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Marketing Leadership: Brand Empathy is the Most Valuable Asset a CMO Can Create in Unprecedented Times, Fenesta Mktg Head Susmita Nag

Susmita Nag, head of marketing at windows and doors major Fenesta, discusses how marketing leaders should evolve so they can respond to pandemic implications.

This interview is a part of Sourcing Hardware’s #MarketingLeadershipSeries, wherein the editors check-in on select Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) from the Building Products and Home Improvement (BPHI) industry, to understand how they are reimagining the marketing domain in these unprecedented times.

In your view, how is the marketing domain evolving in the aftermath of Covid-19 pandemic?
Well, it is difficult to view the post-Covid-19 scenario right now, because of the uncertainty that prevails. In the ongoing situation however, marketing has become more sensitive, cautious and focused in terms of brand communication and media usage. And there is no template because the circumstancesare so dynamic. Marketing strategy has evolved and is revolving around the new normal. Execution too has seen a lot of new initiatives, usage of new media, and different levels of urgency altogether.

What should be the CMO’s role in value creation for theorganisation?
I believe that brand empathy is the ultimate and most valuable asset that a CMO can create and achieve for the organisation in such unprecedented times. Brand empathy comes not only with communication and engagement; it is also an outcome of interactions at different levels and various touch points. Embedding the ‘consumer first’ culture in the thought process, and being sensitive to mindset, need and the situation from customers’ point of view should become a priority for every CMO, and everyone else in the organisation.

How can CMOs maximise impact of their marketing initiatives for driving business outcomes?
As marketing leaders, we aim to maximise and create an impactful outcome for all our marketing activities. That’s the starting point. And to achieve that we needto be clear about our objectives and goals. At the same time, I think that one must analyse the existing resources and limitations before drawing up strategies. Clarity is vital, ambiguity is the largest barrier.

Do marketing leaders need to work more closely now with their Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), to deliver higher return on investment (RoI)?
It is not about working closely with CFOs. CMOs anyways need to be handy with the financials of their company. Anything and everything has to have an ROI, both tangible and intangible. The ratio may vary and could dependon many factors. But the fact remains that one has to work with a shared business objective without undermining the reality. Ultimately the business should thrive, and everyone in the organisation needs to be an active contributor.

How can marketing create lasting engagement and memorable experiences for customers and end-users?
Well, these are in the wishlist of every brand manager and the answers are there in textbooks. But I have a different view on this. I think that creating the ‘most loved brand’, and ensuring a memorable experience all through for consumers, is not something that can be achieved only by the marketing, sales, CRM, or any other department. Lasting engagement should be like a vision for the organisation, so clearly defined that it becomes part of the culture and everyone across verticals and levels lives it day in and day out.

What are the key considerations while creating narratives in marketing communication?
Inspire, aspire, and build empathy. The three magical words. Everything else will fall in place.

What trends are you observing in the digital marketing domain?
My sense is that the place has become crowded and cluttered with anything and everything. As usual, the key is to have solid and sticky content. If as a brand you continue to do the regular stuff, it will irritate more than attract or arrest. We have seen this happen with movies which premiered on over-the-top (OTT) platforms and bombed. Just by changing the medium you cannot guarantee success till you have the content that moves audiences using that platform. Earlier you used to fight with brands spread over 10 pages of a newspaper or a couple of billboards. Now, you are competing with content coming in every minute, and with no shelf life. So, challenges are much more than the opportunity.

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