Campaign India Team
Dec 23, 2019

'Would like to come closer to understanding the power of technology': Ajay Kakar

A series to end the decade - part seventeen

'Would like to come closer to understanding the power of technology': Ajay Kakar
Campaign India's countdown to the end of the decade will feature leading names from the marketing and communications fraternity. We ask senior executives from the advertising, marketing and media fraternity about the last 10 years and the year to come.
Here's what Ajay Kakar, chief marketing officer, Adita Birla Capital, had to say:
One piece of work in the last decade that you wish you had created/worked on. Why?
Typically, when reviewing work, our attention is restricted to advertising campaigns. And the evaluation criteria remains around ‘creativity’, which is subjective. Often we also discuss the awards won by the campaign, which according to me, is an industry endorsement, but not a driving force.
Personally, I would like to look well beyond advertising campaigns. And more so, beyond one-off campaigns. I would prefer to evaluate marketing campaigns and sustained investments, from the lens of how it impacted the consumer’s view, towards the brand, category, or life, per se. And most importantly, how did it impact the business of the company, for now and hereafter.
So, if I stay with the typical review lens, there were only a few ad campaigns that stood the test of time. The list would include the Google ‘reunion’ advertisement, the British Airways ‘fuelled by love’ campaign, Airtel’s ‘har ek friend zaroori hotha he’…..and in more recent times, the Fevicol ‘sofa’ ad. But that supports my point. These are ‘one-off’ ads, that gained their place under the sun, as flavours of the season.
On the other hand, if you see the brands that were born in this last decade, it is not unreasonable to say that advertising possibly played a far more minimal role than ever before, in establishing them as brands of relevance and significance. PayTM, Apple, Google, Airbnb, are living proof that the role of advertising is diminishing, significantly. Solutions and Experiences seem to matter to consumers, more than ever before.  And that’s where marketers are focusing, now, more than ever before.
If hindsight is 20/20, what is the one thing that you could have done differently in the last decade?
As marketers, we often talk about customer-first strategies. But how willing are we to invest in it? How willing are we to question what has possibly become an industry norm?
A dream that was first seen in 2007, came to life in 2017. Aditya Birla Capital. We have chosen to wear a customer hat and revisit not only the way the financial services industry engaged with its consumer, but also  how we ourselves engaged with them as Aditya Birla Group, all these years. We chose to redefine the category, wearing a customer lens, by committing to meet all the money needs of our consumer, across his or her life time, under a common brand. This is starkly different to the industry practice of going to the consumer by sub categories or verticals, offering only a limited range of products from the sub category you represent (eg. mutual fund, life insurance, housing finance, etc.). We went a step ahead, to bring to the consumer a common and seamless experience across the solutions offered by our subsidiaries.
My regret is that so far this remains a journey only adopted and committed to by Aditya Birla Capital. I would love to see other players also leaving their past behind and adapting or adopting themselves to the customer need, rather than staying with industry norms of category offerings. A concerted approach across brands in our category will help our underpenetrated industry come closer to mass India and the consumer, as being more relevant to their lives.
One skill that you would want to pick up in 2020 and why?
The lines between marketing, technology and business are blurring, by the day. I would like to come closer to understanding the power of technology, so that I better understand the ‘how’ and ‘how much’ of creating customer solutions and experiences, that we as marketers strive for.
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