Piali Dasgupta, Senior Vice President – Marketing, Columbia Pacific Communities

Award-winning marketing and communication professional with over 15 years of cultivated skill sets in strategising and driving branding, imagery, brand positioning, brand architecture, customer segmentation, communication and storytelling. A sharp creative thinker and ideator, Piali Dasgupta believe in striking the right balance between the yin and yang of Marketing. She started her career with Journalism in national publications such as The Times of India, India Today group, Mirror and MiD Day writing on the business of fashion and lifestyle brands. Post this, she wanted to explore the other facets of communication and work with brands, which led her to join Myntra as their Fashion Editor, after which she joined Amazon to set up social media marketing for Amazon Fashion in India. She has also worked as the Creative Director and Branch Head of Sapient Razorfish (Publicis Groupe), where she drove the entire digital marketing mandate for Aditya Birla Fashion Brands such as Louis Philippe, Allen Solly, Peter England, People and Planet Fashion, heading their in-house digital media command centre. She is currently Senior Vice President, Marketing at Columbia Pacific Communities, India’s largest senior living community operator.

 

AR and VR, contrary to popular belief, have existed for a few decades now. AR has existed since 1968 and VR since 1957. However, it has been made accessible to people only around 2010. 

With the growing interest in the metaverse, and Facebook and Microsoft trying to lock horns to own the metaverse revolution, brands and marketers are at the threshold of a post-internet era. The digital revolution in the last decade changed the way we live, buy, sell and communicate with each other. AI/ML/VR/AR is taking this transformation to a whole new level with new technologies such as IR (Immersive Reality) and XR (Extended Reality) being invented frequently. 

It is being said, that globally AI and ML will take away 375 million jobs. And a substantial part of these jobs will be Marketing jobs. And yet, the future for marketers is not as bleak as it appears. Marketers would need to upskill and reskill quickly and understand that while some jobs would be made redundant in the next 10 years, other jobs would be created which would demand newer skill sets.   

In India, Mondelez’s Cadbury has stayed ahead of the curve in leveraging AI to craft communication. 

Their Rakhi campaign this year used AI to manipulate the digital image of film star Hrithik Roshan to create customised messages for every sister that got a Cadbury’s chocolate box from her brother. 

For Rakhi, the brand also collaborated with Social Hardware, an organisation that provides sensor-based prosthetic arms. The technology involved in this is a generative design that merges CAD software with artificial intelligence algorithms.   

One of the most successful campaigns this year, the Cadbury Diwali campaign, is a brilliant use case for AI. The #IssDiwaliAapKiseKhushKarenge ad featuring Shah Rukh Khan used AI to help small businesses and local retailers create hyper-personalised ads featuring the superstar urging people to buy from their stores. 

As part of Mondelez’s “humaning” marketing strategy globally, Cadbury launched the ‘Not Just A Cadbury Ad’ last year which used AI to create hyper-personalised spots for small and local businesses across 260 pin codes in the country.

So, AI, in many ways, is making the impossible possible. 

But it is not just marketing campaigns and customer lifecycle touchpoints that are being revolutionised by the metaverse.  Brand owners have realised that AI and ML bring in a lot of efficiency in the entire sales process, because it helps predict which leads have a higher chance of conversion, how long the sales cycle is going to be and the actions that need to be taken at various stages of the customer lifecycle. With machines predicting business outcomes and taking care of a lot of work that would have otherwise required human intelligence, businesses would see accelerated sales and higher efficiency levels. 

In a category like food tech, the entire recommendation model along with other customer experience enhancement features is based on ML. It’s about identifying what a customer is likely to order based on what he has ordered in the past, mining huge volumes of data. 

The delivery process, which involves assigning a delivery partner to estimate the time it would take for the food to be prepared by the restaurant as well as the time it would take to deliver it, are all a function of ML. In fact, Swiggy is known to have a heatmap featuring demand areas for its delivery partners, which helps them to identify which area they should be headed to after their current delivery. 

The Indian Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Market were valued at USD1. 83 billion in FY2020 and will grow at a CAGR of 38.29% until FY2027. It is no secret that the pandemic has resulted in a 50% surge in the use of AR/VR compared to the pre-pandemic usage. Brands are using these technologies to enhance customer experience and aid customers in making a purchase decision by giving them an experience as close to a brick and mortar experience as possible. This has become particularly crucial for high tickets price categories such as automobile, real estate and fine jewellery, where the sales cycles are longer and a purchase is made after much thought and deliberation. 

Real estate, for instance, has used AR and VR extensively to launch their projects and to give customers a virtual walkthrough of a site, aiding in the purchase decisions, during the pandemic, when site visits were not possible. 

At Columbia Pacific Communities, during the first wave of the pandemic, we participated in virtual expos, which helped us showcase The Virtuoso, our signature project and India’s first senior living community designed to international standards, to customers. A live, interaction counter also helped customers get answers to any of their queries on product features and prices. Many real estate firms including Puravankara, Prestige and Lodha used virtual reality successfully to give prospective customers a home tour and meet their sales targets. AR/VR or other elements of the metaverse have a comprehensive role to play to bring the customer closer to the brand, and in some cases, annihilate the competition. 

My favourite example to quote is Burger King’s iconic “Burn That Ad” campaign in Brazil in March 2019.  It is a fantastic example of the use of AR and pyrotechnics, with which the brand urged its customers to digitally set fire to all ads of its biggest competitor – Mac Donald’s ads. Customers could point their smartphone at any MacDonald’s ad through the Burger King app, and not only see it being burned up instantly but also enjoy a free Whopper from Burger King. 

The campaign won nine Cannes Lion and three Clio Awards. But more importantly, it literally burned the huge media spending of the brand’s main competitor, MacDonalds. Metaverse is allowing customisation at scale, optimising big data to enhance customer experience and target customers better, and making creativity truly limitless. It is the present and the future of business and marketing. 

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