Ananya Pathak
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Meet Rajeev Roy, the new director of marketing - brand strategy, Tinder India

A strategic planner and marketer, Roy has ad-blockers turned on most channels. He relies on others to keep him informed. Read on for more.

We, I guess, are past the times when the image of an ideal ‘boss’ was - a typical well-groomed, suited up gentleman. The mere sound of his boots would cause panic. ‘Khadoos is here’, so YouTube screens would be minimised, and coffee cups slided to the corner. Instead, one would start making, and remaking, excel sheets and PPTs. Worst of all, one would have to wait for the dreaded meeting with - 'guess who'?

Then there is the recently appointed director of marketing – brand strategy, Tinder India. He walks into work in a T-shirt and jeans, paired with sneakers, and his laptop bag hanging loosely on his shoulders. Before settling in for the day, he takes a black coffee mug and steps downstairs with his mates to share a laugh or two. Rajeev Roy definitely has that 'cool' vibe. He's the kind of person who'd say, “Do what you’re responsible for, put extra effort on things you’re passionate about outside of those responsibilities. Do it in your own style, in your own time.”

Roy, 35, has about 14 years of experience on both ends of the table – agency and client. He has, in the past, worked as marketing manager – brand and partnership, Uber India. Then, he moved on to head BBH Content Studio, BBH India. Before his current job at Tinder India, Roy was a brand strategy, design and communication consultant for six years. He worked as a freelance pitch consultant for independent agencies on brands like Siemens, Airtel Payment Banks, Nokia, and more.

The marketer defines his profession as ‘a dialogue with your consumer’. Successful brands and agencies see it that way, he feels. “You could be amplifying and celebrating audience behaviour, like with Chrome’s ‘Web is what you make of it’ campaign. You could be sharing a laugh with your audience, like Fevicol has done over the years, or having a perspective on current affairs, like Amul, or building a stadium, like Nike did. It’s all a dialogue. Longevity hinges squarely on audience response, and continuously listening and adapting,” says Roy.

He says that at the heart of it all is - truthfully understanding the audience, their sentiments, needs, culture, and letting this inform the communication. And, communication built on this principle helps to build brand love, and not just awareness.

Traditional, digital, content, activation, influencer - you name it - are all simply ways to describe today's media landscape, says Roy. He'd be happy to challenge anyone who believes that effectiveness over the long term can be achieved through short term media tactics...

Roy believes that the role of a marketer hasn’t changed in the past few years. Technology has simply made the best better. We’re more informed about the audience, the dialogue is two-way, without lag, and it’s simply on us to be better than before when it comes to listening. “If anything, the only thing that has changed is the need for greater resolve to not be swayed by fads, to stay true to basic principles,” he says.

Roy is an OTT (over-the-top) person – ‘a paid user without ads’. And, he has ad-blockers turned on most channels. Not much into television, he has an active Facebook account (and, of course, LinkedIn, too) where he uses his Bengali ‘daak naam’ - Chico - Rajeev Chico Roy. A photographer at heart, he likes to capture humans of a city, the doors, rooftops with wide angle city frames, festivities. "There are stories everywhere," he says.

The Gurgaon-based strategic planner relies on others to keep him informed. He is always listening to what others (read: humans) are responding to, or speaking about - especially his non-industry friends. “How did I hear about ‘Da Da Ding’? On the dance floor at a wedding. ‘Go with the flaw’? When the whispers refused to die down in the agency's corridors. A small homegrown brand like The Burlap People? By seeing photos of friends and the bags (from The Burlap People) on Instagram,” he says.

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On what he took away, or what did he learn, from his earlier jobs, Roy says, “The answer doesn’t lie in an ad. 360-degree is a waste of media money. Listen to your elders - they know more than you can imagine. Your CFO is more important than you realise. Never forget the person who helps you make your coffee. Choose an office where you challenge each other often, and resolve it with a joke, or over a drink, more often than not.”

“As a man (since I identify as one), don’t assume what a woman is thinking, feeling, believing, desiring. Be brave enough to turn down work on brands that you personally believe will negatively impact a section of society in the long run. And that a brand has an insignificant role to play in the life of a consumer, and if it disappears tomorrow, it will not be missed. Make it count,” Roy adds.

What's Roy’s favourite pitch so far? It was at Uber’s first proper multi-agency pitch. He remembers the first slide of the presentation ‘Calling Uber transportation is like calling sex reproduction.’ “The agency (which actually won) need not have continued its presentation after the first slide. So brave. Such a great read of the room and the brand. The kind of moment that keeps you from leaving this industry. Theatre.”

Roy is of the opinion that “Sometimes the idea informs the media, and sometimes the medium informs the manifestation of the idea.”

In an economic slowdown, what worries this marketer? “Job losses at the bottom of the chain. We sell products. I’m aware that the sale of these products preserve jobs and lead to more. Some products are unsavoury, some are amazing. But all of them exist because of the hard work of some of the least privileged people in society,” says Roy.

He feels ‘privileged’, and dreams to convince companies to use their dollars to bring about a change in society. “Not CSR money, but actual marketing dollars. And until that happens, I’ll keep trying to disguise these ideas as regular campaigns and get them through, anyways!”