Business Wisdom

A Glimpse into the present and future of marketing in the CPG World—Rashi Goel, Director Marketing & Consumer Communications at Nestle India.

Rashi Goel as a thought leader, giving insights on digital marketing, AI, team management and success.

If you could run through your journey from L’Oréal to Nestlé – the similarities and differences?

Over the last 22 years, I have worked across diverse CPG categories – Beauty and Personal Care, Food and Beverages, and Nutrition. Having started my career as the first diverse sales officer with L’Oreal India and later working on global and local brands with CPG majors, my marketing learning is a result of the width of exposure from marketing a Rs.2/- iron-fortified products to undernourished girls in rural AP to and selling Rs.300+ hair color to affluent beauty conscious women.

Given that all the companies I worked with belong to the CPG industry, the fundamental beliefs have been common across. The focus has been on

  • consumer insights — all companies spend time in unearthing consumer tensions and problems that can be solved through the products sold
  • belief in the power of brands to grow the business and to differentiate products
  • focus on high-quality products that win with consumers, quality of products is a value none compromised on
  • excellence in last-mile distribution even if there are muscular brands, compelling consumer insights, and products that win with consumers, if the distribution does not make the product available at arm’s length of consumer desire, all these efforts are wasted
  • an unfailing belief in the power of marketing as a function to build businesses
  • Given that these fundamentals are common, the kind of talent hired and the focus on high performance is also the same

What is different is how. The How is really driven by the marketing philosophy and culture of the organization some companies believed in the power of creating high quality, expensive products that are developed with deep R&D expertise and believe in advertising the functional benefits of the products, while others excel in selling products on the back of highly emotional and inspiring messaging. Some companies valued intuition, gut, and experience, while others valued processes and structured approach to marketing development.

The P&L levers, or the business model of the organization: the business model is a result of the category maturity, and how essentially the P&L is structured. The Cost of goods sold for Beauty and Personal Care Categories is lower than the raw material for Food and Beverage categories. Hence, there are higher degrees of freedom in the spending for these categories. For example, packaging in beauty products can be utilized to create desire by designing it for most appeal and shelf throw. Also, personal care companies are able to spend much more money on advertising. Whereas in food and beverage, real commodities like sugar, milk. flour, spices go into the product, the cost of goods sold is much higher than beauty and personal care. The degrees of freedom on the P&L, therefore, become less. To further complicate matters, the quality of packaging has to be the highest quality in order to keep the food and beverage safe from insects, germs, and contamination.

How has digital media changed the marketing scene in the last 20 years?

Digital Marketing has completely upended the way marketing was done.

When I started my career. All we did was make one TV ad, put it on air, and be done with it. We spent the rest of the time going deeper into refining all other aspects of the marketing mix. Designing packaging, writing packaging copy, analyzing the market and consumer data, and figuring out the right price and SKU mix. We spent a lot of time in consumer research and new product development also. We had time to go deeper and deliver fewer and bigger marketing programs.

What digital marketing has done is that it has changed the game on multitude of fronts. The consumer today is not only watching TV but is also consuming content on multiple digital platforms. So today a marketer has to create content for not just television, but for all digital platforms. Each digital platform has complicated life by having unique creative content formats and models. So, a marketer now has to create as much as 20 to 30 pieces of content for the same campaign, because no two platforms accept the same kind of digital content. What this does is that it further fragments analytics. So, when earlier, all we needed to analyze were SOV and GRPs for TV advertising, today, we need analytics across a multitude of digital platforms. The marketer, therefore, is spending a lot of time making sense of fragmented analytics, dealing with a multitude of agencies because there is no single agency that is adept at creating content across all platforms. There is no single agency that generates insights and analytics across all platforms, and there is no single agency that delivers content across all of these platforms. So, the marketer today is time-poor, and needs to constantly be learning the very complicated media world, and a very complicated consumer, that is making decisions, offline, but buying online, and vice versa. So, marketing today has become way more complicated than it was ever before.

 Your advice to young professionals to have a successful career in marketing in this new digital world?

The basics of what makes a good marketer remain the same:

  • Start in Sales
  • Be Obsessed with the consumer
  • Know your numbers and business levers
  • Be passionate about branding

This new fragmented world has necessitated that the marketer acquires new competencies to be successful. Qualities of Collaboration Coordination and Communication have become even more critical collaboration because no single marketer can crack everything on his own. She needs to develop the art of collaborating with a multitude of agencies, all with very different skill sets, different ages and different competencies, and maybe even different mindsets. Therefore, a collaboration between multiple agendas and objectives becomes very critical. The average marketer today has to be an ace coordinator because to get one campaign life, he or she has to deal with a media agency or Social Media Marketing Agency. A mainline advertising agency, a digital agency, and analytics agency, a PR agency, and a content creation agency. So, this person has to be able to coordinate deliveries by all agencies in a timely manner.

The market here today has to be an empathetic communicator as well, because he has to be able to communicate the same idea to a multitude of agencies, but he has to be able to communicate in a manner that each agency understands from their point of view. The marketer needs to understand herself and they communicate uniquely what that agency will contribute to making the final campaign a success.

Since the ecosystem is changing so fast, the marketer also needs to be an agile learner, to be able to keep pace and adapt.

Probably the future of marketing is not to have one supreme marketing leader, but to really have a team of experts who manage one brand, because I don’t see how it is possible or even realistic to have one brand manager or one marketing manager. Be adept across all platforms. That is why, teamwork and collaboration listening without prejudice, become values of the future that are so important. And these values, these competencies are not being taught anywhere. And they are going, they are going to be learned on the job.

How is AI going to change the marketing in the future? Is it going to replace the marketing professional?

Honestly, any conjecture at this stage on how AI will impact marketing is just conjecture.

One theory, which I am sure you have also heard is that all repetitive jobs are going to be managed by robots. And that on the other hand, jobs that require creativity, human intelligence, are going to become very high paying. If one believes this theory, one would wish to invest time in developing competencies that are creativity lead, and ‘craft’ focused.

But this theory has already been disproven by AI that paints and writes chapters of books. AI is already creating digital content at scale and planning media for greater efficiencies.

Another theory is that Deep Learning has its own intelligence and will start thinking like a human brain, already beginning has been made in this by self-driving cars and deep learning-based digital content creation. I think just like we could not predict the far-reaching disruption in behaviors, culture and how we spent our time any new technology (think the wheel, electricity, the internet!) would lead to when it was launched, it is still too early to predict with any level of accuracy on what impact AI will have. I guess we will have to wait and see.

What is your success slogan?

This is something I aspire to live and internalize so it becomes me…The quote from Bruce Lee–

“Be formless and shapeless like water. You put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend”.

What are the challenges of managing a team of marketers?

Managing the team of marketers is both a challenge, a great responsibility and a privilege.

And it is just a matter of perspective. I am learning how to manage a team over many years of failing and learning and picking myself up again. And I learn every day. I am in no way an expert in team leadership.

And have spent many nights of being awake and thinking of how I can create a High-Performance Team. I think, managing a team is like managing a garden, which is full of different plants.

A garden is rich and beautiful only because it has very different kinds of flowers and plants. Just like each plant is different, one cannot treat each person the same way. The way a sunflower need, very different kind of fertilizer, water, and very different amount of sunshine, an oak plant needs very different nourishment.

So, the first rule is to really be curious and observant of each team member to really learn about their individual likes, dislikes, triggers, and motivators. And then as a manager tweak one’s style to the person, one is talking to. While keeping the overarching vision the same. The vision cannot be tweaked to suit individuals, but the “how” can be adjusted to the individual’s strengths and personality. I have a bias to build a learning culture. My goal is to help each individual deliver stretch objectives over a period of time so that when they look back, they are pleasantly surprised by what they have been able to achieve because nothing is as strong a motivator as success

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About Ramdas Shenoyy

Ramdas Shenoyy is a senior marketing and communications professional with over two decades of working across industries and domains.
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