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An Interview With – Raja Ramachandran, Regional Digital Marketing Manager – Asia, Middle East & Africa, TNT Express

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Raja-Photo Raja Ramachandran is a professional digital marketer for over a good 11 years now in India and abroad. Throughout his experience, he has handled a number of strategic and tactical marketing projects with significant ROMI. In his present role, he is transforming the way how a company does business with its customers on digital media. He looks after 21 markets that cover the Region Asia, Middle East and Africa. His experience encompasses giving marketing solution to B2B and B2C business models. Also, he has experience across various industries namely: Technology, Finance, FMCG, Automobile, Travel & Hospitality. He had the privilege of working for some of the well-known global brands namely: HP, Intel, Citibank, Bank of Singapore, Philips, OCBC, Unilever, Expedia, Johnson & Johnson, Jetstar & Virgin Atlantic.

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

Raja: Accident, I was working as a software test engineer in a software company based out of Chennai. The new project required me to carry out software test on digital advertising tools, paving way to my first interaction with the world of digital marketing.Being groomed as an engineer by academic and profession, my first interaction with the world of digital advertisement with rich creativity was very refreshing and interesting. From there on my passion ruled, I took deliberate steps and calibrated approach to shape up my career in the world of marketing and to this day I continue to master the arts of marketing

Being groomed as an engineer by academic and profession, my first interaction with the world of digital advertisement with rich creativity was very refreshing and interesting. From there on my passion ruled, I took deliberate steps and calibrated approach to shape up my career in the world of marketing and to this day I continue to master the arts of 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?

Raja: Conventional marketing channel such as TV can beat digital marketing hands down when it come to mass reach at a national level, because of this fact, you might have seen some online retailer including the major ones continue to spend on advertisements on TV/Newspaper .Moreover in a country like India where 70% villages with limited/lack of internet connectivity, conventional marketing channels such as TV, Newspaper and Radio clearly has the edge over digital marketing at least for the foreseeable future if the marketing goal is to reach critical mass.

Also when it comes to the ad real estate, traditional media channel has comparatively bigger ad sizes than digital ad which is already starving in pixels thus I see room for more greater visibility and for creativity for traditional ad.

This point may sound controversial that too in the age of digital with greater end to end digital experience, however I find conventional ads such as TV to have a rich ad experience than some of the digital ads. I prefer to see a video ad on TV screen rather on a 5  to 12 inch Smartphone or tablet.To answer the latter part of the question which is, if digital marketing a threat to conventional marketing, I would say for now it is not a total threat and also it depends on how you approach .While it is true that the increasing trend of media spend shift from offline to online, I do not see Digital media to wash away the offline media at least in the foreseeable future. By adopting a good integrated marketing approach by the selection of right digital media channel one could greatly complement & supplement their offline marketing efforts.

To answer the latter part of the question which is, if digital marketing a threat to conventional marketing, I would say for now it is not a total threat and also it depends on how you approach .While it is true that the increasing trend of media spend shift from offline to online, I do not see Digital media to wash away the offline media at least in the foreseeable future. By adopting a good integrated marketing approach by the selection of right digital media channel one could greatly complement & supplement their offline marketing efforts.

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

Raja: 

  • Lego Land Malaysia: Classic example of a good integrated marketing approach. Lego land a theme park in Malaysia in partnership ship with Mediacorp’s OOH media set up an island wide six-sheet see through cutout with Ninjao characters at popular public places like bus stops in Singapore. Alongside an instagram challenge #golegoland was incorporated to encourage public to take picture with the six-sheet creative to stand a chance to spend 3D2N at legoland.

    Image courtesy: http://www.marketing-interactive.com/

    Image courtesy: http://www.marketing-interactive.com/

  • Singapore Airlines Launch of Premium Economy: An example of how a brand must leverage its social media presence and engage its community in an interesting way. Singapore Airlines launched Premium Economy Class. In order to create curiosity and interest among its community, SingaporeAirlines developed an Instagram puzzle. The puzzle required users to put the picture in proper order to solve the puzzle which revealed the Premium Economy Class.

    Image Courtesy: Singapore Airlines

    Image Courtesy: Singapore Airlines

  • Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance: Insurance is a serious product, the brand chose an appropriate content –driven approach in order to stay relevant and create a meaningful impact on its target group. Bajaj Allianz life insurance launched a campaign called “Tax Monster” the campaign was based on content driven strategy where its target group was engaged with useful information on how insurance can help to avoid tax . The execution was done in a fun and interactive way where the visitors were made to defeat the Tax monster.monster
According to you, what are the top 3 mistakes committed by organizations today in leveraging Digital Marketing?

Raja: 

  • Customer Experience: I find many of the brilliantly planned campaigns fail because of the overlook on the overall customer experience. An example: I was browsing my facebook feeds on my smartphone, I came across an ad from an E-Commerce site that advertised the product I was looking for. The ad was brilliantly moment targeted at me when I was in my final stage of product research phase/in the decision-making phase in the purchase funnel, may be the behavioral retargeting and the audience science was working behind full time right? While the brand nailed it on all these points, but when I clicked on the ad with my genuine effort to buy, the shopping cart on the site was not mobile compatible, it prompted me to switch to its desktop version, So I was all game for that buy, though it was inconvenient I went on to switch to the desktop version, so here is the showstopper, as soon as I switched I lost my previous transactional step that I did on the mobile version, so I lost interest and closed it without buying.What is the lesson to learn: While we as brands & agencies spend monies on research, planning and advanced targeting, we overlook the customer experience. If the brand spends money on mobile, make sure your site is mobile-friendly throughout.
  • Not leveraging earned visitors: Brands spend thousands of dollars on marketing campaigns to target and drive target audience to their digital assets such as websites, microsite and also to their social media page, but what about those returning visitors to your web properties post campaign? do brands spend enough time to develop tactics to engage and convert those returning/earned visitors?. A good site analytics tool such as Google analytics, Omniture and an inbound marketing plan would help you to maximize the results from your returning/organic visits.
  • A data sharing culture between brands and agencies: Brands and agencies must come forward to cultivate a data sharing culture among them besides the normal campaign reports. Brands might hold a huge amount of data arising out of Big data, that could very well lie within the perimeter of secured data sharing that might open up good insights for the agencies in better campaign planning and execution
Between Agency and In-house, which approach would you recommend for maximum value of Digital Marketing? Why?

Raja: Not all the companies have the luxury to run 100% in house digital marketing operations or completely outsource all the work to an agency, the decision making is dependent on a lot of factors  such as business set up, how big is your product/service portfolio, the scale of marketing you are looking for, specialist/resource availability, Costs/budget etc.

For example: A small company can easily and efficiently manage its digital marketing channel with an in house team, whereas a large multinational that caters to various customer segments with numerous products and wider operations and presence and bigger marketing outreach might need help from an agency.However having worked at both the Client and Agency side, I would like to emphasize that the involvement from the Client is of strategic importance to drive maximum result.

However, having worked at both the Client and Agency side, I would like to emphasize that the involvement from the Client is of strategic importance to drive maximum result.

Which are your 3 favorite Digital Marketing Tools?

Raja: There are some cool tools that could aid your digital marketing to a greater extent. The coolest fact is some are free

  1. Lead Capture form generator “Sumome”: A simple and effective way to generate leads. Once you install and configure the tool, it throws up pop up subscription form based on users interaction based on visitor behavior such as navigation, Scroll on your website/blog. You have the free and paid version.Try it out!
  2. Analytics tool “Google Analytics” & “Inspectlet”: Google Analytics is probably one of the best available free tool for digital marketers.Already there are quite a number of useful features such as demographic information, attribution modeling, in market segment available and Google keeps adding more functionality.Another analytics tool I am fan of is, Inspect let, it is a great tool to unlock visual analytics insights such as where your web visitors are potentially looking at through Eye-Tracking, and also form analytics to figure out why your lead generation form is/is not working, to optimize your form.
  3. Survey tool “Google forms & Survey Gizmo”: Survey is one of my favorite marketing activity. Free tool like Google forms allows you to set up online surveys in minutes and send it to your target audience and capture results in realtime. Since Google form is on cloud, it allows you to collaborate with many of your colleagues who are spread in different Geo to edit the same file at the same time. It also provides a download summary reports with charts which comes handy for a presentation.
Why do you think it’s important for entrepreneurs, marketing professionals and students to learn Digital Marketing today?

Raja: 

  • For Entrepreneurs: Digital media offers an enormous growth potential for business to engage prospects and convert. There are about 250mil internet users in India, growing at a rate of 14% per year and it is estimated about 100 million online shoppers in 2016.Digital Media also offers a convenient, efficient scalable channel for companies to carry out business. With the advent of technology, the emergence of rich customer insights only make it more intelligent and effective. If you want to meet your customers trend and expectation, become efficient, productive, and secure business from potential disruptors OTTP/main stream competition, Digital is the way forward.
  • For Professionals: With increased internet adoption by the consumers and increased time and money spends by the consumer on the internet and the strategic advantage it offers to the companies, many organizations at all levels has increased spends on digital transformation to adapt their way of working  to the digital world. As we are already on a steady rise as a digital economy, it is inevitable to grow expertise on the art of marketing on the digital media.
  • For Students: Marketing is important for any business and in particular in the last 10 years digital marketing has shown a strong growth and lead to many verticals and roles within Digital marketing. Large organizations are continuing to invest heavily on digital media.So there are lot of growth opportunities in the digital field.
What are the top 3-5 skills you look for when hiring a candidate for Digital Marketing profile?

Raja:  I look for specific skills sets for the sub domain I hire for such as : Display, Search, Social, Database, CRM, Analytics & Mobile.

In general across all positions, I look for these skills: analytics, marketing and customer-centric skills

What is your advice for newbies, who are looking at building a career in Digital Marketing industry?

Raja: 

  • Learn Cloud, mobility, analytics and social.
  • To be able to be a good digital marketer, one need to be a good marketer.
  • Hence learn fundamentals of marketing, deep dive into the 4 Ps of marketing.
  • End of the day you are going to market a product or a service of a business, hence take time to thoroughly understand how a business is run: business model, product/service, Customer segments, Competition.
  • Learn the world of consumers – consumer behavior psychology, customer segments.
  • There are tons of free online tools available to learn digital marketing. The simple way to start is use tools like “WordPress”  “Google Ad Sense” , “Google Analytics”.
  • Those who are already working I would like you to consider not to limit yourself only to your function, for example if you are into operations try to talk to your colleagues in media planning team/Client servicing team/Creative team learn how the other function works this would provide you more sense and enable you to look at the bigger picture.
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?

Raja: Everyday, I start my day by spending 30 mins of reading across these resources, LinkedIn, Marketing-interactive, Marketingland.com, E-consultancy, Kissmetrics blog.

Interestingly in last year, I did a crowd sourcing to develop a global digital media directory and I have made it available for public , one can access it here.

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

Raja: I am very grateful and privileged to have worked under the leadership of these gentlemen: Ravi Shankar, Ravi Kabra & Biraja Swain .

How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2016?

Raja: For the past couple of years many corporations(example: McDonald) across industries(example: Banks) have begun to extensively integrate technology in to their businesses what we call as “Digital Transformation“ in order to keep up with the customers trend, add up efficiency, beat main stream competition and also to quickly respond and safe guard the business from OTTP/disruptors besides other strategic advantages.

So, this year you would continue to witness heavy investment on digital technologies as a result investment on the digital marketing would be in upswing.

Other notable trends this year going to be:-

  • Mobile marketing: It is not a new topic, Mobile has been a hot topic for few years now, but this year is significant because in 2015 global mobile search has beat desktop search.So I expect many marketers to spend more on mobile and from now on mobile would be perceived as a main stream digital marketing channel instead as a supplementary channel
  • Virtual reality: In many countries the mobile technology has gone 4G and with the penetration of mobile broadband, Immersive 3D Virtual Reality has become possible on Mobile. And companies like Google already launched affordable VR gear Google Cardboard as low as $25 and free VR apps available for “Android and iOS” and the eco system gets growing so, I see 2016 going to be hot for Virtual Reality
  • Content: Though Content is not a new topic, but the trend will be content explosion in content marketing. Business would consume as well as produce contents to reach and engage prospects/customers than ever before. Social sharing, mobility and easier access to the information being the main catalyst. Digital Vidya is a classic example.
Would you like to share few words about the work we are doing at Digital Vidya?

Raja: 

I congratulate the team at Digital Vidya for being an active player to promote the culture of Digital in the Country. I thank the team for taking efforts to reach out to people to promote learning through sharing model. I wish the Team Digital Vidya a very good luck in 2016.

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


    • 11 months ago

      Jasleen Kaur   /   Reply

      Thanks Raja 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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