Rahul Ramchandani has been working with Google for the last 2 years and his goal is to make advertising useful for the consumer, not something that is considered intrusive, but rather something that can be more respectful, more contextual, and can help the consumer decide in the moments that matter. At Google, Rahul has been working closely with some of India’s top advertisers in helping them break down the silos in Marketing and achieve a unified view of their customer, across marketing channels and devices. His objective is to make programmatic more strategic to the core of a business and not just a tactical media buy.
Importance of Digital Marketing
As the Head of Digital Marketing in his previous role at Bharti Airtel, Rahul played an instrumental role in building India’s second largest e-commerce almost from scratch. Armed with this knowledge of knowing what really works, he now endeavours to help other advertisers surpass their goals and expect much more from Digital with the most advanced and comprehensive Digital Marketing Platform available in the market: DoubleClick by Google.
So as you can guess, Digital Marketing is pretty much core to Rahul’s professional experience. 🙂
How did you get into Digital Marketing? What interested you in learning Digital Marketing?
Rahul Ramchandani: I have always been fascinated by technology. Apart from having my own website, I could hack into (ethical hacking) systems way back in 1999, when there were hardly any internet users in India. Marketing is another area close to my heart and hence my chosen area of specialization during my MBA. After my MBA, the first two years of my stint at Airtel were non-Digital (product marketing). However, I realized the huge potential of Digital Marketing as well as my natural inclination, and shifted my track within the company (huge credit to the leadership team at Airtel to trust a person coming from a completely non-Digital background, to run their Digital Marketing). From then on, we did some stellar work in Digital at Airtel. Within Digital, I was particularly passionate about programmatic, and hence joined Google. Within Google, there has been stupendous innovation in Digital, and the learning continues exponentially! 🙂
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?
Rahul Ramchandani: Because conventional marketing has been around for some time, there are marketing frameworks that practitioners are comfortable using. In some sense, there is a little more rigor arising not out of lack of platforms capability, but the existing skill set. There is a huge scarcity of good Digital talent in the country, and a lot of it is very superficial – driven largely by mindless spends by startups or new age internet companies (which has finally come down in the last few months). It is changing gradually, but India still has many excellent traditional marketers, but not many good Digital marketers.
Finally, I see convergence between Digital and Conventional Marketing. It is a no-brainer that Digital is far more measurable and can be targeted better (it is an outright clear winner when it comes to better segmentation and targeting). We’ve already begun measuring the impact of TV (traditional) on Digital, and that of Digital on offline sales (tradional channel). It is only a matter of time that the online and offline worlds converge – and marketers begin to see the customer journey across devices and platforms (online & offline) from a single view.
Share about your 3 favorite Digital Marketing case studies. What did you like most about them?
- KLM – This is a good case study about how digital marketing can be a good competitive advantage and an enabler for the future. It talks about all the things that are important in a good digital marketing setup – the importance of audiences, good performance marketing, smart branding and above all, transparency.
- Citibank – This case study again talks about how to use technology to elevate the standard of a digital marketing setup, so that marketers can focus more on strategy and less on unnecessary operations. It emphasizes on the importance of a single view of the customer.
- Nike – We know that creative plays a very crucial role (upto 70%) in the success of a campaign, but this case study takes creative excellence to a whole new level that all marketers should aspire to achieve in order to connect with their audiences.
According to you, what are the top 3 mistakes committed by organizations today in leveraging Digital Marketing?
- Not looking at Digital in a more strategic manner: Digital should not be viewed as just running a campaign. It can be the most important channel for branding and performance, more core to the running of the business and also a competitive differentiator.
- Not seeing the woods for the trees: Overlooking the long term value by being short sighted about costs.
- Not having the right org structure: In 2014, HBR came out with fresh thinking on tackling the silos in Marketing specifically, advocating the role of a Chief Marketing Technologist. While this thinking mentioned 81% of international organizations having a CMT equivalent role in 2014, we still haven’t heard of any advertiser in India in 2017 (including the supposedly out of box thinkers in our overtly funded startups) having any such senior designation. Advertisers need to rethink the right org structures to unleash the potential of Digital. They also need to put the smartest people/resources in Digital.
Between Agency and In-house, which approach would you recommend for maximum value of Digital Marketing? Why?
Rahul Ramchandani: If Digital has to become strategic for an advertiser in India, it should move in-house. The current dynamics of the India market are such that agencies end up charging among the lowest agency fees, making their cost structures unviable for attracting and retaining good talent, which is absolutely essential for Digital marketing. Also, as discussed before, digital must be viewed as something more strategic and core to the business – there has to a good amount of thought given to it so that it is aligned with the strategic goals of the business – this can best be done in-house.
Having said this, some agencies are trying to build advanced digital capabilities – they are trying to be transparent with their clients in demanding an extra fee for such capabilities – if advertisers do not miss the woods for the trees and pay for the long term value that they will undoubtedly get, this situation can change. In most cases, an RFP for an AOR contract is purely evaluated in commercial terms by Finance and Procurement teams, who unfortunately do not appreciate the extra value that an advanced digital setup can bring about.
How do you ensure increasing Digital Marketing’s relevance and influence in the organization?
Rahul Ramchandani: This is more of a top-down thing – if the CEO or CMO is inclined towards Digital, there are a ton of publishers/platforms/digital agencies/networks ready to help. If the CXOs are not interested, digital will remain very superficial and not core to the business.
Which are your 3 favorite Digital Marketing Tools?
- DoubleClick Campaign Manager
- DoubleClick Bid Manager
- DoubleClick Search! 🙂
Why do you think it’s important for entrepreneurs, marketing professionals and students to learn Digital Marketing today?
- For Entrepreneurs: How can we think of Digital-first business models like Uber & AirBnB that are made for India? Digital is changing existing business models – like the car ownership and hotel bookings as respective examples – how does one ensure that the business model one embraces is future-proof!
- For Professionals: How can Digital add value to my work – get more actionable insights, more efficiency, accountability and get more strategic and less operational.
- For Students: Digital will impact every career in some shape or form in the years to come. It is observed that younger folks understand Digital much better. By embracing Digital much earlier on, they might tap into perhaps the next billion dollar opportunity.
What are the top 3-5 skills you look for when hiring a candidate for Digital Marketing profile?
Rahul Ramchandani: Most important is the passion for digital. If someone can code really well or hack, nothing like it! The right attitude and aptitude is important, everything else can be learnt on the job as long as the candidate is passionate about Digital.
What is your advice for newbies, who are looking at building a career in Digital Marketing industry?
Rahul Ramchandani: The good thing about Digital is that it is a great leveler. A college graduate can have access to very similar tools or platforms that a large enterprise user would have. So do some great digital work on your own, and then showcase it to whichever brand you care most about – there is a good chance you’ll get to work with them under some association, as most brands are always looking out for good digital talent simply because there is never enough of it.
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?
Rahul Ramchandani: I use Twitter, LinkedIn, Pocket, Google News to keep a tab on topics I’m interested in and websites like Medium, Techcrunch, WSJ, Emarketer, etc.
Share the names of 3 people you respect when it comes to Digital Marketing.
How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2017?
- In 2017, I foresee programmatic media continue its exponential growth as all stakeholders across the ecosystem embrace it more holistically.
- Analytics will get elevated to the next level, as marketers begin to look at online and offline media in a single view.
- Advertisers will also realize the importance of ownership of their customer data and audiences, and will take steps to safeguard it, as well as harness is to improve their own media buying and digital experiences.
Would you like to share few words about the work we are doing at Digital Vidya?
Rahul Ramchandani: As I’ve mentioned before as well,
there is a dearth of good digital talent in the country, and when it comes to education in digital marketing, Digital Vidya aces TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness).
It is incredible to see the effort you guys are putting in to build an ecosystem for Digital talent. Your course material is comprehensive, well-balanced and is very practical in nature. You’ve also managed to rope in some impressive names to partner with you in your initiatives so kudos to the entire team.
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 :).