In conversation: Ambika Sharma, MD, Pulp Strategy
Ambika Sharma, Founder, MD and CEO of Pulp Strategy, is one of the most successful strategists and opinion leaders in the Brand Activation industry. But she also asserts on her Twitter profile that she is a writer, entrepreneur, adventure traveller, diver and a speed buff. Amid all this, we were glad that she could take time off to speak to us about her company, the experiential marketing industry and what lies ahead for it.
EE: Take us through some of the work you’ve done in 2014 so far.
If one were to point out our most challenging work we have done in the recent months, it has been around content and community based experiences. We have utilized influencer seeding, reviews and consumer experiences and amplified them via digital and closed network engagement. Recently we engaged a small, but passionate community of super sport vehicle owners with an activation which allowed us to reverse engineer marketing platforms on social media to connect with existing niche communities and build an engaged network that populated on-ground events.
Also, we have established and rolled out B2B apps that help build engagement and create a unique customized experience for consumers at retail activations. With over a million consumer experiences every week, the insights and trends emerging from the behavioral data is “pure gold”. Our analytics team has translated this data into a change in pitch, spiel, experience delivery and engagement modes that have resulted in improved ROI. This process has enabled us to scale the void of productivity matrixes in experiential marketing to a large extent.
EE: Do you think Indian marketers have opened up to the idea of doing more experiential work over the past year?
I believe marketers were always open to experiential marketing, although there have always been barriers in the form of lack of ROI monitoring, quality control measures, experience standardization, lack of amplification opportunities and high spillover. But what pure form promotions lacked, digital has fulfilled. Only the rare marketer will turn down an engagement-led experiential activation that can be measured, focused and delivered to a targeted “purchase intender audience”, especially if it is delivered with an intent to shorten the purchase cycle. The sooner we move towards a standard of delivery and monitoring approach the bigger the market will become.
EE: This leads us to our next question. We are seeing some cutting-edge experiential marketing work abroad. Can we expect India to match up to those standards anytime soon?
Markets are different in their maturity, scale and needs. Have we really used even our current techniques and opportunities to the fullest? It is important to scale the barriers to growth and ROI before we hope to have large-scale adoption of methods that reach out to audiences. Having said that, we have seen some excellent work by agencies and brands here in our home ground and there is a balance of scale (which few markets can match up to) and creativity.
Tell us about the challenges you face when you’re designing activations and experiences for your brands.
I would not call it a challenge but being unique, delightful and yet relevant to the core need of the consumer. Audience fragmentation and a fast changing consumer environment is hurdle to cross when it comes to designing experiences. At times it leads to a trade off from a strategic point of view. Being more focused and concentrating on creating urgency to adopt ensures a larger reach. It is interesting how in more recent times the living quarter-to-quarter phenomenon in marketing has impacted this approach.
Lastly, what should a new-age agency like Pulp Strategy and so many others do to stay relevant in today’s dynamic scenario?
The dynamics have changed and the game is ever changing. It is important to find your niche and stay true to your value proposition. In the end for any industry or segment, when every one has stopped talking, the product speaks for itself. That's the only line worth hearing. Concentrate on the product and what it delivers for your audience. Remember that clients are consumers too, so the offering has to make a difference to their lives.
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