Canon India, VP, Dr. Alok Bharadwaj Speaks Passionately On The Subject Of Experiential Marketing


Hitting a three week high, Canon Inc. went up by 4.5 per cent on 4 September becoming the third most traded stock by turnover on the mainboard. Clearly the company is doing something right. As one of the front runners in digital printing and imaging technologies, Canon has swiftly spread its roots in the Indian market ever since its debut in the year 1997 as a subsidiary of Canon Singapore.

Dr. Alok Bharadwaj is the Executive Vice President of Canon India and is amongst the "Global Top 100 People" Influencing Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS). He has received the "Pride of the Industry" Award and also the "Best CMO" Award by the CMO council.

A strong advocate of the efficacy of experiential activity, we got a taste of his ideology when midway through our interview a popular tune suddenly flooded the office and employees did a shimmy in their personal work spaces. What a great way to revitalize an otherwise dreary day! He calls it ‘experiential learning for employees’. In his interview with EE he tells us how Canon is implementing experiential marketing to promote consumer experience and

shares his vision of experiential marketing in digital printing and imaging technology.

EE: What ‘images’ come to your mind when you talk about experiential marketing?

When we talk about marketing its all about creating desirability, either for the brand or product. It is an endeavour to position ourselves in a way that the consumer is influenced to love us more. Experiential marketing is an attempt to add to this pursuit of creating intense desirability among the targeted consumers. While conventional ways of marketing may positively stimulate the consumers imagination, experiential marketing goes a step ahead and hands the product to the consumer to touch, feel, grasp and understand it in real-time. Experiential marketing, to my mind, is a great tool that marketers are now increasingly beginning to realize and make good use of. For example, we take great pride in being the number one brand in digital imaging but even then we need to compete with various categories of smart phones, tablets, ipads and other devices. So today we need to create a compelling desire among the customer to look at Canon as not only the best camera but also look at it on a priority before he considers any other device, be it a smartphone, an ipad etc. Experiential marketing is the only tool that can achieve such a task.

EE: What makes a campaign truly experiential campaign?

An experiential campaign essentially means inviting the consumer to be part of the brand’s ecosystem. So, for example, when i’m trying to sell my customer a printer, my aim is not only to produce a high quality print but also meet the customer’s need to be able to connect the printer to his other devices of choice and enjoy the entire process in the bargain. So I’m not just marketing a printer here I’m marketing the whole way of using it. The idea is to create an enhanced experience using a variety of elements in such a way that your brand is projected as dominating and indispensable within that experience. The attempt is to try and fit your brand into the lives of your customer so that using your product seems natural to him and he can relate to it better.

EE: How is Canon using experiential marketing to reach out to its potential customers?

Canon has taken digital imaging and printer technology to various dimensions. One is the B to B segment where our copiers and printers are in high demand with their feature of internal document security. In the B to C category, besides printers, our cameras are the highest selling product. Cameras have undergone a major reconfiguration over the past few years where digitalization has advanced tremendously and features such as remote capturing allow the customer to use their smartphones to remotely operate their cameras. So while you can ‘test-drive’ a few products to understand the technicalities what it ‘can’t’ do is often more prominent after the purchase than what it ‘can’. I think the index of measuring the output of experiential marketing is basically the ratio of the extent to which you experience the product before you buy it divided by the experience of the product post-purchase. The efficacy of a successful campaign should be aimed at 70% or more. In our case we keep that as an aim when we try an experiential activity. We have 105 retails stores that we call ‘Canon image square’ where we encourage our customers to entirely experience our products before making a purchase.

EE: In an attempt at experiential marketing we believe you conduct a lot of photography workshops as well, how has that worked out for you?

Photography has undergone tremendous transformation in the past few years. People would earlier capture photos, then print them and then finally see and enjoy them. But then came along digitalization, and photography became limitless. It became less and less about capturing a moment and more about telling a story. Then came social networking and people began instantly sharing their stories. And this became an integral part of ones life. Photography has now become a language where instead of words photographs are used to communicate the message, often better. The brain has a logical side and an emotional side. It is through the use of imagination and art forms that we feed our emotions. The cameras we offer allow people emotional gratification by not just capturing moments but also creating them. Therefore in this attempt to giving this experience to our customers, workshops become key. We have a tie up with several workshop centres in India in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore and we are in talks of including other cities too. So when someone is buying a camera from us he is also signing an invisible emotional contract with us where our responsibility becomes to ensure we enrich his life using photography as a medium. The outcome is that the customer now begins to like us more and becomes a protagonist.

EE: What are the criterion for someone to enroll in such a workshop?

For the last two years we’ve conducted hundred workshops each year across about 25 towns in India. This is a free of cost single day workshop with the purchase of a camera. Since photography works very well in a community, our customers are also registered on a portal where members help enhance each others skills and, in the bargain, experience photography more closely. We also conduct 2 hour workshops once a week in all our retail stores. We are also planning specialized workshops especially for kids to harness their creativity at a young age. In this light, one demand for an SLR camera coming from the child is usually a 100% strike rate.

We soon realised our customers were demanding smaller groups for specialized training and more personalized attention. Therefore, we recently implemented the training of smaller focussed groups on a chargeable basis. We’ve named it the EOS Academy. In fact we’ve noticed the price tag has actually added value to the program and we are increasingly being approached by commercial photographers and photography enthusiasts for training. This activity has made a considerable impact on our sales. It has also helped us get acquainted with the challenges our customers may face while using our products, their features and technical issues.

EE: What media channels do you use to promote such kind of workshops?

We largely spread the word through social media, our retail outlets and product brochures as we are mainly targeting the hot prospects. These workshops are not leading people to buying a Canon but definitely allowing people a greater opportunity to enjoying their Canon.

EE: What is the future of experiential marketing in digital printing in India?

In printing, while the content is becoming more electronic, the consumption of content is also becoming more electronic. People are increasingly reading books on screen, greeting cards are being sent online, bills are viewed on the screen etc. With a result the overall need of printing is becoming lesser and lesser. So now our focus has shifted to showing our consumer multiple applications in printing that can add a different flavour to their normal activities. Be it printing directions to a place or printing 3D images, the idea is to break out of the ordinary and into lesser explored territories.

EE: What are your thoughts on experiential marketing in the space of digital imaging?

The comparative landscape has shifted from the traditional competitors to competitors from different categories. These are the categories that we could’ve never imagined could pose a threat to us. So there is a struggle to retain the consumers who are now increasingly being enticed into newer domains such as instagram and similar others. Therefore, it is imperative for us to provide a stronger gratification to our clients and create higher exit barriers. So we have to let them experience things they could never imagine a camera could do earlier. With features such as advanced low-light photography, cinematography, high optical zooms etc. we try and ensure we create an experience for our client that no other platform can provide.

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