Aishwarya Ramesh

"Carpenters and teachers are influencers in our field": Vivek Sharma, CMO, Pidilite

A chat with Vivek Sharma, chief marketing officer, Pidilite Industries, about his advertising days, 'influencer' marketing and his personal marketing mantras...

Last year, Pidilite industries released a 90-second content piece to mark the completion of 60 years of its brand Fevicol. Pidilite's Fevicol and other brands have been active on social channels and more recently, Fevicol announced a UGC based contest. The brand called for users to shoot ad films and generate content for Fevicol - a first for the brand whose previous ads created advertising history, in partnership with Ogilvy. The contest has garnered nearly 6000 entries and the judging process is on. “After we ran the 'Fevicol 60 years' ad campaign last year, the brand salience went up among carpenters, contractors and consumers. The recent validation for the brand Fevicol came when we won an award at IAMAI for the 'Best use of YouTube' category for Fevicol's '60 years' campaign," says Vivek Sharma, chief marketing officer, Pidilite Industries.

Here are some edited excerpts from the conversation -

Q: You're not only a marketer, but have also worked with Ogilvy in the past. Can you give us a glimpse into your advertising days?

A: I worked as a marketer before I got into advertising - I spent 10 years at Cadbury, working on sales and marketing before I moved to Ogilvy where I worked for five years. To begin with, I was working as a business head but eventually, I was appointed executive director and handled brands like Asian Paints, ICICI Bank, HUL, Cadbury, and others. Then for two years, I was the business head of Unilever from Ogilvy and I handled the role across multiple geographies. After that, I worked with Onida and Phillips and now I'm here. You can say my journey has been sales and marketing, advertising for five years and back to sales and marketing.

My days at Ogilvy were a fantastic learning experience for me. I would advise all marketers to work in advertising for at least for two to three years. Doing so really grounds you into the whole creative process and it gives you a behind-the-scenes look at how ideas are conceived and how brands are built, how ideas are implemented in a sustainable way. You also get to understand the people behind the creatives, how their minds work and how to work collaboratively with them. That's when you understand how to give them a brief in such a way that you get the best work out of them. In my second marketing stint, I work closely with people who specialise in digital creative work and often, the best minds in these roles are quite young. One key learning from my time at Ogilvy was that I really got to understand the creative process. I've realised that the ability to take risks with ideas is what builds iconic brands in advertising.

Another learning from advertising, which also applies for all service related industries (as opposed to product related industries), is people management. Since there's no product in question, you're left to rely on the people. It really hones your people management and situation management skills. Life in sales and marketing is a bit more structured whereas life in the service industry - such as in advertising - tends to be more unstructured and crises tend to pop up more in advertising.

Vivek Sharma
Vivek Sharma

Q: Can you tell us about your primary advertising TG and how you communicate with it?

A: Pidilite spots unfulfilled need segments among consumers and attempts to fulfill them. At a time when people didn't know which adhesives were used in making furniture, Fevicol advertised to consumers. We showed them communications which were meant for both, consumers and carpenters. Whether it's M seal or Dr. Fixit, Pidilite has always spoken to end users aka carpenters, plumbers and so on. The ads we put out target consumers but they also have a secondary message for contractors and carpenters. We focus extensively on BTL or field marketing, where we meet the carpenters, plumbers, contractors etc in person and give them product demonstrations. We also share product information with them through flyers, leaflets and pamphlets. We also share informative videos with them since most of them own tablets and smartphones. This is how we have twin tracks of communications with two groups of audiences.

Q: Is Pidilite looking to use influencer marketing to reach consumers?

A: In our field, carpenters and contractors are big influencers with consumers in terms of choice of material being used when it comes to making furniture. An adhesive or any product like it has low recall value because these categories don't enter consumer lives every day. They are needed when the consumer is undertakes work on his home. So while a consumer might be aware about a Fevicol or M seal - it is not a top of mind brand for him.

Whether it's an adhesive or any other product, these have a low recall value... the reason for that is that these categories don't enter consumer lives every day.
Vivek Sharma, CMO, Pidilite Industries

It's necessary for us to talk to them and understand their needs to serve their functional and emotional needs better. Functional needs include aspects like price of the product, it's speciality, what material can it be used with, etc. At the same time, they also need to be emotionally attached to the brand - which is why we designed an initiative called the Fevicol Champions Club. We connect with carpenters and contractors socially and share relevant content with them.

The club also offers reward points to members when they purchase Pidilite products and these can be redeemed against other purchases. We also organise medical checkups for the community and undertake various skill training sessions with carpenters and contractors so that they can move up in the value chain. Every carpenter wants to be a contractor, every contractor wants to be an interior designer and every interior designer dreams of being an architect.

This is how 'influencer marketing' works with us. The influencer marketing that consumers are typically used to, involves FMCG brands and digital content creators who have a following in that space. They work with the brand to create brand-led communications and publish the same on their channels.

Q: Arts and crafts products form a big part of your product portfolio too. Can you tell us more about what you're doing for children and mothers?

A: Our research has revealed that children spend a lot of time in front of their screens and this is a cause of concern for parents. We have a platform called Fevicreate that allows children to get into the habit of creating art. We're also working with mothers and teachers to teach them how to guide children on making art. We have a whole range around art and colours. The main motive of these activities is to get children to spend less time in front a screen and more time with physically engaged play, helping them hone their motor skills.

Children are often given art and craft projects at school, so we designed a website wherein parents can access the different steps and DIY content on how to create these products from scratch. We also have a section for teachers, where art teachers can be trained. In India, teaching art doesn't have any formal training requirements.

The main aim is to create a ecosystem for engaging in arts and crafts because it's not just children, but many adults too who are fond of craft as a hobby, we're discovering that.
Vivek Sharma, CMO, Pidilite Industries

Q: Thanks to proliferation of the internet on mobile phones, we're seeing a rise of DIY videos. How are you planning to cater to these audiences?

A: That's true - thanks to the proliferation of the internet, people are increasingly consuming short duration videos such as hacks, DIY videos, etc. But Fevicryl and Fevicreate have always been creating content like this. The main aim is to create an ecosystem for doing arts and crafts because it's not just children, but many adults too who are fond of craft as a hobby, we're discovering that.

Q: Has the nature of consumer engagement with a brand changed over the last decade?

Most of our categories are low penetration categories in India. We have to educate people about how to use our products. One of our products may have 40 uses but the consumer may only know of five of these. This is the kind of consumer education and awareness that is facilitated by the availability of information (via the internet.) Earlier, we had to force the consumer to consume information, now he's out there hunting for it. You can give the consumer relevant and targeted information using analytics but you need to have the right content ready. You can't serve up a TVC as a response to a search query. We also see voice and vernacular coming up in a big way since most of the carpenter community may not necessarily be using English to search for their queries online...

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