There’s no pride in coming up with an idea, it's more about execution than planning: Sai Ganesh

Saloni Surti
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Sai Ganesh

Sai Ganesh, in conversation with Social Samosa, speaks about content trends seen on social media, how marketers need to change their approach, and moment marketing best practices.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to catch up with Sai Ganesh, Brand Consultant and Ex-CMO Dunzo. Ganesh has been at the forefront of the moment marketing wave and shares some insights on what goes into creating real-time content that connects, emphasis on the connection bit. 

Ganesh throughout the conversation reiterated the importance of relatable content, how coming up with a good idea is not enough, and the role of social media marketing in overall business KPIs. 

Edited Excerpts: 

Everyone wants to be quirky & relatable on social media. Any tips on how can brands crack this code? 

The idea of any brand is to stand out in the clutter, and if you are boring no one is going to notice you. The second is that we are doing this for the consumer and not ourselves. Brands need to look from the POV of what the consumers are engaging with, talking about, and sharing. Once we understand these things, then it becomes easier. 

The problem is getting this to the table. I think most of the time brands don’t do things that make them stand out because they do it for the wrong reasons. Once you understand that you are doing this for the consumer who can share it, it becomes easier to create content. 

Try not to have too much bureaucracy or multiple layers of approval; because that kills creativity. In today’s social media world, you need to be a lot faster when you are putting content out as opposed to getting it right or perfect. Traditional advertising used to focus on specifics like a big director, great location, and crores of budget - today it's the idea that matters and not the production value as much and the speed at which it goes out. 

One of the things that can be seen a lot on social media is that ideas are infinite and everybody can get the same ideas. Let’s say on Women’s Day, Independence Day and so on; a lot of brands have similar ideas. So, brands need to put these ideas out there. 

There’s no benefit or pride in coming up with an idea, it's more about execution than planning. 

Social media marketing now entails many factors - real-time trends, occasions, and staple content. Any tips for brands on how they can create an effective social media calendar? 

The idea is to hire the correct people. Hiring social media natives makes a bigger difference than people who are very creative but not on social media. I found this even on my side hustle - ‘India wants to know’; a YouTube channel. I have seen that there are a lot of people who write or design very well but are not active on social media. That doesn’t help. Traditionally, advertising agencies used to be filled with art directors who were proud that they weren’t on Instagram. Or copywriters who felt that Twitter was beneath them. 

That is a mistake that brands need to stop making and hire people who are themselves mini or micro-influencers. This means that they have grown their social media following from 0 to 10k and know what it takes to get there. Unfortunately, social media is one of those places where just having a better written or produced film will not get you engagement. Most of the time you have to be a bit cheeky and funny to grab attention. 

Humour is a big engine of content in social media, as opposed to traditional pop culture which centres around big-budget and big-name. 

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Any rules or fundamentals that brands need to keep in mind when making a plan? 

One is planning ahead and then keeping bandwidth for the unplanned content. 70% is planned ahead of and 30% is bandwidth. Secondly, look at occasions that people are going to be talking about organically - maybe a big movie release or sports tournament. There could be other social media calendar holidays like world walnut day or brownie day; nobody in India cares about that. It’s important to understand who your audience is and what are they going to talk about. 

How much do you think the social media presence translates into ROI or other business objectives? 

You have to accept that some of it cannot be measured. What you can measure is at a tactical level and at a channel level. What you can do on social media is - monitor it every week. As long as you are constantly improving that engagement, the goodness will come into your brand over a period of time, but the attribution will be difficult. 

To answer how much social media marketing can contribute to RoI - it’s a big question mark and will continue to be one. In marketing, we try to talk about this idea of ‘trying to boil the ocean’. Sometimes you can’t do that. 

One recurring theme that we have seen in general in the industry is bringing back yesteryear stars and the whole nostalgia theme, why do you think new-age brands are going hard at it and how think this works? 

It starts with a very scientific way of looking at how social media works. I mentioned earlier that for the last 10-15 years, the biggest engine of content has been humour-led. Another big chunk of content that is getting high engagement is nostalgic content. 

Kunal Shah had said this for the CRED campaign, that most of the people who are Creme de la crème of credit card users are those who are in their 30s. The 90s being the transition period from the old world to the post-liberation India, has a great deal of nostalgic value to it. So, as millennials are the target audience, it works. 

The reason brands are doing this is because the consumers are consuming this trend very well. Thus, nostalgia has become a large bucket of content that get maximum engagement, and to top it off it’s funny. If a brand is able to take something nostalgic and give it a new take, it genuinely ends up being funny. A simple example would be if someone takes Govinda and reprises one of his iconic songs in a newer format. It’s entertaining and relatable. Relatability has become a huge lever on social media in general for nostalgia as well. 

Would you say nostalgia as a content format has started working post-pandemic? What are some of the content trends seen post-pandemic?

I would actually say no. Like you asked about us reprising our old creatives; it actually took place before the pandemic. An interesting insight that I found is that after the pandemic a lot of empathetic ideas have been getting a lot of attraction. Another thing I have noticed on social media is that post-pandemic, people care a lot less about the production value. People will engage with the content despite the poor quality, as long as it is relatable. 

On the other hand pre-pandemic, it was crucial to make sure that the video, thumbnail, and everything looks a million bucks. Post-pandemic, there’s a lot of empathy for the people who are doing things that nobody else is willing to do. For example, content around delivery partners, health care workers, and government bodies helping in the pandemic. Along with it, humour made a comeback.

In the early months (March-April) of the lockdown, it was mostly useful content that was gaining attraction. Nobody cared about branded content, moment marketing or funny content. As soon as people started getting frustrated with the entire situation, suddenly everyone started seeing videos of ‘Moms at home’ struggling with multitasking, reels, etc. A lot of content then became about just letting go and empathy. But nostalgia had a grip way before that. 

Also Read: Pandemic was the chief digital officer for agencies and brands: Bharat Khatri

Since the pandemic, the role of a marketer has changed quite a lot; in both literal and figurative senses. As a marketer now, what are the 3 things that are there on your TDL and any tips for aspiring folks in this segment? 

To be completely honest, every day I spend around 1/2 hr to 45 minutes talking about everything but work. I think Varun Duggiraka has a podcast named ‘Advertising is Dead’ and the second part of it is ‘Content is Everything’. 

To create great content, you need to consume great content. 

The idea is to keep on learning new things. It is important to spend the beginning part of the day just understanding what people have been doing, especially in a remote work setup. It’s important to learn from each other; allow people to speak about things that are not just work. Discussing everyday life is how you will create better content. That’s one critical piece. 

Next is, for the longest time, there was a lot of distrust between business and creative people. Like client v/s agency. So it is very important to have that trust, that creative people need the freedom to work creatively. As marketing managers, we shouldn’t be nit-picking on feedback. We should give room for them to expand. Reversely, creative people need to understand data as well, and not live in the closed world of ‘if I write beautiful copy, people are going to engage with it’. Because that is far from the truth. If you look at most YouTube videos that have worked, it's usually because they have a great title and a thumbnail. 

Any marketing trends that you have seen in the last couple of weeks 

A trend that I’m currently seeing is everyone is finally leveraging the newer formats of marketing like let’s say meme marketing. For the longest time, most brands were staying away from memes and short format content, whereas now they are suddenly realising its value. Now everything is getting replaced by memes and GIFs, which are sometimes the highest performing ads in performance marketing. 

Beyond this, for the longest time brands weren’t sure how to leverage influencer marketing. Now we are seeing a new trend where brands are able to understand that giving the talent freedom to be authentic is a lot more important than putting a brand plug at the beginning. Authenticity is playing a bigger role in choosing the influencers. 

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