“Don’t communicate with consumers. Converse.”- Sumit Sawhney, CEO & MD, Renault
For Sumit Sawhney, CEO and MD of Renault, one of life’s chief philosophies is to establish a “human connect”, both as an individual and as a brand entity. “Conversing rather than communicating” makes all the difference and experiential marketing allows you to achieve this, all whilst touching lives in meaningful ways. Ahead, more nuggets extracted from a freewheeling chat with the sharp CEO of the leading global automotive brand.
“Today’s consumer can sense authenticity. He will not eat what you serve him”, claims a convinced Sawhney whilst explaining consumer behavior. He explains, “It has become extremely important to build an organizational culture inline with consumer culture. Instead of communication it is important to have meaningful conversations with brands. An understanding of millennials has therefore become evermore critical. You cannot use typical marketing techniques in this pursuit. They will buy whatever you are selling if they like it. And this is where ‘experience’ comes into play- be it in helping them learn about the brand or in driving the brand. There is no substitute for an experience”.
“When I was a young boy it was almost unthinkable to approach the adults and put an opinion forward. Today’s youth is very different. He will call someone thrice his age by the first name. He values his opinion and expects the other to do the same”, analyses Sawhney.
He says, “At Renault we have an inside-out approach. I believe it is the younger resources who will give us the most useful insights about the real consumer. Every 15 days I make it a point to do diagonal slice meetings with my young managers because it is important to understand how your young audiences think, because that’s where the purchasing power is.”
Speaking of the ways in which this change in consumer behavior is impacting the automotive business Sawhney states, “Olas and Ubers are being consumed at a fast rate by the young consumer because of India’s traffic and infrastructure issues. Will this change the future of the automotive industry? The answer is No. Because the automotive industry is also undergoing evolution and disruption. It is only a matter of time when electric cars sweep the roads of India and IoT enabled vehicles allowing Snapchat, Facebook and digital access become common in most households.”
Renault itself is exploring ways to integrate technology into the experiences it is providing its customers. Sawhney elaborates, “We have created virtual showrooms with the help of Oculus Rift technology where a guy who is sitting in Guwahati can take the full demonstration of the car virtually. Going forward with Artificial Intelligence and IoT coming up, there is a huge opportunity.”
Renault is also on the frontlines when it comes to event partnerships. Speaking on what the brand identifies before confirming an association Sawhney says, “Sunburn is a very specific community and so is IIFA. We target different social groups, different sets of people. We dedicate a high double digit of our marketing budget towards event partnerships and also curate several independent activities to establish a human connect with our consumers.”
Wrapping up the conversation with his personal success mantra, the perceptive CEO shares, “What really motivates me is the passion to build things. However whatever I do today was never my ‘first’ love. As a young boy I aspired to be a fighter pilot but turns out life had different plans for me. I thoroughly enjoy what I do and my journey with Renault has been nothing short of amazing, but what drives me is the human connect. I try and apply this in the company too. Culture will eat strategy for breakfast any day”.
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