Amit Doshi, chief marketing officer of Britannia Industries Limited recently completed one year of heading the legacy firm’s marketing function. This is his second stint with the company after having spent 9 years at technology company Lenovo. In an exclusive interview with Storyboard18, Doshi talks about how to leverage technology to stay relevant, what legacy brands can learn from D2C brands and why marketers should stay endlessly curious.
Q. You've moved from a tech category to a foods company. What was that like?
Professionally speaking, a lot has changed in the FMCG industry since the time I left in 2013. The first year has been full of tremendous learning. Especially at a time, when the category is facing so much disruption in terms of consumer behaviour and changing lifestyles.
In terms of the consumption context, there is increased movement towards healthier snacking whilst people still want to indulge in novel food experiences. I've tried to spend as much time as possible in my first year to deeply understand this shift in consumer behaviour, and its potential implications for our business.
My time at Lenovo has provided me with a fresh pair of lens to view categories, consumers, markets, and the marketing function, overall. The cross-sectoral experience has proved to be useful in accelerating Britannia’s product innovation program and especially, its digital transformation journey. We've seen consumers rapidly adopt digital lifestyles and most marketers today are dealing with that change. We have a shared vision of becoming a team of cutting-edge marketers and I often find myself dipping into my experiences within the technology industry.
It is really good to see a resonance between the Technology and FMCG industries. In the technology industry, digital plays a vital role, it’s not on the side of the plate but the centre of the plate as far as the marketing mix is concerned. And today, in the FMCG world, digital marketing is slowly but surely moving closer to the centre of the plate as well. To this end, we have also expanded our team of creative partners to include digital native outfits such as Talented and Schbang.
Q. What are your thoughts on the rise of new age D2C brands and what the likes of legacy companies like Britannia can learn from them?
New age D2C brands teach us agile innovation, how to test and learn, build metrics within the company to listen more closely to consumers and employees both and to focus on consumer experience and delight metrics. That’s a great learning for mature organisations like ours and we are fast learners. Britannia, for instance, has already adopted a more agile mindset when it comes to innovation, especially in our new businesses. We have been building systems and processes that help us imbibe a deeper and a more real-time understanding of consumers. Another aspect that highlights this effort is our impetus on e-commerce through which business has clipped at a significantly faster growth rate vs. other channels.
Second, these brands teach us about the reframing of existing consumer engagement models. D2C brands are mastering new age media and newer content formats. Again here, Britannia has learnt quickly to explore newer formats, with a recent launch of NutriChoice Protein being a purely Instagram Reels driven one. Our differentiated premium brand Biscafe, which was launched last year, is a digital first brand, born out of keen social listening and launched solely on social media and digital platforms, as opposed to a time-tested traditional media launch.
In my opinion, it’s a two way learning street. As much as mature brands like ours learn from D2C brands, the reverse is also very much on. Be it their ambition to be large scale, build brands for the long term and gain love and trust of the consumers, or to run businesses profitably, they could watch and learn from companies like Britannia.
Q. What are the skill sets companies are looking for on marketers and agencies side?
Some fundamental skillsets of marketers do not and should not change. The ability to stay connected with the consumer, frame the problem right, bring a healthy dose of data and belief to an argument, all of these are timeless. But the modern marketer also needs to learn to unlearn, stay curious and go down as many rabbit holes as possible.
The last couple of years have brought seismic shifts in the way we live, interact socially, buy, use and experience products, services, and brands. So companies are looking at marketers and agencies to be agile and nimble, and embrace data, content, and technologies to enhance consumer experience. To stay relevant, we all must think like digital natives as opposed to bifurcating ‘digital’ and ‘non-digital’ consumers. Today, everyone is a digital consumer.
Q. The media landscape has changed a lot with tech tools such as Web3 opportunities, Gaming, Metaverse etc. How are legacy companies like Britannia seeing it?
Media habits are varied in a complex market like India. Having said that, digital media habits have seen the most dramatic of changes, be it in the fragmentation of media being consumed or the time spent on digital platforms. With this comes the proliferation of new tech tools for marketers to keep pace with change and even stay ahead of the curve. We see this as an opportunity to engage with consumers differently and more effectively and bring to life ideas that might not have been possible before.
Late last year Britannia Bourbon harnessed the power of AR and launched a campaign, #BourbonFootballFriends that created a platform for best friends to come together to experience an AR generated football game. It was a deeply unique experience, starting with a QR code on the biscuit pack, and leading onto an immersive experience for consumers.
The Britannia NutriChoice Diabetic Friendly Essentials campaign launched on World Diabetes Day is an example of how multiple technologies were put together to deliver a seamless and valuable experience to consumers. The central idea was to deliver personalised diet plans to people managing diabetes. The entry point was through a QR code on print ads run nationally. The diet plans created in collaboration with expect dietician Ryan Fernando were delivered via an interactive WhatsApp Chatbot. We then used AI driven technology to create highly personalized videos to deliver the nutrition advice.
Talking about the Metaverse, it's still in its early days. There are a lot of enthusiasts, and also a lot of cynics who are questioning the use cases of the technology. But my philosophy on new technologies is clear. We will watch the space aggressively and learn from it.
Q. What are your thoughts on working with content creators versus celebrities?
If you look at the content creator economy today, it has literally exploded. There was a time, a decade ago, when the 1990 rule of engagement was apt. 1 percent created content, 9 percent engaged in some form with the content, and 90 percent stayed passive. That has turned on its head today. Literally every person with a smart phone thinks of himself or herself as a content creator. There are multiple ambitions, from building content-to-commerce models to having a voice on social issues and building social currency.
We have built a clear framework, wherein depending on the brand’s objective, we make decisions on whether to work with celebrities or content creators. But then also, the lines between traditional celebrities and content creators are blurring. And that has implications for us. We have worked on presenting celebrities in their authentic avatars and more as pop culture icons rather than as ‘celebrities’.
Q. How have client agency relationships changed? What value are new age agencies bringing to the table?
The one timeless expectation from agencies is laser sharp focus on effectiveness. The work we put out, be it on traditional media or new age media has to deliver for the brand and business objectives. So in a time like this, when media is fragmented, and consumer habits are dynamic in nature, it’s important that both clients and agencies centre themselves on effectiveness metrics. That’s really the end goal that all of us are striving towards.
The traditional AoR (agency on record) paradigm seems to have has got challenged in recent times with the emergence of multiple breakaway boutique agencies. In such a scenario, there is a risk of the client-agency relationship becoming transactional and short term. So it’s incumbent on both partners to invest time and effort towards building a deep and meaningful long-term culture.
The other thing that is becoming clearer that in today’s times is that an idea can come from anywhere. And while each agency partner plays a specific role, collaboration among agency partners is critical to make the winning idea shine.
Another expectation we have of our agencies is to constantly challenge and push us. While on one hand, agencies have to have a bias for bigger and bolder ideas, on the other hand, clients need to build an appetite to take risks.
Q. What has been your learning so far on what it takes to be a modern marketer?
I think a modern marketer is one who stays curious and goes down as many rabbit holes as possible.
At every turn, the cycles of change are getting extremely short. So no marketer, irrespective of industries, can say they are to the top of their craft. It is very important, that the modern marketer is not dogmatic about her views, but is constantly learning from the changing environment around her.
Thus, if there was one thing that I would pick as a must have among many things, I would pick endless curiosity.
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