An Interview With - Mandar Marathe, Co-Founder BriefKase Digital Communications
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An Interview With – Mandar Marathe, Co-Founder, BriefKase Digital Communications

Mandar Mandar Marathe has around 8 years of experience in Digital Marketing – starting off my career at Digitas(PublicisGroupe`)  in the United States to leading a small team at Reprise Media (IPG Group) in Mumbai to where I am today, at BriefKase, a full-service digital marketing agency for startups & small businesses.

At BriefKase (Brief: what clients give us, Kase: Our goal of doing exemplary work by turning client briefs to case studies), we live & breathe digital marketing.  Right from Social Media marketing to Conversion Optimization and everything in between, we provide digital consulting and execution services to our clients.

How did you get into Digital Marketing? What interested you in learning Digital Marketing?

Mandar: I was introduced to computers at a very early age and took a liking for the Internet. In the late nineties, we were only the second family in Vasai to have an internet connection. My love with web programming and fish aquariums led me to build an HTML website for “Home Aquariums” when I was in standard 8th. Internet programming and web development seems to have left an indelible mark on me early in life.

On completing my Computer Science Engineering (B.E), I joined Infosys and later discovered that programming was not my cup of tea. Instead, I was more inclined to the design aspects of the web. Post my MBA from Texas A&M, I had the opportunity to switch my career to Digital Advertising. At Digitas, I was exposed to web analytics, data-driven web design and other facets of digital advertising like programmatic buying.At this moment, I realized that I was at the cross-roads of Technology and Advertising, a perfect blend of my academic background and personal interests. Somewhere in 2008-09 is when I started taking a keen interest in Digital Marketing.

At this moment, I realized that I was at the cross-roads of Technology and Advertising, a perfect blend of my academic background and personal interests. Somewhere in 2008-09 is when I started taking a keen interest in Digital Marketing.

According to you, what are the advantages of conventional marketing over Digital Marketing? Do you think that Digital Marketing is a threat to the future of conventional marketing?

Mandar: In India, both conventional (TV, Radio, Print) and Digital marketing mediums seem to have a happy marriage and co-exist in harmony. Whether digital devices (mobile, tabs, desktops, digital outdoor etc.) will completely take over conventional channels is difficult to portend. Moreover, most internet players (like PayTM, FlipKart, Amazon) are resorting to conventional forms of advertising to grow their share of the pie.

Both conventional & digital marketing channels have their pros& cons. What works in favor of conventional marketing is that it’s been there since ages. Most marketing professionals at brands & agencies have been accustomed to RAM & TAM ratings (however archaic they are!) and put their money to back tried & tested methods of advertising. Secondly, Internet penetration in India is at 19% (according to TRAI) – which makes it difficult for brands to leverage digital channels to reach rural markets.

That being said, another observation I have is that these mindsets are changing rapidly – more marketing budgets are being allocated to digital and more CMO’s / Chief Communication Officers are favoring digital media to connect with the youth and a relatively young Indian population.Only time will tell whether mobile & desktop advertising will eclipse conventional forms of advertising.

Only time will tell whether mobile & desktop advertising will eclipse conventional forms of advertising.

Share about your 3 favorite Digital Marketing case studies. What did you like most about them?

Mandar: 

  • Burger King’s Subservient Chicken:This was one of the first website that went viral. The Subservient Chicken website was launched by Crispin Porter + Bogusky agency for Burger King as an experimental marketing initiative under the VP of Strategy & Innovation at BK – Russ Klein.  You could go to the website and ask the “Man dressed as a chicken” to do anything. A related video would then play on screen. This was a big hit and has been adapted by other brands – Google Chromebook Destruction Lab, and Barfi’s (movie) YouTube channel being two examples.

Very little effort and monetary investment was made in having the website up & ready (less that 50k USD). Also, it was not promoted on TV / other media channels. It went viral because people found the content funny and shareworthy.

  • #IceBucketChallenge:The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a global phenomenon. It shows us how chain marketing can be applied to digital channels. One of the first examples of cross-border, truly global awareness campaign that went viral.

This renews my faith in Digital Marketing. The ALS NGO behind the campaign was a small non-profit organization that knew how to target influencers and play the “tipping point” game of utilizing early adopters (Boston Red Sox Team, CEOs of tech giants like Bill Gates, Zuckerberg etc.), mavens (celebrities who followed suit) and followers (aam junta who started pouring cold water on themselves – some for no reason!). ALS was able to raise $15 million in a quick span of 2-3 months. Real, measurable ROI from Social Media.

  • Red Bull’s Space Jump: The marketing team at Red Bull has guts. They pulled off a heist by live broadcasting Felix Baumgartner’s space jump on YouTube. The amount of money invested in filming this and preparing for this would be ginormous by any marketing campaign standards. For Red Bull, it would be a huge risk that ultimately paid off (in terms of YouTube video views).

What I like about this case study is having the guts to take a risk and trying out something Out of the world (literally) with their marketing.

Another parallel to this case study is Larry Page’s keynote introducing Google Glass to the world at Google I/O and “Hanging out” (on Google Hang Outs) with the parachute jumper wearing the glass.

According to you, what are the top 3 mistakes committed by organizations today in leveraging Digital Marketing?

Mandar: 

  • Lack of planning: The first mistake I’d highlight is the lack of proper planning on digital marketing initiatives. Most organizations do not have a well-planned marketing calendar backed by clearly enunciated goals. Most marketing is done with vague business objectives & lack of achievable target planning.
  • Driven by conventional marketing: Most digital marketing campaigns are either an extension of conventional marketing campaigns or an amplification of those. Brands set aside miniscule budgets for digital marketing and ask agencies to adapt their conventional marketing ideas to online campaigns. This in my view is ridiculous and should be done the other way around.

Although we need to have integrated marketing efforts, brands should be willing to utilize digital media channels to experiment (and fail faster) and back those campaigns with significant budgets.

  • Enforcing personal opinions as opposed to relying on data: Most CMOs or top-level marketing executives still go by their gut. At times, business objectives or goals do play an important role in defining a marketing roadmap.

In most cases, the ego eclipses the data and takes precedence when it comes to decision making, budgeting and campaign execution.

Between Agency and In-house, which approach would you recommend for maximum value of Digital Marketing? Why?

Mandar: In today’s inbound world, marketing is the product or the service you have to offer. If you come out with a below par offering, you are bound to be howled at on Social Media or online forums. Thus, I strongly feel that a brand must envision its digital marketing efforts while building its products or services. I strongly recommend having at least one or two pro-digital individuals in every organization to be a part of the product / service marketing team.

On the flip side, digital marketing is a resource & skill intensive investment. You need people with different skill sets to do different jobs- Search Engine Optimizers who have sound knowledge of search engine algorithms, web designers & developers who are in-tune with the latest standards like HTML 5 or AJAX, strategists who are up to date with global & local marketing know-how, or CMOs who have a broad understanding of all facets of digital marketing. For a brand, recruiting & retaining employees with such varied skill sets is a tough job. Thanks to agencies, a melting pot of people with diverse backgrounds and skills, it becomes easier for brands to find what they are looking for.I’d recommend a mixed approach to digital marketing – hire top-level marketing executives in-house and get them trained / coached by professionals and also partner with reputed agencies to collaborate on skill-sensitive areas such as Web Design, SEO or Pay Per Click Marketing

I’d recommend a mixed approach to digital marketing – hire top-level marketing executives in-house and get them trained / coached by professionals and also partner with reputed agencies to collaborate on skill-sensitive areas such as Web Design, SEO or Pay Per Click Marketing

Which are your 3 favorite Digital Marketing Tools?

Mandar: 

  • Google Analytics – Personally, I like to make decisions based on facts & numbers than going by my gut. Having a data-driven mindset, I’d pick Google Analytics as my go to tool for measuring results (ROI, conversion rates, drop-offs etc.) and use data wisely to construct the future.
  • Radian 6 / LocoBuzz / Sysomos / Simplify 360– There are myriads of Social Media monitoring tools out there. If I had to pick one, I’ll go for Radian 6 (a small bias is that I have family in New Brunswick, Canada – headquarters of Radian 6, now Salesforce Radian 6).

Listening tools are critical for larger brands, especially in today’s scenario where companies are playing on the consumer’s turf (Social media channels). Locobuzz / Simplify 360 are both homegrown products, so get them if you are a patriot marketer 😉

  • HubSpot:I have used HubSpot’s CRM for one of our client and it does the job well. Integrated with WordPress website and Salesforce, HubSpot is useful for creating landing pages or monitoring site visitors to launch segmented email campaigns to targeted marketing personas. Although slightly expensive for the Indian market, I’d recommend it for clients with a larger purse. An Indian alternative would be Bangalore-based Act-On or Chennai-based Zoho CRM.
Why do you think it’s important for entrepreneurs, marketing professionals and students to learn Digital Marketing today?

Mandar: 

  • For Entrepreneurs: This “jugaadu” breed needs to know digital marketing now more than ever. With funding cycles delayed till startups achieve scale / traction, it is imperative that entrepreneurs resort to economically viable marketing techniques like SEO, Social Media or Blogging.
  • For Professionals: As stated earlier, having a digital marketing mindset will only help you rise up the corporate ladder. Learning new age digital marketing techniques will help you get a promotion or improve your job prospects. Simply watch your favorite television program – which brands do you see advertising more often – the FlipKart’s or the Tata’s? (One more reason why Ratan Tata is making all his investments in Online / eCommerce companies).
  • For Students: Most colleges or B-schools in India and abroad do not have Digital Marketing as a part of their curriculum. It’s either one small chapter hidden somewhere in their syllabus which primarily focuses on Kotler. The need to know digital marketing is now. Students can start early in their careers by self-learning or taking online courses in digital marketing (Coursera, Udemy, Digital Vidya, Google Adwords / Analytics certifications etc.). This will add that extra class to their resume.
What are the top 3-5 skills you look for when hiring a candidate for Digital Marketing profile?

Mandar: 

  1. Firstly, the candidate needs to be a millennial. I want to hire someone who is active on Social Media – has an Instagram profile and takes selfies – or someone who knows how Facebook & Twitter works for brands. The candidate should be totally connected and aware.
  2. Secondly, I’d prefer hiring a candidate who is an autodidact. Someone who reads two-three Industry relevant blogs daily and stays up to date with the recent happenings in his field of work. Someone who knows how to teach himself and constantly wants to upgrade his / her skills.
  3. Finally, I’d prefer hardworking individuals who pursue others interests beyond their professional life. One who plays the guitar or plays a sport or travels a lot.  The individual can then bring a different perspective to the table.
What is your advice for newbies, who are looking at building a career in Digital Marketing industry?

Mandar: Digital Marketing has a tremendous scope and in itself is a vast area of interest. I’d recommend newbies to first zero down on their interests.

Do you like to write and have good command over language? You can join the content marketing team or become a blogger. Do you like design – If so, what aspects of design do you like? – User Experience & Interface design, 3D design, Web Design or Graphic design? Self-learn the tools – Watch YouTube videos of “How to Photoshop…” or take a relevant course at Udemy / Linda.com / Coursera.

Start building your skills & expertise in your area of interest. To get an overall perspective of Digital Marketing, I’d recommend taking the Free Inbound Certification from HubSpot. This should help you get a high level perspective of digital marketing.

Finally, practical knowledge always triumphs theory. Get your feet wet by working as a freelancer or joining a startup. If you are a student, pursue internship opportunities at agencies or brands.

How do you stay updated on the latest trends in Digital Marketing? Which are the Digital Marketing resources (i.e. blogs/websites/apps) you visit regularly?

Mandar: I have written a blog post for it – it’s titled “Feeding your content monster”. I have the Feedly app installed on my Nexus 5 Android and also fire it up daily on my desktop. My feedly reader helps be organize all different blogs I need to track.

Here is a snapshot of some of the blog’s I read often:mandar blog screenshot

To single out a few, I’d have the readers subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog, to HubSpot & TechCrunch.

Share the names of 3 people you respect when it comes to Digital Marketing.

Mandar: These would have to be pioneers of digital marketing in different areas:

  • Seth Godin: For his lucid, insightful and terse style of writing which is bound to impact you and make you think.
  • Dharmesh Shah & Brian Halligan, HubSpot – founders of HubSpot who have coined the very apt marketing term “Inbound”.
  • Avinash Kaushik, Google – for introducing me to the world of Web Analytics via his blog kaushik.net and his books on Analytics.
How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2016?

Mandar: Digital media is blurring the lines of marketing and assimilating into conventional channels of marketing & within durable goods (like your wrist watch). Here are the top 3 trends that I’d predict:

Mobile Apps: In April 2015, Google with its Panda update changed its algorithm to reward mobile friendly websites with a ranking boost. Google began using information indexed from mobile apps as a factor in search rankings. Although app indexing has taken off, businesses are playing catch-up, primarily because apps are more responsive to individual users and can be more convenient. While mobile responsive websites aren’t going anywhere just yet, 2016 will be a telling year in the adoption of apps by business owners.

Virtual reality: A bountiful of virtual reality devices are scheduled to launch in the next couple years. Some are built for video games, while others are designed for more general use such as Oculus Rift, the highly anticipated virtual reality head-mounted display headset slated to launch within the first quarter of 2016. The popularity of Oculus Rift and other such VR devices will bring in an entirely new form of online advertising that connects social media platforms, video channels and direct messaging applications.

Wearable’s: Wearable’s will continue to gain God speed in 2016. The Apple Watch, a first generation smartwatch, was released in 2015 and more smartwatches are scheduled to launch this year. Globally, consumer uptake of wearable’s is expected to grow 35 percent per year between 2015 and 2019, which will have a large impact on marketing strategies.

If you are interested in more such predictions, I have written a blog titled “Top 5 Digital Marketing Trends for 2016”.

Would you like to share few words about the work we are doing at Digital Vidya?

Mandar: 

I came across Digital Vidya when I was searching for “Digital Marketing training in India”. Out of curiosity, I went to the website and discovered tons of useful resources for digital marketing professionals. I am happy to see that Digital Vidya is on a mission to impart mission-critical digital marketing knowledge and fill in a huge chasm – when it comes to marketing talent development & training.

Are you inspired by the opportunity of Digital Marketing? Start your journey by attending our upcoming orientation session on Digital Marketing for Career & Business Growth. It’s online and Free :).

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  • There is 1 comment


    • 7 months ago

      Jasleen Kaur   /   Reply

      Thanks Mandar for your contribution to our community through this interview. Really happy to know your feedback about the work we are doing in spreading digital (marketing) vidya :).

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