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‘Online reviews hold immense importance for brands today’

A former MarCom professional talks about how Indian consumers highly rely on word of mouth before making a purchase decision

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Mom to a little girl, Debolina Dasgupta from Mumbai says motherhood is a full-time job. Prior to her daughter’s birth, she had a long career as a marketing professional across Delhi and Mumbai. In an interview, the alumna of Apeejay School, Noida, shares key insights about marketing strategies in the current times. Edited excerpts:  

How was school? What memories do you have of Apeejay School, Noida?

Numerous memories! I joined Apeejay Noida in class 1. I still remember all my teachers, who I am still in touch with. I was a part of several co-curricular activities and annual functions—I was part of the singing and dancing group. I was part of the Prefectorial board and was also active in swimming. My experience at Apeejay was very good and enriching. School was fun—we learned a lot while making many mistakes.

What did you pursue after school?

After school, I went on to pursue BBA and MBA in marketing and sales.

Take us through your professional journey.

After MBA, I got campus recruitment with a real estate developer in Gurgaon called BPTP. I joined their marketing communications team as a management trainee. I spent about four years in that company where I mainly handled their advertisements and all the communications with the media, customers, and so on. Then I got married and shifted to Mumbai, where I joined Dr Batra’s in a similar profile. There, I handled pan-India advertisements and communications, including their call centre. I worked there for almost two years. However, the commute was too long for me, so I joined a real estate channel partner closer to my residence where I headed the marketing team—pre-sales as well as marketing communications. I worked for about 1.5-2 years till 2017, after which I conceived and had my baby. I started my career in 2011.

Marketing strategies has evolved a lot over the years. As someone who had worked in the field for many years, what were your takeaways in terms of how Indians consume advertising?

In India, it is about evoking people’s emotions, even when you are marketing a foreign product. For example, when it comes to buying a house, just marketing its features would not help because there are emotional aspects involved. Even something like a handover of the key to the first house or the first car is a tremendously emotional moment for people. So, advertising needs to capture that. However, only giving an emotional context won’t help either because Indian buyers are now very smart. You have to back them up with data and facts.

Festivals are also very important for Indian consumers. There are periods when they do not make deals or purchases. A lot of buying is also dependent on vacations, which eventually affects advertising strategies.

How important is it for brands to build loyalty among consumers in the age of social media and online reviews?

Very important. Consumers rely highly on word of mouth, even if they are to spend a small amount. Even if they see an advertisement, they will still ask for feedback from others. Nowadays, companies put in a lot of effort to manage their online reputation and handle negative reviews. Today, online reviews hold a lot of importance—if a brand has something positive to say, it will ideally want to convey it through the consumers because that is a more effective way of promoting loyalty.

Is there a shift in the Indian consumer base in terms of purchasing power?

Initially, people in the age group of 45 and above had a certain amount of purchasing power. Now, that has shifted to the age group of 25-45. This age group, employed in multinational companies, is now earning very well. Simultaneously, product prices have also seen a hike. These people are aspirational and want the best house, the best car, and so on. Their career choices have changed. People are very brand conscious now, including children!

Can you share some tips for marketing professionals or future aspirants?

You have to be well-versed with what is happening in the world of marketing. Like every other field, it has evolved over the years. When I started my career, advertising was very much print media-heavy. But now, it has majorly shifted to digital platforms. Being on your toes regarding what technology advertising is using now is the key. You have to keep yourself up to date. Apart from that, try and keep a note of anything creative or different you come across. Third, you need to have a good grasp of the language you want to communicate in with your consumers. This does not mean you end up using jargon, instead, make sure you send out a clear message in a language your consumers can easily comprehend. The more and more audience you can target, the more effective your ad becomes.

You are a full-time mother now. What has the journey been like?

It has been a roller coaster ride (laughs)! Initially, there are so many ups and downs—you don’t know how to feed the baby or clean the baby! No matter how much advice people give you, the best way to learn is to get your hands dirty. And that is how you create a bond with your child. You have to become your child’s best friend so that he or she can confide in you at all times. The reason I do not miss working now is that my entire time revolves around my daughter—her activities, hobbies, her school, etc. Right now, her all-round development is my focus.

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. She has worked as a journalist at different media organisations. She is also passionate about music and has participated in reality shows.

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