Nitin is a results-oriented Marketing professional and Entrepreneur whose career spans a breadth of consulting and corporate assignments for US-based Fortune 500 firms.
He has overlooked the marketing operations of corporations such as AT&T, MARKETBRIDGE.Upon his return to India, Nitin co-founded a BPO funded by legendary investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, and grew it into a 250-people operation.
As homage to his Marketing roots he founded Asymmetrique in 2008
His vision for Asymmetrique, is to become the #1 partner for Digital-Era marketers seeking to re-imagine the world with their brand
To build a truly GLOBAL Brand Democracy (TM) for the new-age of marketing is the mantra that Nitin believes in and plans to implement it
Nitin is currently building Experience Solutions capabilities to complete Asymmetrique’s service set for clients.
Robert H Smith School of Business, University of Maryland is Nitin’s Alma Mater.
In an exclusive chat with tvnews4u.com, Nitin Gupta shares his insight on nuances of Digital marketing and way forward for Asymmetrique.
1) Asymmetrique journey
I worked in the US for more than a decade before coming to India. Worked in various Marketing roles, started with Ernst & Young as a Consultant but quickly moved to strategic Marketing roles and the last 5 years was at AT & T were I had a large portfolio of business for which I was doing marketing for. I have seen different aspects of marketing not only the promotional ‘P’of marketing but from product placement etc to the whole gamut of marketing.
For me marketing is beyond promotions and I bought services from other agencies, when I bought services I saw the distinct lack of understanding from the provider’s side of the entire marketing equation.
Second was Digital what I had seen in India versus the US were I worked was very very different perhaps the expanse of digital proliferation and what had happened abroad, but in general the way the mindset and how it was perceived in India was very different from the way it is perceived internationally. In India it is still the carry-over of creative advertising over there it was a way of life and marketing was adapting it almost like electricity for eg I was reading an article where it mentioned that when electricity first came people were building their establishments in and around electric stations but later discovered that electricity can travel and they can be were their consumers are etc as it is Omni present. Digital when it started was considered as another adaptation media, another creative space but now it is being seen as part of our lives and how do we utilise to reach out to your consumers and become part of their lives as a brand. That intrigued me, when I came back I started a BPO were once again I was buying services from agencies, I wondered as to what kind of services I was getting, I wanted to do a Digital First kind of marketing for the company I started as we were an outsourcing services model and we had to reach out to International clients which we could not do advertising in ATN and all, so we thought digital was cost efficient and a targeted way of doing it, but I couldn’t get the right services and I was being driven towards just creative work and that didn’t work with me. I sold of the BPO and thought as to why don’t I fill the gap that I distinctively saw and hence came into Asymmetrique being.
2) How according to you, can creativity be re-defined as per the need of the hour?
Creative used to be Art & Copy, but creativity now is a lot of different things, Strategy is creative now in digital as it tracks consumer journey versus just segmentation and targeting and when we talk about segmentation it has now become behavioural segmentation as you can now track behaviours on media earlier to use to be just about demographics etc etc. So creativity in strategy is a starting point of all marketing activity and then when you come down to the medium , there is creative technology, analytics, applications across various formats. So creativity has become multi-dimensional and no longer art and copy. It has now progressed and Creativity has become progressive and it has become a learning model which progresses.
3) How do you fulfil the agenda of marketing transformation for your client ?
It’s a very interesting and a challenging space because who has the mandate for a marketing transformation in the client’s organisation is the biggest question. Marketers unfortunately don’t have it as they are not technology savvy and digital is being seen as a technology first and foremost by organisations and falls into the kitty of the IT person who is not marketing savvy, so marketing transformation is becoming by product of the technology transformation that is happening from a consumer experience delivery stand point which falls under the gambit of the IT organisation that’s why you see the Accenture’s, Deloites of the world building massive practices around Digital transformation and Marketing transformation because they have the mind space of the CTO, they are going thru that door and the age of ARP is over the age of Marketing automation is here and you have to deliver experiential services to your consumer wrapped around your product and for that you have to rip out your old system and install Adobe etc etc. So to answer the question specifically depending on who the buyer is in the client organisation we approach it differently. For example we are in talks with a Financial Services company where the buyer happens to be COO who the IT function is reporting into him and the COO has a very data focused approach towards things. The proposal on the table is actually do data base recovery for them, where they have 4 million records of clients that they catered to clients various services and products to them in the past. They are telling us in a strategic mandate you tell us from a marketing stand point what else we can sell them. Segment the data base, understand the behaviour, map them digitally and tell us if we need to set a Fintech business, what will be the opportunities with these clients. This is a data discovery process, it starts from that for that we have to go across all their different system where they are capturing data, map them, create single consumer views then profile them to understand what is that they would buy from us. It is business impacting first and fore most as you may have to start selling new products or repackage the existing ones differently, how you would market them digitally to the consumers and then the entire communication and creative strategy that would follow. That is marketing transformation.
But if you go to a typical marketer who wants marketing transformation it’s typically an experience transformation project where we are working with one of our clients, we are actually studying or creating an analytical framework for the experience they are delivering to their students, while the students are in the programme what is the experience that is being delivered to them and will that turn into word of mouth and because it’s an online distance learning programme were everything happens digitally, happens thru a technology interface so everything is trackable, so can we track consumer experience for us to say we have delivered a good enough experience for them to go out of the programme, create word of mouth and lower our cost of acquisition for the next stint.
This is a different take, we all do search engine marketing, and digital marketing, advertising we do anyways, this transformation mandate is coming in, very different ways what will these lead to if we say that the students experience is not adequately trackable in your system today we need to do a technology product first and we need to change the delivery platform itself for the experience and then build the analytical framework and the backend to track experience and then filter it into the marketing programmes that we run for the client. Those learnings will flow into the marketing programmes and that is marketing transformation in a way.
Marketers need to adapt to huge changes, its just not marketing but business mandate and that’s why its gone out of the hands of the marketer’s as they only think about marketing they now have to think beyond ABC and it gone beyond that to Z…
4) As an integrated brand solutions company what kind of services Asymmetrique offers its clients.?
We play the role of a consultant, educate them on how to think about the future of their business, a lot of Start-ups come to us there we find a much cleaner slate to work with and counselling them on business modelling for the digital era, from that to brand consulting to how to dimensialise the brand for digital as now the consumer is experiencing the brand and just not receiving thru messaging, so how you achieve that creating platforms. There is a lot of strategy work we do on the innovation side.
Second comes our growth vertical where it is classic demand generation which is media based and in that we do the classic digital advertising or integrated advertising, digital marketing the whole 9 yard.
- Plain vanilla social media marketing which is engagement
- Clients looking at Online PR which is content driven business, where there is some element of online reputation building and it’s a very real time kind of service and setup.
- The third category is high end reputation management, which is different from online reputation building which is still a marketing communication initiative but when it comes to an online reputation management that is a corporate communication objective which should typically fall in the PR domain. Over there we are doing Senior executive reputation building online, management online, even corporate reputation management, we are going in the direction of setting up those listening centres on a real time basis.
So that’s on the advocacy part. The idea is to use the Power of Social Media platforms for propagating your voice instead of just spending money on it
The fourth vertical is experience which actually is the centre point of our business going forward. This has got everything to do with consumer experience, what are you delivering across platforms in an integrated manner, could be online/offline/omni channel all of that. We find that a lot of e- commerce business is starting point for those kind of services, because they have to deliver experience on their main digital asset they have and now there is nothing that’s purely online everything is click and mortar so you have to cut across, build omni channels for consumer experience designed into their core business and help them throughout their journey
5) Don’t you think the robust volume of data on consumer behaviour actually confuses the marketers?
It is very confusing but it’s never been richer in terms of database. The problem is all research is post mortem in nature and the classic saying that 50% of all advertising is wasted as nobody knows which 50%. Research has never been able to change that equation. So now however we are living in an age of prediction and artificial intelligence. To the extent the data is clean and use worthy it’s a gold mine but if you have data that is dirty and cannot be mapped properly then you are in data hell.
So this volume of data is both a boon and curse equally depending on the quality of data you have in your hand. If you have good data then it can change the dimensions of your business. We have seen that when we run programmes for our clients in lot of case we are generating the first piece of data that they have about the consumers, if you set it up right the data falls in place so beautifully and it becomes so predicted in nature that we are able to create serious efficiencies. For example for a client of ours we have, an educational client we have created a Prediction engine from where we are able to say if we are generating 3000 leads a month from a search engine marketing programme they were able to close only 150 out of those i.e. 5% conversion rate, we were able to change it to 8% just through prediction of what kind of leads were more likely to convert out of the 3000 leads generated. So their call centres are not wasting time calling all the 3000 leads but focus more on the 8% that would convert or 20% that would convert to reach the figure 0f 8% conversions. The remaining are then put into other digital low cost programmes for communication so that we keep the leads warm and connected with but don’t expect that they would convert during that period so the lines between sales and marketing are also blurring.
6) What is your take on the measurability of ROI on digital space?
The numbers are really fuzzy and it’ss very hard to put your money on it. We don’t look at Reach Matrix. If you are treating Digital as a reach medium you are walking the down path. This is the first medium which has come along that takes the consumer from awareness to transaction, why would you look at the first level matrix and determining whether you are successful or not. We are all about ROI from a conversion stand point and not about ROI in the intermediate matrix stand point. It does not make sense and Digital is not Broadcast Media and anyone who is looking at Digital from that perspective is an advertising dinosaur. We talk about ROI in real terms and real time ROI in digital means have you truly engaged the consumer. If you have been able to do it you will able to get some kind of transaction back from them otherwise everything is vanity, engagement doesn’t mean Like or Share or so on and so forth those are all intermediatory matrix that should lead to some transaction, if you are not getting that back to your client then you are just playing the fool. Its just to stay in the business and milk the cow.
Depending on industry, real estate are huge spenders on the digital platform, I think 40% of their budgets are spent on digital all in the wrong way but yes they are spending hugely. Financial services have always was as they are the first movers, education very skewed toward digital. But marketers are not realising that once again the problem of the industry that we have created, when you say what % is being spent i.e. media monies digital is not just media, if you really want to be effective in digital you have to have a very heavy technology spend bucket, very strong experience spend bucket and then somewhere in the mix there will be media.
So when we talk about marketing transformation, digital transformation you are talking about lots of different buckets which are not even fracturing into the % that people are looking at. The genuinely serious organisations who are doing that kind of transformation work are spending much more on technology than on digital media.
What is the power of Digital media, it’s not broadcast, there is lot of work happening over there which is touching the people it is supposed to which is not even known to the others because it is that micro targeted, For eg – If NIKE is doing a Nike + programme, it is not touching me because I am not a runner, I am not looking for Nike shoes, it doesn’t touch me I hear about it in case studies, so many millions of people that got engaged because they were all of a certain behaviour who were relevant to that campaign. That is the power of digital for that there is incredible amount of data and the tech that is happening in the backend which is enabled by technology and delivered by media. Media is only the last mile everything that goes into setting up the digital infrastructure hence the spends are much more on the infra structure side which is where the opportunity lies and that is why we are getting dis enfranchised out of the game and the likes of Accenture and the Deolites of the world, all the spends are happening with them to set up their technology and their backend. They are acquiring creative agencies left right and centre. Today Accenture Digital is much bigger company than any other digital company of the world. They have done it quietly by acquiring small enterprises.
8) Any interesting case Studies? How do you justify your Tag line ‘Connect, Engage, Convert’?
We work with a management institute we have been working with them for 7 years. When they approached us their brief was we have spent about a Crore and half in advertising and it is starting to give us diminishing returns and at that time they had about 3500 students programme only.
Seven years later they are almost 40,000 students programme and the total spend including the cost of our services is still in the same range of Crore and a half. Zero advertising all lead generation happens in digital, all conversions happen off line. What did we do this is a classic case of genetic ROI for a business.
We went about setting up a 75,000 rupee budget on Search Engine Marketing for plain lead generation. Thru that we started learning about who is the target audience and what do they want, then we changed the entire communication of the school, we understood what the true value proposition is for which students were enrolling in it, what do they say when they come out and play that back to any incoming student.
We changed it from being called a Distance Learning Programme from a brand stand point and how we worked on it. We called it as Hybrid Learning Programme. This was an off line and on line programme, they have a lot of off line elements which are highly valued by the students. They have experiential learning, they have business workshops, stimulations etc. which make the programmes not just virtual distance learning, the term distance learning gives a very negative connotation and let to believe that you will never experience all this, instead of being seen as this correspondence Couse happening online you want to be seen as a high value programme which is giving you real world experiences in management.
To connect we changed branding to engage we created platforms on Social Media. This management institute probably has the largest proliferation of content online versus any other distance learning programme and it has the highest share of voices in social media versus any other distance learning programme in the country. We started with a lot of content which we repackaged from their existing content, we started giving them the ability to enrol in workshops as guests so they would get an experience on what they would get when they enter the programmes. Through this we created an immense amount of familiarity and the decision point was not when they came for counselling but created a lot earlier before the actual transaction.
On the Conversion level we got very sophisticated in Digital Marketing.
In 7 years we learnt a lot as we chiselled and sculpted the programme to reach the target audience it is meant for. The conversion rates are being amplified by the creative index we have created and overlaid on top of the marketing engine and the learnings we filter back into the communication design. It’s a well-oiled marketing engine and now we are looking at the last piece which is the Students experience once they are in the programme. That is the experience analytics part we are doing which will then lead to an over hauling of their entire delivery system to make it the most contemporary hybrid learning programme in the whole country. So if you see it starts from marketing but it goes on to become a business transformation project and we have done this over a period of 7 yrs with lot of learning in converting it. We have controlled the cost and we made the programme 10 times its size.
9) How does Nitin Gupta relax?
For me reading is the most relaxing activity. When you lead an entrepreneurs high strung life reading is the most therapeutic form of daily decompression for me, make it a point to read at least 3 hrs a day. And then of course there’s the occasional long drive, movies, beach vacations etc.