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Interview with Kanika Mittal, Reebok India, Director – Brand Marketing​ and Communications

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Kanika Mittal became the Marketing Head of Reebok India at the definitive moment when the brand positioned itself as a fitness brand and moved away from its strong sports heritage. With a healthy repositioning challenge ahead of her, she undertook her role with a single-minded approach to innovate and introduce fresh ideas in every aspect of business and deliver success on key marketing and related business KPIs.

Her leadership also led to clutter breaking Media, Retail, Events, OOH concepts with PR & Digital playing a key role in orchestrating the reach and engagement quotient of various marketing programs. She played a key role in the appointment of the ‘Queen’ of Bollywood Kangana Ranaut as the brand ambassador of Reebok and the successful launch of ‘Be More Human’ campaign last year.  She has integrated the campaign with the Reebok Fit to Fight series, where Reebok pays tribute to the women achievers who have defined personal odds to achieve success.

Some of the other memorable initiatives helmed by Kanika include the successful market launch for Reebok’s global technology product – The Reebok ZPUMP, MSD4India Campaign – an inspirational local fitness campaign that ranked No 5 in top 10 ad campaigns of World Cup 2015 and the Reeboot 100 – 100 day fitness challenge with author Chetan Bhagat that got trending on global Twitter trends within 48 hours of launch.

Her range of exposure in digital ranges from Social Media Marketing to Creating Branded Mobile Applications, from Influencer Marketing to building the E-commerce Strategy for the brand and more. 

Kanika has received multiple awards for her noteworthy work with Reebok: 

  • Honoured in the Top 50 brand leaders in the CMO Asia Awards, August 2017
  • Recognized in India’s top 100 Brand and Content Custodians in the Adobe Content 100, August 2017
  • Received Leadership Award at the 4th Femina Women Leadership Awards in Feb, 2017
  • Special Mention in Impact’s Most Influential Women in Marketing and Media 2016
  • Recognized amongst the top 10 young marketing heads of India 2015 by Pitch Magazine as part of their cover story
  • Awarded Most Influential Marketer of the year (Sports Category) for 2015 in Brands Academy’s Leadership Excellence Awards
  • Panelist/Speaker/Jury Member at prestigious forums like IAMAI, Exchange4Media OOH Awards, EFFIES, VOW Awards, DMAI, India Loyalty Conclave.

In addition, she has also been a panelist, speaker, judge for various prestigious marketing forums and awards like IAMAI, Exchange4Media OOH Awards, EFFIES, VOW Awards, DMAI, India Loyalty Conclave.

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?

Kanika Mittal: Personally, I don’t believe we can compare the two anymore. Today, the virtual and real worlds have merged like never before and digital has become an intrinsic part of everyone’s lives – whether it is brands or consumers. Brands tap into digital today, not by choice but by default.  

I would rather say that today marketers have to straddle the balance between offline and online marketing and that each has its own unique role to play. While offline marketing helps to build brand visibility and awareness, launch products with the right buzz and sustain brand momentum; online marketing helps with engaging consumers and sustaining that engagement both quantitatively and qualitatively, over a longer period of time.

Think of it as a movie trailer and the entire film itself – one cannot exist without the other. While offline marketing sparks interest through stunning TVCs, impactful billboards, beautiful print campaigns, quirky radio spots etc., online marketing tells the full story. It is through online marketing that brands unencumbered by an edit’s duration, can truly engage consumers. In other words digital provides the opportunity to highlight not just the USP but also the VP (Value Proposition) the brand can bring to a consumer’s life.

Also, I don’t believe digital is a threat to other mediums of marketing. However, all marketing campaigns of the future should have a digital heart. While the arms and legs of the campaign can belong to offline marketing, being digital at heart would lead to a higher rate of success. Hence it would be best to design campaigns that suit the medium instead of replicating offline campaign assets to digital channels.

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

Kanika Mittal:

  1. Not understanding full scope of Digital Marketing: Organizations sometime suffer tunnel vision and focus only a few areas [Social media marketing or SEO/SEM] and miss the larger picture on how all initiatives can be interwoven to deliver the best value for the brand. 
  2. Paralysis by Analysis: Focusing too much on a certain or incorrectly identified KPI especially at the development stage can often lead to dilution of the brand message/delivery.
  3. Organizational Inertia: Sometimes professionals end up working with/on mediums that they are comfortable with or have worked in the past. They lose out on new developments and are unable to keep up with the constantly evolving consumer digital behavior.

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

Kanika Mittal: I’d recommend a very collaborative approach between the two. Agencies bring with them inherent expertise and are up to date on the latest developments, they are essentially the digital doctors for every brand. On the other hand, someone who works in-house has a very deep understanding of the brand’s need and can be the guiding force on the team.  

A true brand-agency collaboration is one where agencies are not just providing a service but they are partners with the brand in its journey and evolution. I strongly believe that when it comes to successful brand campaigns, neither can excel without the other, and both need to work together – being equally involved right from the briefing to ideation and finally execution stage.

For example earlier this year we worked very closely with the PR team to design and create the Fit India Survey – an infographic that took stock of the fitness quotient of the nation. Apart from disseminating through the press and media we took the research online (working closely with Social Media Agency) and used social tools to create conversations around it. We used the insights from the research to create some very interesting content buckets and graphics that provided statistical information in a fun/quirky way and helped establish thought leadership for Reebok as a fitness brand in the consumer mind space.

How does one stay ahead of the curve in Digital?

Kanika Mittal:  You have to live in the digital world yourself and scan it with a hawk’s eye. Being passionate about it helps as that will fuel the desire to know and apply new things.  At Reebok we endeavor to maintain an edge by constantly scanning the ecosystem for the latest developments in digital marketing and by treating every campaign as a bold new frontier.

For example, we were early adopters of gaming as an engagement tool – we created an exciting game for one of products when no one was even talking about Digital Marketing. When Facebook was the biggest craze we created applications resident on Facebook like Virtual Fitness Avatar where you could exercise with your Virtual Avatar or Flex – A – Move – the world’s first ever ONLINE Flash Mob. When consumers became more open to downloading mobile apps we locally developed mobile apps in India in running space. Even before Content became the big trend it is now, we created content pieces like Flexercise Videos (offering flexibility to exercise anywhere, anytime) or Reeboot 100 – live chronicles of a star’s fitness journey – The resounding success of the same reinforced our belief that we were on the right track and helped shape our future strategy. Now we take a mobile first approach at Reebok where our advertising on mobile is innovative and interactive (Example –  our advertising for FloatRide – A premier running shoe included ads that were activated when a consumer started walking/running)

Plus you need to have a different strategy for Twitter vs Instagram vs Facebook. Yes, while they are all social mediums but they play radically different roles in engagement and the digital strategy should ideally blend the inherent strengths of the medium with the brand’s objectives.

The bottom line is that it helps to be on a constant lookout and scouting for more opportunities to engage with consumers in an innovative manner.

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How do you ensure increasing Digital Marketing’s relevance and influence in the organization?

 Kanika Mittal:

  • Let the numbers do the talking

All numbers be it internet penetration, increasing mobile usage, exponential growth in mobile applications, data/video/content consumption, etc. will reflect an upward trend and it should be easy to build a case for digital marketing internally basis those and emphasize the need to be a part of the ecosystem to connect with consumers.

In addition, digital marketing initiatives are easier to measure and putting clear KPIs in place will help to define and redefine the digital strategy over a period of time, thus increasing its importance and relevance inside the organization.

  • Build a role for E-commerce

In addition to brand building and engagement, digital marketing has a key role to play in revenue generation via E-commerce. E-commerce like digital can’t be considered as an additional arm anymore. The growth of smartphones, digital wallets and internet penetration has enabled consumers to be shop-ready at all times. Even the era of deep discounting is slowly giving way to value and engagement. So even if you are not an E-commerce company, developing an e-Com mindset and making it a strategic priority will help.

  • Stay abreast of the trends

With Dusshera around the corner, I am tempted to draw a quick analogy. Digital is like the many headed demon. You conquer one head and another will sprout up. The trick is to not be afraid of its complexity, instead arm yourself with your weapons of digital disruption and enjoy the fireworks!

Which are your 3 favorite Digital Marketing Tools?

Kanika Mittal:

  • Content

Content remains at the heart of a successful campaign. As a fitness brand, we are very particular about the content that goes live on our digital assets. The trick is to create content which is culturally relevant, intellectually stimulating and emotionally appealing. So while “Let us create content” sounds like the easiest thing to do, it’s perhaps the hardest.

We strategically use content as a tool to reach our FitGen, customizing it for every medium. Our FitToFight campaign with Kangana Ranaut is an example where we developed content through personal narratives that were relatable and impactful and later made more engaging with stories of inspirational women like Paralympian Deepa Malik, Bollywood Stunt Artist and Domestic Violence Survivor Geeta Tandon who overcame great personal odds to emerge winners and became exemplary examples of Fit to Fight.

Additionally, for product launches like Pump Plus  we created a music video with a magician in our store to showcase the magic of Custom Fit (the shoes’ USP) and for ZOKU Runner, (a premier lifestyle footwear from the Reebok Classic family) we created an unboxing video with a music rapper that garnered over a million views. In addition smart usage of global content can help to make the brand more premium and aspirational.

  • Influencer

The face of marketing has taken an interesting turn with the coming in of digital influencers. Today with aggressive influencer marketing, brands are drawing connect with audiences through these ‘Social Stars’. In my view Influencers help to humanize the brand and hence I love connecting with them as brand partners. At Reebok too, we have a pool of brand loyalists/ digital influencers that help us reach consumers; making campaigns ‘socially’ successful.

  • Community

Community gives purpose and meaning to a group of consumers who share common interests and are passionate about similar things. Both offline and online community engagement can be a very interesting two way conversation where brands can both get feedback on their products and services from key opinion leaders and also spread their message in a more organic way. If you are a brand that has fans and loyalists, then working with those fan communities can be gold mine for superlative engagement and results.

Why do you think it’s important for entrepreneurs, marketing professionals and students to learn Digital Marketing today?

Kanika Mittal: 

  • For Entrepreneurs: Digital is an important medium for lead generation, tapping a potential market, enhancing revenue. Even small businesses have seen an incremental jump simply by creating a digital profile and coming up in relevant searches.
  • For Professionals: To build digital into brand strategy, marketing campaigns and product launches and promotions.
  • For Students: For enhanced career and entrepreneurial opportunities, also helps in knowledge development.

What are the top 3-5 skills you look for when hiring a candidate for Digital Marketing profile?

Kanika Mittal: 

  • Strong technical know-how and expertise

Theory only won’t suffice, to become a thorough professional today, one must also learn technical nuances and develop expertise in the 3 Ts – tools, trends and technology in order to lay a strong foundation in digital marketing. Flair for data analytics and the ability to cull insights from relevant data sets would be a must.

  • On-Trend

Digital is like an amoebic life form – constantly evolving and ever changing and thus on Trend candidates will make the cut more easily. Candidates who want to make a career in this field must keep themselves abreast with the latest developments and have a knack for experimentation.

  • Passion

A good candidate should be well read, active on social media and should themselves be consuming digital content avidly in the areas of their interest. His/Her passion for the medium should reflect in how he or she consumes it personally as well.

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

Kanika Mittal: Stay hungry, Stay foolish.

It is not enough to do one course and think that you now know digital marketing. Instead, it’s important to truly embrace and immerse yourself in the digital world to succeed. The digital world is full of opportunities and caters well to those who are willing to push themselves the extra mile. The moment you get comfortable in the space that you already know, you could lag behind others who are experimenting with the new and better.

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?

Kanika Mittal: There are too many. I would rather suggest that you regularly search, browse and read through your topics of interest on blogs, social platforms and news portals. Inspired from your browsing history Google would automatically throw up a customized feed which you should constantly read.

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

Kanika Mittal: There are many but would love to take this opportunity to mention:- Apurva Chamaria – Vice-President  & Head – Corporate Marketing, HCL Tech | Samit Malkani, Brand & Creative Lead, Google India & SEA and Virginia Sharma, Director at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. Their passion is what sets them apart and the work they do is par excellence and truly inspiring!

You led the webinar ‘Digital is Changing Consumer Behaviour – Reebok Case Study’. How was your experience in leading the webinar?

Kanika Mittal: Excellent! Especially the questions from the participants were very interesting.

Do you have any suggestions for us to further increase the values of our Digital Marketing Webinars?

Kanika Mittal: 

You are doing a great job. Just continue!

How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2017?

Kanika Mittal:

  1. Snackable content – Content that is easy to consume, as well as share. This when merged with data analytics can lead the way in customizing content and could well become the holy grail of a digital marketing future!
  2. Being Mobile First – Marketing should be adapting to the growing mobile penetration in the country, especially increased usage of smart phones in both rural and urban India.
  3. Chat will go to the next level – Chats have already evolved from being a messaging form to information facilitators for the brand and the future possibilities are immense. Would expect a lot more innovation and adoption of this trend in the future.

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

Kanika Mittal: 

You are shaping the digital minds of the future. As India transforms into a digital economy, it will need more and more people who are well equipped to handle the immense possibilities the future holds and Digital Vidya will be playing a key role. You should be very proud of that! Not only are you a catalyst in this changing equation but you are also the fuel!

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 :).

[Sr. Associate - Content Marketing] A content passionate, Jasleen handles the content writing and marketing activities. Additionally, she leads Digital Marketing Internship Programme. Her deep passion and enthusiasm for writing guided her towards being the Associate Editor in English for her college magazine. Only deep passion and zeal can guide a person towards a professional writing career. Apparently, Jasleen is one of those persons. She is in the content writing and marketing fraternity for 5 years now. A top-notch individual, she is proficient in writing content for multiple requirements including blogs, articles, books, brochures and social media. She embraces practical knowledge of WordPress CMS. Besides this, she is also highly engaging in Social Media Marketing activities.
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