#ZaprFireside ft. Jermina Menon – Industry Expert, Marketing & Advertising


Jermina, thank you so much for coming – Thanks for calling me – No, it’s our pleasure, and for speaking with the entire team. What do you do for a living? So I do retail marketing for a living. Retail is a fun industry, especially being a woman and half of my retail has been in shopping
centers and like I always tell people, how lucky could I get that as a lady I get to sit in a shopping center all day and not have to, you know, answer what I’m doing. Having said that, it’s a lot of work;
I barely get time to shop in my own centers. And the other half has been in pure retail, I’ve worked with Reliance retail for about 5 years, which was a very interesting assignment because we were in 30 markets with about 150+ stores and it was a mixture of the metros and the
tier 1 and tier 2 and being Reliance we had a lot of
data points and data axes and it was really interesting to see how
different markets and within markets how certain parts of the city behaved differently from other parts. So I think it was a very…kind of a stimulating environment. How would you define marketing? So marketing is basically about capturing
your mind space. It’s not about selling a product, it’s
about actually capturing a mind space. So when we talk of certain products and categories and why you remember some products better, is because they’ve captured your mind space better. And, you know, can you give me an example of a brand that’s your favorite example that you use a brand that has captured your mind space? My favorite, again biased towards a woman’s
category, which is Tanishq… I think it’s a beautiful brand because it
started off by kind of redefining a very fragmented yet large market
size in India. How does a brand actually go about ideating, conceptualizing, putting together a plan, executing, and then finally winning the hearts and minds of their target audience? What does the process look like? So I think the process is very, very simple. Any marketing book you read or any communication
– advertising/communication book you read will talk about just understanding three things very well. One is your own product, yeah, you need to
be clear what your product is. So if I continue with the Tanishq example, it’s jewellery. What kind of jewellery, what is the design ethos, you know, what you want to stand as a core. And I think as a core they have taken the modern bride, who likes tradition, but interprets it in her modern way. And that’s what their designs are about
– modern traditions. Two, it’s your customer. So who are they
really talking to. What they have done over the last twenty years is actually capture this shift. They started by talking to the mother of the
bride, to now talking to the bride herself. Because today’s bride make their decisions,
their mothers and grandmothers do not. And third, is your competition – so what
does your competition do. So obviously they have many different competitors
and different geographies, but all of them to some extent are similar. Because they have their traditional jewelers,
and they are relying on their trust. They are also perhaps still relying on the
mother and grandmother to continue doing those purchases. So once you understand these three, then you’re
able to distinguish it better. And who is doing this? Is there somebody sitting at the brand headquarters,
are there some companies helping them? How does that process work? So there are many ways of going about it, I will give you a life example of what I did at Reliance Retail. I used to handle the optical chain,
Vision Express, and Vision Express basically is a joint venture with Reliance Retail and a European company called Grand Vision. And when I joined the brand it was about four years old and somewhere it was kind of floundering, it wasn’t doing to its expectations. And one of the reasons was that when the brand started, bulk of the management team had to come from Grand Vision Europe to, you know, set up the brand. So they were kind of replicating a European
country that they chose as similar to India, Poland, and were replicating everything done
in Poland. Yes, there were similarities, but the point
was that’s Eastern Europe, this is Asia. And within Asia, we’re South Asia. Plus, India is a continent like Europe,
it’s not a country like Poland. And we had kind of done a customer research,
so you of course need, you know, secondary research through a market research agency. I would always recommend a quantitative
which is backed by qualitative, which is actually speaking to customers – whether it’s what we call as direct interviews, or group discussions, or you know even doing some artistic discussions where you get people to draw, act and share emotions. So we did that research and we kind of plotted
competition, so we got the customer angle, we knew what our product was – it was a great eye care product, there was a heavy emphasis on the kind of eye test we gave you, and globally
Grand Vision stands for better eye care. All other brands stand for eyewear, because
when we did the competition advertising analysis, whether it was print or TV, it just focused on
frames and designs and, you know, multi-brand stores like LNM and GKB would talk about having international brands like a Gucci or Chanel and Titan of course, with its legacy, continued
on fashion. So we said this is a very unique differentiation
– all other brands are about ‘eye wear’, but Vision Express is about ‘eye care’. And this is interesting right, there are a
lot of learnings here for us as well, because now you didn’t just get together the smartest
people, lock yourselves in a room and say ‘Aha, this is what my positioning is going to be!’ I mean, there was a lot of external validation,
a lot of data, a lot of analytics, a lot of insights A lot of customer touch and feel, I
can’t tell you how important that is. Right, you actually spoke to customers to understand – We spoke to customers, we stood in our stores, and you know, this is something a lot of successful companies do, where it’s the top management which actually goes. So after a point in time, we used to actually have this thing where, one day a month, senior management spent a whole day at a store of their choice. So we clocked in with the store staff at 10:30,
we clocked at 8:30, we stood the whole day, we would also have to come back and put in our report – not only what happened but how much did you actually help to sell. Some of the better insights I got whenever I did my store visits were not just customer interactions, but also the soft skills.
Yeah. You know, whether…so we had a store which was a
top store, and which suddenly was declining, and we said ‘hey, why is the store starting
to fall week on week?’ And of course, we were on the ball, week 3
we said we had to investigate. So weekend no.3 and weekend no.4, I spent that weekend, I’m not joking – Saturday and Sunday, four hours each in the peak hours of, you know, 5 to 9 business hours, and what we also realized is, we could see from the body language of the store staff, they had become overconfident and had a chip on their shoulder that we are the top store for the last three years and somewhere they were complacent. So the same person whom we had seen six months back, being a lot more welcoming, you know, buying a spectacle is a long process,
45 minutes to 1 hour. Basics of offering customer tea/coffee/water
were missing. And those were something which is you know
part of our SOP – you don’t show a spectacle to a customer till he’s had his water or
asked for his tea or coffee. And they were missing that. And when we kind of reemphasized that, by week 7
the store was starting to come back to normal. So it’s even these soft things which you
need to kind of watch and be intuitive to. Understood. In the early days, you know, back when you
were at an agency and you were working with some of the biggest brands in the country,
you would also have done television, – Yes, for a lot of the FMCG brands
– you’ve obviously worked across medium s for FMCGs
– Yes, yes…yes – And so as different agencies look at different parts of the media plan, how do you build an integrated, you know, media plan across mediums? So I think what has really happened today
is the marketer today has a bigger role. So a lot of my time goes in ensuring that my ad agency, my PR agency and if I have a separate digital agency, all three are really working on the same thing. Because as agencies, everybody wants to do their own creative, but, you know, I have to sometimes be the devil and say ‘here’s the master and adapt.’ Because I run the brand and I cannot have multiple messages going out. I mean, it’s the same message but through
multiple media it needs to go out. So I think that is where the marketer comes in. I remember this interesting campaign we did
when we launched Rexona deodorant way back in 1995-1996. It was the first time the brand was launching,
the category was launching. We had actually done about 10 or 12 ads and
it played through the day. It’s about this girl who goes to see the
match with two of her male friends. She goes in holding on to arm of Mr. A, and as the day progresses, Mr. A has not used
Rexona deodorant so he doesn’t smell as fresh and Mr. B is fresh and she leaves the stadium
with Mr. B on his bike. The moral of the story is it’s not about the content of character but it’s about which deodorant you use. Yes. And I think that was also a very nice way to say
that it was a Rexona which was doing it and you know, I think you establish because there was a lot of – it again came from a research insight that you kept saying day long protection but people thought it wore off in two hours. So how do you establish that the 8 to 10 hours
at least you’re out of the home, you’re smelling fresh. So that was the insight which came. Some other thoughts from how have brands evolved
back in the 90s to the 2000s to the 2020? I think what is happening today is that there are so many options, sometimes as marketers it’s a tough choice. And you know you really need to kind of keep doing different things, continue to remain relevant yet be this. So it’s definitely more tough being a marketer
today than in hindsight in those days, though of course we thought we had very tough markets
then too. So what was not available there was customer
reach of the kind we’re talking now. Today, I think it’s much easier to reach customers. It was a bigger challenge in our times, earlier times. You went to school and college in Bombay? Yes Can you walk us through how…
what kind of a student were you? I was a very average student. I was lucky to have parents who never reminded
me that my sister was a continuous topper. Not only did she come first in the class but
she came first in every subject. She won sports medals, she won art medals. But I was just very lucky that my parents were happy ‘we have one super intelligent kid, it’s okay if this one is average’. But I hated studying, I was always the extra-curricular person. And I was very very active in my college days,
in fact, half my attendance days used to be signed off by profs because I used to keep
going to all the inter-collegiate festivals. JAM & Debate were my winning points. And I think today that has helped me a lot
more than my education in terms of how I’m able to communicate to people, how I’m able
to reach to people and social skills of course. And so when you were in school, what did you
want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a lawyer because I was always
extremely argumentative. Fortunately, or unfortunately, around the time
when I was in my 7th or 8th standard, my dad decided to give up working and take
up law, become a lawyer himself. He was a LLB graduate, he was working otherwise. And because our generation was told by our
parents what to do, and you know, we couldn’t debate with them, I was a bit worried that
if I became a lawyer, I would have to practice with my father which I didn’t want to do. And my college was right next to the
Ogilvy original office. We used to keep going there for Cadbury’s
sponsorship every year for chocolate day. And that’s how my interest in advertising
kind of started. It looked like a fun place to be at, you know,
hey these guys are dressed like us college students and we can just walk in and they
talk to us casually. So that’s how I landed in marketing. What was your first job? I actually am a cost account also by qualification
and after graduation when I applied to Lintas, Those were the days IIM graduates
used to go to Lintas, and I was just a B.Com with half a cost accounting salary – so
they offered me a join in accounts department. We weren’t as knowledgeable, we didn’t have so much things so I said, “okay, sounds great!” Started with a salary of 1000+, so I never
had 1000 bucks ever in my hand at one point, so it sounded great. You were rich. So I started as an accountant for the first
three years of my career. When I shifted to Bangalore after marriage,
I insisted on shifting to the actual part of advertising which was client servicing and
they were kind enough to humor the little child. And that’s how I got into mainstream advertising. As a uber successful woman professional, what
are some of the challenges you faced as a woman in corporate India? And what are some of the clichés that you
haven’t faced? So I think the first cliché is when I go to a lot of
diversity forums and people talk about how you struggled etc., I honestly don’t think I struggled. And when I analyze back now, I think it’s because I went with a flow, I kept propelling myself forward. It did help that I was in advertising which was
far more gender positive always, and you know you never felt you were being discriminated
as a woman. If I did face discrimination, it was a short
time when I had a child and you know till the child was very young and then I stopped
kind of hanging out late hours is when to some extent people said “oh she’s kind
of going back at 6:30” and stuff of that kind. So I kind of faced a small bump then I would say. But otherwise I don’t think it is. And I think it’s, I never saw myself as a woman and hence having to move forward so, you know. Today when I go to B schools and talk, and
a lot of the Tier 2 town girls come and say, “Ma’am, how should we do it?” I think stop thinking you’re women. Just say you want to do something, I don’t think
it’s about being male/female, or you know, being more educated or having more talent. I mean, it didn’t matter because I worked hard,
I delivered. So people are looking at results, people are
looking at what you bring to the table. And that’s what matters in the end. Almost all industries, and marketing in particular,
are being influenced significantly by technology. And we keep hearing, you know, AI this, Machine
Learning that, neural networks this… As the world evolves, and as tech starts to drive
a lot of these industries into new frontiers, what do marketers need to know about tech
to stay relevant in a fast changing world? I think a lot of the marketers themselves
are becoming tech marketers because there’s a whole breed of digital marketers who have
come up and who are only looking at data, impressions, clicks, CTRs, ATRs, and data of that kind. What is missing, if I have to say with the, you know,
last couple of years people who’ve joined the workforce, I think over a period of time we are getting
overwhelmed by tech and we think everything has to be tech and you know
the machine needs to tell us. No. The machine’s job is to give you the information. It’s for us to apply common sense, look at it intuitively and look at it for insights. As you look into the future, at least the
next five years or ten years, how do you see marketing in India or branding in India evolving? Personalization has been happening for a long time and it’s going to increase. It’s going to be about really getting granular in data, it’s not about the big data pockets but about
the smaller ones. It’s really going to come back to defining
a single person and their behavior and how do you really, you know, make it personal. These kind of personalization really gets
you a lot more traction and conversion and I think personalization is the key to the future success. And I think we think that as well, as we look
at building technologies, we’re looking at a convergence towards addressable advertising, right. So instead of one to many where one brand
is buying a spot in television and then reaching out to, say, 20 million people, can you now
talk to that one person in that apartment and have a personalized message sent out. Exactly. I think technology really helps with that
and some of the stuff that we’re looking to be building here as well. But that’s interesting, it’s good to know
that we’re on the right track. – Perfect.
– Good. Well so, thank you so very much for your insights,
really appreciate your time, thank you for that. Thank you again. Cool, thank you all.

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