dentsu India Team

thought leadership

This special address was originally published at EXCHNAGE4MEDIA.

Two-thirds of marketing touchpoints are now consumer-driven: Divya Karani

At the e4m-Pitch CMO Summit, Karani, dentsu CEO - South Asia Media, delivered a special address on how marketing has evolved over the past decade

Highlighting how brand marketing has evolved over the past couple of decades, Divya Karani, Chief Executive Officer - South Asia Media dentsu, says that two-thirds of marketing touchpoints that were brand-driven 10 years ago, are now consumer-driven.

Karani, who was delivering a special address at the exchange4media’s Pitch CMO Summit in Bangalore on Friday, shared several valuable tips to marketers and brands.

In her power-packed speech titled ‘Media is the Exchange Where Brands & Consumers Live Their Stories’, Karani spoke about how marketing has evolved over the past decade.

Powerful stories make the brands

Karani started her speech, which was divided into seven crucial lessons for marketers, by stressing that powerful stories make successful brands by creating tangible and intangible values over a period of time.

“The secret to successful brands is in the stories attached to each one of them. Secondly, brands are built over time. A campaign is just one element in a range of connected activities and experiences created by brands; sometimes the campaign adds to the equity, and sometimes it detaches,” Karani said.

She cited the example of Swiss watches that are still around despite the advent and popularity of mobile phones.

Creating brand narrative

Highlighting her third and fourth points, Karani noted, “As brand custodians, we must know that brand narratives are not linear. It is a continuous dialogue between brands and consumers. It is a dialogue between two communities. Hence the brand narrative is not just an output of marketing, it is actually an outcome of all the interactions that emerge from the continuously evolving dialogue between brand and consumers. Brand stakeholders must listen to these voices. Sometimes even the cleverest marketers tend to forget it.”

According to Karani, customers are internal and external constituents and also the future constituents and all other B2 B-related constituents as well.

Brands need behaviour change

Making her fifth point, Karani said, “Every story has two sides. Brands need to constantly listen to and understand both sides of the stories. Earlier, marketers used to give monologues to consumers while they were sitting ducks. We practised for years how consumers' behaviour is changing. Now, brands have to change their behaviors to have a meaningful relationship with consumers. It is like I am speaking on stage irrespective of the fact whether you are listening to me or not.” 

In her sixth point, Karani makes it clear that brand stories stick when substantiated. It requires constant attention to both narratives for the whole story to come together. You need an honest and transparent relationship with consumers.

The year that changed everything

Making her final point, Karani talked about how the last two years 2020-2022 came up as a huge challenge for every marketer around the world.

“These two years changed us as people, the way we work, the way we live and our priorities. Today we live in the age of empowered consumers which has thrown up many challenges for marketers. Brand experience is the most important aspect of marketing now.  Forget what you say, what matters the most is what you do,” she noted.

“A study conducted 10 years ago had found that 2 ⁄ 3rd of the marketing touchpoints were driven by brands. These included advertising, direct marketing, promotions, in-store experiences and sales people. Now ⅔ of the marketing touchpoints are driven by consumers, through search, marketplace, social reviews, blogs, etc. The fundamental shift in marketing has happened from a brand-led world to a consumer-led world. Marketers must take note of it,” she said.

This means that CMOs have to understand the consumers' agenda, their needs, their motivation and have to meet them all. The brand story will stick only when it is authentic.

Key challenges for CMOs

Karani underscores that key challenges for marketers today are many, such as increasing competition, new start-ups, category morphing, category disappearing, new categories appearing and increasing intolerance of consumers due to information overload.

“Consumers are exercising their right to blank you out unless and until you listen to them and take steps accordingly,” she warned.

Emphasizing on seamless marketing across the platforms, Karani said, “Brands are moving from offline to online and online to offline worlds. Practitioners are guilty of putting their craft in silos of virtual and real world, traditional and online media. We have to build seamless experiences. Some brands listen to us, and some will do in future, but the pressure is enormous. This has been the most exciting time for marketers. New avenues are open with one-on-one conversations. We need to convert all new challenges into opportunities.”

As per Karani, “To build powerful brands, one needs a true and authentic story. Keeping consumers at the centre, marketers need to connect them with brands with story, technology, commerce and other things. We need to step forward, be brave, think about the future, get better and get recognised.”

She also showcased some of the powerful and award-winning campaigns made by her agency, such as  ‘Unfiltered History’ for the British Museum, which won several awards at Cannes Lions this year for dentsu - including one for the Best Creative Agency. 

“At dentsu, we create horizontal creativity, which is a craft that permeates our entire business by design and way of working,” Karani said.