (e.g. haircare packaging must be good for the environment - made with recycled plastic). Trust, transparency and personalization are key elements of the conversation. Merely talking about it, won’t do. Producers must demonstrate action (e.g. many CPG majors are moving to 100% recycled plastic packaging or pledging to be carbon neutral in finite time).
Looking into the future, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will further disrupt marketing as we know it. AI will “predict” what we are “likely to prefer” and innovation will tend to be “data driven” vs. intuitive / creative driven. Powerful AI algorithms that will integrate information from multiple sources (IoT – internet of things) about the purchaser and make new offerings. Fulfillment (algorithmic or sought) is ripe for change with improving drone technology, 5G penetration, smart packaging, sensors everywhere.
Since you have been doing a lot of branding for product based companies, can you tell what is the best method to increase brand awareness fast globally?
Brand awareness is critical to any brand’s commercial success. Aided awareness (AA) is great to have, but unaided awareness (UA) is the ultimate success measure as it signals loyalty. The human brain is tuned to forget bad experiences and retain good ones. Brand satisfaction (good experience with the brand) is thus key to strong UA. So, the first step to driving awareness is to make sure the product experience (2nd moment of truth) will be memorable (test and retest with core target audience to ensure it is so). Then identify the zeroth moment of truth (ZMOT) occasions in social media and own them. This requires a good understanding of the consumer journey. Finally focus on first moment of truth (the first meeting of brand and the buyer) – how can this be ultra-memorable? J&J children’s Tylenol sampling among new moms in the hospital discharge kit is a gold standard example. Done well these steps, along with good retail distribution will lead to fast awareness build. These principles apply across markets, as they are consumer centric – not geo specific.
What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in your career as a marketer?
As things stand, every category seems to have a ceiling when it comes to “ecommerce potential”. This will probably change with time – but likely to be slower than many expect. See Fig 1. It is important to understand the ceiling for one’s category and deploy right amount of resources to maximize potential. Overinvesting in ecommerce simply wastes resources and creates unrealistic expectations.
With the gold-rush mentality, I often find marketers (including myself) chase the channel and overinvest in ecommerce without first understanding the profit potential from the channel for my category – wasting time and resources.
Where do you stand on public relations and do you see a correlation between PR and advertising?
PR is an essential tool in a marketer’s tool kit. Brands that thrive do not thrive in isolation. Successful brands have a POV on issues of import to society. This is critical especially when it concerns “purpose-centric” millennials. These brands place themselves at center of pop culture / current topics of interest to define and direct culture. Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” is a perfect example of the brand focused on advancing young women’s self-esteem.
What can you recommend to new companies starting their own brands. Are there any shortcuts to brand's success?
No. There are no shortcuts to brand success. Consistency is the key. Successful brands have a socially relevant, strong POV and are consistent. They strive to delight at every touch point. It’s not about just being present at a touch point but delighting at all “moments of truth”. Apple’s Airpod pairing is a prime example. Airpods automatically pair with one’s iphone upon opening the box. No more messing with technology (pairing) but enjoying the item right out of the box – an example of delighting the consumer at second moment of truth.