K Ramakrishnan, also fondly known as Ramki, joined Café Coffee Day as its President – Marketing in February, 2010. With clear vision to drive company’s growth and engage users via social media, Ramki heads the marketing function of the brand across the country.
K Ramakrishnan, also fondly known as Ramki, joined Café Coffee Day as its President – Marketing in February, 2010. With clear vision to drive company’s growth and engage users via social media, Ramki heads the marketing function of the brand across the country. He is primarily involved in improving walk-ins, expanding the retail presence of Café Coffee Day in the country and overseeing the implementation of the new branding template of the chain. He devotes considerable time to listening to his consumers, engaging them and creating experiences that excite and connect with them.
Ramki has earlier worked with Lenovo India, where he was Country Manager of Marketing. He had spent close to seven years at TVS overseeing various brands. Besides, he has also worked with TTK Prestige and Tata Tea.
How does the digital medium – both internet and mobile, figure in Cafe Coffee Day’s plans to reach out to consumers?
Cafe Coffee Day, fundamentally, has always been into two media, first is cafe that is the outlet itself and other was digital. In the last six-seven months we have started campaigning outside these two mediums like print, TV etc. So, digital has been a fundamental part of CCD’s overall mix. Secondly, for our brand, digital has a very strong reference to social which has been a huge focus area from 2009 onwards and we have utilised this platform to add value to our brand. For example, on Facebook we have over 3.5 million fans and we are continuing to grow.
How crucial is mobile as a medium for CCD?
We understand from various points of data that 45% of our traffic comes through mobile. So, the first mobile centric initiative we have undertaken is the launch CCD app across platforms iOS, Android and Blackberry. A lot more efforts will soon come on mobile.
Which according to you have been some of the most exciting online campaigns that the company has initiated for its brand so far?
When we had reached one million fans on Facebook we had a national level celebration under which we decided that all the 1000 CCD outlets will have a cake cutting ceremony at the same time. We started creating buzz about the celebration on social media and we noticed that people started asking friends to join them for the ceremony that they plan to attend at a particular outlet. So, fans posted pictures of themselves of the ceremony tagging friends saying they were there at a particular outlet. Multiplication of the celebration was done completely on social media.
The second initiative would be the co-creation of CCD offerings for consumers via social media. We have organised tasting of our new products at the outlet by apprising customers online. Customers used to go to the cafe and taste the product and later post their comments for the same on social media. So, we have been able to weave the online and offline action together in a way to make the brand alive not just within the cafe but also outside. Then, we have addressed consumer issues via social media for example a user has reported about damaged furniture in a cafe outlet we fixed the issue and closed the case online.
What answers do you seek from your digital advertising agencies and digital media partners while promoting your brand on internet?
What we seek from agencies is completely agnostic from the brand. We want them to come up with different solutions in terms of technologies or apps. Our aim is no longer just retention and engagement now our objective is an online action must create an offline action from the consumers in terms of fundamental physical measures like consumption etc.
In your category, visual brand building works the best. With new engagement forms such as videos coming up on internet, what are your thoughts on visual brand building exercises on internet in India?
For years it is believed that a picture speaks thousand words and that is what gets reflected in the digital medium. So, in place of 140 characters if we put a picture on a social media platform the participation level is substantially higher in terms of likes or comments. We understand the importance of visual medium so bulk of our activity is via pictures or videos. Videos, however, have a high level of affinity but they take efforts to create and maintaining a stream of video content is challenging. If content has to be created it has to be done consistently over a period of time and whenever there is a new product range we try and utilise this medium. CCD is more concentrated on the nature of the content that we share rather than the medium.
CCD has a strong presence on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. But sometimes hate speech generated on social adversely affects brand’s image. How do you manage that?
Fundamentally, if you are not able to receive value don’t be there on social media. It is a public platform; people will say what they want. There will be a set of people who will have bad things to say about you so as a brand if you are able to listen to them and solve their problem then it is great. There are also incidents when there are loyal fans that defend the brand and outtalk people who are talking negative.
You use YouTube to host your TVCs online but as a content platform it has not been explored yet. Any plans on that?
We don’t have enough videos to put on YouTube. We do not have bandwidth to be able to continuously create video content to post there as well. So, whenever we find the money and ability to be able to do videos, we do them and they get uploaded on our channel. But, I would like to add that we have much more than just TVCs on our channel, there are videos posted by customers, videos that have been held at our outlets etc. So, wherever there is a possibility to create video content, we create it.
CCD products and merchandise is available online when have you started this service and how has been its uptake?
The merchandise is always available at our outlets but we wanted to have an online presence also. The response has been encouraging so far.
Mobile is being held as a great medium for brand communication, but still, very less amount is spent on the particular medium. What is your take on this and any mobile initiatives that CCD has undertaken?
I think it is a process of evolution, first came internet then social media and now mobile. So, as a brand we make sure that we have a web and a social media presence which can attract certain traction of users. They should come back to our platforms. So, mobile is the next medium we are sincerely looking at so there will be lot of efforts coming up for the same. We already have mobile applications across platforms (iOS, Blackberry, Android).
Last year, CCD has tied-up with MojoStreet to provide discounts to users? Please share any such forthcoming tie-ups?
CCD was one of the first brands to utilise any initiative on the internet. For example, when Foursquare was launched, we were the first brand to map all our outlets on the platform in India and allow customers to check-in the outlets and let them gratifying them by letting them purchase. Similarly, we have utilised Pinterest from its early launch in India so anything that comes our way we utilise it.
What is CCD’s digital spends? Do you see them moving this year – in terms of growth and focus?
Well, I would not be able to give a number but yes we are spending a significant amount of resource on digital.
How do you see your marketing objectives aligning with what the online medium offers from down the line?
There is one objective and that is business. To get the business you either get walking or you get engagement or you get loud for your brand or you get equity, ultimately all the efforts are aimed to drive the business. So, each medium works to build the overall core objective of the brand and that is what we are trying to do.