Data enables relevance and context, says Mindshare's MA Parthasarathy

MA Parthasarathy, Chief executive officer, Mindshare South Asia
Storytelling doesn’t have a leg to stand on in the absence of insight, Parthasarathy tells Alokananda Chakraborty

With media fragmentation, people are getting bombarded with content and advertisements from all possible corners. In such a competitive space, what is the right way to get your target audience's eyeballs on your content?

The key elements of the strategy to get eyeballs are relevance and receptivity. It is critical to understand the consumers in a sharper manner than ever before. What are they consuming, when and why. Today there is a plethora of data available from various sources that gives us these insights into consumers. Data around what people are searching for, the content creators and influencers they follow, the platforms on which they consume the data, the nature of interaction, and so on. This knowledge empowers us to create content that’s most relevant to our consumers — more personalised, more topical and more credible. It also helps us serve this relevant content to consumers at a time and context where they are most receptive to our message.

Which is more important, data or content, to the future of marketing?

While it may sound like a cliché, both are equally important. A wonderful piece of content may draw attention. But without the right backing of data which tells us who to target, when and in what context, it may not result in actually moving the needle on brand equity or business results. On the other hand, we may have all the right data and insights, but if that is not leveraged with powerful and evocative storytelling that is in synch with the brand, it will fail to make an emotional connect or influence behaviour.

When the two are deployed in tandem, then we see real magic occur. Some recent examples from Mindshare India which have won global recognition are the work done for the Lifebuoy “Adaptive Data Lighthouse” where infection-related data was obtained at a district level in near-real-time and customised communication was served to consumers in those districts, and PepsiCo’s partnership with the Rail Yatri app to target train travellers with customised food plus Pepsi combinations.

How do you see the convergence of digital and TV playing out?

Multi-screen behaviour of consumers is here to stay. The fluidity of content across screens is increasing exponentially every day. We see examples of content working across TV and digital screens, like the “No.1 Yaari” talk show created for Diageo which was a major hit on TV as well as on a digital platform. At the same time we also see a lot of content repurposed for the different environments — be it in terms of duration, format or structure.

One thing the digital medium enables, which TV hasn’t been able to, is the ability to target specific, addressable audience segments based on behaviour (as opposed to pure demographic segments). But with new advancements like programmatic TV on the horizon, TV should also give us to ability to target such addressable segments.

 What, according to you, are the top 3 mistakes committed by organisations today in leveraging digital marketing?

The biggest gap is in defining KPIs and benchmarks for digital marketing activities. With the ecosystem becoming so diverse — video, search, social, native, influencer marketing and ecommerce — it is imperative to have an aligned view of what constitutes success in what context. A related problem is the lack of investment in understanding the relationship between digital metrics and business metrics. So agencies and marketers tend to revert to trusted and proven traditional media which is validated by econometric studies. The final area which needs attention is the creation of quality content that is specifically designed for specific environments. We need to invest in not just repurposing, but actual re-creation of content.

With every brand incorporating the latest technological advancements into their digital media campaigns, what will help organisations stand out and differentiate themselves from the competitors in the long run?

Technological advancements certainly give companies and agencies a host of opportunities to engage and delight consumers. But success in the long run still depends on how we use this technology to address the basics of business.
We need to first leverage technology to sharply identify the source of growth for the brands -- for instance, which cohort of consumers will drive the growth; where do they live.

We then need to leverage technology to define the consumers better: What is their need state? What drives their behaviour in the category? When are they most receptive to communication and so on. Finally, we need to leverage technology to create truly meaningful and evocative brand experiences -– be it through content, virtual or physical experiences. Digital marketing is not just a media choice, it is a driver of business. Organisations need to leverage it in a holistic sense across the purchase journey -- from brand building to creating intent to generating action and driving loyalty.

Which area of the business do you see the most growth coming from in the next three-five years? 

When we look advertising expenditure overall, we see digital spends growing at around 30 per cent which is more than double that of the traditional mediums. This gives us a good indication of where the most growth will come from. Within the digital space, we see the maximum growth coming from the confluence of data and content, in areas like programmatic and performance marketing.