HyperCollective, a cross-disciplinary innovations agency founded by KV Sridhar, fondly known as 'Pops', was recently acquired by Nihilent, a global consulting and services company. A conversation with Pops on advertising, the modern customer and more.
From the era of black and white print ads and radio jingles, to using consumer data and artificial intelligence to understand consumers better. KV Sridhar 'Pops' has spent close to 45 years in advertising, and has always emphasised on the importance of learning. The creative guru says this is all the more relevant now, that consumers occupy the central position in most companies' marketing strategy.
We recently reported that Nihilent had acquired HyperCollective. The agency's specialisation is that it solves real world problems for brands, corporations, and governments. Nihilent's specialisation, on the other hand, is using human-centred approach to solve the problems faced by brands.
Pops will continue to look after all the creative initiatives at Nihilent and HyperCollective. Nihilent’s technology stacks, which are used to get a deeper understanding of the customers, will be amplified with HyperCollective’s creative capabilities to bridge the gap between technology, digital, spatial, and creative.
In a conversation with afaqs!, Pops explains the merging of the two disciplines, by likening them to hardware and software... "You either manufacture the hardware, or you custom make the products, and design the software. Clients, these days, are spending more money on technology that has the customer at the centre... The money spent on marketing has shifted from inward to outward. The entire marketing technology has evolved completely – we have a whole new breed of marketing technology, with consumers at the centre," he says. Pops mentions that analysing consumer data and accessing other technologies helps to get to know the consumers better.
"The money spent on marketing has shifted from inward to outward. We have a whole new breed of marketing technology, with consumers at the centre."KV Sridhar, aka Pops
"Even if you look at marketing... it is now being handled by someone who has worked closely with technology in the past. The use of technology to transact with consumers, service their needs and then keep them coming back – that’s the crux of marketing now," he explains.
He says that it all boils down to the experience that a consumer has about every touch point of the brand - and that's what amounts to loyalty. "Previously, it used to be equity=emotion, which used to be established with the help of TV commercials, which moved you to cry/laugh. People used to base their purchase decisions on that emotion. Now, emotional equity is formed by the customer experience. The way you interact with the product, the UI/UX features, and so on… That’s where the shift has happened from being a TV/print-oriented communication to customer-centric communications," Pops explains.
"Now, emotional equity is formed by the customer experience."Pops
“Today, a customer’s journey has changed drastically, too. A person looking for a new television could be sitting in a Croma store viewing a demo for a new model, and be browsing an e-commerce platform, on the side, to check if he’s getting the best price. Navigating the digital landscape is an art you need to learn," he stresses.
"We’ve gone from hard-selling to brands trying to establish authenticity. Brands are making an effort to build an equation with the consumer without any kind of salesmanship or selfishness. This generation of people doesn’t believe in advertising anymore. At one point, everyone used to look for the tag on product – ‘as advertised on television’, but now, marketers themselves don’t believe in the advertising they’re putting out. There is no longer any authenticity in the ‘buy me buy me’ approach that people have taken over the years – people aren’t buying into that anymore," he says.
"Brands are making an effort to build an equation with the consumer without any kind of salesmanship or selfishness."Pops
"We’ve gone from hard-selling to brands trying to establish authenticity. Brands are making an effort to build an equation with the consumer without any kind of salesmanship or selfishness."Pops
Pops attributes this to the fact that people aren’t watching live television anymore. He adds that to get that physical sense of watching TV, they turn to programs on OTT platforms, YouTube. "Devices are neutral now – large or small, screen size doesn’t matter anymore since mobility has changed how we consume content. Along with this, advertising also moved out of the television box or the newspaper’s pages," he says.
"Devices are neutral now – large or small, screen size doesn’t matter anymore since mobility has changed how we consume content."Pops
Pops further explains that agencies are typically very good at understanding branding, emotions, and softer aspects of branding. They use emotion-driven insights to get the best communication. "Most of the skills are still needed in the cyber world – but the way you narrate stories and who you’re talking to, has changed. Consumers have changed, the way we consume content has changed, our devices have changed," he says.
He takes a minute to look back on his advertising career. He mentions that in the 1970s and '80s, the specialisation was in print and radio ads. "When television came in, we had no idea how to create for it, but we learnt along the way and we eventually mastered it. I had the opportunity to learn from the best. In this omnichannel world, how do you navigate the landscape, to tell stories and build brands? If you don’t understand how to stay relevant in this modern world, you’ll be thrown out…," says Pops, as he signs off.