Consultant, teacher and columnist (The Hindu)
Brand marketers will do well to "forget about digital marketing" because "it's an overused and dangerous word..."
Or so said former marketer Paddy Rangappa, when we spoke to him about his book 'Spark - The Insight To Growing Brands'.
Rangappa started his career as assistant media manager at Procter & Gamble in 1988. His association with P&G lasted for nine years during which time he rose to the position of marketing director, media, for P&G Australia, ASEAN and India.
In 2001, he joined McDonald's, where he worked as vice president, brand development for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. Two years back, he quit corporate life. Rangappa is now a consultant, teacher and columnist (The Hindu).
This is his second book; his first book 'Been There Bungled That' (Random House, 2012), is a humour- fiction novel.
Spark has 193 pages that are split across 19 chapters; the book is peppered with several case studies including some on brands like Snickers, Dove and Uber, among others. The book is published by Simon & Schuster. In broad strokes, it's an attempt to demystify marketing.
Who is the target reader? Advertising professionals? Brand managers? Aspiring MBA-Marketing folks?
All. It's about the critical role advertising plays in building brands, growing businesses and developing advertising, starting with the consumer insight. The primary target, therefore, is the marketing professional who leads this process. The book also gives agency people perspective on the client, which can help them better sell their ideas.
What prompted you to write this book? An ad you saw? A conversation you had? A bad brand experience? Something a client/student said?
A few years ago, when McDonald's launched its delivery service for the first time, I tried to convince the people responsible that the ad was pedestrian. "How can you say that?" was the aggrieved reaction. "Delivery sales are growing fast because of it." But McDonald's Delivery was a new service that was filling an unmet need. It was bound to take off, irrespective of what advertising was employed, but good advertising would have created a stronger brand and faster growth.
However, I found this idea difficult to explain to people heady with success. That's when I first got the idea for this book. It got cemented a year or so later when McDonald's started conducting a quantitative return on marketing spend analysis and we saw that good brand advertising, which made an emotional connection, actually generated a higher return on marketing investment.
There are many books on brand building in the market. What makes yours different? And what can agency executives expect to learn from your book?
True, there are many books on branding but only a few on advertising, written by ad agency stalwarts. They're great in offering anecdotal evidence of advertising creation from an agency point of view. There is no book I've found that talks about how to elicit great advertising from the agency (or why this is important).
This book will reconfirm their (agency executives) belief in advertising's ability to grow brands, which in turn will help them develop powerful ideas more confidently and sell them more vigorously.
Ad agency folks love advertising and are very good at creating it. But they are constantly exposed to clients who don't share that belief, clients who think emotional advertising is, at best, a fluffy concept that can lift the brand's image but cannot drive sales. As a result agencies often end up either compromising brilliant ideas by injecting them with crude sales pitches or selling them apologetically.
What according to you is the biggest problem facing agency executives today?
The fear of redundancy. Traditionally, full-house agencies offered a one-stop marketing solution for their clients, starting from developing brand strategy and positioning, to coming up with the creative idea, to making the ad, to creating its media plan and finally, to ensuring its execution.
By hiving off their media wings into separate agencies, they lost some of that power. But the explosion of digital has mesmerised clients into 'thinking and acting digital-first' and viewing ad agencies as specialty boutique creative shops, and their output - brilliant creative ideas - as irrelevant or redundant.
Today, brilliant creative ideas are needed more than ever and 'thinking and acting digital-first' is wrong. Brands need to develop their strategy and positioning to win consumers (better than competition) and execute that strategy with the available options (which will necessarily include digital options).
Name some brands that, to your mind, have got it right, as far as advertising in the digital age goes...
While writing this book, to what extent did you find yourself drifting back to and drawing on your P&G and McDonald's days?
A large extent. After all, the brands I know the best are the ones I've worked on. The book has some references to Vicks, a brand I worked on for several years. I remember how proud everyone in P&G was about the 'Happy Birthday' television commercial on Vicks VapoRub; so proud in fact, that the ad ran for more than a decade.
The McDonald's examples in the book are all ones I've been involved in, if not actively, at least peripherally.
What, according to you, do brand marketers need to change about the way they approach brand building?
They need to forget about 'digital marketing' - it's an overused and dangerous word - and stop thinking 'digital-first'. Instead, they should think 'brand-and-consumer-first', develop their strategy based on this and, when it comes to bringing this to life, adopt an integrated marketing communication approach. This means: consider all channels, both traditional and digital, with no bias to either, and use the combination that provides the most impact for the least spend. It's simple, really.