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Interview on ‘Marketing in the Financial Sector’ with Deputy Head of Marketing at Franklin Templeton Investments

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Pradeep Chopra, CEO at Digital Vidya: Marketing Financial Servies was pretty much limited to direct forms of Marketing in the past. But with the revolution that technology brought in Marketing, things have greatly changed. Mapping Content to Customer Journey and pushing personalised content at every stage of  Customer Journey has become very easy. Yet, this doesn’t change the fact that Marketing these services is always a challenge as the subject at hand is very complex.

To add to it, the woes of data privacy make it even more daunting. I caught up with a Senior Marketer, known for his expertise in the financial domain to get some insights into his work and strategy. Talking to different senior professionals has always been my choice to stay current with the trends in the space. I caught up with Balaji Vaidyanathan to know what had to say about the art of Marketing in the Financial Sector.

Balaji Vaidyanathan is an integrated marketing specialist with over 15 years of experience in consumer and B2B marketing. Call him a generalist in today’s specialized world, because he is able to offer a unique blend of both marketing practices – traditional and digital.

In his current role as Deputy Head – Marketing for Franklin Templeton Investments, Balaji is responsible for building the marketing value proposition and leading key brand initiatives for the firm in India. Franklin Templeton Investments is a global investment management firm headquartered in San Mateo, California with over 70 years of investment expertise across 35 countries and with assets under management of close to US $750 billion.

With over 15 years of rich experience in consumer marketing, his priority is to make consumers in India and other parts of the world aware of that little thing called Mutual Funds and how it can help change lives in the long run. However, given that most of us live in the present and planning for one’s future is hardly a priority, it does get kind of interesting and challenging at times.

Importance of Digital Marketing

Digital has always been an integral part of his marketing mix for over a decade now. In fact, Franklin Templeton Investments have been a pioneer in the Indian Mutual Fund industry with their initiatives on using gamification and video content to promote investor education using the digital platform. For example, they were one of the first brands in the Mutual Funds space to use the concept of gamification in a formalized manner to help investors understand more about investing and Mutual Funds. Once again, they were one of the first to have a host of simplified video content made available to consumers across life-cycles and multiple languages.

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?

Balaji Vaidyanathan:  I don’t see digital marketing as a threat to conventional marketing or vice-versa. These two aspects just complement one another and form an integral part of a marketer’s overall strategy. Yes, changing consumer behaviour may have a temporary or permanent impact on some elements of this overall mix. And if marketers do not adapt to this change in time, it can impact their brand.

However, I strongly feel that brands will continue to use conventional marketing. Let’s be practical…not everyone is online and there are many brands which serve consumers who may not necessarily be online and reachable. In such cases, conventional marketing can go a long way in helping a brand get greater exposure and reach.

Conventional marketing can also help to reach out to people who are not very comfortable online or with digital – for example, the older generations who would still perhaps prefer and be familiar with traditional marketing.

There is, however, a darker side to digital marketing. Data privacy issues remain a huge concern (for example, what has been happening with Facebook). I also believe that digital marketing can get a lot more intrusive AND in their attempt to personalize or provoke a reaction, marketers at times, ignore where to draw the line. These two examples are classic disadvantages of digital as compared to conventional marketing.

But the way I look at it, it’s never one size fits all. Both conventional and digital marketing have their own benefits as well as limitations. It’s the ability of the marketer to leverage the best of both, to help fulfil his or her marketing objectives.

In the future if not already, Digital Marketing is becoming more and more conventional. What do I mean by this? Well, a classic example of conventional marketing is something which everyone is doing and also forms an integral part of the overall marketing media mix. If you look at how spends to digital are increasing for most brands, it’s clear that digital is becoming more and more in demand and hence getting more and more conventional!

So if you ask me, these lines will keep blurring and as most brand and companies start increasing spends on digital, we will see Digital over time becoming as conventional as conventional can be.

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

Balaji Vaidyanathan:  

  • McCann New York’s “Fearless Girl” Campaign: One of the best campaigns I have seen on women empowerment. What an idea – to leverage an iconic statue of the Bull on Wall Street and drive home a point! The campaign was to advocate for more women in leadership positions and involved putting a bronze statue of a little girl standing defiantly across from the iconic Wall Street charging bull. It was a classic integrated marketing campaign on how an on-ground activation idea was leveraged and amplified online. The campaign took home four Grand Prix at Cannes 2017. Here is a link to the campaign case study:

  • The Amul Campaign: A campaign that has run so successfully for over 50 years! It was in 1967 that the girl wearing a polka dot frock first made an appearance and since then, the utterly-butterly deliciously witty, Amul Girl has been an integral part of the Amul campaign. What’s so interesting is that this campaign has successfully gone across mediums – print, OOH and in recent years digital also. The topical nature and quirky one liners are what have made this campaign so memorable and successful over the years and helping us look at butter in a manner we have never ever before!
  • Mutual Funds Sahi Hai Campaign: Closer home and more relevant to my category is the AMFI (Association of Mutual Funds in India) campaign – #MutualFundsSahiHai. I liked this campaign because of the simplicity of thought of the tag line and the way it was communicated seamlessly. This campaign was launched last year and was a 360 degree effort by the industry body to help create awareness of Mutual Funds as well as dispel some of the myths when it comes to investing. The campaign had all elements of the media mix – TV, print, radio, OOH, sponsorships, on-ground activation and Digital and was truly an integrated effort. It was the largest marketing campaign from the industry or any of the fund houses in over 25 years. The campaign resounded very well with the public and over 3 million new investors were added to the industry. The digital leg of the campaign can be viewed on:  http://www.mutualfundssahihai.com/en

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

Balaji Vaidyanathan:  

  • “One-size fits all” approach: I think this is the biggest mistake most organizations are making today in their approach to Digital Marketing. Brand are thinking mainline / conventional when they brief their agencies and then try and adopt the same creative approach to their digital assets. This can be a disaster. The advantage digital gives you amongst others is to allow interactivity as well as engagement. Hence, marketers and agencies MUST take that into account while launching any campaign.
  • “Sab chalta hai” approach: The other big mistake which I have seen even evolved brands make on digital marketing is trying to use the same content across different social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YT, Instagram and LinkedIn. It may come as a shock to them, but the fact is that the same content will not work on all platforms. For example, while videos may do well on YT and FB, on LI, these may not work. Similarly, long-form content may do much better on LI than other platforms. So when making plans for digital, be as specific as the platform. And then even within these platforms, you may need to adapt your creative approach to the segment you for targeting – for example, the first jobbers on LinkedIn may like content of a completely different variety as compared to the mid-management professionals on the same platform. So, adapt to platforms and then adapt within platforms too!
  • “Fill it shut it forget it” approach: Unlike conventional marketing, the advantage one has from digital marketing is the ability to get results/response from the campaign almost immediately. Marketers must then ensure that they act on the data to make changes as appropriate to the campaign. It cannot be a fill it-shut it-forget it approach. For example, when we put a hoarding or start a TV campaign, it’s not only difficult to change it once you start (as it can be expensive as well as logistically challenging), it’s also not easily possible to get immediate responses/results. However, some marketers tend to ignore this advantage of digital and believe that once the campaign has started, it should run its course.

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

Balaji Vaidyanathan: I believe that an agency can definitely add value to the client in their digital marketing efforts. Remember, the advantage an agency has is that they simultaneously work on a number of clients from different industries and a good agency will cross-leverage their learnings from one brand to another.

An agency is also able to add the depth to the digital marketing efforts of a brand with their own employees across different parts of digital marketing facets like Search, Performance, Social, etc. For me, the agency is an extended arm of the client or brand and has to play the role of a partner in working together to reach campaign objectives.

Team, Skills and Tools

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

Balaji Vaidyanathan: I think, more and more organizations are increasingly realizing the relevance of digital marketing. Gone are those days, when you had to explain to the CEO that digital marketing is more than just a website. Today’s smart leaders recognize the role of other aspects like Social, Display and Search. Again considering that competition is already out there online, it’s not too difficult to increase the relevance and influence of Digital Marketing within the organization.

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

Balaji Vaidyanathan:  

  • For Entrepreneurs: Business logic says that one needs to go to where the consumer can be found and today, the new-age consumers are mostly online. Hence, entrepreneurs have no choice but to be digitally agile!
  • For Professionals: I think it’s important for professionals to learn digital marketing for their own career growth. It can help them build their own brand online and attract future employers as well as career opportunities. It can also help them get a better pulse of their business and improve what they are doing.
  • For Students: Learning digital marketing can help them stay relevant, up-to-date and also open up potential future job opportunities for students.

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

Balaji Vaidyanathan:   While hiring a digital marketing candidate, some of the important must-haves for me are:

  • Domain Expertise: He or she must be comfortable with the subject and an expert at it – for example, if I am looking for someone specifically for SEM, I would like a candidate who preferably already had good exposure on SEM best practices and has done work for solid brands in that space.
  • Attitude: The attitude is perhaps equally important as the domain expertise. If you don’t have the attitude to succeed, you may have all the knowledge, but it will never get you anywhere.
  • Thinker versus executer: Depending on the seniority of the role, I would be keen to either recruit a thinker / strategizer (if the role is more senior) or an executor / implementer (if the role is more entry level or junior). It can be a disaster if you choose a thinker for the role of an executor and vice-versa. However, a junior or mid role would have ideally a 20-30% thinking and 70-80% execution, while the senior role would be almost the opposite. So in a nutshell, the thinker also needs to execute and the executor also needs to think J
  • Ideas Person: Irrespective of the level of the person, idea generation scores high on the list! The more the ideas the person is capable of giving shows the ability to think laterally also and hence, is potentially a good resource.

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Advice to Aspiring Digital Marketers

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

Balaji Vaidyanathan: The newbies – whether the millennials or the GenZ have an advantage people of my generation never did. They have grown up with technology and hence are great adopters of tech and new stuff! However, the disadvantage is that competition is a lot more and so is the struggle to get to where they want. It’s easy to give up or let go with all these challenges. My advice to the newbies is to never give up on your dreams. Stay hungry and stay foolish!

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?

Balaji Vaidyanathan:  

  • WhatsApp Groups are a great source of information – I am a member of a few such groups that have like-minded people sharing relevant and meaningful information on the latest trends in marketing, advertising, etc.
  • Of course, being on the client side, I get the benefit that a lot of agencies including Google, LinkedIn, etc. invite me to regular workshops and knowledge session on latest trends
  • And then, you have resources and websites like marketingland.com, contentmarketinginstitute.com, social media examiner, HubSpot blog, marketingsherpa.com, etc.

How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2018?

Balaji Vaidyanathan:  

  • Data Protection & Privacy is going to gain more traction and I think a lot of platforms will have to increasingly take up ownership and responsibility for the safety of their customer data. Consumers have already seen the “Facebook fallout” and I think this will have long-term repercussion in the way business is done. There is already a new European Data Protection Regulation coming into place from May 2018 for example. More consumers are realizing that if something is free, then they are going to be the product!
  • AI & Behavioral Marketing to work in tandem – Companies like Adobe are already predicting that machines will start making strategic marketing decisions. Softwares will analyze data to build segments, and roll out campaigns across various channels, and create custom copy that will target perceived personalities. Because customers tend to be more loyal when they see ads specifically targeted to them based on their behaviors, advances in AI and behavioral marketing will allow marketers to more effectively engage with their prospects. It’s logical – what works best is when the buyers themselves tell you what they want via the actions they take.
  • Multi-channel marketing will become the norm. One big shift in thought process that has been happening is that we as marketers are beginning to shift our thinking from focusing on channels to focusing on the customer. In practice, this means that instead of communicating on different channels (and to the consumers that happen to be there), leading companies are increasingly building audiences and engaging with them across channels and platforms. This will help brands build consumer journeys with the right set of audiences and increase brand affinity over the long term.

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

Balaji Vaidyanathan:  

As a global leader in digital marketing, big data and analytics training, Digital Vidya is doing a great job in helping more and more traditional companies and marketers reinvent themselves as digital professionals and hence, stay relevant in their businesses and jobs. The present as well as the foreseeable future is all about digital and by offering quality digital education and making it accessible to more and more people, you guys are doing a great job. Keep at it!

To know more about Balaji Vaidyanathan, you can check out his LinkedIn profile.

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 :).

[CEO, Digital Vidya]
Among the pioneers of Digital Marketing, Pradeep has been part of the Internet Industry since 2000. He has been a serial entrepreneur for last 17 years and is currently a Co-founder & CEO of Digital Vidya, a leading Digital Marketing, and Big Data & Data Analytics training company.

A graduate of IIT Delhi and a recipient of Adobe Content100, Pradeep is one of the most sought-after international speakers in Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship.

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  • There is 1 comment


    • 5 days ago

      Ashish Nagpal   /   Reply

      Insightful read – a good overall perspective of marketing. Thank you for the same sir.

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