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Every brand and start-up out there is trying its hand at content marketing today. They do it either through social media influencers or by using in-house talents. However, to each brand content marketing means different things. A panel of experts at the 18th Marketing Conclave tried to decode the nuances of content marketing for different categories.

The panel, which sat down on December 12 at the conclave, comprised of Ankit Desai, Head - Media and Digital Marketing at Marico; Arjun Ravi Kolady, Head of Sales – India, Spotify; Richa Singh, Managing Director India and Middle East, Natural Diamond Council; Shreyas Shevade, Head of Creative and Content Marketing, upGrad, and Sumit Sethi, Revenue Head - News Cluster, Times Internet. 

It was moderated by Karthik Nagarajan, Chief Content Officer at Wavemaker India. 

According to Desai, content marketing can be used to reach audiences across the funnels. He said while content marketing may not result in immediate results, Marico has seen results in other areas.

“Five years ago, we would say that content marketing is about brand building. At best, the mid-funnel but definitely not for the bottom funnel. Today we have realised that there is a certain rage to drive performance using content marketing. In our case, while we may not see products being picked up just because an influencer is endorsing it but there are some areas which tell us there has been an uptick when it comes to the bottom funnel. It is clear that there is space for content marketing through the funnel,” Desai said. 

As per Singh of Natural Diamond Council, their category allows them to reach the desired set of audiences. 

“I have the rare privilege of working on a brand which is the category (itself). For us, competition is not the category, we are fighting with Michelin-star restaurants, cars etc. It's about keeping the category and brand relevant. At the top level, it is about reminding people what they subliminally might know. So, we are using content marketing subliminally,” she said. 

Speaking about their content strategy, Shevade of upGrad said their education eventually becomes content for them. “We use entertainment content to make education pop culture. We are trying to change mindsets at the top funnel, once your mind is set towards upskilling - our content tells you what you can do with your career. We use entertainment content at the top of the funnel, and educational content at the mid-funnel.”

Sethi of Times Internet said that they get briefs from brands that want to touch all the audience funnels from a B2B perspective. He explained that the top funnels are about authored pieces, and interviews. The mid-funnel is about roundtables, discussions, and downloads, while the bottom funnel is about leads. 

The ROI debate 

While content marketing might be a great tool to build brands, does it also ensure ROIs to justify spends? According to the panel, while ROI is important, not all brands keep it at the core of their campaigns. 

According to Singh, her brand’s category allows them to be easy on ROIs. “For us, we don’t look at ROI, we are in a category that is extremely niche and the idea/spirit of it is we do something we have not done before.”

“If I went by logic, I would never be on Spotify, a lot of things that we do are not on the basis of ROI but what we feel the customer would like. The Indian consumer are redefining the new normal. We cannot afford to be specific on ROI,” said Singh. 

On the other hand, Desai of Marico said they believe in long-term ROI. He said while ROI is important to justify spends, the results do not have to be immediate. 

He gave an example of their IP called ‘Heatly Foodie’ which let them establish in the ‘tasty cooking’ category. 

“Seven years ago, we were launching Saffola Foods for the first time and we realised we did not have the ‘taste’ credentials to our name. The brand was built around health. We realised that if we actually want to succeed in food, we will have to build taste as an equal credential. We did a lot of data diving - which we love to do as an FMCG brand - and realised that consumers are watching a lot of cooking videos online. We then realised that there is white space for ‘healthy cooking. We realised that we can take the brand here without compromising on the core ‘health’ credential and created an asset called ‘healthy foodie,” he said.

“Did it give us immediate sales? Maybe not. However, over the period of time as we scale the platform, we were reaching about a billion users every year. For a brand, it made all the difference for us especially since we were entering a new category. Therefore, for us, the sense of ROI was elevated. If we had gone with mainline advertising it would have compromised the main functionality of the brand.”

How are brands looking at audio in the content space? 

According to the panel, music/audio as a medium can allow brands to be with the audiences as they are engaged with songs/podcasts even while engaging in other tasks. 

“If everything that you are doing is visual, there are many times of the day when you cannot be with the consumer. All of these things like podcasts, connected TVs, AI are forcing brands to rethink where they can be placed. The explosion of devices and where people are spending time with audio and the fact that this gives you data to be a part of the consumer’s day is opening interesting conversations around audio,” said Kolady of Spotify. 

Talking about how they look at audio, Singh said, “Music for us is important because when you’re listening to music there is no conflict. We felt there is a captive audience there that we could use. That was our trigger for wanting to go into music.” 

She added that they focused on romance as a subject and built content through audio there. “There may not be a direct connection with diamonds but there is a direct connection with love. We are hoping we use music in a smarter way but we are convinced of music as a medium,” she explained. 

On News as a content medium 

According to the panel, while news can attract big eyeballs, brands want to play safe with it. Giving some numbers about the state of news as a category, Sethi of Times Internet said that the demand for regional news has gone up significantly. “We are seeing an almost 35% CAGR and this growth is coming from tier two and three cities. They are consuming hyperlocal content and the consumption is moving from text to videos.” 

He said that not only is this consumer consuming news but also has a great purchasing power. “We wanted to find out who were the people consuming video regional news. We found out that 30% of this audience is working in corporates at mid and senior levels. They are post-graduates, 32% are looking to buy their own house in the next two years and are also looking to buy cars. They are brand loyal and have brand engagements. News videos in vernacular do very well in terms of time spent but the monies are still chasing English news and premiums are given there,” he explained. 

Sharing her thoughts about news as a genre, Singh said they play cautious there as the emotions of the audience are high when consuming news. “We try to stay in places where the consumer may be relaxed. We also stay away from cricket and India-Pakistan matches, we want to stay where there is a possibility of viewing with your partner to latch on to that romantic angle. However, we are excited to try out different languages,” she said. 

Shevade of upGrad said the kind and context of news is very important to them. “When it comes to news, there is some gap that exists between our TG and where news today is. For us, as long as people are watching the right kind of news, and are watching how the world is changing in terms of technology, industries etc that is good for us. When people watch this stuff they realise that they need upskilling but I do agree that emotions are very high in the news and I would not like to take a risk,” he said.