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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Medium - Sharad VK of Century Financial: How To Avoid Burnout & Thrive In Your Marketing Career

By Century Financial in Century in News

Medium - Sharad VK of Century Financial: How To...

Sharad VK Special to Authority Magazine August 10, 2021

Don’t try to sell your company, product, or service as something it’s not. Consumers recognize and appreciate honesty.

As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business or career. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Sharad VK.

Sharad VK is the Marketing Director at Century Financial. He has over two decades of leadership experience at global advertising networks, where he managed an extensive portfolio of brands, including VISA, Bank Muscat, Mazda, Epson, Baskin Robbins, Bayer, and VW to name a few.

Sharad holds a post-graduate diploma in marketing management, a Bachelor of Commerce and Economics from the University of Mumbai, and a CISI certification (International Introduction to Securities and Investment).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As a child, I was always attracted to visual arts — any form of design, painting, and drawing. My school books used to be covered with sketches on the last page. So I aspired to be an artist and underwent art courses while still at school. I was also attracted to brands and advertisements and would read about them. When I was in high school, I had an option to choose commercial arts or continue with my pursuit of graduation with Account & Finance as my further career path. I decided to continue my graduation with finance but kept my art interest alive by attending part-time art courses.

Post my graduation, I came across an article by a very famous advertising personality heading a leading ad agency in India. The article featured a list of potential career opportunities, a typical ad agency provided back then. I came to know about the Account Management career option with ad agencies in that article and felt it is a right fit for me to combine my art interest with business acumen.

I joined a small local agency, from where my long career in the advertising industry started. I went on to work with global ad agencies like BBDO, DDB, Lowe, etc., working on top global brands like VISA, FedEx, Epson, and many local brands.

After over a decade in advertising and branding agencies managing marketing communications for numerous brands, I moved to the corporate company to manage marketing communications & branding.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?

In advertising, when you start your career as a Client Servicing Executive, it’s all about keeping your clients happy and satisfied with your excellent service. Clients always push agencies to deliver campaigns/creatives on tight timelines.

I had one such client who wanted multiple campaigns completed and executed in a week (which usually takes a fortnight to a month). In my excitement to build the confidence of my new client, I agreed and committed to that deadline.

Once I briefed the creative team, I understood the detailed process and time needed for developing & executing such a campaign. My creative director reprimanded me and asked my immediate supervisor to extend the campaign delivery deadline after speaking to the client. This led to me cutting a sorry figure in front of the client.

A valuable lesson learned is always to understand the process before you jump into pleasing your clients. Always ‘under commit and over deliver’ than ‘over commit and under deliver.’

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

In advertising, I started my career in the account management department, where your role is to represent a particular client or clients/brands. As an account manager, you are a bridge between the client and the agency teams comprising of Creative, Planning, and Media teams.

My “tipping point” came about when I got an opportunity to join an ad agency in the new business development department. Here I got a chance to interact directly with the agency MD and CEOs and further hone my sales skills as I had to do a lot of cold calls to potential clients on the agency’s wish list.

The new business development role involves approaching brands/clients the agency wishes to add to its roaster by pitching a complete strategy and creative presentation with no strings attached. This role allowed me to work across multiple brand categories as we pitched for brands across Liquor, Lingerie, Kitchen appliances, Banking and Financial brands, and many others.

When we do pitches, it usually involves doing extensive research on the brand and the category; this helped me grasp the knowledge of different categories of products and services. It also helped me develop one of the most important life skills- selling skills.

Many prospective clients are very happy with their current agencies, so one is exposed to handling rejection, not losing hope, and looking forward to chasing new prospects.

New business development and sales skills also help you become a better people person, build relationships and team management.

The key takeaway for me from my advertising, brand building, and new business development experience are:

You need to be as aware of a product/brand you advertise as much as the product manager of the brand/client. Only then can you win the respect of your client and add value to the brand

Thanks to the research I conducted and was involved in for the new business pitches, I understand how consumers behave and choose one brand over the other. A consumer always has few brands in his consideration set; a brand that is consistent with its brand promise and stays up to it in its quality and service always wins.

Strong brands are not built in a day. It involves years of work, investment, and consistent brand positioning and awareness to manage brand perceptions. A brand must evolve with the changing taste and preferences of the consumers.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Century Financial stands out firstly because we are one of the pioneers of the global financial market investments in the UAE.

We also stand out because of our unique feature of consistently building a solid personal relationship with our clients. We provide high-touch service to all our clients, and it’s this personal relationship that helps us maintain our clients despite high competition in the CFD industry over here in UAE.

This same ethos is reflected in Century Financial’s brand communications. Century stands out from the competitors as the focus of the communications is not on features such as trading platforms, commissions, but on people/investors.

Customer-centric message expressed as its brand ethos — “You are independent. But never alone.”

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We have embarked on a significant diversification journey that covers financial services and technology-related sectors, and to meet the niche needs of our valued clients, Century Financial’s Innovation Lab is a step in the right direction.

The Innovation Lab will provide and implement end-to-end investment solutions to clients, enhancing the overall customer experience using AI/Machine learning and other technology tools.

New initiatives covering e-commerce and delivery apps and apps for sports and entertainment-related applications are also being considered in the near future.

Wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

I personally believe that a good work-life balance can help us thrive and avoid burnout. I try to totally switch off during the weekends- I read, spend time with family and friends, go for a long drive, and meditate over weekends, and long holidays; this helps keep my sanity intact.

There are hundreds of memorable marketing campaigns that have become part of the lexicon of our culture. What is your favorite marketing or branding campaign from history?

There are numerous campaigns that have shaped and become part of the great marketing and advertising archives that are a constant source of inspiration to us as marketers. One of the campaigns that I feel was unique was the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign by Coke

When a company is already so large, it might be difficult to do anything novel. So, how did Coca-Cola reach out to the masses? By placing their names on each bottle, they were able to appeal to people.

In 2011, Coca-Cola launched the Share a Coke campaign in Australia, personalizing each bottle with the 150 most popular names in the country. Since then, the United States has followed suit, printing first names across the front of its bottles and cans in Coke’s branded font. You can even order custom bottles on Coke’s website to request things like nicknames and college logos.

It was a breaking story across the marketing and advertising industry. Many consumers were enchanted by it, while others were confused by it — why make a temporary item so personal? Pepsi even released counter-ads shortly after the campaign launched.

Nonetheless, Coke received immediate attention for it.

Net Net:

Coke aficionados are loyal customers, and the company tapped into that idea of individual ownership with gusto. The anticipation of not knowing what name you’d get out of the vending machine was a delightful experience in and of itself — even if it wasn’t yours, it pushes you to “share a Coke” with whoever’s name was on the front.

If you could break down a very successful campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like?

All successful campaigns are based on great consumer insights. So a blueprint for any successful campaign starts with in-depth research of your consumers, the market, and the competition.

Identifying the need gap/developing an insight

The campaign idea must be relevant and different from the others

The best ideas are the simplest ones.

The communication must be honest and authentic to the brand’s core offering

The best example of a simple yet great idea is Volkswagen’s “Think Small” campaign. Many marketing and advertising professionals believe this campaign is the gold standard in the creativity and singularity of its message. Created in 1960 by a legendary advertising group at Doyle Dane & Bernbach (DDB), the campaign set out to answer one question: How do you change peoples’ perceptions not only about a product but also about an entire group of people?

Americans always had a propensity to buy big American cars — and even 15 years after WWII ended, most Americans were still not buying small German cars. So what did this Volkswagen advertisement do? It played right into the audience’s expectations. You think I’m small? Yeah, I am. They never tried to be something they were not.

The Lesson: Don’t try to sell your company, product, or service as something it’s not. Consumers recognize and appreciate honesty.

Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going?

In the future, data will influence essential marketing decisions. Broadcasting to a large, untargeted audience will become obsolete, and data will be at the core of marketing strategy.

Data is all around us, providing us with critical insights into client expectations and purchasing behaviors. As more devices — from vehicles to household appliances — become linked, businesses will have the potential to develop intelligent customer-centric communication.

By 2025, marketers will be slicing and dicing metadata for actionable insights and precise marketing. Brands will use complex combinations of personal data, location data, and environmental data to target their customers with the right message at the right time on the suitable device.

Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners to become more effective marketers?

Small business owners & SME’s need to be very ROI driven and hence need these tools to become efficient marketers

  • Team management (Jira, Miro)
  • Social media marketing tools (Hoot Suite, Meltwater -OMR)
  • Email marketing tools (Hubspot- Campaign management)
  • SEO (search engine optimization) tools (uber suggest)
  • Conversion optimization tools
  • Lead enrichment tools
  • Landing page and lead capture tools
  • Graphic creation tools (Banner Flow)

One more before we go: What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

My all-time favorite book, which inspired me to be an advertising professional and subsequently a marketer, is “Confessions of an advertising man’ by the great David Ogilvy.

I do regularly keep myself abreast with the latest in marketing by reading the latest books on marketing by leading authors like Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, etc.

In addition, I regularly follow HBR, Cannes lions live for a lot of insightful articles and updates

Thank you for sharing your story and so many valuable insights with us today!

Source:
Authority Magazine