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TNB’s Sutapa Bhattacharya: ‘Data continues to be biggest challenge for marketers’

Technology might have propelled society further, but at the end of the day, people are still at the heart of everything, especially in marketing. Beyond just jumping on the latest technology, brands also feel the need to touch lives in the initiatives they carry out.

Tenaga Nasional’s (TNB) general manager for strategic communication and branding, Sutapa Bhattacharya (pictured), said the company wants to create meaningful conversations with audiences and demonstrate the other dimensions of the brand.

Bhattacharya, who spent more than 20 years with Leo Burnett and JWT combined, believes it is important to be not only turn data into actionable insights, but also exploring fresh approaches to engagement and content creation. She shares with A+M some of the biggest learning lessons she is taking into 2020 and an area she feel is overhyped in the industry.

A+M: How do you see the marketing industry evolving in 2020?
Bhattacharya: Most articles emphasise the role of technology in moving forward for the future. I think the future is going to be about people, not just technology.

There is a lot of discussion these days about data-driven marketing and AI, using the access we have to the vast amount of data we have nowadays thanks to the digital revolution. But truthfully, data is data unless we make sense of that into insights. And in my view that is and it still continues to be the biggest challenge for marketers. We are sitting on a pile of data but are we really being able to turn them into meaningful insight towards actionable marketing initiatives and ideas?

This is where I think we need to bring one more element into this – behavioural science. We are always speaking of personalisation as our goal, to really connect with our audiences. But to make this happen, we must marry the two sciences together. Unfortunately, I do not see too many examples of this happening. But if we can do this, we will finally be able to silence those who question the value of marketing with results-based marketing.

Lastly, I believe in the power of strategic collaborations. Given rising marketing costs and constrained budgets, we have to be creative and smart. All of us do not have the resources to create the impact we seek, so we seek the right partners to complement each other.

A+M: What is an area of marketing you feel is overhyped?
Bhattacharya: I would not use the word “overhyped” as I would say “misused” and “misunderstood”. Social media marketing can be a useful marketing tool. However, social media marketing in terms of influencer marketing is one area which I feel is overhyped by the industry, perhaps because it is often overpromised.

It is important to identify the right influencer for the right segment for the right category.

But today almost everyone is an influencer.

Moreover, we probably need to rethink how we use social media in marketing. The landscape has changed and consumers have changed but we continue to use the same methods.

A+M: What were the biggest learning lessons you are taking into 2020?
Bhattacharya: This year we tried quite a few initiatives based on some good ideas. Building on this, for 2020, we want to be more impactful, touch more people with our brand. For this we will be refining our channel and touchpoint strategy. As yet, there is much that people still don’t know about us.

Conversational marketing or creating meaningful conversations and engagements, based on a better understanding of our audiences and their motivations is another aspect that we intend to focus on. We have 9.3 million customers and we need to start building stronger and deeper relationships with them.

Unfortunately, utility is not a high involvement category but as we transform ourselves to be more than utility, we will need to overcome this barrier with demonstrating new offerings and other dimensions of our brand. One of the problems that most marketers face is the silos of digital versus marketing but in TNB, digital strategy and execution is part of the marketing team and has been made an integral part of the process.

A+M: What can we expect from the marketing team this year?
Bhattacharya: As I mentioned earlier, deeper customer understanding and a more effective touchpoint strategy is going to be a key focus area for us this year. We believe that these data-based behavioural insights will lead to an enhanced customer experience.

We will also be exploring fresh approaches to engagement and content creation that can forge stronger relationships based on aspects of the brand that people have not experienced before. For example, our commitment to sustainability, not just for environment, but economic and social as well as our renewable energy focus. Strategic collaborations will continue to play a key role.

As a large organisation undergoing transformation towards a more market-driven and customer-centric model, employee engagement, culture and building a competitive edge will be imperative. This is also an area where we will be exploring the role of data.

The article first appeared in A+M’s January-March edition of The Futurist.

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