TBC #Candid with Pushkar Deshmukh

Posted on Posted in #Candid


In an attempt to bring the most real, on-ground and candid insights, experiences and stories to the audience ranging from CEOs to CMOs, from brand managers to marketers and students, The Brand Cocktail is initiating a series of interviews under “#Candid“. The series will feature some of the most prominent Brand Managers and Marketers of this age, who have worked and disrupted marketing strategies and implemented the same for brands that we all know!

As a first, we bring you Pushkar Deshmukhan out and out marketer and advertiser from his education days. Having worked as a Senior Brand Manager with One of the biggest Private Sector Banks of India, he has now moved on to working with an Insurance startup as Head of Brand and Marketing.



Here is what he has to say about the fast evolving Industry of Brand Management and Marketing –

You have largely worked in sectors that have been identified as traditional, age old models, such as banking and insurance. How do you think have these industries matured to the idea of brand building and a digital identity?

Digital identity has become more of a hygiene not only for banking and insurance but for any sector in general. All businesses that you find offline, now have a strong digital presence. For banking specifically, in the last couple of years, digital is not only limited to internet and mobile banking but it has gone a step further with digital only products such as digital savings account and virtual credit card that offer highest level of convenience, thanks to the massive penetration of internet and smartphone in India. Moreover, banks and insurance companies are using digital as a key customer acquisition channel in their marketing mix.

As far as brand building is concerned, customers have started looking at banks as a place where they not just save their surplus money but a place where they can go for any financial requirement – such as credit cards to manage their expenses or loans if they need funds or investment products to multiply their funds. In case of insurance, aggregator websites have become a go to place for customers before buying any kind of an insurance.

For banks and insurance companies the products are almost identical, so how does one differentiate from others – Brand building has hence become extremely critical for brands to tell their story which customers can relate to.

Further the objective has now changed from “selling products” to “building long term relationships” which is where brand building has become an integral part of the strategy.

During your stint with banking, which is primarily a brick and mortar business, did you see some considerable quality lead generation or direct conversion from digital marketing activities?

Yes, digital marketing is all about ROI and is used as one of the key channels of marketing as far as lead generation and direct conversions are concerned. In fact, digital is also used heavily for brand awareness campaigns for communication efficacy simply because of the amount of content one consumes online.

Typically lead generation campaigns are done for the products where fulfilment cannot happen online – such as loans and credit cards and direct conversion campaigns are done for digital only products such as internet banking and mobile apps. And these campaigns are usually done on an ongoing basis.

How important do you think it is for a company to invest in brand building activities and what stage do you think they should consider it? From the very first day or after some time has passed?

As I mentioned earlier, it is all about building a strong relationship with customers which makes a company a brand. The brand story is built on a strong brand thought – the reason for a brand’s existence and hence it is critical for a company to invest in brand building activities from day 1. These activities must cover every single touchpoint that reflects the company’s brand thought – right from the website to sales guys to call centre executives to internal employees to advertising – consistency is the key!

Overall, how do you see branding becoming more relevant and digital presence becoming integral part of marketing strategies in India, which is still essentially a Tier II and rural population?

The Indian e-commerce industry has been on an upward growth trajectory and a Tier II population is majorly contributing to this massive growth. There are not only customers from these small towns who shop online but also merchants who use online platforms to broaden their horizon. The internet penetration is also growing rapidly in rural India which has made these audiences accessible. And hence as mentioned before, digital presence has become more like a hygiene. As far as branding is concerned, it is not only about how much money is spent on advertising but about the overall experience at every customer touchpoint. Branding is all about adding value to the customer’s life – be it urban or rural!

Give us 3 take-aways in your opinion, from a Brand standpoint, on how should a company go about getting itself identified as a “brand”

There’s only one take away: Give every customer more than what is promised – every single time!

Tell us one interesting case study or a path-breaking marketing stunt or idea that you have come across and would like to share with us

Typically all of us surf through TV channels when we see television commercials – no one likes them, perhaps because every time you watch a TV while having your dinner, you see a toilet cleaner ad! 😀 So in the battle of telecom companies, it was Vodafone Zoo-Zoos who broke the clutter. While everyone else was still “selling” a SIM card or a low call rate, Vodafone caught the attention of everyone with these cute looking characters which did nothing but entertain in between 2 overs of IPL Season 2. The idea I thought was not to “sell” anything but just to “let people know” about the “value added services” (which later became a very big market for telecom companies) and in the most entertaining manner. People who would generally do something else in between 2 overs, actually “watched TV ads” to see if there’s a new Zoo-Zoo ad! I thought that was interesting, clutter breaking and out of the box!

In the current company that you work with, what is your single minded brand mantra?

Keep it really simple! Take examples of all the top brands that we come across in our daily lives – they are known for “a particular thing” in their category and they are identified as a brand in that category because they have kept that “thing” really simple!