With more than a decade's experience in the FMCG sector, Apparao is currently heading marketing at Godrej
The most noticeable thing about Meghna Apparao is her smile. It's wide and unabashed as she chats about her work. Sunshine streams in through her glass panelled office as Apparao talks to us about her career and life in general - she heads the marketing function at Godrej. Some of the products that she's responsible for include Godrej's Aer offering, Good Knight mosquito repellents and HIT Mosquito Spray. She mentions that as the chief marketing officer at Godrej, her duties are somewhat all-encompassing. "All the marketing teams report to me, including brand managers working on end to end product development, communications, promotions and whoever else takes part in the brand journey. The media channel choices that we make, are rooted in both traditional media as well as digital media, but we are really leaning forward to digital," she says.
In the same vein, Apparao mentions that Godrej focuses so heavily on digital marketing that the company has a separate digital team with senior resources who focus on piecing together marketing insights and customer information. "Our market research focuses on how to make our brands more relevant according to the trends in the market. My role includes product ideation, development, etc. I also handle new product launches, relaunches and am responsible for communications around new and existing brands at Godrej, that's what my work here looks like..." she admits.
When quizzed about agency partners, she mentions that creative campaigns are done through large agencies like Lowe or JWT and that digital agencies handle the company's social feeds, but all of that is overseen by Godrej's brand managers. "The framework is created and designed by them, the end product is checked by them," she states.
She adds that at Godrej’s Vikhroli office, the team has set up something called the ‘Light Box’, which is an in-house digital studio. “Everything has to be dynamic and quick on digital. By the time approvals are received and content is produced, a trend might disappear altogether. So we have our own set up which we’ve created with the help of expert photographers and videographers from Godrej. So in case something exciting happens, we’re ready, to create, right here,” she informs us.
Apparao also tells us about the social listening tool that she’s set up. “We call it the black box. Essentially, you’re not sitting around, waiting for a report to land on your desk to understand consumer behaviour better or if a campaign or creative is working or not,” she says. She cites the example of the mosquito repellent brand Hit, mentioning that when Rohit Sharma was performing well during the cricket World Cup, the brand used these social listening tools to come up with topical creatives that punned on the brand name.
“We use dynamic creative optimisation to come up with different creatives for our products, relating to a particular trend, for instance, a dengue outbreak. The creative can be a fairly standard one, but the place name and the disease name will change. We have that template in place, so that we can react to trends better,” she explains. She also cites the example of fabric conditioner Eezee and tells us that once the weather data shows drop in temperatures below a certain threshold, the brand begins targeting customers, showing them customised messages using this template. Before the digital era, Godrej still attempted to personalise messages for viewers with newspaper ads. "In case a newspaper was publishing an article about dengue, we would print an ad for Hit or Good Knight next to it," she says.
Apparao is clear that she doesn’t want to forsake consumer safety for any reason. “So we don't get into anything where we are uncertain about consumer acceptance, or if a platform is not brand safe, and we are not sure about the kind of content they use. Then we don't want to explore it, because our equity cannot be put at risk. So that validation is very critical. Once we have ensured that this platform has all the checks in place and only the right content shows up and isn't any wrong kind of content, then we go ahead and participate. If it works for the brand, we’ll scale it. That’s the cool part of digital - there are enough metrics to tell us if something is working for the brand or not," she says.
She has worked with both Unilever and Amazon in the past. During the conversation, she mentions that during her stint at Amazon, she was responsible for setting up the FMCG business. "I think the fascinating part is that that you're dealing with products which are in our houses every single day. It's exciting. It's also challenging. If a consumer needs to buy, say, a car, I can cater to him once and he will not buy another one for at least three-four years. But for FMCG products, consumers go back to make purchases every month, and that's a marketer's real challenge. In that sense, we are being tested constantly..." she trails off.
"I think a common theme across both companies is that both are very strongly focused on consumers. So my learnings as a marketer come from that first principle - understand your consumers' needs and be open to what he/she is looking for. We have to make sure that wherever the consumer is going, whatever his/her habits are - we need to have a model which ensures that he/she gets the products of the right quality at the right price in the easiest possible manner," she signs off.