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Many industries have seemed to shrink their marketing budgets for fear of inflation: Unmisha Bhatt

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Sneha Medda
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Unmisha Bhatt


Tonic's Unmisha Bhatt talks about how the digital space has grown from just building communities & engagement on social. She also shares her thoughts on the upcoming trends like 'phygital' and more in a brief interaction with Social Samosa.

The fear of inflation has many industries doubting their future. To adjust to the constantly changing macroeconomic factors, advertisers have shrunk their budgets. As per research firm TAM AdEx, digital ad insertions have dropped by 13% during Jul-Sep '22 over Jan-Mar’22. 

Despite these curveballs, Unmisha Bhatt Co-Founder, and Chief Strategy Officer, Tonic Worldwide is optimistic that digital's future will see more business solutions and will be difficult to cut back on.

In conversation with Social Samosa, Bhatt, who has over 20 years of experience in developing Brand Communication & strategies across consumer touchpoints, shares her thoughts on the future of the digital space, the growing concern that inflation brings, the new normal that is ‘phygital’ and more. 

Edited Excerpts: 

How has digital marketing grown in the last few years and how do you see it evolving in the future?

Digital marketing has evolved from being an amplification medium that would own a minimum share of the pocket to one of the leading platforms in many cases driving a larger share in spends. From getting a stepchild treatment, it now is suddenly the favourite child. The only ONE thing that hasn't changed is that it still is expected to be the hardest working child ...platform...with maximum ROI. Digital marketing in the future is going to be far beyond just building communities and engagement on social. It will be a stronger enabler of businesses. It already is but we will still see marketers chase engagement with social. The future will be all about using digital as a means to grow business with the lines blurring between retail and e-tail. Immersive technologies that enhance consumer experience online as well as offline will take centre stage. Consumers will be closer to experiences and businesses will be closer to their consumers with digital marketing. E-commerce has grown multifold but the future will see e-commerce as a basic necessity for any business to exist. 

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How has the fear of inflation and its after-effects had an impact on the A&M industry? 

Many industries have seemed to shrink their marketing budgets for fear of inflation. A&M is the first budget that gets hit usually in these scenarios however 'hardest working child' also reaps more rewards. Digital marketing, given the nature of the medium, will see more business solutions and will be difficult to cut back on given that businesses need sales and growth, more so in such times.

With FIFA, PKL and other sports lining up, how do you think brands can benefit from sports marketing? 

Sports Marketing has always been a marketer favourite to reach out to various sports fans. The ones with deeper pockets leverage sponsorships and communication around it, whereas the ones with relatively lesser try to create films that leverage the topicality.  And then there are those who expect to leverage social media to help associate with the topicality of the sport and magically be seen 'Organically' by Millions of consumers with 'Virality'. There will be a lot of conversations around various matches and sports created by media/brands and sports fans of course! The platform that makes most conversations during sports 'twitter' however is going through its own challenges and one has to see whether the buzz will continue on Twitter or move to other platforms.

Tonic Worldwide has made various custom experiences for several brands in Metaverse the most recent one being the Dabur Herbal Diwali bash. What are some challenges that you have faced in the Indian context and do you see the Metaverse evolving in the near future?  

Metaverse is alien to many of us and is seen as a shiny new toy that marketers are wary of using since they are used to being present on platforms that already have a large community. The custom experiences created by brands for consumers enable them to immerse the consumer better in the brand world. Dabur herbal Diwali bash saw 9x more visitors than the previous event organised by the platform. Individuals spent over 5 mins at the Darbul Herbal Zone which is unheard of in the world of marketing given the shortest attention span. This is experiential marketing created with the wonders of technology and innovation. It's a virtual experience that takes the consumer to a different world which is a delight for them. The current challenge is the perception of using the platform as a reach medium and most of us think there are not too many audiences in the metaverse.  Build a great experience, create awareness about it and the consumers will follow. They are hungry for newer and enhanced experiences. The future will see some marketers who see light in building a meaningful experience and attracting consumers, one success story will see a lot more followers. 

Top 'Phygital' trends you foresee for 2023

An innovation in Phygital which can enable marketers to scale up the phygital experience without heavy investments would be the need of the hour in 2023. Voice-enabled technologies, facial recognition, AR / VR and Mixed reality are going to be picked up in the phygital environment by Retail brands. Collaboration by multiple brands coming together to create phygital experiences will be another trend.

What can be expected from Tonic in the coming year?

Tonic will be operating without geographical boundaries in 2023 and enabling business transformation and growth for marketers. 

Sustainability tech, Data-driven insights and personalisation, and Business-driven marketing are the 3 pillars that Tonic will be focusing on besides the usual aspects of digital marketing. 

Lastly, any message for the SAMMIE participants and what are you expecting from the nominees this year?

The need of the hour is campaigns that will drive brand and business results. Differentiation, scale and business-driven will be 3 keywords for success.



Unmisha Bhat is a jury member for Sammie, which is all set to be held on December 13.

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