Reinventing the role of marketing function: Bidisha Nagaraj, Chief Marketing Officer, Schneider Electric India

Pivoting to the digital ways of doing business has been the core of activities and allowed us to respond quickly writes Bidisha Nagaraj.


A global crisis impacts businesses in different ways. While it paralyses certain industries, it galvanises others. As a marketer the one question that comes up at such a time is, what the role of the marketing function is during such times - perhaps not the same as it was in the pre-crisis time.

What is very apparent is that if there was one team within an organisation that has always had nimbleness built in as part of its DNA, it has been the marketers. Demonstrating agility in the wake of this pandemic and like never before, marketers need to rapidly reconstruct the plans keeping two critical aspects while doing a business rebound: deeper relevant customer engagement and deeper sectorial identification to pursue.

Questions That We Need To Ask

The customer today is looking for empathy from a brand and not one which is trying to leverage the situation while we know that there is a fine line between the two. The questions that marketers need to ask themselves are in the following lines: how does marketing spur business continuity? What impact are we trying to drive during the new normal of consumption behavior? How do we get similar results with significant marketing budget cuts? Is the customer even looking at story telling from brands? Should the tonality of communication keep sensitivities, fear, anxiety, empathy in consideration? How do we measure impact?

With most industries and specific verticals going through challenges owing to the national lockdown, marketing and sales teams are on the lookout for business opportunities from everywhere. There is agile scalability and business model redefinitions happening in manufacturing setups as seen in textile belts transforming into mask and PPE manufacturing units overnight, five-star hotels extending laundry services to homes and the examples keep emerging daily. Digital connections play a big role in driving nimble innovation.

Digitisation And Communication: Key Tenets

McKinsey’s recent data show that we have moved five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks. The New Marketing Playbook needs to look at the short term with a sharper lens. Digitisation and Communication are the key drivers of the playbook leading to business continuity, deeper customer engagement and accelerating the sales funnel. ‘Design Thinking’, a non-linear process specifically focused on shifts in human behaviour - approach is a way to carve out the long-term imperatives in the playbook. It will seek to redefine problems and create innovative solutions by challenging the status quo and at the same time keeping the customer at the center. This approach will bring brands closer to its customers with its bent towards empathy, innovative ideation, swiftly gaining scale and cost-effectiveness.

The Schneider Electric Marketing Playbook

At Schneider Electric, this is the busiest time for the marketing team. Being the leaders in energy management using digital technologies, we are serving customers across all critical segments: Healthcare, CPG, Cloud and Service Providers etc. These segments have needed quick turnaround times and innovative product solutions. Pivoting to the digital ways of doing business has been the core of activities and allowed us to respond quickly.

Deep customer engagement has been achieved through the 300 webinars we have hosted in the last eight weeks reaching close to 30K participants.

We have moved to a zero-touch robust sales model transitioning the process of lead discovery, qualification, order booking to invoice signing from traditional to digital ways without a single customer interface.

The backbone of engagements and innovation are our employees and the communication to them. As we are getting positively inspired everyday by the innumerable stories of people going beyond the call of duty this brings forth just how critical employee behavior, trust and engagement are during these times. In this unprecedented time, internal communications systems, engagements with employees, help groups, cadence, open feedback, positive tone and frequency of communication make a lot of difference.

Today, it is imperative for all brands to come forward and support the economy in their individual capacities. The Schneider Electric Foundation has launched the #Tomorrow Rising Fund to help our communities respond to the crisis, recover and be resilient now and in the future. Under the aegis of the #TomorrowRising Fund, Schneider Electric India has contributed to the PM CARES Fund. We have also extended our financial support to 10,000 members of the electrician community, who we work with closely, through direct cash transfers to support them as well their families. We are also closely working with several hospitals in Uttar Pradesh to support their critical need for 24X7 power supply.

Being part of the marketing fraternity, I am looking at the upsides of this situation and the inflection point that comes along with it. The question is whether we want to re-invent ourselves and move on and build a new Marketing norm or we play a victim to the situation and lament the cut in brand budgets!

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