Abhinav Kumar heads up the marketing and communications divisions for Tata Consultancy Services across North America, Europe, UK, Latin America, APAC and MEA. Recognised with over 70 awards for excellence in communications and branding, his team has established the company as one of the fastest-growing brands in IT services.
Here he answers Press Gazette’s questions about the future of media in our latest Marketing Maestro interview.
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How important to your brand is the news media (both B2B and B2C)?
Extremely important. For us, as a B2B company, our clients are C-level executives: CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, CTOS, CMOs, across every industry segment. Being informed of the latest news, trends and industry changes is vital to their own performance in their positions, so this segment tends to be a heavy consumer of both news media and thought leadership.
Correspondingly, our media strategy needs to be aligned to what they are reading online and offline. These tend to range from broadcast channels like CNBC, Bloomberg and BBC to print publications like the FT, the Economist, Wall Street Journal, New Statesman and knowledge publications like Harvard Business Review and World Economic Forum reports. It hence becomes important for our brand and our narratives to be reflected in all these channels.
News media is a major channel through which brand perception is forged and consequently, our communications and PR programmes have been a major focus area for us over the years.
What’s been your proudest achievement in your current role?
From 2010 to 2020, TCS has been the fastest-growing brand in the IT services industry, seeing our brand value grow six-fold from US$2.3 billion to $13.5 billion this year. During the same period, we boosted our aided brand awareness among business executives from 30% to 100%.
This has been made possible by a range of efforts, including a high-impact brand sponsorship strategy with the world’s leading marathons, strategic partnerships with bodies like the World Economic Forum, our own flagship Summit and Innovation Forums that have evolved into major gatherings of C-level leaders, and award-winning PR and content strategy programmes, strong collaboration with our sales teams to create industry-leading growth; and on so many other fronts.
I often quip that CMO means Chief Marathon Officer. While you need to keep a consistent and steady pace across the course, what matters not is any individual segment, but the immense pride that comes from completing the entire journey itself, especially in company of people that inspire and encourage you at each step.
What media channels do you see as most important and best value when it comes to marketing spend and activity?
In our business, we deal with large-scale multi-million-dollar digital transformations that can either enable our client’s business towards growth, or take them towards extinction if they fail. Hence the most vital element in any buying decision is trust. A primary objective for our business is to create trust and deepen relationships with our clients. Creating memorable shared experiences is important, therefore direct events and one-on-one experiences tend to be a major part of our marketing mix. In terms of digital media, platforms like LinkedIn that help build awareness, engagement and communities, are growing in importance to us.
Of the 690 million users that use LinkedIn, 63 million influence IT buying decisions and six million are direct decision makers. Unlike Star Trek, which prided itself on ‘boldly going where no person has gone before’, as a marketing department we need to make sure we go to the planets our audiences inhabit.
What for you is the key to any successful marketing campaign – what actually makes a ‘good lead’?
In storytelling, it is said that a good story is something that engages you, but a great story is one that makes you want to tell it to others.
Similarly, the test of a great campaign is whether it makes people not just engage with it, but actively become its advocates.
My team in Europe won the Gartner Communications award this year for their client storytelling campaign, in which 15 companies have spoken about the digital transformation we are driving for them, with their CEOs and senior leaders serving as the narrators in snappily-produced video storytelling. Each time we canned and launched a film, we had three more clients who had seen it and wanted to do a similar one with us.
To me when a campaign generates its own demand, it’s a sure sign that you are on to something good. Ultimately there are four ingredients that any successful campaign needs to be cooked from: it should be emotionally engaging, memorable, inspiring and educational.
How important is technology in modern marketing?
Technology lies at the very heart of marketing today.
The average person spends almost seven hours each day on some type of screen, hence digital channels are now the primary choice to engage consumers in almost any business. No marketing department can ignore this reality.
At the same time, in terms of using technology inside the marketing function, the sheer number of options available has exploded.
@ChiefMartec, which has been tracking the marketing technology landscape, lists that there are over 8,000 martech solutions available today to marketing departments, up from 3,500 in 2015 and just 150 in 2011. From analytics and insights, to content management and marketing automation tools, the potential of technology has never been more profound in this profession. On the flip side, it also makes it extremely difficult for marketing departments to keep pace with the accelerated rate of change.
What are the biggest pain points in a marketing campaign?
The fundamental question has not changed, and it is this: ‘How does your campaign cut through the clutter that your audience is inundated with?’ Even more so in the current context, with the impact of the pandemic.
Digital channels are the only ones available today to marketers, so every company has stepped up its portfolio of digital events, content and social media presence. This acceleration creates even more inundation for audiences. Fundamentally, when there is commoditisation and oversaturation in any market, it is also marked by a ‘flight to quality’ by the consumer.
Campaigns that will be forged on a very personalised, emotionally intelligent, memorable, high utility and unique experience for their audiences will succeed and create a landing, when hundreds of other boats will be lost at sea. Make sure yours is built of the right wood.