#Interview Building capability to engage with consumers should be priority for marketers: Siddharth Banerjee, Vodafone

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Siddharth Banerjee

From Reckitt Benckiser to HUL and now Vodafone, Siddharth Banerjee, EVP Marketing, Vodafone boasts of tremendous experience across sectors. Under his leadership, Vodafone has seen some of the most successful campaigns.

A marketer, author, Jury Chair of Best Social Media Brands 2018 and a man of many traits, Banerjee takes us through the journey of some of the best campaigns and various marketing tips and trends that brands and agencies can emulate.

Excerpts below

In your journey with the digital marketing industry, how has the ecosystem evolved to what it is today? From then to now, what are the 3 major changes seen in the social media marketing world that the brands need to adapt to?

My experience over many years in consumer goods, first with Unilever and then the last three years with Vodafone, have eventually determined the exposure of understanding how fast consumers have moved in India with respect to the digital world and the social media platforms.

Three things have happened - first, consumers have adopted mobile phone as their primary screen. We have got people looking at TV but also people looking at their mobile phones.In terms of engagement the most exciting thing that has happened is the exposure of the mobile screen. The second thing which has happened is a lot of action in terms of data pricing.With more affordable smartphones coming in, consumers have really taken to social media platforms for education, information and entertainment and hence there has been a content explosion as well.While growing up we said, a picture is worth a thousand words; but now a video is worth even more. There is a new rise of video and video screening which is the third significant development.

ZooZoos are synonymous to IPL; please take us through the glorious journey of ZooZoos. A digital IP in its own right, what are the plans to nurture it further, evangelizing a social media community in the process?

Vodafone is privileged to have a set of brand icons which we believe are unique in Indian Marketing. We have the lovable 'pug', the naughty 'ZooZoos' and we also have, the latest icons- the lovable old couple Asha and Bala with whom we did our IPL campaign last year. ZooZoos have become larger than life and are intrinsically associated with Vodafone.

Please share the key insights and highlights of the latest leg of ZooZoo campaigns. What was the objective behind Fantastic Breaks? How does it contribute in the larger objective Vodafone as a brand has from social media marketing?

Here the interesting thing is that we run one of the largest Facebook fan pages which is the Vodafone ZooZoofor many years. We have gone beyond just creating communities to engaging people at scale. Vodafone is quite good at engaging people at scale and the latest example of that is the unofficial sponsor of fan's campaign which we are doing over this IPL season. So, if you look at this campaign in particular, we have used all our learnings of social media from the past years to build a digital social media platform campaign called Unofficial Sponsor of fans. As a part of this campaign, we are using contests, celebrities, key opinion formers, giveaways and prizes and the power of social context to really celebrate the cricket fans in India,thereby building brand engagement and brand love using social media platforms.


The objective of the Unofficial Sponsor of Fans campaign is to continue to build brand love that consumers have for us by engaging them in a relevant manner and build buzz and conversations for the brand in a topical environment like cricket.

To that extent, we have used our lovable ZooZoos. We tied up with Facebook; we used our customer base and set up direct contact with them and more. Overall, it has given a fantastic amount of buzz. If you look at the recent reports, we are ahead of even the official sponsors when it comes to buzz and conversation. We have crossed 50 million interactions with consumers last week. So, I think the simple answer to your question is that it helps us drive up brand love and it helps us drive up the buzz and conversation amongst our customers.

Also Read:  A walk through Vodafone’s Social Media Command Center

Vodafone has been attributed with one of the most successful campaigns of the year - Dhananjayans. How did it all begin? What was the data insight that played catalyst in the becoming of the campaign? 

Dhananjayans is their real name and ofcourse their screen names, what they call each other on-screen in the Vodafone ad is Asha and Bala. It's very interesting how it all came about and a lot of credit of that I would give to our partners, Ogilvy, our production house, Nirvana and Prakash Verma.

We started by saying that we had to talk about our data strong network, 4G services and we wanted to say it in a differentiated manner in a cluttered advertising environment like the IPL as you can imagine.Therefore, in an environment which is normally dominated by cricketers and Bollywood advertising, we thought we wanted to do it in a different way and hence the thought of using a couple that has is using technology to enjoy a long-awaited holiday.The whole thought came about of the second honeymoon which is where the Dhananjayans go to Goa and do all kinds of interesting adventures.

The casting of that was led by Rajiv Rao, erstwhile creative director at Ogilvy who worked with Prakash Verma and heads up a lot of our Vodafone advertising in Nirvana.We were able to, within the marketing team at Vodafone and our partners, take some bold calls to make truly fresh and authentic advertising with the Dhananjayans which resonated so strongly with all of India. Infact, what we were delighted with is that the strongest amount of love for these campaigns of Asha and Bala were among the youth. They could identify their grandfather, their grandmother and really feel that simple technology could change peoples' lives. Our marketing objectives in terms of landing our 4G services were more than fully achieved.

Any other campaigns you would like to add about? Right from the data insight to execution

We had one social media led campaign called #LookUp which is essentially a series of three videos that we created last year over Valentine's Day, Father's Day, and Friendship Day, championing the cause that while all of us as consumers and people are busy with our phones, at a certain point of time, human connections are more important. Conversations are more important and hence we built this social media led campaign which has crossed a 100 million views and has built strong brand love for Vodafone #LookUp.


The nature of sports marketing has evolved over the years. How can brand custodians leverage their investment to an optimum level in the spot marketing led sports marketing environment?     

Firstly, it would be about leveraging the sport and keep the fans in mind rather than being focused only on sending our message. Second, would be that a most of the popular sports are including cricket, especially cricket are cluttered environment; so, be bold enough to be fresh and authentic in your marketing approach.Third, these platforms provide great opportunities for engagement, so use technology, use digital platforms, use social media, use influencers and engage.

Also Read: Vodafone Pug: Then, now, and forever

What is the secret sauce of social media marketing for Vodafone? In your opinion, how can brands emulate the same to stand out among the clutter with their social media marketing efforts?

I think it's to deeply immerse yourself with customers or consumers and understand their needs. Consumer insight is the first one. The next is to build capabilities and tools so that you can decode what's happening.For example, we created the social media command centre at Vodafone which gives us tools, technology and real-time information to engage with consumers on social media and the third thing is be bold, take risks and do original things.

3 social media trends that brands need to take note of NOW

Using video on social media platforms and integrating your message in itself, is one trend that marketers need to look out for. Second is, understanding which platforms consumers are using, gravitating towards and leveraging it. For example, Instagram has blossomed in India especially among the youth.Third is building capability to engage with consumers on social media platforms which should continue to be the priority for marketers in terms of creative capabilities and media context and understanding.

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