Everything has to be seamless between sales and marketingAarti Iyer
Aarti is a Marketing & Business Strategist for AI. A self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, she’s always ready for the next adventure. For this segment of Women In Marketing, Aarti shares with us why it is important to have marketing and sales functions working in unison and we also explore how to achieve a work-life balance. Let’s explore her journey
LET’S GET PERSONAL
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
Chennai. Fondest memories have been post-college days when I enjoyed travelling carefree.
SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS?
Being an activity buff…can surprise people with my energy levels. I’m constantly up for any adventure at any given time. Sometimes, it surprises me too.
WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Travel the world with a one-way ticket from home. Try outer space too if that is a possibility.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!
All meals are important to me. Anything that satiates my taste-buds will not be sacrificed.
WHAT MADE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD OF MARKETING? WHAT PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME PUSHED YOU TO PURSUE THIS CAREER? AFTER ALL, WE ALL WANTED TO BE DOCTORS GROWING UP, RIGHT?
It all happened when I joined JWT. Working on various brands such as Unibic Cookies, Murugappa Group, Nippon Paint, Ponicherry Tourism, Henkel, Mentos, Lotte, CoffyBite etc., opened the world of challenges. The push to connect with end consumers, understanding them and finding a need gap for products/services/communications made me stick to marketing. It is a constant struggle to stay relevant for any brand and there is no formula to drive marketing. Have to be creative and that means you need to be thinking all the time. That drives me.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL IN THE WORLD, WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
Wildcat or horse.
I like the Wildcats as they are attractive, solitary, creative and curious. They are tactful and never take a conventional route. They also observe the world from a distance which many marketers do without infringing to understand the behaviour better, else you might try to get a biased opinion which won’t help a brand.
And, the horses are carefree, independent, generous and romantic. That is the passion I like to bring-forth.
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE ALONE?
Happy-go-lucky humourous trait which my personal life is driven by. While my professional life is completely different.
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
Coffee person followed by a good run/cardio workout.
HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I switch off every day after work unless it is important. Avoid taking work calls or responding to emails/text messages once I shut shop for the day. I watch a lot of TV (love entertainment), cook a bit and have a drink or two with friends discussing world views.
YOU HAVE ACCUMULATED AN ENVIOUS AMOUNT OF EXPERIENCE HAVING WORKED FOR TOP-TIER COMPANIES SUCH AS JWT AS WELL AS UNIBIC FOODS. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THESE ROLES? HOW ARE YOU APPLYING THESE EXPERIENCES IN YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
YES. I have gained a lot of experience and I have also learnt from each of these organisations, including my CYAN BrandWorks.
With JWT, I got to handle a lot of MNC brands that were making a foray into the Indian market and at a time when an agency used to not be a mere creative contributor but offer a strategy for businesses. Made me go to the field often and analyse sales patterns to find need gaps. That changed a lot. With Unibic, it was a different scenario. We had to fight with the giants with limited budgets to showcase that competitive edge with our products. Challenges were huge and my thinking cap was always on.
Finally, I ensured the brand gained a national brand status during my stint there. A huge game and I learnt a lot under Mr Sen too who had more than 40 years of experience. With my own brand CYAN BrandWorks, I worked with a lot of growing companies/start-ups and that is fun too. Had to reassure and give them the confidence to keep some of these brands motivated to move forward and stay on the growth curve.
JOB HOPPING IS A COMMON PHENOMENA ESPECIALLY IN THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF ADVERTISING AND MARKETING. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON JOB HOPPING? DOES IT HURT OR AID ONE’S CAREER?
I’m not a huge advocate of it. I think people should stay put for a minimum of 3-4 years before moving on. What will you prove within a short time frame other than just adding a few companies to your portfolio? What experience and learning will you carry forward otherwise?
SYSTEMS AROUND REMOTE WORK AND VIDEO CONFERENCING ARE INCREASINGLY BECOMING STAPLE IN MOST ORGANISATIONS. ACCORDING TO VISUAL CAPITALIST, ZOOM IS NOW WORTH MORE THAN THE 7 BIGGEST AIRLINES IN THE WORLD AT A WHOPPING MARKET CAPITALIZATION OF JUST OVER $40BN. SUFFICE TO SAY, REMOTE WORKING IS AN ASPECT OF MODERN-DAY WORK THAT HAS BEEN LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE MOST ORGANISATIONS STRUGGLED TO CONVERT TO THIS WAY OF WORK?
Again, this is a new phenomenon. In my opinion, we need to wait and see if this system works post-Covid.
I have worked from home when I was running CYAN BrandWorks and used to remotely link with other colleagues across India between 2009 & 2017. Although, it has helped me…I still feel there was more room for getting creative as opposed to the planned brainstorming sessions. Because random breaks are good for team interactions too. And a lot of ideas come out when we are discussing topics that are non-contextual.
It helps people bond and that triggers the creative output too.
REMOTE WORK HAS COME WITH ITS OWN SET OF CHALLENGES, PARAMOUNT TO THIS IS THE FACT THAT EMPLOYEES ARE NOW ‘ALWAYS ON’ WITH WORK CARRYING OVER EVEN BEYOND WORKING HOURS. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS MANAGE THIS BETTER TO PROTECT THE WELLBEING OF THEIR EMPLOYEES?
Meetings should not be scheduled post 6 p.m. It is just the thought people are with families all through the day that is making everyone feel that the work-life balance is anyway managed. Which is not true. Everyone needs to understand and respect other people’s space & time. It is important to recuperate to perform better. Time-off during the weekends is a must.
MARKETING OBJECTIVES WILL MOST LIKELY CHANGE DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. HOW HAS YOUR ORGANISATION PIVOTED WHERE MARKETING IS CONCERNED, AND HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE A DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY AMID THE PANDEMIC?
It has most definitely altered.
More people including those in tier 2 and tier 3 towns are getting onto their mobiles. Hence, digital can not be avoided for any sector.
I recall that Mass & BTL were the prime movers for FMCG earlier and digital was only used to engage with customers. Now, this has changed and there should be more spending on the digital platform too. Online sales should not be ignored, even for packaged foods that are driven by impulse. I’m engaged with a couple of FMCGs as a marketing & business strategist and we have changed not only our distribution channels but also the way we intend to market and sell.
The plans are in place and we should be launching soon with a lot more marketing on digital rather than the conservative media channels.
BCG PUBLISHED ITS INNOVATION REPORT FOR 2020 AND AT THE CORE OF ITS SELECTION CRITERIA ARE COMPANIES THAT HAVE SUCCESSFULLY MARRIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN THEIR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES. ACCORDING TO YOU, WHAT MAKES SOMETHING INNOVATIVE? HOW DO YOU DEFINE INNOVATION AT AI?
AI is always there and has been evolving over the years. It only got onto the limelight recently. Anything that is driven to make consumer interaction easy is always a requirement for any type of company.
AT THE TIME OF PUBLISHING, THE DIGITAL MARKETING INSTITUTE ESTIMATED THAT THE INFLUENCER MARKETING INDUSTRY WILL HIT THE $10BN MARK BY 2020. WHETHER B2B OR B2C, IT’S EVIDENT THAT BRANDS AND ORGANISATIONS HAVE HAD THEIR SUCCESS WITH THIS MODEL OF MARKETING. HOW WILL THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AFFECT THIS INDUSTRY GOING FORWARD AND DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS STILL A PLACE FOR INFLUENCER MARKETING?
I have used influencer marketing in the past with big celebrities too. But, with the advent of purchased likes with bots, this industry might see a swing towards the other side, especially from a marketing person’s perspective.
Having said that, this medium can also be used to its advantage still based on who you choose and how creative you get. But, too many people coming into the foray might not help an ordinary person as they will be thoroughly confused when everyone is vying the same space. It depends on these influencers and how they retain their niche.
HOW DO YOU LEVERAGE DATA TO INFORM YOUR DECISION-MAKING?
I believe in insights and data is always welcome. Use it to my utmost advantage in whatever form it is in.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MARKETING AND SALES ALIGNMENT? HOW DO YOU ALIGN YOUR MARKETING AND SALES TEAM AT AI?
Everything has to be seamless between sales and marketing. These are not different functions.
As a person who advocates strongly…in building a brand, I believe the alignment is critical between all functions and not just these 2. Most often even the sales team fails to understand the marketing strategy or the brand’s proposition that ends up being futile for both the organisation and an individual (as the person’s performance will also drop). I try to sit during all the critical phases.
The end strategy has to be cohesive and this has to happen even during the planning stages.
2020 AND BEYOND
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING? (WHAT DO YOU READ, AND HOW DO YOU CONSUME INFORMATION? PAPERBACK VS EREADER?)
I’m reading a few now. Fiction to nonfiction. Including ‘Utilitarianism’ by John Stuart Mill to Geology. Some are paperback and some are on Kindle.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
I binge on Netflix. Currently, it is “A Perfect Crime”.
AS WE LEARN TO LIVE WITH COVID19 IF YOU COULD REPLACE THE HANDSHAKE AS A FORM OF GREETING, WHAT INTERESTING NEW GREETING WOULD YOU INTRODUCE?
Vanakam, Konnichiwa, Ninhao, Hey, Salut, Hola, Ciao, Guten Tag, Privet, etc. Words are powerful.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
Hmm…this list keeps changing with days and months. Hope it is not going to be years soon.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Passion and hard work are key. Build a brand that will stand the test of time. Don’t get into the rut by doing something for the moment. The short-term goals should always be aligned to the long-term goals of a brand.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PAIN POINTS YOU ARE TRYING TO OVERCOME IN YOUR LIFE WHETHER PROFESSIONALLY, PERSONALLY OR BOTH?
Sudden fear of downhill cycling after an accident.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AWESOME WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO INTERVIEW IN FUTURE?
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS (PROFESSIONAL AS WELL AS PERSONAL)?
It is an endless pit.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE HEROES?
Marie Curie, Indra Nooyi, Julia Roberts, Madonna, to name a few