Lulu Raghavan on Brands Striking a Balance Between Digital and Physical Engagement

A conversation with the brand & design evangelist and Managing Director of Landor & Fitch India.

As consumers once again browse the physical aisles of retail following the pandemic, brands and the marketers who guide them are now pitching their products to an evolved consumer who inhabits a marketplace where digital has risen in importance, garnering brand loyalty wasn’t what it once was, and an economic slump has generated widespread inhibition.

And while a recent survey found that 90% of respondents are more interested than ever in getting discounts, using coupons, and earning cashback rewards when shopping, the efforts by brands to connect and engage with consumers across the entire journey —whether it takes place in the real or online world— remains as important as ever.

To gain more insight into how brands can best navigate these evolving dynamics, we caught up with brand & design evangelist Lulu Raghavan, the Managing Director at Landor & Fitch India.


 

Over the course of her career, Raghavan has developed expertise in brand transformation including creating new brands, refreshing tired brands, and optimizing brand architecture.

Regarding the current state of the marketing world post-pandemic, Raghavan emphasizes that brands adopting an experiential approach is the key to successful engagement.

“I think that there is a pretty significant shift in the understanding of branding with marketers and senior people at organizations at large,” says Raghavan.

“It’s no longer a promise that is made through communication but it’s a promise that has to be delivered across the entire experience of the brand.”


 

She pointed to work Landor & Fitch India did with a client last year that involved giving the traditional saree a new avatar and finding ways to create a consumer journey that was more engaging via a unique experience.

“How can the space be so engaging that she’s not going to want to leave and that the space itself is an avenue for relationship-building?”

“When we were working with them to imagine the new retail stores we were so enthused because our client truly wanted to create a phygital experience for consumers,” says Raghavan.

“How can a consumer go in there and through the use of technology virtually wear the saree and see how she looks?”

“Phygital”, a concept that focuses on creating seamless customer journeys that boost engagement and conversion, drove efforts by the Landor & Fitch India team to develop the “unique experience” the client was looking for.

“How can the space be so engaging that she’s not going to want to leave and that the space itself is an avenue for relationship-building?”



The importance of experiential for B2B brands

Looking beyond consumer-centric and FMCG brands, Raghavan added how experiential is an equally important factor in how B2B brands engage with their clients.

“It’s a recognition actually, that it’s not B2B or B2C, ultimately it’s human to human,” she says.

“Now of course companies need to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to investing in experiences, physical experiences, ensuring that the digital complementarity of that experience also works because the consumer is not going to think of them as separate channels.”

“Everyone recognizes that the value of the human touch, what a human being at the store can deliver, can never be delivered by technology.”

In the end, whether it’s B2B or B2C, it’s all about striking a balance between physical and digital, says Raghavan.

“Everyone recognizes that the value of the human touch, what a human being at the store can deliver, can never be delivered by technology,” she says.

“So depending on the industry you’re in, actually thinking through the physical, the human, and the digital touchpoints that compliment each other and deliver your vision is key.”

Engaging with Indian Consumers

Turning to how international brands can better engage with consumers in India, Raghavan notes that currently Indian consumers, like their peers across the globe, have grown price sensitive during these inflationary times.

‘Really packaging value at every price point is going to be key,” she says, adding that “managing the aspirations, but also the anxiety around what consumers at every level can afford is important.”

She also emphasizes the importance of brands being mindful of the “instification” of shopping, as well as the evolving role of influencers.

“Whether it’s Instagram or the 10-minute delivery models that have come up, consumers with a snap of their fingers are ordering clothes, jewelry, meat, eggs, everything comes to your house, especially in the big cities,” says Raghavan.

“Brands coming into the country had to sign up with a Bollywood ambassador, but now there are micro-influencers, anybody who has a following of 10,000 or more who have a huge scale of influence with Indian consumers.”

“So, in that moment of instantaneous gratification, thinking about how your brand adds value to the consumer’s life is going to be important and critical.”

Regarding social media and the role of influencers, she notes that the need of attaching the face of a Bollywood star to your brand is no longer as prevalent.

“Brands coming into the country had to sign up with a Bollywood ambassador, but now there are micro-influencers, anybody who has a following of 10,000 or more, who have a huge scale of influence with Indian consumers.”

She wrapped up our conversation by emphasizing the importance of identifying the relevant micro-influencers in your category to better “reach out, engage, and start building a relationship with Indian consumers.”


You can read more insights from Lulu Raghavan at www.luluraghavan.com

 

Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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