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Interview with Rahul Mudgal, Global Marketing Director, DOCOMO Digital

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Pradeep Chopra, CEO at Digital Vidya: The world has changed and the technological revolution is one of the major causes behind it. To keep pace with the latest technological changes, marketing transformed itself from traditional to digital. It’s 2019 and as a matter of fact, Digital Marketing has become a necessity for all online businesses today and with every passing year, it is bringing new paradigms of marketing. In this interview, I spoke up with Rahul Mudgal to know his views and significant approach towards Digital Marketing.

Rahul has recently joined the Fintech venture of NTT DOCOMO group, world’s 4th-largest telecom company, DOCOMO Digital as their Global Marketing Director. He was leading solutions marketing for the Growth or emerging markets region across Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America for a leading consulting firm – Mercer before he joined DOCOMO Digital. Over the last eleven years at Mercer, he had worn multiple hats, and for the context, he pivoted to digital marketing as his core specialization sometime around the year 2008, back when he was leading marketing for Mercer South Asia.

Back then, the dichotomy between traditional and digital marketing was more evident while it is less so now with digital itself being “all-pervasive” with the advent of new technologies such as 5G, Internet-of-things and artificial intelligence, and the rapid convergence of online and offline experiences for consumers. Now, he’d like to believe that every marketer ought to be a “marketer for the digital-first world”. For him as a B2B CMO, digital is quintessential to everything he does, even if it were around creating an offline experience like a trade event. One must always be thinking of the pre, during and post-event digital outreach in that campaign, lead nurturing and engagement activities that would have to be undertaken through digital channels to be top-of-mind for your clients and prospects.

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 Mudgal – I firmly believe there is simply “One Marketing” today for the “Digital World”. The moment we say “Digital Marketing”, it delineates from marketing as if there were any conventional marketing that remains that is purely offline. Right from visual in-store merchandising in retail to the distribution of product samples in the rural hinterlands as a form of promotion, everything today has an integral digital element with technologies such as IoT and NFC deploying sensors to track consumers at the point-of-purchase to mobile commerce proliferation in the rural economies. So, in my view, we are in the post-digital world where there is no dichotomy for the discipline of marketing to be effective and all-encompassing, to be where our customers are whether offline or online.

Share about your any favourite Integrated Marketing case studies. What did you like most about them?

Rahul Mudgal – Case Study 1  – One of the digital-first campaigns I was involved with at Mercer right from inception is called, “Voice on Growth”; a native digital app and content platform to bring to life Mercer’s narrative around people issues in organizations, but tailored to growth or emerging markets. The campaign checked all the dots with regards to what makes a great digital or content marketing campaign, and the way it grew exponentially in terms of users and engagement was phenomenal. More importantly, the content enabled real marketing impact on both the brand and demand, using a combination of owned and paid media. And now the platform has its own life, independent of Mercer with a monetization engine so that the platform is no longer a cost centre but instead generates revenues which in turn allows for investments in producing high-quality and meaningful content.

Case Study 2  – One of my favourite brands leveraging 360 digital-first approaches is DBS bank. Here is one campaign example to speak of, but they have a number of these. With a distinct strategy and mode of engagement, team DBS defined two key objectives:

(i) Leverage cultural opportunities to drive brand engagement on an emotional level through relevant content delivered through digital and social channels

(ii) Deliver subtle brand messages via these engagements, to improve brand sentiment and association

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

Rahul Mudgal –

Mistake 1 – Treating digital marketing as a specialization within broader marketing and running it in a silo. Digital marketing needs to be embedded within the broader business, for digital marketing to positively impact all customer touch-points and drive commercial impact.

Mistake 2 – To depend entirely on external agencies to drive digital marketing outcomes without building in-house capability. Not leveraging first-party data and depending solely on third-party interventions.

Mistake 3 – To not invest in building a robust end-to-end marketing automation capability in B2B especially and using point-solutions which may not necessarily talk to each other. Besides, it would make you lose focus of your own channels, which needs to be managed exceptionally well especially in light of the erosion of credibility of certain paid digital channels.

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

Rahul Mudgal – It should always be a combination with in-house strategists working on specialist agencies towards more substantial business outcomes, but ever one or the other. I wouldn’t recommend either building all capabilities in-house entirely or being entirely dependent on agencies. Especially with the erosion of credibility of specific digital platforms, it is even more critical to have capabilities to develop a digital marketing strategy, run the core marketing automation engine and report on marketing impact performance, combining all the internal and external sources of data.

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

Rahul Mudgal – Again, digital marketing or marketing more broadly can only be relevant and influential if the function drives business outcomes, and not chase vanity metrics. Especially in the B2B world, marketing impact on both acquisition and retention and at all the stages of the funnel is now measurable with sophisticated analytics. It is important for marketing metrics or KPIs to always be revenue and growth focused. And perhaps even more important is the deep understanding of the financial metrics, business models, marketplace and competitive landscape amongst the marketers for the team to effectively contribute to the business.

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

Rahul Mudgal –

(i) For Entrepreneurs: The only way for entrepreneurs even in brick-and-mortar to scale today

(ii) For Professionals: There is no other way but to embrace digital for marketers to stay relevant

(iii) For Students: Digital marketing skills continue to be the sought after around the world, and make for an excellent career choice, especially with the advent of new avenues such as voice-enabled commerce.

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

Rahul Mudgal – While at the junior level I may choose to look at specific certifications or experience in say SEO or marketing automation, what makes for a successful marketer hasn’t changed from the pre-digital era. I would still look for creativity, adaptability and a learning mindset. New technologies will continue to emerge at an increasing pace and the changes to the platforms such as Google and Facebook will only accelerate. So these three traits are crucial for someone looking to navigate and succeed in the world of digital. Specific skills on platforms or technologies can be acquired when one has these inherent qualities.

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

Rahul Mudgal – Be hyper-curious about the developments in digital, and never think you are an expert at anything. And always have the willingness to test-and-learn, run small pilots or A/B tests in everything before you scale. Always keep iterating based on the real-time performance rather than get stuck with a linear and static approach to a campaign.

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 Mudgal – Some of the blogs or RSS feeds I subscribe to include:

(i) Trend Hunter by Jeremy Gutsche

(ii) CMO Council

(iii) Hyper Island Blog

(iv) Econsultancy

(v) The Prophet

(vi) Lippincott Insights

(vii) Chris Brogan

(viii) Comscore

(ix) MarketingProfs Daily

(x) Content Marketing Institute

(xi) Contently

(xii) Brian Solis

(xiii) Fast Company

(xiv) Abduzeedo

(xv) Designmodo

(xvi) Bernard Marr

(xvii) We are social

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

Rahul Mudgal –

(i) Jesper Astrom

(ii) Hope Frank at Mercer

(iii) Simon Kemp at We Are Social

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Date: 27th Mar, 2019 (Wed)
Time: 3 PM to 4:30 PM (IST/GMT +5:30)

How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2019?

Rahul Mudgal – With the increasing scrutiny and public discourse around data protection and privacy, digital marketing will be compelled to make amends with regards to building safeguards and governance principles around marketing practices in a way that the consumers can trust marketing messages, in ways that these messages are not intrusive and more contextual.

Top-3 trends

Trend 1 – With the proliferation of smart speakers, voice-search will overtake web-based search in the next five years. Marketing will need to evolve, partnering with platforms to improve organic reach in this new media. Voice combined with the proliferation of IoT-sensors in our living rooms and at points-of-purchase will also mean brands will have control over CX/UX rather than being dependent on distribution channels.

Trend 2 – Data lakes deploying combinations of first and third-party data would allow for personalization at scale on owned channels, the importance of strengthening owned digital channels to be able to control and curate the customer experience will only grow manifold.

Trend 3 – Accenture calls it XR or extended reality, the combination of AR and VR will create new ways for marketers to bring brand experiences to their consumers, and these experiences will be linked to seamless real-time mobile commerce.

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

Rahul Mudgal – I remember curiosity had led me to undertake a short course on social media back in 2007 just about the time Pradeep had begun this endeavour, and it is gratifying to see Digital Vidya grow into this learning institution of such scale and reach since then. I think Digital Vidya has addressed a crucial void in our tertiary institutions by imparting essential skills much needed in the industry today. My best wishes for your future success!

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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