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Content marketing should be used to create long term brand value instead of instant ROI

Content Marketing has assumed greater significance with brands making it an integral part of their marketing plans. It’s a cost-effective way to connect with the audience in creative ways to ensure long lasting impression.

Debdatta Das, Head of Content Strategy (Digital), CNBC TV18 and winner of LinkedIn Content 50 India spoke to Abhishek Sinha, Director, Digitales on the dynamics shaping up the industry.





Here are some excerpts –

Q1. How has pandemic changed the rules of the content marketing game?
Answer 1: I don’t think the rules have changed as much as marketers trying to find the best fit, given limited budgets and lack of accessibility to consumers. The gospel truth is that much like your investments, content marketing ideally should be used to create long term and continued brand value. It isn’t about getting instant RoIs out of a campaign, even though that’s exactly how it’s used 95% of the times, especially in India. Rarely does a brand invest in a content marketing campaign that can’t show RoIs instantaneously, however, there are those that have been using it rather well for their brands during Covid. Case in point Zomato, which has used content in various ways via social media and otherwise to ensure the brand is seen and perceived in a certain way. From directly engaging its consumers through witty, yet socially relevant messaging to showcasing their delivery agents as heroes wearing capes and the latest with allowing women a 10-day period leave, the brand’s been saying the right things for the past few months, which is bound to have a positive impact in the way consumers look at the brand and feel for it.
Remember, the true test of a brand is always when the going gets tough. It is in how they portrayed themselves during the tough times that ensures brand loyalty for years if not decades to come. Coca Cola has been a master of that game since the times of the world wars.

Q2: There has been a lot of talk about AI in content marketing. What are the dos and donts that brands must follow to use it most effectively specially in the Indian market? 
Answer 2: As brands move more towards customising experiences and products for consumers, us of AI will grow in significance in enabling this customisation. We’re already seeing brands like Amazon use it well. Brands with products in insurance, Mutual Funds, retail, food, healthcare, education and travel will likely benefit the most from integrating AI in the way they identify consumers and then customise their messaging to the consumer in the best manner.
That said, it should never reach a space where the consumer is made to feel like their privacy is being breached. Given the way and the extent to which consumer data is collected today, it can pretty much reflect the lives and buying patterns of any consumer. All brands must be cognitive of this invisible boundary that should never be breached. Everything else is fair game, and the only limitation that one will face is in the way the brand/content marketer can use that data/knowledge to reach the consumer. Also, data can never supersede the powers that good storytelling can have on consumers. The best kind of campaigns will be those that use AI to identify a consumer and then use storytelling to create the most effective messaging to connect with the consumer.

Q3: Does storytrelling in consumer marketing still have relevance, especially post covid, when the pandemic induced lockdown has turned consumer behaviour and sentiments upside down?
Answer  3: Everyone loves a good story. Storytelling is one of the very few art forms that can transcend age and any other form of diversity. The story of your brand that you tell your consumers during the tough times, is what leaves a long lasting view and creates deep loyalty. At the end of the day marketing in any form is done with the purpose of creating loyalty within existing consumers and acquiring new ones. Storytelling allows you to do both, while keeping the consumer engaged and leaves them asking for more. It can permeate from the way you’ve engaged your consumers during covid, things you chose to focus on, initiatives you chose to back, employee policies you created, products you chose to create, things that the promoters and executives said etc. A great example of this is when Hindustan Unilever chose to change the name of its popular Indian brand Fair&Lovely to Glow&Lovely in support of the Black Lives Matter movement originating in the US, but gaining massive momentum in India as well.
A brand can use storytelling in various ways to achieve the end result of not only relaying the correct brand/product messaging, but also showcase to the consumers that it cares. One of the biggest changes that covid has brought along is that people have shifted to need-based buying, given job losses and pay cuts etc and loyalty plays a big role in the brands they choose to buy.

Q4: This crisis has also highlighted the limited impact of mediums like OOH and experiential marketing. Do you think its going to be a digital-first or digital-only approach for most of the brands to connect and communicate with customers? 
Answer  4: Covid or not, OOH and experience driven marketing will still play an important role in the way brands communicate with consumers. One of the biggest things that covid has left consumers wanting for is personal touch, albeit with all the prescribed safety measures in place. Brands that have been able to figure innovative ways to reach ‘OUT’ to the customer has been the winner. For instance, during the lockdown, when malls and marketplaces shutdown, Bata, chose to open small custom kiosks at societies across Delhi to reach the consumer, ensuring all the safety guidelines.
Similarly, in the US, beer brand Heineken, chose a unique way to physically reach its consumers during the Major League Soccer tournament. It initiated a social media driven contest campaign called Stadium in a Box’ allowing soccer fans the chance to own a real stadium seat branded with the logos of their favourite team, along with stadium food and a refrigerator branded and full of their newly launched product, Heineken 0.0. Goes without saying it’s quite the viral campaign and hits just the consumer spot that any brand has been wanting to during these challenging times.
At the end of the day, a brand is only limited by the imagination of its marketers. The ones that have found a solution or a way around to reaching out to consumers have been the ones that have provided a never-before experience that consumers are likely not to forget soon.
Necessity is the mother of invention and in this case innovation. Not to forget brands that are willing to take a chance and go the off the beaten path to reach their consumers.

Q5: Let’s talk about the availability of talent pool. Do you feel there is a shortage of skilled manpower to tap market potential? What is your suggestions to the professionals planning to make a career in content marketing? 
Answer 5: Often in the humdrum of creating a splash with a campaign and catering to what the brand wants, marketers forget what is the most important-The CONSUMER. To all future marketers, I say that never lose sight of the only thing that really matters in marketing- who the CONSUMER is. Everything else in marketing should ideally be a function of that. What did well for a particular brand may not suit yet another, even though they might be operating in the same industry space.
Use data to understand everything you can about the consumer and then create a campaign that touches the core of that consumer for the said brand/product. It shouldn’t be the other way around. Consumer is always the King for a very solid reason and India is home to 1.38bn consumers, each one presenting their own opportunities!