Manish Sharma, MD, Panasonic, defines the value of a brand-consumer connect


In 2012, Panasonic sponsored Delhi Daredevils and took it to another level with their ‘Cheer-a-thon’ campaign. Talking about another level – Panasonic India entered the Guinness Book of World Records on 8th April 2012 by making the ‘World’s largest seed paper wall’ comprising of 21,000 cheer messages as part of Delhi Daredevils ‘Cheer-a-thon’ campaign. In line to achieving its stated sales target of US$1.65 billion in India in 2013-14, the brand has is making its Indian operations a regional hub with markets like Middle East, Africa and neighboring countries set to become a part of the new entity with effect from next month. EE finds out from Manish Sharma, MD, Panasonic India, and the CEO of The Year award winner, on the importance of building a brand connect with the consumers.

“Experiential marketing used to be a buzzword when we first heard it in 2008 because of the developing mall culture in India. All the brands were looking to engage the audience. Today, the scenario has changed as the way brands are building the connect has become more advanced and refined with the use of technology and social media. In 2009 we made Ranbir Kapoor our brand ambassador, and revamped the brand,” says Manish Sharma.

As Indians, we are generally a very loud society. We not only talk loudly but also like listening to loud music and tv in our houses. Panasonic understood the Indian society and built a tv specific to our needs. “We in Panasonic India realized that around the time when LCDs were becoming the rage, the one thing that all the sets in general lacked was the sound quality. Therefore we created the Sounds For India range. And to build that product we started the sounds for India caravans that was launched first in Ambience mall, Gurgaon and then took off to 80 cities and more than 150 malls in the country. It was an award winning on-ground activation that allowed the customers all over the country to actually get the complete look and feel of the product,” divulges Manish. “Experiential marketing helped us build the connect with the consumer and it was a great hit,” he continues.

Panasonic is a brand that is also synonymous with its Beauty products range including stylers, hair driers, etc  – the products that consumers like to touch, feel and experiment with. “We had on-ground activations for the same and the same theme was carried forward to the television as well. It was the Panasonic Face of Beauty campaign in 201 – again an award winning campaign. We tied up with MTV and created a reality contest on television. We selected 10 metros where we created beauty lounges in malls and asked the young audiences – mainly girls - to use the products. The girls were groomed by stylists and then had to do a ramp walk that streamed to our website. Through an online voting system, top 10 girls were selected for the MTV Face of Beauty contest. We ended up selecting 12 girls and taking the experiential marketing route, gave them a great exposure,” says Manish.

“There are a lot of event creators that we work with eg Wizcraft, Marketing Solutions, etc. We give them a brief and choose the best idea out of all the pitches,” divulges Manish. Not all of the activities that are carried out are to necessarily drive sales. Sometimes, the brand is only trying to build brand value through its initiatives. Initially, television used to be the biggest medium of awareness, but things have changed as experiential marketing brings with it a targeted reach. “Experiential marketing is not only limited to tier1 or metros. Brands have become mobile with their ‘showroom on wheels’ going from one village to another along with an allocated dealer through whom people come and book the product,” says Manish. “And that is one direct way of calculating your ROI as one can judge the effectiveness of the campaign by the number of sales,” continues Manish.

Panasonic has also recently re-entered the already crowded mobile phone market. Speaking on the venture, Manish says, “The industry is very vast and growing at a very phenomenal rate. There is no such thing as a late entry. There will be multiple players that will come but what will keep them differentiated is the technology they come with so it really doesn’t matter whether we are entering late. The Indian audience is very, very young with 70% of our audience being below 30 years of age. This is a time when you can catch a consumer at a young age and he’ll always follow my brand once he becomes a loyalist. That’s an obvious thought in any marketer in today’s world. There will be new launches in the next 2-3 months and you will be seeing new products,” reveals Manish.

Budget for experiential marketing? “There is no demarcated budget as such but yes, there is some portion that we keep aside for when we launch a new product. It varies from product to product, time to time and period of time – all these factors affect the budget,” Manish tells EE. “Brands have evolved, today they are directly reaching to the end consumer because if they don’t do it, someone else will. And before that happens, you want to get the consumer’s attention. With this idea we are creating best of the best zones inside and outside malls to get the attention of our consumers,” says Manish.

“You remember how a few years back a Eureka Phorbes person used to go from door to door only wanting to demonstrate his product? We called it direct marketing back then but it is actually a more crude form of experiential marketing. Now, in order to grab the attention of consumers we are putting our products at a place where we would probably reach out to about 2,000 consumers at once instead of reaching out to them one by one. People want to experience and share their thoughts with the brand. People want to know how a product can make their lives easy. That’s how virals are being created at these customer test-points only. The biggest challenge that brands face today is whether they can marry experiential marketing with social media – it’s the next big thing. It’s about creating brand advocacy, if you’ve achieved that, that’s more than half the battle won,” finishes Manish.

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