Q&A: Srinivas Gattamneni on Driving Engagement in an Evolving Consumer Landscape

Branding in Asia recently caught up for a conversation with Srinivas Gattamneni, CEO of data and artificial intelligence company, ADA, which has a presence in 10 markets across South and Southeast Asia.

Over the course of our conversation, Gattamneni talks about the emergence of the “conscious consumer,” the importance of multi-channel marketing campaigns, moves by Apple and Google to reign in data acquisition, ADA’s future path, and more.


What’s been keeping you busy lately?

With borders reopening, I’ve found myself making a lot of travel plans – but this isn’t exactly a case of revenge travel. After two long years of virtual meetings, I can finally visit the other ADA markets again to meet the teams in person.

 
 

We have been hard at work on multiple fronts since ADA was founded in 2018 – growing our capabilities and solutions to help brands achieve data and digital maturity, expanding our footprint to 10 markets in South and Southeast Asia, building a now 1,000-strong diverse workforce, forging strategic partnerships, winning accolades, and so on.

In 2021 alone, we celebrated big wins notably the USD60 million investment from Softbank, which we are using for more cutting-edge data and AI solutions to enhance our capabilities to serve our clients better; and the merger with Awake Asia to deliver end-to-end eCommerce solutions to brands looking to win a piece of the eCommerce pie. We were also named Tech Agency of the Year by Campaign Asia for the third consecutive year, which is a huge deal for a young company like us.

A recent MarTech Asia report talked about the emergence of the “Conscious Consumer”. Tell us more about that. What brought this about and how can brands best engage with this emerging type of consumer?

A ‘Conscious Consumer’ is one that decides which brands to shop from based on the brand’s purpose, sustainability practices, or how the products add value to their health. The shift towards conscious consumerism has been gaining momentum over the past few years, but it accelerated more rapidly in the last two years when consumer priorities turned to health and sustainability amidst the pandemic.

 
 

As consumers are empowered to vote with their wallets, it’s imperative for brands to embrace that mindset as part of their overall brand identity and integrate it into their product offerings. Consistency and transparency are crucial in their engagement activities as conscious consumers are savvy and can see through performative activism – that’s when data plays a crucial in making such business decisions.

The report also notes that a multichannel campaign yields a 287% higher purchase rate than a single-channel campaign. That’s quite significant. What advice do you have for brands who have yet to undertake a multi-channel approach?

Multichannel, or omnichannel, campaigns enable brands to interact with consumers over different touchpoints and build brand stories from their consumers’ digital footprints. It’s important for brands to start thinking about a multi-channel/omnichannel strategy sooner rather than later. Some 90% of consumers today expect a consistent experience across various channels and touchpoints, and retention rates are 90% higher for brands using an omnichannel approach versus brands that stick to one channel.

Picture yourself trying to fill up a bucket. If you have multiple sources of inflowing water, you’ll not only fill up the bucket faster, but you’ll also be able to learn which source works more efficiently.

“Marketers have often relied on assumptions about their customers and fall back on dated theories and best practices about how marketing “should be” when developing their marketing campaigns – the Aristotelian way.”

Similarly, a retail store’s interaction with the customer is only limited to the time that a shopper spends at the store. But with an omnichannel approach, the business can interact across the end-to-end customer experience – from sharing promotion updates through email marketing, using a loyalty app to collect points or rewards and track shopping history, and leveraging the customer data for greater personalization to deliver an overall better customer experience.

One thing though, as businesses gather customer data across multiple touchpoints, a single source of truth is imperative. That’s also why we’re seeing a growing list of clients who engage with us on MarTech services.

You wrote an interesting piece last year telling marketers to “Be Less Aristotle, More Galileo.” I can’t recall seeing anyone draw up comparisons between Aristotle, and Galileo when offering marketing advice. Can you tell us more about this?

The basic premise is that marketers have often relied on assumptions about their customers and fall back on dated theories and best practices about how marketing “should be” when developing their marketing campaigns – the Aristotelian way.

With data and technology, we can identify meaningful insights, formulate hypotheses, and test to get the best possible outcomes. For example, we use creative automation tools to produce visuals for A/B testing. It’s a much quicker way of experimenting and optimizing at volume than relying on the old-school approach of creative assumptions.

“It’s important for brands to start thinking about a multi-channel/omnichannel strategy sooner rather than later. Some 90% of consumers today expect a consistent experience across various channels and touchpoints.”

I believe that it’s a more efficient approach to developing a marketing strategy, rather than investing big bucks on assumptions that oftentimes only drive vanity metrics. ADA is about driving meaningful business outcomes for our clients, and that’s why we aim to be more Galileo.

In terms of major players such as Apple and Google reigning in data acquisition, what advice do you have for marketers looking for ways to better understand and engage with current and potential customers?

To maintain engagement with customers in a cookie-less world, marketers will have to turn to first-party data. That means setting up the customer journey and MarTech stack in a way that’s integrated and that delivers personalization to customers at scale. In addition to building a fit-for-purpose MarTech stack, it’s crucial to remember that system integration is key to making different systems talk to each other.

“I believe that it’s a more efficient approach to developing a marketing strategy, rather than investing big bucks on assumptions that oftentimes only drive vanity metrics.”

Moving forward, brands that are committed to ‘learning’ will see their marketing budgets stretch much further as they reinvest campaign insights into the learning path of the brand. For instance, a brand that has access to ‘single-user view’ can significantly increase media efficiency. This also encourages accountability among marketers to make decisions in the brands’ best interests.

ADA primarily focuses on South and Southeast Asia markets. What does the future hold for the company?

We hope to expand beyond those regions and become the largest digital services provider in the Asia-Pacific region and among the top 20 global marketing firms by 2024. To achieve these big goals, we are continuously working towards enhancing our scope of digital solutions, expanding our partnerships, growing our footprint to even more markets within the region, and seeking out future M&A opportunities, all built upon our DNA in data and AI.

Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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