A founder, brand strategist, coach and bestselling author, Ambi M G Parameswaran brings over 40 years of experience in crafting successful brand stories for notable companies such as TCS, ICICI Bank, and Wipro.
He is an accomplished author of eleven books, including bestsellers like “Nawabs Nudes Noodles – India Through 50 Years of Advertising” [a finalist at Crossword Popular Book Awards 2017], “SPONGE- Leadership Lessons I Learnt From My Clients” [Fin Express #1 Bestseller], “SPRING- Bouncing Back From Rejection” [Tata Lit Live Business Book of the Year 2021 Finalist] and more.
Ambi is also a respected speaker at TEDx, Kellogg India Summit, and other esteemed academic institutions. He serves as an independent director on various boards and has received distinguished awards for his contributions.
Our conversation with Ambi M G Parameswaran provided a deep exploration into the subtleties of brand storytelling. The excerpt below offers valuable insights from our engaging conversation.
Q: Can you share insights into the evolution of advertising over the last 50 years in India? Do you think it has any impact on the fundamentals of marketing or branding?
A: Back then, advertising predominantly existed in newspapers and cinema, and there was limited TV presence in major cities. With the emergence of Door Darshan during the Asian Games in 1985, television gained prominence, later expanding with satellite TV in the early ’90s. In the last ten years, the rise of the internet, digital platforms, and streaming platforms such as Amazon and Netflix have drastically transformed media consumption. Consequently, communication methods and brand-building strategies witnessed a significant shift. There’s a prevalent misconception that digital solves all challenges, yet it’s an expensive tool. Without a proper strategy, digital initiatives might fall short. So, even if technology evolves, the foundational marketing and branding principles remain the same.
Q: Every social platform today demands unique interaction. Can marketers adopt a one-size-fits-all approach?
A: It is a one-size-fits-all approach. In the past, this notion of applying different messages across various platforms like TV, Facebook, Twitter, and more led to a chaotic scenario. I recall a brand I worked with facing a similar issue with multiple agencies handling various aspects like website, social media, and videos separately, resulting in disorganized efforts and unclear outcomes. The challenge lies in aligning these diverse activities with the brand’s core, focusing on what truly benefits the brand, engages consumers, and drives sales, inquiries, or other specific actions.
Q: How vital is it for brands to uphold a unified and consistent story across all platforms?
A: All successful brands have always told a consistent story. In marketing fundamentals, brands have always focused on segmentation, targeting, and positioning. Understanding the core story behind a brand is important. A brand is a name that tells a story and it’s a marketer’s job to push stories into brands. Good brands tell powerful stories that have lasted for years.
Q: What strategies should a B2B technology startup adopt while determining its brand focus?
A: For a B2B technology product, emphasizing technology is essential, but as a startup progresses, pinpointing a specific aspect like speed, user-friendliness, operation simplification, or cost-effectiveness becomes crucial. Initially, a broader approach might be needed, but once momentum builds, the focus should be on a singular benefit, like improved customer service or cost reduction, which is vital. This choice is crucial early on to avoid confusion among internal teams, investors, and, most importantly, customers.
Q: Today, almost all brands align their messaging with specific occasions. How can a brand stay authentic rather than simply follow trends?
A: Understanding your brand’s positioning and core story is key. Aligning actions with these narratives matters more than forcibly participating in events like Women’s Day or Valentine’s Day. Brands like Mahindra succeed when they authentically integrate their values into these occasions, making them relevant to their consumers and consistent with their brand identity.
Q: One out of every four startups face failure because of marketing missteps. What advice would you offer to help these startups strengthen their marketing and branding strategies?
A: A startup must realize the importance of branding early on. If lacking expertise, seeking a mentor or consultant is necessary, and listening to their advice is key. Flexibility is a startup’s core strength, so being receptive to suggestions and adaptable to change is crucial for success.