#LeadersOfTomorrow: Ignore conventional marketing: Serena Paes, IndiaFirst Life

Serena Paes

What started as a job in PR led to a career in digital marketing – an accident, Serena Paes, Branding & Digital Manager, IndiaFirst Life is till date thankful for.

Paes shares her dynamic journey, giving a view of the dynamic thing the digital marketing world is. She sheds light on how one changes through the course of their career, understanding the industry better with every campaign or initiative you work on.

From a day in her life to her gurus, Paes shares interesting insights.

What led to your entry in the dynamic world of digital marketing?

Fresh out of college placements and latching on to the first offer letter I received meant that I began my career as a public relations professional. However, even during my PR days, I spoke about my love for all things marketing and with digital media gaining momentum it all seemed very exciting and interesting. When my Account Director at that time quit to join TechTarget Inc, a Boston based media firm opening its base in Mumbai, I was absorbed into his team as Manager – Marketing & Audience Development. The youngest manager for the portfolio to be hired at 22 years of age and there began my love affair with the dynamic world of digital marketing. Quiet by chance but I couldn’t have been more grateful for the opportunity because it took my career into a direction I’ve always wanted.

Looking back, how would you describe the journey. What is the one instance that made it all worthwhile?

The journey has been an enlightening one albeit full of surprises. When I was fairly new into the world of digital marketing, there were times I was convinced that we were onto something big only to have my perceptions shattered by the eventual outcome. At other times the response to a campaign completely took me by surprise. When you’re younger, you think you have your finger on the pulse of the people and just know better. However, that’s far from the truth. It’s made me realize that the learning never stops and that you can never take your customer for granted with an ‘I know it all’ attitude. It has also taught me a lot about myself as an individual and the kind of professional I want to be.

I don’t think there has been one single instance, it’s always been the small things for me. The first time I presented a complete campaign idea to one of the top apparel brands in the country to have it all approved in the first go. Or the first time I stepped onto the stage with my team to collect a prestigious award for one of our campaigns. Or the first time my boss (who wasn’t great with showing appreciation) told me I had done a swell job and offered me a double promotion.

Your idea of an ideal campaign?

The ideal campaign for me is one that is rooted in a strong human insight that then translates seamlessly into a simple yet hard-hitting idea which meets your brand’s objectives. An ideal campaign should evoke an emotion – even if it is dislike. According to me, the minute your consumer has no feedback and is indifferent to your campaign – it is the biggest failure. Ignore conventional marketing. Instead be memorable.

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One memorable campaign that you worked on. Any behind the scenes dope?

The work I am most proud of producing is a testimony of how a deep conviction about an idea, strategic planning and unified teamwork can ensure flawless execution and results that not only get in the numbers but build brand equity. More importantly, it strengthened my belief that if you put a bunch of highly motivated women together (just my boss being the exception), there’s nothing short of magic that can be created.

Launching ‘The Label’ – India’s first online lifestyle magazine is one such piece of work I am the proudest of producing. It was the most chaotic time I’ve ever had in my life, with creative disagreements, the sheer quantum of work that goes into creating a single edition of a magazine, sleepless nights, convincing your clients that their investments will see returns, organizing shoots, scouting for partnerships – but all worth it when we saw the finished product. It was really a proud moment for the entire team when we launched the magazine – like our baby had just come into the world but we knew we still had to continue to raise it right.

Also Read:  #LeadersOfTomorrow: There are no templates to campaigns: Sandhya Gurung, Autumn Worldwide

Motivation mantra.

My biggest motivation is my work itself. It’s true what people say – if you love your job, you will never work a day in your life. Choose to be unstoppable, choose to challenge yourself. That mindset is motivation enough.

One day in your work life…

Not one day is the same. Some days I feel like I’m the executive – some other days the manager. A typical day would include some or more of these elements from managing the marketing strategy in line with our wider company objectives, coordinating marketing campaigns, ideating and formulating strategies for enhanced engagement, measuring marketing effectiveness and overall brand management.

One upcoming trend you want to latch on

The scope of using ‘Augmented Reality’ to enhance customer experience is manifold. Moreover, big investments from companies like Apple, Google & Facebook in the space will further create a new playing field for brands to truly make a difference with how customers interact with their brands.

One trait that helped you win 30Under30; any tips for upcoming participants?

If I’m comfortable, it’s time to move on. If I’m terrified – I know I’m usually on the right track. Keep challenging yourself to do excellent work. Keep yourself abreast with what’s happening globally in your field. Mediocrity breeds mediocrity – so set yourself benchmarks wherein you’re not only the best in your agency but in the industry.

One moment or instance from your journey that aptly describes #AgencyLife

Sitting in a boardroom with the top rung of a beauty brand once – we were briefed and asked for a 360-marketing campaign. We were then told we had 3 days to come back with ideas and had to be prepared to roll-out the campaign within 10 days – protests were futile. On further enquiring about budgets, we were told that budgets were plenty and not an issue. We got back with ideas in the stipulated time only to be told that they wanted to execute it all, but we’d need to slash prices drastically. To cut a long story short – we met those unrealistic deadlines with budgets that are better left not spoken about.

 Rapid Fire:

  • Your favorite campaign
    Red Bull: Stratos
  • Most irritating word in a brief
    Virality
  • Most overused digital marketing buzzword
    Millennial (Suddenly everything revolves around this bunch)
  • One brand you love on social media
    Zomato
  • Rank in order of fondness: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn
    Facebook – LinkedIn – Twitter – Instagram – Snapchat

One stereotype about working in the digital media sector that is thrown at you every time

You must be on Twitter & Facebook all day

One campaign you wished you had been a part of and why?

I would just really love to work with the Red Bull team who’s on the cutting edge of technology and content without ever losing the essence of who they truly are.

3 things you do daily that have helped you excel professionally

1) Reading – I can devour books and read voraciously. Whether it’s reading about what’s happening in the industry or the latest in fiction, there’s no discrimination. Books provide both mirrors and windows— they can reflect your experience or allow you to step into the shoes of an entirely different experience than your own. This really helps when you’re in a creative field likes ours is.

2) I never take my work home. What happens in the office stays in the office. I don’t carry disappointment, work stress, even work home. I really believe that maintaining a perfect work-life balance is something that helps me go refreshed each day to give my best and continue to be passionate about my job.

3) Every morning begins with a To-Do list. It helps me stay on-track.

Digital marketing gurus you look up to

There are some great lessons I’ve learned from Guy Kawasaki on being a great thought leader and influencer.

Where do you see yourself 5 years down the line?

Creating a digital transformation center from scratch and leading the same for a top MNC.

Marketing and Advertising Icons/Leaders you follow and look up to for inspiration

I’ve been really lucky to have some great bosses and mentors who I’ve learned a lot from first-hand. But the path-breaking work and ethics of Piyush Pandey, David Droga and R Balki are my go-to’s.


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