Ajay Anand, Global Head, Digital Marketing Practices for Infosys is the Head of BrandEdge, a digital marketing platform for large FMCGs. In a day and age where enterprises are developing strong inclinations towards digital marketing and consumers are receiving it well, BrandEdge’s emergence in Western markets and its association with WPP is a significant development. In an interview with Pitch, Anand details the USP of BrandEdge and what sets it apart from competition. He also talks about the challenges to marketers who are exploring the digital space in emerging markets, like India, and the outstanding scope given the steady pace at which it’s being adopted.
When did the idea of BrandEdge originate?
The journey for us at BrandEdge started two years back when we started looking for solutions to build business platforms. When we started the research about two years back, we looked at what are the white spaces in the digital marketing space because obviously we did not want to build IP in areas that already had solutions. We wanted to address the white space. Our research basically told us two things- one was that this is absolutely an area we should invest in because there is so much of money and advertisement that is going towards digital and it’s becoming an increasing trend, so this is definitely an area that we should play in.
How did the plan of associating with WPP come about?
When we started we were not necessarily equipped as a company at that point of time to provide comprehensive and holistic solutions to all the identified problem areas for digital marketers. And if we had to get into marketing with a ground breaking solution, we obviously had to strengthen our marketing capabilities.
We, thus, partnered with a company that already was a leader in the marketing domain and that was the WPP, which is one of the world’s largest communications services company. So we integrated the best in marketing with the best in technology to create an overall solution which would meet the needs of digital marketers.
What is the process that the company follows for integrating technology with marketing in a more comprehensive way?
We do it on multiple dimensions. Since digital marketing by nature is so dependent on technology, marketers really need to have a comprehensive solution, which addresses both the marketing, as well as the technology aspect. So we did the integration on that front where our solution would be designed, built and serviced by a combination of best of technology and the best in marketing.
The other integration that we have done is essentially around how you make it easy for marketers to bring in the plethora of tools that they use. So, we built a very strong integration framework, which allows them to bring in their existing tools. And because of our partnership with WPP, which has a deep expertise in most of the marketing specific areas, we brought in the ability to bring the best in class tools.
Moreover, we offer a solution on the cloud where the customer doesn’t have to invest in hardware or software. They consume this service on a subscription basis, just like they wouldn’t with any utility service. We focus on two key areas of efficiency and effectiveness.
What sets BrandEdge apart from the multiplicity of digital marketing solutions available today?
You’re right when you say there are a whole number of companies and service providers who are looking at digital marketing as a potent area. We started off with a focus on servicing the large enterprises since they require a service provider who can give them not only top leadership but also the scale. And, Infosys is well equipped because we have been servicing large scale customers. So we needed to bring in a world class solution because we already had the scale.
Can you give an example of a successful initiative?
In a multi-million dollar initiative, GlaxoSmithKline in UK adopted BrandEdge for its global digital transformation initiative. It created a centralised organisation called the Global Digital Service Board, which is aimed at centralising the digital activity across all its different brands. They have about 120 brands across 200 markets. The company has used BrandEdge’s campaign building capabilities to build the campaign, for all possible channels. And then deployed the campaigns on to these different channels and thereafter we have helped capture information identifying the right TG.
While high-end product categories like automobiles are leveraging digital world, how do you think FMCG can leverage digital, especially in rural marketing?
For the large number of brands that FMCG companies have, it becomes supremely important to use digital channels. I think FMCG and/or the retail and CPG sector is one of the most potent spaces for digital marketing as compared to the manufacturing sector. For rural markets, digital marketing can enable the consumer through the mobile device. For example, in banking there’s Airtel Money, which is a solution being built by Infosys is helping bank the unbanked.
Moreover, in FMCG digital is used throughout the product life cycle. One, it is used to build awareness and create brand loyalists and secondly, to generate commerce. Thus, there is a healthy link between e-commerce and digital marketing.
Do you think that it is a challenge for marketers in India who have been operating a traditional way to get accustomed to digital marketing?
It has been a challenge for marketers to adapt to the digital sector because most of the marketers have been used to conventional channels, which follow push marketing, be it television or print media. It’s been all about giving a message out to the consumers. But, digital marketing itself has allowed the power to shift to the consumers. It’s more of pull marketing now. The consumers make their own opinions on ratings and comments through a relatively larger search on Google. No one goes to www.nike.com directly. So the marketers already have multiple challenges irrespective of whether they’re operating in the rural or the urban sector.
Is social media just about Facebook and Twitter? Or could we look at high traffic websites, which have focused audience for example, Mashable, which caters to geeks? Do marketers understand that?
When you look at large enterprises, there are very concerted efforts going on, to look beyond Facebook and Twitter and have a mature and deep strategy to explore how to employ the social media channels. Large enterprises are creating roles like Social Media Strategists to deal with the language of this media.
Is BrandEdge looking to explore Indian markets too?
Given the rapidity with which digital marketing is finding space in emerging markets, I do believe that our looking at the Indian market is somewhere around the corner.