Through digital, we are trying to make Dabur brands young, vibrant and socially conscious

Archan Banerjee is currently the Group Product Manager (Head) – Digital Marketing at Dabur India Ltd, which is the fourth largest FMCG company in India and operates in key consumer product categories like hair care, oral care, health care, skin care, home care & foods. He has over 9 years of experience across marketing

Archan Banerjee is currently the Group Product Manager (Head) – Digital Marketing at Dabur India Ltd, which is the fourth largest FMCG company in India and operates in key consumer product categories like hair care, oral care, health care, skin care, home care & foods. He has over 9 years of experience across marketing functions, including digital marketing, online PR, lead generation, mobile engagement campaigns, social media, content development, viral videos, blogger activation, e-commerce, Google Ads, LinkedIn, Google Analytics, display advertising – impact & innovation, and live streaming, among others

He currently heads the digital marketing function at Dabur and has a team of digital brand managers reporting to him. At Dabur, he looks after end-to-end integrated marketing communication programmes, small campaigns, digital engagement programmes, an advocacy programmes on social media, mobile, website etc.

Prior to this, he was working as the Brand Manager – Digital and Engagement at Bharti Airtel Limited. He has also worked with Genesis Burson Marsteller, Oxigen Service Pvt. Ltd. and Millward Brown India.

Archan is an alumnus of Delhi University and completed his Bachelor’s in Economics. He did his MBA in Marketing and Sales from Amity Business School.

In this exclusive interview with Ratnika Swami for India Digital Review, Archan talks about Dabur’s online strategies to engage with the youth, the changing e-commerce sector in India and how digital plays a key role in the company’s journey to become a young, vibrant and socially conscious brand. Excerpts:  

Q. What marketing initiatives are you undertaking online to stay ahead in the fiercely competitive FMCG sector?

For us, obviously, there is a digital agenda that we want to drive through our digital websites. We created an online content platform for MyBeautyNaturally, which was designed to provide skin-care and hair-care content related to a consumer’s search query. This enables us to drive that agenda with our digital brands.

However, with our integrated pieces we basically figure out what do they [consumers] want to do? If not just a standalone TVC, how do we engage people? It is not just an afterthought either; it’s basically something we think about right when we are crafting out the brief.

Primarily, what we have done is created three consumer category level portals—MyBeautyNaturally, LiveVeda.com and Dabur Dental Care—for personal care, health care and oral care. These are basically the repository hubs because we are a multi-brand company and every brand doing it solo doesn’t work. Our core target audience (TG) is female; it’s women between the ages of 18-34 yrs. So in our core TG premise these category portals give out content which is in conjunction with the How-to feature: How do I fix my hair? How do I get fair? What should I eat?  We also have mobile extensions to our websites.

We also have an influence and outreach programme. We have a bunch of fashion lifestyle bloggers who write for us. We are in partnership with a lot of other publishers also for native advertising, like ScoopWhoop, The Logical Indian, and Only My Health (Dainik Jagran). 

Through digital, we are trying to make Dabur brands young, vibrant and socially conscious, and that is the change we are trying to bring in. Traditionally, you would not have seen us coming out with ‘Brave and Beautiful’ kind of content. The journey of ‘Brave and Beautiful’ started on social media and we got around 2.7 million viral views online and we got about 1.20 lakh shares on Facebook without spending a dime. We thought, how do we make a concept around the shareability of the content? This is a good cause and we want people to feel for it. We knew the potency of the idea the moment we cracked it. And that got enlarged into a rather large TVC ad format. It’s not a “Ghar Wali Diwali” equivalent. It is not only for the digital audience, but it has all the ingredients, emotive content, it’s for a cause, shareability is quite clear, and all this will help you build conversations online. Now, all of this was actually drafted out even before the video got shot. We have a very distinct sense of social and what we are trying to do. We are trying to reconnect the Dabur brands with the young consumers. We want the young people to actually feel for these brands, as these brands are very trustworthy in nature.

Q. What is Dabur’s take on the future of retailing in India and how online shopping continues to grow at the expense of store visits? How is Dabur creating unique, brand-defining experiences that keep customers coming back—whatever the channel?

I don’t think the brick-and-mortar model is going to disappear. India is a very large country, and most FMCGs have invested very heavily on distribution, so it is not going to change overnight.

We want to ensure that our brand is perceived in a manner which is relevant to the youth and socially conscious. We want them to know that this is a good brand to be associated with. And thereby, over time, we will be able to create more bonded consumers, like we have done with the previous generations. We are just using a different medium right now to create the same kind of loyal base. Once you have used our products you will get that sense of comfort that, “You know what, at this price, this product is great!” The problem is the trial, generally we see that there is awareness, but you don’t want to try because you feel that this is not for me, it’s a generation back for me, and that is the perception we are trying to change.

As far as e-commerce and FMCG is concerned, Nielsen data indicates that convenience shopping in India on groceries has not really caught on. There are a few players like BigBasket and others who are doing this really well, but primarily, right now, it’s all about apparels and accessories getting sold online, it’s about convenience shopping of non-consumables like tickets and books and holiday packages. Mostly what we are seeing from a retailer’s perspective is that in a marketplace model we are definitely going to be present. As an e-commerce strategy, we have our own online distributors, just like we have for offline: we have selected a dealer who is going to list our products on Amazon, Flipkart and others. This is our first level strategy, we are putting up our brand everywhere, where the visibility is needed. So in case you are compelled to buy our product online, you can. However, at this stage, the percentage of it is not much.

Online grocery shopping in India is not a huge phenomenon right now, but we are hoping that in the next 5 years due to the fast paced lifestyle of the consumers this will catch up. There is nothing disruptive about it, the entire marketing is moving towards that. E-commerce is a very real phenomenon; however, that being said, it is not to say that Kirana stores have become redundant. Kirana stores are also needed, because India is a very big market, we have huge demand in tier 2, tier 3 towns  and there are a lot of available mass brands, so this is not a conflict by any chance. 

Q. Retailers have been criticizing Amazon, Flipkart and other e-commerce firms in India for under-cutting the market and selling products at below the cost price, saying that it would hurt other retail channels. What is you take on this?

The way e-commerce is shaping up, there is a lot of bullish discounting going on, which is not sustainable for business over long term. Initially, the reason why heavy discounting was done by the players and then by the marketplace retailers, who are actually selling the products, was to create that stickiness. The trial barrier has to be broken, you have to be comfortable with doing a purchase online; once that is accomplished, it will propel you to buy more.

So what is happening is that when you are discounting it lesser than the MRP then that is a problem because there is a trade practice violation going on somewhere. Retailers are bound by MRP laws. Here online marketplaces are selling it for lesser price because they are taking a hit on the profit, but whether one can actually stop it, now that is up for debate.

India is very price sensitive. If people are moving towards an e-commerce platform primarily because of the heavy discounts offered on brands by online retailers, then the offline retailers will, of course, have a problem with it. But it is not to say that the impact on business is that heavy—at least we haven’t seen it as of now. 

Q. How are you changing your messaging for digital? 

A lot of people ask us, do we alienate our existing consumer base in terms of the marketing messaging? If you look at India, most brands are youth brands, or at least trying to be, because that is where the chunk of the market is, the early adopters. It also makes a lot of sense from a marketing perspective. If you are an early adopter to my brand then through your life cycle you will be able to stick with my brand, thereby you will be my bonded consumer.

Take the unique online contest we did for Dabur Red toothpaste called Red Dare. Now, Red Dare was a contest we did with our influencers, basically daring them to break their routine. As you must have seen, in a category like toothpaste, communication is mostly done through a doctor’s lens, “It’s good for your teeth, it is good for your gums, it removes bad breath,” etc and there is almost a masking of communication. The message feels almost the same. If you remove the brand name you would not be able to tell which one you are talking about. In such a case, how do you do a clutter breaking messaging communication? And imagine us doing it, more than, say, any other MNC brand doing it. We got a whole bunch of influencers together and we gave them these dares that break their routines. Like, “You actually brush inside your bathroom, why don’t you do it in your office or why don’t you do it in a shopping mall.” Take a video and put it up online, see it on our social media network. And we were able to garner about 142 videos out of this, 86 of which were organic, there were actual people who were doing this. In user generated content (UGC), 86 videos is a very big number and if you do a Google search on #RedDare, the first four pages are flooded with our content, so look at the library value that we are creating. What we have accomplished here is that we have reached out to a segment of audience, who would never generally associate quirkiness or coolness with our brand.

See, the fundamentals of FMCG product behaviour do not really change: it is not that you will stop showering or stop brushing your teeth or having Chyawanprash, people will take a supplement either way. Specifically, Chyawanprash is even more relevant to today’s young audience than it was for their mom and dad. Look at the kind of food that we eat, junk food and fast food. Here people basically need to build their immunity using a supplement and what better supplement than an ayurvedic supplement, which is time tested and is being used for generations. The only difference is that if I say Chyawanprash it sounds old, but if I say it’s a natural health supplement which is going to boost your immunity, suddenly the perception changes. That is the only difference in messaging. We have to make these brands relevant to today’s youth because they are the gatekeepers, they are the ones who are hesitant, and they are sitting on the fence right now.

The younger generation prefer to try an MNC brand because they think that the international brands might be doing it better, but honestly, we have great products to offer and our brands are reflecting that.

Q. What role do you see social media play in that context?

We did another influencer programme on Twitter, #ILiveNaturally. Now, everybody wants to be natural, as natural is the new cool. We did a social media listening on this and we figured out that a lot of people wanted to learn how to lose weight naturally? How to put on packs which make my skin glow? My hair is falling, what should I eat? So we basically did a promotional activity on social media, it was all organic. So we asked a question to people: What did they do to live naturally? Do you jog? Do you do yoga? And suddenly all the youth and Twitter influencers started saying that they use Dabur brands. They take Real juice, and have Chyawanprash. They have Dabur honey mixed in hot water to maintain their weight. Somebody said that she uses Amla hair oil as it is great for hair.

We got around 26000 brand mentions across different categories on something like this. And this was completely word-of-mouth. Advocacy is extremely important for us and word-of-mouth is the most credible form of advocacy. If your mom says it, if your friend says it, there is absolutely no reason for you not to believe it. I could throw billion dollars worth of advertising onto you and you still won’t buy it because it’s not credible. But here on digital, people are basically consuming content, the platform is agnostic, you can consume it on Facebook, Twitter, website, blog, YouTube, among others, and we are just trying to ensure that we are present on all the platforms. We are not overtly throwing our brand on to you, we are trying to help you and that is why our content strategy is so important.

And going forward this year, we are looking to create even more AV content, because currently India has about 11% Internet penetration which is expected to double in the next 5 years, and all of it is supposed to come from tier 2 and tier 3 towns. With the reducing cost of smartphones available in India, people are becoming screen agnostic. People want the content and they want it at their own convenience, they could consume the content through mobile phone, tablet, desktop, among others and we just need to be present there, giving you the content you want to read and not the one we consider you should be reading. We are not slapping a brand message on to you, we are actually trying to engage and evoke a reaction in you. And what is engagement primarily? If you feel for something, you are engaged, and we are trying to make you feel. We personally like Twitter, and not just because of the trending hashtags, but because it’s an open to all social media platform, and though Facebook is a social media giant, it is still a friends and family community, but anything on Twitter is like a real-time news feed. So it’s a very integral part of our social media plan. Facebook gives you a less than 1% reach on your overall fan base if you are a brand page, so it just doesn’t make sense to get fans. Having a huge 5-10 million fan base and not being able to reach them, then, what is the lifetime value of that customer? And what do you do to engage with them? Are they even reading your message?

According to a survey, most people don’t even remember which brand pages they have liked on Facebook, since there is so much noise on their feed and people are more interested in catching up with their friends and family. Our objective on social is to get these influencers who are already present online to spread the word to others about our brands and then see how people react to it. We primarily focus on social media listening which helps us get a sense of what is working and what isn’t, and what the entire category conversation is about. That is how you create intelligent messaging. 

Q. In the past year, we have seen many FMCG brands like ITC, Marico, Bisleri jumping on the digital and e-commerce bandwagon to augment sales. Any reason why you were so late entering this industry?

I think the reason is that it takes time for people to wrap their heads around it. We are a mass brand, and the reach is better on TV. So you automatically trust that more. Google itself is only 15 years old. So there is no benchmark. How do I know if it’s actually working or not? But there is movement, it is still agnostic, but there is multiple industry data which is supporting the e-commerce phenomenon. And we are gearing up for the future. Because it’s not about what we didn’t do for say X number of years, it’s about what we want to do now. It takes time to convince people. Under the leadership of K.K. Chutani, our CMO, we have a lot of leeway to do things, to experiment, and the results will come later. Indication numbers for digital are looking good though.

Q. Every generation has its own way of doing things. Today’s youth is not buying products like their parents did. How do you cater to the needs of the youth without alienating your existing customer base?

We already have a bonded and trusted consumer base. If you look at a toothpaste commercial, it is always a child that is shown brushing his teeth and using the toothpaste, but is he going to buy it for you? The answer is no. If it’s good for the child, it’s good for the entire family. Our communication is focused on trying to allow these young people to understand what their parents were talking about. The youth have grown up on the internet, and as such they have access to information at the tip of their fingers. And in the FMCG category there is a lot of interest, a lot of browsing behaviour, about hair products, skin products etc. But most of the buying still happens at a modern trade store, because these are small purchase items. People still prefer to call up their local Kirana wala and ask him to deliver the monthly grocery items to their doorstep. So the delivery system has very much been there in the brick and mortar model. And if people are inclined to buy online, then we are also present on various online marketplaces and online grocery providers.

Q. Do you have an e-commerce strategy or are you planning to have one in the future?

E-commerce is a very recent phenomenon for us, it’s just six months old or so. Our first level strategy is to put the product out there through a credible online distributor, so that there are no fraudulent products. Because there are a lot of people selling products like that online and that is one of the key concerns in health care. We are not bench marking what the competition is doing, we are seeing the scalablity of this business model. Right now, the browse-to-buy intent ratio is not there, and that must pick up. Things are growing in that direction and the online marketplaces have their own strategies to push it. And we are very keenly observing all of this, but what we figure is that we should not just go out there and do all of it at once. We are pacing ourselves, ensuring our product is out there, ensuring that we are able to provide the right amount of services and then we will see how the business goes from there. We have compelling e-commerce strategies on paper right now. We haven’t implemented them yet, because we don’t want to do everything right away. We need to give ourselves sometime to understand the landscape.

Dabur products are listed on our consumer category level portals like LiveVeda.com, MyBeautyNaturally, among others. There is a buy button on those pages, but when you click on the buy button, it redirects you to the Snapdeal or Amazon site, as we don’t sell online directly. Eventually if we see scale in this and we think there is credibility, then we can have a direct payment option, like we have for our Shilajit brand. Dabur Shilajit Gold is our only brand which is an e-commerce brand, so people can come and buy the product directly from our website. For other products, the person is redirected to the Amazon website or Snapdeal website, because they have the capability, the delivery system and the payment options in place. For now, it works for us.

We will eventually look at creating our own channel online. But how we actually do that, and what is going to be the actual format is something we are still working on. We need to first see, how the e-commerce segment in India is shaping out for the FMCG category.

Q. What percentage of your total marketing spend is on digital? How do you see that move in terms of growth and focus?

Anywhere ranging between 5-15% for digital and this is the approximate industry average also. Now, depending on various factors, like if the rate of adoption is faster than expected, then there could be an increase in the overall percentage.

Q. Could you please share in brief a couple of digital marketing campaigns Dabur has done recently and what makes them different or noteworthy?

Well there is the Red Dare contest, which trended in India at number 4 and garnered over 140 videos. It also received 45k tweets on Twitter. Also there is the ‘Brave and Beautiful campaign,’ which salutes female cancer survivors. 700se7 kadam also garnered a great response. It was Dabur’s Sanifresh campaign, which is an initiative to help build toilets for women. The campaign talked about many rural women in India who have it really hard when it comes to relieving themselves every day.

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