Venkata Susmita Biswas

afaqs! CMO Dialogues — Swati Rathi, Marketing Head, Godrej Appliances

In our weekly series, we interview marketing heads and CMOs to find out what influences their strategies and how they navigate the ever-changing marketing landscape.

Swati Rathi has about two decades of experience in marketing and has worked on several iconic products and brands from the house of Godrej Appliances. She has spent 18 of her 20 years of marketing at Godrej where she launched the sub-brand Godrej Eon in 2006. For the last nine years, she has been heading marketing at the consumer durables company where she is responsible for marketing strategy for domestic & medical refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines, air coolers, dishwashers, microwave ovens and thermo-electric solutions. 

Edited excerpts from the interview: 

Brand vs performance marketing

One can have a tactical element that is strong in performance marketing, but that doesn't mean it cannot play a role in furthering thematic communication. Consumer durables is a high-investment category where consumers do a lot of research before making a purchase. So, awareness has to be accompanied by consideration building. Because it is a high-investment piece, only tactical lead performance is not enough.

There will be times when we are more growth marketing-driven and times when we will perhaps be a little more thematic-driven. They are complementary and not divergent. We skew towards performance for an event like Republic Day on e-commerce platforms. That is a time when people have done some research already on what they want to buy, so during the event, there will be a focus on the offers. However, in this case, performance is preceded by thematic communication.

Today, communication is a combination of thematic and tactical elements. In fact, a while ago, the festive season used to be a lot about offers, but over the years, you get offers almost throughout the year. So even during festivals, the product narrative is actually more important than it used to be. People are mindful that it is a long-term purchase and want to understand everything; it’s not just about the tactical piece.

Learnings from failure

Around 2012 or 2010, we launched music player refrigerators. It was a very interesting concept. The refrigerator had the option of playing music. It was based on the insight that women spend a lot of time alone in the kitchen while the rest of the family is in front of the TV, leaving the woman feeling bored in the kitchen. So we added music to make the kitchen a more entertaining space.

The campaign performed well initially. We had partnered with a radio station and a successful musical movie. However, the product didn't perform as expected in the long run. Upon investigation, we discovered that offline channel partners were hesitant about the product due to unfamiliarity with the music feature. They were unsure how to handle issues related to it, leading them to avoid promoting it.

In hindsight, we should have considered the perspective of offline channel partners more deeply and understood their role in promoting the product. This is where we fell short. Interestingly, when we introduced the product in larger cities and focused on e-commerce, it performed much better. This was because there was a clearer focus on the product and its benefits. It was a valuable learning experience.

C-TV, a promising medium 

Connected TV is extremely promising, and we are very excited about it because it blends the best of both worlds. C-TV offers the advantage of a large screen compared to a mobile screen. In fact, we have found that the memorability and impact of campaigns on a large screen are much higher than on mobile. That's why connected TV is so exciting—it combines flat screen viewing with precise targeting.

The world is also shifting towards OTT, especially in the consumer durables category due to the high ticket value. Many of our categories are still purchased by a premium audience. Therefore, leveraging C-TV for sharper targeting seems very enticing.

However, if you're using C-TV for brand building, it needs to have a broader reach. Currently, its reach is limited, so linear TV still plays a role in this aspect.

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